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Title: Marius the Epicurean — Volume 1
Author: Pater, Walter, 1839-1894
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "Marius the Epicurean — Volume 1" ***

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London: 1910. (The Library Edition.)


Notes: The 1910 Library Edition employs footnotes, a style inconvenient
in an electronic edition.  I have therefore placed an asterisk
immediately after each of Pater's footnotes and a + sign after my own
notes, and have listed each chapter's notes at that chapter's end.

Pagination and Paragraphing: To avoid an unwieldy electronic copy, I
have transferred original pagination to brackets.  A bracketed numeral
such as [22] indicates that the material immediately following the
number marks the beginning of the relevant page.  I have preserved
paragraph structure except for first-line indentation.

Hyphenation: I have not preserved original hyphenation since an e-text
does not require line-end or page-end hyphenation.

Greek typeface: For this full-text edition, I have transliterated
Pater's Greek quotations.  If there is a need for the original Greek,
it can be viewed at my site, http://www.ajdrake.com/etexts, a
Victorianist archive that contains the complete works of Walter Pater
and many other nineteenth-century texts, mostly in first editions.


    Cheimerinos oneiros, hote mêkistai hai vyktes.+

    +"A winter's dream, when nights are longest."
    Lucian, The Dream, Vol. 3.



    1. "The Religion of Numa": 3-12
    2. White-Nights: 13-26
    3. Change of Air: 27-42
    4. The Tree of Knowledge: 43-54
    5. The Golden Book: 55-91
    6. Euphuism: 92-110
    7. A Pagan End: 111-120


    8. Animula Vagula: 123-143
    9. New Cyrenaicism: 144-157
    10. On the Way: 158-171
    11. "The Most Religious City in the World": 172-187
    12. "The Divinity that Doth Hedge a King": 188-211
    13. The "Mistress and Mother" of Palaces: 212-229
    14. Manly Amusement: 230-243




[3] As, in the triumph of Christianity, the old religion lingered
latest in the country, and died out at last as but paganism--the
religion of the villagers, before the advance of the Christian Church;
so, in an earlier century, it was in places remote from town-life that
the older and purer forms of paganism itself had survived the longest.
While, in Rome, new religions had arisen with bewildering complexity
around the dying old one, the earlier and simpler patriarchal religion,
"the religion of Numa," as people loved to fancy, lingered on with
little change amid the pastoral life, out of the habits and sentiment
of which so much of it had grown. Glimpses of such a survival we may
catch below the merely artificial attitudes of Latin pastoral poetry;
in Tibullus especially, who has preserved for us many poetic details of
old Roman religious usage.

     At mihi contingat patrios celebrare Penates,
     Reddereque antiquo menstrua thura Lari:

[4] --he prays, with unaffected seriousness.  Something liturgical,
with repetitions of a consecrated form of words, is traceable in one of
his elegies, as part of the order of a birthday sacrifice.  The hearth,
from a spark of which, as one form of old legend related, the child
Romulus had been miraculously born, was still indeed an altar; and the
worthiest sacrifice to the gods the perfect physical sanity of the
young men and women, which the scrupulous ways of that religion of the
hearth had tended to maintain.  A religion of usages and sentiment
rather than of facts and belief, and attached to very definite things
and places--the oak of immemorial age, the rock on the heath fashioned
by weather as if by some dim human art, the shadowy grove of ilex,
passing into which one exclaimed involuntarily, in consecrated phrase,
Deity is in this Place!  Numen Inest!--it was in natural harmony with
the temper of a quiet people amid the spectacle of rural life, like
that simpler faith between man and man, which Tibullus expressly
connects with the period when, with an inexpensive worship, the old
wooden gods had been still pressed for room in their homely little

And about the time when the dying Antoninus Pius ordered his golden
image of Fortune to be carried into the chamber of his successor (now
about to test the truth of the old Platonic contention, that the world
would at last find itself [5] happy, could it detach some reluctant
philosophic student from the more desirable life of celestial
contemplation, and compel him to rule it), there was a boy living in an
old country-house, half farm, half villa, who, for himself, recruited
that body of antique traditions by a spontaneous force of religious
veneration such as had originally called them into being.  More than a
century and a half had past since Tibullus had written; but the
restoration of religious usages, and their retention where they still
survived, was meantime come to be the fashion through the influence of
imperial example; and what had been in the main a matter of family
pride with his father, was sustained by a native instinct of devotion
in the young Marius.  A sense of conscious powers external to
ourselves, pleased or displeased by the right or wrong conduct of every
circumstance of daily life--that conscience, of which the old Roman
religion was a formal, habitual recognition, was become in him a
powerful current of feeling and observance.  The old-fashioned, partly
puritanic awe, the power of which Wordsworth noted and valued so highly
in a northern peasantry, had its counterpart in the feeling of the
Roman lad, as he passed the spot, "touched of heaven," where the
lightning had struck dead an aged labourer in the field: an upright
stone, still with mouldering garlands about it, marked the place.  He
brought to that system of symbolic [6] usages, and they in turn
developed in him further, a great seriousness--an impressibility to the
sacredness of time, of life and its events, and the circumstances of
family fellowship; of such gifts to men as fire, water, the earth, from
labour on which they live, really understood by him as gifts--a sense
of religious responsibility in the reception of them.  It was a
religion for the most part of fear, of multitudinous scruples, of a
year-long burden of forms; yet rarely (on clear summer mornings, for
instance) the thought of those heavenly powers afforded a welcome
channel for the almost stifling sense of health and delight in him, and
relieved it as gratitude to the gods.

The day of the "little" or private Ambarvalia was come, to be
celebrated by a single family for the welfare of all belonging to it,
as the great college of the Arval Brothers officiated at Rome in the
interest of the whole state.  At the appointed time all work ceases;
the instruments of labour lie untouched, hung with wreaths of flowers,
while masters and servants together go in solemn procession along the
dry paths of vineyard and cornfield, conducting the victims whose blood
is presently to be shed for the purification from all natural or
supernatural taint of the lands they have "gone about." The old Latin
words of the liturgy, to be said as the procession moved on its way,
though their precise meaning was long [7] since become unintelligible,
were recited from an ancient illuminated roll, kept in the painted
chest in the hall, together with the family records.  Early on that day
the girls of the farm had been busy in the great portico, filling large
baskets with flowers plucked short from branches of apple and cherry,
then in spacious bloom, to strew before the quaint images of the
gods--Ceres and Bacchus and the yet more mysterious Dea Dia--as they
passed through the fields, carried in their little houses on the
shoulders of white-clad youths, who were understood to proceed to this
office in perfect temperance, as pure in soul and body as the air they
breathed in the firm weather of that early summer-time.  The clean
lustral water and the full incense-box were carried after them.  The
altars were gay with garlands of wool and the more sumptuous sort of
blossom and green herbs to be thrown into the sacrificial fire,
fresh-gathered this morning from a particular plot in the old garden,
set apart for the purpose.  Just then the young leaves were almost as
fragrant as flowers, and the scent of the bean-fields mingled
pleasantly with the cloud of incense.  But for the monotonous
intonation of the liturgy by the priests, clad in their strange, stiff,
antique vestments, and bearing ears of green corn upon their heads,
secured by flowing bands of white, the procession moved in absolute
stillness, all persons, even the children, abstaining from [8] speech
after the utterance of the pontifical formula, Favete
linguis!--Silence!  Propitious Silence!--lest any words save those
proper to the occasion should hinder the religious efficacy of the rite.

With the lad Marius, who, as the head of his house, took a leading part
in the ceremonies of the day, there was a devout effort to complete
this impressive outward silence by that inward tacitness of mind,
esteemed so important by religious Romans in the performance of these
sacred functions.  To him the sustained stillness without seemed really
but to be waiting upon that interior, mental condition of preparation
or expectancy, for which he was just then intently striving.  The
persons about him, certainly, had never been challenged by those
prayers and ceremonies to any ponderings on the divine nature: they
conceived them rather to be the appointed means of setting such
troublesome movements at rest.  By them, "the religion of Numa," so
staid, ideal and comely, the object of so much jealous conservatism,
though of direct service as lending sanction to a sort of high
scrupulosity, especially in the chief points of domestic conduct, was
mainly prized as being, through its hereditary character, something
like a personal distinction--as contributing, among the other
accessories of an ancient house, to the production of that aristocratic
atmosphere which separated them from newly-made people.  But [9] in the
young Marius, the very absence from those venerable usages of all
definite history and dogmatic interpretation, had already awakened much
speculative activity; and to-day, starting from the actual details of
the divine service, some very lively surmises, though scarcely distinct
enough to be thoughts, were moving backwards and forwards in his mind,
as the stirring wind had done all day among the trees, and were like
the passing of some mysterious influence over all the elements of his
nature and experience.  One thing only distracted him--a certain pity
at the bottom of his heart, and almost on his lips, for the sacrificial
victims and their looks of terror, rising almost to disgust at the
central act of the sacrifice itself, a piece of everyday butcher's
work, such as we decorously hide out of sight; though some then present
certainly displayed a frank curiosity in the spectacle thus permitted
them on a religious pretext.  The old sculptors of the great procession
on the frieze of the Parthenon at Athens, have delineated the placid
heads of the victims led in it to sacrifice, with a perfect feeling for
animals in forcible contrast with any indifference as to their
sufferings.  It was this contrast that distracted Marius now in the
blessing of his fields, and qualified his devout absorption upon the
scrupulous fulfilment of all the details of the ceremonial, as the
procession approached the altars.

[10] The names of that great populace of "little gods," dear to the
Roman home, which the pontiffs had placed on the sacred list of the
Indigitamenta, to be invoked, because they can help, on special
occasions, were not forgotten in the long litany--Vatican who causes
the infant to utter his first cry, Fabulinus who prompts his first
word, Cuba who keeps him quiet in his cot, Domiduca especially, for
whom Marius had through life a particular memory and devotion, the
goddess who watches over one's safe coming home.  The urns of the dead
in the family chapel received their due service.  They also were now
become something divine, a goodly company of friendly and protecting
spirits, encamped about the place of their former abode--above all
others, the father, dead ten years before, of whom, remembering but a
tall, grave figure above him in early childhood, Marius habitually
thought as a genius a little cold and severe.

     Candidus insuetum miratur limen Olympi,
     Sub pedibusque videt nubes et sidera.--

Perhaps!--but certainly needs his altar here below, and garlands to-day
upon his urn.  But the dead genii were satisfied with little--a few
violets, a cake dipped in wine, or a morsel of honeycomb.  Daily, from
the time when his childish footsteps were still uncertain, had Marius
taken them their portion of the family meal, at the second course,
amidst the silence [11] of the company.  They loved those who brought
them their sustenance; but, deprived of these services, would be heard
wandering through the house, crying sorrowfully in the stillness of the

And those simple gifts, like other objects as trivial--bread, oil,
wine, milk--had regained for him, by their use in such religious
service, that poetic and as it were moral significance, which surely
belongs to all the means of daily life, could we but break through the
veil of our familiarity with things by no means vulgar in themselves. A
hymn followed, while the whole assembly stood with veiled faces.  The
fire rose up readily from the altars, in clean, bright flame--a
favourable omen, making it a duty to render the mirth of the evening
complete.  Old wine was poured out freely for the servants at supper in
the great kitchen, where they had worked in the imperfect light through
the long evenings of winter.  The young Marius himself took but a very
sober part in the noisy feasting.  A devout, regretful after-taste of
what had been really beautiful in the ritual he had accomplished took
him early away, that he might the better recall in reverie all the
circumstances of the celebration of the day.  As he sank into a sleep,
pleasant with all the influences of long hours in the open air, he
seemed still to be moving in procession through the fields, with a kind
of pleasurable awe.  That feeling was still upon him as he [12] awoke
amid the beating of violent rain on the shutters, in the first storm of
the season.  The thunder which startled him from sleep seemed to make
the solitude of his chamber almost painfully complete, as if the
nearness of those angry clouds shut him up in a close place alone in
the world.  Then he thought of the sort of protection which that day's
ceremonies assured.  To procure an agreement with the gods--Pacem
deorum exposcere: that was the meaning of what they had all day been
busy upon.  In a faith, sincere but half-suspicious, he would fain have
those Powers at least not against him.  His own nearer household gods
were all around his bed.  The spell of his religion as a part of the
very essence of home, its intimacy, its dignity and security, was
forcible at that moment; only, it seemed to involve certain heavy
demands upon him.


[13] To an instinctive seriousness, the material abode in which the
childhood of Marius was passed had largely added.  Nothing, you felt,
as you first caught sight of that coy, retired place,--surely nothing
could happen there, without its full accompaniment of thought or
reverie.  White-nights! so you might interpret its old Latin name.*
"The red rose came first," says a quaint German mystic, speaking of
"the mystery of so-called white things," as being "ever an
after-thought--the doubles, or seconds, of real things, and themselves
but half-real, half-material--the white queen, the white witch, the
white mass, which, as the black mass is a travesty of the true mass
turned to evil by horrible old witches, is celebrated by young
candidates for the priesthood with an unconsecrated host, by way of
rehearsal." So, white-nights, I suppose, after something like the same
analogy, should be [14] nights not of quite blank forgetfulness, but
passed in continuous dreaming, only half veiled by sleep.  Certainly
the place was, in such case, true to its fanciful name in this, that
you might very well conceive, in face of it, that dreaming even in the
daytime might come to much there.

The young Marius represented an ancient family whose estate had come
down to him much curtailed through the extravagance of a certain
Marcellus two generations before, a favourite in his day of the
fashionable world at Rome, where he had at least spent his substance
with a correctness of taste Marius might seem to have inherited from
him; as he was believed also to resemble him in a singularly pleasant
smile, consistent however, in the younger face, with some degree of
sombre expression when the mind within was but slightly moved.

As the means of life decreased, the farm had crept nearer and nearer to
the dwelling-house, about which there was therefore a trace of workday
negligence or homeliness, not without its picturesque charm for some,
for the young master himself among them.  The more observant passer-by
would note, curious as to the inmates, a certain amount of dainty care
amid that neglect, as if it came in part, perhaps, from a reluctance to
disturb old associations.  It was significant of the national
character, that a sort of elegant gentleman farming, as we say, had
been much affected by some of the most cultivated [15] Romans.  But it
became something more than an elegant diversion, something of a serious
business, with the household of Marius; and his actual interest in the
cultivation of the earth and the care of flocks had brought him, at
least, intimately near to those elementary conditions of life, a
reverence for which, the great Roman poet, as he has shown by his own
half-mystic pre-occupation with them, held to be the ground of
primitive Roman religion, as of primitive morals.  But then, farm-life
in Italy, including the culture of the olive and the vine, has a grace
of its own, and might well contribute to the production of an ideal
dignity of character, like that of nature itself in this gifted region.
Vulgarity seemed impossible.  The place, though impoverished, was still
deservedly dear, full of venerable memories, and with a living
sweetness of its own for to-day.

To hold by such ceremonial traditions had been a part of the struggling
family pride of the lad's father, to which the example of the head of
the state, old Antoninus Pius--an example to be still further enforced
by his successor--had given a fresh though perhaps somewhat artificial
popularity.  It had been consistent with many another homely and
old-fashioned trait in him, not to undervalue the charm of
exclusiveness and immemorial authority, which membership in a local
priestly college, hereditary in his house, conferred upon him.  To set
a real value on [16] these things was but one element in that pious
concern for his home and all that belonged to it, which, as Marius
afterwards discovered, had been a strong motive with his father.  The
ancient hymn--Fana Novella!--was still sung by his people, as the new
moon grew bright in the west, and even their wild custom of leaping
through heaps of blazing straw on a certain night in summer was not
discouraged.  The privilege of augury itself, according to tradition,
had at one time belonged to his race; and if you can imagine how, once
in a way, an impressible boy might have an inkling, an inward mystic
intimation, of the meaning and consequences of all that, what was
implied in it becoming explicit for him, you conceive aright the mind
of Marius, in whose house the auspices were still carefully consulted
before every undertaking of moment.

The devotion of the father then had handed on loyally--and that is all
many not unimportant persons ever find to do--a certain tradition of
life, which came to mean much for the young Marius.  The feeling with
which he thought of his dead father was almost exclusively that of awe;
though crossed at times by a not unpleasant sense of liberty, as he
could but confess to himself, pondering, in the actual absence of so
weighty and continual a restraint, upon the arbitrary power which Roman
religion and Roman law gave to the parent over the son. [17] On the
part of his mother, on the other hand, entertaining the husband's
memory, there was a sustained freshness of regret, together with the
recognition, as Marius fancied, of some costly self-sacrifice to be
credited to the dead.  The life of the widow, languid and shadowy
enough but for the poignancy of that regret, was like one long service
to the departed soul; its many annual observances centering about the
funeral urn--a tiny, delicately carved marble house, still white and
fair, in the family-chapel, wreathed always with the richest flowers
from the garden.  To the dead, in fact, was conceded in such places a
somewhat closer neighbourhood to the old homes they were thought still
to protect, than is usual with us, or was usual in Rome itself--a
closeness which the living welcomed, so diverse are the ways of our
human sentiment, and in which the more wealthy, at least in the
country, might indulge themselves.  All this Marius followed with a
devout interest, sincerely touched and awed by his mother's sorrow.
After the deification of the emperors, we are told, it was considered
impious so much as to use any coarse expression in the presence of
their images.  To Marius the whole of life seemed full of sacred
presences, demanding of him a similar collectedness.  The severe and
archaic religion of the villa, as he conceived it, begot in him a sort
of devout circumspection lest he should fall short at any point of the
demand upon him of anything [18] in which deity was concerned.  He must
satisfy with a kind of sacred equity, he must be very cautious lest he
be found wanting to, the claims of others, in their joys and
calamities--the happiness which deity sanctioned, or the blows in which
it made itself felt. And from habit, this feeling of a responsibility
towards the world of men and things, towards a claim for due sentiment
concerning them on his side, came to be a part of his nature not to be
put off.  It kept him serious and dignified amid the Epicurean
speculations which in after years much engrossed him, and when he had
learned to think of all religions as indifferent, serious amid many
fopperies and through many languid days, and made him anticipate all
his life long as a thing towards which he must carefully train himself,
some great occasion of self-devotion, such as really came, that should
consecrate his life, and, it might be, its memory with others, as the
early Christian looked forward to martyrdom at the end of his course,
as a seal of worth upon it.

The traveller, descending from the slopes of Luna, even as he got his
first view of the Port-of-Venus, would pause by the way, to read the
face, as it were, of so beautiful a dwelling-place, lying away from the
white road, at the point where it began to decline somewhat steeply to
the marsh-land below.  The building of pale red and yellow marble,
mellowed by age, which he saw beyond the gates, was indeed but the
exquisite [19] fragment of a once large and sumptuous villa. Two
centuries of the play of the sea-wind were in the velvet of the mosses
which lay along its inaccessible ledges and angles.  Here and there the
marble plates had slipped from their places, where the delicate weeds
had forced their way.  The graceful wildness which prevailed in garden
and farm gave place to a singular nicety about the actual habitation,
and a still more scrupulous sweetness and order reigned within.  The
old Roman architects seem to have well understood the decorative value
of the floor--the real economy there was, in the production of rich
interior effect, of a somewhat lavish expenditure upon the surface they
trod on.  The pavement of the hall had lost something of its evenness;
but, though a little rough to the foot, polished and cared for like a
piece of silver, looked, as mosaic-work is apt to do, its best in old
age.  Most noticeable among the ancestral masks, each in its little
cedarn chest below the cornice, was that of the wasteful but elegant
Marcellus, with the quaint resemblance in its yellow waxen features to
Marius, just then so full of animation and country colour.  A chamber,
curved ingeniously into oval form, which he had added to the mansion,
still contained his collection of works of art; above all, that head of
Medusa, for which the villa was famous.  The spoilers of one of the old
Greek towns on the coast had flung away or lost the [20] thing, as it
seemed, in some rapid flight across the river below, from the sands of
which it was drawn up in a fisherman's net, with the fine golden
laminae still clinging here and there to the bronze.  It was Marcellus
also who had contrived the prospect-tower of two storeys with the white
pigeon-house above, so characteristic of the place. The little glazed
windows in the uppermost chamber framed each its dainty landscape--the
pallid crags of Carrara, like wildly twisted snow-drifts above the
purple heath; the distant harbour with its freight of white marble
going to sea; the lighthouse temple of Venus Speciosa on its dark
headland, amid the long-drawn curves of white breakers.  Even on summer
nights the air there had always a motion in it, and drove the scent of
the new-mown hay along all the passages of the house.

Something pensive, spell-bound, and but half real, something cloistral
or monastic, as we should say, united to this exquisite order, made the
whole place seem to Marius, as it were, sacellum, the peculiar
sanctuary, of his mother, who, still in real widowhood, provided the
deceased Marius the elder with that secondary sort of life which we can
give to the dead, in our intensely realised memory of them--the
"subjective immortality," to use a modern phrase, for which many a
Roman epitaph cries out plaintively to widow or sister or daughter,
still in the land of the living.  Certainly, if any [21] such
considerations regarding them do reach the shadowy people, he enjoyed
that secondary existence, that warm place still left, in thought at
least, beside the living, the desire for which is actually, in various
forms, so great a motive with most of us.  And Marius the younger, even
thus early, came to think of women's tears, of women's hands to lay one
to rest, in death as in the sleep of childhood, as a sort of natural
want.  The soft lines of the white hands and face, set among the many
folds of the veil and stole of the Roman widow, busy upon her
needlework, or with music sometimes, defined themselves for him as the
typical expression of maternity. Helping her with her white and purple
wools, and caring for her musical instruments, he won, as if from the
handling of such things, an urbane and feminine refinement, qualifying
duly his country-grown habits--the sense of a certain delicate
blandness, which he relished, above all, on returning to the "chapel"
of his mother, after long days of open-air exercise, in winter or
stormy summer.  For poetic souls in old Italy felt, hardly less
strongly than the English, the pleasures of winter, of the hearth, with
the very dead warm in its generous heat, keeping the young myrtles in
flower, though the hail is beating hard without.  One important
principle, of fruit afterwards in his Roman life, that relish for the
country fixed deeply in him; in the winters especially, when the
sufferings of [22] the animal world became so palpable even to the
least observant.  It fixed in him a sympathy for all creatures, for the
almost human troubles and sicknesses of the flocks, for instance.  It
was a feeling which had in it something of religious veneration for
life as such--for that mysterious essence which man is powerless to
create in even the feeblest degree.  One by one, at the desire of his
mother, the lad broke down his cherished traps and springes for the
hungry wild birds on the salt marsh.  A white bird, she told him once,
looking at him gravely, a bird which he must carry in his bosom across
a crowded public place--his own soul was like that!  Would it reach the
hands of his good genius on the opposite side, unruffled and unsoiled?
And as his mother became to him the very type of maternity in things,
its unfailing pity and protectiveness, and maternity itself the central
type of all love;--so, that beautiful dwelling-place lent the reality
of concrete outline to a peculiar ideal of home, which throughout the
rest of his life he seemed, amid many distractions of spirit, to be
ever seeking to regain.

And a certain vague fear of evil, constitutional in him, enhanced still
further this sentiment of home as a place of tried security. His
religion, that old Italian religion, in contrast with the really
light-hearted religion of Greece, had its deep undercurrent of gloom,
its sad, haunting imageries, not exclusively confined to the walls [23]
of Etruscan tombs.  The function of the conscience, not always as the
prompter of gratitude for benefits received, but oftenest as his
accuser before those angry heavenly masters, had a large part in it;
and the sense of some unexplored evil, ever dogging his footsteps, made
him oddly suspicious of particular places and persons.  Though his
liking for animals was so strong, yet one fierce day in early summer,
as he walked along a narrow road, he had seen the snakes breeding, and
ever afterwards avoided that place and its ugly associations, for there
was something in the incident which made food distasteful and his sleep
uneasy for many days afterwards.  The memory of it however had almost
passed away, when at the corner of a street in Pisa, he came upon an
African showman exhibiting a great serpent: once more, as the reptile
writhed, the former painful impression revived: it was like a peep into
the lower side of the real world, and again for many days took all
sweetness from food and sleep.  He wondered at himself indeed, trying
to puzzle out the secret of that repugnance, having no particular dread
of a snake's bite, like one of his companions, who had put his hand
into the mouth of an old garden-god and roused there a sluggish viper.
A kind of pity even mingled with his aversion, and he could hardly have
killed or injured the animals, which seemed already to suffer by the
very circumstance of their life, being what they [24] were.  It was
something like a fear of the supernatural, or perhaps rather a moral
feeling, for the face of a great serpent, with no grace of fur or
feathers, so different from quadruped or bird, has a sort of humanity
of aspect in its spotted and clouded nakedness.  There was a humanity,
dusty and sordid and as if far gone in corruption, in the sluggish
coil, as it awoke suddenly into one metallic spring of pure enmity
against him.  Long afterwards, when it happened that at Rome he saw, a
second time, a showman with his serpents, he remembered the night which
had then followed, thinking, in Saint Augustine's vein, on the real
greatness of those little troubles of children, of which older people
make light; but with a sudden gratitude also, as he reflected how
richly possessed his life had actually been by beautiful aspects and
imageries, seeing how greatly what was repugnant to the eye disturbed
his peace.

Thus the boyhood of Marius passed; on the whole, more given to
contemplation than to action.  Less prosperous in fortune than at an
earlier day there had been reason to expect, and animating his
solitude, as he read eagerly and intelligently, with the traditions of
the past, already he lived much in the realm of the imagination, and
became betimes, as he was to continue all through life, something of an
idealist, constructing the world for himself in great measure from
within, by the exercise [25] of meditative power.  A vein of subjective
philosophy, with the individual for its standard of all things, there
would be always in his intellectual scheme of the world and of conduct,
with a certain incapacity wholly to accept other men's valuations.  And
the generation of this peculiar element in his temper he could trace up
to the days when his life had been so like the reading of a romance to
him.  Had the Romans a word for unworldly?  The beautiful word
umbratilis perhaps comes nearest to it; and, with that precise sense,
might describe the spirit in which he prepared himself for the
sacerdotal function hereditary in his family--the sort of mystic
enjoyment he had in the abstinence, the strenuous self-control and
ascêsis, which such preparation involved. Like the young Ion in the
beautiful opening of the play of Euripides, who every morning sweeps
the temple floor with such a fund of cheerfulness in his service, he
was apt to be happy in sacred places, with a susceptibility to their
peculiar influences which he never outgrew; so that often in
after-times, quite unexpectedly, this feeling would revive in him with
undiminished freshness.  That first, early, boyish ideal of priesthood,
the sense of dedication, survived through all the distractions of the
world, and when all thought of such vocation had finally passed from
him, as a ministry, in spirit at least, towards a sort of hieratic
beauty and order in the conduct of life.

[26] And now what relieved in part this over-tension of soul was the
lad's pleasure in the country and the open air; above all, the ramble
to the coast, over the marsh with its dwarf roses and wild lavender,
and delightful signs, one after another--the abandoned boat, the ruined
flood-gates, the flock of wild birds--that one was approaching the sea;
the long summer-day of idleness among its vague scents and sounds.  And
it was characteristic of him that he relished especially the grave,
subdued, northern notes in all that--the charm of the French or English
notes, as we might term them--in the luxuriant Italian landscape.


13. *Ad Vigilias Albas.


Dilexi decorem domus tuae.

[27] THAT almost morbid religious idealism, and his healthful love of
the country, were both alike developed by the circumstances of a
journey, which happened about this time, when Marius was taken to a
certain temple of Aesculapius, among the hills of Etruria, as was then
usual in such cases, for the cure of some boyish sickness.  The
religion of Aesculapius, though borrowed from Greece, had been
naturalised in Rome in the old republican times; but had reached under
the Antonines the height of its popularity throughout the Roman world.
That was an age of valetudinarians, in many instances of imaginary
ones; but below its various crazes concerning health and disease,
largely multiplied a few years after the time of which I am speaking by
the miseries of a great pestilence, lay a valuable, because partly
practicable, belief that all the maladies of the soul might be reached
through the subtle gateways of the body.

[28] Salus, salvation, for the Romans, had come to mean bodily sanity.
The religion of the god of bodily health, Salvator, as they called him
absolutely, had a chance just then of becoming the one religion; that
mild and philanthropic son of Apollo surviving, or absorbing, all other
pagan godhead.  The apparatus of the medical art, the salutary mineral
or herb, diet or abstinence, and all the varieties of the bath, came to
have a kind of sacramental character, so deep was the feeling, in more
serious minds, of a moral or spiritual profit in physical health,
beyond the obvious bodily advantages one had of it; the body becoming
truly, in that case, but a quiet handmaid of the soul.  The priesthood
or "family" of Aesculapius, a vast college, believed to be in
possession of certain precious medical secrets, came nearest perhaps,
of all the institutions of the pagan world, to the Christian
priesthood; the temples of the god, rich in some instances with the
accumulated thank-offerings of centuries of a tasteful devotion, being
really also a kind of hospitals for the sick, administered in a full
conviction of the religiousness, the refined and sacred happiness, of a
life spent in the relieving of pain.

Elements of a really experimental and progressive knowledge there were
doubtless amid this devout enthusiasm, bent so faithfully on the
reception of health as a direct gift from God; but for the most part
his care was held to take [29] effect through a machinery easily
capable of misuse for purposes of religious fraud.  Through dreams,
above all, inspired by Aesculapius himself, information as to the cause
and cure of a malady was supposed to come to the sufferer, in a belief
based on the truth that dreams do sometimes, for those who watch them
carefully, give many hints concerning the conditions of the body--those
latent weak points at which disease or death may most easily break into
it.  In the time of Marcus Aurelius these medical dreams had become
more than ever a fashionable caprice.  Aristeides, the "Orator," a man
of undoubted intellectual power, has devoted six discourses to their
interpretation; the really scientific Galen has recorded how
beneficently they had intervened in his own case, at certain
turning-points of life; and a belief in them was one of the frailties
of the wise emperor himself.  Partly for the sake of these dreams,
living ministers of the god, more likely to come to one in his actual
dwelling-place than elsewhere, it was almost a necessity that the
patient should sleep one or more nights within the precincts of a
temple consecrated to his service, during which time he must observe
certain rules prescribed by the priests.

For this purpose, after devoutly saluting the Lares, as was customary
before starting on a journey, Marius set forth one summer morning on
his way to the famous temple which lay [30] among the hills beyond the
valley of the Arnus.  It was his greatest adventure hitherto; and he
had much pleasure in all its details, in spite of his feverishness.
Starting early, under the guidance of an old serving-man who drove the
mules, with his wife who took all that was needful for their
refreshment on the way and for the offering at the shrine, they went,
under the genial heat, halting now and then to pluck certain flowers
seen for the first time on these high places, upwards, through a long
day of sunshine, while cliffs and woods sank gradually below their
path.  The evening came as they passed along a steep white road with
many windings among the pines, and it was night when they reached the
temple, the lights of which shone out upon them pausing before the
gates of the sacred enclosure, while Marius became alive to a singular
purity in the air.  A rippling of water about the place was the only
thing audible, as they waited till two priestly figures, speaking Greek
to one another, admitted them into a large, white-walled and clearly
lighted guest-chamber, in which, while he partook of a simple but
wholesomely prepared supper, Marius still seemed to feel pleasantly the
height they had attained to among the hills.

The agreeable sense of all this was spoiled by one thing only, his old
fear of serpents; for it was under the form of a serpent that
Aesculapius [31] had come to Rome, and the last definite thought of his
weary head before he fell asleep had been a dread either that the god
might appear, as he was said sometimes to do, under this hideous
aspect, or perhaps one of those great sallow-hued snakes themselves,
kept in the sacred place, as he had also heard was usual.

And after an hour's feverish dreaming he awoke--with a cry, it would
seem, for some one had entered the room bearing a light.  The footsteps
of the youthful figure which approached and sat by his bedside were
certainly real.  Ever afterwards, when the thought arose in his mind of
some unhoped-for but entire relief from distress, like blue sky in a
storm at sea, would come back the memory of that gracious countenance
which, amid all the kindness of its gaze, had yet a certain air of
predominance over him, so that he seemed now for the first time to have
found the master of his spirit.  It would have been sweet to be the
servant of him who now sat beside him speaking.

He caught a lesson from what was then said, still somewhat beyond his
years, a lesson in the skilled cultivation of life, of experience, of
opportunity, which seemed to be the aim of the young priest's
recommendations.  The sum of them, through various forgotten intervals
of argument, as might really have happened in a [32] dream, was the
precept, repeated many times under slightly varied aspects, of a
diligent promotion of the capacity of the eye, inasmuch as in the eye
would lie for him the determining influence of life: he was of the
number of those who, in the words of a poet who came long after, must
be "made perfect by the love of visible beauty."  The discourse was
conceived from the point of view of a theory Marius found afterwards in
Plato's Phaedrus, which supposes men's spirits susceptible to certain
influences, diffused, after the manner of streams or currents, by fair
things or persons visibly present--green fields, for instance, or
children's faces--into the air around them, acting, in the case of some
peculiar natures, like potent material essences, and conforming the
seer to themselves as with some cunning physical necessity.  This
theory,* in itself so fantastic, had however determined in a range of
methodical suggestions, altogether quaint here and there from their
circumstantial minuteness.  And throughout, the possibility of some
vision, as of a new city coming down "like a bride out of heaven," a
vision still indeed, it might seem, a long way off, but to be granted
perhaps one day to the eyes thus trained, was presented as the motive
of this laboriously practical direction.

"If thou wouldst have all about thee like the colours of some fresh
picture, in a clear [33] light," so the discourse recommenced after a
pause, "be temperate in thy religious notions, in love, in wine, in all
things, and of a peaceful heart with thy fellows."  To keep the eye
clear by a sort of exquisite personal alacrity and cleanliness,
extending even to his dwelling-place; to discriminate, ever more and
more fastidiously, select form and colour in things from what was less
select; to meditate much on beautiful visible objects, on objects, more
especially, connected with the period of youth--on children at play in
the morning, the trees in early spring, on young animals, on the
fashions and amusements of young men; to keep ever by him if it were
but a single choice flower, a graceful animal or sea-shell, as a token
and representative of the whole kingdom of such things; to avoid
jealously, in his way through the world, everything repugnant to sight;
and, should any circumstance tempt him to a general converse in the
range of such objects, to disentangle himself from that circumstance at
any cost of place, money, or opportunity; such were in brief outline
the duties recognised, the rights demanded, in this new formula of
life.  And it was delivered with conviction; as if the speaker verily
saw into the recesses of the mental and physical being of the listener,
while his own expression of perfect temperance had in it a fascinating
power--the merely negative element of purity, the mere freedom from
taint or flaw, in exercise [34] as a positive influence.  Long
afterwards, when Marius read the Charmides--that other dialogue of
Plato, into which he seems to have expressed the very genius of old
Greek temperance--the image of this speaker came back vividly before
him, to take the chief part in the conversation.

It was as a weighty sanction of such temperance, in almost visible
symbolism (an outward imagery identifying itself with unseen
moralities) that the memory of that night's double experience, the
dream of the great sallow snake and the utterance of the young priest,
always returned to him, and the contrast therein involved made him
revolt with unfaltering instinct from the bare thought of an excess in
sleep, or diet, or even in matters of taste, still more from any excess
of a coarser kind.

When he awoke again, still in the exceeding freshness he had felt on
his arrival, and now in full sunlight, it was as if his sickness had
really departed with the terror of the night: a confusion had passed
from the brain, a painful dryness from his hands.  Simply to be alive
and there was a delight; and as he bathed in the fresh water set ready
for his use, the air of the room about him seemed like pure gold, the
very shadows rich with colour.  Summoned at length by one of the
white-robed brethren, he went out to walk in the temple garden.  At a
distance, on either side, his guide pointed out to him the Houses of
Birth and Death, erected for the reception [35] respectively of women
about to become mothers, and of persons about to die; neither of those
incidents being allowed to defile, as was thought, the actual precincts
of the shrine.  His visitor of the previous night he saw nowhere again.
But among the official ministers of the place there was one, already
marked as of great celebrity, whom Marius saw often in later days at
Rome, the physician Galen, now about thirty years old.  He was
standing, the hood partly drawn over his face, beside the holy well, as
Marius and his guide approached it.

This famous well or conduit, primary cause of the temple and its
surrounding institutions, was supplied by the water of a spring flowing
directly out of the rocky foundations of the shrine.  From the rim of
its basin rose a circle of trim columns to support a cupola of singular
lightness and grace, itself full of reflected light from the rippling
surface, through which might be traced the wavy figure-work of the
marble lining below as the stream of water rushed in.  Legend told of a
visit of Aesculapius to this place, earlier and happier than his first
coming to Rome: an inscription around the cupola recorded it in letters
of gold.  "Being come unto this place the son of God loved it
exceedingly:"--Huc profectus filius Dei maxime amavit hunc locum;--and
it was then that that most intimately human of the gods had given men
the well, with all its salutary properties.  The [36] element itself
when received into the mouth, in consequence of its entire freedom from
adhering organic matter, was more like a draught of wonderfully pure
air than water; and after tasting, Marius was told many mysterious
circumstances concerning it, by one and another of the bystanders:--he
who drank often thereof might well think he had tasted of the Homeric
lotus, so great became his desire to remain always on that spot:
carried to other places, it was almost indefinitely conservative of its
fine qualities: nay! a few drops of it would amend other water; and it
flowed not only with unvarying abundance but with a volume so oddly
rhythmical that the well stood always full to the brim, whatever
quantity might be drawn from it, seeming to answer with strange
alacrity of service to human needs, like a true creature and pupil of
the philanthropic god.  Certainly the little crowd around seemed to
find singular refreshment in gazing on it.  The whole place appeared
sensibly influenced by the amiable and healthful spirit of the thing.
All the objects of the country were there at their freshest.  In the
great park-like enclosure for the maintenance of the sacred animals
offered by the convalescent, grass and trees were allowed to grow with
a kind of graceful wildness; otherwise, all was wonderfully nice.  And
that freshness seemed to have something moral in its influence, as if
it acted upon the body and the merely bodily [37] powers of
apprehension, through the intelligence; and to the end of his visit
Marius saw no more serpents.

A lad was just then drawing water for ritual uses, and Marius followed
him as he returned from the well, more and more impressed by the
religiousness of all he saw, on his way through a long cloister or
corridor, the walls well-nigh hidden under votive inscriptions
recording favours from the son of Apollo, and with a distant fragrance
of incense in the air, explained when he turned aside through an open
doorway into the temple itself.  His heart bounded as the refined and
dainty magnificence of the place came upon him suddenly, in the flood
of early sunshine, with the ceremonial lights burning here and there,
and withal a singular expression of sacred order, a surprising
cleanliness and simplicity.  Certain priests, men whose countenances
bore a deep impression of cultivated mind, each with his little group
of assistants, were gliding round silently to perform their morning
salutation to the god, raising the closed thumb and finger of the right
hand with a kiss in the air, as they came and went on their sacred
business, bearing their frankincense and lustral water.  Around the
walls, at such a level that the worshippers might read, as in a book,
the story of the god and his sons, the brotherhood of the Asclepiadae,
ran a series of imageries, in low relief, their delicate light and
shade being [38] heightened, here and there, with gold.  Fullest of
inspired and sacred expression, as if in this place the chisel of the
artist had indeed dealt not with marble but with the very breath of
feeling and thought, was the scene in which the earliest generation of
the sons of Aesculapius were transformed into healing dreams; for
"grown now too glorious to abide longer among men, by the aid of their
sire they put away their mortal bodies, and came into another country,
yet not indeed into Elysium nor into the Islands of the Blest.  But
being made like to the immortal gods, they began to pass about through
the world, changed thus far from their first form that they appear
eternally young, as many persons have seen them in many
places--ministers and heralds of their father, passing to and fro over
the earth, like gliding stars. Which thing is, indeed, the most
wonderful concerning them!"  And in this scene, as throughout the
series, with all its crowded personages, Marius noted on the carved
faces the same peculiar union of unction, almost of hilarity, with a
certain self-possession and reserve, which was conspicuous in the
living ministrants around him.

In the central space, upon a pillar or pedestal, hung, ex voto, with
the richest personal ornaments, stood the image of Aesculapius himself,
surrounded by choice flowering plants.  It presented the type, still
with something of the [39] severity of the earlier art of Greece about
it, not of an aged and crafty physician, but of a youth, earnest and
strong of aspect, carrying an ampulla or bottle in one hand, and in the
other a traveller's staff, a pilgrim among his pilgrim worshippers; and
one of the ministers explained to Marius this pilgrim guise.--One chief
source of the master's knowledge of healing had been observation of the
remedies resorted to by animals labouring under disease or pain--what
leaf or berry the lizard or dormouse lay upon its wounded fellow; to
which purpose for long years he had led the life of a wanderer, in wild
places.  The boy took his place as the last comer, a little way behind
the group of worshippers who stood in front of the image.  There, with
uplifted face, the palms of his two hands raised and open before him,
and taught by the priest, he said his collect of thanksgiving and
prayer (Aristeides has recorded it at the end of his Asclepiadae) to
the Inspired Dreams:--

"O ye children of Apollo! who in time past have stilled the waves of
sorrow for many people, lighting up a lamp of safety before those who
travel by sea and land, be pleased, in your great condescension, though
ye be equal in glory with your elder brethren the Dioscuri, and your
lot in immortal youth be as theirs, to accept this prayer, which in
sleep and vision ye have inspired.  Order it aright, I pray you,
according to your loving-kindness to men.  Preserve me [40] from
sickness; and endue my body with such a measure of health as may
suffice it for the obeying of the spirit, that I may pass my days
unhindered and in quietness."

On the last morning of his visit Marius entered the shrine again, and
just before his departure the priest, who had been his special director
during his stay at the place, lifting a cunningly contrived panel,
which formed the back of one of the carved seats, bade him look
through.  What he saw was like the vision of a new world, by the
opening of some unsuspected window in a familiar dwelling-place.  He
looked out upon a long-drawn valley of singularly cheerful aspect,
hidden, by the peculiar conformation of the locality, from all points
of observation but this.  In a green meadow at the foot of the steep
olive-clad rocks below, the novices were taking their exercise.  The
softly sloping sides of the vale lay alike in full sunlight; and its
distant opening was closed by a beautifully formed mountain, from which
the last wreaths of morning mist were rising under the heat. It might
have seemed the very presentment of a land of hope, its hollows brimful
of a shadow of blue flowers; and lo! on the one level space of the
horizon, in a long dark line, were towers and a dome: and that was
Pisa.--Or Rome, was it? asked Marius, ready to believe the utmost, in
his excitement.

All this served, as he understood afterwards [41] in retrospect, at
once to strengthen and to purify a certain vein of character in him.
Developing the ideal, pre-existent there, of a religious beauty,
associated for the future with the exquisite splendour of the temple of
Aesculapius, as it dawned upon him on that morning of his first
visit--it developed that ideal in connexion with a vivid sense of the
value of mental and bodily sanity.  And this recognition of the beauty,
even for the aesthetic sense, of mere bodily health, now acquired,
operated afterwards as an influence morally salutary, counteracting the
less desirable or hazardous tendencies of some phases of thought,
through which he was to pass.

He came home brown with health to find the health of his mother
failing; and about her death, which occurred not long afterwards, there
was a circumstance which rested with him as the cruellest touch of all,
in an event which for a time seemed to have taken the light out of the
sunshine.  She died away from home, but sent for him at the last, with
a painful effort on her part, but to his great gratitude, pondering, as
he always believed, that he might chance otherwise to look back all his
life long upon a single fault with something like remorse, and find the
burden a great one.  For it happened that, through some sudden,
incomprehensible petulance there had been an angry childish gesture,
and a slighting word, at the very moment of her departure, actually for
the last time.  Remembering this [42] he would ever afterwards pray to
be saved from offences against his own affections; the thought of that
marred parting having peculiar bitterness for one, who set so much
store, both by principle and habit, on the sentiment of home.


32. *[Transliteration:] Ê aporroê tou kallous.  +Translation:
"Emanation from a thing of beauty."


     O mare!  O littus! verum secretumque Mouseion,+
     quam multa invenitis, quam multa dictatis!
                               Pliny's Letters.

[43] IT would hardly have been possible to feel more seriously than did
Marius in those grave years of his early life.  But the death of his
mother turned seriousness of feeling into a matter of the intelligence:
it made him a questioner; and, by bringing into full evidence to him
the force of his affections and the probable importance of their place
in his future, developed in him generally the more human and earthly
elements of character.  A singularly virile consciousness of the
realities of life pronounced itself in him; still however as in the
main a poetic apprehension, though united already with something of
personal ambition and the instinct of self-assertion.  There were days
when he could suspect, though it was a suspicion he was careful at
first to put from him, that that early, much [44] cherished religion of
the villa might come to count with him as but one form of poetic
beauty, or of the ideal, in things; as but one voice, in a world where
there were many voices it would be a moral weakness not to listen to.
And yet this voice, through its forcible pre-occupation of his childish
conscience, still seemed to make a claim of a quite exclusive
character, defining itself as essentially one of but two possible
leaders of his spirit, the other proposing to him unlimited
self-expansion in a world of various sunshine.  The contrast was so
pronounced as to make the easy, light-hearted, unsuspecting exercise of
himself, among the temptations of the new phase of life which had now
begun, seem nothing less than a rival religion, a rival religious
service.  The temptations, the various sunshine, were those of the old
town of Pisa, where Marius was now a tall schoolboy.  Pisa was a place
lying just far enough from home to make his rare visits to it in
childhood seem like adventures, such as had never failed to supply new
and refreshing impulses to the imagination.  The partly decayed pensive
town, which still had its commerce by sea, and its fashion at the
bathing-season, had lent, at one time the vivid memory of its fair
streets of marble, at another the solemn outline of the dark hills of
Luna on its background, at another the living glances of its men and
women, to the thickly gathering crowd [45] of impressions, out of which
his notion of the world was then forming.  And while he learned that
the object, the experience, as it will be known to memory, is really
from first to last the chief point for consideration in the conduct of
life, these things were feeding also the idealism constitutional with
him--his innate and habitual longing for a world altogether fairer than
that he saw.  The child could find his way in thought along those
streets of the old town, expecting duly the shrines at their corners,
and their recurrent intervals of garden-courts, or side-views of
distant sea.  The great temple of the place, as he could remember it,
on turning back once for a last look from an angle of his homeward
road, counting its tall gray columns between the blue of the bay and
the blue fields of blossoming flax beyond; the harbour and its lights;
the foreign ships lying there; the sailors' chapel of Venus, and her
gilded image, hung with votive gifts; the seamen themselves, their
women and children, who had a whole peculiar colour-world of their
own--the boy's superficial delight in the broad light and shadow of all
that was mingled with the sense of power, of unknown distance, of the
danger of storm and possible death.

To this place, then, Marius came down now from White-nights, to live in
the house of his guardian or tutor, that he might attend the school of
a famous rhetorician, and learn, among [46] other things, Greek.  The
school, one of many imitations of Plato's Academy in the old Athenian
garden, lay in a quiet suburb of Pisa, and had its grove of cypresses,
its porticoes, a house for the master, its chapel and images.  For the
memory of Marius in after-days, a clear morning sunlight seemed to lie
perpetually on that severe picture in old gray and green.  The lad went
to this school daily betimes, in state at first, with a young slave to
carry the books, and certainly with no reluctance, for the sight of his
fellow-scholars, and their petulant activity, coming upon the sadder
sentimental moods of his childhood, awoke at once that instinct of
emulation which is but the other side of sympathy; and he was not
aware, of course, how completely the difference of his previous
training had made him, even in his most enthusiastic participation in
the ways of that little world, still essentially but a spectator. While
all their heart was in their limited boyish race, and its transitory
prizes, he was already entertaining himself, very pleasurably
meditative, with the tiny drama in action before him, as but the mimic,
preliminary exercise for a larger contest, and already with an implicit
epicureanism. Watching all the gallant effects of their small
rivalries--a scene in the main of fresh delightful sunshine--he entered
at once into the sensations of a rivalry beyond them, into the passion
of men, and had already recognised a certain [47] appetite for fame,
for distinction among his fellows, as his dominant motive to be.

The fame he conceived for himself at this time was, as the reader will
have anticipated, of the intellectual order, that of a poet perhaps.
And as, in that gray monastic tranquillity of the villa, inward voices
from the reality of unseen things had come abundantly; so here, with
the sounds and aspects of the shore, and amid the urbanities, the
graceful follies, of a bathing-place, it was the reality, the tyrannous
reality, of things visible that was borne in upon him.  The real world
around--a present humanity not less comely, it might seem, than that of
the old heroic days--endowing everything it touched upon, however
remotely, down to its little passing tricks of fashion even, with a
kind of fleeting beauty, exercised over him just then a great

That sense had come upon him in all its power one exceptionally fine
summer, the summer when, at a somewhat earlier age than was usual, he
had formally assumed the dress of manhood, going into the Forum for
that purpose, accompanied by his friends in festal array.  At night,
after the full measure of those cloudless days, he would feel well-nigh
wearied out, as if with a long succession of pictures and music. As he
wandered through the gay streets or on the sea-shore, the real world
seemed indeed boundless, and himself almost absolutely free in it, with
a boundless [48] appetite for experience, for adventure, whether
physical or of the spirit.  His entire rearing hitherto had lent itself
to an imaginative exaltation of the past; but now the spectacle
actually afforded to his untired and freely open senses, suggested the
reflection that the present had, it might be, really advanced beyond
the past, and he was ready to boast in the very fact that it was
modern.  If, in a voluntary archaism, the polite world of that day went
back to a choicer generation, as it fancied, for the purpose of a
fastidious self-correction, in matters of art, of literature, and even,
as we have seen, of religion, at least it improved, by a shade or two
of more scrupulous finish, on the old pattern; and the new era, like
the Neu-zeit of the German enthusiasts at the beginning of our own
century, might perhaps be discerned, awaiting one just a single step
onward--the perfected new manner, in the consummation of time, alike as
regards the things of the imagination and the actual conduct of life.
Only, while the pursuit of an ideal like this demanded entire liberty
of heart and brain, that old, staid, conservative religion of his
childhood certainly had its being in a world of somewhat narrow
restrictions.  But then, the one was absolutely real, with nothing less
than the reality of seeing and hearing--the other, how vague, shadowy,
problematical!  Could its so limited probabilities be worth taking into
account in any practical question as to the rejecting or receiving [49]
of what was indeed so real, and, on the face of it, so desirable?

And, dating from the time of his first coming to school, a great
friendship had grown up for him, in that life of so few
attachments--the pure and disinterested friendship of schoolmates.  He
had seen Flavian for the first time the day on which he had come to
Pisa, at the moment when his mind was full of wistful thoughts
regarding the new life to begin for him to-morrow, and he gazed
curiously at the crowd of bustling scholars as they came from their
classes.  There was something in Flavian a shade disdainful, as he
stood isolated from the others for a moment, explained in part by his
stature and the distinction of the low, broad forehead; though there
was pleasantness also for the newcomer in the roving blue eyes which
seemed somehow to take a fuller hold upon things around than is usual
with boys.  Marius knew that those proud glances made kindly note of
him for a moment, and felt something like friendship at first sight.
There was a tone of reserve or gravity there, amid perfectly
disciplined health, which, to his fancy, seemed to carry forward the
expression of the austere sky and the clear song of the blackbird on
that gray March evening.  Flavian indeed was a creature who changed
much with the changes of the passing light and shade about him, and was
brilliant enough under the early sunshine in [50] school next morning.
Of all that little world of more or less gifted youth, surely the
centre was this lad of servile birth.  Prince of the school, he had
gained an easy dominion over the old Greek master by the fascination of
his parts, and over his fellow-scholars by the figure he bore.  He wore
already the manly dress; and standing there in class, as he displayed
his wonderful quickness in reckoning, or his taste in declaiming Homer,
he was like a carved figure in motion, thought Marius, but with that
indescribable gleam upon it which the words of Homer actually
suggested, as perceptible on the visible forms of the gods--hoia theous
epenênothen aien eontas.+

A story hung by him, a story which his comrades acutely connected with
his habitual air of somewhat peevish pride.  Two points were held to be
clear amid its general vagueness--a rich stranger paid his schooling,
and he was himself very poor, though there was an attractive piquancy
in the poverty of Flavian which in a scholar of another figure might
have been despised.  Over Marius too his dominion was entire.  Three
years older than he, Flavian was appointed to help the younger boy in
his studies, and Marius thus became virtually his servant in many
things, taking his humours with a sort of grateful pride in being
noticed at all, and, thinking over all this afterwards, found that the
[51] fascination experienced by him had been a sentimental one,
dependent on the concession to himself of an intimacy, a certain
tolerance of his company, granted to none beside.

That was in the earliest days; and then, as their intimacy grew, the
genius, the intellectual power of Flavian began its sway over him. The
brilliant youth who loved dress, and dainty food, and flowers, and
seemed to have a natural alliance with, and claim upon, everything else
which was physically select and bright, cultivated also that foppery of
words, of choice diction which was common among the élite spirits of
that day; and Marius, early an expert and elegant penman, transcribed
his verses (the euphuism of which, amid a genuine original power, was
then so delightful to him) in beautiful ink, receiving in return the
profit of Flavian's really great intellectual capacities, developed and
accomplished under the ambitious desire to make his way effectively in
life.  Among other things he introduced him to the writings of a
sprightly wit, then very busy with the pen, one Lucian--writings
seeming to overflow with that intellectual light turned upon dim
places, which, at least in seasons of mental fair weather, can make
people laugh where they have been wont, perhaps, to pray.  And, surely,
the sunlight which filled those well-remembered early mornings in
school, had had more than the usual measure of gold in it! [52] Marius,
at least, would lie awake before the time, thinking with delight of the
long coming hours of hard work in the presence of Flavian, as other
boys dream of a holiday.

It was almost by accident at last, so wayward and capricious was he,
that reserve gave way, and Flavian told the story of his father--a
freedman, presented late in life, and almost against his will, with the
liberty so fondly desired in youth, but on condition of the sacrifice
of part of his peculium--the slave's diminutive hoard--amassed by many
a self-denial, in an existence necessarily hard.  The rich man,
interested in the promise of the fair child born on his estate, had
sent him to school.  The meanness and dejection, nevertheless, of that
unoccupied old age defined the leading memory of Flavian, revived
sometimes, after this first confidence, with a burst of angry tears
amid the sunshine.  But nature had had her economy in nursing the
strength of that one natural affection; for, save his half-selfish care
for Marius, it was the single, really generous part, the one piety, in
the lad's character.  In him Marius saw the spirit of unbelief,
achieved as if at one step.  The much-admired freedman's son, as with
the privilege of a natural aristocracy, believed only in himself, in
the brilliant, and mainly sensuous gifts, he had, or meant to acquire.

And then, he had certainly yielded himself, [53] though still with
untouched health, in a world where manhood comes early, to the
seductions of that luxurious town, and Marius wondered sometimes, in
the freer revelation of himself by conversation, at the extent of his
early corruption.  How often, afterwards, did evil things present
themselves in malign association with the memory of that beautiful
head, and with a kind of borrowed sanction and charm in its natural
grace!  To Marius, at a later time, he counted for as it were an
epitome of the whole pagan world, the depth of its corruption, and its
perfection of form.  And still, in his mobility, his animation, in his
eager capacity for various life, he was so real an object, after that
visionary idealism of the villa.  His voice, his glance, were like the
breaking in of the solid world upon one, amid the flimsy fictions of a
dream.  A shadow, handling all things as shadows, had felt a sudden
real and poignant heat in them.

Meantime, under his guidance, Marius was learning quickly and
abundantly, because with a good will.  There was that in the actual
effectiveness of his figure which stimulated the younger lad to make
the most of opportunity; and he had experience already that education
largely increased one's capacity for enjoyment.  He was acquiring what
it is the chief function of all higher education to impart, the art,
namely, of so relieving the ideal or poetic traits, [54] the elements
of distinction, in our everyday life--of so exclusively living in
them--that the unadorned remainder of it, the mere drift or débris of
our days, comes to be as though it were not.  And the consciousness of
this aim came with the reading of one particular book, then fresh in
the world, with which he fell in about this time--a book which awakened
the poetic or romantic capacity as perhaps some other book might have
done, but was peculiar in giving it a direction emphatically sensuous.
It made him, in that visionary reception of every-day life, the seer,
more especially, of a revelation in colour and form.  If our modern
education, in its better efforts, really conveys to any of us that kind
of idealising power, it does so (though dealing mainly, as its
professed instruments, with the most select and ideal remains of
ancient literature) oftenest by truant reading; and thus it happened
also, long ago, with Marius and his friend.


43. +Transliteration: Mouseion.  The word means "seat of the muses."
Translation: "O sea! O shore! my own Helicon, / How many things have
you uncovered to me, how many things suggested!"  Pliny, Letters, Book
I, ix, to Minicius Fundanus.

50. +Transliteration: hoia theous epenênothen aien eontas. Translation:
"such as the gods are endowed with."  Homer, Odyssey, 8.365.


[55] THE two lads were lounging together over a book, half-buried in a
heap of dry corn, in an old granary--the quiet corner to which they had
climbed out of the way of their noisier companions on one of their
blandest holiday afternoons.  They looked round: the western sun smote
through the broad chinks of the shutters.  How like a picture! and it
was precisely the scene described in what they were reading, with just
that added poetic touch in the book which made it delightful and
select, and, in the actual place, the ray of sunlight transforming the
rough grain among the cool brown shadows into heaps of gold.  What they
were intent on was, indeed, the book of books, the "golden" book of
that day, a gift to Flavian, as was shown by the purple writing on the
handsome yellow wrapper, following the title Flaviane!--it said,

     Flaviane! lege Felicitur!
     Flaviane!  Vivas!  Fioreas!
     Flaviane!  Vivas!  Gaudeas!

[56] It was perfumed with oil of sandal-wood, and decorated with carved
and gilt ivory bosses at the ends of the roller.

And the inside was something not less dainty and fine, full of the
archaisms and curious felicities in which that generation delighted,
quaint terms and images picked fresh from the early dramatists, the
lifelike phrases of some lost poet preserved by an old grammarian, racy
morsels of the vernacular and studied prettinesses:--all alike, mere
playthings for the genuine power and natural eloquence of the erudite
artist, unsuppressed by his erudition, which, however, made some people
angry, chiefly less well "got-up" people, and especially those who were
untidy from indolence.

No! it was certainly not that old-fashioned, unconscious ease of the
early literature, which could never come again; which, after all, had
had more in common with the "infinite patience" of Apuleius than with
the hack-work readiness of his detractors, who might so well have been
"self-conscious" of going slip-shod.  And at least his success was
unmistakable as to the precise literary effect he had intended,
including a certain tincture of "neology" in expression--nonnihil
interdum elocutione novella parum signatum--in the language of
Cornelius Fronto, the contemporary prince of rhetoricians.  What words
he had found for conveying, with a single touch, the sense of textures,
colours, [57] incidents!  "Like jewellers' work!  Like a myrrhine
vase!"--admirers said of his writing.  "The golden fibre in the hair,
the gold thread-work in the gown marked her as the mistress"--aurum in
comis et in tunicis, ibi inflexum hic intextum, matronam profecto
confitebatur--he writes, with his "curious felicity," of one of his
heroines.  Aurum intextum: gold fibre:--well! there was something of
that kind in his own work.  And then, in an age when people, from the
emperor Aurelius downwards, prided themselves unwisely on writing in
Greek, he had written for Latin people in their own tongue; though
still, in truth, with all the care of a learned language.  Not less
happily inventive were the incidents recorded--story within
story--stories with the sudden, unlooked-for changes of dreams.  He had
his humorous touches also.  And what went to the ordinary boyish taste,
in those somewhat peculiar readers, what would have charmed boys more
purely boyish, was the adventure:--the bear loose in the house at
night, the wolves storming the farms in winter, the exploits of the
robbers, their charming caves, the delightful thrill one had at the
question--"Don't you know that these roads are infested by robbers?"

The scene of the romance was laid in Thessaly, the original land of
witchcraft, and took one up and down its mountains, and into its old
weird towns, haunts of magic and [58] incantation, where all the more
genuine appliances of the black art, left behind her by Medea when she
fled through that country, were still in use.  In the city of Hypata,
indeed, nothing seemed to be its true self--"You might think that
through the murmuring of some cadaverous spell, all things had been
changed into forms not their own; that there was humanity in the
hardness of the stones you stumbled on; that the birds you heard
singing were feathered men; that the trees around the walls drew their
leaves from a like source.  The statues seemed about to move, the walls
to speak, the dumb cattle to break out in prophecy; nay! the very sky
and the sunbeams, as if they might suddenly cry out." Witches are there
who can draw down the moon, or at least the lunar virus--that white
fluid she sheds, to be found, so rarely, "on high, heathy places: which
is a poison.  A touch of it will drive men mad."

And in one very remote village lives the sorceress Pamphile, who turns
her neighbours into various animals.  What true humour in the scene
where, after mounting the rickety stairs, Lucius, peeping curiously
through a chink in the door, is a spectator of the transformation of
the old witch herself into a bird, that she may take flight to the
object of her affections--into an owl!  "First she stripped off every
rag she had.  Then opening a certain chest she took from it many small
boxes, and removing the lid [59] of one of them, rubbed herself over
for a long time, from head to foot, with an ointment it contained, and
after much low muttering to her lamp, began to jerk at last and shake
her limbs.  And as her limbs moved to and fro, out burst the soft
feathers: stout wings came forth to view: the nose grew hard and
hooked: her nails were crooked into claws; and Pamphile was an owl. She
uttered a queasy screech; and, leaping little by little from the
ground, making trial of herself, fled presently, on full wing, out of

By clumsy imitation of this process, Lucius, the hero of the romance,
transforms himself, not as he had intended into a showy winged
creature, but into the animal which has given name to the book; for
throughout it there runs a vein of racy, homely satire on the love of
magic then prevalent, curiosity concerning which had led Lucius to
meddle with the old woman's appliances.  "Be you my Venus," he says to
the pretty maid-servant who has introduced him to the view of Pamphile,
"and let me stand by you a winged Cupid!" and, freely applying the
magic ointment, sees himself transformed, "not into a bird, but into an

Well! the proper remedy for his distress is a supper of roses, could
such be found, and many are his quaintly picturesque attempts to come
by them at that adverse season; as he contrives to do at last, when,
the grotesque procession of Isis [60] passing by with a bear and other
strange animals in its train, the ass following along with the rest
suddenly crunches the chaplet of roses carried in the High-priest's

Meantime, however, he must wait for the spring, with more than the
outside of an ass; "though I was not so much a fool, nor so truly an
ass," he tells us, when he happens to be left alone with a daintily
spread table, "as to neglect this most delicious fare, and feed upon
coarse hay."  For, in truth, all through the book, there is an
unmistakably real feeling for asses, with bold touches like Swift's,
and a genuine animal breadth.  Lucius was the original ass, who peeping
slily from the window of his hiding-place forgot all about the big
shade he cast just above him, and gave occasion to the joke or proverb
about "the peeping ass and his shadow."

But the marvellous, delight in which is one of the really serious
elements in most boys, passed at times, those young readers still
feeling its fascination, into what French writers call the
macabre--that species of almost insane pre-occupation with the
materialities of our mouldering flesh, that luxury of disgust in gazing
on corruption, which was connected, in this writer at least, with not a
little obvious coarseness.  It was a strange notion of the gross lust
of the actual world, that Marius took from some of these episodes. "I
am told," they read, "that [61] when foreigners are interred, the old
witches are in the habit of out-racing the funeral procession, to
ravage the corpse"--in order to obtain certain cuttings and remnants
from it, with which to injure the living--"especially if the witch has
happened to cast her eye upon some goodly young man."  And the scene of
the night-watching of a dead body lest the witches should come to tear
off the flesh with their teeth, is worthy of Théophile Gautier.

But set as one of the episodes in the main narrative, a true gem amid
its mockeries, its coarse though genuine humanity, its burlesque
horrors, came the tale of Cupid and Psyche, full of brilliant,
life-like situations, speciosa locis, and abounding in lovely visible
imagery (one seemed to see and handle the golden hair, the fresh
flowers, the precious works of art in it!) yet full also of a gentle
idealism, so that you might take it, if you chose, for an allegory.
With a concentration of all his finer literary gifts, Apuleius had
gathered into it the floating star-matter of many a delightful old

The Story of Cupid and Psyche.

In a certain city lived a king and queen who had three daughters
exceeding fair.  But the beauty of the elder sisters, though pleasant
to behold, yet passed not the measure of human praise, while such was
the loveliness of the [62] youngest that men's speech was too poor to
commend it worthily and could express it not at all.  Many of the
citizens and of strangers, whom the fame of this excellent vision had
gathered thither, confounded by that matchless beauty, could but kiss
the finger-tips of their right hands at sight of her, as in adoration
to the goddess Venus herself.  And soon a rumour passed through the
country that she whom the blue deep had borne, forbearing her divine
dignity, was even then moving among men, or that by some fresh
germination from the stars, not the sea now, but the earth, had put
forth a new Venus, endued with the flower of virginity.

This belief, with the fame of the maiden's loveliness, went daily
further into distant lands, so that many people were drawn together to
behold that glorious model of the age.  Men sailed no longer to Paphos,
to Cnidus or Cythera, to the presence of the goddess Venus: her sacred
rites were neglected, her images stood uncrowned, the cold ashes were
left to disfigure her forsaken altars.  It was to a maiden that men's
prayers were offered, to a human countenance they looked, in
propitiating so great a godhead: when the girl went forth in the
morning they strewed flowers on her way, and the victims proper to that
unseen goddess were presented as she passed along.  This conveyance of
divine worship to a mortal kindled meantime the anger of the true
Venus.  "Lo! now, the ancient [63] parent of nature," she cried, "the
fountain of all elements!  Behold me, Venus, benign mother of the
world, sharing my honours with a mortal maiden, while my name, built up
in heaven, is profaned by the mean things of earth!  Shall a perishable
woman bear my image about with her?  In vain did the shepherd of Ida
prefer me!  Yet shall she have little joy, whosoever she be, of her
usurped and unlawful loveliness!" Thereupon she called to her that
winged, bold boy, of evil ways, who wanders armed by night through
men's houses, spoiling their marriages; and stirring yet more by her
speech his inborn wantonness, she led him to the city, and showed him
Psyche as she walked.

"I pray thee," she said, "give thy mother a full revenge.  Let this
maid become the slave of an unworthy love."  Then, embracing him
closely, she departed to the shore and took her throne upon the crest
of the wave.  And lo! at her unuttered will, her ocean-servants are in
waiting: the daughters of Nereus are there singing their song, and
Portunus, and Salacia, and the tiny charioteer of the dolphin, with a
host of Tritons leaping through the billows.  And one blows softly
through his sounding sea-shell, another spreads a silken web against
the sun, a third presents the mirror to the eyes of his mistress, while
the others swim side by side below, drawing her chariot.  Such was the
escort of Venus as she went upon the sea.

[64] Psyche meantime, aware of her loveliness, had no fruit thereof.
All people regarded and admired, but none sought her in marriage.  It
was but as on the finished work of the craftsman that they gazed upon
that divine likeness.  Her sisters, less fair than she, were happily
wedded.  She, even as a widow, sitting at home, wept over her
desolation, hating in her heart the beauty in which all men were

And the king, supposing the gods were angry, inquired of the oracle of
Apollo, and Apollo answered him thus: "Let the damsel be placed on the
top of a certain mountain, adorned as for the bed of marriage and of
death.  Look not for a son-in-law of mortal birth; but for that evil
serpent-thing, by reason of whom even the gods tremble and the shadows
of Styx are afraid."

So the king returned home and made known the oracle to his wife.  For
many days she lamented, but at last the fulfilment of the divine
precept is urgent upon her, and the company make ready to conduct the
maiden to her deadly bridal.  And now the nuptial torch gathers dark
smoke and ashes: the pleasant sound of the pipe is changed into a cry:
the marriage hymn concludes in a sorrowful wailing: below her yellow
wedding-veil the bride shook away her tears; insomuch that the whole
city was afflicted together at the ill-luck of the stricken house.

But the mandate of the god impelled the hapless Psyche to her fate,
and, these solemnities [65] being ended, the funeral of the living soul
goes forth, all the people following.  Psyche, bitterly weeping,
assists not at her marriage but at her own obsequies, and while the
parents hesitate to accomplish a thing so unholy the daughter cries to
them: "Wherefore torment your luckless age by long weeping?  This was
the prize of my extraordinary beauty!  When all people celebrated us
with divine honours, and in one voice named the New Venus, it was then
ye should have wept for me as one dead.  Now at last I understand that
that one name of Venus has been my ruin.  Lead me and set me upon the
appointed place.  I am in haste to submit to that well-omened marriage,
to behold that goodly spouse.  Why delay the coming of him who was born
for the destruction of the whole world?"

She was silent, and with firm step went on the way.  And they proceeded
to the appointed place on a steep mountain, and left there the maiden
alone, and took their way homewards dejectedly.  The wretched parents,
in their close-shut house, yielded themselves to perpetual night; while
to Psyche, fearful and trembling and weeping sore upon the
mountain-top, comes the gentle Zephyrus.  He lifts her mildly, and,
with vesture afloat on either side, bears her by his own soft breathing
over the windings of the hills, and sets her lightly among the flowers
in the bosom of a valley below.

Psyche, in those delicate grassy places, lying [66] sweetly on her dewy
bed, rested from the agitation of her soul and arose in peace. And lo!
a grove of mighty trees, with a fount of water, clear as glass, in the
midst; and hard by the water, a dwelling-place, built not by human
hands but by some divine cunning.  One recognised, even at the
entering, the delightful hostelry of a god.  Golden pillars sustained
the roof, arched most curiously in cedar-wood and ivory. The walls were
hidden under wrought silver:--all tame and woodland creatures leaping
forward to the visitor's gaze.  Wonderful indeed was the craftsman,
divine or half-divine, who by the subtlety of his art had breathed so
wild a soul into the silver!  The very pavement was distinct with
pictures in goodly stones.  In the glow of its precious metal the house
is its own daylight, having no need of the sun.  Well might it seem a
place fashioned for the conversation of gods with men!

Psyche, drawn forward by the delight of it, came near, and, her courage
growing, stood within the doorway.  One by one, she admired the
beautiful things she saw; and, most wonderful of all! no lock, no
chain, nor living guardian protected that great treasure house.  But as
she gazed there came a voice--a voice, as it were unclothed of bodily
vesture--"Mistress!" it said, "all these things are thine. Lie down,
and relieve thy weariness, and rise again for the bath when thou wilt.
We thy servants, whose [67] voice thou hearest, will be beforehand with
our service, and a royal feast shall be ready."

And Psyche understood that some divine care was providing, and,
refreshed with sleep and the Bath, sat down to the feast.  Still she
saw no one: only she heard words falling here and there, and had voices
alone to serve her.  And the feast being ended, one entered the chamber
and sang to her unseen, while another struck the chords of a harp,
invisible with him who played on it.  Afterwards the sound of a company
singing together came to her, but still so that none were present to
sight; yet it appeared that a great multitude of singers was there.

And the hour of evening inviting her, she climbed into the bed; and as
the night was far advanced, behold a sound of a certain clemency
approaches her.  Then, fearing for her maidenhood in so great solitude,
she trembled, and more than any evil she knew dreaded that she knew
not.  And now the husband, that unknown husband, drew near, and
ascended the couch, and made her his wife; and lo! before the rise of
dawn he had departed hastily.  And the attendant voices ministered to
the needs of the newly married.  And so it happened with her for a long
season.  And as nature has willed, this new thing, by continual use,
became a delight to her: the sound of the voice grew to be her solace
in that condition of loneliness and uncertainty.

[68] One night the bridegroom spoke thus to his beloved, "O Psyche,
most pleasant bride!  Fortune is grown stern with us, and threatens
thee with mortal peril.  Thy sisters, troubled at the report of thy
death and seeking some trace of thee, will come to the mountain's top.
But if by chance their cries reach thee, answer not, neither look forth
at all, lest thou bring sorrow upon me and destruction upon thyself."
Then Psyche promised that she would do according to his will.  But the
bridegroom was fled away again with the night. And all that day she
spent in tears, repeating that she was now dead indeed, shut up in that
golden prison, powerless to console her sisters sorrowing after her, or
to see their faces; and so went to rest weeping.

And after a while came the bridegroom again, and lay down beside her,
and embracing her as she wept, complained, "Was this thy promise, my
Psyche?  What have I to hope from thee?  Even in the arms of thy
husband thou ceasest not from pain.  Do now as thou wilt.  Indulge
thine own desire, though it seeks what will ruin thee.  Yet wilt thou
remember my warning, repentant too late."  Then, protesting that she is
like to die, she obtains from him that he suffer her to see her
sisters, and present to them moreover what gifts she would of golden
ornaments; but therewith he ofttimes advised her never at any time,
yielding to pernicious counsel, to enquire concerning his bodily form,
lest she fall, [69] through unholy curiosity, from so great a height of
fortune, nor feel ever his embrace again.  "I would die a hundred
times," she said, cheerful at last, "rather than be deprived of thy
most sweet usage.  I love thee as my own soul, beyond comparison even
with Love himself.  Only bid thy servant Zephyrus bring hither my
sisters, as he brought me.  My honeycomb!  My husband!  Thy Psyche's
breath of life!"  So he promised; and after the embraces of the night,
ere the light appeared, vanished from the hands of his bride.

And the sisters, coming to the place where Psyche was abandoned, wept
loudly among the rocks, and called upon her by name, so that the sound
came down to her, and running out of the palace distraught, she cried,
"Wherefore afflict your souls with lamentation?  I whom you mourn am
here."  Then, summoning Zephyrus, she reminded him of her husband's
bidding; and he bare them down with a gentle blast.  "Enter now," she
said, "into my house, and relieve your sorrow in the company of Psyche
your sister."

And Psyche displayed to them all the treasures of the golden house, and
its great family of ministering voices, nursing in them the malice
which was already at their hearts.  And at last one of them asks
curiously who the lord of that celestial array may be, and what manner
of man her husband?  And Psyche [70] answered dissemblingly, "A young
man, handsome and mannerly, with a goodly beard.  For the most part he
hunts upon the mountains."  And lest the secret should slip from her in
the way of further speech, loading her sisters with gold and gems, she
commanded Zephyrus to bear them away.

And they returned home, on fire with envy.  "See now the injustice of
fortune!" cried one.  "We, the elder children, are given like servants
to be the wives of strangers, while the youngest is possessed of so
great riches, who scarcely knows how to use them. You saw, Sister! what
a hoard of wealth lies in the house; what glittering gowns; what
splendour of precious gems, besides all that gold trodden under foot.
If she indeed hath, as she said, a bridegroom so goodly, then no one in
all the world is happier.  And it may be that this husband, being of
divine nature, will make her too a goddess.  Nay! so in truth it is. It
was even thus she bore herself.  Already she looks aloft and breathes
divinity, who, though but a woman, has voices for her handmaidens, and
can command the winds."  "Think," answered the other, "how arrogantly
she dealt with us, grudging us these trifling gifts out of all that
store, and when our company became a burden, causing us to be hissed
and driven away from her through the air!  But I am no woman if she
keep her hold on this great fortune; and if the insult done us has
touched [71] thee too, take we counsel together.  Meanwhile let us hold
our peace, and know naught of her, alive or dead.  For they are not
truly happy of whose happiness other folk are unaware."

And the bridegroom, whom still she knows not, warns her thus a second
time, as he talks with her by night: "Seest thou what peril besets
thee?  Those cunning wolves have made ready for thee their snares, of
which the sum is that they persuade thee to search into the fashion of
my countenance, the seeing of which, as I have told thee often, will be
the seeing of it no more for ever.  But do thou neither listen nor make
answer to aught regarding thy husband.  Besides, we have sown also the
seed of our race.  Even now this bosom grows with a child to be born to
us, a child, if thou but keep our secret, of divine quality; if thou
profane it, subject to death."  And Psyche was glad at the tidings,
rejoicing in that solace of a divine seed, and in the glory of that
pledge of love to be, and the dignity of the name of mother.  Anxiously
she notes the increase of the days, the waning months.  And again, as
he tarries briefly beside her, the bridegroom repeats his warning:

"Even now the sword is drawn with which thy sisters seek thy life. Have
pity on thyself, sweet wife, and upon our child, and see not those evil
women again."  But the sisters make their way into the palace once
more, crying to her in [72] wily tones, "O Psyche! and thou too wilt be
a mother!  How great will be the joy at home!  Happy indeed shall we be
to have the nursing of the golden child.  Truly if he be answerable to
the beauty of his parents, it will be a birth of Cupid himself."

So, little by little, they stole upon the heart of their sister. She,
meanwhile, bids the lyre to sound for their delight, and the playing is
heard: she bids the pipes to move, the quire to sing, and the music and
the singing come invisibly, soothing the mind of the listener with
sweetest modulation.  Yet not even thereby was their malice put to
sleep: once more they seek to know what manner of husband she has, and
whence that seed.  And Psyche, simple over-much, forgetful of her first
story, answers, "My husband comes from a far country, trading for great
sums.  He is already of middle age, with whitening locks."  And
therewith she dismisses them again.

And returning home upon the soft breath of Zephyrus one cried to the
other, "What shall be said of so ugly a lie?  He who was a young man
with goodly beard is now in middle life.  It must be that she told a
false tale: else is she in very truth ignorant what manner of man he
is.  Howsoever it be, let us destroy her quickly.  For if she indeed
knows not, be sure that her bridegroom is one of the gods: it is a god
she bears in her womb.  And let [73] that be far from us!  If she be
called mother of a god, then will life be more than I can bear."

So, full of rage against her, they returned to Psyche, and said to her
craftily, "Thou livest in an ignorant bliss, all incurious of thy real
danger.  It is a deadly serpent, as we certainly know, that comes to
sleep at thy side.  Remember the words of the oracle, which declared
thee destined to a cruel beast.  There are those who have seen it at
nightfall, coming back from its feeding.  In no long time, they say, it
will end its blandishments.  It but waits for the babe to be formed in
thee, that it may devour thee by so much the richer. If indeed the
solitude of this musical place, or it may be the loathsome commerce of
a hidden love, delight thee, we at least in sisterly piety have done
our part."  And at last the unhappy Psyche, simple and frail of soul,
carried away by the terror of their words, losing memory of her
husband's precepts and her own promise, brought upon herself a great
calamity.  Trembling and turning pale, she answers them, "And they who
tell those things, it may be, speak the truth.  For in very deed never
have I seen the face of my husband, nor know I at all what manner of
man he is.  Always he frights me diligently from the sight of him,
threatening some great evil should I too curiously look upon his face.
Do ye, if ye can help your sister in her great peril, stand by her now."

[74] Her sisters answered her, "The way of safety we have well
considered, and will teach thee.  Take a sharp knife, and hide it in
that part of the couch where thou art wont to lie: take also a lamp
filled with oil, and set it Privily behind the curtain.  And when he
shall have drawn up his coils into the accustomed place, and thou
hearest him breathe in sleep, slip then from his side and discover the
lamp, and, knife in hand, put forth thy strength, and strike off the
serpent's head."  And so they departed in haste.

And Psyche left alone (alone but for the furies which beset her) is
tossed up and down in her distress, like a wave of the sea; and though
her will is firm, yet, in the moment of putting hand to the deed, she
falters, and is torn asunder by various apprehension of the great
calamity upon her.  She hastens and anon delays, now full of distrust,
and now of angry courage: under one bodily form she loathes the monster
and loves the bridegroom.  But twilight ushers in the night; and at
length in haste she makes ready for the terrible deed. Darkness came,
and the bridegroom; and he first, after some faint essay of love, falls
into a deep sleep.

And she, erewhile of no strength, the hard purpose of destiny assisting
her, is confirmed in force.  With lamp plucked forth, knife in hand,
she put by her sex; and lo! as the secrets of the bed became manifest,
the sweetest and most gentle of all creatures, Love himself, reclined
[75] there, in his own proper loveliness!  At sight of him the very
flame of the lamp kindled more gladly!  But Psyche was afraid at the
vision, and, faint of soul, trembled back upon her knees, and would
have hidden the steel in her own bosom.  But the knife slipped from her
hand; and now, undone, yet ofttimes looking upon the beauty of that
divine countenance, she lives again.  She sees the locks of that golden
head, pleasant with the unction of the gods, shed down in graceful
entanglement behind and before, about the ruddy cheeks and white
throat.  The pinions of the winged god, yet fresh with the dew, are
spotless upon his shoulders, the delicate plumage wavering over them as
they lie at rest.  Smooth he was, and, touched with light, worthy of
Venus his mother.  At the foot of the couch lay his bow and arrows, the
instruments of his power, propitious to men.

And Psyche, gazing hungrily thereon, draws an arrow from the quiver,
and trying the point upon her thumb, tremulous still, drave in the
barb, so that a drop of blood came forth.  Thus fell she, by her own
act, and unaware, into the love of Love.  Falling upon the bridegroom,
with indrawn breath, in a hurry of kisses from eager and open lips, she
shuddered as she thought how brief that sleep might be.  And it chanced
that a drop of burning oil fell from the lamp upon the god's shoulder.
Ah! maladroit minister of love, thus to wound him from whom [76] all
fire comes; though 'twas a lover, I trow, first devised thee, to have
the fruit of his desire even in the darkness!  At the touch of the fire
the god started up, and beholding the overthrow of her faith, quietly
took flight from her embraces.

And Psyche, as he rose upon the wing, laid hold on him with her two
hands, hanging upon him in his passage through the air, till she sinks
to the earth through weariness.  And as she lay there, the divine
lover, tarrying still, lighted upon a cypress tree which grew near,
and, from the top of it, spake thus to her, in great emotion. "Foolish
one! unmindful of the command of Venus, my mother, who had devoted thee
to one of base degree, I fled to thee in his stead.  Now know I that
this was vainly done.  Into mine own flesh pierced mine arrow, and I
made thee my wife, only that I might seem a monster beside thee--that
thou shouldst seek to wound the head wherein lay the eyes so full of
love to thee!  Again and again, I thought to put thee on thy guard
concerning these things, and warned thee in loving-kindness.  Now I
would but punish thee by my flight hence."  And therewith he winged his
way into the deep sky.

Psyche, prostrate upon the earth, and following far as sight might
reach the flight of the bridegroom, wept and lamented; and when the
breadth of space had parted him wholly from her, cast herself down from
the bank of a river [77] which was nigh.  But the stream, turning
gentle in honour of the god, put her forth again unhurt upon its
margin.  And as it happened, Pan, the rustic god, was sitting just then
by the waterside, embracing, in the body of a reed, the goddess Canna;
teaching her to respond to him in all varieties of slender sound.  Hard
by, his flock of goats browsed at will.  And the shaggy god called her,
wounded and outworn, kindly to him and said, "I am but a rustic
herdsman, pretty maiden, yet wise, by favour of my great age and long
experience; and if I guess truly by those faltering steps, by thy
sorrowful eyes and continual sighing, thou labourest with excess of
love.  Listen then to me, and seek not death again, in the stream or
otherwise.  Put aside thy woe, and turn thy prayers to Cupid.  He is in
truth a delicate youth: win him by the delicacy of thy service."

So the shepherd-god spoke, and Psyche, answering nothing, but with a
reverence to his serviceable deity, went on her way.  And while she, in
her search after Cupid, wandered through many lands, he was lying in
the chamber of his mother, heart-sick.  And the white bird which floats
over the waves plunged in haste into the sea, and approaching Venus, as
she bathed, made known to her that her son lies afflicted with some
grievous hurt, doubtful of life.  And Venus cried, angrily, "My son,
then, has a mistress!  And it is Psyche, who witched away [78] my
beauty and was the rival of my godhead, whom he loves!"

Therewith she issued from the sea, and returning to her golden chamber,
found there the lad, sick, as she had heard, and cried from the
doorway, "Well done, truly! to trample thy mother's precepts under
foot, to spare my enemy that cross of an unworthy love; nay, unite her
to thyself, child as thou art, that I might have a daughter-in-law who
hates me!  I will make thee repent of thy sport, and the savour of thy
marriage bitter.  There is one who shall chasten this body of thine,
put out thy torch and unstring thy bow. Not till she has plucked forth
that hair, into which so oft these hands have smoothed the golden
light, and sheared away thy wings, shall I feel the injury done me
avenged."  And with this she hastened in anger from the doors.

And Ceres and Juno met her, and sought to know the meaning of her
troubled countenance.  "Ye come in season," she cried; "I pray you,
find for me Psyche.  It must needs be that ye have heard the disgrace
of my house."  And they, ignorant of what was done, would have soothed
her anger, saying, "What fault, Mistress, hath thy son committed, that
thou wouldst destroy the girl he loves?  Knowest thou not that he is
now of age?  Because he wears his years so lightly must he seem to thee
ever but a child?  Wilt thou for ever thus pry into the [79] pastimes
of thy son, always accusing his wantonness, and blaming in him those
delicate wiles which are all thine own?" Thus, in secret fear of the
boy's bow, did they seek to please him with their gracious patronage.
But Venus, angry at their light taking of her wrongs, turned her back
upon them, and with hasty steps made her way once more to the sea.

Meanwhile Psyche, tost in soul, wandering hither and thither, rested
not night or day in the pursuit of her husband, desiring, if she might
not sooth his anger by the endearments of a wife, at the least to
propitiate him with the prayers of a handmaid.  And seeing a certain
temple on the top of a high mountain, she said, "Who knows whether
yonder place be not the abode of my lord?"  Thither, therefore, she
turned her steps, hastening now the more because desire and hope
pressed her on, weary as she was with the labours of the way, and so,
painfully measuring out the highest ridges of the mountain, drew near
to the sacred couches.  She sees ears of wheat, in heaps or twisted
into chaplets; ears of barley also, with sickles and all the
instruments of harvest, lying there in disorder, thrown at random from
the hands of the labourers in the great heat.  These she curiously sets
apart, one by one, duly ordering them; for she said within herself, "I
may not neglect the shrines, nor the holy service, of any god there be,
but must rather [80] win by supplication the kindly mercy of them all."

And Ceres found her bending sadly upon her task, and cried aloud,
"Alas, Psyche!  Venus, in the furiousness of her anger, tracks thy
footsteps through the world, seeking for thee to pay her the utmost
penalty; and thou, thinking of anything rather than thine own safety,
hast taken on thee the care of what belongs to me!"  Then Psyche fell
down at her feet, and sweeping the floor with her hair, washing the
footsteps of the goddess in her tears, besought her mercy, with many
prayers:--"By the gladdening rites of harvest, by the lighted lamps and
mystic marches of the Marriage and mysterious Invention of thy daughter
Proserpine, and by all beside that the holy place of Attica veils in
silence, minister, I pray thee, to the sorrowful heart of Psyche!
Suffer me to hide myself but for a few days among the heaps of corn,
till time have softened the anger of the goddess, and my strength,
out-worn in my long travail, be recovered by a little rest."

But Ceres answered her, "Truly thy tears move me, and I would fain help
thee; only I dare not incur the ill-will of my kinswoman. Depart hence
as quickly as may be."  And Psyche, repelled against hope, afflicted
now with twofold sorrow, making her way back again, beheld among the
half-lighted woods of the valley below a sanctuary builded with cunning
[81] art.  And that she might lose no way of hope, howsoever doubtful,
she drew near to the sacred doors.  She sees there gifts of price, and
garments fixed upon the door-posts and to the branches of the trees,
wrought with letters of gold which told the name of the goddess to whom
they were dedicated, with thanksgiving for that she had done.  So, with
bent knee and hands laid about the glowing altar, she prayed saying,
"Sister and spouse of Jupiter! be thou to these my desperate fortune's
Juno the Auspicious!  I know that thou dost willingly help those in
travail with child; deliver me from the peril that is upon me."  And as
she prayed thus, Juno in the majesty of her godhead, was straightway
present, and answered, "Would that I might incline favourably to thee;
but against the will of Venus, whom I have ever loved as a daughter, I
may not, for very shame, grant thy prayer."

And Psyche, dismayed by this new shipwreck of her hope, communed thus
with herself, "Whither, from the midst of the snares that beset me,
shall I take my way once more?  In what dark solitude shall I hide me
from the all-seeing eye of Venus?  What if I put on at length a man's
courage, and yielding myself unto her as my mistress, soften by a
humility not yet too late the fierceness of her purpose?  Who knows but
that I may find him also whom my soul seeketh after, in the abode of
his mother?"

[82] And Venus, renouncing all earthly aid in her search, prepared to
return to heaven.  She ordered the chariot to be made ready, wrought
for her by Vulcan as a marriage-gift, with a cunning of hand which had
left his work so much the richer by the weight of gold it lost under
his tool.  From the multitude which housed about the bed-chamber of
their mistress, white doves came forth, and with joyful motions bent
their painted necks beneath the yoke.  Behind it, with playful riot,
the sparrows sped onward, and other birds sweet of song, making known
by their soft notes the approach of the goddess. Eagle and cruel hawk
alarmed not the quireful family of Venus.  And the clouds broke away,
as the uttermost ether opened to receive her, daughter and goddess,
with great joy.

And Venus passed straightway to the house of Jupiter to beg from him
the service of Mercury, the god of speech.  And Jupiter refused not her
prayer.  And Venus and Mercury descended from heaven together; and as
they went, the former said to the latter, "Thou knowest, my brother of
Arcady, that never at any time have I done anything without thy help;
for how long time, moreover, I have sought a certain maiden in vain.
And now naught remains but that, by thy heraldry, I proclaim a reward
for whomsoever shall find her.  Do thou my bidding quickly."  And
therewith [83] she conveyed to him a little scrip, in the which was
written the name of Psyche, with other things; and so returned home.

And Mercury failed not in his office; but departing into all lands,
proclaimed that whosoever delivered up to Venus the fugitive girl,
should receive from herself seven kisses--one thereof full of the
inmost honey of her throat.  With that the doubt of Psyche was ended.
And now, as she came near to the doors of Venus, one of the household,
whose name was Use-and-Wont, ran out to her, crying, "Hast thou
learned, Wicked Maid! now at last! that thou hast a mistress?" And
seizing her roughly by the hair, drew her into the presence of Venus.
And when Venus saw her, she cried out, saying, "Thou hast deigned then
to make thy salutations to thy mother-in-law.  Now will I in turn treat
thee as becometh a dutiful daughter-in-law!"

And she took barley and millet and poppy-seed, every kind of grain and
seed, and mixed them together, and laughed, and said to her: "Methinks
so plain a maiden can earn lovers only by industrious ministry: now
will I also make trial of thy service.  Sort me this heap of seed, the
one kind from the others, grain by grain; and get thy task done before
the evening."  And Psyche, stunned by the cruelty of her bidding, was
silent, and moved not her hand to the inextricable heap.  And there
came [84] forth a little ant, which had understanding of the difficulty
of her task, and took pity upon the consort of the god of Love; and he
ran deftly hither and thither, and called together the whole army of
his fellows.  "Have pity," he cried, "nimble scholars of the Earth,
Mother of all things!--have pity upon the wife of Love, and hasten to
help her in her perilous effort."  Then, one upon the other, the hosts
of the insect people hurried together; and they sorted asunder the
whole heap of seed, separating every grain after its kind, and so
departed quickly out of sight.

And at nightfall Venus returned, and seeing that task finished with so
wonderful diligence, she cried, "The work is not thine, thou naughty
maid, but his in whose eyes thou hast found favour."  And calling her
again in the morning, "See now the grove," she said, "beyond yonder
torrent.  Certain sheep feed there, whose fleeces shine with gold.
Fetch me straightway a lock of that precious stuff, having gotten it as
thou mayst."

And Psyche went forth willingly, not to obey the command of Venus, but
even to seek a rest from her labour in the depths of the river. But
from the river, the green reed, lowly mother of music, spake to her: "O
Psyche! pollute not these waters by self-destruction, nor approach that
terrible flock; for, as the heat groweth, they wax fierce.  Lie down
under yon plane-tree, till the [85] quiet of the river's breath have
soothed them.  Thereafter thou mayst shake down the fleecy gold from
the trees of the grove, for it holdeth by the leaves."

And Psyche, instructed thus by the simple reed, in the humanity of its
heart, filled her bosom with the soft golden stuff, and returned to
Venus.  But the goddess smiled bitterly, and said to her, "Well know I
who was the author of this thing also.  I will make further trial of
thy discretion, and the boldness of thy heart.  Seest thou the utmost
peak of yonder steep mountain?  The dark stream which flows down thence
waters the Stygian fields, and swells the flood of Cocytus.  Bring me
now, in this little urn, a draught from its innermost source."  And
therewith she put into her hands a vessel of wrought crystal.

And Psyche set forth in haste on her way to the mountain, looking there
at last to find the end of her hapless life.  But when she came to the
region which borders on the cliff that was showed to her, she
understood the deadly nature of her task.  From a great rock, steep and
slippery, a horrible river of water poured forth, falling straightway
by a channel exceeding narrow into the unseen gulf below. And lo!
creeping from the rocks on either hand, angry serpents, with their long
necks and sleepless eyes.  The very waters found a voice and bade her
depart, in smothered cries of, Depart hence! and [86] What doest thou
here?  Look around thee! and Destruction is upon thee!  And then sense
left her, in the immensity of her peril, as one changed to stone.

Yet not even then did the distress of this innocent soul escape the
steady eye of a gentle providence.  For the bird of Jupiter spread his
wings and took flight to her, and asked her, "Didst thou think, simple
one, even thou! that thou couldst steal one drop of that relentless
stream, the holy river of Styx, terrible even to the gods? But give me
thine urn."  And the bird took the urn, and filled it at the source,
and returned to her quickly from among the teeth of the serpents,
bringing with him of the waters, all unwilling--nay! warning him to
depart away and not molest them.

And she, receiving the urn with great joy, ran back quickly that she
might deliver it to Venus, and yet again satisfied not the angry
goddess.  "My child!" she said, "in this one thing further must thou
serve me.  Take now this tiny casket, and get thee down even unto hell,
and deliver it to Proserpine.  Tell her that Venus would have of her
beauty so much at least as may suffice for but one day's use, that
beauty she possessed erewhile being foreworn and spoiled, through her
tendance upon the sick-bed of her son; and be not slow in returning."

And Psyche perceived there the last ebbing of her fortune--that she was
now thrust openly [87] upon death, who must go down, of her own motion,
to Hades and the Shades.  And straightway she climbed to the top of an
exceeding high tower, thinking within herself, "I will cast myself down
thence: so shall I descend most quickly into the kingdom of the dead."
And the tower again, broke forth into speech: "Wretched Maid!  Wretched
Maid!  Wilt thou destroy thyself?  If the breath quit thy body, then
wilt thou indeed go down into Hades, but by no means return hither.
Listen to me.  Among the pathless wilds not far from this place lies a
certain mountain, and therein one of hell's vent-holes.  Through the
breach a rough way lies open, following which thou wilt come, by
straight course, to the castle of Orcus.  And thou must not go
empty-handed.  Take in each hand a morsel of barley-bread, soaked in
hydromel; and in thy mouth two pieces of money.  And when thou shalt be
now well onward in the way of death, then wilt thou overtake a lame ass
laden with wood, and a lame driver, who will pray thee reach him
certain cords to fasten the burden which is falling from the ass: but
be thou cautious to pass on in silence.  And soon as thou comest to the
river of the dead, Charon, in that crazy bark he hath, will put thee
over upon the further side.  There is greed even among the dead: and
thou shalt deliver to him, for the ferrying, one of those two pieces of
money, in such wise that he take [88] it with his hand from between thy
lips.  And as thou passest over the stream, a dead old man, rising on
the water, will put up to thee his mouldering hands, and pray thee draw
him into the ferry-boat.  But beware thou yield not to unlawful pity.

"When thou shalt be come over, and art upon the causeway, certain aged
women, spinning, will cry to thee to lend thy hand to their work; and
beware again that thou take no part therein; for this also is the snare
of Venus, whereby she would cause thee to cast away one at least of
those cakes thou bearest in thy hands.  And think not that a slight
matter; for the loss of either one of them will be to thee the losing
of the light of day.  For a watch-dog exceeding fierce lies ever before
the threshold of that lonely house of Proserpine.  Close his mouth with
one of thy cakes; so shalt thou pass by him, and enter straightway into
the presence of Proserpine herself.  Then do thou deliver thy message,
and taking what she shall give thee, return back again; offering to the
watch-dog the other cake, and to the ferryman that other piece of money
thou hast in thy mouth.  After this manner mayst thou return again
beneath the stars. But withal, I charge thee, think not to look into,
nor open, the casket thou bearest, with that treasure of the beauty of
the divine countenance hidden therein."

So spake the stones of the tower; and Psyche [89] delayed not, but
proceeding diligently after the manner enjoined, entered into the house
of Proserpine, at whose feet she sat down humbly, and would neither the
delicate couch nor that divine food the goddess offered her, but did
straightway the business of Venus.  And Proserpine filled the casket
secretly and shut the lid, and delivered it to Psyche, who fled
therewith from Hades with new strength.  But coming back into the light
of day, even as she hasted now to the ending of her service, she was
seized by a rash curiosity.  "Lo! now," she said within herself, "my
simpleness! who bearing in my hands the divine loveliness, heed not to
touch myself with a particle at least therefrom, that I may please the
more, by the favour of it, my fair one, my beloved."  Even as she
spoke, she lifted the lid; and behold! within, neither beauty, nor
anything beside, save sleep only, the sleep of the dead, which took
hold upon her, filling all her members with its drowsy vapour, so that
she lay down in the way and moved not, as in the slumber of death.

And Cupid being healed of his wound, because he would endure no longer
the absence of her he loved, gliding through the narrow window of the
chamber wherein he was holden, his pinions being now repaired by a
little rest, fled forth swiftly upon them, and coming to the place
where Psyche was, shook that sleep away from her, and set him in his
prison again, awaking her with the [90] innocent point of his arrow.
"Lo! thine old error again," he said, "which had like once more to have
destroyed thee!  But do thou now what is lacking of the command of my
mother: the rest shall be my care."  With these words, the lover rose
upon the air; and being consumed inwardly with the greatness of his
love, penetrated with vehement wing into the highest place of heaven,
to lay his cause before the father of the gods.  And the father of gods
took his hand in his, and kissed his face and said to him, "At no time,
my son, hast thou regarded me with due honour. Often hast thou vexed my
bosom, wherein lies the disposition of the stars, with those busy darts
of thine.  Nevertheless, because thou hast grown up between these mine
hands, I will accomplish thy desire."  And straightway he bade Mercury
call the gods together; and, the council-chamber being filled, sitting
upon a high throne, "Ye gods," he said, "all ye whose names are in the
white book of the Muses, ye know yonder lad.  It seems good to me that
his youthful heats should by some means be restrained.  And that all
occasion may be taken from him, I would even confine him in the bonds
of marriage. He has chosen and embraced a mortal maiden.  Let him have
fruit of his love, and possess her for ever."

Thereupon he bade Mercury produce Psyche in heaven; and holding out to
her his ambrosial cup, "Take it," he said, "and live for ever; [91] nor
shall Cupid ever depart from thee."  And the gods sat down together to
the marriage-feast.

On the first couch lay the bridegroom, and Psyche in his bosom.  His
rustic serving-boy bare the wine to Jupiter; and Bacchus to the rest.
The Seasons crimsoned all things with their roses.  Apollo sang to the
lyre, while a little Pan prattled on his reeds, and Venus danced very
sweetly to the soft music.  Thus, with due rites, did Psyche pass into
the power of Cupid; and from them was born the daughter whom men call


[92] So the famous story composed itself in the memory of Marius, with
an expression changed in some ways from the original and on the whole
graver.  The petulant, boyish Cupid of Apuleius was become more like
that "Lord, of terrible aspect," who stood at Dante's bedside and wept,
or had at least grown to the manly earnestness of the Erôs of
Praxiteles.  Set in relief amid the coarser matter of the book, this
episode of Cupid and Psyche served to combine many lines of meditation,
already familiar to Marius, into the ideal of a perfect imaginative
love, centered upon a type of beauty entirely flawless and clean--an
ideal which never wholly faded from his thoughts, though he valued it
at various times in different degrees.  The human body in its beauty,
as the highest potency of all the beauty of material objects, seemed to
him just then to be matter no longer, but, having taken celestial fire,
to assert itself as indeed the true, though visible, [93] soul or
spirit in things.  In contrast with that ideal, in all the pure
brilliancy, and as it were in the happy light, of youth and morning and
the springtide, men's actual loves, with which at many points the book
brings one into close contact, might appear to him, like the general
tenor of their lives, to be somewhat mean and sordid.  The hiddenness
of perfect things: a shrinking mysticism, a sentiment of diffidence
like that expressed in Psyche's so tremulous hope concerning the child
to be born of the husband she had never yet seen--"in the face of this
little child, at the least, shall I apprehend thine"--in hoc saltem
parvulo cognoscam faciem tuam: the fatality which seems to haunt any
signal+ beauty, whether moral or physical, as if it were in itself
something illicit and isolating: the suspicion and hatred it so often
excites in the vulgar:--these were some of the impressions, forming, as
they do, a constant tradition of somewhat cynical pagan experience,
from Medusa and Helen downwards, which the old story enforced on him. A
book, like a person, has its fortunes with one; is lucky or unlucky in
the precise moment of its falling in our way, and often by some happy
accident counts with us for something more than its independent value.
The Metamorphoses of Apuleius, coming to Marius just then, figured for
him as indeed The Golden Book: he felt a sort of personal gratitude to
its writer, and saw in it doubtless [94] far more than was really there
for any other reader.  It occupied always a peculiar place in his
remembrance, never quite losing its power in frequent return to it for
the revival of that first glowing impression.

Its effect upon the elder youth was a more practical one: it stimulated
the literary ambition, already so strong a motive with him, by a signal
example of success, and made him more than ever an ardent,
indefatigable student of words, of the means or instrument of the
literary art.  The secrets of utterance, of expression itself, of that
through which alone any intellectual or spiritual power within one can
actually take effect upon others, to over-awe or charm them to one's
side, presented themselves to this ambitious lad in immediate connexion
with that desire for predominance, for the satisfaction of which
another might have relied on the acquisition and display of brilliant
military qualities.  In him, a fine instinctive sentiment of the exact
value and power of words was connate with the eager longing for sway
over his fellows.  He saw himself already a gallant and effective
leader, innovating or conservative as occasion might require, in the
rehabilitation of the mother-tongue, then fallen so tarnished and
languid; yet the sole object, as he mused within himself, of the only
sort of patriotic feeling proper, or possible, for one born of slaves.
The popular speech was gradually departing from the form [95] and rule
of literary language, a language always and increasingly artificial.
While the learned dialect was yearly becoming more and more barbarously
pedantic, the colloquial idiom, on the other hand, offered a thousand
chance-tost gems of racy or picturesque expression, rejected or at
least ungathered by what claimed to be classical Latin.  The time was
coming when neither the pedants nor the people would really understand
Cicero; though there were some indeed, like this new writer, Apuleius,
who, departing from the custom of writing in Greek, which had been a
fashionable affectation among the sprightlier wits since the days of
Hadrian, had written in the vernacular.

The literary programme which Flavian had already designed for himself
would be a work, then, partly conservative or reactionary, in its
dealing with the instrument of the literary art; partly popular and
revolutionary, asserting, so to term them, the rights of the
proletariate of speech.  More than fifty years before, the younger
Pliny, himself an effective witness for the delicate power of the Latin
tongue, had said,--"I am one of those who admire the ancients, yet I do
not, like some others, underrate certain instances of genius which our
own times afford.  For it is not true that nature, as if weary and
effete, no longer produces what is admirable."  And he, Flavian, would
prove himself the true master of the opportunity thus indicated.  In
[96] his eagerness for a not too distant fame, he dreamed over all
that, as the young Caesar may have dreamed of campaigns.  Others might
brutalise or neglect the native speech, that true "open field" for
charm and sway over men.  He would make of it a serious study, weighing
the precise power of every phrase and word, as though it were precious
metal, disentangling the later associations and going back to the
original and native sense of each,--restoring to full significance all
its wealth of latent figurative expression, reviving or replacing its
outworn or tarnished images.  Latin literature and the Latin tongue
were dying of routine and languor; and what was necessary, first of
all, was to re-establish the natural and direct relationship between
thought and expression, between the sensation and the term, and restore
to words their primitive power.

For words, after all, words manipulated with all his delicate force,
were to be the apparatus of a war for himself.  To be forcibly
impressed, in the first place; and in the next, to find the means of
making visible to others that which was vividly apparent, delightful,
of lively interest to himself, to the exclusion of all that was but
middling, tame, or only half-true even to him--this scrupulousness of
literary art actually awoke in Flavian, for the first time, a sort of
chivalrous conscience.  What care for style! what patience of
execution! what research for the significant [97] tones of ancient
idiom--sonantia verba et antiqua!  What stately and regular
word-building--gravis et decora constructio!  He felt the whole meaning
of the sceptical Pliny's somewhat melancholy advice to one of his
friends, that he should seek in literature deliverance from
mortality--ut studiis se literarum a mortalitate vindicet.  And there
was everything in the nature and the training of Marius to make him a
full participator in the hopes of such a new literary school, with
Flavian for its leader.  In the refinements of that curious spirit, in
its horror of profanities, its fastidious sense of a correctness in
external form, there was something which ministered to the old ritual
interest, still surviving in him; as if here indeed were involved a
kind of sacred service to the mother-tongue.

Here, then, was the theory of Euphuism, as manifested in every age in
which the literary conscience has been awakened to forgotten duties
towards language, towards the instrument of expression: in fact it does
but modify a little the principles of all effective expression at all
times.  'Tis art's function to conceal itself: ars est celare
artem:--is a saying, which, exaggerated by inexact quotation, has
perhaps been oftenest and most confidently quoted by those who have had
little literary or other art to conceal; and from the very beginning of
professional literature, the "labour of the file"--a labour in the case
of Plato, for instance, or Virgil, like [98] that of the oldest of
goldsmiths as described by Apuleius, enriching the work by far more
than the weight of precious metal it removed--has always had its
function.  Sometimes, doubtless, as in later examples of it, this Roman
Euphuism, determined at any cost to attain beauty in writing--es kallos
graphein+--might lapse into its characteristic fopperies or mannerisms,
into the "defects of its qualities," in truth, not wholly unpleasing
perhaps, or at least excusable, when looked at as but the toys (so
Cicero calls them), the strictly congenial and appropriate toys, of an
assiduously cultivated age, which could not help being polite,
critical, self-conscious.  The mere love of novelty also had, of
course, its part there: as with the Euphuism of the Elizabethan age,
and of the modern French romanticists, its neologies were the ground of
one of the favourite charges against it; though indeed, as regards
these tricks of taste also, there is nothing new, but a quaint family
likeness rather, between the Euphuists of successive ages.  Here, as
elsewhere, the power of "fashion," as it is called, is but one minor
form, slight enough, it may be, yet distinctly symptomatic, of that
deeper yearning of human nature towards ideal perfection, which is a
continuous force in it; and since in this direction too human nature is
limited, such fashions must necessarily reproduce themselves. Among
other resemblances to later growths of Euphuism, its archaisms on the
one hand, and [99]  its neologies on the other, the Euphuism of the
days of Marcus Aurelius had, in the composition of verse, its fancy for
the refrain.  It was a snatch from a popular chorus, something he had
heard sounding all over the town of Pisa one April night, one of the
first bland and summer-like nights of the year, that Flavian had chosen
for the refrain of a poem he was then pondering--the Pervigilium
Veneris--the vigil, or "nocturn," of Venus.

Certain elderly counsellors, filling what may be thought a constant
part in the little tragi-comedy which literature and its votaries are
playing in all ages, would ask, suspecting some affectation or
unreality in that minute culture of form:--Cannot those who have a
thing to say, say it directly?  Why not be simple and broad, like the
old writers of Greece?  And this challenge had at least the effect of
setting his thoughts at work on the intellectual situation as it lay
between the children of the present and those earliest masters.
Certainly, the most wonderful, the unique, point, about the Greek
genius, in literature as in everything else, was the entire absence of
imitation in its productions.  How had the burden of precedent, laid
upon every artist, increased since then!  It was all around one:--that
smoothly built world of old classical taste, an accomplished fact, with
overwhelming authority on every detail of the conduct of one's [100]
work.  With no fardel on its own back, yet so imperious towards those
who came labouring after it, Hellas, in its early freshness, looked as
distant from him even then as it does from ourselves.  There might seem
to be no place left for novelty or originality,--place only for a
patient, an infinite, faultlessness. On this question too Flavian
passed through a world of curious art-casuistries, of self-tormenting,
at the threshold of his work.  Was poetic beauty a thing ever one and
the same, a type absolute; or, changing always with the soul of time
itself, did it depend upon the taste, the peculiar trick of
apprehension, the fashion, as we say, of each successive age?  Might
one recover that old, earlier sense of it, that earlier manner, in a
masterly effort to recall all the complexities of the life, moral and
intellectual, of the earlier age to which it had belonged?  Had there
been really bad ages in art or literature?  Were all ages, even those
earliest, adventurous, matutinal days, in themselves equally poetical
or unpoetical; and poetry, the literary beauty, the poetic ideal,
always but a borrowed light upon men's actual life?

Homer had said--

     Hoi d' hote dê limenos polybentheos entos hikonto,
     Histia men steilanto, thesan d' en nêi melainê...
     Ek de kai autoi bainon epi phêgmini thalassês.+

And how poetic the simple incident seemed, told just thus!  Homer was
always telling [101] things after this manner.  And one might think
there had been no effort in it: that here was but the almost mechanical
transcript of a time, naturally, intrinsically, poetic, a time in which
one could hardly have spoken at all without ideal effect, or, the
sailors pulled down their boat without making a picture in "the great
style," against a sky charged with marvels. Must not the mere prose of
an age, itself thus ideal, have counted for more than half of Homer's
poetry?  Or might the closer student discover even here, even in Homer,
the really mediatorial function of the poet, as between the reader and
the actual matter of his experience; the poet waiting, so to speak, in
an age which had felt itself trite and commonplace enough, on his
opportunity for the touch of "golden alchemy," or at least for the
pleasantly lighted side of things themselves?  Might not another, in
one's own prosaic and used-up time, so uneventful as it had been
through the long reign of these quiet Antonines, in like manner,
discover his ideal, by a due waiting upon it?  Would not a future
generation, looking back upon this, under the power of the
enchanted-distance fallacy, find it ideal to view, in contrast with its
own languor--the languor that for some reason (concerning which
Augustine will one day have his view) seemed to haunt men always?  Had
Homer, even, appeared unreal and affected in his poetic flight, to some
of the people of his own age, [102] as seemed to happen with every new
literature in turn?  In any case, the intellectual conditions of early
Greece had been--how different from these!  And a true literary tact
would accept that difference in forming the primary conception of the
literary function at a later time.  Perhaps the utmost one could get by
conscious effort, in the way of a reaction or return to the conditions
of an earlier and fresher age, would be but novitas, artificial
artlessness, naïveté; and this quality too might have its measure of
euphuistic charm, direct and sensible enough, though it must count, in
comparison with that genuine early Greek newness at the beginning, not
as the freshness of the open fields, but only of a bunch of
field-flowers in a heated room.

There was, meantime, all this:--on one side, the old pagan culture, for
us but a fragment, for him an accomplished yet present fact, still a
living, united, organic whole, in the entirety of its art, its thought,
its religions, its sagacious forms of polity, that so weighty authority
it exercised on every point, being in reality only the measure of its
charm for every one: on the other side, the actual world in all its
eager self-assertion, with Flavian himself, in his boundless animation,
there, at the centre of the situation.  From the natural defects, from
the pettiness, of his euphuism, his assiduous cultivation of manner, he
was saved by the consciousness that he had a matter to present, very
real, [103] at least to him.  That preoccupation of the dilettante with
what might seem mere details of form, after all, did but serve the
purpose of bringing to the surface, sincerely and in their integrity,
certain strong personal intuitions, a certain vision or apprehension of
things as really being, with important results, thus, rather than
thus,--intuitions which the artistic or literary faculty was called
upon to follow, with the exactness of wax or clay, clothing the model
within. Flavian too, with his fine clear mastery of the practically
effective, had early laid hold of the principle, as axiomatic in
literature: that to know when one's self is interested, is the first
condition of interesting other people.  It was a principle, the
forcible apprehension of which made him jealous and fastidious in the
selection of his intellectual food; often listless while others read or
gazed diligently; never pretending to be moved out of mere complaisance
to people's emotions: it served to foster in him a very scrupulous
literary sincerity with himself.  And it was this uncompromising demand
for a matter, in all art, derived immediately from lively personal
intuition, this constant appeal to individual judgment, which saved his
euphuism, even at its weakest, from lapsing into mere artifice.

Was the magnificent exordium of Lucretius, addressed to the goddess
Venus, the work of [104]  his earlier manhood, and designed originally
to open an argument less persistently sombre than that protest against
the whole pagan heaven which actually follows it?  It is certainly the
most typical expression of a mood, still incident to the young poet, as
a thing peculiar to his youth, when he feels the sentimental current
setting forcibly along his veins, and so much as a matter of purely
physical excitement, that he can hardly distinguish it from the
animation of external nature, the upswelling of the seed in the earth,
and of the sap through the trees.  Flavian, to whom, again, as to his
later euphuistic kinsmen, old mythology seemed as full of untried,
unexpressed motives and interest as human life itself, had long been
occupied with a kind of mystic hymn to the vernal principle of life in
things; a composition shaping itself, little by little, out of a
thousand dim perceptions, into singularly definite form (definite and
firm as fine-art in metal, thought Marius) for which, as I said, he had
caught his "refrain," from the lips of the young men, singing because
they could not help it, in the streets of Pisa.  And as oftenest
happens also, with natures of genuinely poetic quality, those piecemeal
beginnings came suddenly to harmonious completeness among the fortunate
incidents, the physical heat and light, of one singularly happy day.

It was one of the first hot days of March--"the sacred day"--on which,
from Pisa, as from [105] many another harbour on the Mediterranean, the
Ship of Isis went to sea, and every one walked down to the shore-side
to witness the freighting of the vessel, its launching and final
abandonment among the waves, as an object really devoted to the Great
Goddess, that new rival, or "double," of ancient Venus, and like her a
favourite patroness of sailors.  On the evening next before, all the
world had been abroad to view the illumination of the river; the
stately lines of building being wreathed with hundreds of many-coloured
lamps.  The young men had poured forth their chorus--

     Cras amet qui nunquam amavit,
     Quique amavit cras amet--

as they bore their torches through the yielding crowd, or rowed their
lanterned boats up and down the stream, till far into the night, when
heavy rain-drops had driven the last lingerers home.  Morning broke,
however, smiling and serene; and the long procession started betimes.
The river, curving slightly, with the smoothly paved streets on either
side, between its low marble parapet and the fair dwelling-houses,
formed the main highway of the city; and the pageant, accompanied
throughout by innumerable lanterns and wax tapers, took its course up
one of these streets, crossing the water by a bridge up-stream, and
down the other, to the haven, every possible standing-place, out of
doors [106] and within, being crowded with sight-seers, of whom Marius
was one of the most eager, deeply interested in finding the spectacle
much as Apuleius had described it in his famous book.

At the head of the procession, the master of ceremonies, quietly waving
back the assistants, made way for a number of women, scattering
perfumes.  They were succeeded by a company of musicians, piping and
twanging, on instruments the strangest Marius had ever beheld, the
notes of a hymn, narrating the first origin of this votive rite to a
choir of youths, who marched behind them singing it. The tire-women and
other personal attendants of the great goddess came next, bearing the
instruments of their ministry, and various articles from the sacred
wardrobe, wrought of the most precious material; some of them with long
ivory combs, plying their hands in wild yet graceful concert of
movement as they went, in devout mimicry of the toilet.  Placed in
their rear were the mirror-bearers of the goddess, carrying large
mirrors of beaten brass or silver, turned in such a way as to reflect
to the great body of worshippers who followed, the face of the
mysterious image, as it moved on its way, and their faces to it, as
though they were in fact advancing to meet the heavenly visitor.  They
comprehended a multitude of both sexes and of all ages, already
initiated into the divine secret, clad in fair linen, the females
veiled, the males with shining [107] tonsures, and every one carrying a
sistrum--the richer sort of silver, a few very dainty persons of fine
gold--rattling the reeds, with a noise like the jargon of innumerable
birds and insects awakened from torpor and abroad in the spring sun.
Then, borne upon a kind of platform, came the goddess herself,
undulating above the heads of the multitude as the bearers walked, in
mystic robe embroidered with the moon and stars, bordered gracefully
with a fringe of real fruit and flowers, and with a glittering crown
upon the head.  The train of the procession consisted of the priests in
long white vestments, close from head to foot, distributed into various
groups, each bearing, exposed aloft, one of the sacred symbols of
Isis--the corn-fan, the golden asp, the ivory hand of equity, and among
them the votive ship itself, carved and gilt, and adorned bravely with
flags flying.  Last of all walked the high priest; the people kneeling
as he passed to kiss his hand, in which were those well-remembered

Marius followed with the rest to the harbour, where the mystic ship,
lowered from the shoulders of the priests, was loaded with as much as
it could carry of the rich spices and other costly gifts, offered in
great profusion by the worshippers, and thus, launched at last upon the
water, left the shore, crossing the harbour-bar in the wake of a much
stouter vessel than itself with a crew of white-robed mariners, whose
[108] function it was, at the appointed moment, finally to desert it on
the open sea.

The remainder of the day was spent by most in parties on the water.
Flavian and Marius sailed further than they had ever done before to a
wild spot on the bay, the traditional site of a little Greek colony,
which, having had its eager, stirring life at the time when Etruria was
still a power in Italy, had perished in the age of the civil wars.  In
the absolute transparency of the air on this gracious day, an
infinitude of detail from sea and shore reached the eye with sparkling
clearness, as the two lads sped rapidly over the waves--Flavian at work
suddenly, from time to time, with his tablets.  They reached land at
last.  The coral fishers had spread their nets on the sands, with a
tumble-down of quaint, many-hued treasures, below a little shrine of
Venus, fluttering and gay with the scarves and napkins and gilded
shells which these people had offered to the image.  Flavian and Marius
sat down under the shadow of a mass of gray rock or ruin, where the
sea-gate of the Greek town had been, and talked of life in those old
Greek colonies.  Of this place, all that remained, besides those rude
stones, was--a handful of silver coins, each with a head of pure and
archaic beauty, though a little cruel perhaps, supposed to represent
the Siren Ligeia, whose tomb was formerly shown here--only these, and
an ancient song, the very strain which Flavian [109] had recovered in
those last months.  They were records which spoke, certainly, of the
charm of life within those walls.  How strong must have been the tide
of men's existence in that little republican town, so small that this
circle of gray stones, of service now only by the moisture they
gathered for the blue-flowering gentians among them, had been the line
of its rampart!  An epitome of all that was liveliest, most animated
and adventurous, in the old Greek people of which it was an offshoot,
it had enhanced the effect of these gifts by concentration within
narrow limits.  The band of "devoted youth,"--hiera neotês.+--of the
younger brothers, devoted to the gods and whatever luck the gods might
afford, because there was no room for them at home--went forth, bearing
the sacred flame from the mother hearth; itself a flame, of power to
consume the whole material of existence in clear light and heat, with
no smouldering residue. The life of those vanished townsmen, so
brilliant and revolutionary, applying so abundantly the personal
qualities which alone just then Marius seemed to value, associated
itself with the actual figure of his companion, standing there before
him, his face enthusiastic with the sudden thought of all that; and
struck him vividly as precisely the fitting opportunity for a nature
like his, so hungry for control, for ascendency over men.

Marius noticed also, however, as high spirits [110] flagged at last, on
the way home through the heavy dew of the evening, more than physical
fatigue in Flavian, who seemed to find no refreshment in the coolness.
There had been something feverish, perhaps, and like the beginning of
sickness, about his almost forced gaiety, in this sudden spasm of
spring; and by the evening of the next day he was lying with a burning
spot on his forehead, stricken, as was thought from the first, by the
terrible new disease.


93. +Corrected from the Macmillan edition misprint "singal."

98. +Transliteration: es kallos graphein.  Translation: "To write

100. +Iliad 1.432-33, 437.  Transliteration:

     Hoi d' hote dê limenos polybentheos entos hikonto,
     Histia men steilanto, thesan d' en nêi melainê...
     Ek de kai autoi bainon epi phêgmini thalassês.

Etext editor's translation:

     When they had safely made deep harbor
     They took in the sail, laid it in their black ship...
     And went ashore just past the breakers.

109. +Transliteration: hiera neotês.  Pater translates the phrase,
"devoted youth."


[111] FOR the fantastical colleague of the philosophic emperor Marcus
Aurelius, returning in triumph from the East, had brought in his train,
among the enemies of Rome, one by no means a captive. People actually
sickened at a sudden touch of the unsuspected foe, as they watched in
dense crowds the pathetic or grotesque imagery of failure or success in
the triumphal procession.  And, as usual, the plague brought with it a
power to develop all pre-existent germs of superstition.  It was by
dishonour done to Apollo himself, said popular rumour--to Apollo, the
old titular divinity of pestilence, that the poisonous thing had come
abroad.  Pent up in a golden coffer consecrated to the god, it had
escaped in the sacrilegious plundering of his temple at Seleucia by the
soldiers of Lucius Verus, after a traitorous surprise of that town and
a cruel massacre.  Certainly there was something which baffled all
imaginable precautions and all medical science, in the suddenness [112]
with which the disease broke out simultaneously, here and there, among
both soldiers and citizens, even in places far remote from the main
line of its march in the rear of the victorious army.  It seemed to
have invaded the whole empire, and some have even thought that, in a
mitigated form, it permanently remained there.  In Rome itself many
thousands perished; and old authorities tell of farmsteads, whole
towns, and even entire neighbourhoods, which from that time continued
without inhabitants and lapsed into wildness or ruin.

Flavian lay at the open window of his lodging, with a fiery pang in the
brain, fancying no covering thin or light enough to be applied to his
body.  His head being relieved after a while, there was distress at the
chest.  It was but the fatal course of the strange new sickness, under
many disguises; travelling from the brain to the feet, like a material
resident, weakening one after another of the organic centres; often,
when it did not kill, depositing various degrees of lifelong infirmity
in this member or that; and after such descent, returning upwards
again, now as a mortal coldness, leaving the entrenchments of the
fortress of life overturned, one by one, behind it.

Flavian lay there, with the enemy at his breast now in a painful cough,
but relieved from that burning fever in the head, amid the rich-scented
flowers--rare Paestum roses, and the like [113] --procured by Marius
for his solace, in a fancied convalescence; and would, at intervals,
return to labour at his verses, with a great eagerness to complete and
transcribe the work, while Marius sat and wrote at his dictation, one
of the latest but not the poorest specimens of genuine Latin poetry.

It was in fact a kind of nuptial hymn, which, taking its start from the
thought of nature as the universal mother, celebrated the preliminary
pairing and mating together of all fresh things, in the hot and genial
spring-time--the immemorial nuptials of the soul of spring itself and
the brown earth; and was full of a delighted, mystic sense of what
passed between them in that fantastic marriage. That mystic burden was
relieved, at intervals, by the familiar playfulness of the Latin
verse-writer in dealing with mythology, which, though coming at so late
a day, had still a wonderful freshness in its old age.--"Amor has put
his weapons by and will keep holiday.  He was bidden go without
apparel, that none might be wounded by his bow and arrows.  But take
care!  In truth he is none the less armed than usual, though he be all

In the expression of all this Flavian seemed, while making it his chief
aim to retain the opulent, many-syllabled vocabulary of the Latin
genius, at some points even to have advanced beyond it, in anticipation
of wholly new laws of [114] taste as regards sound, a new range of
sound itself.  The peculiar resultant note, associating itself with
certain other experiences of his, was to Marius like the foretaste of
an entirely novel world of poetic beauty to come. Flavian had caught,
indeed, something of the rhyming cadence, the sonorous organ-music of
the medieval Latin, and therewithal something of its unction and
mysticity of spirit.  There was in his work, along with the last
splendour of the classical language, a touch, almost prophetic, of that
transformed life it was to have in the rhyming middle age, just about
to dawn.  The impression thus forced upon Marius connected itself with
a feeling, the exact inverse of that, known to every one, which seems
to say, You have been just here, just thus, before!--a feeling, in his
case, not reminiscent but prescient of the future, which passed over
him afterwards many times, as he came across certain places and people.
It was as if he detected there the process of actual change to a wholly
undreamed-of and renewed condition of human body and soul: as if he saw
the heavy yet decrepit old Roman architecture about him, rebuilding on
an intrinsically better pattern.  Could it have been actually on a new
musical instrument that Flavian had first heard the novel accents of
his verse?  And still Marius noticed there, amid all its richness of
expression and imagery, that firmness of outline he had always relished
so much in the composition of [115] Flavian.  Yes! a firmness like that
of some master of noble metal-work, manipulating tenacious bronze or
gold.  Even now that haunting refrain, with its impromptu variations,
from the throats of those strong young men, came floating through the

     Cras amet qui nunquam amavit,
     Quique amavit cras amet!

--repeated Flavian, tremulously, dictating yet one stanza more.

What he was losing, his freehold of a soul and body so fortunately
endowed, the mere liberty of life above-ground, "those sunny mornings
in the cornfields by the sea," as he recollected them one day, when the
window was thrown open upon the early freshness--his sense of all this,
was from the first singularly near and distinct, yet rather as of
something he was but debarred the use of for a time than finally
bidding farewell to.  That was while he was still with no very grave
misgivings as to the issue of his sickness, and felt the sources of
life still springing essentially unadulterate within him.  From time to
time, indeed, Marius, labouring eagerly at the poem from his dictation,
was haunted by a feeling of the triviality of such work just then.  The
recurrent sense of some obscure danger beyond the mere danger of death,
vaguer than that and by so much the more terrible, like the menace of
some shadowy [116] adversary in the dark with whose mode of attack they
had no acquaintance, disturbed him now and again through those hours of
excited attention to his manuscript, and to the purely physical wants
of Flavian.  Still, during these three days there was much hope and
cheerfulness, and even jesting. Half-consciously Marius tried to
prolong one or another relieving circumstance of the day, the
preparations for rest and morning refreshment, for instance; sadly
making the most of the little luxury of this or that, with something of
the feigned cheer of the mother who sets her last morsels before her
famished child as for a feast, but really that he "may eat it and die."

On the afternoon of the seventh day he allowed Marius finally to put
aside the unfinished manuscript.  For the enemy, leaving the chest
quiet at length though much exhausted, had made itself felt with full
power again in a painful vomiting, which seemed to shake his body
asunder, with great consequent prostration.  From that time the
distress increased rapidly downwards.  Omnia tum vero vitai claustra
lababant;+ and soon the cold was mounting with sure pace from the dead
feet to the head.

And now Marius began more than to suspect what the issue must be, and
henceforward could but watch with a sort of agonised fascination the
rapid but systematic work of the destroyer, [117] faintly relieving a
little the mere accidents of the sharper forms of suffering.  Flavian
himself appeared, in full consciousness at last--in clear-sighted,
deliberate estimate of the actual crisis--to be doing battle with his
adversary.  His mind surveyed, with great distinctness, the various
suggested modes of relief.  He must without fail get better, he would
fancy, might he be removed to a certain place on the hills where as a
child he had once recovered from sickness, but found that he could
scarcely raise his head from the pillow without giddiness.  As if now
surely foreseeing the end, he would set himself, with an eager effort,
and with that eager and angry look, which is noted as one of the
premonitions of death in this disease, to fashion out, without formal
dictation, still a few more broken verses of his unfinished work, in
hard-set determination, defiant of pain, to arrest this or that little
drop at least from the river of sensuous imagery rushing so quickly
past him.

But at length delirium--symptom that the work of the plague was done,
and the last resort of life yielding to the enemy--broke the coherent
order of words and thoughts; and Marius, intent on the coming agony,
found his best hope in the increasing dimness of the patient's mind. In
intervals of clearer consciousness the visible signs of cold, of sorrow
and desolation, were very painful.  No longer battling with the
disease, he seemed as it were to place himself [118] at the disposal of
the victorious foe, dying passively, like some dumb creature, in
hopeless acquiescence at last.  That old, half-pleading petulance,
unamiable, yet, as it might seem, only needing conditions of life a
little happier than they had actually been, to become refinement of
affection, a delicate grace in its demand on the sympathy of others,
had changed in those moments of full intelligence to a clinging and
tremulous gentleness, as he lay--"on the very threshold of death"--with
a sharply contracted hand in the hand of Marius, to his almost
surprised joy, winning him now to an absolutely self-forgetful
devotion.  There was a new sort of pleading in the misty eyes, just
because they took such unsteady note of him, which made Marius feel as
if guilty; anticipating thus a form of self-reproach with which even
the tenderest ministrant may be sometimes surprised, when, at death,
affectionate labour suddenly ceasing leaves room for the suspicion of
some failure of love perhaps, at one or another minute point in it.
Marius almost longed to take his share in the suffering, that he might
understand so the better how to relieve it.

It seemed that the light of the lamp distressed the patient, and Marius
extinguished it.  The thunder which had sounded all day among the
hills, with a heat not unwelcome to Flavian, had given way at nightfall
to steady rain; and [119] in the darkness Marius lay down beside him,
faintly shivering now in the sudden cold, to lend him his own warmth,
undeterred by the fear of contagion which had kept other people from
passing near the house.  At length about day-break he perceived that
the last effort had come with a revival of mental clearness, as Marius
understood by the contact, light as it was, in recognition of him
there.  "Is it a comfort," he whispered then, "that I shall often come
and weep over you?"--"Not unless I be aware, and hear you weeping!"

The sun shone out on the people going to work for a long hot day, and
Marius was standing by the dead, watching, with deliberate purpose to
fix in his memory every detail, that he might have this picture in
reserve, should any hour of forgetfulness hereafter come to him with
the temptation to feel completely happy again.  A feeling of outrage,
of resentment against nature itself, mingled with an agony of pity, as
he noted on the now placid features a certain look of humility, almost
abject, like the expression of a smitten child or animal, as of one,
fallen at last, after bewildering struggle, wholly under the power of a
merciless adversary.  From mere tenderness of soul he would not forget
one circumstance in all that; as a man might piously stamp on his
memory the death-scene of a brother wrongfully condemned to die,
against a time that may come.

[120] The fear of the corpse, which surprised him in his effort to
watch by it through the darkness, was a hint of his own failing
strength, just in time.  The first night after the washing of the body,
he bore stoutly enough the tax which affection seemed to demand,
throwing the incense from time to time on the little altar placed
beside the bier.  It was the recurrence of the thing--that unchanged
outline below the coverlet, amid a silence in which the faintest rustle
seemed to speak--that finally overcame his determination.  Surely,
here, in this alienation, this sense of distance between them, which
had come over him before though in minor degree when the mind of
Flavian had wandered in his sickness, was another of the pains of
death.  Yet he was able to make all due preparations, and go through
the ceremonies, shortened a little because of the infection, when, on a
cloudless evening, the funeral procession went forth; himself, the
flames of the pyre having done their work, carrying away the urn of the
deceased, in the folds of his toga, to its last resting-place in the
cemetery beside the highway, and so turning home to sleep in his own
desolate lodging.

     Quis desiderio sit pudor aut modus
         Tam cari capitis?--+

What thought of others' thoughts about one could there be with the
regret for "so dear a head" fresh at one's heart?


116. +Lucretius, Book VI.1153.

120. +Horace, Odes I.xxiv.1-2.



     Animula, vagula, blandula
     Hospes comesque corporis,
     Quae nunc abibis in loca?
     Pallidula, rigida, nudula.

            The Emperor Hadrian to his Soul

[123] FLAVIAN was no more.  The little marble chest with its dust and
tears lay cold among the faded flowers.  For most people the actual
spectacle of death brings out into greater reality, at least for the
imagination, whatever confidence they may entertain of the soul's
survival in another life.  To Marius, greatly agitated by that event,
the earthly end of Flavian came like a final revelation of nothing less
than the soul's extinction.  Flavian had gone out as utterly as the
fire among those still beloved ashes.  Even that wistful suspense of
judgment expressed by the dying Hadrian, regarding further stages of
being still possible for the soul in some dim journey hence, seemed
wholly untenable, and, with it, almost all that remained of the
religion of his childhood.  Future extinction seemed just then [124] to
be what the unforced witness of his own nature pointed to. On the other
hand, there came a novel curiosity as to what the various schools of
ancient philosophy had had to say concerning that strange, fluttering
creature; and that curiosity impelled him to certain severe studies, in
which his earlier religious conscience seemed still to survive, as a
principle of hieratic scrupulousness or integrity of thought, regarding
this new service to intellectual light.

At this time, by his poetic and inward temper, he might have fallen a
prey to the enervating mysticism, then in wait for ardent souls in many
a melodramatic revival of old religion or theosophy.  From all this,
fascinating as it might actually be to one side of his character, he
was kept by a genuine virility there, effective in him, among other
results, as a hatred of what was theatrical, and the instinctive
recognition that in vigorous intelligence, after all, divinity was most
likely to be found a resident.  With this was connected the feeling,
increasing with his advance to manhood, of a poetic beauty in mere
clearness of thought, the actually aesthetic charm of a cold austerity
of mind; as if the kinship of that to the clearness of physical light
were something more than a figure of speech.  Of all those various
religious fantasies, as so many forms of enthusiasm, he could well
appreciate the picturesque; that was made easy by his natural
Epicureanism, already prompting [125] him to conceive of himself as but
the passive spectator of the world around him.  But it was to the
severer reasoning, of which such matters as Epicurean theory are born,
that, in effect, he now betook himself. Instinctively suspicious of
those mechanical arcana, those pretended "secrets unveiled" of the
professional mystic, which really bring great and little souls to one
level, for Marius the only possible dilemma lay between that old,
ancestral Roman religion, now become so incredible to him and the
honest action of his own untroubled, unassisted intelligence.  Even the
Arcana Celestia of Platonism--what the sons of Plato had had to say
regarding the essential indifference of pure soul to its bodily house
and merely occasional dwelling-place--seemed to him while his heart was
there in the urn with the material ashes of Flavian, or still lingering
in memory over his last agony, wholly inhuman or morose, as tending to
alleviate his resentment at nature's wrong.  It was to the sentiment of
the body, and the affections it defined--the flesh, of whose force and
colour that wandering Platonic soul was but so frail a residue or
abstract--he must cling.  The various pathetic traits of the beloved,
suffering, perished body of Flavian, so deeply pondered, had made him a
materialist, but with something of the temper of a devotee.

As a consequence it might have seemed at first that his care for poetry
had passed away, [126] to be replaced by the literature of thought. His
much-pondered manuscript verses were laid aside; and what happened now
to one, who was certainly to be something of a poet from first to last,
looked at the moment like a change from poetry to prose.  He came of
age about this time, his own master though with beardless face; and at
eighteen, an age at which, then as now, many youths of capacity, who
fancied themselves poets, secluded themselves from others chiefly in
affectation and vague dreaming, he secluded himself indeed from others,
but in a severe intellectual meditation, that salt of poetry, without
which all the more serious charm is lacking to the imaginative world.
Still with something of the old religious earnestness of his childhood,
he set himself--Sich im Denken zu orientiren--to determine his
bearings, as by compass, in the world of thought--to get that precise
acquaintance with the creative intelligence itself, its structure and
capacities, its relation to other parts of himself and to other things,
without which, certainly, no poetry can be masterly.  Like a young man
rich in this world's goods coming of age, he must go into affairs, and
ascertain his outlook.  There must be no disguises.  An exact estimate
of realities, as towards himself, he must have--a delicately measured
gradation of certainty in things--from the distant, haunted horizon of
mere surmise or imagination, to the actual [127] feeling of sorrow in
his heart, as he reclined one morning, alone instead of in pleasant
company, to ponder the hard sayings of an imperfect old Greek
manuscript, unrolled beside him.  His former gay companions, meeting
him in the streets of the old Italian town, and noting the graver lines
coming into the face of the sombre but enthusiastic student of
intellectual structure, who could hold his own so well in the society
of accomplished older men, were half afraid of him, though proud to
have him of their company.  Why this reserve?--they asked, concerning
the orderly, self-possessed youth, whose speech and carriage seemed so
carefully measured, who was surely no poet like the rapt, dishevelled
Lupus.  Was he secretly in love, perhaps, whose toga was so daintily
folded, and who was always as fresh as the flowers he wore; or bent on
his own line of ambition: or even on riches?

Marius, meantime, was reading freely, in early morning for the most
part, those writers chiefly who had made it their business to know what
might be thought concerning that strange, enigmatic, personal essence,
which had seemed to go out altogether, along with the funeral fires.
And the old Greek who more than any other was now giving form to his
thoughts was a very hard master.  From Epicurus, from the thunder and
lightning of Lucretius--like thunder and lightning some distance off,
one might recline to enjoy, in a garden of roses--he had gone back to
[128] the writer who was in a certain sense the teacher of both,
Heraclitus of Ionia.  His difficult book "Concerning Nature" was even
then rare, for people had long since satisfied themselves by the
quotation of certain brilliant, isolated, oracles only, out of what was
at best a taxing kind of lore.  But the difficulty of the early Greek
prose did but spur the curiosity of Marius; the writer, the superior
clearness of whose intellectual view had so sequestered him from other
men, who had had so little joy of that superiority, being avowedly
exacting as to the amount of devout attention he required from the
student.  "The many," he said, always thus emphasising the difference
between the many and the few, are "like people heavy with wine," "led
by children," "knowing not whither they go;" and yet, "much learning
doth not make wise;" and again, "the ass, after all, would have his
thistles rather than fine gold."

Heraclitus, indeed, had not under-rated the difficulty for "the many"
of the paradox with which his doctrine begins, and the due reception of
which must involve a denial of habitual impressions, as the necessary
first step in the way of truth.  His philosophy had been developed in
conscious, outspoken opposition to the current mode of thought, as a
matter requiring some exceptional loyalty to pure reason and its "dry
light."  Men are subject to an illusion, he protests, regarding matters
apparent to sense. [129] What the uncorrected sense gives was a false
impression of permanence or fixity in things, which have really changed
their nature in the very moment in which we see and touch them.  And
the radical flaw in the current mode of thinking would lie herein:
that, reflecting this false or uncorrected sensation, it attributes to
the phenomena of experience a durability which does not really belong
to them. Imaging forth from those fluid impressions a world of firmly
out-lined objects, it leads one to regard as a thing stark and dead
what is in reality full of animation, of vigour, of the fire of
life--that eternal process of nature, of which at a later time Goethe
spoke as the "Living Garment," whereby God is seen of us, ever in
weaving at the "Loom of Time."

And the appeal which the old Greek thinker made was, in the first
instance, from confused to unconfused sensation; with a sort of
prophetic seriousness, a great claim and assumption, such as we may
understand, if we anticipate in this preliminary scepticism the
ulterior scope of his speculation, according to which the universal
movement of all natural things is but one particular stage, or measure,
of that ceaseless activity wherein the divine reason consists.  The one
true being--that constant subject of all early thought--it was his
merit to have conceived, not as sterile and stagnant inaction, but as a
perpetual energy, from the restless stream of which, [130] at certain
points, some elements detach themselves, and harden into non-entity and
death, corresponding, as outward objects, to man's inward condition of
ignorance: that is, to the slowness of his faculties.  It is with this
paradox of a subtle, perpetual change in all visible things, that the
high speculation of Heraclitus begins.  Hence the scorn he expresses
for anything like a careless, half-conscious, "use-and-wont" reception
of our experience, which took so strong a hold on men's memories! Hence
those many precepts towards a strenuous self-consciousness in all we
think and do, that loyalty to cool and candid reason, which makes
strict attentiveness of mind a kind of religious duty and service.

The negative doctrine, then, that the objects of our ordinary
experience, fixed as they seem, are really in perpetual change, had
been, as originally conceived, but the preliminary step towards a large
positive system of almost religious philosophy.  Then as now, the
illuminated philosophic mind might apprehend, in what seemed a mass of
lifeless matter, the movement of that universal life, in which things,
and men's impressions of them, were ever "coming to be," alternately
consumed and renewed.  That continual change, to be discovered by the
attentive understanding where common opinion found fixed objects, was
but the indicator of a subtler but all-pervading motion--the sleepless,
ever-sustained, inexhaustible energy of the divine [131] reason itself,
proceeding always by its own rhythmical logic, and lending to all mind
and matter, in turn, what life they had.  In this "perpetual flux" of
things and of souls, there was, as Heraclitus conceived, a continuance,
if not of their material or spiritual elements, yet of orderly
intelligible relationships, like the harmony of musical notes, wrought
out in and through the series of their mutations--ordinances of the
divine reason, maintained throughout the changes of the phenomenal
world; and this harmony in their mutation and opposition, was, after
all, a principle of sanity, of reality, there.  But it happened, that,
of all this, the first, merely sceptical or negative step, that easiest
step on the threshold, had alone remained in general memory; and the
"doctrine of motion" seemed to those who had felt its seduction to make
all fixed knowledge impossible.  The swift passage of things, the still
swifter passage of those modes of our conscious being which seemed to
reflect them, might indeed be the burning of the divine fire: but what
was ascertained was that they did pass away like a devouring flame, or
like the race of water in the mid-stream--too swiftly for any real
knowledge of them to be attainable.  Heracliteanism had grown to be
almost identical with the famous doctrine of the sophist Protagoras,
that the momentary, sensible apprehension of the individual was the
only standard of what is or is [132] not, and each one the measure of
all things to himself.  The impressive name of Heraclitus had become
but an authority for a philosophy of the despair of knowledge.

And as it had been with his original followers in Greece, so it
happened now with the later Roman disciple.  He, too, paused at the
apprehension of that constant motion of things--the drift of flowers,
of little or great souls, of ambitious systems, in the stream around
him, the first source, the ultimate issue, of which, in regions out of
sight, must count with him as but a dim problem.  The bold mental
flight of the old Greek master from the fleeting, competing objects of
experience to that one universal life, in which the whole sphere of
physical change might be reckoned as but a single pulsation, remained
by him as hypothesis only--the hypothesis he actually preferred, as in
itself most credible, however scantily realisable even by the
imagination--yet still as but one unverified hypothesis, among many
others, concerning the first principle of things.  He might reserve it
as a fine, high, visionary consideration, very remote upon the
intellectual ladder, just at the point, indeed, where that ladder
seemed to pass into the clouds, but for which there was certainly no
time left just now by his eager interest in the real objects so close
to him, on the lowlier earthy steps nearest the ground.  And those
childish days of reverie, [133] when he played at priests, played in
many another day-dream, working his way from the actual present, as far
as he might, with a delightful sense of escape in replacing the outer
world of other people by an inward world as himself really cared to
have it, had made him a kind of "idealist." He was become aware of the
possibility of a large dissidence between an inward and somewhat
exclusive world of vivid personal apprehension, and the unimproved,
unheightened reality of the life of those about him.  As a consequence,
he was ready now to concede, somewhat more easily than others, the
first point of his new lesson, that the individual is to himself the
measure of all things, and to rely on the exclusive certainty to
himself of his own impressions. To move afterwards in that outer world
of other people, as though taking it at their estimate, would be
possible henceforth only as a kind of irony.  And as with the Vicaire
Savoyard, after reflecting on the variations of philosophy, "the first
fruit he drew from that reflection was the lesson of a limitation of
his researches to what immediately interested him; to rest peacefully
in a profound ignorance as to all beside; to disquiet himself only
concerning those things which it was of import for him to know."  At
least he would entertain no theory of conduct which did not allow its
due weight to this primary element of incertitude or negation, in the
conditions of man's life. [134] Just here he joined company, retracing
in his individual mental pilgrimage the historic order of human
thought, with another wayfarer on the journey, another ancient Greek
master, the founder of the Cyrenaic philosophy, whose weighty
traditional utterances (for he had left no writing) served in turn to
give effective outline to the contemplations of Marius.  There was
something in the doctrine itself congruous with the place wherein it
had its birth; and for a time Marius lived much, mentally, in the
brilliant Greek colony which had given a dubious name to the philosophy
of pleasure.  It hung, for his fancy, between the mountains and the
sea, among richer than Italian gardens, on a certain breezy table-land
projecting from the African coast, some hundreds of miles southward
from Greece.  There, in a delightful climate, with something of
transalpine temperance amid its luxury, and withal in an inward
atmosphere of temperance which did but further enhance the brilliancy
of human life, the school of Cyrene had maintained itself as almost one
with the family of its founder; certainly as nothing coarse or unclean,
and under the influence of accomplished women.

Aristippus of Cyrene too had left off in suspense of judgment as to
what might really lie behind--flammantia moenia mundi: the flaming
ramparts of the world.  Those strange, bold, sceptical surmises, which
had haunted the minds [135] of the first Greek enquirers as merely
abstract doubt, which had been present to the mind of Heraclitus as one
element only in a system of abstract philosophy, became with Aristippus
a very subtly practical worldly-wisdom.  The difference between him and
those obscure earlier thinkers is almost like that between an ancient
thinker generally, and a modern man of the world: it was the difference
between the mystic in his cell, or the prophet in the desert, and the
expert, cosmopolitan, administrator of his dark sayings, translating
the abstract thoughts of the master into terms, first of all, of
sentiment.  It has been sometimes seen, in the history of the human
mind, that when thus translated into terms of sentiment--of sentiment,
as lying already half-way towards practice--the abstract ideas of
metaphysics for the first time reveal their true significance.  The
metaphysical principle, in itself, as it were, without hands or feet,
becomes impressive, fascinating, of effect, when translated into a
precept as to how it were best to feel and act; in other words, under
its sentimental or ethical equivalent.  The leading idea of the great
master of Cyrene, his theory that things are but shadows, and that we,
even as they, never continue in one stay, might indeed have taken
effect as a languid, enervating, consumptive nihilism, as a precept of
"renunciation," which would touch and handle and busy itself with
nothing.  But in the reception of [136] metaphysical formulae, all
depends, as regards their actual and ulterior result, on the
pre-existent qualities of that soil of human nature into which they
fall--the company they find already present there, on their admission
into the house of thought; there being at least so much truth as this
involves in the theological maxim, that the reception of this or that
speculative conclusion is really a matter of will.  The persuasion that
all is vanity, with this happily constituted Greek, who had been a
genuine disciple of Socrates and reflected, presumably, something of
his blitheness in the face of the world, his happy way of taking all
chances, generated neither frivolity nor sourness, but induced, rather,
an impression, just serious enough, of the call upon men's attention of
the crisis in which they find themselves.  It became the stimulus
towards every kind of activity, and prompted a perpetual,
inextinguishable thirst after experience.

With Marius, then, the influence of the philosopher of pleasure
depended on this, that in him an abstract doctrine, originally somewhat
acrid, had fallen upon a rich and genial nature, well fitted to
transform it into a theory of practice, of considerable stimulative
power towards a fair life.  What Marius saw in him was the spectacle of
one of the happiest temperaments coming, so to speak, to an
understanding with the most depressing of theories; accepting the [137]
results of a metaphysical system which seemed to concentrate into
itself all the weakening trains of thought in earlier Greek
speculation, and making the best of it; turning its hard, bare truths,
with wonderful tact, into precepts of grace, and delicate wisdom, and a
delicate sense of honour.  Given the hardest terms, supposing our days
are indeed but a shadow, even so, we may well adorn and beautify, in
scrupulous self-respect, our souls, and whatever our souls touch
upon--these wonderful bodies, these material dwelling-places through
which the shadows pass together for a while, the very raiment we wear,
our very pastimes and the intercourse of society.  The most discerning
judges saw in him something like the graceful "humanities" of the later
Roman, and our modern "culture," as it is termed; while Horace recalled
his sayings as expressing best his own consummate amenity in the
reception of life.

In this way, for Marius, under the guidance of that old master of
decorous living, those eternal doubts as to the criteria of truth
reduced themselves to a scepticism almost drily practical, a scepticism
which developed the opposition between things as they are and our
impressions and thoughts concerning them--the possibility, if an
outward world does really exist, of some faultiness in our apprehension
of it--the doctrine, in short, of what is termed "the subjectivity of
knowledge."  That is a consideration, indeed, [138] which lies as an
element of weakness, like some admitted fault or flaw, at the very
foundation of every philosophical account of the universe; which
confronts all philosophies at their starting, but with which none have
really dealt conclusively, some perhaps not quite sincerely; which
those who are not philosophers dissipate by "common," but
unphilosophical, sense, or by religious faith.  The peculiar strength
of Marius was, to have apprehended this weakness on the threshold of
human knowledge, in the whole range of its consequences.  Our knowledge
is limited to what we feel, he reflected: we need no proof that we
feel.  But can we be sure that things are at all like our feelings?
Mere peculiarities in the instruments of our cognition, like the little
knots and waves on the surface of a mirror, may distort the matter they
seem but to represent.  Of other people we cannot truly know even the
feelings, nor how far they would indicate the same modifications, each
one of a personality really unique, in using the same terms as
ourselves; that "common experience," which is sometimes proposed as a
satisfactory basis of certainty, being after all only a fixity of
language.  But our own impressions!--The light and heat of that blue
veil over our heads, the heavens spread out, perhaps not like a curtain
over anything!--How reassuring, after so long a debate about the rival
criteria of truth, to fall back upon direct sensation, to limit one's
[139] aspirations after knowledge to that!  In an age still materially
so brilliant, so expert in the artistic handling of material things,
with sensible capacities still in undiminished vigour, with the whole
world of classic art and poetry outspread before it, and where there
was more than eye or ear could well take in--how natural the
determination to rely exclusively upon the phenomena of the senses,
which certainly never deceive us about themselves, about which alone we
can never deceive ourselves!

And so the abstract apprehension that the little point of this present
moment alone really is, between a past which has just ceased to be and
a future which may never come, became practical with Marius, under the
form of a resolve, as far as possible, to exclude regret and desire,
and yield himself to the improvement of the present with an absolutely
disengaged mind.  America is here and now--here, or nowhere: as Wilhelm
Meister finds out one day, just not too late, after so long looking
vaguely across the ocean for the opportunity of the development of his
capacities.  It was as if, recognising in perpetual motion the law of
nature, Marius identified his own way of life cordially with it,
"throwing himself into the stream," so to speak.  He too must maintain
a harmony with that soul of motion in things, by constantly renewed
mobility of character.

Omnis Aristippum decuit color et status et res.--

[140] Thus Horace had summed up that perfect manner in the reception of
life attained by his old Cyrenaic master; and the first practical
consequence of the metaphysic which lay behind that perfect manner, had
been a strict limitation, almost the renunciation, of metaphysical
enquiry itself.  Metaphysic--that art, as it has so often proved, in
the words of Michelet, de s'égarer avec méthode, of bewildering oneself
methodically:--one must spend little time upon that!  In the school of
Cyrene, great as was its mental incisiveness, logical and physical
speculation, theoretic interests generally, had been valued only so far
as they served to give a groundwork, an intellectual justification, to
that exclusive concern with practical ethics which was a note of the
Cyrenaic philosophy.  How earnest and enthusiastic, how true to itself,
under how many varieties of character, had been the effort of the
Greeks after Theory--Theôria--that vision of a wholly reasonable world,
which, according to the greatest of them, literally makes man like God:
how loyally they had still persisted in the quest after that, in spite
of how many disappointments!  In the Gospel of Saint John, perhaps,
some of them might have found the kind of vision they were seeking for;
but not in "doubtful disputations" concerning "being" and "not being,"
knowledge and appearance.  Men's minds, even young men's minds, at that
late day, might well seem oppressed by the weariness of systems which
[141] had so far outrun positive knowledge; and in the mind of Marius,
as in that old school of Cyrene, this sense of ennui, combined with
appetites so youthfully vigorous, brought about reaction, a sort of
suicide (instances of the like have been seen since) by which a great
metaphysical acumen was devoted to the function of proving metaphysical
speculation impossible, or useless. Abstract theory was to be valued
only just so far as it might serve to clear the tablet of the mind from
suppositions no more than half realisable, or wholly visionary, leaving
it in flawless evenness of surface to the impressions of an experience,
concrete and direct.

To be absolutely virgin towards such experience, by ridding ourselves
of such abstractions as are but the ghosts of bygone impressions--to be
rid of the notions we have made for ourselves, and that so often only
misrepresent the experience of which they profess to be the
representation--idola, idols, false appearances, as Bacon calls them
later--to neutralise the distorting influence of metaphysical system by
an all-accomplished metaphysic skill: it is this bold, hard, sober
recognition, under a very "dry light," of its own proper aim, in union
with a habit of feeling which on the practical side may perhaps open a
wide doorway to human weakness, that gives to the Cyrenaic doctrine, to
reproductions of this doctrine in the time of Marius or in our own,
their gravity and importance.  It was a [142] school to which the young
man might come, eager for truth, expecting much from philosophy, in no
ignoble curiosity, aspiring after nothing less than an "initiation." He
would be sent back, sooner or later, to experience, to the world of
concrete impressions, to things as they may be seen, heard, felt by
him; but with a wonderful machinery of observation, and free from the
tyranny of mere theories.

So, in intervals of repose, after the agitation which followed the
death of Flavian, the thoughts of Marius ran, while he felt himself as
if returned to the fine, clear, peaceful light of that pleasant school
of healthfully sensuous wisdom, in the brilliant old Greek colony, on
its fresh upland by the sea.  Not pleasure, but a general completeness
of life, was the practical ideal to which this anti-metaphysical
metaphysic really pointed.  And towards such a full or complete life, a
life of various yet select sensation, the most direct and effective
auxiliary must be, in a word, Insight.  Liberty of soul, freedom from
all partial and misrepresentative doctrine which does but relieve one
element in our experience at the cost of another, freedom from all
embarrassment alike of regret for the past and of calculation on the
future: this would be but preliminary to the real business of
education--insight, insight through culture, into all that the present
moment holds in trust for us, as we stand so briefly in its presence.
From that maxim of [143] Life as the end of life, followed, as a
practical consequence, the desirableness of refining all the
instruments of inward and outward intuition, of developing all their
capacities, of testing and exercising one's self in them, till one's
whole nature became one complex medium of reception, towards the
vision--the "beatific vision," if we really cared to make it such--of
our actual experience in the world.  Not the conveyance of an abstract
body of truths or principles, would be the aim of the right education
of one's self, or of another, but the conveyance of an art--an art in
some degree peculiar to each individual character; with the
modifications, that is, due to its special constitution, and the
peculiar circumstances of its growth, inasmuch as no one of us is "like
another, all in all."


[144] SUCH were the practical conclusions drawn for himself by Marius,
when somewhat later he had outgrown the mastery of others, from the
principle that "all is vanity."  If he could but count upon the
present, if a life brief at best could not certainly be shown to
conduct one anywhere beyond itself, if men's highest curiosity was
indeed so persistently baffled--then, with the Cyrenaics of all ages,
he would at least fill up the measure of that present with vivid
sensations, and such intellectual apprehensions, as, in strength and
directness and their immediately realised values at the bar of an
actual experience, are most like sensations.  So some have spoken in
every age; for, like all theories which really express a strong natural
tendency of the human mind or even one of its characteristic modes of
weakness, this vein of reflection is a constant tradition in
philosophy.  Every age of European thought has had its Cyrenaics or
Epicureans, under many disguises: even under the hood of the monk.

[145] But--Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die!--is a proposal,
the real import of which differs immensely, according to the natural
taste, and the acquired judgment, of the guests who sit at the table.
It may express nothing better than the instinct of Dante's Ciacco, the
accomplished glutton, in the mud of the Inferno;+ or, since on no
hypothesis does man "live by bread alone," may come to be identical
with--"My meat is to do what is just and kind;" while the soul, which
can make no sincere claim to have apprehended anything beyond the veil
of immediate experience, yet never loses a sense of happiness in
conforming to the highest moral ideal it can clearly define for itself;
and actually, though but with so faint hope, does the "Father's

In that age of Marcus Aurelius, so completely disabused of the
metaphysical ambition to pass beyond "the flaming ramparts of the
world," but, on the other hand, possessed of so vast an accumulation of
intellectual treasure, with so wide a view before it over all varieties
of what is powerful or attractive in man and his works, the thoughts of
Marius did but follow the line taken by the majority of educated
persons, though to a different issue.  Pitched to a really high and
serious key, the precept--Be perfect in regard to what is here and now:
the precept of "culture," as it is called, or of a complete
education--might at least save him from the vulgarity and heaviness
[146] of a generation, certainly of no general fineness of temper,
though with a material well-being abundant enough.  Conceded that what
is secure in our existence is but the sharp apex of the present moment
between two hypothetical eternities, and all that is real in our
experience but a series of fleeting impressions:--so Marius continued
the sceptical argument he had condensed, as the matter to hold by, from
his various philosophical reading:--given, that we are never to get
beyond the walls of the closely shut cell of one's own personality;
that the ideas we are somehow impelled to form of an outer world, and
of other minds akin to our own, are, it may be, but a day-dream, and
the thought of any world beyond, a day-dream perhaps idler still: then,
he, at least, in whom those fleeting impressions--faces, voices,
material sunshine--were very real and imperious, might well set himself
to the consideration, how such actual moments as they passed might be
made to yield their utmost, by the most dexterous training of capacity.
Amid abstract metaphysical doubts, as to what might lie one step only
beyond that experience, reinforcing the deep original materialism or
earthliness of human nature itself, bound so intimately to the sensuous
world, let him at least make the most of what was "here and now."  In
the actual dimness of ways from means to ends--ends in themselves
desirable, yet for the most part distant and for him, certainly, below
the [147] visible horizon--he would at all events be sure that the
means, to use the well-worn terminology, should have something of
finality or perfection about them, and themselves partake, in a
measure, of the more excellent nature of ends--that the means should
justify the end.

With this view he would demand culture, paideia,+ as the Cyrenaics
said, or, in other words, a wide, a complete, education--an education
partly negative, as ascertaining the true limits of man's capacities,
but for the most part positive, and directed especially to the
expansion and refinement of the power of reception; of those powers,
above all, which are immediately relative to fleeting phenomena, the
powers of emotion and sense.  In such an education, an "aesthetic"
education, as it might now be termed, and certainly occupied very
largely with those aspects of things which affect us pleasurably
through sensation, art, of course, including all the finer sorts of
literature, would have a great part to play.  The study of music, in
that wider Platonic sense, according to which, music comprehends all
those matters over which the Muses of Greek mythology preside, would
conduct one to an exquisite appreciation of all the finer traits of
nature and of man.  Nay! the products of the imagination must
themselves be held to present the most perfect forms of life--spirit
and matter alike under their purest and most perfect conditions--the
most strictly appropriate [148] objects of that impassioned
contemplation, which, in the world of intellectual discipline, as in
the highest forms of morality and religion, must be held to be the
essential function of the "perfect."  Such manner of life might come
even to seem a kind of religion--an inward, visionary, mystic piety, or
religion, by virtue of its effort to live days "lovely and pleasant" in
themselves, here and now, and with an all-sufficiency of well-being in
the immediate sense of the object contemplated, independently of any
faith, or hope that might be entertained as to their ulterior tendency.
In this way, the true aesthetic culture would be realisable as a new
form of the contemplative life, founding its claim on the intrinsic
"blessedness" of "vision"--the vision of perfect men and things.  One's
human nature, indeed, would fain reckon on an assured and endless
future, pleasing itself with the dream of a final home, to be attained
at some still remote date, yet with a conscious, delightful home-coming
at last, as depicted in many an old poetic Elysium.  On the other hand,
the world of perfected sensation, intelligence, emotion, is so close to
us, and so attractive, that the most visionary of spirits must needs
represent the world unseen in colours, and under a form really borrowed
from it.  Let me be sure then--might he not plausibly say?--that I miss
no detail of this life of realised consciousness in the present!  Here
at least is a vision, a theory, [149] theôria,+ which reposes on no
basis of unverified hypothesis, which makes no call upon a future after
all somewhat problematic; as it would be unaffected by any discovery of
an Empedocles (improving on the old story of Prometheus) as to what had
really been the origin, and course of development, of man's actually
attained faculties and that seemingly divine particle of reason or
spirit in him.  Such a doctrine, at more leisurable moments, would of
course have its precepts to deliver on the embellishment, generally, of
what is near at hand, on the adornment of life, till, in a not
impracticable rule of conduct, one's existence, from day to day, came
to be like a well-executed piece of music; that "perpetual motion" in
things (so Marius figured the matter to himself, under the old Greek
imageries) according itself to a kind of cadence or harmony.

It was intelligible that this "aesthetic" philosophy might find itself
(theoretically, at least, and by way of a curious question in
casuistry, legitimate from its own point of view) weighing the claims
of that eager, concentrated, impassioned realisation of experience,
against those of the received morality.  Conceiving its own function in
a somewhat desperate temper, and becoming, as every high-strung form of
sentiment, as the religious sentiment itself, may become, somewhat
antinomian, when, in its effort towards the order of experiences it
prefers, it is confronted with the traditional and popular [150]
morality, at points where that morality may look very like a
convention, or a mere stage-property of the world, it would be found,
from time to time, breaking beyond the limits of the actual moral
order; perhaps not without some pleasurable excitement in so bold a

With the possibility of some such hazard as this, in thought or even in
practice--that it might be, though refining, or tonic even, in the case
of those strong and in health, yet, as Pascal says of the kindly and
temperate wisdom of Montaigne, "pernicious for those who have any
natural tendency to impiety or vice," the line of reflection traced out
above, was fairly chargeable.--Not, however, with "hedonism" and its
supposed consequences.  The blood, the heart, of Marius were still
pure.  He knew that his carefully considered theory of practice braced
him, with the effect of a moral principle duly recurring to mind every
morning, towards the work of a student, for which he might seem
intended.  Yet there were some among his acquaintance who jumped to the
conclusion that, with the "Epicurean stye," he was making
pleasure--pleasure, as they so poorly conceived it--the sole motive of
life; and they precluded any exacter estimate of the situation by
covering it with a high-sounding general term, through the vagueness of
which they were enabled to see the severe and laborious youth in the
vulgar company of Lais.  Words like "hedonism"-- [151] terms of large
and vague comprehension--above all when used for a purpose avowedly
controversial, have ever been the worst examples of what are called
"question-begging terms;" and in that late age in which Marius lived,
amid the dust of so many centuries of philosophical debate, the air was
full of them.  Yet those who used that reproachful Greek term for the
philosophy of pleasure, were hardly more likely than the old Greeks
themselves (on whom regarding this very subject of the theory of
pleasure, their masters in the art of thinking had so emphatically to
impress the necessity of "making distinctions") to come to any very
delicately correct ethical conclusions by a reasoning, which began with
a general term, comprehensive enough to cover pleasures so different in
quality, in their causes and effects, as the pleasures of wine and
love, of art and science, of religious enthusiasm and political
enterprise, and of that taste or curiosity which satisfied itself with
long days of serious study.  Yet, in truth, each of those pleasurable
modes of activity, may, in its turn, fairly become the ideal of the
"hedonistic" doctrine.  Really, to the phase of reflection through
which Marius was then passing, the charge of "hedonism," whatever its
true weight might be, was not properly applicable at all.  Not
pleasure, but fulness of life, and "insight" as conducting to that
fulness--energy, variety, and choice of experience, including [152]
noble pain and sorrow even, loves such as those in the exquisite old
story of Apuleius, sincere and strenuous forms of the moral life, such
as Seneca and Epictetus--whatever form of human life, in short, might
be heroic, impassioned, ideal: from these the "new Cyrenaicism" of
Marius took its criterion of values.  It was a theory, indeed, which
might properly be regarded as in great degree coincident with the main
principle of the Stoics themselves, and an older version of the precept
"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might"--a doctrine
so widely acceptable among the nobler spirits of that time.  And, as
with that, its mistaken tendency would lie in the direction of a kind
of idolatry of mere life, or natural gift, or strength--l'idôlatrie des

To understand the various forms of ancient art and thought, the various
forms of actual human feeling (the only new thing, in a world almost
too opulent in what was old) to satisfy, with a kind of scrupulous
equity, the claims of these concrete and actual objects on his
sympathy, his intelligence, his senses--to "pluck out the heart of
their mystery," and in turn become the interpreter of them to others:
this had now defined itself for Marius as a very narrowly practical
design: it determined his choice of a vocation to live by. It was the
era of the rhetoricians, or sophists, as they were sometimes called; of
men who came in some instances to [153] great fame and fortune, by way
of a literary cultivation of "science." That science, it has been often
said, must have been wholly an affair of words.  But in a world,
confessedly so opulent in what was old, the work, even of genius, must
necessarily consist very much in criticism; and, in the case of the
more excellent specimens of his class, the rhetorician was, after all,
the eloquent and effective interpreter, for the delighted ears of
others, of what understanding himself had come by, in years of travel
and study, of the beautiful house of art and thought which was the
inheritance of the age.  The emperor Marcus Aurelius, to whose service
Marius had now been called, was himself, more or less openly, a
"lecturer."  That late world, amid many curiously vivid modern traits,
had this spectacle, so familiar to ourselves, of the public lecturer or
essayist; in some cases adding to his other gifts that of the Christian
preacher, who knows how to touch people's sensibilities on behalf of
the suffering. To follow in the way of these successes, was the natural
instinct of youthful ambition; and it was with no vulgar egotism that
Marius, at the age of nineteen, determined, like many another young man
of parts, to enter as a student of rhetoric at Rome.

Though the manner of his work was changed formally from poetry to
prose, he remained, and must always be, of the poetic temper: by which,
I mean, among other things, that quite [154] independently of the
general habit of that pensive age he lived much, and as it were by
system, in reminiscence.  Amid his eager grasping at the sensation, the
consciousness, of the present, he had come to see that, after all, the
main point of economy in the conduct of the present, was the
question:--How will it look to me, at what shall I value it, this day
next year?--that in any given day or month one's main concern was its
impression for the memory.  A strange trick memory sometimes played
him; for, with no natural gradation, what was of last month, or of
yesterday, of to-day even, would seem as far off, as entirely detached
from him, as things of ten years ago. Detached from him, yet very real,
there lay certain spaces of his life, in delicate perspective, under a
favourable light; and, somehow, all the less fortunate detail and
circumstance had parted from them.  Such hours were oftenest those in
which he had been helped by work of others to the pleasurable
apprehension of art, of nature, or of life.  "Not what I do, but what I
am, under the power of this vision"--he would say to himself--"is what
were indeed pleasing to the gods!"

And yet, with a kind of inconsistency in one who had taken for his
philosophic ideal the monochronos hêdonê+ of Aristippus--the pleasure
of the ideal present, of the mystic now--there would come, together
with that precipitate sinking of things into the past, a desire, after
all, [155] to retain "what was so transitive."  Could he but arrest,
for others also, certain clauses of experience, as the imaginative
memory presented them to himself!  In those grand, hot summers, he
would have imprisoned the very perfume of the flowers.  To create, to
live, perhaps, a little while beyond the allotted hours, if it were but
in a fragment of perfect expression:--it was thus his longing defined
itself for something to hold by amid the "perpetual flux." With men of
his vocation, people were apt to say, words were things. Well! with
him, words should be indeed things,--the word, the phrase, valuable in
exact proportion to the transparency with which it conveyed to others
the apprehension, the emotion, the mood, so vividly real within
himself.  Verbaque provisam rem non invita sequentur:+ Virile
apprehension of the true nature of things, of the true nature of one's
own impression, first of all!--words would follow that naturally, a
true understanding of one's self being ever the first condition of
genuine style.  Language delicate and measured, the delicate Attic
phrase, for instance, in which the eminent Aristeides could speak, was
then a power to which people's hearts, and sometimes even their purses,
readily responded.  And there were many points, as Marius thought, on
which the heart of that age greatly needed to be touched.  He hardly
knew how strong that old religious sense of responsibility, the
conscience, as we call it, [156] still was within him--a body of inward
impressions, as real as those so highly valued outward ones--to offend
against which, brought with it a strange feeling of disloyalty, as to a
person.  And the determination, adhered to with no misgiving, to add
nothing, not so much as a transient sigh, to the great total of men's
unhappiness, in his way through the world:--that too was something to
rest on, in the drift of mere "appearances."

All this would involve a life of industry, of industrious study, only
possible through healthy rule, keeping clear the eye alike of body and
soul.  For the male element, the logical conscience asserted itself
now, with opening manhood--asserted itself, even in his literary style,
by a certain firmness of outline, that touch of the worker in metal,
amid its richness.  Already he blamed instinctively alike in his work
and in himself, as youth so seldom does, all that had not passed a long
and liberal process of erasure.  The happy phrase or sentence was
really modelled upon a cleanly finished structure of scrupulous
thought.  The suggestive force of the one master of his development,
who had battled so hard with imaginative prose; the utterance, the
golden utterance, of the other, so content with its living power of
persuasion that he had never written at all,--in the commixture of
these two qualities he set up his literary ideal, and this rare
blending of grace with an intellectual [157] rigour or astringency, was
the secret of a singular expressiveness in it.

He acquired at this time a certain bookish air, the somewhat sombre
habitude of the avowed scholar, which though it never interfered with
the perfect tone, "fresh and serenely disposed," of the Roman
gentleman, yet qualified it as by an interesting oblique trait, and
frightened away some of his equals in age and rank.  The sober
discretion of his thoughts, his sustained habit of meditation, the
sense of those negative conclusions enabling him to concentrate
himself, with an absorption so entire, upon what is immediately here
and now, gave him a peculiar manner of intellectual confidence, as of
one who had indeed been initiated into a great secret.--Though with an
air so disengaged, he seemed to be living so intently in the visible
world!  And now, in revolt against that pre-occupation with other
persons, which had so often perturbed his spirit, his wistful
speculations as to what the real, the greater, experience might be,
determined in him, not as the longing for love--to be with Cynthia, or
Aspasia--but as a thirst for existence in exquisite places.  The veil
that was to be lifted for him lay over the works of the old masters of
art, in places where nature also had used her mastery. And it was just
at this moment that a summons to Rome reached him.


145. +Canto VI.

147. +Transliteration: paideia.  Definition "rearing, education."

149. +Transliteration: theôria.  Definition "a looking at ...
observing ... contemplation."

154. +Transliteration: monochronos hêdonê.  Pater's definition "the
pleasure of the ideal present, of the mystic now."  The definition is
fitting; the unusual adjective monokhronos means, literally, "single or
unitary time."

155. +Horace, Ars Poetica 311.  +Etext editor's translation: "The
subject once foreknown, the words will follow easily."


     Mirum est ut animus agitatione motuque corporis excitetur.
                                               Pliny's Letters.

[158] MANY points in that train of thought, its harder and more
energetic practical details especially, at first surmised but vaguely
in the intervals of his visits to the tomb of Flavian, attained the
coherence of formal principle amid the stirring incidents of the
journey, which took him, still in all the buoyancy of his nineteen
years and greatly expectant, to Rome.  That summons had come from one
of the former friends of his father in the capital, who had kept
himself acquainted with the lad's progress, and, assured of his parts,
his courtly ways, above all of his beautiful penmanship, now offered
him a place, virtually that of an amanuensis, near the person of the
philosophic emperor.  The old town-house of his family on the Caelian
hill, so long neglected, might well require his personal care; and
Marius, relieved a little by his preparations for travelling from a
certain over-tension [159] of spirit in which he had lived of late, was
presently on his way, to await introduction to Aurelius, on his
expected return home, after a first success, illusive enough as it was
soon to appear, against the invaders from beyond the Danube.

The opening stage of his journey, through the firm, golden weather, for
which he had lingered three days beyond the appointed time of
starting--days brown with the first rains of autumn--brought him, by
the byways among the lower slopes of the Apennines of Luna, to the town
of Luca, a station on the Cassian Way; travelling so far mainly on
foot, while the baggage followed under the care of his attendants. He
wore a broad felt hat, in fashion not unlike a more modern pilgrim's,
the neat head projecting from the collar of his gray paenula, or
travelling mantle, sewed closely together over the breast, but with its
two sides folded up upon the shoulders, to leave the arms free in
walking, and was altogether so trim and fresh, that, as he climbed the
hill from Pisa, by the long steep lane through the olive-yards, and
turned to gaze where he could just discern the cypresses of the old
school garden, like two black lines down the yellow walls, a little
child took possession of his hand, and, looking up at him with entire
confidence, paced on bravely at his side, for the mere pleasure of his
company, to the spot where the road declined again [160] into the
valley beyond.  From this point, leaving the servants behind, he
surrendered himself, a willing subject, as he walked, to the
impressions of the road, and was almost surprised, both at the
suddenness with which evening came on, and the distance from his old
home at which it found him.

And at the little town of Luca, he felt that indescribable sense of a
welcoming in the mere outward appearance of things, which seems to mark
out certain places for the special purpose of evening rest, and gives
them always a peculiar amiability in retrospect.  Under the deepening
twilight, the rough-tiled roofs seem to huddle together side by side,
like one continuous shelter over the whole township, spread low and
broad above the snug sleeping-rooms within; and the place one sees for
the first time, and must tarry in but for a night, breathes the very
spirit of home.  The cottagers lingered at their doors for a few
minutes as the shadows grew larger, and went to rest early; though
there was still a glow along the road through the shorn corn-fields,
and the birds were still awake about the crumbling gray heights of an
old temple.  So quiet and air-swept was the place, you could hardly
tell where the country left off in it, and the field-paths became its
streets.  Next morning he must needs change the manner of his journey.
The light baggage-wagon returned, and he proceeded now more quickly,
travelling [161] a stage or two by post, along the Cassian Way, where
the figures and incidents of the great high-road seemed already to tell
of the capital, the one centre to which all were hastening, or had
lately bidden adieu.  That Way lay through the heart of the old,
mysterious and visionary country of Etruria; and what he knew of its
strange religion of the dead, reinforced by the actual sight of the
funeral houses scattered so plentifully among the dwelling-places of
the living, revived in him for a while, in all its strength, his old
instinctive yearning towards those inhabitants of the shadowy land he
had known in life. It seemed to him that he could half divine how time
passed in those painted houses on the hillsides, among the gold and
silver ornaments, the wrought armour and vestments, the drowsy and dead
attendants; and the close consciousness of that vast population gave
him no fear, but rather a sense of companionship, as he climbed the
hills on foot behind the horses, through the genial afternoon.

The road, next day, passed below a town not less primitive, it might
seem, than its rocky perch--white rocks, that had long been glistening
before him in the distance.  Down the dewy paths the people were
descending from it, to keep a holiday, high and low alike in rough,
white-linen smocks.  A homely old play was just begun in an open-air
theatre, with seats hollowed out of the turf-grown slope. Marius [162]
caught the terrified expression of a child in its mother's arms, as it
turned from the yawning mouth of a great mask, for refuge in her bosom.
The way mounted, and descended again, down the steep street of another
place, all resounding with the noise of metal under the hammer; for
every house had its brazier's workshop, the bright objects of brass and
copper gleaming, like lights in a cave, out of their dark roofs and
corners.  Around the anvils the children were watching the work, or ran
to fetch water to the hissing, red-hot metal; and Marius too watched,
as he took his hasty mid-day refreshment, a mess of chestnut-meal and
cheese, while the swelling surface of a great copper water-vessel grew
flowered all over with tiny petals under the skilful strokes.  Towards
dusk, a frantic woman at the roadside, stood and cried out the words of
some philter, or malison, in verse, with weird motion of her hands, as
the travellers passed, like a wild picture drawn from Virgil.

But all along, accompanying the superficial grace of these incidents of
the way, Marius noted, more and more as he drew nearer to Rome, marks
of the great plague.  Under Hadrian and his successors, there had been
many enactments to improve the condition of the slave.  The ergastula+
were abolished.  But no system of free labour had as yet succeeded.  A
whole mendicant population, artfully exaggerating every symptom and
circumstance of misery, still hung [163] around, or sheltered
themselves within, the vast walls of their old, half-ruined
task-houses.  And for the most part they had been variously stricken by
the pestilence.  For once, the heroic level had been reached in rags,
squints, scars--every caricature of the human type--ravaged beyond what
could have been thought possible if it were to survive at all.
Meantime, the farms were less carefully tended than of old: here and
there they were lapsing into their natural wildness: some villas also
were partly fallen into ruin.  The picturesque, romantic Italy of a
later time--the Italy of Claude and Salvator Rosa--was already forming,
for the delight of the modern romantic traveller.

And again Marius was aware of a real change in things, on crossing the
Tiber, as if some magic effect lay in that; though here, in truth, the
Tiber was but a modest enough stream of turbid water. Nature, under the
richer sky, seemed readier and more affluent, and man fitter to the
conditions around him: even in people hard at work there appeared to be
a less burdensome sense of the mere business of life.  How dreamily the
women were passing up through the broad light and shadow of the steep
streets with the great water-pots resting on their heads, like women of
Caryae, set free from slavery in old Greek temples.  With what a fresh,
primeval poetry was daily existence here impressed--all the details of
the threshing-floor and the vineyard; [164] the common farm-life even;
the great bakers' fires aglow upon the road in the evening.  In the
presence of all this Marius felt for a moment like those old, early,
unconscious poets, who created the famous Greek myths of Dionysus, and
the Great Mother, out of the imagery of the wine-press and the
ploughshare.  And still the motion of the journey was bringing his
thoughts to systematic form.  He seemed to have grown to the fulness of
intellectual manhood, on his way hither.  The formative and literary
stimulus, so to call it, of peaceful exercise which he had always
observed in himself, doing its utmost now, the form and the matter of
thought alike detached themselves clearly and with readiness from the
healthfully excited brain.--"It is wonderful," says Pliny, "how the
mind is stirred to activity by brisk bodily exercise."  The presentable
aspects of inmost thought and feeling became evident to him: the
structure of all he meant, its order and outline, defined itself: his
general sense of a fitness and beauty in words became effective in
daintily pliant sentences, with all sorts of felicitous linking of
figure to abstraction.  It seemed just then as if the desire of the
artist in him--that old longing to produce--might be satisfied by the
exact and literal transcript of what was then passing around him, in
simple prose, arresting the desirable moment as it passed, and
prolonging its life a little.--To live in the concrete!  To be sure, at
least, of [165] one's hold upon that!--Again, his philosophic scheme
was but the reflection of the data of sense, and chiefly of sight, a
reduction to the abstract, of the brilliant road he travelled on,
through the sunshine.

But on the seventh evening there came a reaction in the cheerful flow
of our traveller's thoughts, a reaction with which mere bodily fatigue,
asserting itself at last over his curiosity, had much to do; and he
fell into a mood, known to all passably sentimental wayfarers, as night
deepens again and again over their path, in which all journeying, from
the known to the unknown, comes suddenly to figure as a mere foolish
truancy--like a child's running away from home--with the feeling that
one had best return at once, even through the darkness.  He had chosen
to climb on foot, at his leisure, the long windings by which the road
ascended to the place where that day's stage was to end, and found
himself alone in the twilight, far behind the rest of his
travelling-companions.  Would the last zigzag, round and round those
dark masses, half natural rock, half artificial substructure, ever
bring him within the circuit of the walls above? It was now that a
startling incident turned those misgivings almost into actual fear.
From the steep slope a heavy mass of stone was detached, after some
whisperings among the trees above his head, and rushing down through
the stillness fell to pieces in a [166] cloud of dust across the road
just behind him, so that he felt the touch upon his heel.  That was
sufficient, just then, to rouse out of its hiding-place his old vague
fear of evil--of one's "enemies"--a distress, so much a matter of
constitution with him, that at times it would seem that the best
pleasures of life could but be snatched, as it were hastily, in one
moment's forgetfulness of its dark, besetting influence.  A sudden
suspicion of hatred against him, of the nearness of "enemies," seemed
all at once to alter the visible form of things, as with the child's
hero, when he found the footprint on the sand of his peaceful, dreamy
island.  His elaborate philosophy had not put beneath his feet the
terror of mere bodily evil; much less of "inexorable fate, and the
noise of greedy Acheron."

The resting-place to which he presently came, in the keen, wholesome
air of the market-place of the little hill-town, was a pleasant
contrast to that last effort of his journey.  The room in which he sat
down to supper, unlike the ordinary Roman inns at that day, was trim
and sweet.  The firelight danced cheerfully upon the polished,
three-wicked lucernae burning cleanly with the best oil, upon the
white-washed walls, and the bunches of scarlet carnations set in glass
goblets.  The white wine of the place put before him, of the true
colour and flavour of the grape, and with a ring of delicate foam as it
mounted in the cup, had a reviving edge or freshness he had [167] found
in no other wine.  These things had relieved a little the melancholy of
the hour before; and it was just then that he heard the voice of one,
newly arrived at the inn, making his way to the upper floor--a youthful
voice, with a reassuring clearness of note, which completed his cure.

He seemed to hear that voice again in dreams, uttering his name: then,
awake in the full morning light and gazing from the window, saw the
guest of the night before, a very honourable-looking youth, in the rich
habit of a military knight, standing beside his horse, and already
making preparations to depart.  It happened that Marius, too, was to
take that day's journey on horseback.  Riding presently from the inn,
he overtook Cornelius--of the Twelfth Legion--advancing carefully down
the steep street; and before they had issued from the gates of
Urbs-vetus, the two young men had broken into talk together. They were
passing along the street of the goldsmiths; and Cornelius must needs
enter one of the workshops for the repair of some button or link of his
knightly trappings.  Standing in the doorway, Marius watched the work,
as he had watched the brazier's business a few days before, wondering
most at the simplicity of its processes, a simplicity, however, on
which only genius in that craft could have lighted.--By what
unguessed-at stroke of hand, for instance, had the grains of precious
metal associated themselves [168] with so daintily regular a roughness,
over the surface of the little casket yonder?  And the conversation
which followed, hence arising, left the two travellers with sufficient
interest in each other to insure an easy companionship for the
remainder of their journey.  In time to come, Marius was to depend very
much on the preferences, the personal judgments, of the comrade who now
laid his hand so brotherly on his shoulder, as they left the workshop.

Itineris matutini gratiam capimus,+--observes one of our scholarly
travellers; and their road that day lay through a country, well-fitted,
by the peculiarity of its landscape, to ripen a first acquaintance into
intimacy; its superficial ugliness throwing the wayfarers back upon
each other's entertainment in a real exchange of ideas, the tension of
which, however, it would relieve, ever and anon, by the unexpected
assertion of something singularly attractive. The immediate aspect of
the land was, indeed, in spite of abundant olive and ilex, unpleasing
enough.  A river of clay seemed, "in some old night of time," to have
burst up over valley and hill, and hardened there into fantastic
shelves and slides and angles of cadaverous rock, up and down among the
contorted vegetation; the hoary roots and trunks seeming to confess
some weird kinship with them.  But that was long ago; and these pallid
hillsides needed only the declining sun, touching the rock with purple,
and throwing deeper shadow into [169] the immemorial foliage, to put on
a peculiar, because a very grave and austere, kind of beauty; while the
graceful outlines common to volcanic hills asserted themselves in the
broader prospect.  And, for sentimental Marius, all this was
associated, by some perhaps fantastic affinity, with a peculiar trait
of severity, beyond his guesses as to the secret of it, which mingled
with the blitheness of his new companion.  Concurring, indeed, with the
condition of a Roman soldier, it was certainly something far more than
the expression of military hardness, or ascêsis; and what was earnest,
or even austere, in the landscape they had traversed together, seemed
to have been waiting for the passage of this figure to interpret or
inform it.  Again, as in his early days with Flavian, a vivid personal
presence broke through the dreamy idealism, which had almost come to
doubt of other men's reality: reassuringly, indeed, yet not without
some sense of a constraining tyranny over him from without.

For Cornelius, returning from the campaign, to take up his quarters on
the Palatine, in the imperial guard, seemed to carry about with him, in
that privileged world of comely usage to which he belonged, the
atmosphere of some still more jealously exclusive circle.  They halted
on the morrow at noon, not at an inn, but at the house of one of the
young soldier's friends, whom they found absent, indeed, in consequence
of the [170] plague in those parts, so that after a mid-day rest only,
they proceeded again on their journey.  The great room of the villa, to
which they were admitted, had lain long untouched; and the dust rose,
as they entered, into the slanting bars of sunlight, that fell through
the half-closed shutters.  It was here, to while away the time, that
Cornelius bethought himself of displaying to his new friend the various
articles and ornaments of his knightly array--the breastplate, the
sandals and cuirass, lacing them on, one by one, with the assistance of
Marius, and finally the great golden bracelet on the right arm,
conferred on him by his general for an act of valour.  And as he
gleamed there, amid that odd interchange of light and shade, with the
staff of a silken standard firm in his hand, Marius felt as if he were
face to face, for the first time, with some new knighthood or chivalry,
just then coming into the world.

It was soon after they left this place, journeying now by carriage,
that Rome was seen at last, with much excitement on the part of our
travellers; Cornelius, and some others of whom the party then
consisted, agreeing, chiefly for the sake of Marius, to hasten forward,
that it might be reached by daylight, with a cheerful noise of rapid
wheels as they passed over the flagstones.  But the highest light upon
the mausoleum of Hadrian was quite gone out, and it was dark, before
they reached the Flaminian Gate.  The [171] abundant sound of water was
the one thing that impressed Marius, as they passed down a long street,
with many open spaces on either hand: Cornelius to his military
quarters, and Marius to the old dwelling-place of his fathers.


162. +E-text editor's note: ergastula were the Roman agrarian
equivalent of prison-workhouses.

168. +Apuleius, The Golden Ass, I.17.


[172] MARIUS awoke early and passed curiously from room to room, noting
for more careful inspection by and by the rolls of manuscripts.  Even
greater than his curiosity in gazing for the first time on this ancient
possession, was his eagerness to look out upon Rome itself, as he
pushed back curtain and shutter, and stepped forth in the fresh morning
upon one of the many balconies, with an oft-repeated dream realised at
last.  He was certainly fortunate in the time of his coming to Rome.
That old pagan world, of which Rome was the flower, had reached its
perfection in the things of poetry and art--a perfection which
indicated only too surely the eve of decline.  As in some vast
intellectual museum, all its manifold products were intact and in their
places, and with custodians also still extant, duly qualified to
appreciate and explain them.  And at no period of history had the
material Rome itself been better worth seeing--lying there not less
consummate than that world of [173] pagan intellect which it
represented in every phase of its darkness and light.  The various work
of many ages fell here harmoniously together, as yet untouched save by
time, adding the final grace of a rich softness to its complex
expression.  Much which spoke of ages earlier than Nero, the great
re-builder, lingered on, antique, quaint, immeasurably venerable, like
the relics of the medieval city in the Paris of Lewis the Fourteenth:
the work of Nero's own time had come to have that sort of old world and
picturesque interest which the work of Lewis has for ourselves; while
without stretching a parallel too far we might perhaps liken the
architectural finesses of the archaic Hadrian to the more excellent
products of our own Gothic revival.  The temple of Antoninus and
Faustina was still fresh in all the majesty of its closely arrayed
columns of cipollino; but, on the whole, little had been added under
the late and present emperors, and during fifty years of public quiet,
a sober brown and gray had grown apace on things.  The gilding on the
roof of many a temple had lost its garishness: cornice and capital of
polished marble shone out with all the crisp freshness of real flowers,
amid the already mouldering travertine and brickwork, though the birds
had built freely among them.  What Marius then saw was in many
respects, after all deduction of difference, more like the modern Rome
than the enumeration of particular losses [174]  might lead us to
suppose; the Renaissance, in its most ambitious mood and with amplest
resources, having resumed the ancient classical tradition there, with
no break or obstruction, as it had happened, in any very considerable
work of the middle age. Immediately before him, on the square, steep
height, where the earliest little old Rome had huddled itself together,
arose the palace of the Caesars.  Half-veiling the vast substruction of
rough, brown stone--line upon line of successive ages of builders--the
trim, old-fashioned garden walks, under their closely-woven walls of
dark glossy foliage, test of long and careful cultivation, wound
gradually, among choice trees, statues and fountains, distinct and
sparkling in the full morning sunlight, to the richly tinted mass of
pavilions and corridors above, centering in the lofty, white-marble
dwelling-place of Apollo himself.

How often had Marius looked forward to that first, free wandering
through Rome, to which he now went forth with a heat in the town
sunshine (like a mist of fine gold-dust spread through the air) to the
height of his desire, making the dun coolness of the narrow streets
welcome enough at intervals.  He almost feared, descending the stair
hastily, lest some unforeseen accident should snatch the little cup of
enjoyment from him ere he passed the door.  In such morning rambles in
places new to him, [175] life had always seemed to come at its fullest:
it was then he could feel his youth, that youth the days of which he
had already begun to count jealously, in entire possession.  So the
grave, pensive figure, a figure, be it said nevertheless, fresher far
than often came across it now, moved through the old city towards the
lodgings of Cornelius, certainly not by the most direct course, however
eager to rejoin the friend of yesterday.

Bent as keenly on seeing as if his first day in Rome were to be also
his last, the two friends descended along the Vicus Tuscus, with its
rows of incense-stalls, into the Via Nova, where the fashionable people
were busy shopping; and Marius saw with much amusement the frizzled
heads, then à la mode.  A glimpse of the Marmorata, the haven at the
river-side, where specimens of all the precious marbles of the world
were lying amid great white blocks from the quarries of Luna, took his
thoughts for a moment to his distant home.  They visited the
flower-market, lingering where the coronarii pressed on them the newest
species, and purchased zinias, now in blossom (like painted flowers,
thought Marius), to decorate the folds of their togas.  Loitering to
the other side of the Forum, past the great Galen's drug-shop, after a
glance at the announcements of new poems on sale attached to the
doorpost of a famous bookseller, they entered the curious [176] library
of the Temple of Peace, then a favourite resort of literary men, and
read, fixed there for all to see, the Diurnal or Gazette of the day,
which announced, together with births and deaths, prodigies and
accidents, and much mere matter of business, the date and manner of the
philosophic emperor's joyful return to his people; and, thereafter,
with eminent names faintly disguised, what would carry that day's news,
in many copies, over the provinces--a certain matter concerning the
great lady, known to be dear to him, whom he had left at home.  It was
a story, with the development of which "society" had indeed for some
time past edified or amused itself, rallying sufficiently from the
panic of a year ago, not only to welcome back its ruler, but also to
relish a chronique scandaleuse; and thus, when soon after Marius saw
the world's wonder, he was already acquainted with the suspicions which
have ever since hung about her name.  Twelve o'clock was come before
they left the Forum, waiting in a little crowd to hear the Accensus,
according to old custom, proclaim the hour of noonday, at the moment
when, from the steps of the Senate-house, the sun could be seen
standing between the Rostra and the Graecostasis.  He exerted for this
function a strength of voice, which confirmed in Marius a judgment the
modern visitor may share with him, that Roman throats and Roman chests,
namely, must, in some peculiar way, be differently [177] constructed
from those of other people.  Such judgment indeed he had formed in part
the evening before, noting, as a religious procession passed him, how
much noise a man and a boy could make, though not without a great deal
of real music, of which in truth the Romans were then as ever
passionately fond.

Hence the two friends took their way through the Via Flaminia, almost
along the line of the modern Corso, already bordered with handsome
villas, turning presently to the left, into the Field-of-Mars, still
the playground of Rome.  But the vast public edifices were grown to be
almost continuous over the grassy expanse, represented now only by
occasional open spaces of verdure and wild-flowers.  In one of these a
crowd was standing, to watch a party of athletes stripped for exercise.
Marius had been surprised at the luxurious variety of the litters borne
through Rome, where no carriage horses were allowed; and just then one
far more sumptuous than the rest, with dainty appointments of ivory and
gold, was carried by, all the town pressing with eagerness to get a
glimpse of its most beautiful woman, as she passed rapidly.  Yes!
there, was the wonder of the world--the empress Faustina herself:
Marius could distinguish, could distinguish clearly, the well-known
profile, between the floating purple curtains.

For indeed all Rome was ready to burst into gaiety again, as it awaited
with much real [178] affection, hopeful and animated, the return of its
emperor, for whose ovation various adornments were preparing along the
streets through which the imperial procession would pass.  He had left
Rome just twelve months before, amid immense gloom.  The alarm of a
barbarian insurrection along the whole line of the Danube had happened
at the moment when Rome was panic-stricken by the great pestilence.

In fifty years of peace, broken only by that conflict in the East from
which Lucius Verus, among other curiosities, brought back the plague,
war had come to seem a merely romantic, superannuated incident of
bygone history.  And now it was almost upon Italian soil. Terrible were
the reports of the numbers and audacity of the assailants.  Aurelius,
as yet untried in war, and understood by a few only in the whole scope
of a really great character, was known to the majority of his subjects
as but a careful administrator, though a student of philosophy,
perhaps, as we say, a dilettante.  But he was also the visible centre
of government, towards whom the hearts of a whole people turned,
grateful for fifty years of public happiness--its good genius, its
"Antonine"--whose fragile person might be foreseen speedily giving way
under the trials of military life, with a disaster like that of the
slaughter of the legions by Arminius. Prophecies of the world's
impending conflagration were easily credited: "the secular fire" would
descend from [179] heaven: superstitious fear had even demanded the
sacrifice of a human victim.

Marcus Aurelius, always philosophically considerate of the humours of
other people, exercising also that devout appreciation of every
religious claim which was one of his characteristic habits, had
invoked, in aid of the commonwealth, not only all native gods, but all
foreign deities as well, however strange.--"Help!  Help! in the ocean
space!"  A multitude of foreign priests had been welcomed to Rome, with
their various peculiar religious rites.  The sacrifices made on this
occasion were remembered for centuries; and the starving poor, at
least, found some satisfaction in the flesh of those herds of "white
bulls," which came into the city, day after day, to yield the savour of
their blood to the gods.

In spite of all this, the legions had but followed their standards
despondently.  But prestige, personal prestige, the name of "Emperor,"
still had its magic power over the nations.  The mere approach of the
Roman army made an impression on the barbarians. Aurelius and his
colleague had scarcely reached Aquileia when a deputation arrived to
ask for peace.  And now the two imperial "brothers" were returning home
at leisure; were waiting, indeed, at a villa outside the walls, till
the capital had made ready to receive them.  But although Rome was thus
in genial reaction, with much relief, [180] and hopefulness against the
winter, facing itself industriously in damask of red and gold, those
two enemies were still unmistakably extant: the barbarian army of the
Danube was but over-awed for a season; and the plague, as we saw when
Marius was on his way to Rome, was not to depart till it had done a
large part in the formation of the melancholy picturesque of modern
Italy--till it had made, or prepared for the making of the Roman
Campagna.  The old, unaffected, really pagan, peace or gaiety, of
Antoninus Pius--that genuine though unconscious humanist--was gone for
ever.  And again and again, throughout this day of varied observation,
Marius had been reminded, above all else, that he was not merely in
"the most religious city of the world," as one had said, but that Rome
was become the romantic home of the wildest superstition.  Such
superstition presented itself almost as religious mania in many an
incident of his long ramble,--incidents to which he gave his full
attention, though contending in some measure with a reluctance on the
part of his companion, the motive of which he did not understand till
long afterwards.  Marius certainly did not allow this reluctance to
deter his own curiosity.  Had he not come to Rome partly under poetic
vocation, to receive all those things, the very impress of life itself,
upon the visual, the imaginative, organ, as upon a mirror; to reflect
them; to transmute them [181] into golden words?  He must observe that
strange medley of superstition, that centuries' growth, layer upon
layer, of the curiosities of religion (one faith jostling another out
of place) at least for its picturesque interest, and as an indifferent
outsider might, not too deeply concerned in the question which, if any
of them, was to be the survivor.

Superficially, at least, the Roman religion, allying itself with much
diplomatic economy to possible rivals, was in possession, as a vast and
complex system of usage, intertwining itself with every detail of
public and private life, attractively enough for those who had but "the
historic temper," and a taste for the past, however much a Lucian might
depreciate it.  Roman religion, as Marius knew, had, indeed, been
always something to be done, rather than something to be thought, or
believed, or loved; something to be done in minutely detailed manner,
at a particular time and place, correctness in which had long been a
matter of laborious learning with a whole school of ritualists--as
also, now and again, a matter of heroic sacrifice with certain
exceptionally devout souls, as when Caius Fabius Dorso, with his life
in his hand, succeeded in passing the sentinels of the invading Gauls
to perform a sacrifice on the Quirinal, and, thanks to the divine
protection, had returned in safety.  So jealous was the distinction
between sacred and profane, that, in the matter [182] of the "regarding
of days," it had made more than half the year a holiday.  Aurelius had,
indeed, ordained that there should be no more than a hundred and
thirty-five festival days in the year; but in other respects he had
followed in the steps of his predecessor, Antoninus Pius--commended
especially for his "religion," his conspicuous devotion to its public
ceremonies--and whose coins are remarkable for their reference to the
oldest and most hieratic types of Roman mythology.  Aurelius had
succeeded in more than healing the old feud between philosophy and
religion, displaying himself, in singular combination, as at once the
most zealous of philosophers and the most devout of polytheists, and
lending himself, with an air of conviction, to all the pageantries of
public worship.  To his pious recognition of that one orderly spirit,
which, according to the doctrine of the Stoics, diffuses itself through
the world, and animates it--a recognition taking the form, with him, of
a constant effort towards inward likeness thereto, in the harmonious
order of his own soul--he had added a warm personal devotion towards
the whole multitude of the old national gods, and a great many new
foreign ones besides, by him, at least, not ignobly conceived.  If the
comparison may be reverently made, there was something here of the
method by which the catholic church has added the cultus of the saints
to its worship of the one Divine Being.

[183] And to the view of the majority, though the emperor, as the
personal centre of religion, entertained the hope of converting his
people to philosophic faith, and had even pronounced certain public
discourses for their instruction in it, that polytheistic devotion was
his most striking feature.  Philosophers, indeed, had, for the most
part, thought with Seneca, "that a man need not lift his hands to
heaven, nor ask the sacristan's leave to put his mouth to the ear of an
image, that his prayers might be heard the better."--Marcus Aurelius,
"a master in Israel," knew all that well enough.  Yet his outward
devotion was much more than a concession to popular sentiment, or a
mere result of that sense of fellow-citizenship with others, which had
made him again and again, under most difficult circumstances, an
excellent comrade.  Those others, too!--amid all their ignorances, what
were they but instruments in the administration of the Divine Reason,
"from end to end sweetly and strongly disposing all things"?  Meantime
"Philosophy" itself had assumed much of what we conceive to be the
religious character.  It had even cultivated the habit, the power, of
"spiritual direction"; the troubled soul making recourse in its hour of
destitution, or amid the distractions of the world, to this or that
director--philosopho suo--who could really best understand it.

And it had been in vain that the old, grave [184] and discreet religion
of Rome had set itself, according to its proper genius, to prevent or
subdue all trouble and disturbance in men's souls.  In religion, as in
other matters, plebeians, as such, had a taste for movement, for
revolution; and it had been ever in the most populous quarters that
religious changes began.  To the apparatus of foreign religion, above
all, recourse had been made in times of public disquietude or sudden
terror; and in those great religious celebrations, before his
proceeding against the barbarians, Aurelius had even restored the
solemnities of Isis, prohibited in the capital since the time of
Augustus, making no secret of his worship of that goddess, though her
temple had been actually destroyed by authority in the reign of
Tiberius.  Her singular and in many ways beautiful ritual was now
popular in Rome.  And then--what the enthusiasm of the swarming
plebeian quarters had initiated, was sure to be adopted, sooner or
later, by women of fashion.  A blending of all the religions of the
ancient world had been accomplished.  The new gods had arrived, had
been welcomed, and found their places; though, certainly, with no real
security, in any adequate ideal of the divine nature itself in the
background of men's minds, that the presence of the new-comer should be
edifying, or even refining.  High and low addressed themselves to all
deities alike without scruple; confusing them together when they
prayed, and in the old, [185] authorised, threefold veneration of their
visible images, by flowers, incense, and ceremonial lights--those
beautiful usages, which the church, in her way through the world, ever
making spoil of the world's goods for the better uses of the human
spirit, took up and sanctified in her service.

And certainly "the most religious city in the world" took no care to
veil its devotion, however fantastic.  The humblest house had its
little chapel or shrine, its image and lamp; while almost every one
seemed to exercise some religious function and responsibility.
Colleges, composed for the most part of slaves and of the poor,
provided for the service of the Compitalian Lares--the gods who
presided, respectively, over the several quarters of the city.  In one
street, Marius witnessed an incident of the festival of the patron
deity of that neighbourhood, the way being strewn with box, the houses
tricked out gaily in such poor finery as they possessed, while the
ancient idol was borne through it in procession, arrayed in gaudy
attire the worse for wear.  Numerous religious clubs had their stated
anniversaries, on which the members issued with much ceremony from
their guild-hall, or schola, and traversed the thoroughfares of Rome,
preceded, like the confraternities of the present day, by their sacred
banners, to offer sacrifice before some famous image.  Black with the
perpetual smoke of lamps and incense, oftenest old and [186] ugly,
perhaps on that account the more likely to listen to the desires of the
suffering--had not those sacred effigies sometimes given sensible
tokens that they were aware?  The image of the Fortune of
Women--Fortuna Muliebris, in the Latin Way, had spoken (not once only)
and declared; Bene me, Matronae! vidistis riteque dedicastis! The
Apollo of Cumae had wept during three whole nights and days.  The
images in the temple of Juno Sospita had been seen to sweat.  Nay!
there was blood--divine blood--in the hearts of some of them: the
images in the Grove of Feronia had sweated blood!

From one and all Cornelius had turned away: like the "atheist" of whom
Apuleius tells he had never once raised hand to lip in passing image or
sanctuary, and had parted from Marius finally when the latter
determined to enter the crowded doorway of a temple, on their return
into the Forum, below the Palatine hill, where the mothers were
pressing in, with a multitude of every sort of children, to touch the
lightning-struck image of the wolf-nurse of Romulus--so tender to
little ones!--just discernible in its dark shrine, amid a blaze of
lights.  Marius gazed after his companion of the day, as he mounted the
steps to his lodging, singing to himself, as it seemed. Marius failed
precisely to catch the words.

And, as the rich, fresh evening came on, there was heard all over Rome,
far above a whisper, [187] the whole town seeming hushed to catch it
distinctly, the lively, reckless call to "play," from the sons and
daughters of foolishness, to those in whom their life was still
green--Donec virenti canities abest!--Donec virenti canities abest!+
Marius could hardly doubt how Cornelius would have taken the call.  And
as for himself, slight as was the burden of positive moral obligation
with which he had entered Rome, it was to no wasteful and vagrant
affections, such as these, that his Epicureanism had committed him.


187. +Horace, Odes I.ix.17.  Translation: "So long as youth is fresh
and age is far away."


     But ah!  Maecenas is yclad in claye,
     And great Augustus long ygoe is dead,
     And all the worthies liggen wrapt in lead,
     That matter made for poets on to playe.+

[188] MARCUS AURELIUS who, though he had little relish for them
himself, had ever been willing to humour the taste of his people for
magnificent spectacles, was received back to Rome with the lesser
honours of the Ovation, conceded by the Senate (so great was the public
sense of deliverance) with even more than the laxity which had become
its habit under imperial rule, for there had been no actual bloodshed
in the late achievement.  Clad in the civic dress of the chief Roman
magistrate, and with a crown of myrtle upon his head, his colleague
similarly attired walking beside him, he passed up to the Capitol on
foot, though in solemn procession along the Sacred Way, to offer
sacrifice to the national gods.  The victim, a goodly sheep, whose
image we may still see between the pig and the ox of the [189]
Suovetaurilia, filleted and stoled almost like some ancient canon of
the church, on a sculptured fragment in the Forum, was conducted by the
priests, clad in rich white vestments, and bearing their sacred
utensils of massive gold, immediately behind a company of
flute-players, led by the great choir-master, or conductor, of the day,
visibly tetchy or delighted, according as the instruments he ruled with
his tuning-rod, rose, more or less adequately amid the difficulties of
the way, to the dream of perfect music in the soul within him.  The
vast crowd, including the soldiers of the triumphant army, now restored
to wives and children, all alike in holiday whiteness, had left their
houses early in the fine, dry morning, in a real affection for "the
father of his country," to await the procession, the two princes having
spent the preceding night outside the walls, at the old Villa of the
Republic.  Marius, full of curiosity, had taken his position with much
care; and stood to see the world's masters pass by, at an angle from
which he could command the view of a great part of the processional
route, sprinkled with fine yellow sand, and punctiliously guarded from
profane footsteps.

The coming of the pageant was announced by the clear sound of the
flutes, heard at length above the acclamations of the people--Salve
Imperator!--Dii te servent!--shouted in regular time, over the hills.
It was on the central [190] figure, of course, that the whole attention
of Marius was fixed from the moment when the procession came in sight,
preceded by the lictors with gilded fasces, the imperial image-bearers,
and the pages carrying lighted torches; a band of knights, among whom
was Cornelius in complete military, array, following.  Amply swathed
about in the folds of a richly worked toga, after a manner now long
since become obsolete with meaner persons, Marius beheld a man of about
five-and-forty years of age, with prominent eyes--eyes, which although
demurely downcast during this essentially religious ceremony, were by
nature broadly and benignantly observant.  He was still, in the main,
as we see him in the busts which represent his gracious and courtly
youth, when Hadrian had playfully called him, not Verus, after the name
of his father, but Verissimus, for his candour of gaze, and the bland
capacity of the brow, which, below the brown hair, clustering thickly
as of old, shone out low, broad, and clear, and still without a trace
of the trouble of his lips.  You saw the brow of one who, amid the
blindness or perplexity of the people about him, understood all things
clearly; the dilemma, to which his experience so far had brought him,
between Chance with meek resignation, and a Providence with boundless
possibilities and hope, being for him at least distinctly defined.

That outward serenity, which he valued so [191] highly as a point of
manner or expression not unworthy the care of a public
minister--outward symbol, it might be thought, of the inward religious
serenity it had been his constant purpose to maintain--was increased
to-day by his sense of the gratitude of his people; that his life had
been one of such gifts and blessings as made his person seem in very
deed divine to them.  Yet the cloud of some reserved internal sorrow,
passing from time to time into an expression of fatigue and effort, of
loneliness amid the shouting multitude, might have been detected there
by the more observant--as if the sagacious hint of one of his officers,
"The soldiers can't understand you, they don't know Greek," were
applicable always to his relationships with other people.  The nostrils
and mouth seemed capable almost of peevishness; and Marius noted in
them, as in the hands, and in the spare body generally, what was new to
his experience--something of asceticism, as we say, of a bodily
gymnastic, by which, although it told pleasantly in the clear blue
humours of the eye, the flesh had scarcely been an equal gainer with
the spirit.  It was hardly the expression of "the healthy mind in the
healthy body," but rather of a sacrifice of the body to the soul, its
needs and aspirations, that Marius seemed to divine in this assiduous
student of the Greek sages--a sacrifice, in truth, far beyond the
demands of their very saddest philosophy of life.

[192] Dignify thyself with modesty and simplicity for thine
ornaments!--had been ever a maxim with this dainty and high-bred Stoic,
who still thought manners a true part of morals, according to the old
sense of the term, and who regrets now and again that he cannot control
his thoughts equally well with his countenance.  That outward composure
was deepened during the solemnities of this day by an air of pontifical
abstraction; which, though very far from being pride--nay, a sort of
humility rather--yet gave, to himself, an air of unapproachableness,
and to his whole proceeding, in which every minutest act was
considered, the character of a ritual.  Certainly, there was no
haughtiness, social, moral, or even philosophic, in Aurelius, who had
realised, under more trying conditions perhaps than any one before,
that no element of humanity could be alien from him. Yet, as he walked
to-day, the centre of ten thousand observers, with eyes discreetly
fixed on the ground, veiling his head at times and muttering very
rapidly the words of the "supplications," there was something many
spectators may have noted as a thing new in their experience, for
Aurelius, unlike his predecessors, took all this with absolute
seriousness.  The doctrine of the sanctity of kings, that, in the words
of Tacitus, Princes are as Gods--Principes instar deorum esse--seemed
to have taken a novel, because a literal, sense.  For Aurelius, indeed,
the old legend of his descent from Numa, from [193] Numa who had talked
with the gods, meant much.  Attached in very early years to the service
of the altars, like many another noble youth, he was "observed to
perform all his sacerdotal functions with a constancy and exactness
unusual at that age; was soon a master of the sacred music; and had all
the forms and ceremonies by heart." And now, as the emperor, who had
not only a vague divinity about his person, but was actually the chief
religious functionary of the state, recited from time to time the forms
of invocation, he needed not the help of the prompter, or
ceremoniarius, who then approached, to assist him by whispering the
appointed words in his ear.  It was that pontifical abstraction which
then impressed itself on Marius as the leading outward characteristic
of Aurelius; though to him alone, perhaps, in that vast crowd of
observers, it was no strange thing, but a matter he had understood from
of old.

Some fanciful writers have assigned the origin of these triumphal
processions to the mythic pomps of Dionysus, after his conquests in the
East; the very word Triumph being, according to this supposition, only
Thriambos-the Dionysiac Hymn.  And certainly the younger of the two
imperial "brothers," who, with the effect of a strong contrast, walked
beside Aurelius, and shared the honours of the day, might well have
reminded people of the delicate Greek god of flowers and wine. This
[194] new conqueror of the East was now about thirty-six years old, but
with his scrupulous care for all the advantages of his person, and a
soft curling beard powdered with gold, looked many years younger.  One
result of the more genial element in the wisdom of Aurelius had been
that, amid most difficult circumstances, he had known throughout life
how to act in union with persons of character very alien from his own;
to be more than loyal to the colleague, the younger brother in empire,
he had too lightly taken to himself, five years before, then an
uncorrupt youth, "skilled in manly exercises and fitted for war."  When
Aurelius thanks the gods that a brother had fallen to his lot, whose
character was a stimulus to the proper care of his own, one sees that
this could only have happened in the way of an example, putting him on
his guard against insidious faults. But it is with sincere amiability
that the imperial writer, who was indeed little used to be ironical,
adds that the lively respect and affection of the junior had often
"gladdened" him.  To be able to make his use of the flower, when the
fruit perhaps was useless or poisonous:--that was one of the practical
successes of his philosophy; and his people noted, with a blessing,
"the concord of the two Augusti."

The younger, certainly, possessed in full measure that charm of a
constitutional freshness of aspect which may defy for a long time
extravagant or erring habits of life; a physiognomy, [195]
healthy-looking, cleanly, and firm, which seemed unassociable with any
form of self-torment, and made one think of the muzzle of some young
hound or roe, such as human beings invariably like to stroke--a
physiognomy, in effect, with all the goodliness of animalism of the
finer sort, though still wholly animal.  The charm was that of the
blond head, the unshrinking gaze, the warm tints: neither more nor less
than one may see every English summer, in youth, manly enough, and with
the stuff which makes brave soldiers, in spite of the natural kinship
it seems to have with playthings and gay flowers. But innate in Lucius
Verus there was that more than womanly fondness for fond things, which
had made the atmosphere of the old city of Antioch, heavy with
centuries of voluptuousness, a poison to him: he had come to love his
delicacies best out of season, and would have gilded the very flowers.
But with a wonderful power of self-obliteration, the elder brother at
the capital had directed his procedure successfully, and allowed him,
become now also the husband of his daughter Lucilla, the credit of a
"Conquest," though Verus had certainly not returned a conqueror over
himself.  He had returned, as we know, with the plague in his company,
along with many another strange creature of his folly; and when the
people saw him publicly feeding his favourite horse Fleet with almonds
and sweet grapes, wearing the animal's image in gold, and [196] finally
building it a tomb, they felt, with some un-sentimental misgiving, that
he might revive the manners of Nero.--What if, in the chances of war,
he should survive the protecting genius of that elder brother?

He was all himself to-day: and it was with much wistful curiosity that
Marius regarded him.  For Lucius Verus was, indeed, but the highly
expressive type of a class,--the true son of his father, adopted by
Hadrian.  Lucius Verus the elder, also, had had the like strange
capacity for misusing the adornments of life, with a masterly grace; as
if such misusing were, in truth, the quite adequate occupation of an
intelligence, powerful, but distorted by cynical philosophy or some
disappointment of the heart.  It was almost a sort of genius, of which
there had been instances in the imperial purple: it was to ascend the
throne, a few years later, in the person of one, now a hopeful little
lad at home in the palace; and it had its following, of course, among
the wealthy youth at Rome, who concentrated no inconsiderable force of
shrewdness and tact upon minute details of attire and manner, as upon
the one thing needful. Certainly, flowers were pleasant to the eye.
Such things had even their sober use, as making the outside of human
life superficially attractive, and thereby promoting the first steps
towards friendship and social amity.  But what precise place could
there be for Verus and his peculiar charm, [197] in that Wisdom, that
Order of divine Reason "reaching from end to end, strongly and sweetly
disposing all things," from the vision of which Aurelius came down, so
tolerant of persons like him?  Into such vision Marius too was
certainly well-fitted to enter, yet, noting the actual perfection of
Lucius Verus after his kind, his undeniable achievement of the select,
in all minor things, felt, though with some suspicion of himself, that
he entered into, and could understand, this other so dubious sort of
character also.  There was a voice in the theory he had brought to Rome
with him which whispered "nothing is either great nor small;" as there
were times when he could have thought that, as the "grammarian's" or
the artist's ardour of soul may be satisfied by the perfecting of the
theory of a sentence, or the adjustment of two colours, so his own life
also might have been fulfilled by an enthusiastic quest after
perfection--say, in the flowering and folding of a toga.

The emperors had burned incense before the image of Jupiter, arrayed in
its most gorgeous apparel, amid sudden shouts from the people of Salve
Imperator! turned now from the living princes to the deity, as they
discerned his countenance through the great open doors.  The imperial
brothers had deposited their crowns of myrtle on the richly embroidered
lapcloth of the god; and, with their chosen guests, sat down to a
public feast in the temple [198] itself.  There followed what was,
after all, the great event of the day:--an appropriate discourse, a
discourse almost wholly de contemptu mundi, delivered in the presence
of the assembled Senate, by the emperor Aurelius, who had thus, on
certain rare occasions, condescended to instruct his people, with the
double authority of a chief pontiff and a laborious student of
philosophy.  In those lesser honours of the ovation, there had been no
attendant slave behind the emperors, to make mock of their effulgence
as they went; and it was as if with the discretion proper to a
philosopher, and in fear of a jealous Nemesis, he had determined
himself to protest in time against the vanity of all outward success.

The Senate was assembled to hear the emperor's discourse in the vast
hall of the Curia Julia.  A crowd of high-bred youths idled around, or
on the steps before the doors, with the marvellous toilets Marius had
noticed in the Via Nova; in attendance, as usual, to learn by
observation the minute points of senatorial procedure.  Marius had
already some acquaintance with them, and passing on found himself
suddenly in the presence of what was still the most august assembly the
world had seen.  Under Aurelius, ever full of veneration for this
ancient traditional guardian of public religion, the Senate had
recovered all its old dignity and independence.  Among its members many
[199] hundreds in number, visibly the most distinguished of them all,
Marius noted the great sophists or rhetoricians of the day, in all
their magnificence.  The antique character of their attire, and the
ancient mode of wearing it, still surviving with them, added to the
imposing character of their persons, while they sat, with their staves
of ivory in their hands, on their curule chairs--almost the exact
pattern of the chair still in use in the Roman church when a Bishop
pontificates at the divine offices--"tranquil and unmoved, with a
majesty that seemed divine," as Marius thought, like the old Gaul of
the Invasion.  The rays of the early November sunset slanted full upon
the audience, and made it necessary for the officers of the Court to
draw the purple curtains over the windows, adding to the solemnity of
the scene.  In the depth of those warm shadows, surrounded by her
ladies, the empress Faustina was seated to listen. The beautiful Greek
statue of Victory, which since the days of Augustus had presided over
the assemblies of the Senate, had been brought into the hall, and
placed near the chair of the emperor; who, after rising to perform a
brief sacrificial service in its honour, bowing reverently to the
assembled fathers left and right, took his seat and began to speak.

There was a certain melancholy grandeur in the very simplicity or
triteness of the theme: as it were the very quintessence of all the old
[200] Roman epitaphs, of all that was monumental in that city of tombs,
layer upon layer of dead things and people.  As if in the very fervour
of disillusion, he seemed to be composing--Hôsper epigraphas chronôn
kai holôn ethnôn+--the sepulchral titles of ages and whole peoples;
nay! the very epitaph of the living Rome itself.  The grandeur of the
ruins of Rome,--heroism in ruin: it was under the influence of an
imaginative anticipation of this, that he appeared to be speaking.  And
though the impression of the actual greatness of Rome on that day was
but enhanced by the strain of contempt, falling with an accent of
pathetic conviction from the emperor himself, and gaining from his
pontifical pretensions the authority of a religious intimation, yet the
curious interest of the discourse lay in this, that Marius, for one, as
he listened, seemed to forsee a grass-grown Forum, the broken ways of
the Capitol, and the Palatine hill itself in humble occupation.  That
impression connected itself with what he had already noted of an actual
change even then coming over Italian scenery.  Throughout, he could
trace something of a humour into which Stoicism at all times tends to
fall, the tendency to cry, Abase yourselves!  There was here the almost
inhuman impassibility of one who had thought too closely on the
paradoxical aspect of the love of posthumous fame.  With the ascetic
pride which lurks under all Platonism, [201] resultant from its
opposition of the seen to the unseen, as falsehood to truth--the
imperial Stoic, like his true descendant, the hermit of the middle age,
was ready, in no friendly humour, to mock, there in its narrow bed, the
corpse which had made so much of itself in life.  Marius could but
contrast all that with his own Cyrenaic eagerness, just then, to taste
and see and touch; reflecting on the opposite issues deducible from the
same text.  "The world, within me and without, flows away like a
river," he had said; "therefore let me make the most of what is here
and now."--"The world and the thinker upon it, are consumed like a
flame," said Aurelius, "therefore will I turn away my eyes from vanity:
renounce: withdraw myself alike from all affections."  He seemed
tacitly to claim as a sort of personal dignity, that he was very
familiarly versed in this view of things, and could discern a
death's-head everywhere.  Now and again Marius was reminded of the
saying that "with the Stoics all people are the vulgar save
themselves;" and at times the orator seemed to have forgotten his
audience, and to be speaking only to himself.

"Art thou in love with men's praises, get thee into the very soul of
them, and see!--see what judges they be, even in those matters which
concern themselves.  Wouldst thou have their praise after death,
bethink thee, that they who shall come hereafter, and with whom thou
[202] wouldst survive by thy great name, will be but as these, whom
here thou hast found so hard to live with.  For of a truth, the soul of
him who is aflutter upon renown after death, presents not this aright
to itself, that of all whose memory he would have each one will
likewise very quickly depart, until memory herself be put out, as she
journeys on by means of such as are themselves on the wing but for a
while, and are extinguished in their turn.--Making so much of those
thou wilt never see!  It is as if thou wouldst have had those who were
before thee discourse fair things concerning thee.

"To him, indeed, whose wit hath been whetted by true doctrine, that
well-worn sentence of Homer sufficeth, to guard him against regret and

                     Like the race of leaves
      The race of man is:--

                         The wind in autumn strows
      The earth with old leaves: then the spring
         the woods with new endows.+

Leaves! little leaves!--thy children, thy flatterers, thine enemies!
Leaves in the wind, those who would devote thee to darkness, who scorn
or miscall thee here, even as they also whose great fame shall outlast
them.  For all these, and the like of them, are born indeed in the
spring season--Earos epigignetai hôrê+: and soon a wind hath scattered
them, and thereafter the [203] wood peopleth itself again with another
generation of leaves.  And what is common to all of them is but the
littleness of their lives: and yet wouldst thou love and hate, as if
these things should continue for ever.  In a little while thine eyes
also will be closed, and he on whom thou perchance hast leaned thyself
be himself a burden upon another.

"Bethink thee often of the swiftness with which the things that are, or
are even now coming to be, are swept past thee: that the very substance
of them is but the perpetual motion of water: that there is almost
nothing which continueth: of that bottomless depth of time, so close at
thy side.  Folly! to be lifted up, or sorrowful, or anxious, by reason
of things like these!  Think of infinite matter, and thy portion--how
tiny a particle, of it! of infinite time, and thine own brief point
there; of destiny, and the jot thou art in it; and yield thyself
readily to the wheel of Clotho, to spin of thee what web she will.

"As one casting a ball from his hand, the nature of things hath had its
aim with every man, not as to the ending only, but the first beginning
of his course, and passage thither.  And hath the ball any profit of
its rising, or loss as it descendeth again, or in its fall? or the
bubble, as it groweth or breaketh on the air? or the flame of the lamp,
from the beginning to the end of its brief story?

[204] "All but at this present that future is, in which nature, who
disposeth all things in order, will transform whatsoever thou now
seest, fashioning from its substance somewhat else, and therefrom
somewhat else in its turn, lest the world grow old.  We are such stuff
as dreams are made of--disturbing dreams.  Awake, then! and see thy
dream as it is, in comparison with that erewhile it seemed to thee.

"And for me, especially, it were well to mind those many mutations of
empire in time past; therein peeping also upon the future, which must
needs be of like species with what hath been, continuing ever within
the rhythm and number of things which really are; so that in forty
years one may note of man and of his ways little less than in a
thousand.  Ah! from this higher place, look we down upon the
ship-wrecks and the calm!  Consider, for example, how the world went,
under the emperor Vespasian.  They are married and given in marriage,
they breed children; love hath its way with them; they heap up riches
for others or for themselves; they are murmuring at things as then they
are; they are seeking for great place; crafty, flattering, suspicious,
waiting upon the death of others:--festivals, business, war, sickness,
dissolution: and now their whole life is no longer anywhere at all.
Pass on to the reign of Trajan: all things continue the same: and that
life also is no longer anywhere at all. [205] Ah! but look again, and
consider, one after another, as it were the sepulchral inscriptions of
all peoples and times, according to one pattern.--What multitudes,
after their utmost striving--a little afterwards! were dissolved again
into their dust.

"Think again of life as it was far off in the ancient world; as it must
be when we shall be gone; as it is now among the wild heathen. How many
have never heard your names and mine, or will soon forget them!  How
soon may those who shout my name to-day begin to revile it, because
glory, and the memory of men, and all things beside, are but vanity--a
sand-heap under the senseless wind, the barking of dogs, the
quarrelling of children, weeping incontinently upon their laughter.

"This hasteth to be; that other to have been: of that which now cometh
to be, even now somewhat hath been extinguished.  And wilt thou make
thy treasure of any one of these things?  It were as if one set his
love upon the swallow, as it passeth out of sight through the air!

"Bethink thee often, in all contentions public and private, of those
whom men have remembered by reason of their anger and vehement
spirit--those famous rages, and the occasions of them--the great
fortunes, and misfortunes, of men's strife of old.  What are they all
now, and the dust of their battles?  Dust [206] and ashes indeed; a
fable, a mythus, or not so much as that.  Yes! keep those before thine
eyes who took this or that, the like of which happeneth to thee, so
hardly; were so querulous, so agitated.  And where again are they?
Wouldst thou have it not otherwise with thee?

Consider how quickly all things vanish away--their bodily structure
into the general substance; the very memory of them into that great
gulf and abysm of past thoughts.  Ah! 'tis on a tiny space of earth
thou art creeping through life--a pigmy soul carrying a dead body to
its grave.

"Let death put thee upon the consideration both of thy body and thy
soul: what an atom of all matter hath been distributed to thee; what a
little particle of the universal mind.  Turn thy body about, and
consider what thing it is, and that which old age, and lust, and the
languor of disease can make of it.  Or come to its substantial and
causal qualities, its very type: contemplate that in itself, apart from
the accidents of matter, and then measure also the span of time for
which the nature of things, at the longest, will maintain that special
type.  Nay! in the very principles and first constituents of things
corruption hath its part--so much dust, humour, stench, and scraps of
bone!  Consider that thy marbles are but the earth's callosities, thy
gold and silver its faeces; this silken robe but a worm's bedding, and
thy [207] purple an unclean fish.  Ah! and thy life's breath is not
otherwise, as it passeth out of matters like these, into the like of
them again.

"For the one soul in things, taking matter like wax in the hands,
moulds and remoulds--how hastily!--beast, and plant, and the babe, in
turn: and that which dieth hath not slipped out of the order of nature,
but, remaining therein, hath also its changes there, disparting into
those elements of which nature herself, and thou too, art compacted.
She changes without murmuring.  The oaken chest falls to pieces with no
more complaining than when the carpenter fitted it together.  If one
told thee certainly that on the morrow thou shouldst die, or at the
furthest on the day after, it would be no great matter to thee to die
on the day after to-morrow, rather than to-morrow.  Strive to think it
a thing no greater that thou wilt die--not to-morrow, but a year, or
two years, or ten years from to-day.

"I find that all things are now as they were in the days of our buried
ancestors--all things sordid in their elements, trite by long usage,
and yet ephemeral.  How ridiculous, then, how like a countryman in
town, is he, who wonders at aught.  Doth the sameness, the repetition
of the public shows, weary thee?  Even so doth that likeness of events
in the spectacle of the world.  And so must it be with thee to the end.
For the wheel of the world hath ever the same [208] motion, upward and
downward, from generation to generation. When, when, shall time give
place to eternity?

"If there be things which trouble thee thou canst put them away,
inasmuch as they have their being but in thine own notion concerning
them.  Consider what death is, and how, if one does but detach from it
the appearances, the notions, that hang about it, resting the eye upon
it as in itself it really is, it must be thought of but as an effect of
nature, and that man but a child whom an effect of nature shall
affright.  Nay! not function and effect of nature, only; but a thing
profitable also to herself.

"To cease from action--the ending of thine effort to think and do:
there is no evil in that.  Turn thy thought to the ages of man's life,
boyhood, youth, maturity, old age: the change in every one of these
also is a dying, but evil nowhere.  Thou climbedst into the ship, thou
hast made thy voyage and touched the shore.  Go forth now! Be it into
some other life: the divine breath is everywhere, even there.  Be it
into forgetfulness for ever; at least thou wilt rest from the beating
of sensible images upon thee, from the passions which pluck thee this
way and that like an unfeeling toy, from those long marches of the
intellect, from thy toilsome ministry to the flesh.

"Art thou yet more than dust and ashes and bare bone--a name only, or
not so much as [209] that, which, also, is but whispering and a
resonance, kept alive from mouth to mouth of dying abjects who have
hardly known themselves; how much less thee, dead so long ago!

"When thou lookest upon a wise man, a lawyer, a captain of war, think
upon another gone.  When thou seest thine own face in the glass, call
up there before thee one of thine ancestors--one of those old Caesars.
Lo! everywhere, thy double before thee!  Thereon, let the thought occur
to thee: And where are they? anywhere at all, for ever? And thou,
thyself--how long?  Art thou blind to that thou art--thy matter, how
temporal; and thy function, the nature of thy business? Yet tarry, at
least, till thou hast assimilated even these things to thine own proper
essence, as a quick fire turneth into heat and light whatsoever be cast
upon it.

"As words once in use are antiquated to us, so is it with the names
that were once on all men's lips: Camillus, Volesus, Leonnatus: then,
in a little while, Scipio and Cato, and then Augustus, and then
Hadrian, and then Antoninus Pius.  How many great physicians who lifted
wise brows at other men's sick-beds, have sickened and died! Those wise
Chaldeans, who foretold, as a great matter, another man's last hour,
have themselves been taken by surprise.  Ay! and all those others, in
their pleasant places: those who doated on a Capreae like [210]
Tiberius, on their gardens, on the baths: Pythagoras and Socrates, who
reasoned so closely upon immortality: Alexander, who used the lives of
others as though his own should last for ever--he and his mule-driver
alike now!--one upon another.  Well-nigh the whole court of Antoninus
is extinct.  Panthea and Pergamus sit no longer beside the sepulchre of
their lord.  The watchers over Hadrian's dust have slipped from his
sepulchre.--It were jesting to stay longer.  Did they sit there still,
would the dead feel it? or feeling it, be glad? or glad, hold those
watchers for ever?  The time must come when they too shall be aged men
and aged women, and decease, and fail from their places; and what shift
were there then for imperial service?  This too is but the breath of
the tomb, and a skinful of dead men's blood.

"Think again of those inscriptions, which belong not to one soul only,
but to whole families: Eschatos tou idiou genous:+ He was the last of
his race.  Nay! of the burial of whole cities: Helice, Pompeii: of
others, whose very burial place is unknown.

"Thou hast been a citizen in this wide city.  Count not for how long,
nor repine; since that which sends thee hence is no unrighteous judge,
no tyrant, but Nature, who brought thee hither; as when a player leaves
the stage at the bidding of the conductor who hired him.  Sayest thou,
'I have not played five acts'?  True! but in [211] human life, three
acts only make sometimes an entire play.  That is the composer's
business, not thine.  Withdraw thyself with a good will; for that too
hath, perchance, a good will which dismisseth thee from thy part."

The discourse ended almost in darkness, the evening having set in
somewhat suddenly, with a heavy fall of snow.  The torches, made ready
to do him a useless honour, were of real service now, as the emperor
was solemnly conducted home; one man rapidly catching light from
another--a long stream of moving lights across the white Forum, up the
great stairs, to the palace.  And, in effect, that night winter began,
the hardest that had been known for a lifetime.  The wolves came from
the mountains; and, led by the carrion scent, devoured the dead bodies
which had been hastily buried during the plague, and, emboldened by
their meal, crept, before the short day was well past, over the walls
of the farmyards of the Campagna.  The eagles were seen driving the
flocks of smaller birds across the dusky sky.  Only, in the city itself
the winter was all the brighter for the contrast, among those who could
pay for light and warmth.  The habit-makers made a great sale of the
spoil of all such furry creatures as had escaped wolves and eagles, for
presents at the Saturnalia; and at no time had the winter roses from
Carthage seemed more lustrously yellow and red.


188. +Spenser, Shepheardes Calendar, October, 61-66.

200. +Transliteration: Hôsper epigraphas chronôn kai holôn ethnôn.
Pater's Translation: "the sepulchral titles of ages and whole peoples."

202. +Homer, Iliad VI.146-48.

202. +Transliteration: Earos epigignetai hôrê.  Translation: "born in
springtime."  Homer, Iliad VI.147.

210. +Transliteration: Eschatos tou idiou genous.  Translation: "He was
the last of his race."


AFTER that sharp, brief winter, the sun was already at work, softening
leaf and bud, as you might feel by a faint sweetness in the air; but he
did his work behind an evenly white sky, against which the abode of the
Caesars, its cypresses and bronze roofs, seemed like a picture in
beautiful but melancholy colour, as Marius climbed the long flights of
steps to be introduced to the emperor Aurelius. Attired in the newest
mode, his legs wound in dainty fasciae of white leather, with the heavy
gold ring of the ingenuus, and in his toga of ceremony, he still
retained all his country freshness of complexion.  The eyes of the
"golden youth" of Rome were upon him as the chosen friend of Cornelius,
and the destined servant of the emperor; but not jealously.  In spite
of, perhaps partly because of, his habitual reserve of manner, he had
become "the fashion," even among those who felt instinctively the irony
which lay beneath that remarkable self-possession, as of one taking all
things with a [213] difference from other people, perceptible in voice,
in expression, and even in his dress.  It was, in truth, the air of one
who, entering vividly into life, and relishing to the full the
delicacies of its intercourse, yet feels all the while, from the point
of view of an ideal philosophy, that he is but conceding reality to
suppositions, choosing of his own will to walk in a day-dream, of the
illusiveness of which he at least is aware.

In the house of the chief chamberlain Marius waited for the due moment
of admission to the emperor's presence.  He was admiring the peculiar
decoration of the walls, coloured like rich old red leather. In the
midst of one of them was depicted, under a trellis of fruit you might
have gathered, the figure of a woman knocking at a door with wonderful
reality of perspective.  Then the summons came; and in a few minutes,
the etiquette of the imperial household being still a simple matter, he
had passed the curtains which divided the central hall of the palace
into three parts--three degrees of approach to the sacred person--and
was speaking to Aurelius himself; not in Greek, in which the emperor
oftenest conversed with the learned, but, more familiarly, in Latin,
adorned however, or disfigured, by many a Greek phrase, as now and
again French phrases have made the adornment of fashionable English. It
was with real kindliness that Marcus Aurelius looked upon Marius, as
[214] a youth of great attainments in Greek letters and philosophy; and
he liked also his serious expression, being, as we know, a believer in
the doctrine of physiognomy--that, as he puts it, not love only, but
every other affection of man's soul, looks out very plainly from the
window of the eyes.

The apartment in which Marius found himself was of ancient aspect, and
richly decorated with the favourite toys of two or three generations of
imperial collectors, now finally revised by the high connoisseurship of
the Stoic emperor himself, though destined not much longer to remain
together there.  It is the repeated boast of Aurelius that he had
learned from old Antoninus Pius to maintain authority without the
constant use of guards, in a robe woven by the handmaids of his own
consort, with no processional lights or images, and "that a prince may
shrink himself almost into the figure of a private gentleman."  And
yet, again as at his first sight of him, Marius was struck by the
profound religiousness of the surroundings of the imperial presence.
The effect might have been due in part to the very simplicity, the
discreet and scrupulous simplicity, of the central figure in this
splendid abode; but Marius could not forget that he saw before him not
only the head of the Roman religion, but one who might actually have
claimed something like divine worship, had he cared to do so.  Though
the fantastic pretensions of Caligula had brought some contempt [215]
on that claim, which had become almost a jest under the ungainly
Claudius, yet, from Augustus downwards, a vague divinity had seemed to
surround the Caesars even in this life; and the peculiar character of
Aurelius, at once a ceremonious polytheist never forgetful of his
pontifical calling, and a philosopher whose mystic speculation
encircled him with a sort of saintly halo, had restored to his person,
without his intending it, something of that divine prerogative, or
prestige.  Though he would never allow the immediate dedication of
altars to himself, yet the image of his Genius--his spirituality or
celestial counterpart--was placed among those of the deified princes of
the past; and his family, including Faustina and the young Commodus,
was spoken of as the "holy" or "divine" house.  Many a Roman courtier
agreed with the barbarian chief, who, after contemplating a predecessor
of Aurelius, withdrew from his presence with the exclamation:--"I have
seen a god to-day!"  The very roof of his house, rising into a pediment
or gable, like that of the sanctuary of a god, the laurels on either
side its doorway, the chaplet of oak-leaves above, seemed to designate
the place for religious veneration.  And notwithstanding all this, the
household of Aurelius was singularly modest, with none of the wasteful
expense of palaces after the fashion of Lewis the Fourteenth; the
palatial dignity being felt only in a peculiar sense of order, the
absence [216] of all that was casual, of vulgarity and discomfort.  A
merely official residence of his predecessors, the Palatine had become
the favourite dwelling-place of Aurelius; its many-coloured memories
suiting, perhaps, his pensive character, and the crude splendours of
Nero and Hadrian being now subdued by time. The window-less Roman abode
must have had much of what to a modern would be gloom.  How did the
children, one wonders, endure houses with so little escape for the eye
into the world outside?  Aurelius, who had altered little else,
choosing to live there, in a genuine homeliness, had shifted and made
the most of the level lights, and broken out a quite medieval window
here and there, and the clear daylight, fully appreciated by his
youthful visitor, made pleasant shadows among the objects of the
imperial collection.  Some of these, indeed, by reason of their Greek
simplicity and grace, themselves shone out like spaces of a purer,
early light, amid the splendours of the Roman manufacture.

Though he looked, thought Marius, like a man who did not sleep enough,
he was abounding and bright to-day, after one of those pitiless
headaches, which since boyhood had been the "thorn in his side,"
challenging the pretensions of his philosophy to fortify one in humble
endurances.  At the first moment, to Marius, remembering the spectacle
of the emperor in ceremony, it was almost bewildering to be in [217]
private conversation with him.  There was much in the philosophy of
Aurelius--much consideration of mankind at large, of great bodies,
aggregates and generalities, after the Stoic manner--which, on a nature
less rich than his, might have acted as an inducement to care for
people in inverse proportion to their nearness to him.  That has
sometimes been the result of the Stoic cosmopolitanism.  Aurelius,
however, determined to beautify by all means, great or little, a
doctrine which had in it some potential sourness, had brought all the
quickness of his intelligence, and long years of observation, to bear
on the conditions of social intercourse.  He had early determined "not
to make business an excuse to decline the offices of humanity--not to
pretend to be too much occupied with important affairs to concede what
life with others may hourly demand;" and with such success, that, in an
age which made much of the finer points of that intercourse, it was
felt that the mere honesty of his conversation was more pleasing than
other men's flattery.  His agreeableness to his young visitor to-day
was, in truth, a blossom of the same wisdom which had made of Lucius
Verus really a brother--the wisdom of not being exigent with men, any
more than with fruit-trees (it is his own favourite figure) beyond
their nature.  And there was another person, still nearer to him,
regarding whom this wisdom became a marvel, of equity--of charity.

[218] The centre of a group of princely children, in the same apartment
with Aurelius, amid all the refined intimacies of a modern home, sat
the empress Faustina, warming her hands over a fire.  With her long
fingers lighted up red by the glowing coals of the brazier Marius
looked close upon the most beautiful woman in the world, who was also
the great paradox of the age, among her boys and girls.  As has been
truly said of the numerous representations of her in art, so in life,
she had the air of one curious, restless, to enter into conversation
with the first comer.  She had certainly the power of stimulating a
very ambiguous sort of curiosity about herself.  And Marius found this
enigmatic point in her expression, that even after seeing her many
times he could never precisely recall her features in absence.  The lad
of six years, looking older, who stood beside her, impatiently plucking
a rose to pieces over the hearth, was, in outward appearance, his
father--the young Verissimus--over again; but with a certain feminine
length of feature, and with all his mother's alertness, or license, of

Yet rumour knocked at every door and window of the imperial house
regarding the adulterers who knocked at them, or quietly left their
lovers' garlands there.  Was not that likeness of the husband, in the
boy beside her, really the effect of a shameful magic, in which the
blood of the murdered gladiator, his true father, had been an
ingredient?  Were the tricks for [219] deceiving husbands which the
Roman poet describes, really hers, and her household an efficient
school of all the arts of furtive love?  Or, was the husband too aware,
like every one beside?  Were certain sudden deaths which happened
there, really the work of apoplexy, or the plague?

The man whose ears, whose soul, those rumours were meant to penetrate,
was, however, faithful to his sanguine and optimist philosophy, to his
determination that the world should be to him simply what the higher
reason preferred to conceive it; and the life's journey Aurelius had
made so far, though involving much moral and intellectual loneliness,
had been ever in affectionate and helpful contact with other wayfarers,
very unlike himself.  Since his days of earliest childhood in the
Lateran gardens, he seemed to himself, blessing the gods for it after
deliberate survey, to have been always surrounded by kinsmen, friends,
servants, of exceptional virtue.  From the great Stoic idea, that we
are all fellow-citizens of one city, he had derived a tenderer, a more
equitable estimate than was common among Stoics, of the eternal
shortcomings of men and women.  Considerations that might tend to the
sweetening of his temper it was his daily care to store away, with a
kind of philosophic pride in the thought that no one took more
good-naturedly than he the "oversights" of his neighbours.  For had not
Plato taught (it was not [220] paradox, but simple truth of experience)
that if people sin, it is because they know no better, and are "under
the necessity of their own ignorance"?  Hard to himself, he seemed at
times, doubtless, to decline too softly upon unworthy persons.
Actually, he came thereby upon many a useful instrument.  The empress
Faustina he would seem at least to have kept, by a constraining
affection, from becoming altogether what most people have believed her,
and won in her (we must take him at his word in the "Thoughts,"
abundantly confirmed by letters, on both sides, in his correspondence
with Cornelius Fronto) a consolation, the more secure, perhaps, because
misknown of others.  Was the secret of her actual blamelessness, after
all, with him who has at least screened her name?  At all events, the
one thing quite certain about her, besides her extraordinary beauty, is
her sweetness to himself.

No!  The wise, who had made due observation on the trees of the garden,
would not expect to gather grapes of thorns or fig-trees: and he was
the vine, putting forth his genial fruit, by natural law, again and
again, after his kind, whatever use people might make of it. Certainly,
his actual presence never lost its power, and Faustina was glad in it
to-day, the birthday of one of her children, a boy who stood at her
knee holding in his fingers tenderly a tiny silver trumpet, one of his
birthday gifts.--"For my [221] part, unless I conceive my hurt to be
such, I have no hurt at all,"--boasts the would-be apathetic
emperor:--"and how I care to conceive of the thing rests with me."  Yet
when his children fall sick or die, this pretence breaks down, and he
is broken-hearted: and one of the charms of certain of his letters
still extant, is his reference to those childish sicknesses.--"On my
return to Lorium," he writes, "I found my little lady--domnulam
meam--in a fever;" and again, in a letter to one of the most serious of
men, "You will be glad to hear that our little one is better, and
running about the room--parvolam nostram melius valere et intra
cubiculum discurrere."

The young Commodus had departed from the chamber, anxious to witness
the exercises of certain gladiators, having a native taste for such
company, inherited, according to popular rumour, from his true
father--anxious also to escape from the too impressive company of the
gravest and sweetest specimen of old age Marius had ever seen, the
tutor of the imperial children, who had arrived to offer his birthday
congratulations, and now, very familiarly and affectionately, made a
part of the group, falling on the shoulders of the emperor, kissing the
empress Faustina on the face, the little ones on the face and hands.
Marcus Cornelius Fronto, the "Orator," favourite teacher of the
emperor's youth, afterwards his most trusted counsellor, and now the
undisputed occupant of the sophistic throne, whose equipage, [222]
elegantly mounted with silver, Marius had seen in the streets of Rome,
had certainly turned his many personal gifts to account with a good
fortune, remarkable even in that age, so indulgent to professors or
rhetoricians.  The gratitude of the emperor Aurelius, always generous
to his teachers, arranging their very quarrels sometimes, for they were
not always fair to one another, had helped him to a really great place
in the world.  But his sumptuous appendages, including the villa and
gardens of Maecenas, had been borne with an air perfectly becoming, by
the professor of a philosophy which, even in its most accomplished and
elegant phase, presupposed a gentle contempt for such things.  With an
intimate practical knowledge of manners, physiognomies, smiles,
disguises, flatteries, and courtly tricks of every kind--a whole
accomplished rhetoric of daily life--he applied them all to the
promotion of humanity, and especially of men's family affection.
Through a long life of now eighty years, he had been, as it were,
surrounded by the gracious and soothing air of his own eloquence--the
fame, the echoes, of it--like warbling birds, or murmuring bees.
Setting forth in that fine medium the best ideas of matured pagan
philosophy, he had become the favourite "director" of noble youth

Yes! it was the one instance Marius, always eagerly on the look-out for
such, had yet seen of [223] a perfectly tolerable, perfectly beautiful,
old age--an old age in which there seemed, to one who perhaps
habitually over-valued the expression of youth, nothing to be
regretted, nothing really lost, in what years had taken away.  The wise
old man, whose blue eyes and fair skin were so delicate, uncontaminate
and clear, would seem to have replaced carefully and consciously each
natural trait of youth, as it departed from him, by an equivalent grace
of culture; and had the blitheness, the placid cheerfulness, as he had
also the infirmity, the claim on stronger people, of a delightful
child.  And yet he seemed to be but awaiting his exit from life--that
moment with which the Stoics were almost as much preoccupied as the
Christians, however differently--and set Marius pondering on the
contrast between a placidity like this, at eighty years, and the sort
of desperateness he was aware of in his own manner of entertaining that
thought.  His infirmities nevertheless had been painful and
long-continued, with losses of children, of pet grandchildren.  What
with the crowd, and the wretched streets, it was a sign of affection
which had cost him something, for the old man to leave his own house at
all that day; and he was glad of the emperor's support, as he moved
from place to place among the children he protests so often to have
loved as his own.

For a strange piece of literary good fortune, at the beginning of the
present century, has set [224] free the long-buried fragrance of this
famous friendship of the old world, from below a valueless later
manuscript, in a series of letters, wherein the two writers exchange,
for the most part their evening thoughts, especially at family
anniversaries, and with entire intimacy, on their children, on the art
of speech, on all the various subtleties of the "science of
images"--rhetorical images--above all, of course, on sleep and matters
of health.  They are full of mutual admiration of each other's
eloquence, restless in absence till they see one another again, noting,
characteristically, their very dreams of each other, expecting the day
which will terminate the office, the business or duty, which separates
them--"as superstitious people watch for the star, at the rising of
which they may break their fast."  To one of the writers, to Aurelius,
the correspondence was sincerely of value. We see him once reading his
letters with genuine delight on going to rest.  Fronto seeks to deter
his pupil from writing in Greek.--Why buy, at great cost, a foreign
wine, inferior to that from one's own vineyard?  Aurelius, on the other
hand, with an extraordinary innate susceptibility to words--la parole
pour la parole, as the French say--despairs, in presence of Fronto's
rhetorical perfection.

Like the modern visitor to the Capitoline and some other museums,
Fronto had been struck, pleasantly struck, by the family likeness [225]
among the Antonines; and it was part of his friendship to make much of
it, in the case of the children of Faustina.  "Well!  I have seen the
little ones," he writes to Aurelius, then, apparently, absent from
them: "I have seen the little ones--the pleasantest sight of my life;
for they are as like yourself as could possibly be.  It has well repaid
me for my journey over that slippery road, and up those steep rocks;
for I beheld you, not simply face to face before me, but, more
generously, whichever way I turned, to my right and my left.  For the
rest, I found them, Heaven be thanked! with healthy cheeks and lusty
voices.  One was holding a slice of white bread, like a king's son; the
other a crust of brown bread, as becomes the offspring of a
philosopher.  I pray the gods to have both the sower and the seed in
their keeping; to watch over this field wherein the ears of corn are so
kindly alike.  Ah!  I heard too their pretty voices, so sweet that in
the childish prattle of one and the other I seemed somehow to be
listening--yes! in that chirping of your pretty chickens--to the
limpid+ and harmonious notes of your own oratory. Take care! you will
find me growing independent, having those I could love in your
place:--love, on the surety of my eyes and ears."

"Magistro meo salutem!" replies the Emperor, "I too have seen my little
ones in your sight of them; as, also, I saw yourself in reading your
[226] letter.  It is that charming letter forces me to write thus:"
with reiterations of affection, that is, which are continual in these
letters, on both sides, and which may strike a modern reader perhaps as
fulsome; or, again, as having something in common with the old Judaic
unction of friendship.  They were certainly sincere.

To one of those children Fronto had now brought the birthday gift of
the silver trumpet, upon which he ventured to blow softly now and
again, turning away with eyes delighted at the sound, when he thought
the old man was not listening.  It was the well-worn, valetudinarian
subject of sleep, on which Fronto and Aurelius were talking together;
Aurelius always feeling it a burden, Fronto a thing of magic
capacities, so that he had written an encomium in its praise, and often
by ingenious arguments recommends his imperial pupil not to be sparing
of it.  To-day, with his younger listeners in mind, he had a story to
tell about it:--

"They say that our father Jupiter, when he ordered the world at the
beginning, divided time into two parts exactly equal: the one part he
clothed with light, the other with darkness: he called them Day and
Night; and he assigned rest to the night and to day the work of life.
At that time Sleep was not yet born and men passed the whole of their
lives awake: only, the quiet of the night was ordained for them,
instead of sleep.  But it came to pass, little by little, [227] being
that the minds of men are restless, that they carried on their business
alike by night as by day, and gave no part at all to repose. And
Jupiter, when he perceived that even in the night-time they ceased not
from trouble and disputation, and that even the courts of law remained
open (it was the pride of Aurelius, as Fronto knew, to be assiduous in
those courts till far into the night) resolved to appoint one of his
brothers to be the overseer of the night and have authority over man's
rest.  But Neptune pleaded in excuse the gravity of his constant charge
of the seas, and Father Dis the difficulty of keeping in subjection the
spirits below; and Jupiter, having taken counsel with the other gods,
perceived that the practice of nightly vigils was somewhat in favour.
It was then, for the most part, that Juno gave birth to her children:
Minerva, the mistress of all art and craft, loved the midnight lamp:
Mars delighted in the darkness for his plots and sallies; and the
favour of Venus and Bacchus was with those who roused by night.  Then
it was that Jupiter formed the design of creating Sleep; and he added
him to the number of the gods, and gave him the charge over night and
rest, putting into his hands the keys of human eyes.  With his own
hands he mingled the juices wherewith Sleep should soothe the hearts of
mortals--herb of Enjoyment and herb of Safety, gathered from a grove in
Heaven; and, from the meadows of [228] Acheron, the herb of Death;
expressing from it one single drop only, no bigger than a tear one
might hide.  'With this juice,' he said, 'pour slumber upon the eyelids
of mortals.  So soon as it hath touched them they will lay themselves
down motionless, under thy power.  But be not afraid: they shall
revive, and in a while stand up again upon their feet.'  Thereafter,
Jupiter gave wings to Sleep, attached, not, like Mercury's, to his
heels, but to his shoulders, like the wings of Love.  For he said, 'It
becomes thee not to approach men's eyes as with the noise of chariots,
and the rushing of a swift courser, but in placid and merciful flight,
as upon the wings of a swallow--nay! with not so much as the flutter of
the dove.'  Besides all this, that he might be yet pleasanter to men,
he committed to him also a multitude of blissful dreams, according to
every man's desire.  One watched his favourite actor; another listened
to the flute, or guided a charioteer in the race: in his dream, the
soldier was victorious, the general was borne in triumph, the wanderer
returned home.  Yes!--and sometimes those dreams come true!

Just then Aurelius was summoned to make the birthday offerings to his
household gods.  A heavy curtain of tapestry was drawn back; and beyond
it Marius gazed for a few moments into the Lararium, or imperial
chapel.  A patrician youth, in white habit, was in waiting, with a
little chest in his hand containing incense for the [229] use of the
altar.  On richly carved consoles, or side boards, around this narrow
chamber, were arranged the rich apparatus of worship and the golden or
gilded images, adorned to-day with fresh flowers, among them that image
of Fortune from the apartment of Antoninus Pius, and such of the
emperor's own teachers as were gone to their rest.  A dim fresco on the
wall commemorated the ancient piety of Lucius Albinius, who in flight
from Rome on the morrow of a great disaster, overtaking certain priests
on foot with their sacred utensils, descended from the wagon in which
he rode and yielded it to the ministers of the gods.  As he ascended
into the chapel the emperor paused, and with a grave but friendly look
at his young visitor, delivered a parting sentence, audible to him
alone: Imitation is the most acceptable-- Make sure that those to whom
you come nearest be the happier by your*

It was the very spirit of the scene and the hour--the hour Marius had
spent in the imperial house.  How temperate, how tranquillising! what
humanity!  Yet, as he left the eminent company concerning whose ways of
life at home he had been so youthfully curious, and sought, after his
manner, to determine the main trait in all this, he had to confess that
it was a sentiment of mediocrity, though of a mediocrity for once
really golden.


225. +"Limpid" is misprinted "Limped."


DURING the Eastern war there came a moment when schism in the empire
had seemed possible through the defection of Lucius Verus; when to
Aurelius it had also seemed possible to confirm his allegiance by no
less a gift than his beautiful daughter Lucilla, the eldest of his
children--the domnula, probably, of those letters.  The little lady,
grown now to strong and stately maidenhood, had been ever something of
the good genius, the better soul, to Lucius Verus, by the law of
contraries, her somewhat cold and apathetic modesty acting as
counterfoil to the young man's tigrish fervour.  Conducted to Ephesus,
she had become his wife by form of civil marriage, the more solemn
wedding rites being deferred till their return to Rome.

The ceremony of the Confarreation, or religious marriage, in which
bride and bridegroom partook together of a certain mystic bread, was
celebrated accordingly, with due pomp, early in the spring; Aurelius
himself [231] assisting, with much domestic feeling.  A crowd of
fashionable people filled the space before the entrance to the
apartments of Lucius on the Palatine hill, richly decorated for the
occasion, commenting, not always quite delicately, on the various
details of the rite, which only a favoured few succeeded in actually
witnessing.  "She comes!"  Marius could hear them say, "escorted by her
young brothers: it is the young Commodus who carries the torch of
white-thornwood, the little basket of work-things, the toys for the
children:"--and then, after a watchful pause, "she is winding the
woollen thread round the doorposts.  Ah!  I see the marriage-cake: the
bridegroom presents the fire and water."  Then, in a longer pause, was
heard the chorus, Thalassie!  Thalassie! and for just a few moments, in
the strange light of many wax tapers at noonday, Marius could see them
both, side by side, while the bride was lifted over the doorstep:
Lucius Verus heated and handsome--the pale, impassive Lucilla looking
very long and slender, in her closely folded yellow veil, and high
nuptial crown.

As Marius turned away, glad to escape from the pressure of the crowd,
he found himself face to face with Cornelius, an infrequent spectator
on occasions such as this.  It was a relief to depart with him--so
fresh and quiet he looked, though in all his splendid equestrian array
in honour of the ceremony--from the garish heat [232] of the marriage
scene.  The reserve which had puzzled Marius so much on his first day
in Rome, was but an instance of many, to him wholly unaccountable,
avoidances alike of things and persons, which must certainly mean that
an intimate companionship would cost him something in the way of
seemingly indifferent amusements.  Some inward standard Marius seemed
to detect there (though wholly unable to estimate its nature) of
distinction, selection, refusal, amid the various elements of the
fervid and corrupt life across which they were moving together:--some
secret, constraining motive, ever on the alert at eye and ear, which
carried him through Rome as under a charm, so that Marius could not but
think of that figure of the white bird in the market-place as
undoubtedly made true of him.  And Marius was still full of admiration
for this companion, who had known how to make himself very pleasant to
him.  Here was the clear, cold corrective, which the fever of his
present life demanded.  Without it, he would have felt alternately
suffocated and exhausted by an existence, at once so gaudy and
overdone, and yet so intolerably empty; in which people, even at their
best, seemed only to be brooding, like the wise emperor himself, over a
world's disillusion.  For with all the severity of Cornelius, there was
such a breeze of hopefulness--freshness and hopefulness, as of new
morning, about him. [233] For the most part, as I said, those refusals,
that reserve of his, seemed unaccountable.  But there were cases where
the unknown monitor acted in a direction with which the judgment, or
instinct, of Marius himself wholly concurred; the effective decision of
Cornelius strengthening him further therein, as by a kind of outwardly
embodied conscience.  And the entire drift of his education determined
him, on one point at least, to be wholly of the same mind with this
peculiar friend (they two, it might be, together, against the world!)
when, alone of a whole company of brilliant youth, he had withdrawn
from his appointed place in the amphitheatre, at a grand public show,
which after an interval of many months, was presented there, in honour
of the nuptials of Lucius Verus and Lucilla.

And it was still to the eye, through visible movement and aspect, that
the character, or genius of Cornelius made itself felt by Marius; even
as on that afternoon when he had girt on his armour, among the
expressive lights and shades of the dim old villa at the roadside, and
every object of his knightly array had seemed to be but sign or symbol
of some other thing far beyond it.  For, consistently with his really
poetic temper, all influence reached Marius, even more exclusively than
he was aware, through the medium of sense. From Flavian in that brief
early summer of his existence, he had derived a powerful impression of
the [234] "perpetual flux": he had caught there, as in cipher or
symbol, or low whispers more effective than any definite language, his
own Cyrenaic philosophy, presented thus, for the first time, in an
image or person, with much attractiveness, touched also, consequently,
with a pathetic sense of personal sorrow:--a concrete image, the
abstract equivalent of which he could recognise afterwards, when the
agitating personal influence had settled down for him, clearly enough,
into a theory of practice. But of what possible intellectual formula
could this mystic Cornelius be the sensible exponent; seeming, as he
did, to live ever in close relationship with, and recognition of, a
mental view, a source of discernment, a light upon his way, which had
certainly not yet sprung up for Marius?  Meantime, the discretion of
Cornelius, his energetic clearness and purity, were a charm, rather
physical than moral: his exquisite correctness of spirit, at all
events, accorded so perfectly with the regular beauty of his person, as
to seem to depend upon it. And wholly different as was this later
friendship, with its exigency, its warnings, its restraints, from the
feverish attachment to Flavian, which had made him at times like an
uneasy slave, still, like that, it was a reconciliation to the world of
sense, the visible world.  From the hopefulness of this gracious
presence, all visible things around him, even the commonest objects of
everyday life--if they but [235] stood together to warm their hands at
the same fire--took for him a new poetry, a delicate fresh bloom, and
interest.  It was as if his bodily eyes had been indeed mystically
washed, renewed, strengthened.

And how eagerly, with what a light heart, would Flavian have taken his
place in the amphitheatre, among the youth of his own age! with what an
appetite for every detail of the entertainment, and its various
accessories:--the sunshine, filtered into soft gold by the vela, with
their serpentine patterning, spread over the more select part of the
company; the Vestal virgins, taking their privilege of seats near the
empress Faustina, who sat there in a maze of double-coloured gems,
changing, as she moved, like the waves of the sea; the cool circle of
shadow, in which the wonderful toilets of the fashionable told so
effectively around the blazing arena, covered again and again during
the many hours' show, with clean sand for the absorption of certain
great red patches there, by troops of white-shirted boys, for whom the
good-natured audience provided a scramble of nuts and small coin, flung
to them over a trellis-work of silver-gilt and amber, precious gift of
Nero, while a rain of flowers and perfume fell over themselves, as they
paused between the parts of their long feast upon the spectacle of
animal suffering.

During his sojourn at Ephesus, Lucius Verus had readily become a
patron, patron or protégé, [236] of the great goddess of Ephesus, the
goddess of hunters; and the show, celebrated by way of a compliment to
him to-day, was to present some incidents of her story, where she
figures almost as the genius of madness, in animals, or in the humanity
which comes in contact with them.  The entertainment would have an
element of old Greek revival in it, welcome to the taste of a learned
and Hellenising society; and, as Lucius Verus was in some sense a lover
of animals, was to be a display of animals mainly. There would be real
wild and domestic creatures, all of rare species; and a real slaughter.
On so happy an occasion, it was hoped, the elder emperor might even
concede a point, and a living criminal fall into the jaws of the wild
beasts.  And the spectacle was, certainly, to end in the destruction,
by one mighty shower of arrows, of a hundred lions, "nobly" provided by
Aurelius himself for the amusement of his people.--Tam magnanimus fuit!

The arena, decked and in order for the first scene, looked delightfully
fresh, re-inforcing on the spirits of the audience the actual freshness
of the morning, which at this season still brought the dew.  Along the
subterranean ways that led up to it, the sound of an advancing chorus
was heard at last, chanting the words of a sacred song, or hymn to
Diana; for the spectacle of the amphitheatre was, after all, a [237]
religious occasion.  To its grim acts of blood-shedding a kind of
sacrificial character still belonged in the view of certain religious
casuists, tending conveniently to soothe the humane sensibilities of so
pious an emperor as Aurelius, who, in his fraternal complacency, had
consented to preside over the shows.

Artemis or Diana, as she may be understood in the actual development of
her worship, was, indeed, the symbolical expression of two allied yet
contrasted elements of human temper and experience--man's amity, and
also his enmity, towards the wild creatures, when they were still, in a
certain sense, his brothers.  She is the complete, and therefore highly
complex, representative of a state, in which man was still much
occupied with animals, not as his flock, or as his servants after the
pastoral relationship of our later, orderly world, but rather as his
equals, on friendly terms or the reverse,--a state full of primeval
sympathies and antipathies, of rivalries and common wants--while he
watched, and could enter into, the humours of those "younger brothers,"
with an intimacy, the "survivals" of which in a later age seem often to
have had a kind of madness about them.  Diana represents alike the
bright and the dark side of such relationship. But the humanities of
that relationship were all forgotten to-day in the excitement of a
show, in which mere cruelty to animals, their useless suffering and
death, formed [238] the main point of interest. People watched their
destruction, batch after batch, in a not particularly inventive
fashion; though it was expected that the animals themselves, as living
creatures are apt to do when hard put to it, would become inventive,
and make up, by the fantastic accidents of their agony, for the
deficiencies of an age fallen behind in this matter of manly amusement.
It was as a Deity of Slaughter--the Taurian goddess who demands the
sacrifice of the shipwrecked sailors thrown on her coasts--the cruel,
moonstruck huntress, who brings not only sudden death, but rabies,
among the wild creatures that Diana was to be presented, in the person
of a famous courtesan.  The aim at an actual theatrical illusion, after
the first introductory scene, was frankly surrendered to the display of
the animals, artificially stimulated and maddened to attack each other.
And as Diana was also a special protectress of new-born creatures,
there would be a certain curious interest in the dexterously contrived
escape of the young from their mother's torn bosoms; as many pregnant
animals as possible being carefully selected for the purpose.

The time had been, and was to come again, when the pleasures of the
amphitheatre centered in a similar practical joking upon human beings.
What more ingenious diversion had stage manager ever contrived than
that incident, itself a practical epigram never to be forgottten, [239]
when a criminal, who, like slaves and animals, had no rights, was
compelled to present the part of Icarus; and, the wings failing him in
due course, had fallen into a pack of hungry bears?  For the long shows
of the amphitheatre were, so to speak, the novel-reading of that age--a
current help provided for sluggish imaginations, in regard, for
instance, to grisly accidents, such as might happen to one's self; but
with every facility for comfortable inspection.  Scaevola might watch
his own hand, consuming, crackling, in the fire, in the person of a
culprit, willing to redeem his life by an act so delightful to the
eyes, the very ears, of a curious public.  If the part of Marsyas was
called for, there was a criminal condemned to lose his skin.  It might
be almost edifying to study minutely the expression of his face, while
the assistants corded and pegged him to the bench, cunningly; the
servant of the law waiting by, who, after one short cut with his knife,
would slip the man's leg from his skin, as neatly as if it were a
stocking--a finesse in providing the due amount of suffering for
wrong-doers only brought to its height in Nero's living bonfires.  But
then, by making his suffering ridiculous, you enlist against the
sufferer, some real, and all would-be manliness, and do much to stifle
any false sentiment of compassion.  The philosophic emperor, having no
great taste for sport, and asserting here a personal scruple, had
greatly changed all [240] that; had provided that nets should be spread
under the dancers on the tight-rope, and buttons for the swords of the
gladiators.  But the gladiators were still there.  Their bloody
contests had, under the form of a popular amusement, the efficacy of a
human sacrifice; as, indeed, the whole system of the public shows was
understood to possess a religious import.  Just at this point,
certainly, the judgment of Lucretius on pagan religion is without

     Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum.

And Marius, weary and indignant, feeling isolated in the great
slaughter-house, could not but observe that, in his habitual
complaisance to Lucius Verus, who, with loud shouts of applause from
time to time, lounged beside him, Aurelius had sat impassibly through
all the hours Marius himself had remained there.  For the most part
indeed, the emperor had actually averted his eyes from the show,
reading, or writing on matters of public business, but had seemed,
after all, indifferent.  He was revolving, perhaps, that old Stoic
paradox of the Imperceptibility of pain; which might serve as an
excuse, should those savage popular humours ever again turn against men
and women.  Marius remembered well his very attitude and expression on
this day, when, a few years later, certain things came to pass in Gaul,
under his full authority; and that attitude and expression [241]
defined already, even thus early in their so friendly intercourse, and
though he was still full of gratitude for his interest, a permanent
point of difference between the emperor and himself--between himself,
with all the convictions of his life taking centre to-day in his
merciful, angry heart, and Aurelius, as representing all the light, all
the apprehensive power there might be in pagan intellect.  There was
something in a tolerance such as this, in the bare fact that he could
sit patiently through a scene like this, which seemed to Marius to mark
Aurelius as his inferior now and for ever on the question of
righteousness; to set them on opposite sides, in some great conflict,
of which that difference was but a single presentment.  Due, in
whatever proportions, to the abstract principles he had formulated for
himself, or in spite of them, there was the loyal conscience within
him, deciding, judging himself and every one else, with a wonderful
sort of authority:--You ought, methinks, to be something quite
different from what you are; here! and here!  Surely Aurelius must be
lacking in that decisive conscience at first sight, of the intimations
of which Marius could entertain no doubt--which he looked for in
others.  He at least, the humble follower of the bodily eye, was aware
of a crisis in life, in this brief, obscure existence, a fierce
opposition of real good and real evil around him, the issues of which
he must by no [242] means compromise or confuse; of the antagonisms of
which the "wise" Marcus Aurelius was unaware.

That long chapter of the cruelty of the Roman public shows may,
perhaps, leave with the children of the modern world a feeling of
self-complacency.  Yet it might seem well to ask ourselves--it is
always well to do so, when we read of the slave-trade, for instance, or
of great religious persecutions on this side or on that, or of anything
else which raises in us the question, "Is thy servant a dog, that he
should do this thing?"--not merely, what germs of feeling we may
entertain which, under fitting circumstances, would induce us to the
like; but, even more practically, what thoughts, what sort of
considerations, may be actually present to our minds such as might have
furnished us, living in another age, and in the midst of those legal
crimes, with plausible excuses for them: each age in turn, perhaps,
having its own peculiar point of blindness, with its consequent
peculiar sin--the touch-stone of an unfailing conscience in the select

Those cruel amusements were, certainly, the sin of blindness, of
deadness and stupidity, in the age of Marius; and his light had not
failed him regarding it.  Yes! what was needed was the heart that would
make it impossible to witness all this; and the future would be with
the forces that could beget a heart like that. [243] His chosen
philosophy had said,--Trust the eye: Strive to be right always in
regard to the concrete experience: Beware of falsifying your
impressions. And its sanction had at least been effective here, in
protesting--"This, and this, is what you may not look upon!"  Surely
evil was a real thing, and the wise man wanting in the sense of it,
where, not to have been, by instinctive election, on the right side,
was to have failed in life.


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