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Title: Marius the Epicurean — Volume 2
Author: Pater, Walter, 1839-1894
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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MARIUS THE EPICUREAN, VOLUME TWO

WALTER HORATIO PATER

London: 1910. (The Library Edition.)



NOTES BY THE E-TEXT EDITOR:

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.



MARIUS THE EPICUREAN, VOLUME TWO

WALTER PATER


    Cheimerinos oneiros, hote mêkistai hai vyktes.+

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


    CONTENTS


    PART THE THIRD

    15. Stoicism at Court: 3-13
    16. Second Thoughts: 14-28
    17. Beata Urbs: 29-40
    18. "The Ceremony of the Dart": 41-56
    19. The Will as Vision: 57-72

    PART THE FOURTH

    20. Two Curious Houses--1. Guests: 75-91
    21. Two Curious Houses--2. The Church in Cecilia's House: 92-108
    22. "The Minor Peace of the Church": 109-127
    23. Divine Service: 128-140
    24. A Conversation Not Imaginary: 141-171
    25. Sunt Lacrimae Rerum: 172-185
    26. The Martyrs: 186-196
    27. The Triumph of Marcus Aurelius: 197-207
    28. Anima Naturaliter Christiana: 208-224



PART THE THIRD

CHAPTER XV: STOICISM AT COURT

[3] THE very finest flower of the same company--Aurelius with the
gilded fasces borne before him, a crowd of exquisites, the empress
Faustina herself, and all the elegant blue-stockings of the day, who
maintained, people said, their private "sophists" to whisper philosophy
into their ears winsomely as they performed the duties of the
toilet--was assembled again a few months later, in a different place
and for a very different purpose.  The temple of Peace, a "modernising"
foundation of Hadrian, enlarged by a library and lecture-rooms, had
grown into an institution like something between a college and a
literary club; and here Cornelius Fronto was to pronounce a discourse
on the Nature of Morals.  There were some, indeed, who had desired the
emperor Aurelius himself to declare his whole mind on this matter.
Rhetoric was become almost a function of the state: philosophy was upon
the throne; and had from time to time, by [4] request, delivered an
official utterance with well-nigh divine authority.  And it was as the
delegate of this authority, under the full sanction of the philosophic
emperor--emperor and pontiff, that the aged Fronto purposed to-day to
expound some parts of the Stoic doctrine, with the view of recommending
morals to that refined but perhaps prejudiced company, as being, in
effect, one mode of comeliness in things--as it were music, or a kind
of artistic order, in life.  And he did this earnestly, with an outlay
of all his science of mind, and that eloquence of which he was known to
be a master.  For Stoicism was no longer a rude and unkempt thing.
Received at court, it had largely decorated itself: it was grown
persuasive and insinuating, and sought not only to convince men's
intelligence but to allure their souls.  Associated with the beautiful
old age of the great rhetorician, and his winning voice, it was almost
Epicurean.  And the old man was at his best on the occasion; the last
on which he ever appeared in this way.  To-day was his own birthday.
Early in the morning the imperial letter of congratulation had reached
him; and all the pleasant animation it had caused was in his face, when
assisted by his daughter Gratia he took his place on the ivory chair,
as president of the Athenaeum of Rome, wearing with a wonderful grace
the philosophic pall,--in reality neither more nor less than the loose
woollen cloak of the common soldier, but fastened [5] on his right
shoulder with a magnificent clasp, the emperor's birthday gift.

It was an age, as abundant evidence shows, whose delight in rhetoric
was but one result of a general susceptibility--an age not merely
taking pleasure in words, but experiencing a great moral power in them.
Fronto's quaintly fashionable audience would have wept, and also
assisted with their purses, had his present purpose been, as sometimes
happened, the recommendation of an object of charity.  As it was,
arranging themselves at their ease among the images and flowers, these
amateurs of exquisite language, with their tablets open for careful
record of felicitous word or phrase, were ready to give themselves
wholly to the intellectual treat prepared for them, applauding, blowing
loud kisses through the air sometimes, at the speaker's triumphant exit
from one of his long, skilfully modulated sentences; while the younger
of them meant to imitate everything about him, down to the inflections
of his voice and the very folds of his mantle.  Certainly there was
rhetoric enough:--a wealth of imagery; illustrations from painting,
music, mythology, the experiences of love; a management, by which
subtle, unexpected meaning was brought out of familiar terms, like
flies from morsels of amber, to use Fronto's own figure.  But with all
its richness, the higher claim of his style was rightly understood to
lie in gravity and self-command, and an especial care for the [6]
purities of a vocabulary which rejected every expression unsanctioned
by the authority of approved ancient models.

And it happened with Marius, as it will sometimes happen, that this
general discourse to a general audience had the effect of an utterance
adroitly designed for him.  His conscience still vibrating painfully
under the shock of that scene in the amphitheatre, and full of the
ethical charm of Cornelius, he was questioning himself with much
impatience as to the possibility of an adjustment between his own
elaborately thought-out intellectual scheme and the "old morality."  In
that intellectual scheme indeed the old morality had so far been
allowed no place, as seeming to demand from him the admission of
certain first principles such as might misdirect or retard him in his
efforts towards a complete, many-sided existence; or distort the
revelations of the experience of life; or curtail his natural liberty
of heart and mind.  But now (his imagination being occupied for the
moment with the noble and resolute air, the gallantry, so to call it,
which composed the outward mien and presentment of his strange friend's
inflexible ethics) he felt already some nascent suspicion of his
philosophic programme, in regard, precisely, to the question of good
taste.  There was the taint of a graceless "antinomianism" perceptible
in it, a dissidence, a revolt against accustomed modes, the actual
impression of which on other [7] men might rebound upon himself in some
loss of that personal pride to which it was part of his theory of life
to allow so much.  And it was exactly a moral situation such as this
that Fronto appeared to be contemplating.  He seemed to have before his
mind the case of one--Cyrenaic or Epicurean, as the courtier tends to
be, by habit and instinct, if not on principle--who yet experiences,
actually, a strong tendency to moral assents, and a desire, with as
little logical inconsistency as may be, to find a place for duty and
righteousness in his house of thought.

And the Stoic professor found the key to this problem in the purely
aesthetic beauty of the old morality, as an element in things,
fascinating to the imagination, to good taste in its most highly
developed form, through association--a system or order, as a matter of
fact, in possession, not only of the larger world, but of the rare
minority of élite intelligences; from which, therefore, least of all
would the sort of Epicurean he had in view endure to become, so to
speak, an outlaw.  He supposed his hearer to be, with all sincerity, in
search after some principle of conduct (and it was here that he seemed
to Marius to be speaking straight to him) which might give unity of
motive to an actual rectitude, a cleanness and probity of life,
determined partly by natural affection, partly by enlightened
self-interest or the feeling of honour, due in part even to the mere
fear of penalties; no element of which, [8] however, was distinctively
moral in the agent himself as such, and providing him, therefore, no
common ground with a really moral being like Cornelius, or even like
the philosophic emperor.  Performing the same offices; actually
satisfying, even as they, the external claims of others; rendering to
all their dues--one thus circumstanced would be wanting, nevertheless,
in the secret of inward adjustment to the moral agents around him.  How
tenderly--more tenderly than many stricter souls--he might yield
himself to kindly instinct! what fineness of charity in passing
judgment on others! what an exquisite conscience of other men's
susceptibilities!  He knows for how much the manner, because the heart
itself, counts, in doing a kindness.  He goes beyond most people in his
care for all weakly creatures; judging, instinctively, that to be but
sentient is to possess rights.  He conceives a hundred duties, though
he may not call them by that name, of the existence of which purely
duteous souls may have no suspicion.  He has a kind of pride in doing
more than they, in a way of his own.  Sometimes, he may think that
those men of line and rule do not really understand their own business.
How narrow, inflexible, unintelligent! what poor guardians (he may
reason) of the inward spirit of righteousness, are some supposed
careful walkers according to its letter and form.  And yet all the
while he admits, as such, no moral world at all: no [9] theoretic
equivalent to so large a proportion of the facts of life.

But, over and above such practical rectitude, thus determined by
natural affection or self-love or fear, he may notice that there is a
remnant of right conduct, what he does, still more what he abstains
from doing, not so much through his own free election, as from a
deference, an "assent," entire, habitual, unconscious, to custom--to
the actual habit or fashion of others, from whom he could not endure to
break away, any more than he would care to be out of agreement with
them on questions of mere manner, or, say, even, of dress.  Yes! there
were the evils, the vices, which he avoided as, essentially, a failure
in good taste.  An assent, such as this, to the preferences of others,
might seem to be the weakest of motives, and the rectitude it could
determine the least considerable element in a moral life. Yet here,
according to Cornelius Fronto, was in truth the revealing example,
albeit operating upon comparative trifles, of the general principle
required.  There was one great idea associated with which that
determination to conform to precedent was elevated into the clearest,
the fullest, the weightiest principle of moral action; a principle
under which one might subsume men's most strenuous efforts after
righteousness.  And he proceeded to expound the idea of Humanity--of a
universal commonwealth of mind, which [10] becomes explicit, and as if
incarnate, in a select communion of just men made perfect.

Ho kosmos hôsanei polis estin+--the world is as it were a commonwealth,
a city: and there are observances, customs, usages, actually current in
it, things our friends and companions will expect of us, as the
condition of our living there with them at all, as really their peers
or fellow-citizens.  Those observances were, indeed, the creation of a
visible or invisible aristocracy in it, whose actual manners, whose
preferences from of old, become now a weighty tradition as to the way
in which things should or should not be done, are like a music, to
which the intercourse of life proceeds--such a music as no one who had
once caught its harmonies would willingly jar.  In this way, the
becoming, as in Greek--to prepon: or ta êthê+ mores, manners, as both
Greeks and Romans said, would indeed be a comprehensive term for duty.
Righteousness would be, in the words of "Caesar" himself, of the
philosophic Aurelius, but a "following of the reasonable will of the
oldest, the most venerable, of cities, of polities--of the royal, the
law-giving element, therein--forasmuch as we are citizens also in that
supreme city on high, of which all other cities beside are but as
single habitations."  But as the old man spoke with animation of this
supreme city, this invisible society, whose conscience was become
explicit in its inner circle of inspired souls, of whose [11] common
spirit, the trusted leaders of human conscience had been but the
mouthpiece, of whose successive personal preferences in the conduct of
life, the "old morality" was the sum,--Marius felt that his own
thoughts were passing beyond the actual intention of the speaker; not
in the direction of any clearer theoretic or abstract definition of
that ideal commonwealth, but rather as if in search of its visible
locality and abiding-place, the walls and towers of which, so to speak,
he might really trace and tell, according to his own old, natural habit
of mind.  It would be the fabric, the outward fabric, of a system
reaching, certainly, far beyond the great city around him, even if
conceived in all the machinery of its visible and invisible influences
at their grandest--as Augustus or Trajan might have conceived of
them--however well the visible Rome might pass for a figure of that
new, unseen, Rome on high.  At moments, Marius even asked himself with
surprise, whether it might be some vast secret society the speaker had
in view:--that august community, to be an outlaw from which, to be
foreign to the manners of which, was a loss so much greater than to be
excluded, into the ends of the earth, from the sovereign Roman
commonwealth.  Humanity, a universal order, the great polity, its
aristocracy of elect spirits, the mastery of their example over their
successors--these were the ideas, stimulating enough in their way, [12]
by association with which the Stoic professor had attempted to elevate,
to unite under a single principle, men's moral efforts, himself lifted
up with so genuine an enthusiasm.  But where might Marius search for
all this, as more than an intellectual abstraction?  Where were those
elect souls in whom the claim of Humanity became so amiable, winning,
persuasive--whose footsteps through the world were so beautiful in the
actual order he saw--whose faces averted from him, would be more than
he could bear? Where was that comely order, to which as a great fact of
experience he must give its due; to which, as to all other beautiful
"phenomena" in life, he must, for his own peace, adjust himself?

Rome did well to be serious.  The discourse ended somewhat abruptly, as
the noise of a great crowd in motion was heard below the walls;
whereupon, the audience, following the humour of the younger element in
it, poured into the colonnade, from the steps of which the famous
procession, or transvectio, of the military knights was to be seen
passing over the Forum, from their trysting-place at the temple of
Mars, to the temple of the Dioscuri.  The ceremony took place this
year, not on the day accustomed--anniversary of the victory of Lake
Regillus, with its pair of celestial assistants--and amid the heat and
roses of a Roman July, but, by [13] anticipation, some months earlier,
the almond-trees along the way being still in leafless flower.  Through
that light trellis-work, Marius watched the riders, arrayed in all
their gleaming ornaments, and wearing wreaths of olive around their
helmets, the faces below which, what with battle and the plague, were
almost all youthful.  It was a flowery scene enough, but had to-day its
fulness of war-like meaning; the return of the army to the North, where
the enemy was again upon the move, being now imminent.  Cornelius had
ridden along in his place, and, on the dismissal of the company, passed
below the steps where Marius stood, with that new song he had heard
once before floating from his lips.

NOTES

10. +Transliteration: Ho kosmos hôsanei polis estin.  Translation: "The
world is like a city."

10. +Transliteration: to prepon ... ta êthê.  Translation: "That which
is seemly ... mores."



CHAPTER XVI: SECOND THOUGHTS

[14] AND Marius, for his part, was grave enough.  The discourse of
Cornelius Fronto, with its wide prospect over the human, the spiritual,
horizon, had set him on a review--on a review of the isolating
narrowness, in particular, of his own theoretic scheme. Long after the
very latest roses were faded, when "the town" had departed to country
villas, or the baths, or the war, he remained behind in Rome; anxious
to try the lastingness of his own Epicurean rose-garden; setting to
work over again, and deliberately passing from point to point of his
old argument with himself, down to its practical conclusions.  That age
and our own have much in common--many difficulties and hopes.  Let the
reader pardon me if here and there I seem to be passing from Marius to
his modern representatives--from Rome, to Paris or London.

What really were its claims as a theory of practice, of the sympathies
that determine [15] practice?  It had been a theory, avowedly, of loss
and gain (so to call it) of an economy.  If, therefore, it missed
something in the commerce of life, which some other theory of practice
was able to include, if it made a needless sacrifice, then it must be,
in a manner, inconsistent with itself, and lack theoretic completeness.
Did it make such a sacrifice?  What did it lose, or cause one to lose?

And we may note, as Marius could hardly have done, that Cyrenaicism is
ever the characteristic philosophy of youth, ardent, but narrow in its
survey--sincere, but apt to become one-sided, or even fanatical. It is
one of those subjective and partial ideals, based on vivid, because
limited, apprehension of the truth of one aspect of experience (in this
case, of the beauty of the world and the brevity of man's life there)
which it may be said to be the special vocation of the young to
express.  In the school of Cyrene, in that comparatively fresh Greek
world, we see this philosophy where it is least blasé, as we say; in
its most pleasant, its blithest and yet perhaps its wisest form,
youthfully bright in the youth of European thought.  But it grows young
again for a while in almost every youthful soul.  It is spoken of
sometimes as the appropriate utterance of jaded men; but in them it can
hardly be sincere, or, by the nature of the case, an enthusiasm.  "Walk
in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes," is,
indeed, most often, [16] according to the supposition of the book from
which I quote it, the counsel of the young, who feel that the sunshine
is pleasant along their veins, and wintry weather, though in a general
sense foreseen, a long way off.  The youthful enthusiasm or fanaticism,
the self-abandonment to one favourite mode of thought or taste, which
occurs, quite naturally, at the outset of every really vigorous
intellectual career, finds its special opportunity in a theory such as
that so carefully put together by Marius, just because it seems to call
on one to make the sacrifice, accompanied by a vivid sensation of power
and will, of what others value--sacrifice of some conviction, or
doctrine, or supposed first principle--for the sake of that clear-eyed
intellectual consistency, which is like spotless bodily cleanliness, or
scrupulous personal honour, and has itself for the mind of the youthful
student, when he first comes to appreciate it, the fascination of an
ideal.

The Cyrenaic doctrine, then, realised as a motive of strenuousness or
enthusiasm, is not so properly the utterance of the "jaded Epicurean,"
as of the strong young man in all the freshness of thought and feeling,
fascinated by the notion of raising his life to the level of a daring
theory, while, in the first genial heat of existence, the beauty of the
physical world strikes potently upon his wide-open, unwearied senses.
He discovers a great new poem every spring, with a hundred delightful
things he too has felt, but [16] which have never been expressed, or at
least never so truly, before. The workshops of the artists, who can
select and set before us what is really most distinguished in visible
life, are open to him.  He thinks that the old Platonic, or the new
Baconian philosophy, has been better explained than by the authors
themselves, or with some striking original development, this very
month.  In the quiet heat of early summer, on the dusty gold morning,
the music comes, louder at intervals, above the hum of voices from some
neighbouring church, among the flowering trees, valued now, perhaps,
only for the poetically rapt faces among priests or worshippers, or the
mere skill and eloquence, it may be, of its preachers of faith and
righteousness.  In his scrupulous idealism, indeed, he too feels
himself to be something of a priest, and that devotion of his days to
the contemplation of what is beautiful, a sort of perpetual religious
service.  Afar off, how many fair cities and delicate sea-coasts await
him!  At that age, with minds of a certain constitution, no very choice
or exceptional circumstances are needed to provoke an enthusiasm
something like this.  Life in modern London even, in the heavy glow of
summer, is stuff sufficient for the fresh imagination of a youth to
build its "palace of art" of; and the very sense and enjoyment of an
experience in which all is new, are but enhanced, like that glow of
summer itself, by the [18] thought of its brevity, giving him something
of a gambler's zest, in the apprehension, by dexterous act or
diligently appreciative thought, of the highly coloured moments which
are to pass away so quickly.  At bottom, perhaps, in his elaborately
developed self-consciousness, his sensibilities, his almost fierce
grasp upon the things he values at all, he has, beyond all others, an
inward need of something permanent in its character, to hold by: of
which circumstance, also, he may be partly aware, and that, as with the
brilliant Claudio in Measure for Measure, it is, in truth, but darkness
he is, "encountering, like a bride."  But the inevitable falling of the
curtain is probably distant; and in the daylight, at least, it is not
often that he really shudders at the thought of the grave--the weight
above, the narrow world and its company, within.  When the thought of
it does occur to him, he may say to himself:--Well! and the rude monk,
for instance, who has renounced all this, on the security of some dim
world beyond it, really acquiesces in that "fifth act," amid all the
consoling ministries around him, as little as I should at this moment;
though I may hope, that, as at the real ending of a play, however well
acted, I may already have had quite enough of it, and find a true
well-being in eternal sleep.

And precisely in this circumstance, that, consistently with the
function of youth in general, Cyrenaicism will always be more or [19]
less the special philosophy, or "prophecy," of the young, when the
ideal of a rich experience comes to them in the ripeness of the
receptive, if not of the reflective, powers--precisely in this
circumstance, if we rightly consider it, lies the duly prescribed
corrective of that philosophy.  For it is by its exclusiveness, and by
negation rather than positively, that such theories fail to satisfy us
permanently; and what they really need for their correction, is the
complementary influence of some greater system, in which they may find
their due place.  That Sturm und Drang of the spirit, as it has been
called, that ardent and special apprehension of half-truths, in the
enthusiastic, and as it were "prophetic" advocacy of which, devotion to
truth, in the case of the young--apprehending but one point at a time
in the great circumference--most usually embodies itself, is levelled
down, safely enough, afterwards, as in history so in the individual, by
the weakness and mere weariness, as well as by the maturer wisdom, of
our nature.  And though truth indeed, resides, as has been said, "in
the whole"--in harmonisings and adjustments like this--yet those
special apprehensions may still owe their full value, in this sense of
"the whole," to that earlier, one-sided but ardent pre-occupation with
them.

Cynicism and Cyrenaicism:--they are the earlier Greek forms of Roman
Stoicism and Epicureanism, and in that world of old Greek [20] thought,
we may notice with some surprise that, in a little while, the nobler
form of Cyrenaicism--Cyrenaicism cured of its faults--met the nobler
form of Cynicism half-way.  Starting from opposed points, they merged,
each in its most refined form, in a single ideal of temperance or
moderation.  Something of the same kind may be noticed regarding some
later phases of Cyrenaic theory.  If it starts with considerations
opposed to the religious temper, which the religious temper holds it a
duty to repress, it is like it, nevertheless, and very unlike any lower
development of temper, in its stress and earnestness, its serious
application to the pursuit of a very unworldly type of perfection.  The
saint, and the Cyrenaic lover of beauty, it may be thought, would at
least understand each other better than either would understand the
mere man of the world.  Carry their respective positions a point
further, shift the terms a little, and they might actually touch.

Perhaps all theories of practice tend, as they rise to their best, as
understood by their worthiest representatives, to identification with
each other.  For the variety of men's possible reflections on their
experience, as of that experience itself, is not really so great as it
seems; and as the highest and most disinterested ethical formulae,
filtering down into men's everyday existence, reach the same poor level
of vulgar egotism, so, we may fairly suppose that all the highest
spirits, from [21] whatever contrasted points they have started, would
yet be found to entertain, in the moral consciousness realised by
themselves, much the same kind of mental company; to hold, far more
than might be thought probable, at first sight, the same personal types
of character, and even the same artistic and literary types, in esteem
or aversion; to convey, all of them alike, the same savour of
unworldliness.  And Cyrenaicism or Epicureanism too, new or old, may be
noticed, in proportion to the completeness of its development, to
approach, as to the nobler form of Cynicism, so also to the more nobly
developed phases of the old, or traditional morality.  In the gravity
of its conception of life, in its pursuit after nothing less than a
perfection, in its apprehension of the value of time--the passion and
the seriousness which are like a consecration--la passion et le sérieux
qui consacrent--it may be conceived, as regards its main drift, to be
not so much opposed to the old morality, as an exaggeration of one
special motive in it.

Some cramping, narrowing, costly preference of one part of his own
nature, and of the nature of things, to another, Marius seemed to have
detected in himself, meantime,--in himself, as also in those old
masters of the Cyrenaic philosophy.  If they did realise the
monochronos hêdonê+ as it was called--the pleasure of the "Ideal
Now"--if certain moments of their lives were high-pitched, passionately
coloured, intent with sensation, [22] and a kind of knowledge which, in
its vivid clearness, was like sensation--if, now and then, they
apprehended the world in its fulness, and had a vision, almost
"beatific," of ideal personalities in life and art, yet these moments
were a very costly matter: they paid a great price for them, in the
sacrifice of a thousand possible sympathies, of things only to be
enjoyed through sympathy, from which they detached themselves, in
intellectual pride, in loyalty to a mere theory that would take nothing
for granted, and assent to no approximate or hypothetical truths.  In
their unfriendly, repellent attitude towards the Greek religion, and
the old Greek morality, surely, they had been but faulty economists.
The Greek religion was then alive: then, still more than in its later
day of dissolution, the higher view of it was possible, even for the
philosopher.  Its story made little or no demand for a reasoned or
formal acceptance.  A religion, which had grown through and through
man's life, with so much natural strength; had meant so much for so
many generations; which expressed so much of their hopes, in forms so
familiar and so winning; linked by associations so manifold to man as
he had been and was--a religion like this, one would think, might have
had its uses, even for a philosophic sceptic.  Yet those beautiful
gods, with the whole round of their poetic worship, the school of
Cyrene definitely renounced.

[23] The old Greek morality, again, with all its imperfections, was
certainly a comely thing.--Yes! a harmony, a music, in men's ways, one
might well hesitate to jar.  The merely aesthetic sense might have had
a legitimate satisfaction in the spectacle of that fair order of choice
manners, in those attractive conventions, enveloping, so gracefully,
the whole of life, insuring some sweetness, some security at least
against offence, in the intercourse of the world. Beyond an obvious
utility, it could claim, indeed but custom--use-and-wont, as we
say--for its sanction.  But then, one of the advantages of that liberty
of spirit among the Cyrenaics (in which, through theory, they had
become dead to theory, so that all theory, as such, was really
indifferent to them, and indeed nothing valuable but in its tangible
ministration to life) was precisely this, that it gave them free play
in using as their ministers or servants, things which, to the
uninitiated, must be masters or nothing.  Yet, how little the followers
of Aristippus made of that whole comely system of manners or morals,
then actually in possession of life, is shown by the bold practical
consequence, which one of them maintained (with a hard,
self-opinionated adherence to his peculiar theory of values) in the not
very amiable paradox that friendship and patriotism were things one
could do without; while another--Death's-advocate, as he was
called--helped so many to self-destruction, by his [24] pessimistic
eloquence on the evils of life, that his lecture-room was closed.  That
this was in the range of their consequences--that this was a possible,
if remote, deduction from the premisses of the discreet Aristippus--was
surely an inconsistency in a thinker who professed above all things an
economy of the moments of life.  And yet those old Cyrenaics felt their
way, as if in the dark, we may be sure, like other men in the ordinary
transactions of life, beyond the narrow limits they drew of clear and
absolutely legitimate knowledge, admitting what was not of immediate
sensation, and drawing upon that "fantastic" future which might never
come.  A little more of such "walking by faith," a little more of such
not unreasonable "assent," and they might have profited by a hundred
services to their culture, from Greek religion and Greek morality, as
they actually were.  The spectacle of their fierce, exclusive,
tenacious hold on their own narrow apprehension, makes one think of a
picture with no relief, no soft shadows nor breadth of space, or of a
drama without proportionate repose.

Yet it was of perfection that Marius (to return to him again from his
masters, his intellectual heirs) had been really thinking all the time:
a narrow perfection it might be objected, the perfection of but one
part of his nature--his capacities of feeling, of exquisite physical
impressions, of an imaginative sympathy--but still, a true perfection
of those capacities, wrought out [25] to their utmost degree, admirable
enough in its way.  He too is an economist: he hopes, by that "insight"
of which the old Cyrenaics made so much, by skilful apprehension of the
conditions of spiritual success as they really are, the special
circumstances of the occasion with which he has to deal, the special
felicities of his own nature, to make the most, in no mean or vulgar
sense, of the few years of life; few, indeed, for the attainment of
anything like general perfection!  With the brevity of that sum of
years his mind is exceptionally impressed; and this purpose makes him
no frivolous dilettante, but graver than other men: his scheme is not
that of a trifler, but rather of one who gives a meaning of his own,
yet a very real one, to those old words--Let us work while it is day!
He has a strong apprehension, also, of the beauty of the visible things
around him; their fading, momentary, graces and attractions.  His
natural susceptibility in this direction, enlarged by experience, seems
to demand of him an almost exclusive pre-occupation with the aspects of
things; with their aesthetic character, as it is called--their
revelations to the eye and the imagination: not so much because those
aspects of them yield him the largest amount of enjoyment, as because
to be occupied, in this way, with the aesthetic or imaginative side of
things, is to be in real contact with those elements of his own nature,
and of theirs, which, for him at [26] least, are matter of the most
real kind of apprehension.  As other men are concentrated upon truths
of number, for instance, or on business, or it may be on the pleasures
of appetite, so he is wholly bent on living in that full stream of
refined sensation.  And in the prosecution of this love of beauty, he
claims an entire personal liberty, liberty of heart and mind, liberty,
above all, from what may seem conventional answers to first questions.

But, without him there is a venerable system of sentiment and idea,
widely extended in time and place, in a kind of impregnable possession
of human life--a system, which, like some other great products of the
conjoint efforts of human mind through many generations, is rich in the
world's experience; so that, in attaching oneself to it, one lets in a
great tide of that experience, and makes, as it were with a single
step, a great experience of one's own, and with great consequent
increase to one's sense of colour, variety, and relief, in the
spectacle of men and things.  The mere sense that one belongs to a
system--an imperial system or organisation--has, in itself, the
expanding power of a great experience; as some have felt who have been
admitted from narrower sects into the communion of the catholic church;
or as the old Roman citizen felt.  It is, we might fancy, what the
coming into possession of a very widely spoken language might be, with
a great literature, which is also [27] the speech of the people we have
to live among.

A wonderful order, actually in possession of human life!--grown
inextricably through and through it; penetrating into its laws, its
very language, its mere habits of decorum, in a thousand half-conscious
ways; yet still felt to be, in part, an unfulfilled ideal; and, as
such, awakening hope, and an aim, identical with the one only
consistent aspiration of mankind!  In the apprehension of that, just
then, Marius seemed to have joined company once more with his own old
self; to have overtaken on the road the pilgrim who had come to Rome,
with absolute sincerity, on the search for perfection.  It defined not
so much a change of practice, as of sympathy--a new departure, an
expansion, of sympathy.  It involved, certainly, some curtailment of
his liberty, in concession to the actual manner, the distinctions, the
enactments of that great crowd of admirable spirits, who have elected
so, and not otherwise, in their conduct of life, and are not here to
give one, so to term it, an "indulgence."  But then, under the
supposition of their disapproval, no roses would ever seem worth
plucking again.  The authority they exercised was like that of classic
taste--an influence so subtle, yet so real, as defining the loyalty of
the scholar; or of some beautiful and venerable ritual, in which every
observance is become spontaneous and almost mechanical, yet is found,
[28] the more carefully one considers it, to have a reasonable
significance and a natural history.

And Marius saw that he would be but an inconsistent Cyrenaic, mistaken
in his estimate of values, of loss and gain, and untrue to the
well-considered economy of life which he had brought with him to
Rome--that some drops of the great cup would fall to the ground--if he
did not make that concession, if he did but remain just there.

NOTES

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



CHAPTER XVII: BEATA URBS


"Many prophets and kings have desired to see the things which ye see."

[29] THE enemy on the Danube was, indeed, but the vanguard of the
mighty invading hosts of the fifth century.  Illusively repressed just
now, those confused movements along the northern boundary of the Empire
were destined to unite triumphantly at last, in the barbarism, which,
powerless to destroy the Christian church, was yet to suppress for a
time the achieved culture of the pagan world.  The kingdom of Christ
was to grow up in a somewhat false alienation from the light and beauty
of the kingdom of nature, of the natural man, with a partly mistaken
tradition concerning it, and an incapacity, as it might almost seem at
times, for eventual reconciliation thereto. Meantime Italy had armed
itself once more, in haste, and the imperial brothers set forth for the
Alps.

Whatever misgiving the Roman people may [30] have felt as to the
leadership of the younger was unexpectedly set at rest; though with
some temporary regret for the loss of what had been, after all, a
popular figure on the world's stage.  Travelling fraternally in the
same litter with Aurelius, Lucius Verus was struck with sudden and
mysterious disease, and died as he hastened back to Rome.  His death
awoke a swarm of sinister rumours, to settle on Lucilla, jealous, it
was said, of Fabia her sister, perhaps of Faustina--on Faustina
herself, who had accompanied the imperial progress, and was anxious now
to hide a crime of her own--even on the elder brother, who, beforehand
with the treasonable designs of his colleague, should have helped him
at supper to a favourite morsel, cut with a knife poisoned ingeniously
on one side only.  Aurelius, certainly, with sincere distress, his long
irritations, so dutifully concealed or repressed, turning now into a
single feeling of regret for the human creature, carried the remains
back to Rome, and demanded of the Senate a public funeral, with a
decree for the apotheôsis, or canonisation, of the dead.

For three days the body lay in state in the Forum, enclosed in an open
coffin of cedar-wood, on a bed of ivory and gold, in the centre of a
sort of temporary chapel, representing the temple of his patroness
Venus Genetrix.  Armed soldiers kept watch around it, while choirs of
select voices relieved one another in the chanting of hymns or
monologues from the great tragedians.

[31] At the head of the couch were displayed the various personal
decorations which had belonged to Verus in life.  Like all the rest of
Rome, Marius went to gaze on the face he had seen last scarcely
disguised under the hood of a travelling-dress, as the wearer hurried,
at night-fall, along one of the streets below the palace, to some
amorous appointment.  Unfamiliar as he still was with dead faces, he
was taken by surprise, and touched far beyond what he had reckoned on,
by the piteous change there; even the skill of Galen having been not
wholly successful in the process of embalming.  It was as if a brother
of his own were lying low before him, with that meek and helpless
expression it would have been a sacrilege to treat rudely.

Meantime, in the centre of the Campus Martius, within the grove of
poplars which enclosed the space where the body of Augustus had been
burnt, the great funeral pyre, stuffed with shavings of various
aromatic woods, was built up in many stages, separated from each other
by a light entablature of woodwork, and adorned abundantly with carved
and tapestried images.  Upon this pyramidal or flame-shaped structure
lay the corpse, hidden now under a mountain of flowers and incense
brought by the women, who from the first had had their fondness for the
wanton graces of the deceased.  The dead body was surmounted by a waxen
effigy of great size, arrayed in the triumphal ornaments. [32] At last
the Centurions to whom that office belonged, drew near, torch in hand,
to ignite the pile at its four corners, while the soldiers, in wild
excitement, flung themselves around it, casting into the flames the
decorations they had received for acts of valour under the dead
emperor's command.

It had been a really heroic order, spoiled a little, at the last
moment, through the somewhat tawdry artifice, by which an eagle--not a
very noble or youthful specimen of its kind--was caused to take flight
amid the real or affected awe of the spectators, above the perishing
remains; a court chamberlain, according to ancient etiquette,
subsequently making official declaration before the Senate, that the
imperial "genius" had been seen in this way, escaping from the fire.
And Marius was present when the Fathers, duly certified of the fact, by
"acclamation," muttering their judgment all together, in a kind of low,
rhythmical chant, decreed Caelum--the privilege of divine rank to the
departed.

The actual gathering of the ashes in a white cere-cloth by the widowed
Lucilla, when the last flicker had been extinguished by drops of wine;
and the conveyance of them to the little cell, already populous, in the
central mass of the sepulchre of Hadrian, still in all the splendour of
its statued colonnades, were a matter of private or domestic duty;
after the due accomplishment of which Aurelius was at [33] liberty to
retire for a time into the privacy o his beloved apartments of the
Palatine.  And hither, not long afterwards, Marius was summoned a
second time, to receive from the imperial hands the great pile of
Manuscripts it would be his business to revise and arrange.

One year had passed since his first visit to the palace; and as he
climbed the stairs to-day, the great cypresses rocked against the
sunless sky, like living creatures in pain.  He had to traverse a long
subterranean gallery, once a secret entrance to the imperial
apartments, and in our own day, amid the ruin of all around it, as
smooth and fresh as if the carpets were but just removed from its floor
after the return of the emperor from the shows.  It was here, on such
an occasion, that the emperor Caligula, at the age of twenty-nine, had
come by his end, the assassins gliding along it as he lingered a few
moments longer to watch the movements of a party of noble youths at
their exercise in the courtyard below.  As Marius waited, a second
time, in that little red room in the house of the chief chamberlain,
curious to look once more upon its painted walls--the very place
whither the assassins were said to have turned for refuge after the
murder--he could all but see the figure, which in its surrounding light
and darkness seemed to him the most melancholy in the entire history of
Rome.  He called to mind the greatness of that popularity and early
[34] promise--the stupefying height of irresponsible power, from which,
after all, only men's viler side had been clearly visible--the
overthrow of  reason--the seemingly irredeemable memory; and still,
above all, the beautiful head in which the noble lines of the race of
Augustus were united to, he knew not what expression of  sensibility
and fineness, not theirs, and for the like of which one must pass
onward to the Antonines.  Popular hatred had been careful to destroy
its semblance wherever it was to be found; but one bust, in dark
bronze-like basalt of a wonderful perfection of finish, preserved in
the museum of the Capitol, may have seemed to some visitors there
perhaps the finest extant relic of Roman art.  Had the very seal of
empire upon those sombre brows, reflected from his mirror, suggested
his insane attempt upon the liberties, the dignity of men?--"O
humanity!" he seems to ask, "what hast thou done to me that I should so
despise thee?"--And might not this be indeed the true meaning of
kingship, if the world would have one man to reign over it?  The like
of this: or, some incredible, surely never to be realised, height of
disinterestedness, in a king who should be the servant of all, quite at
the other extreme of the practical dilemma involved in such a position.
Not till some while after his death had the body been decently interred
by the piety of the sisters he had driven into exile.  Fraternity [35]
of feeling had been no invariable feature in the incidents of Roman
story.  One long Vicus Sceleratus, from its first dim foundation in
fraternal quarrel on the morrow of a common deliverance so
touching--had not almost every step in it some gloomy memory of
unnatural violence?  Romans did well to fancy the traitress Tarpeia
still "green in earth," crowned, enthroned, at the roots of the
Capitoline rock.  If in truth the religion of Rome was everywhere in
it, like that perfume of the funeral incense still upon the air, so
also was the memory of crime prompted by a hypocritical cruelty, down
to the erring, or not erring, Vesta calmly buried alive there, only
eighty years ago, under Domitian.

It was with a sense of relief that Marius found himself in the presence
of Aurelius, whose gesture of friendly intelligence, as he entered,
raised a smile at the gloomy train of his own thoughts just then,
although since his first visit to the palace a great change had passed
over it.  The clear daylight found its way now into empty rooms.  To
raise funds for the war, Aurelius, his luxurious brother being no more,
had determined to sell by auction the accumulated treasures of the
imperial household.  The works of art, the dainty furniture, had been
removed, and were now "on view" in the Forum, to be the delight or
dismay, for many weeks to come, of the [36] large public of those who
were curious in these things.  In such wise had Aurelius come to the
condition of philosophic detachment he had affected as a boy, hardly
persuaded to wear warm clothing, or to sleep in more luxurious manner
than on the bare floor.  But, in his empty house, the man of mind, who
had always made so much of the pleasures of philosophic contemplation,
felt freer in thought than ever.  He had been reading, with less
self-reproach than usual, in the Republic of Plato, those passages
which describe the life of the philosopher-kings--like that of hired
servants in their own house--who, possessed of the "gold undefiled" of
intellectual vision, forgo so cheerfully all other riches.  It was one
of his happy days: one of those rare days, when, almost with none of
the effort, otherwise so constant with him, his thoughts came rich and
full, and converged in a mental view, as exhilarating to him as the
prospect of some wide expanse of landscape to another man's bodily eye.
He seemed to lie readier than was his wont to the imaginative influence
of the philosophic reason--to its suggestions of a possible open
country, commencing just where all actual experience leaves off, but
which experience, one's own and not another's, may one day occupy.  In
fact, he was seeking strength for himself, in his own way, before he
started for that ambiguous earthly warfare [37] which was to occupy the
remainder of his life.  "Ever remember this," he writes, "that a happy
life depends, not on many things--en oligistois keitai."+  And to-day,
committing himself with a steady effort of volition to the mere silence
of the great empty apartments, he might be said to have escaped,
according to Plato's promise to those who live closely with philosophy,
from the evils of the world.

In his "conversations with himself" Marcus Aurelius speaks often of
that City on high, of which all other cities are but single
habitations.  From him in fact Cornelius Fronto, in his late discourse,
had borrowed the expression; and he certainly meant by it more than the
whole commonwealth of Rome, in any idealisation of it, however sublime.
Incorporate somehow with the actual city whose goodly stones were lying
beneath his gaze, it was also implicate in that reasonable constitution
of nature, by devout contemplation of which it is possible for man to
associate himself to the consciousness of God.  In that New Rome he had
taken up his rest for awhile on this day, deliberately feeding his
thoughts on the better air of it, as another might have gone for mental
renewal to a favourite villa.

"Men seek retirement in country-houses," he writes, "on the sea-coast,
on the mountains; and you have yourself as much fondness for such
places as another.  But there is little proof of culture therein; since
the privilege is yours of [38] retiring into yourself whensoever you
please,--into that little farm of one's own mind, where a silence so
profound may be enjoyed."  That it could make these retreats, was a
plain consequence of the kingly prerogative of the mind, its dominion
over circumstance, its inherent liberty.--"It is in thy power to think
as thou wilt: The essence of things is in thy thoughts about them: All
is opinion, conception: No man can be hindered by another: What is
outside thy circle of thought is nothing at all to it; hold to this,
and you are safe: One thing is needful--to live close to the divine
genius within thee, and minister thereto worthily."  And the first
point in this true ministry, this culture, was to maintain one's soul
in a condition of indifference and calm. How continually had public
claims, the claims of other persons, with their rough angularities of
character, broken in upon him, the shepherd of the flock.  But after
all he had at least this privilege he could not part with, of thinking
as he would; and it was well, now and then, by a conscious effort of
will, to indulge it for a while, under systematic direction.  The duty
of thus making discreet, systematic use of the power of imaginative
vision for purposes of spiritual culture, "since the soul takes colour
from its fantasies," is a point he has frequently insisted on.

The influence of these seasonable meditations--a symbol, or sacrament,
because an intensified [39] condition, of the soul's own ordinary and
natural life--would remain upon it, perhaps for many days.  There were
experiences he could not forget, intuitions beyond price, he had come
by in this way, which were almost like the breaking of a physical light
upon his mind; as the great Augustus was said to have seen a mysterious
physical splendour, yonder, upon the summit of the Capitol, where the
altar of the Sibyl now stood.  With a prayer, therefore, for inward
quiet, for conformity to the divine reason, he read some select
passages of Plato, which bear upon the harmony of the reason, in all
its forms, with itself--"Could there be Cosmos, that wonderful,
reasonable order, in him, and nothing but disorder in the world
without?"  It was from this question he had passed on to the vision of
a reasonable, a divine, order, not in nature, but in the condition of
human affairs--that unseen Celestial City, Uranopolis, Callipolis, Urbs
Beata--in which, a consciousness of the divine will being everywhere
realised, there would be, among other felicitous differences from this
lower visible world, no more quite hopeless death, of men, or children,
or of their affections. He had tried to-day, as never before, to make
the most of this vision of a New Rome, to realise it as distinctly as
he could,--and, as it were, find his way along its streets, ere he went
down into a world so irksomely different, to make his practical effort
towards it, with a soul full of [40] compassion for men as they were.
However distinct the mental image might have been to him, with the
descent of but one flight of steps into the market-place below, it must
have retreated again, as if at touch of some malign magic wand, beyond
the utmost verge of the horizon.  But it had been actually, in his
clearest vision of it, a confused place, with but a recognisable entry,
a tower or fountain, here or there, and haunted by strange faces, whose
novel expression he, the great physiognomist, could by no means read.
Plato, indeed, had been able to articulate, to see, at least in
thought, his ideal city.  But just because Aurelius had passed beyond
Plato, in the scope of the gracious charities he pre-supposed there, he
had been unable really to track his way about it. Ah! after all,
according to Plato himself, all vision was but reminiscence, and this,
his heart's desire, no place his soul could ever have visited in any
region of the old world's achievements.  He had but divined, by a kind
of generosity of spirit, the void place, which another experience than
his must fill.

Yet Marius noted the wonderful expression of peace, of quiet pleasure,
on the countenance of Aurelius, as he received from him the rolls of
fine clear manuscript, fancying the thoughts of the emperor occupied at
the moment with the famous prospect towards the Alban hills, from those
lofty windows.

NOTES

37.  +Transliteration: en oligistois keitai.  Definition "it lies in
the fewest [things]."



CHAPTER XVIII: "THE CEREMONY OF THE DART"

[41] THE ideas of Stoicism, so precious to Marcus Aurelius, ideas of
large generalisation, have sometimes induced, in those over whose
intellects they have had real power, a coldness of heart.  It was the
distinction of Aurelius that he was able to harmonise them with the
kindness, one might almost say the amenities, of a humourist, as also
with the popular religion and its many gods.  Those vasty conceptions
of the later Greek philosophy had in them, in truth, the germ of a sort
of austerely opinionative "natural theology," and how often has that
led to religious dryness--a hard contempt of everything in religion,
which touches the senses, or charms the fancy, or really concerns the
affections.  Aurelius had made his own the secret of passing,
naturally, and with no violence to his thought, to and fro, between the
richly coloured and romantic religion of those old gods who had still
been human beings, and a very abstract speculation upon the impassive,
[42] universal soul--that circle whose centre is everywhere, the
circumference nowhere--of which a series of purely logical necessities
had evolved the formula.  As in many another instance, those
traditional pieties of the place and the hour had been derived by him
from his mother:--para tês mêtros to theosebes.+ Purified, as all such
religion of concrete time and place needs to be, by frequent
confronting with the ideal of godhead as revealed to that innate
religious sense in the possession of which Aurelius differed from the
people around him, it was the ground of many a sociability with their
simpler souls, and for himself, certainly, a consolation, whenever the
wings of his own soul flagged in the trying atmosphere of purely
intellectual vision.  A host of companions, guides, helpers, about him
from of old time, "the very court and company of heaven," objects for
him of personal reverence and affection--the supposed presence of the
ancient popular gods determined the character of much of his daily
life, and might prove the last stay of human nature at its weakest.
"In every time and place," he had said, "it rests with thyself to use
the event of the hour religiously: at all seasons worship the gods."
And when he said "Worship the gods!" he did it, as strenuously as
everything else.

Yet here again, how often must he have experienced disillusion, or even
some revolt of [43] feeling, at that contact with coarser natures to
which his religious conclusions exposed him.  At the beginning of the
year one hundred and seventy-three public anxiety was as great as ever;
and as before it brought people's superstition into unreserved play.
For seven days the images of the old gods, and some of the graver new
ones, lay solemnly exposed in the open air, arrayed in all their
ornaments, each in his separate resting-place, amid lights and burning
incense, while the crowd, following the imperial example, daily visited
them, with offerings of flowers to this or that particular divinity,
according to the devotion of each.

 But supplementing these older official observances, the very wildest
gods had their share of worship,--strange creatures with strange
secrets startled abroad into open daylight.  The delirious sort of
religion of which Marius was a spectator in the streets of Rome, during
the seven days of the Lectisternium, reminded him now and again of an
observation of Apuleius: it was "as if the presence of the gods did not
do men good, but disordered or weakened them."  Some jaded women of
fashion, especially, found in certain oriental devotions, at once
relief for their religiously tearful souls and an opportunity for
personal display; preferring this or that "mystery," chiefly because
the attire required in it was suitable to their peculiar manner of
beauty.  And one morning Marius  [44] encountered an extraordinary
crimson object, borne in a litter through an excited crowd--the famous
courtesan Benedicta, still fresh from the bath of blood, to which she
had submitted herself, sitting below the scaffold where the victims
provided for that purpose were slaughtered by the priests.  Even on the
last day of the solemnity, when the emperor himself performed one of
the oldest ceremonies of the Roman religion, this fantastic piety had
asserted itself.  There were victims enough certainly, brought from the
choice pastures of the Sabine mountains, and conducted around the city
they were to die for, in almost continuous procession, covered with
flowers and well-nigh worried to death before the time by the crowds of
people superstitiously pressing to touch them.  But certain
old-fashioned Romans, in these exceptional circumstances, demanded
something more than this, in the way of a human sacrifice after the
ancient pattern; as when, not so long since, some Greeks or Gauls had
been buried alive in the Forum. At least, human blood should be shed;
and it was through a wild multitude of fanatics, cutting their flesh
with knives and whips and licking up ardently the crimson stream, that
the emperor repaired to the temple of Bellona, and in solemn symbolic
act cast the bloodstained spear, or "dart," carefully preserved there,
towards the enemy's country-- [45] towards that unknown world of German
homes, still warm, as some believed under the faint northern twilight,
with those innocent affections of which Romans had lost the sense.  And
this at least was clear, amid all doubts of abstract right or wrong on
either side, that the ruin of those homes was involved in what Aurelius
was then preparing for, with,--Yes! the gods be thanked for that
achievement of an invigorating philosophy!--almost with a light heart.

 For, in truth, that departure, really so difficult to him, for which
Marcus Aurelius had needed to brace himself so strenuously, came to
test the power of a long-studied theory of practice; and it was the
development of this theory--a theôria, literally--a view, an intuition,
of the most important facts, and still more important possibilities,
concerning man in the world, that Marius now discovered, almost as if
by accident, below the dry surface of the manuscripts entrusted to him.
The great purple rolls contained, first of all, statistics, a general
historical account of the writer's own time, and an exact diary; all
alike, though in three different degrees of nearness to the writer's
own personal experience, laborious, formal, self-suppressing.  This was
for the instruction of the public; and part of it has, perhaps, found
its way into the Augustan Histories.  But it was for the especial
guidance of his son Commodus that he had permitted himself to break
out, here [46] and there, into reflections upon what was passing, into
conversations with the reader.  And then, as though he were put off his
guard in this way, there had escaped into the heavy matter-of-fact, of
which the main portion was composed, morsels of his conversation with
himself.  It was the romance of a soul (to be traced only in hints,
wayside notes, quotations from older masters), as it were in lifelong,
and often baffled search after some vanished or elusive golden fleece,
or Hesperidean fruit-trees, or some mysterious light of doctrine, ever
retreating before him.  A man, he had seemed to Marius from the first,
of two lives, as we say.  Of what nature, he had sometimes wondered, on
the day, for instance, when he had interrupted the emperor's musings in
the empty palace, might be that placid inward guest or inhabitant, who
from amid the pre-occupations of the man of practical affairs looked
out, as if surprised, at the things and faces around.  Here, then,
under the tame surface of what was meant for a life of business, Marius
discovered, welcoming a brother, the spontaneous self-revelation of a
soul as delicate as his own,--a soul for which conversation with itself
was a necessity of existence.  Marius, indeed, had always suspected
that the sense of such necessity was a peculiarity of his. But here,
certainly, was another, in this respect like himself; and again he
seemed to detect the advent of some [47] new or changed spirit into the
world, mystic, inward, hardly to be satisfied with that wholly external
and objective habit of life, which had been sufficient for the old
classic soul.  His purely literary curiosity was greatly stimulated by
this example of a book of self-portraiture. It was in fact the position
of the modern essayist,--creature of efforts rather than of
achievements, in the matter of apprehending truth, but at least
conscious of lights by the way, which he must needs record,
acknowledge.  What seemed to underlie that position was the desire to
make the most of every experience that might come, outwardly or from
within: to perpetuate, to display, what was so fleeting, in a kind of
instinctive, pathetic protest against the imperial writer's own
theory--that theory of the "perpetual flux" of all things--to Marius
himself, so plausible from of old.

 There was, besides, a special moral or doctrinal significance in the
making of such conversation with one's self at all.  The Logos, the
reasonable spark, in man, is common to him with the gods--koinos autô
pros tous theous+--cum diis communis.  That might seem but the truism
of a certain school of philosophy; but in Aurelius was clearly an
original and lively apprehension.  There could be no inward
conversation with one's self such as this, unless there were indeed
some one else, aware of our actual thoughts and feelings, pleased or
displeased at [48] one's disposition of one's self.  Cornelius Fronto
too could enounce that theory of the reasonable community between men
and God, in many different ways.  But then, he was a cheerful man, and
Aurelius a singularly sad one; and what to Fronto was but a doctrine,
or a motive of mere rhetoric, was to the other a consolation.  He walks
and talks, for a spiritual refreshment lacking which he would faint by
the way, with what to the learned professor is but matter of
philosophic eloquence.

In performing his public religious functions Marcus Aurelius had ever
seemed like one who took part in some great process, a great thing
really done, with more than the actually visible assistants about him.
Here, in these manuscripts, in a hundred marginal flowers of thought or
language, in happy new phrases of his own like the impromptus of an
actual conversation, in quotations from other older masters of the
inward life, taking new significance from the chances of such
intercourse, was the record of his communion with that eternal reason,
which was also his own proper self, with the divine companion, whose
tabernacle was in the intelligence of men--the journal of his daily
commerce with that.

Chance: or Providence!  Chance: or Wisdom, one with nature and man,
reaching from end to end, through all time and all existence, orderly
disposing all things, according to [49] fixed periods, as he describes
it, in terms very like certain well-known words of the book of
Wisdom:--those are the "fenced opposites" of the speculative dilemma,
the tragic embarras, of which Aurelius cannot too often remind himself
as the summary of man's situation in the world.  If there be, however,
a provident soul like this "behind the veil," truly, even to him, even
in the most intimate of those conversations, it has never yet spoken
with any quite irresistible assertion of its presence.  Yet one's
choice in that speculative dilemma, as he has found it, is on the whole
a matter of will.--"'Tis in thy power," here too, again, "to think as
thou wilt."  For his part he has asserted his will, and has the courage
of his opinion.  "To the better of two things, if thou findest that,
turn with thy whole heart: eat and drink ever of the best before thee."
"Wisdom," says that other disciple of the Sapiential philosophy, "hath
mingled Her wine, she hath also prepared Herself a table."  Tou aristou
apolaue:+ "Partake ever of Her best!"  And what Marius, peeping now
very closely upon the intimacies of that singular mind, found a thing
actually pathetic and affecting, was the manner of the writer's bearing
as in the presence of this supposed guest; so elusive, so jealous of
any palpable manifestation of himself, so taxing to one's faith, never
allowing one to lean frankly upon him and feel wholly at rest.  Only,
he [50] would do his part, at least, in maintaining the constant
fitness, the sweetness and quiet, of the guest-chamber. Seeming to vary
with the intellectual fortune of the hour, from the plainest account of
experience, to a sheer fantasy, only "believed because it was
impossible," that one hope was, at all events, sufficient to make men's
common pleasures and their common ambition, above all their commonest
vices, seem very petty indeed, too petty to know of.  It bred in him a
kind of magnificence of character, in the old Greek sense of the term;
a temper incompatible with any merely plausible advocacy of his
convictions, or merely superficial thoughts about anything whatever, or
talk about other people, or speculation as to what was passing in their
so visibly little souls, or much talking of any kind, however clever or
graceful.  A soul thus disposed had "already entered into the better
life":--was indeed in some sort "a priest, a minister of the gods."
Hence his constant "recollection"; a close watching of his soul, of a
kind almost unique in the ancient world.--Before all things examine
into thyself: strive to be at home with thyself!--Marius, a sympathetic
witness of all this, might almost seem to have had a foresight of
monasticism itself in the prophetic future.  With this mystic companion
he had gone a step onward out of the merely objective pagan existence.
Here was already a master in that craft of self-direction, which was
about to [51] play so large a part in the forming of human mind, under
the sanction of the Christian church.

Yet it was in truth a somewhat melancholy service, a service on which
one must needs move about, solemn, serious, depressed, with the hushed
footsteps of those who move about the house where a dead body is lying.
Such was the impression which occurred to Marius again and again as he
read, with a growing sense of some profound dissidence from his author.
By certain quite traceable links of association he was reminded, in
spite of the moral beauty of the philosophic emperor's ideas, how he
had sat, essentially unconcerned, at the public shows.  For, actually,
his contemplations had made him of a sad heart, inducing in him that
melancholy--Tristitia--which even the monastic moralists have held to
be of the nature of deadly sin, akin to the sin of Desidia or
Inactivity.  Resignation, a sombre resignation, a sad heart, patient
bearing of the burden of a sad heart:--Yes! this belonged doubtless to
the situation of an honest thinker upon the world.  Only, in this case
there seemed to be too much of a complacent acquiescence in the world
as it is.  And there could be no true Théodicé in that; no real
accommodation of the world as it is, to the divine pattern of the
Logos, the eternal reason, over against it.  It amounted to a tolerance
of evil.

     The soul of good, though it moveth upon a way thou canst but little
     understand, yet prospereth on the journey:

     [52] If thou sufferest nothing contrary to nature, there can be
     nought of evil with thee therein.

     If thou hast done aught in harmony with that reason in which men are
     communicant with the gods, there also can be nothing of evil with
     thee--nothing to be afraid of:

     Whatever is, is right; as from the hand of one dispensing to every
     man according to his desert:

     If reason fulfil its part in things, what more dost thou require?

     Dost thou take it ill that thy stature is but of four cubits?

     That which happeneth to each of us is for the profit of the whole.

     The profit of the whole,--that was sufficient!+

--Links, in a train of thought really generous! of which, nevertheless,
the forced and yet facile optimism, refusing to see evil anywhere,
might lack, after all, the secret of genuine cheerfulness.  It left in
truth a weight upon the spirits; and with that weight unlifted, there
could be no real justification of the ways of Heaven to man.  "Let
thine air be cheerful," he had said; and, with an effort, did himself
at times attain to that serenity of aspect, which surely ought to
accompany, as their outward flower and favour, hopeful assumptions like
those.  Still, what in Aurelius was but a passing expression, was with
Cornelius (Marius could but note the contrast) nature, and a veritable
physiognomy.  With Cornelius, in fact, it was nothing less than the joy
which Dante apprehended in the blessed spirits of the perfect, the
outward semblance of which, like a reflex of physical light upon human
faces from "the land which is very far off," we may trace from Giotto
onward to its consummation in the work of Raphael--the serenity, the
[53] durable cheerfulness, of those who have been indeed delivered from
death, and of which the utmost degree of that famed "blitheness "of the
Greeks had been but a transitory gleam, as in careless and wholly
superficial youth.  And yet, in Cornelius, it was certainly united with
the bold recognition of evil as a fact in the world; real as an aching
in the head or heart, which one instinctively desires to have cured; an
enemy with whom no terms could be made, visible, hatefully visible, in
a thousand forms--the apparent waste of men's gifts in an early, or
even in a late grave; the death, as such, of men, and even of animals;
the disease and pain of the body.

And there was another point of dissidence between Aurelius and his
reader.--The philosophic emperor was a despiser of the body.  Since it
is "the peculiar privilege of reason to move within herself, and to be
proof against corporeal impressions, suffering neither sensation nor
passion to break in upon her," it follows that the true interest of the
spirit must ever be to treat the body--Well! as a corpse attached
thereto, rather than as a living companion--nay, actually to promote
its dissolution.  In counterpoise to the inhumanity of this, presenting
itself to the young reader as nothing less than a sin against nature,
the very person of Cornelius was nothing less than a sanction of that
reverent delight Marius had always had in the visible body of man.
Such delight indeed had been but [54] a natural consequence of the
sensuous or materialistic character of the philosophy of his choice.
Now to Cornelius the body of man was unmistakeably, as a later seer
terms it, the one true temple in the world; or rather itself the proper
object of worship, of a sacred service, in which the very finest gold
might have its seemliness and due symbolic use:--Ah! and of what
awe-stricken pity also, in its dejection, in the perishing gray bones
of a poor man's grave!

Some flaw of vision, thought Marius, must be involved in the
philosopher's contempt for it--some diseased point of thought, or moral
dulness, leading logically to what seemed to him the strangest of all
the emperor's inhumanities, the temper of the suicide; for which there
was just then, indeed, a sort of mania in the world. "'Tis part of the
business of life," he read, "to lose it handsomely."  On due occasion,
"one might give life the slip."  The moral or mental powers might fail
one; and then it were a fair question, precisely, whether the time for
taking leave was not come:--"Thou canst leave this prison when thou
wilt.  Go forth boldly!" Just there, in the bare capacity to entertain
such question at all, there was what Marius, with a soul which must
always leap up in loyal gratitude for mere physical sunshine, touching
him as it touched the flies in the air, could not away with.  There,
surely, was a sign of some crookedness in the natural power of
apprehension.  It was the [55] attitude, the melancholy intellectual
attitude, of one who might be greatly mistaken in things--who might
make the greatest of mistakes.

A heart that could forget itself in the misfortune, or even in the
weakness of others:--of this Marius had certainly found the trace, as a
confidant of the emperor's conversations with himself, in spite of
those jarring inhumanities, of that pretension to a stoical
indifference, and the many difficulties of his manner of writing.  He
found it again not long afterwards, in still stronger evidence, in this
way.  As he read one morning early, there slipped from the rolls of
manuscript a sealed letter with the emperor's superscription, which
might well be of importance, and he felt bound to deliver it at once in
person; Aurelius being then absent from Rome in one of his favourite
retreats, at Praeneste, taking a few days of quiet with his young
children, before his departure for the war.  A whole day passed as
Marius crossed the Campagna on horseback, pleased by the random autumn
lights bringing out in the distance the sheep at pasture, the shepherds
in their picturesque dress, the golden elms, tower and villa; and it
was after dark that he mounted the steep street of the little hill-town
to the imperial residence.  He was struck by an odd mixture of
stillness and excitement about the place.  Lights burned at the
windows.  It seemed that numerous visitors were within, for the
courtyard was crowded with litters and horses [56] in waiting. For the
moment, indeed, all larger cares, even the cares of war, of late so
heavy a pressure, had been forgotten in what was passing with the
little Annius Verus; who for his part had forgotten his toys, lying all
day across the knees of his mother, as a mere child's ear-ache grew
rapidly to alarming sickness with great and manifest agony, only
suspended a little, from time to time, when from very weariness he
passed into a few moments of unconsciousness.  The country surgeon
called in, had removed the imposthume with the knife.  There had been a
great effort to bear this operation, for the terrified child, hardly
persuaded to submit himself, when his pain was at its worst, and even
more for the parents.  At length, amid a company of pupils pressing in
with him, as the custom was, to watch the proceedings in the sick-room,
the eminent Galen had arrived, only to pronounce the thing done visibly
useless, the patient falling now into longer intervals of delirium.
And thus, thrust on one side by the crowd of departing visitors, Marius
was forced into the privacy of a grief, the desolate face of which went
deep into his memory, as he saw the emperor carry the child away--quite
conscious at last, but with a touching expression upon it of weakness
and defeat--pressed close to his bosom, as if he yearned just then for
one thing only, to be united, to be absolutely one with it, in its
obscure distress.

NOTES

42. +Transliteration: para tês mêtros to theosebes.  Translation:
"rites deriving from [his] mother."

47. +Transliteration: koinos autô pros tous theous.  Translation:
"common to him together with the gods."

49. +Transliteration: Tou aristou apolaue.  Translation: "[Always] take
the best."

52. +Not indented in the original.



CHAPTER XIX: THE WILL AS VISION

     Paratum cor meum deus! paratum cor meum!

[57] THE emperor demanded a senatorial decree for the erection of
images in memory of the dead prince; that a golden one should be
carried, together with the other images, in the great procession of the
Circus, and the addition of the child's name to the Hymn of the Salian
Priests: and so, stifling private grief, without further delay set
forth for the war.

True kingship, as Plato, the old master of Aurelius, had understood it,
was essentially of the nature of a service.  If so be, you can discover
a mode of life more desirable than the being a king, for those who
shall be kings; then, the true Ideal of the State will become a
possibility; but not otherwise.  And if the life of Beatific Vision be
indeed possible, if philosophy really "concludes in an ecstasy,"
affording full fruition to the entire nature of man; then, for certain
elect souls at least, a mode of life will have been [58] discovered
more desirable than to be a king.  By love or fear you might induce
such persons to forgo their privilege; to take upon them the
distasteful task of governing other men, or even of leading them to
victory in battle.  But, by the very conditions of its tenure, their
dominion would be wholly a ministry to others: they would have taken
upon them-"the form of a servant": they would be reigning for the
well-being of others rather than their own.  The true king, the
righteous king, would be Saint Lewis, exiling himself from the better
land and its perfected company--so real a thing to him, definite and
real as the pictured scenes of his psalter--to take part in or to
arbitrate men's quarrels, about the transitory appearances of things.
In a lower degree (lower, in proportion as the highest Platonic dream
is lower than any Christian vision) the true king would be Marcus
Aurelius, drawn from the meditation of books, to be the ruler of the
Roman people in peace, and still more, in war.

To Aurelius, certainly, the philosophic mood, the visions, however dim,
which this mood brought with it, were sufficiently pleasant to him,
together with the endearments of his home, to make public rule nothing
less than a sacrifice of himself according to Plato's requirement, now
consummated in his setting forth for the campaign on the Danube.  That
it was such a sacrifice was to Marius visible fact, as he saw him [59]
ceremoniously lifted into the saddle amid all the pageantry of an
imperial departure, yet with the air less of a sanguine and
self-reliant leader than of one in some way or other already defeated.
Through the fortune of the subsequent years, passing and repassing so
inexplicably from side to side, the rumour of which reached him amid
his own quiet studies, Marius seemed always to see that central figure,
with its habitually dejected hue grown now to an expression of positive
suffering, all the stranger from its contrast with the magnificent
armour worn by the emperor on this occasion, as it had been worn by his
predecessor Hadrian.

     Totus et argento contextus et auro:

clothed in its gold and silver, dainty as that old divinely constructed
armour of which Homer tells, but without its miraculous
lightsomeness--he looked out baffled, labouring, moribund; a mere
comfortless shadow taking part in some shadowy reproduction of the
labours of Hercules, through those northern, mist-laden confines of the
civilised world.  It was as if the familiar soul which had been so
friendly disposed towards him were actually departed to Hades; and when
he read the Conversations afterwards, though his judgment of them
underwent no material change, it was nevertheless with the allowance we
make for the dead.  The memory of that suffering image, while it
certainly strengthened his adhesion [60] to what he could accept at all
in the philosophy of Aurelius, added a strange pathos to what must seem
the writer's mistakes.  What, after all, had been the meaning of that
incident, observed as so fortunate an omen long since, when the prince,
then a little child much younger than was usual, had stood in ceremony
among the priests of Mars and flung his crown of flowers with the rest
at the sacred image reclining on the Pulvinar?  The other crowns lodged
themselves here or there; when, Lo! the crown thrown by Aurelius, the
youngest of them all, alighted upon the very brows of the god, as if
placed there by a careful hand! He was still young, also, when on the
day of his adoption by Antoninus Pius he saw himself in a dream, with
as it were shoulders of ivory, like the images of the gods, and found
them more capable than shoulders of flesh.  Yet he was now well-nigh
fifty years of age, setting out with two-thirds of life behind him,
upon a labour which would fill the remainder of it with anxious
cares--a labour for which he had perhaps no capacity, and certainly no
taste.

That ancient suit of armour was almost the only object Aurelius now
possessed from all those much cherished articles of vertu collected by
the Caesars, making the imperial residence like a magnificent museum.
Not men alone were needed for the war, so that it became necessary, to
the great disgust alike of timid persons and of [61] the lovers of
sport, to arm the gladiators, but money also was lacking.  Accordingly,
at the sole motion of Aurelius himself, unwilling that the public
burden should be further increased, especially on the part of the poor,
the whole of the imperial ornaments and furniture, a sumptuous
collection of gems formed by Hadrian, with many works of the most
famous painters and sculptors, even the precious ornaments of the
emperor's chapel or Lararium, and the wardrobe of the empress Faustina,
who seems to have borne the loss without a murmur, were exposed for
public auction.  "These treasures," said Aurelius, "like all else that
I possess, belong by right to the Senate and People."  Was it not a
characteristic of the true kings in Plato that they had in their houses
nothing they could call their own?  Connoisseurs had a keen delight in
the mere reading of the Praetor's list of the property for sale.  For
two months the learned in these matters were daily occupied in the
appraising of the embroidered hangings, the choice articles of personal
use selected for preservation by each succeeding age, the great
outlandish pearls from Hadrian's favourite cabinet, the marvellous
plate lying safe behind the pretty iron wicker-work of the shops in the
goldsmiths' quarter.  Meantime ordinary persons might have an interest
in the inspection of objects which had been as daily companions to
people so far above and remote from them--things so fine also [62] in
workmanship and material as to seem, with their antique and delicate
air, a worthy survival of the grand bygone eras, like select thoughts
or utterances embodying the very spirit of the vanished past.  The town
became more pensive than ever over old fashions.

The welcome amusement of this last act of preparation for the great war
being now over, all Rome seemed to settle down into a singular quiet,
likely to last long, as though bent only on watching from afar the
languid, somewhat uneventful course of the contest itself. Marius took
advantage of it as an opportunity for still closer study than of old,
only now and then going out to one of his favourite spots on the Sabine
or Alban hills for a quiet even greater than that of Rome in the
country air.  On one of these occasions, as if by favour of an
invisible power withdrawing some unknown cause of dejection from around
him, he enjoyed a quite unusual sense of self-possession--the
possession of his own best and happiest self.  After some gloomy
thoughts over-night, he awoke under the full tide of the rising sun,
himself full, in his entire refreshment, of that almost religious
appreciation of sleep, the graciousness of its influence on men's
spirits, which had made the old Greeks conceive of it as a god. It was
like one of those old joyful wakings of childhood, now becoming rarer
and rarer with him, and looked back upon with much regret as a measure
of advancing age.  In fact, [63] the last bequest of this serene sleep
had been a dream, in which, as once before, he overheard those he loved
best pronouncing his name very pleasantly, as they passed through the
rich light and shadow of a summer morning, along the pavement of a
city--Ah! fairer far than Rome!  In a moment, as he arose, a certain
oppression of late setting very heavily upon him was lifted away, as
though by some physical motion in the air.

That flawless serenity, better than the most pleasurable excitement,
yet so easily ruffled by chance collision even with the things and
persons he had come to value as the greatest treasure in life, was to
be wholly his to-day, he thought, as he rode towards Tibur, under the
early sunshine; the marble of its villas glistening all the way before
him on the hillside.  And why could he not hold such serenity of spirit
ever at command? he asked, expert as he was at last become in the art
of setting the house of his thoughts in order.  "'Tis in thy power to
think as thou wilt:" he repeated to himself: it was the most
serviceable of all the lessons enforced on him by those imperial
conversations.--"'Tis in thy power to think as thou wilt."  And were
the cheerful, sociable, restorative beliefs, of which he had there read
so much, that bold adhesion, for instance, to the hypothesis of an
eternal friend to man, just hidden behind the veil of a mechanical and
material order, but only just behind it, [64] ready perhaps even now to
break through:--were they, after all, really a matter of choice,
dependent on some deliberate act of volition on his part? Were they
doctrines one might take for granted, generously take for granted, and
led on by them, at first as but well-defined objects of hope, come at
last into the region of a corresponding certitude of the intellect?
"It is the truth I seek," he had read, "the truth, by which no one,"
gray and depressing though it might seem, "was ever really injured."
And yet, on the other hand, the imperial wayfarer, he had been able to
go along with so far on his intellectual pilgrimage, let fall many
things concerning the practicability of a methodical and self-forced
assent to certain principles or presuppositions "one could not do
without."  Were there, as the expression "one could not do without"
seemed to hint, beliefs, without which life itself must be almost
impossible, principles which had their sufficient ground of evidence in
that very fact? Experience certainly taught that, as regarding the
sensible world he could attend or not, almost at will, to this or that
colour, this or that train of sounds, in the whole tumultuous concourse
of colour and sound, so it was also, for the well-trained intelligence,
in regard to that hum of voices which besiege the inward no less than
the outward ear.  Might it be not otherwise with those various and
competing hypotheses, the permissible hypotheses, which, [65] in that
open field for hypothesis--one's own actual ignorance of the origin and
tendency of our being--present themselves so importunately, some of
them with so emphatic a reiteration, through all the mental changes of
successive ages?  Might the will itself be an organ of knowledge, of
vision?

On this day truly no mysterious light, no irresistibly leading hand
from afar reached him; only the peculiarly tranquil influence of its
first hour increased steadily upon him, in a manner with which, as he
conceived, the aspects of the place he was then visiting had something
to do.  The air there, air supposed to possess the singular property of
restoring the whiteness of ivory, was pure and thin.  An even veil of
lawn-like white cloud had now drawn over the sky; and under its broad,
shadowless light every hue and tone of time came out upon the yellow
old temples, the elegant pillared circle of the shrine of the patronal
Sibyl, the houses seemingly of a piece with the ancient fundamental
rock.  Some half-conscious motive of poetic grace would appear to have
determined their grouping; in part resisting, partly going along with
the natural wildness and harshness of the place, its floods and
precipices.  An air of immense age possessed, above all, the vegetation
around--a world of evergreen trees--the olives especially, older than
how many generations of men's lives! fretted and twisted by the
combining forces of [66] life and death, into every conceivable caprice
of form.  In the windless weather all seemed to be listening to the
roar of the immemorial waterfall, plunging down so unassociably among
these human habitations, and with a motion so unchanging from age to
age as to count, even in this time-worn place, as an image of
unalterable rest. Yet the clear sky all but broke to let through the
ray which was silently quickening everything in the late February
afternoon, and the unseen violet refined itself through the air.  It
was as if the spirit of life in nature were but withholding any too
precipitate revelation of itself, in its slow, wise, maturing work.

Through some accident to the trappings of his horse at the inn where he
rested, Marius had an unexpected delay.  He sat down in an
olive-garden, and, all around him and within still turning to reverie,
the course of his own life hitherto seemed to withdraw itself into some
other world, disparted from this spectacular point where he was now
placed to survey it, like that distant road below, along which he had
travelled this morning across the Campagna.  Through a dreamy land he
could see himself moving, as if in another life, and like another
person, through all his fortunes and misfortunes, passing from point to
point, weeping, delighted, escaping from various dangers.  That
prospect brought him, first of all, an impulse of lively gratitude: it
was as if he must look round for some one [67] else to share his joy
with: for some one to whom he might tell the thing, for his own relief.
Companionship, indeed, familiarity with others, gifted in this way or
that, or at least pleasant to him, had been, through one or another
long span of it, the chief delight of the journey.  And was it only the
resultant general sense of such familiarity, diffused through his
memory, that in a while suggested the question whether there had not
been--besides Flavian, besides Cornelius even, and amid the solitude he
had which in spite of ardent friendship perhaps loved best of all
things--some other companion, an unfailing companion, ever at his side
throughout; doubling his pleasure in the roses by the way, patient of
his peevishness or depression, sympathetic above all with his grateful
recognition, onward from his earliest days, of the fact that he was
there at all?  Must not the whole world around have faded away for him
altogether, had he been left for one moment really alone in it?  In his
deepest apparent solitude there had been rich entertainment.  It was as
if there were not one only, but two wayfarers, side by side, visible
there across the plain, as he indulged his fancy.  A bird came and sang
among the wattled hedge-roses: an animal feeding crept nearer: the
child who kept it was gazing quietly: and the scene and the hours still
conspiring, he passed from that mere fantasy of a self not himself,
beside him in his coming and [68] going, to those divinations of a
living and companionable spirit at work in all things, of which he had
become aware from time to time in his old philosophic readings--in
Plato and others, last but not least, in Aurelius.  Through one
reflection upon another, he passed from such instinctive divinations,
to the thoughts which give them logical consistency, formulating at
last, as the necessary exponent of our own and the world's life, that
reasonable Ideal to which the Old Testament gives the name of Creator,
which for the philosophers of Greece is the Eternal Reason, and in the
New Testament the Father of Men--even as one builds up from act and
word and expression of the friend actually visible at one's side, an
ideal of the spirit within him.

In this peculiar and privileged hour, his bodily frame, as he could
recognise, although just then, in the whole sum of its capacities, so
entirely possessed by him--Nay! actually his very self--was yet
determined by a far-reaching system of material forces external to it,
a thousand combining currents from earth and sky.  Its seemingly active
powers of apprehension were, in fact, but susceptibilities to
influence.  The perfection of its capacity might be said to depend on
its passive surrender, as of a leaf on the wind, to the motions of the
great stream of physical energy without it.  And might not the
intellectual frame also, still [69] more intimately himself as in truth
it was, after the analogy of the bodily life, be a moment only, an
impulse or series of impulses, a single process, in an intellectual or
spiritual system external to it, diffused through all time and
place--that great stream of spiritual energy, of which his own
imperfect thoughts, yesterday or to-day, would be but the remote, and
therefore imperfect pulsations?  It was the hypothesis (boldest, though
in reality the most conceivable of all hypotheses) which had dawned on
the contemplations of the two opposed great masters of the old Greek
thought, alike:--the "World of Ideas," existent only because, and in so
far as, they are known, as Plato conceived; the "creative,
incorruptible, informing mind," supposed by Aristotle, so sober-minded,
yet as regards this matter left something of a mystic after all.  Might
not this entire material world, the very scene around him, the
immemorial rocks, the firm marble, the olive-gardens, the falling
water, be themselves but reflections in, or a creation of, that one
indefectible mind, wherein he too became conscious, for an hour, a day,
for so many years?  Upon what other hypothesis could he so well
understand the persistency of all these things for his own intermittent
consciousness of them, for the intermittent consciousness of so many
generations, fleeting away one after another?  It was easier to
conceive of the material fabric of things as [70] but an element in a
world of thought--as a thought in a mind, than of mind as an element,
or accident, or passing condition in a world of matter, because mind
was really nearer to himself: it was an explanation of what was less
known by what was known better.  The purely material world, that close,
impassable prison-wall, seemed just then the unreal thing, to be
actually dissolving away all around him: and he felt a quiet hope, a
quiet joy dawning faintly, in the dawning of this doctrine upon him as
a really credible opinion.  It was like the break of day over some vast
prospect with the "new city," as it were some celestial New Rome, in
the midst of it.  That divine companion figured no longer as but an
occasional wayfarer beside him; but rather as the unfailing
"assistant," without whose inspiration and concurrence he could not
breathe or see, instrumenting his bodily senses, rounding, supporting
his imperfect thoughts.  How often had the thought of their brevity
spoiled for him the most natural pleasures of life, confusing even his
present sense of them by the suggestion of disease, of death, of a
coming end, in everything!  How had he longed, sometimes, that there
were indeed one to whose boundless power of memory he could commit his
own most fortunate moments, his admiration, his love, Ay! the very
sorrows of which he could not bear quite to lose the sense:--one strong
to retain them even though [71] he forgot, in whose more vigorous
consciousness they might subsist for ever, beyond that mere quickening
of capacity which was all that remained of them in himself!  "Oh! that
they might live before Thee"--To-day at least, in the peculiar
clearness of one privileged hour, he seemed to have apprehended that in
which the experiences he valued most might find, one by one, an
abiding-place.  And again, the resultant sense of companionship, of a
person beside him, evoked the faculty of conscience--of conscience, as
of old and when he had been at his best, in the form, not of fear, nor
of self-reproach even, but of a certain lively gratitude.

Himself--his sensations and ideas--never fell again precisely into
focus as on that day, yet he was the richer by its experience.  But for
once only to have come under the power of that peculiar mood, to have
felt the train of reflections which belong to it really forcible and
conclusive, to have been led by them to a conclusion, to have
apprehended the Great Ideal, so palpably that it defined personal
gratitude and the sense of a friendly hand laid upon him amid the
shadows of the world, left this one particular hour a marked point in
life never to be forgotten.  It gave him a definitely ascertained
measure of his moral or intellectual need, of the demand his soul must
make upon the powers, whatsoever they might be, which [72] had brought
him, as he was, into the world at all.  And again, would he be faithful
to himself, to his own habits of mind, his leading suppositions, if he
did but remain just there?  Must not all that remained of life be but a
search for the equivalent of that Ideal, among so-called actual
things--a gathering together of every trace or token of it, which his
actual experience might present?



PART THE FOURTH


CHAPTER XX: TWO CURIOUS HOUSES

I. GUESTS

      "Your old men shall dream dreams."+

[75] A NATURE like that of Marius, composed, in about equal parts, of
instincts almost physical, and of slowly accumulated intellectual
judgments, was perhaps even less susceptible than other men's
characters of essential change.  And yet the experience of that
fortunate hour, seeming to gather into one central act of vision all
the deeper impressions his mind had ever received, did not leave him
quite as he had been.  For his mental view, at least, it changed
measurably the world about him, of which he was still indeed a curious
spectator, but which looked further off, was weaker in its hold, and,
in a sense, less real to him than ever.  It was as if he viewed it
through a diminishing glass.  And the permanency of this change he
could note, some years later, when it [76] happened that he was a guest
at a feast, in which the various exciting elements of Roman life, its
physical and intellectual accomplishments, its frivolity and
far-fetched elegances, its strange, mystic essays after the unseen,
were elaborately combined.  The great Apuleius, the literary ideal of
his boyhood, had arrived in Rome,--was now visiting Tusculum, at the
house of their common friend, a certain aristocratic poet who loved
every sort of superiorities; and Marius was favoured with an invitation
to a supper given in his honour.

It was with a feeling of half-humorous concession to his own early
boyish hero-worship, yet with some sense of superiority in himself,
seeing his old curiosity grown now almost to indifference when on the
point of satisfaction at last, and upon a juster estimate of its
object, that he mounted to the little town on the hillside, the
foot-ways of which were so many flights of easy-going steps gathered
round a single great house under shadow of the "haunted" ruins of
Cicero's villa on the wooded heights.  He found a touch of weirdness in
the circumstance that in so romantic a place he had been bidden to meet
the writer who was come to seem almost like one of the personages in
his own fiction.  As he turned now and then to gaze at the evening
scene through the tall narrow openings of the street, up which the
cattle were going home slowly from the [77] pastures below, the Alban
mountains, stretched between the great walls of the ancient houses,
seemed close at hand--a screen of vaporous dun purple against the
setting sun--with those waves of surpassing softness in the boundary
lines which indicate volcanic formation.  The coolness of the little
brown market-place, for profit of which even the working-people, in
long file through the olive-gardens, were leaving the plain for the
night, was grateful, after the heats of Rome.  Those wild country
figures, clad in every kind of fantastic patchwork, stained by wind and
weather fortunately enough for the eye, under that significant light
inclined him to poetry.  And it was a very delicate poetry of its kind
that seemed to enfold him, as passing into the poet's house he paused
for a moment to glance back towards the heights above; whereupon, the
numerous cascades of the precipitous garden of the villa, framed in the
doorway of the hall, fell into a harmless picture, in its place among
the pictures within, and scarcely more real than they--a
landscape-piece, in which the power of water (plunging into what unseen
depths!) done to the life, was pleasant, and without its natural
terrors.

At the further end of this bland apartment, fragrant with the rare
woods of the old inlaid panelling, the falling of aromatic oil from the
ready-lighted lamps, the iris-root clinging to the dresses of the
guests, as with odours from the [78] altars of the gods, the
supper-table was spread, in all the daintiness characteristic of the
agreeable petit-maître, who entertained.  He was already most carefully
dressed, but, like Martial's Stella, perhaps consciously, meant to
change his attire once and again during the banquet; in the last
instance, for an ancient vesture (object of much rivalry among the
young men of fashion, at that great sale of the imperial wardrobes) a
toga, of altogether lost hue and texture.  He wore it with a grace
which became the leader of a thrilling movement then on foot for the
restoration of that disused garment, in which, laying aside the
customary evening dress, all the visitors were requested to appear,
setting off the delicate sinuosities and well-disposed "golden ways" of
its folds, with harmoniously tinted flowers.  The opulent sunset,
blending pleasantly with artificial light, fell across the quiet
ancestral effigies of old consular dignitaries, along the wide floor
strewn with sawdust of sandal-wood, and lost itself in the heap of cool
coronals, lying ready for the foreheads of the guests on a sideboard of
old citron.  The crystal vessels darkened with old wine, the hues of
the early autumn fruit--mulberries, pomegranates, and grapes that had
long been hanging under careful protection upon the vines, were almost
as much a feast for the eye, as the dusky fires of the rare
twelve-petalled roses.  A favourite animal, white as snow, brought by
one of the visitors, purred its way [79] gracefully among the
wine-cups, coaxed onward from place to place by those at table, as they
reclined easily on their cushions of German eider-down, spread over the
long-legged, carved couches.

A highly refined modification of the acroama--a musical performance
during supper for the diversion of the guests--was presently heard
hovering round the place, soothingly, and so unobtrusively that the
company could not guess, and did not like to ask, whether or not it had
been designed by their entertainer.  They inclined on the whole to
think it some wonderful peasant-music peculiar to that wild
neighbourhood, turning, as it did now and then, to a solitary
reed-note, like a bird's, while it wandered into the distance.  It
wandered quite away at last, as darkness with a bolder lamplight came
on, and made way for another sort of entertainment.  An odd, rapid,
phantasmal glitter, advancing from the garden by torchlight, defined
itself, as it came nearer, into a dance of young men in armour. Arrived
at length in a portico, open to the supper-chamber, they contrived that
their mechanical march-movement should fall out into a kind of highly
expressive dramatic action; and with the utmost possible emphasis of
dumb motion, their long swords weaving a silvery network in the air,
they danced the Death of Paris.  The young Commodus, already an adept
in these matters, who had condescended to [80] welcome the eminent
Apuleius at the banquet, had mysteriously dropped from his place to
take his share in the performance; and at its conclusion reappeared,
still wearing the dainty accoutrements of Paris, including a
breastplate, composed entirely of overlapping tigers' claws, skilfully
gilt.  The youthful prince had lately assumed the dress of manhood, on
the return of the emperor for a brief visit from the North; putting up
his hair, in imitation of Nero, in a golden box dedicated to Capitoline
Jupiter.  His likeness to Aurelius, his father, was become, in
consequence, more striking than ever; and he had one source of genuine
interest in the great literary guest of the occasion, in that the
latter was the fortunate possessor of a monopoly for the exhibition of
wild beasts and gladiatorial shows in the province of Carthage, where
he resided.

Still, after all complaisance to the perhaps somewhat crude tastes of
the emperor's son, it was felt that with a guest like Apuleius whom
they had come prepared to entertain as veritable connoisseurs, the
conversation should be learned and superior, and the host at last
deftly led his company round to literature, by the way of bindings.
Elegant rolls of manuscript from his fine library of ancient Greek
books passed from hand to hand about the table.  It was a sign for the
visitors themselves to draw their own choicest literary curiosities
from their bags, as their contribution to the banquet; and one of them,
a [81] famous reader, choosing his lucky moment, delivered in tenor
voice the piece which follows, with a preliminary query as to whether
it could indeed be the composition of Lucian of Samosata,+ understood
to be the great mocker of that day:--

"What sound was that, Socrates?" asked Chaerephon.  "It came from the
beach under the cliff yonder, and seemed a long way off.--And how
melodious it was!  Was it a bird, I wonder.  I thought all sea-birds
were songless."

"Aye! a sea-bird," answered Socrates, "a bird called the Halcyon, and
has a note full of plaining and tears.  There is an old story people
tell of it.  It was a mortal woman once, daughter of Aeolus, god of the
winds.  Ceyx, the son of the morning-star, wedded her in her early
maidenhood.  The son was not less fair than the father; and when it
came to pass that he died, the crying of the girl as she lamented his
sweet usage, was, Just that!  And some while after, as Heaven willed,
she was changed into a bird.  Floating now on bird's wings over the sea
she seeks her lost Ceyx there; since she was not able to find him after
long wandering over the land."

"That then is the Halcyon--the kingfisher," said Chaerephon.  "I never
heard a bird like it before.  It has truly a plaintive note. What kind
of a bird is it, Socrates?"

"Not a large bird, though she has received [82] large honour from the
gods on account of her singular conjugal affection.  For whensoever she
makes her nest, a law of nature brings round what is called Halcyon's
weather,--days distinguishable among all others for their serenity,
though they come sometimes amid the storms of winter--days like to-day!
See how transparent is the sky above us, and how motionless the
sea!--like a smooth mirror."

True!  A Halcyon day, indeed! and yesterday was the same.  But tell me,
Socrates, what is one to think of those stories which have been told
from the beginning, of birds changed into mortals and mortals into
birds?  To me nothing seems more incredible."

"Dear Chaerephon," said Socrates, "methinks we are but half-blind
judges of the impossible and the possible.  We try the question by the
standard of our human faculty, which avails neither for true knowledge,
nor for faith, nor vision.  Therefore many things seem to us impossible
which are really easy, many things unattainable which are within our
reach; partly through inexperience, partly through the childishness of
our minds.  For in truth, every man, even the oldest of us, is like a
little child, so brief and babyish are the years of our life in
comparison of eternity.  Then, how can we, who comprehend not the
faculties of gods and of the heavenly host, tell whether aught of that
kind be possible or no?--What a tempest you saw [83] three days ago!
One trembles but to think of the lightning, the thunderclaps, the
violence of the wind!  You might have thought the whole world was going
to ruin.  And then, after a little, came this wonderful serenity of
weather, which has continued till to-day. Which do you think the
greater and more difficult thing to do: to exchange the disorder of
that irresistible whirlwind to a clarity like this, and becalm the
whole world again, or to refashion the form of a woman into that of a
bird?  We can teach even little children to do something of that
sort,--to take wax or clay, and mould out of the same material many
kinds of form, one after another, without difficulty.  And it may be
that to the Deity, whose power is too vast for comparison with ours,
all processes of that kind are manageable and easy.  How much wider is
the whole circle of heaven than thyself?--Wider than thou canst express.

"Among ourselves also, how vast the difference we may observe in men's
degrees of power!  To you and me, and many another like us, many things
are impossible which are quite easy to others.  For those who are
unmusical, to play on the flute; to read or write, for those who have
not yet learned; is no easier than to make birds of women, or women of
birds.  From the dumb and lifeless egg Nature moulds her swarms of
winged creatures, aided, as some will have it, by a divine and secret
[84] art in the wide air around us.  She takes from the honeycomb a
little memberless live thing; she brings it wings and feet, brightens
and beautifies it with quaint variety of colour:--and Lo! the bee in
her wisdom, making honey worthy of the gods.

"It follows, that we mortals, being altogether of little account, able
wholly to discern no great matter, sometimes not even a little one, for
the most part at a loss regarding what happens even with ourselves, may
hardly speak with security as to what may be the powers of the immortal
gods concerning Kingfisher, or Nightingale. Yet the glory of thy
mythus, as my fathers bequeathed it to me, O tearful songstress! that
will I too hand on to my children, and tell it often to my wives,
Xanthippe and Myrto:--the story of thy pious love to Ceyx, and of thy
melodious hymns; and, above all, of the honour thou hast with the gods!"

The reader's well-turned periods seemed to stimulate, almost
uncontrollably, the eloquent stirrings of the eminent man of letters
then present.  The impulse to speak masterfully was visible, before the
recital was well over, in the moving lines about his mouth, by no means
designed, as detractors were wont to say, simply to display the beauty
of his teeth.  One of the company, expert in his humours, made ready to
transcribe what he would say, the sort of [85] things of which a
collection was then forming, the "Florida" or Flowers, so to call them,
he was apt to let fall by the way--no impromptu ventures at random; but
rather elaborate, carved ivories of speech, drawn, at length, out of
the rich treasure-house of a memory stored with such, and as with a
fine savour of old musk about them.  Certainly in this case, as Marius
thought, it was worth while to hear a charming writer speak.
Discussing, quite in our modern way, the peculiarities of those
suburban views, especially the sea-views, of which he was a professed
lover, he was also every inch a priest of Aesculapius, patronal god of
Carthage.  There was a piquancy in his rococo, very African, and as it
were perfumed personality, though he was now well-nigh sixty years old,
a mixture there of that sort of Platonic spiritualism which can speak
of the soul of man as but a sojourner m the prison of the body--a
blending of that with such a relish for merely bodily graces as availed
to set the fashion in matters of dress, deportment, accent, and the
like, nay! with something also which reminded Marius of the vein of
coarseness he had found in the "Golden Book."  All this made the total
impression he conveyed a very uncommon one.  Marius did not wonder, as
he watched him speaking, that people freely attributed to him many of
the marvellous adventures he had recounted in that famous romance, [86]
over and above the wildest version of his own actual story--his
extraordinary marriage, his religious initiations, his acts of mad
generosity, his trial as a sorcerer.

But a sign came from the imperial prince that it was time for the
company to separate.  He was entertaining his immediate neighbours at
the table with a trick from the streets; tossing his olives in rapid
succession into the air, and catching them, as they fell, between his
lips.  His dexterity in this performance made the mirth around him
noisy, disturbing the sleep of the furry visitor: the learned party
broke up; and Marius withdrew, glad to escape into the open air.  The
courtesans in their large wigs of false blond hair, were lurking for
the guests, with groups of curious idlers.  A great conflagration was
visible in the distance.  Was it in Rome; or in one of the villages of
the country?  Pausing for a few minutes on the terrace to watch it,
Marius was for the first time able to converse intimately with
Apuleius; and in this moment of confidence the "illuminist," himself
with locks so carefully arranged, and seemingly so full of
affectations, almost like one of those light women there, dropped a
veil as it were, and appeared, though still permitting the play of a
certain element of theatrical interest in his bizarre tenets, to be
ready to explain and defend his position reasonably.  For a moment his
fantastic foppishness and his pretensions to ideal [87] vision seemed
to fall into some intelligible congruity with each other.  In truth, it
was the Platonic Idealism, as he conceived it, which for him literally
animated, and gave him so lively an interest in, this world of the
purely outward aspects of men and things.--Did material things, such
things as they had had around them all that evening, really need
apology for being there, to interest one, at all?  Were not all visible
objects--the whole material world indeed, according to the consistent
testimony of philosophy in many forms--"full of souls"? embarrassed
perhaps, partly imprisoned, but still eloquent souls?  Certainly, the
contemplative philosophy of Plato, with its figurative imagery and
apologue, its manifold aesthetic colouring, its measured eloquence, its
music for the outward ear, had been, like Plato's old master himself, a
two-sided or two-coloured thing. Apuleius was a Platonist: only, for
him, the Ideas of Plato were no creatures of logical abstraction, but
in very truth informing souls, in every type and variety of sensible
things.  Those noises in the house all supper-time, sounding through
the tables and along the walls:--were they only startings in the old
rafters, at the impact of the music and laughter; or rather
importunities of the secondary selves, the true unseen selves, of the
persons, nay! of the very things around, essaying to break through
their frivolous, merely transitory surfaces, to remind one of abiding
essentials beyond them, [88] which might have their say, their judgment
to give, by and by, when the shifting of the meats and drinks at life's
table would be over?  And was not this the true significance of the
Platonic doctrine?--a hierarchy of divine beings, associating
themselves with particular things and places, for the purpose of
mediating between God and man--man, who does but need due attention on
his part to become aware of his celestial company, filling the air
about him, thick as motes in the sunbeam, for the glance of sympathetic
intelligence he casts through it.

"Two kinds there are, of animated beings," he exclaimed: "Gods,
entirely differing from men in the infinite distance of their abode,
since one part of them only is seen by our blunted vision--those
mysterious stars!--in the eternity of their existence, in the
perfection of their nature, infected by no contact with ourselves: and
men, dwelling on the earth, with frivolous and anxious minds, with
infirm and mortal members, with variable fortunes; labouring in vain;
taken altogether and in their whole species perhaps, eternal; but,
severally, quitting the scene in irresistible succession.

"What then?  Has nature connected itself together by no bond, allowed
itself to be thus crippled, and split into the divine and human
elements?  And you will say to me: If so it be, that man is thus
entirely exiled from the immortal gods, that all communication is
denied [89] him, that not one of them occasionally visits us, as a
shepherd his sheep--to whom shall I address my prayers?  Whom, shall I
invoke as the helper of the unfortunate, the protector of the good?

"Well! there are certain divine powers of a middle nature, through whom
our aspirations are conveyed to the gods, and theirs to us. Passing
between the inhabitants of earth and heaven, they carry from one to the
other prayers and bounties, supplication and assistance, being a kind
of interpreters.  This interval of the air is full of them!  Through
them, all revelations, miracles, magic processes, are effected.  For,
specially appointed members of this order have their special provinces,
with a ministry according to the disposition of each.  They go to and
fro without fixed habitation: or dwell in men's houses"--

Just then a companion's hand laid in the darkness on the shoulder of
the speaker carried him away, and the discourse broke off suddenly. Its
singular intimations, however, were sufficient to throw back on this
strange evening, in all its detail--the dance, the readings, the
distant fire--a kind of allegoric expression: gave it the character of
one of those famous Platonic figures or apologues which had then been
in fact under discussion.  When Marius recalled its circumstances he
seemed to hear once more that voice of genuine conviction, pleading,
from amidst a [90] scene at best of elegant frivolity, for so boldly
mystical a view of man and his position in the world.  For a moment,
but only for a moment, as he listened, the trees had seemed, as of old,
to be growing "close against the sky." Yes! the reception of theory, of
hypothesis, of beliefs, did depend a great deal on temperament.  They
were, so to speak, mere equivalents of temperament.  A celestial
ladder, a ladder from heaven to earth: that was the assumption which
the experience of Apuleius had suggested to him: it was what, in
different forms, certain persons in every age had instinctively
supposed: they would be glad to find their supposition accredited by
the authority of a grave philosophy. Marius, however, yearning not less
than they, in that hard world of Rome, and below its unpeopled sky, for
the trace of some celestial wing across it, must still object that they
assumed the thing with too much facility, too much of self-complacency.
And his second thought was, that to indulge but for an hour fantasies,
fantastic visions of that sort, only left the actual world more lonely
than ever.  For him certainly, and for his solace, the little godship
for whom the rude countryman, an unconscious Platonist, trimmed his
twinkling lamp, would never slip from the bark of these immemorial
olive-trees.--No! not even in the wildest moonlight.  For himself, it
was clear, he must still hold by what his eyes really saw.  Only, he
had to concede also, that [91] the very boldness of such theory bore
witness, at least, to a variety of human disposition and a consequent
variety of mental view, which might--who can tell?--be correspondent
to, be defined by and define, varieties of facts, of truths, just
"behind the veil," regarding the world all alike had actually before
them as their original premiss or starting-point; a world, wider,
perhaps, in its possibilities than all possible fancies concerning it.

NOTES

75. Joel 2.28.

81. +Halcyone.



CHAPTER XXI: TWO CURIOUS HOUSES

II.  THE CHURCH IN CECILIA'S HOUSE

     "Your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see
     visions."

[92] CORNELIUS had certain friends in or near Rome, whose household, to
Marius, as he pondered now and again what might be the determining
influences of that peculiar character, presented itself as possibly its
main secret--the hidden source from which the beauty and strength of a
nature, so persistently fresh in the midst of a somewhat jaded world,
might be derived.  But Marius had never yet seen these friends; and it
was almost by accident that the veil of reserve was at last lifted,
and, with strange contrast to his visit to the poet's villa at
Tusculum, he entered another curious house.

"The house in which she lives," says that mystical German writer quoted
once before, "is for the orderly soul, which does not live on [93]
blindly before her, but is ever, out of her passing experiences,
building and adorning the parts of a many-roomed abode for herself,
only an expansion of the body; as the body, according to the philosophy
of Swedenborg,+ is but a process, an expansion, of the soul.  For such
an orderly soul, as life proceeds, all sorts of delicate affinities
establish themselves, between herself and the doors and passage-ways,
the lights and shadows, of her outward dwelling-place, until she may
seem incorporate with it--until at last, in the entire expressiveness
of what is outward, there is for her, to speak properly, between
outward and inward, no longer any distinction at all; and the light
which creeps at a particular hour on a particular picture or space upon
the wall, the scent of flowers in the air at a particular window,
become to her, not so much apprehended objects, as themselves powers of
apprehension and door-ways to things beyond--the germ or rudiment of
certain new faculties, by which she, dimly yet surely, apprehends a
matter lying beyond her actually attained capacities of spirit and
sense."

So it must needs be in a world which is itself, we may think, together
with that bodily "tent" or "tabernacle," only one of many vestures for
the clothing of the pilgrim soul, to be left by her, surely, as if on
the wayside, worn-out one by one, as it was from her, indeed, they
borrowed what momentary value or significance they had.

[94] The two friends were returning to Rome from a visit to a
country-house, where again a mixed company of guests had been
assembled; Marius, for his part, a little weary of gossip, and those
sparks of ill-tempered rivalry, which would seem sometimes to be the
only sort of fire the intercourse of people in general society can
strike out of them.  A mere reaction upon this, as they started in the
clear morning, made their companionship, at least for one of them,
hardly less tranquillising than the solitude he so much valued.
Something in the south-west wind, combining with their own intention,
favoured increasingly, as the hours wore on, a serenity like that
Marius had felt once before in journeying over the great plain towards
Tibur--a serenity that was to-day brotherly amity also, and seemed to
draw into its own charmed circle whatever was then present to eye or
ear, while they talked or were silent together, and all petty
irritations, and the like, shrank out of existence, or kept certainly
beyond its limits.  The natural fatigue of the long journey overcame
them quite suddenly at last, when they were still about two miles
distant from Rome.  The seemingly endless line of tombs and cypresses
had been visible for hours against the sky towards the west; and it was
just where a cross-road from the Latin Way fell into the Appian, that
Cornelius halted at a doorway in a long, low wall--the outer wall of
some villa courtyard, it might be supposed-- [95] as if at liberty to
enter, and rest there awhile.  He held the door open for his companion
to enter also, if he would; with an expression, as he lifted the latch,
which seemed to ask Marius, apparently shrinking from a possible
intrusion: "Would you like to see it?"  Was he willing to look upon
that, the seeing of which might define--yes! define the critical
turning-point in his days?

The little doorway in this long, low wall admitted them, in fact, into
the court or garden of a villa, disposed in one of those abrupt natural
hollows, which give its character to the country in this place; the
house itself, with all its dependent buildings, the spaciousness of
which surprised Marius as he entered, being thus wholly concealed from
passengers along the road.  All around, in those well-ordered
precincts, were the quiet signs of wealth, and of a noble taste--a
taste, indeed, chiefly evidenced in the selection and juxtaposition of
the material it had to deal with, consisting almost exclusively of the
remains of older art, here arranged and harmonised, with effects, both
as regards colour and form, so delicate as to seem really derivative
from some finer intelligence in these matters than lay within the
resources of the ancient world.  It was the old way of true
Renaissance--being indeed the way of nature with her roses, the divine
way with the body of man, perhaps with his soul--conceiving the new
organism by no sudden and [96] abrupt creation, but rather by the
action of a new principle upon elements, all of which had in truth
already lived and died many times.  The fragments of older
architecture, the mosaics, the spiral columns, the precious
corner-stones of immemorial building, had put on, by such
juxtaposition, a new and singular expressiveness, an air of grave
thought, of an intellectual purpose, in itself, aesthetically, very
seductive.  Lastly, herb and tree had taken possession, spreading their
seed-bells and light branches, just astir in the trembling air, above
the ancient garden-wall, against the wide realms of sunset. And from
the first they could hear singing, the singing of children mainly, it
would seem, and of a new kind; so novel indeed in its effect, as to
bring suddenly to the recollection of Marius, Flavian's early essays
towards a new world of poetic sound.  It was the expression not
altogether of mirth, yet of some wonderful sort of happiness--the
blithe self-expansion of a joyful soul in people upon whom some
all-subduing experience had wrought heroically, and who still
remembered, on this bland afternoon, the hour of a great deliverance.

His old native susceptibility to the spirit, the special sympathies, of
places,--above all, to any hieratic or religious significance they
might have,--was at its liveliest, as Marius, still encompassed by that
peculiar singing, and still amid the evidences of a grave discretion
all around him, passed into the house.  That intelligent seriousness
[97] about life, the absence of which had ever seemed to remove those
who lacked it into some strange species wholly alien from himself,
accumulating all the lessons of his experience since those first days
at White-nights, was as it were translated here, as if in designed
congruity with his favourite precepts of the power of physical vision,
into an actual picture.  If the true value of souls is in proportion to
what they can admire, Marius was just then an acceptable soul.  As he
passed through the various chambers, great and small, one dominant
thought increased upon him, the thought of chaste women and their
children--of all the various affections of family life under its most
natural conditions, yet developed, as if in devout imitation of some
sublime new type of it, into large controlling passions.  There reigned
throughout, an order and purity, an orderly disposition, as if by way
of making ready for some gracious spousals.  The place itself was like
a bride adorned for her husband; and its singular cheerfulness, the
abundant light everywhere, the sense of peaceful industry, of which he
received a deep impression though without precisely reckoning wherein
it resided, as he moved on rapidly, were in forcible contrast just at
first to the place to which he was next conducted by Cornelius still
with a sort of eager, hurried, half-troubled reluctance, and as if he
forbore the explanation which might well be looked for by his companion.

[98] An old flower-garden in the rear of the house, set here and there
with a venerable olive-tree--a picture in pensive shade and fiery
blossom, as transparent, under that afternoon light, as the old
miniature-painters' work on the walls of the chambers within--was
bounded towards the west by a low, grass-grown hill.  A narrow opening
cut in its steep side, like a solid blackness there, admitted Marius
and his gleaming leader into a hollow cavern or crypt, neither more nor
less in fact than the family burial-place of the Cecilii, to whom this
residence belonged, brought thus, after an arrangement then becoming
not unusual, into immediate connexion with the abode of the living, in
bold assertion of that instinct of family life, which the sanction of
the Holy Family was, hereafter, more and more to reinforce.  Here, in
truth, was the centre of the peculiar religious expressiveness, of the
sanctity, of the entire scene.  That "any person may, at his own
election, constitute the place which belongs to him a religious place,
by the carrying of his dead into it":--had been a maxim of old Roman
law, which it was reserved for the early Christian societies, like that
established here by the piety of a wealthy Roman matron, to realise in
all its consequences.  Yet this was certainly unlike any cemetery
Marius had ever before seen; most obviously in this, that these people
had returned to the older fashion of disposing of [99] their dead by
burial instead of burning. Originally a family sepulchre, it was
growing to a vast necropolis, a whole township of the deceased, by
means of some free expansion of the family interest beyond its amplest
natural limits.  That air of venerable beauty which characterised the
house and its precincts above, was maintained also here.  It was
certainly with a great outlay of labour that these long, apparently
endless, yet elaborately designed galleries, were increasing so
rapidly, with their layers of beds or berths, one above another, cut,
on either side the path-way, in the porous tufa, through which all the
moisture filters downwards, leaving the parts above dry and wholesome.
All alike were carefully closed, and with all the delicate costliness
at command; some with simple tiles of baked clay, many with slabs of
marble, enriched by fair inscriptions: marble taken, in some cases,
from older pagan tombs--the inscription sometimes a palimpsest, the new
epitaph being woven into the faded letters of an earlier one.

As in an ordinary Roman cemetery, an abundance of utensils for the
worship or commemoration of the departed was disposed around--incense,
lights, flowers, their flame or their freshness being relieved to the
utmost by contrast with the coal-like blackness of the soil itself, a
volcanic sandstone, cinder of burnt-out fires. Would they ever kindle
again?--possess, transform, the place?--Turning to an [100] ashen
pallor where, at regular intervals, an air-hole or luminare let in a
hard beam of clear but sunless light, with the heavy sleepers, row upon
row within, leaving a passage so narrow that only one visitor at a time
could move along, cheek to cheek with them, the high walls seemed to
shut one in into the great company of the dead.  Only the long straight
pathway lay before him; opening, however, here and there, into a small
chamber, around a broad, table-like coffin or "altar-tomb," adorned
even more profusely than the rest as if for some anniversary
observance.  Clearly, these people, concurring in this with the special
sympathies of Marius himself, had adopted the practice of burial from
some peculiar feeling of hope they entertained concerning the body; a
feeling which, in no irreverent curiosity, he would fain have
penetrated.  The complete and irreparable disappearance of the dead in
the funeral fire, so crushing to the spirits, as he for one had found
it, had long since induced in him a preference for that other mode of
settlement to the last sleep, as having something about it more
home-like and hopeful, at least in outward seeming.  But whence the
strange confidence that these "handfuls of white dust" would hereafter
recompose themselves once more into exulting human creatures?  By what
heavenly alchemy, what reviving dew from above, such as was certainly
never again to reach the dead violets?-- [101] Januarius, Agapetus,
Felicitas; Martyrs! refresh, I pray you, the soul of Cecil, of
Cornelius! said an inscription, one of many, scratched, like a passing
sigh, when it was still fresh in the mortar that had closed up the
prison-door. All critical estimate of this bold hope, as sincere
apparently as it was audacious in its claim, being set aside, here at
least, carried further than ever before, was that pious, systematic
commemoration of the dead, which, in its chivalrous refusal to forget
or finally desert the helpless, had ever counted with Marius as the
central exponent or symbol of all natural duty.

 The stern soul of the excellent Jonathan Edwards, applying the
faulty theology of John Calvin, afforded him, we know, the vision of
infants not a span long, on the floor of hell.  Every visitor to the
Catacombs must have observed, in a very different theological
connexion, the numerous children's graves there--beds of infants, but a
span long indeed, lowly "prisoners of hope," on these sacred floors.
It was with great curiosity, certainly, that Marius considered them,
decked in some instances with the favourite toys of their tiny
occupants--toy-soldiers, little chariot-wheels, the entire
paraphernalia of a baby-house; and when he saw afterwards the living
children, who sang and were busy above--sang their psalm Laudate Pueri
Dominum!--their very faces caught for him a sort of quaint unreality
from the memory [102] of those others, the children of the Catacombs,
but a little way below them.

Here and there, mingling with the record of merely natural decease, and
sometimes even at these children's graves, were the signs of violent
death or "martyrdom,"--proofs that some "had loved not their lives unto
the death"--in the little red phial of blood, the palm-branch, the red
flowers for their heavenly "birthday."  About one sepulchre in
particular, distinguished in this way, and devoutly arrayed for what,
by a bold paradox, was thus treated as, natalitia--a birthday, the
peculiar arrangements of the whole place visibly centered.  And it was
with a singular novelty of feeling, like the dawning of a fresh order
of experiences upon him, that, standing beside those mournful relics,
snatched in haste from the common place of execution not many years
before, Marius became, as by some gleam of foresight, aware of the
whole force of evidence for a certain strange, new hope, defining in
its turn some new and weighty motive of action, which lay in deaths so
tragic for the "Christian superstition."  Something of them he had
heard indeed already.  They had seemed to him but one savagery the
more, savagery self-provoked, in a cruel and stupid world.

And yet these poignant memorials seemed also to draw him onwards
to-day, as if towards an image of some still more pathetic suffering,
[103] in the remote background.  Yes! the interest, the expression, of
the entire neighbourhood was instinct with it, as with the savour of
some priceless incense.  Penetrating the whole atmosphere, touching
everything around with its peculiar sentiment, it seemed to make all
this visible mortality, death's very self--Ah! lovelier than any fable
of old mythology had ever thought to render it, in the utmost limits of
fantasy; and this, in simple candour of feeling about a supposed fact.
Peace! Pax tecum!--the word, the thought--was put forth everywhere,
with images of hope, snatched sometimes from that jaded pagan world
which had really afforded men so little of it from first to last; the
various consoling images it had thrown off, of succour, of
regeneration, of escape from the grave--Hercules wrestling with Death
for possession of Alcestis, Orpheus taming the wild beasts, the
Shepherd with his sheep, the Shepherd carrying the sick lamb upon his
shoulders.  Yet these imageries after all, it must be confessed, formed
but a slight contribution to the dominant effect of tranquil hope
there--a kind of heroic cheerfulness and grateful expansion of heart,
as with the sense, again, of some real deliverance, which seemed to
deepen the longer one lingered through these strange and awful
passages.  A figure, partly pagan in character, yet most frequently
repeated of all these visible parables--the figure of one just [104]
escaped from the sea, still clinging as for life to the shore in
surprised joy, together with the inscription beneath it, seemed best to
express the prevailing sentiment of the place.  And it was just as he
had puzzled out this inscription--

     I went down to the bottom of the mountains.
     The earth with her bars was about me for ever:
     Yet hast Thou brought up my life from corruption!

--that with no feeling of suddenness or change Marius found himself
emerging again, like a later mystic traveller through similar dark
places "quieted by hope," into the daylight.

They were still within the precincts of the house, still in possession
of that wonderful singing, although almost in the open country, with a
great view of the Campagna before them, and the hills beyond.  The
orchard or meadow, through which their path lay, was already gray with
twilight, though the western sky, where the greater stars were visible,
was still afloat in crimson splendour.  The colour of all earthly
things seemed repressed by the contrast, yet with a sense of great
richness lingering in their shadows.  At that moment the voice of the
singers, a "voice of joy and health," concentrated itself with solemn
antistrophic movement, into an evening, or "candle" hymn.

     "Hail!  Heavenly Light, from his pure glory poured,
     Who is the Almighty Father, heavenly, blest:--
     Worthiest art Thou, at all times to be sung
     With undefiled tongue."--

[105] It was like the evening itself made audible, its hopes and fears,
with the stars shining in the midst of it.  Half above, half below the
level white mist, dividing the light from the darkness, came now the
mistress of this place, the wealthy Roman matron, left early a widow a
few years before, by Cecilius "Confessor and Saint." With a certain
antique severity in the gathering of the long mantle, and with coif or
veil folded decorously below the chin, "gray within gray," to the mind
of Marius her temperate beauty brought reminiscences of the serious and
virile character of the best female statuary of Greece.  Quite foreign,
however, to any Greek statuary was the expression of pathetic care,
with which she carried a little child at rest in her arms.  Another, a
year or two older, walked beside, the fingers of one hand within her
girdle.  She paused for a moment with a greeting for Cornelius.

That visionary scene was the close, the fitting close, of the
afternoon's strange experiences.  A few minutes later, passing forward
on his way along the public road, he could have fancied it a dream.
The house of Cecilia grouped itself beside that other curious house he
had lately visited at Tusculum.  And what a contrast was presented by
the former, in its suggestions of hopeful industry, of immaculate
cleanness, of responsive affection!--all alike determined by that
transporting discovery of some fact, or series [106] of facts, in which
the old puzzle of life had found its solution.  In truth, one of his
most characteristic and constant traits had ever been a certain longing
for escape--for some sudden, relieving interchange, across the very
spaces of life, it might be, along which he had lingered most
pleasantly--for a lifting, from time to time, of the actual horizon.
It was like the necessity under which the painter finds himself, to set
a window or open doorway in the background of his picture; or like a
sick man's longing for northern coolness, and the whispering
willow-trees, amid the breathless evergreen forests of the south.  To
some such effect had this visit occurred to him, and through so slight
an accident.  Rome and Roman life, just then, were come to seem like
some stifling forest of bronze-work, transformed, as if by malign
enchantment, out of the generations of living trees, yet with roots in
a deep, down-trodden soil of poignant human susceptibilities.  In the
midst of its suffocation, that old longing for escape had been
satisfied by this vision of the church in Cecilia's house, as never
before.  It was still, indeed, according to the unchangeable law of his
temperament, to the eye, to the visual faculty of mind, that those
experiences appealed--the peaceful light and shade, the boys whose very
faces seemed to sing, the virginal beauty of the mother and her
children. But, in his case, what was thus visible constituted a moral
[107] or spiritual influence, of a somewhat exigent and controlling
character, added anew to life, a new element therein, with which,
consistently with his own chosen maxim, he must make terms.

The thirst for every kind of experience, encouraged by a philosophy
which taught that nothing was intrinsically great or small, good or
evil, had ever been at strife in him with a hieratic refinement, in
which the boy-priest survived, prompting always the selection of what
was perfect of its kind, with subsequent loyal adherence of his soul
thereto.  This had carried him along in a continuous communion with
ideals, certainly realised in part, either in the conditions of his own
being, or in the actual company about him, above all, in Cornelius.
Surely, in this strange new society he had touched upon for the first
time to-day--in this strange family, like "a garden enclosed"--was the
fulfilment of all the preferences, the judgments, of that
half-understood friend, which of late years had been his protection so
often amid the perplexities of life.  Here, it might be, was, if not
the cure, yet the solace or anodyne of his great sorrows--of that
constitutional sorrowfulness, not peculiar to himself perhaps, but
which had made his life certainly like one long "disease of the
spirit."  Merciful intention made itself known remedially here, in the
mere contact of the air, like a soft touch upon aching [108] flesh.  On
the other hand, he was aware that new responsibilities also might be
awakened--new and untried responsibilities--a demand for something from
him in return.  Might this new vision, like the malignant beauty of
pagan Medusa, be exclusive of any admiring gaze upon anything but
itself?  At least he suspected that, after the beholding of it, he
could never again be altogether as he had been before.

NOTES

93. +Emanuel Swedenborg, Swedish mystic writer, 1688-1772.  Return.



CHAPTER XXII: "THE MINOR PEACE OF THE CHURCH"

[109] FAITHFUL to the spirit of his early Epicurean philosophy and the
impulse to surrender himself, in perfectly liberal inquiry about it, to
anything that, as a matter of fact, attracted or impressed him
strongly, Marius informed himself with much pains concerning the church
in Cecilia's house; inclining at first to explain the peculiarities of
that place by the establishment there of the schola or common hall of
one of those burial-guilds, which then covered so much of the
unofficial, and, as it might be called, subterranean enterprise of
Roman society.

And what he found, thus looking, literally, for the dead among the
living, was the vision of a natural, a scrupulously natural, love,
transforming, by some new gift of insight into the truth of human
relationships, and under the urgency of some new motive by him so far
unfathomable, all the conditions of life.  He saw, in all its primitive
freshness and amid the lively facts of its actual coming into the
world, as a reality of [110] experience, that regenerate type of
humanity, which, centuries later, Giotto and his successors, down to
the best and purest days of the young Raphael, working under conditions
very friendly to the imagination, were to conceive as an artistic
ideal.  He felt there, felt amid the stirring of some wonderful new
hope within himself, the genius, the unique power of Christianity; in
exercise then, as it has been exercised ever since, in spite of many
hindrances, and under the most inopportune circumstances.
Chastity,--as he seemed to understand--the chastity of men and women,
amid all the conditions, and with the results, proper to such chastity,
is the most beautiful thing in the world and the truest conservation of
that creative energy by which men and women were first brought into it.
The nature of the family, for which the better genius of old Rome
itself had sincerely cared, of the family and its appropriate
affections--all that love of one's kindred by which obviously one does
triumph in some degree over death--had never been so felt before.
Here, surely! in its genial warmth, its jealous exclusion of all that
was opposed to it, to its own immaculate naturalness, in the hedge set
around the sacred thing on every side, this development of the family
did but carry forward, and give effect to, the purposes, the kindness,
of nature itself, friendly to man.  As if by way of a due recognition
of some immeasurable divine condescension manifest in a [111] certain
historic fact, its influence was felt more especially at those points
which demanded some sacrifice of one's self, for the weak, for the
aged, for little children, and even for the dead.  And then, for its
constant outward token, its significant manner or index, it issued in a
certain debonair grace, and a certain mystic attractiveness, a
courtesy, which made Marius doubt whether that famed Greek
"blitheness," or gaiety, or grace, in the handling of life, had been,
after all, an unrivalled success.  Contrasting with the incurable
insipidity even of what was most exquisite in the higher Roman life, of
what was still truest to the primitive soul of goodness amid its evil,
the new creation he now looked on--as it were a picture beyond the
craft of any master of old pagan beauty--had indeed all the appropriate
freshness of a "bride adorned for her husband."  Things new and old
seemed to be coming as if out of some goodly treasure-house, the brain
full of science, the heart rich with various sentiment, possessing
withal this surprising healthfulness, this reality of heart.

"You would hardly believe," writes Pliny,--to his own wife!--"what a
longing for you possesses me.  Habit--that we have not been used to be
apart--adds herein to the primary force of affection.  It is this keeps
me awake at night fancying I see you beside me.  That is why my feet
take me unconsciously to your sitting-room at those hours when I was
wont to [112] visit you there.  That is why I turn from the door of the
empty chamber, sad and ill-at-ease, like an excluded lover."--

There, is a real idyll from that family life, the protection of which
had been the motive of so large a part of the religion of the Romans,
still surviving among them; as it survived also in Aurelius, his
disposition and aims, and, spite of slanderous tongues, in the attained
sweetness of his interior life.  What Marius had been permitted to see
was a realisation of such life higher still: and with--Yes! with a more
effective sanction and motive than it had ever possessed before, in
that fact, or series of facts, to be ascertained by those who would.

The central glory of the reign of the Antonines was that society had
attained in it, though very imperfectly, and for the most part by
cumbrous effort of law, many of those ends to which Christianity went
straight, with the sufficiency, the success, of a direct and
appropriate instinct.  Pagan Rome, too, had its touching
charity-sermons on occasions of great public distress; its
charity-children in long file, in memory of the elder empress Faustina;
its prototype, under patronage of Aesculapius, of the modern hospital
for the sick on the island of Saint Bartholomew.  But what pagan
charity was doing tardily, and as if with the painful calculation of
old age, the church was doing, almost without thinking about it, with
all the liberal [113] enterprise of youth, because it was her very
being thus to do.  "You fail to realise your own good intentions," she
seems to say, to pagan virtue, pagan kindness.  She identified herself
with those intentions and advanced them with an unparalleled freedom
and largeness.  The gentle Seneca would have reverent burial provided
even for the dead body of a criminal.  Yet when a certain woman
collected for interment the insulted remains of Nero, the pagan world
surmised that she must be a Christian: only a Christian would have been
likely to conceive so chivalrous a devotion towards mere wretchedness.
"We refuse to be witnesses even of a homicide commanded by the law,"
boasts the dainty conscience of a Christian apologist, "we take no part
in your cruel sports nor in the spectacles of the amphitheatre, and we
hold that to witness a murder is the same thing as to commit one."  And
there was another duty almost forgotten, the sense of which Rousseau
brought back to the degenerate society of a later age.  In an
impassioned discourse the sophist Favorinus counsels mothers to suckle
their own infants; and there are Roman epitaphs erected to mothers,
which gratefully record this proof of natural affection as a thing then
unusual.  In this matter too, what a sanction, what a provocative to
natural duty, lay in that image discovered to Augustus by the Tiburtine
Sibyl, amid the aurora of a new age, the image of the Divine Mother and
the [114] Child, just then rising upon the world like the dawn!

Christian belief, again, had presented itself as a great inspirer of
chastity.  Chastity, in turn, realised in the whole scope of its
conditions, fortified that rehabilitation of peaceful labour, after the
mind, the pattern, of the workman of Galilee, which was another of the
natural instincts of the catholic church, as being indeed the
long-desired initiator of a religion of cheerfulness, as a true lover
of the industry--so to term it--the labour, the creation, of God.

And this severe yet genial assertion of the ideal of woman, of the
family, of industry, of man's work in life, so close to the truth of
nature, was also, in that charmed hour of the minor "Peace of the
church," realised as an influence tending to beauty, to the adornment
of life and the world.  The sword in the world, the right eye plucked
out, the right hand cut off, the spirit of reproach which those images
express, and of which monasticism is the fulfilment, reflect one side
only of the nature of the divine missionary of the New Testament.
Opposed to, yet blent with, this ascetic or militant character, is the
function of the Good Shepherd, serene, blithe and debonair, beyond the
gentlest shepherd of Greek mythology; of a king under whom the beatific
vision is realised of a reign of peace--peace of heart--among men.
Such aspect of the divine character of Christ, rightly understood,
[115] is indeed the final consummation of that bold and brilliant
hopefulness in man's nature, which had sustained him so far through his
immense labours, his immense sorrows, and of which pagan gaiety in the
handling of life, is but a minor achievement.  Sometimes one, sometimes
the other, of those two contrasted aspects of its Founder, have, in
different ages and under the urgency of different human needs, been at
work also in the Christian Church.  Certainly, in that brief "Peace of
the church" under the Antonines, the spirit of a pastoral security and
happiness seems to have been largely expanded.  There, in the early
church of Rome, was to be seen, and on sufficiently reasonable grounds,
that satisfaction and serenity on a dispassionate survey of the facts
of life, which all hearts had desired, though for the most part in
vain, contrasting itself for Marius, in particular, very forcibly, with
the imperial philosopher's so heavy burden of unrelieved melancholy.
It was Christianity in its humanity, or even its humanism, in its
generous hopes for man, its common sense and alacrity of cheerful
service, its sympathy with all creatures, its appreciation of beauty
and daylight.

"The angel of righteousness," says the Shepherd of Hermas, the most
characteristic religious book of that age, its Pilgrim's Progress--"the
angel of righteousness is modest and delicate and meek and quiet.  Take
from thyself grief, for (as Hamlet will one day discover) 'tis the
sister [116] of doubt and ill-temper.  Grief is more evil than any
other spirit of evil, and is most dreadful to the servants of God, and
beyond all spirits destroyeth man.  For, as when good news is come to
one in grief, straightway he forgetteth his former grief, and no longer
attendeth to anything except the good news which he hath heard, so do
ye, also! having received a renewal of your soul through the beholding
of these good things.  Put on therefore gladness that hath always
favour before God, and is acceptable unto Him, and delight thyself in
it; for every man that is glad doeth the things that are good, and
thinketh good thoughts, despising grief."--Such were the commonplaces
of this new people, among whom so much of what Marius had valued most
in the old world seemed to be under renewal and further promotion.
Some transforming spirit was at work to harmonise contrasts, to deepen
expression--a spirit which, in its dealing with the elements of ancient
life, was guided by a wonderful tact of selection, exclusion,
juxtaposition, begetting thereby a unique effect of freshness, a grave
yet wholesome beauty, because the world of sense, the whole outward
world was understood to set forth the veritable unction and royalty of
a certain priesthood and kingship of the soul within, among the
prerogatives of which was a delightful sense of freedom.

The reader may think perhaps, that Marius, who, Epicurean as he was,
had his visionary [117] aptitudes, by an inversion of one of Plato's
peculiarities with which he was of course familiar, must have
descended, by foresight, upon a later age than his own, and anticipated
Christian poetry and art as they came to be under the influence of
Saint Francis of Assisi.  But if he dreamed on one of those nights of
the beautiful house of Cecilia, its lights and flowers, of Cecilia
herself moving among the lilies, with an enhanced grace as happens
sometimes in healthy dreams, it was indeed hardly an anticipation.  He
had lighted, by one of the peculiar intellectual good-fortunes of his
life, upon a period when, even more than in the days of austere ascêsis
which had preceded and were to follow it, the church was true for a
moment, truer perhaps than she would ever be again, to that element of
profound serenity in the soul of her Founder, which reflected the
eternal goodwill of God to man, "in whom," according to the oldest
version of the angelic message, "He is well-pleased."

For what Christianity did many centuries afterwards in the way of
informing an art, a poetry, of graver and higher beauty, we may think,
than that of Greek art and poetry at their best, was in truth
conformable to the original tendency of its genius.  The genuine
capacity of the catholic church in this direction, discoverable from
the first in the New Testament, was also really at work, in that
earlier "Peace," under [118] the Antonines--the minor "Peace of the
church," as we might call it, in distinction from the final "Peace of
the church," commonly so called, under Constantine.  Saint Francis,
with his following in the sphere of poetry and of the arts--the voice
of Dante, the hand of Giotto--giving visible feature and colour, and a
palpable place among men, to the regenerate race, did but re-establish
a continuity, only suspended in part by those troublous intervening
centuries--the "dark ages," properly thus named--with the gracious
spirit of the primitive church, as manifested in that first early
springtide of her success.  The greater "Peace" of Constantine, on the
other hand, in many ways, does but establish the exclusiveness, the
puritanism, the ascetic gloom which, in the period between Aurelius and
the first Christian emperor, characterised a church under
misunderstanding or oppression, driven back, in a world of tasteless
controversy, inwards upon herself.

Already, in the reign of Antoninus Pius, the time was gone by when men
became Christians under some sudden and overpowering impression, and
with all the disturbing results of such a crisis.  At this period the
larger number, perhaps, had been born Christians, had been ever with
peaceful hearts in their "Father's house."  That earlier belief in the
speedy coming of judgment and of the end of the world, with the
consequences it so naturally involved in the temper [119] of men's
minds, was dying out.  Every day the contrast between the church and
the world was becoming less pronounced.  And now also, as the church
rested awhile from opposition, that rapid self-development outward from
within, proper to times of peace, was in progress. Antoninus Pius, it
might seem, more truly even than Marcus Aurelius himself, was of that
group of pagan saints for whom Dante, like Augustine, has provided in
his scheme of the house with many mansions.  A sincere old Roman piety
had urged his fortunately constituted nature to no mistakes, no
offences against humanity.  And of his entire freedom from guile one
reward had been this singular happiness, that under his rule there was
no shedding of Christian blood.  To him belonged that half-humorous
placidity of soul, of a kind illustrated later very effectively by
Montaigne, which, starting with an instinct of mere fairness towards
human nature and the world, seems at last actually to qualify its
possessor to be almost the friend of the people of Christ.  Amiable, in
its own nature, and full of a reasonable gaiety, Christianity has often
had its advantage of characters such as that.  The geniality of
Antoninus Pius, like the geniality of the earth itself, had permitted
the church, as being in truth no alien from that old mother earth, to
expand and thrive for a season as by natural process.  And that charmed
period under the Antonines, extending to the later years of the [120]
reign of Aurelius (beautiful, brief, chapter of ecclesiastical
history!), contains, as one of its motives of interest, the earliest
development of Christian ritual under the presidence of the church of
Rome.

Again as in one of those mystical, quaint visions of the Shepherd of
Hermas, "the aged woman was become by degrees more and more youthful.
And in the third vision she was quite young, and radiant with beauty:
only her hair was that of an aged woman.  And at the last she was
joyous, and seated upon a throne--seated upon a throne, because her
position is a strong one."  The subterranean worship of the church
belonged properly to those years of her early history in which it was
illegal for her to worship at all.  But, hiding herself for awhile as
conflict grew violent, she resumed, when there was felt to be no more
than ordinary risk, her natural freedom.  And the kind of outward
prosperity she was enjoying in those moments of her first "Peace," her
modes of worship now blossoming freely above-ground, was re-inforced by
the decision at this point of a crisis in her internal history.

In the history of the church, as throughout the moral history of
mankind, there are two distinct ideals, either of which it is possible
to maintain--two conceptions, under one or the other of which we may
represent to ourselves men's efforts towards a better
life--corresponding to those two contrasted aspects, noted above, as
[121] discernible in the picture afforded by the New Testament itself
of the character of Christ.  The ideal of asceticism represents moral
effort as essentially a sacrifice, the sacrifice of one part of human
nature to another, that it may live the more completely in what
survives of it; while the ideal of culture represents it as a
harmonious development of all the parts of human nature, in just
proportion to each other.  It was to the latter order of ideas that the
church, and especially the church of Rome in the age of the Antonines,
freely lent herself.  In that earlier "Peace" she had set up for
herself the ideal of spiritual development, under the guidance of an
instinct by which, in those serene moments, she was absolutely true to
the peaceful soul of her Founder.  "Goodwill to men," she said, "in
whom God Himself is well-pleased!"  For a little while, at least, there
was no forced opposition between the soul and the body, the world and
the spirit, and the grace of graciousness itself was pre-eminently with
the people of Christ.  Tact, good sense, ever the note of a true
orthodoxy, the merciful compromises of the church, indicative of her
imperial vocation in regard to all the varieties of human kind, with a
universality of which the old Roman pastorship she was superseding is
but a prototype, was already become conspicuous, in spite of a
discredited, irritating, vindictive society, all around her.

Against that divine urbanity and moderation [122] the old error of
Montanus we read of dimly, was a fanatical revolt--sour, falsely
anti-mundane, ever with an air of ascetic affectation, and a bigoted
distaste in particular for all the peculiar graces of womanhood.  By it
the desire to please was understood to come of the author of evil. In
this interval of quietness, it was perhaps inevitable, by the law of
reaction, that some such extravagances of the religious temper should
arise.  But again the church of Rome, now becoming every day more and
more completely the capital of the Christian world, checked the nascent
Montanism, or puritanism of the moment, vindicating for all Christian
people a cheerful liberty of heart, against many a narrow group of
sectaries, all alike, in their different ways, accusers of the genial
creation of God.  With her full, fresh faith in the Evangele--in a
veritable regeneration of the earth and the body, in the dignity of
man's entire personal being--for a season, at least, at that critical
period in the development of Christianity, she was for reason, for
common sense, for fairness to human nature, and generally for what may
be called the naturalness of Christianity.--As also for its comely
order: she would be "brought to her king in raiment of needlework."  It
was by the bishops of Rome, diligently transforming themselves, in the
true catholic sense, into universal pastors, that the path of what we
must call humanism was thus defined.

[123] And then, in this hour of expansion, as if now at last the
catholic church might venture to show her outward lineaments as they
really were, worship--"the beauty of holiness," nay! the elegance of
sanctity--was developed, with a bold and confident gladness, the like
of which has hardly been the ideal of worship in any later age.  The
tables in fact were turned: the prize of a cheerful temper on a candid
survey of life was no longer with the pagan world.  The aesthetic charm
of the catholic church, her evocative power over all that is eloquent
and expressive in the better mind of man, her outward comeliness, her
dignifying convictions about human nature:--all this, as abundantly
realised centuries later by Dante and Giotto, by the great medieval
church-builders, by the great ritualists like Saint Gregory, and the
masters of sacred music in the middle age--we may see already, in dim
anticipation, in those charmed moments towards the end of the second
century.  Dissipated or turned aside, partly through the fatal mistake
of Marcus Aurelius himself, for a brief space of time we may discern
that influence clearly predominant there.  What might seem harsh as
dogma was already justifying itself as worship; according to the sound
rule: Lex orandi, lex credendi--Our Creeds are but the brief abstract
of our prayer and song.

The wonderful liturgical spirit of the church, her wholly unparalleled
genius for worship, [124] being thus awake, she was rapidly
re-organising both pagan and Jewish elements of ritual, for the
expanding therein of her own new heart of devotion.  Like the
institutions of monasticism, like the Gothic style of architecture, the
ritual system of the church, as we see it in historic retrospect, ranks
as one of the great, conjoint, and (so to term them) necessary,
products of human mind.  Destined for ages to come, to direct with so
deep a fascination men's religious instincts, it was then already
recognisable as a new and precious fact in the sum of things.  What has
been on the whole the method of the church, as "a power of sweetness
and patience," in dealing with matters like pagan art, pagan literature
was even then manifest; and has the character of the moderation, the
divine moderation of Christ himself.  It was only among the ignorant,
indeed, only in the "villages," that Christianity, even in conscious
triumph over paganism, was really betrayed into iconoclasm.  In the
final "Peace" of the Church under Constantine, while there was plenty
of destructive fanaticism in the country, the revolution was
accomplished in the larger towns, in a manner more orderly and
discreet--in the Roman manner.  The faithful were bent less on the
destruction of the old pagan temples than on their conversion to a new
and higher use; and, with much beautiful furniture ready to hand, they
became Christian sanctuaries.

[125] Already, in accordance with such maturer wisdom, the church of
the "Minor Peace" had adopted many of the graces of pagan feeling and
pagan custom; as being indeed a living creature, taking up,
transforming, accommodating still more closely to the human heart what
of right belonged to it.  In this way an obscure synagogue was expanded
into the catholic church.  Gathering, from a richer and more varied
field of sound than had remained for him, those old Roman harmonies,
some notes of which Gregory the Great, centuries later, and after
generations of interrupted development, formed into the Gregorian
music, she was already, as we have heard, the house of song--of a
wonderful new music and poesy.  As if in anticipation of the sixteenth
century, the church was becoming "humanistic," in an earlier, and
unimpeachable Renaissance.  Singing there had been in abundance from
the first; though often it dared only be "of the heart."  And it burst
forth, when it might, into the beginnings of a true ecclesiastical
music; the Jewish psalter, inherited from the synagogue, turning now,
gradually, from Greek into Latin--broken Latin, into Italian, as the
ritual use of the rich, fresh, expressive vernacular superseded the
earlier authorised language of the Church. Through certain surviving
remnants of Greek in the later Latin liturgies, we may still discern a
highly interesting intermediate phase of ritual development, when the
Greek [126] and the Latin were in combination; the poor, surely!--the
poor and the children of that liberal Roman church--responding already
in their own "vulgar tongue," to an office said in the original,
liturgical Greek.  That hymn sung in the early morning, of which Pliny
had heard, was kindling into the service of the Mass.

The Mass, indeed, would appear to have been said continuously from the
Apostolic age.  Its details, as one by one they become visible in later
history, have already the character of what is ancient and venerable.
"We are very old, and ye are young!" they seem to protest, to those who
fail to understand them.  Ritual, in fact, like all other elements of
religion, must grow and cannot be made--grow by the same law of
development which prevails everywhere else, in the moral as in the
physical world.  As regards this special phase of the religious life,
however, such development seems to have been unusually rapid in the
subterranean age which preceded Constantine; and in the very first days
of the final triumph of the church the Mass emerges to general view
already substantially complete. "Wisdom" was dealing, as with the dust
of creeds and philosophies, so also with the dust of outworn religious
usage, like the very spirit of life itself, organising soul and body
out of the lime and clay of the earth.  In a generous eclecticism,
within the bounds of her liberty, and as by some providential power
within her, [127] she gathers and serviceably adopts, as in other
matters so in ritual, one thing here, another there, from various
sources--Gnostic, Jewish, Pagan--to adorn and beautify the greatest act
of worship the world has seen.  It was thus the liturgy of the church
came to be--full of consolations for the human soul, and destined,
surely! one day, under the sanction of so many ages of human
experience, to take exclusive possession of the religious consciousness.

     TANTUM ERGO SACRAMENTUM VENEREMUR CERNUI:
     ET ANTIQUUM DOCUMENTUM
     NOVO CEDAT RITUI.



CHAPTER XXIII: DIVINE SERVICE.

     "Wisdom hath builded herself a house: she hath mingled her wine:
     she hath also prepared for herself a table."

[128] THE more highly favoured ages of imaginative art present
instances of the summing up of an entire world of complex associations
under some single form, like the Zeus of Olympia, or the series of
frescoes which commemorate The Acts of Saint Francis, at Assisi, or
like the play of Hamlet or Faust.  It was not in an image, or series of
images, yet still in a sort of dramatic action, and with the unity of a
single appeal to eye and ear, that Marius about this time found all his
new impressions set forth, regarding what he had already recognised,
intellectually, as for him at least the most beautiful thing in the
world.

To understand the influence upon him of what follows the reader must
remember that it was an experience which came amid a deep sense of
vacuity in life.  The fairest products of [129] the earth seemed to be
dropping to pieces, as if in men's very hands, around him.  How real
was their sorrow, and his!  "His observation of life" had come to be
like the constant telling of a sorrowful rosary, day after day; till,
as if taking infection from the cloudy sorrow of the mind, the eye
also, the very senses, were grown faint and sick.  And now it happened
as with the actual morning on which he found himself a spectator of
this new thing.  The long winter had been a season of unvarying
sullenness.  At last, on this day he awoke with a sharp flash of
lightning in the earliest twilight: in a little while the heavy rain
had filtered the air: the clear light was abroad; and, as though the
spring had set in with a sudden leap in the heart of things, the whole
scene around him lay like some untarnished picture beneath a sky of
delicate blue.  Under the spell of his late depression, Marius had
suddenly determined to leave Rome for a while. But desiring first to
advertise Cornelius of his movements, and failing to find him in his
lodgings, he had ventured, still early in the day, to seek him in the
Cecilian villa.  Passing through its silent and empty court-yard he
loitered for a moment, to admire. Under the clear but immature light of
winter morning after a storm, all the details of form and colour in the
old marbles were distinctly visible, and with a kind of severity or
sadness--so it struck him--amid their beauty: [130] in them, and in all
other details of the scene--the cypresses, the bunches of pale
daffodils in the grass, the curves of the purple hills of Tusculum,
with the drifts of virgin snow still lying in their hollows.

The little open door, through which he passed from the court-yard,
admitted him into what was plainly the vast Lararium, or domestic
sanctuary, of the Cecilian family, transformed in many particulars, but
still richly decorated, and retaining much of its ancient furniture in
metal-work and costly stone.  The peculiar half-light of dawn seemed to
be lingering beyond its hour upon the solemn marble walls; and here,
though at that moment in absolute silence, a great company of people
was assembled.  In that brief period of peace, during which the church
emerged for awhile from her jealously-guarded subterranean life, the
rigour of an earlier rule of exclusion had been relaxed.  And so it
came to pass that, on this morning Marius saw for the first time the
wonderful spectacle--wonderful, especially, in its evidential power
over himself, over his own thoughts--of those who believe.

There were noticeable, among those present, great varieties of rank, of
age, of personal type.  The Roman ingenuus, with the white toga and
gold ring, stood side by side with his slave; and the air of the whole
company was, above all, a grave one, an air of recollection. Coming
[131] thus unexpectedly upon this large assembly, so entirely united,
in a silence so profound, for purposes unknown to him, Marius felt for
a moment as if he had stumbled by chance upon some great conspiracy.
Yet that could scarcely be, for the people here collected might have
figured as the earliest handsel, or pattern, of a new world, from the
very face of which discontent had passed away. Corresponding to the
variety of human type there present, was the various expression of
every form of human sorrow assuaged.  What desire, what fulfilment of
desire, had wrought so pathetically on the features of these ranks of
aged men and women of humble condition? Those young men, bent down so
discreetly on the details of their sacred service, had faced life and
were glad, by some science, or light of knowledge they had, to which
there had certainly been no parallel in the older world.  Was some
credible message from beyond "the flaming rampart of the world"--a
message of hope, regarding the place of men's souls and their interest
in the sum of things--already moulding anew their very bodies, and
looks, and voices, now and here? At least, there was a cleansing and
kindling flame at work in them, which seemed to make everything else
Marius had ever known look comparatively vulgar and mean.  There were
the children, above all--troops of children--reminding him of those
pathetic children's graves, like cradles or garden- [132] beds, he had
noticed in his first visit to these places; and they more than
satisfied the odd curiosity he had then conceived about them, wondering
in what quaintly expressive forms they might come forth into the
daylight, if awakened from sleep.  Children of the Catacombs, some but
"a span long," with features not so much beautiful as heroic (that
world of new, refining sentiment having set its seal even on
childhood), they retained certainly no stain or trace of anything
subterranean this morning, in the alacrity of their worship--as ready
as if they had been at play--stretching forth their hands, crying,
chanting in a resonant voice, and with boldly upturned faces, Christe
Eleison!

For the silence--silence, amid those lights of early morning to which
Marius had always been constitutionally impressible, as having in them
a certain reproachful austerity--was broken suddenly by resounding
cries of Kyrie Eleison!  Christe Eleison! repeated alternately, again
and again, until the bishop, rising from his chair, made sign that this
prayer should cease.  But the voices burst out once more presently, in
richer and more varied melody, though still of an antiphonal character;
the men, the women and children, the deacons, the people, answering one
another, somewhat after the manner of a Greek chorus.  But again with
what a novelty of poetic accent; what a genuine expansion of heart;
what profound intimations for the [133] intellect, as the meaning of
the words grew upon him! Cum grandi affectu et compunctione
dicatur--says an ancient eucharistic order; and certainly, the mystic
tone of this praying and singing was one with the expression of
deliverance, of grateful assurance and sincerity, upon the faces of
those assembled.  As if some searching correction, a regeneration of
the body by the spirit, had begun, and was already gone a great way,
the countenances of men, women, and children alike had a brightness on
them which he could fancy reflected upon himself--an amenity, a mystic
amiability and unction, which found its way most readily of all to the
hearts of children themselves.  The religious poetry of those Hebrew
psalms--Benedixisti Domine terram tuam: Dixit Dominus Domino meo, sede
a dextris meis--was certainly in marvellous accord with the lyrical
instinct of his own character.  Those august hymns, he thought, must
thereafter ever remain by him as among the well-tested powers in things
to soothe and fortify the soul.  One could never grow tired of them!

In the old pagan worship there had been little to call the
understanding into play.  Here, on the other hand, the utterance, the
eloquence, the music of worship conveyed, as Marius readily understood,
a fact or series of facts, for intellectual reception. That became
evident, more especially, in those lessons, or sacred readings, which,
like the singing, in broken [134] vernacular Latin, occurred at certain
intervals, amid the silence of the assembly. There were readings, again
with bursts of chanted invocation between for fuller light on a
difficult path, in which many a vagrant voice of human philosophy,
haunting men's minds from of old, recurred with clearer accent than had
ever belonged to it before, as if lifted, above its first intention,
into the harmonies of some supreme system of knowledge or doctrine, at
length complete.  And last of all came a narrative which, with a
thousand tender memories, every one appeared to know by heart,
displaying, in all the vividness of a picture for the eye, the mournful
figure of him towards whom this whole act of worship still consistently
turned--a figure which seemed to have absorbed, like some rich tincture
in his garment, all that was deep-felt and impassioned in the
experiences of the past.

It was the anniversary of his birth as a little child they celebrated
to-day.  Astiterunt reges terrae: so the Gradual, the "Song of
Degrees," proceeded, the young men on the steps of the altar responding
in deep, clear, antiphon or chorus--

     Astiterunt reges terrae--
     Adversus sanctum puerum tuum, Jesum:
     Nunc, Domine, da servis tuis loqui verbum tuum--
     Et signa fieri, per nomen sancti pueri Jesu.

And the proper action of the rite itself, like a [135] half-opened book
to be read by the duly initiated mind took up those suggestions, and
carried them forward into the present, as having reference to a power
still efficacious, still after some mystic sense even now in action
among the people there assembled.  The entire office, indeed, with its
interchange of lessons, hymns, prayer, silence, was itself like a
single piece of highly composite, dramatic music; a "song of degrees,"
rising steadily to a climax.  Notwithstanding the absence of any
central image visible to the eye, the entire ceremonial process, like
the place in which it was enacted, was weighty with symbolic
significance, seemed to express a single leading motive. The mystery,
if such in fact it was, centered indeed in the actions of one visible
person, distinguished among the assistants, who stood ranged in
semicircle around him, by the extreme fineness of his white vestments,
and the pointed cap with the golden ornaments upon his head.

Nor had Marius ever seen the pontifical character, as he conceived
it--sicut unguentum in capite, descendens in oram vestimenti--so fully
realised, as in the expression, the manner and voice, of this novel
pontiff, as he took his seat on the white chair placed for him by the
young men, and received his long staff into his hand, or moved his
hands--hands which seemed endowed in very deed with some mysterious
power--at the Lavabo, or at the various benedictions, or [136] to bless
certain objects on the table before him, chanting in cadence of a grave
sweetness the leading parts of the rite.  What profound unction and
mysticity!  The solemn character of the singing was at its height when
he opened his lips.  Like some new sort of rhapsôdos, it was for the
moment as if he alone possessed the words of the office, and they
flowed anew from some permanent source of inspiration within him.  The
table or altar at which he presided, below a canopy on delicate spiral
columns, was in fact the tomb of a youthful "witness," of the family of
the Cecilii, who had shed his blood not many years before, and whose
relics were still in this place.  It was for his sake the bishop put
his lips so often to the surface before him; the regretful memory of
that death entwining itself, though not without certain notes of
triumph, as a matter of special inward significance, throughout a
service, which was, before all else, from first to last, a
commemoration of the dead.

A sacrifice also,--a sacrifice, it might seem, like the most primitive,
the most natural and enduringly significant of old pagan sacrifices, of
the simplest fruits of the earth.  And in connexion with this
circumstance again, as in the actual stones of the building so in the
rite itself, what Marius observed was not so much new matter as a new
spirit, moulding, informing, with a new intention, many observances not
[137] witnessed for the first time to-day.  Men and women came to the
altar successively, in perfect order, and deposited below the
lattice-work of pierced white marble, their baskets of wheat and
grapes, incense, oil for the sanctuary lamps; bread and wine
especially--pure wheaten bread, the pure white wine of the Tusculan
vineyards.  There was here a veritable consecration, hopeful and
animating, of the earth's gifts, of old dead and dark matter itself,
now in some way redeemed at last, of all that we can touch or see, in
the midst of a jaded world that had lost the true sense of such things,
and in strong contrast to the wise emperor's renunciant and impassive
attitude towards them.  Certain portions of that bread and wine were
taken into the bishop's hands; and thereafter, with an increasing
mysticity and effusion the rite proceeded.  Still in a strain of
inspired supplication, the antiphonal singing developed, from this
point, into a kind of dialogue between the chief minister and the whole
assisting company--

     SURSUM CORDA!
     HABEMUS AD DOMINUM.
     GRATIAS AGAMUS DOMINO DEO NOSTRO!--

It might have been thought the business, the duty or service of young
men more particularly, as they stood there in long ranks, and in severe
and simple vesture of the purest white--a service in which they would
seem to be flying [138] for refuge, as with their precious, their
treacherous and critical youth in their hands, to one--Yes! one like
themselves, who yet claimed their worship, a worship, above all, in the
way of Aurelius, in the way of imitation. Adoramus te Christe, quia per
crucem tuam redemisti mundum!--they cry together.  So deep is the
emotion that at moments it seems to Marius as if some there present
apprehend that prayer prevails, that the very object of this pathetic
crying himself draws near.  From the first there had been the sense, an
increasing assurance, of one coming:--actually with them now, according
to the oft-repeated affirmation or petition, Dominus vobiscum!  Some at
least were quite sure of it; and the confidence of this remnant fired
the hearts, and gave meaning to the bold, ecstatic worship, of all the
rest about them.

Prompted especially by the suggestions of that mysterious old Jewish
psalmody, so new to him--lesson and hymn--and catching therewith a
portion of the enthusiasm of those beside him, Marius could discern
dimly, behind the solemn recitation which now followed, at once a
narrative and a prayer, the most touching image truly that had ever
come within the scope of his mental or physical gaze.  It was the image
of a young man giving up voluntarily, one by one, for the greatest of
ends, the greatest gifts; actually parting with himself, above all,
with the serenity, the divine serenity, of his [139] own soul; yet from
the midst of his desolation crying out upon the greatness of his
success, as if foreseeing this very worship.*  As centre of the
supposed facts which for these people were become so constraining a
motive of hopefulness, of activity, that image seemed to display itself
with an overwhelming claim on human gratitude. What Saint Lewis of
France discerned, and found so irresistibly touching, across the
dimness of many centuries, as a painful thing done for love of him by
one he had never seen, was to them almost as a thing of yesterday; and
their hearts were whole with it.  It had the force, among their
interests, of an almost recent event in the career of one whom their
fathers' fathers might have known.  From memories so sublime, yet so
close at hand, had the narrative descended in which these acts of
worship centered; though again the names of some more recently dead
were mingled in it.  And it seemed as if the very dead were aware; to
be stirring beneath the slabs of the sepulchres which lay so near, that
they might associate themselves to this enthusiasm--to this exalted
worship of Jesus.

One by one, at last, the faithful approach to receive from the chief
minister morsels of the great, white, wheaten cake, he had taken into
his hands--Perducat vos ad vitam aeternam! he prays, half-silently, as
they depart again, after [140] discreet embraces.  The Eucharist of
those early days was, even more entirely than at any later or happier
time, an act of thanksgiving; and while the remnants of the feast are
borne away for the reception of the sick, the sustained gladness of the
rite reaches its highest point in the singing of a hymn: a hymn like
the spontaneous product of two opposed militant companies, contending
accordantly together, heightening, accumulating, their witness,
provoking one another's worship, in a kind of sacred rivalry.

Ite!  Missa est!--cried the young deacons: and Marius departed from
that strange scene along with the rest.  What was it?--Was it this made
the way of Cornelius so pleasant through the world?  As for Marius
himself,--the natural soul of worship in him had at last been satisfied
as never before.  He felt, as he left that place, that he must
hereafter experience often a longing memory, a kind of thirst, for all
this, over again.  And it seemed moreover to define what he must
require of the powers, whatsoever they might be, that had brought him
into the world at all, to make him not unhappy in it.

NOTES

139. *Psalm xxii.22-31.



CHAPTER XXIV: A CONVERSATION NOT IMAGINARY

[141] IN cheerfulness is the success of our studies, says Pliny--studia
hilaritate proveniunt.  It was still the habit of Marius, encouraged by
his experience that sleep is not only a sedative but the best of
stimulants, to seize the morning hours for creation, making profit when
he might of the wholesome serenity which followed a dreamless night.
"The morning for creation," he would say; "the afternoon for the
perfecting labour of the file; the evening for reception--the reception
of matter from without one, of other men's words and thoughts--matter
for our own dreams, or the merely mechanic exercise of the brain,
brooding thereon silently, in its dark chambers."  To leave home early
in the day was therefore a rare thing for him.  He was induced so to do
on the occasion of a visit to Rome of the famous writer Lucian, whom he
had been bidden to meet.  The breakfast over, he walked away with the
learned guest, having offered to be his guide [142] to the lecture-room
of a well-known Greek rhetorician and expositor of the Stoic
philosophy, a teacher then much in fashion among the studious youth of
Rome.  On reaching the place, however, they found the doors closed,
with a slip of writing attached, which proclaimed "a holiday"; and the
morning being a fine one, they walked further, along the Appian Way.
Mortality, with which the Queen of Ways--in reality the favourite
cemetery of Rome--was so closely crowded, in every imaginable form of
sepulchre, from the tiniest baby-house, to the massive monument out of
which the Middle Age would adapt a fortress-tower, might seem, on a
morning like this, to be "smiling through tears."  The flower-stalls
just beyond the city gates presented to view an array of posies and
garlands, fresh enough for a wedding.  At one and another of them
groups of persons, gravely clad, were making their bargains before
starting for some perhaps distant spot on the highway, to keep a dies
rosationis, this being the time of roses, at the grave of a deceased
relation.  Here and there, a funeral procession was slowly on its way,
in weird contrast to the gaiety of the hour.

The two companions, of course, read the epitaphs as they strolled
along.  In one, reminding them of the poet's--Si lacrimae prosunt,
visis te ostende videri!--a woman prayed that her lost husband might
visit her dreams.  Their characteristic note, indeed, was an imploring
cry, still [143] to be sought after by the living.  "While I live,"
such was the promise of a lover to his dead mistress, "you will receive
this homage: after my death,--who can tell?"--post mortem nescio.  "If
ghosts, my sons, do feel anything after death, my sorrow will be
lessened by your frequent coming to me here!"  "This is a privileged
tomb; to my family and descendants has been conceded the right of
visiting this place as often as they please."  "This is an eternal
habitation; here lie I; here I shall lie for ever." "Reader! if you
doubt that the soul survives, make your oblation and a prayer for me;
and you shall understand!"

The elder of the two readers, certainly, was little affected by those
pathetic suggestions.  It was long ago that after visiting the banks of
the Padus, where he had sought in vain for the poplars (sisters of
Phaethon erewhile) whose tears became amber, he had once for all
arranged for himself a view of the world exclusive of all reference to
what might lie beyond its "flaming barriers."  And at the age of sixty
he had no misgivings.  His elegant and self-complacent but far from
unamiable scepticism, long since brought to perfection, never failed
him.  It surrounded him, as some are surrounded by a magic ring of fine
aristocratic manners, with "a rampart," through which he himself never
broke, nor permitted any thing or person to break upon him.  Gay,
animated, content with his old age [144] as it was, the aged student
still took a lively interest in studious youth.--Could Marius inform
him of any such, now known to him in Rome?  What did the young men
learn, just then? and how?

In answer, Marius became fluent concerning the promise of one young
student, the son, as it presently appeared, of parents of whom Lucian
himself knew something: and soon afterwards the lad was seen coming
along briskly--a lad with gait and figure well enough expressive of the
sane mind in the healthy body, though a little slim and worn of
feature, and with a pair of eyes expressly designed, it might seem, for
fine glancings at the stars.  At the sight of Marius he paused
suddenly, and with a modest blush on recognising his companion, who
straightway took with the youth, so prettily enthusiastic, the freedom
of an old friend.

In a few moments the three were seated together, immediately above the
fragrant borders of a rose-farm, on the marble bench of one of the
exhedrae for the use of foot-passengers at the roadside, from which
they could overlook the grand, earnest prospect of the Campagna, and
enjoy the air.  Fancying that the lad's plainly written enthusiasm had
induced in the elder speaker somewhat more fervour than was usual with
him, Marius listened to the conversation which follows.--

"Ah!  Hermotimus!  Hurrying to lecture! [145] --if I may judge by your
pace, and that volume in your hand.  You were thinking hard as you came
along, moving your lips and waving your arms.  Some fine speech you
were pondering, some knotty question, some viewy doctrine--not to be
idle for a moment, to be making progress in philosophy, even on your
way to the schools.  To-day, however, you need go no further.  We read
a notice at the schools that there would be no lecture.  Stay
therefore, and talk awhile with us.

--With pleasure, Lucian.--Yes!  I was ruminating yesterday's
conference.  One must not lose a moment.  Life is short and art is
long!  And it was of the art of medicine, that was first said--a thing
so much easier than divine philosophy, to which one can hardly attain
in a lifetime, unless one be ever wakeful, ever on the watch. And here
the hazard is no little one:--By the attainment of a true philosophy to
attain happiness; or, having missed both, to perish, as one of the
vulgar herd.

--The prize is a great one, Hermotimus! and you must needs be near it,
after these months of toil, and with that scholarly pallor of yours.
Unless, indeed, you have already laid hold upon it, and kept us in the
dark.

--How could that be, Lucian?  Happiness, as Hesiod says, abides very
far hence; and the way to it is long and steep and rough.  I see myself
still at the beginning of my journey; still [146] but at the mountain's
foot.  I am trying with all my might to get forward.  What I need is a
hand, stretched out to help me.

--And is not the master sufficient for that?  Could he not, like Zeus
in Homer, let down to you, from that high place, a golden cord, to draw
you up thither, to himself and to that Happiness, to which he ascended
so long ago?

--The very point, Lucian!  Had it depended on him I should long ago
have been caught up.  'Tis I, am wanting.

--Well! keep your eye fixed on the journey's end, and that happiness
there above, with confidence in his goodwill.

--Ah! there are many who start cheerfully on the journey and proceed a
certain distance, but lose heart when they light on the obstacles of
the way.  Only, those who endure to the end do come to the mountain's
top, and thereafter live in Happiness:--live a wonderful manner of
life, seeing all other people from that great height no bigger than
tiny ants.

--What little fellows you make of us--less than the pygmies--down in
the dust here.  Well! we, 'the vulgar herd,' as we creep along, will
not forget you in our prayers, when you are seated up there above the
clouds, whither you have been so long hastening.  But tell me,
Hermotimus!--when do you expect to arrive there?

--Ah! that I know not.  In twenty years, [147] perhaps, I shall be
really on the summit.--A great while! you think.  But then, again, the
prize I contend for is a great one.

--Perhaps!  But as to those twenty years--that you will live so long.
Has the master assured you of that?  Is he a prophet as well as a
philosopher?  For I suppose you would not endure all this, upon a mere
chance--toiling day and night, though it might happen that just ere the
last step, Destiny seized you by the foot and plucked you thence, with
your hope still unfulfilled.

--Hence, with these ill-omened words, Lucian!  Were I to survive but
for a day, I should be happy, having once attained wisdom.

--How?--Satisfied with a single day, after all those labours?

--Yes! one blessed moment were enough!

--But again, as you have never been, how know you that happiness is to
be had up there, at all--the happiness that is to make all this worth
while?

--I believe what the master tells me.  Of a certainty he knows, being
now far above all others.

--And what was it he told you about it?  Is it riches, or glory, or
some indescribable pleasure?

--Hush! my friend!  All those are nothing in comparison of the life
there.

--What, then, shall those who come to the [148] end of this
discipline--what excellent thing shall they receive, if not these?

--Wisdom, the absolute goodness and the absolute beauty, with the sure
and certain knowledge of all things--how they are.  Riches and glory
and pleasure--whatsoever belongs to the body--they have cast from them:
stripped bare of all that, they mount up, even as Hercules, consumed in
the fire, became a god.  He too cast aside all that he had of his
earthly mother, and bearing with him the divine element, pure and
undefiled, winged his way to heaven from the discerning flame.  Even so
do they, detached from all that others prize, by the burning fire of a
true philosophy, ascend to the highest degree of happiness.

--Strange!  And do they never come down again from the heights to help
those whom they left below?  Must they, when they be once come thither,
there remain for ever, laughing, as you say, at what other men prize?

--More than that!  They whose initiation is entire are subject no
longer to anger, fear, desire, regret.  Nay!  They scarcely feel at all.

--Well! as you have leisure to-day, why not tell an old friend in what
way you first started on your philosophic journey?  For, if I might, I
should like to join company with you from this very day.

--If you be really willing, Lucian! you will learn in no long time your
advantage over all [149] other people.  They will seem but as children,
so far above them will be your thoughts.

--Well!  Be you my guide!  It is but fair.  But tell me--Do you allow
learners to contradict, if anything is said which they don't think
right?

--No, indeed!  Still, if you wish, oppose your questions.  In that way
you will learn more easily.

--Let me know, then--Is there one only way which leads to a true
philosophy--your own way--the way of the Stoics: or is it true, as I
have heard, that there are many ways of approaching it?

--Yes!  Many ways!  There are the Stoics, and the Peripatetics, and
those who call themselves after Plato: there are the enthusiasts for
Diogenes, and Antisthenes, and the followers of Pythagoras, besides
others.

--It was true, then.  But again, is what they say the same or different?

--Very different.

--Yet the truth, I conceive, would be one and the same, from all of
them.  Answer me then--In what, or in whom, did you confide when you
first betook yourself to philosophy, and seeing so many doors open to
you, passed them all by and went in to the Stoics, as if there alone
lay the way of truth?  What token had you?  Forget, please, all you are
to-day--half-way, or more, on the philosophic journey: [150] answer me
as you would have done then, a mere outsider as I am now.

--Willingly!  It was there the great majority went!  'Twas by that I
judged it to be the better way.

--A majority how much greater than the Epicureans, the Platonists, the
Peripatetics?  You, doubtless, counted them respectively, as with the
votes in a scrutiny.

--No!  But this was not my only motive.  I heard it said by every one
that the Epicureans were soft and voluptuous, the Peripatetics
avaricious and quarrelsome, and Plato's followers puffed up with pride.
But of the Stoics, not a few pronounced that they were true men, that
they knew everything, that theirs was the royal road, the one road, to
wealth, to wisdom, to all that can be desired.

--Of course those who said this were not themselves Stoics: you would
not have believed them--still less their opponents.  They were the
vulgar, therefore.

--True!  But you must know that I did not trust to others exclusively.
I trusted also to myself--to what I saw.  I saw the Stoics going
through the world after a seemly manner, neatly clad, never in excess,
always collected, ever faithful to the mean which all pronounce
'golden.'

--You are trying an experiment on me.  You would fain see how far you
can mislead [151] me as to your real ground.  The kind of probation you
describe is applicable, indeed, to works of art, which are rightly
judged by their appearance to the eye.  There is something in the
comely form, the graceful drapery, which tells surely of the hand of
Pheidias or Alcamenes.  But if philosophy is to be judged by outward
appearances, what would become of the blind man, for instance, unable
to observe the attire and gait of your friends the Stoics?

--It was not of the blind I was thinking.

--Yet there must needs be some common criterion in a matter so
important to all.  Put the blind, if you will, beyond the privileges of
philosophy; though they perhaps need that inward vision more than all
others.  But can those who are not blind, be they as keen-sighted as
you will, collect a single fact of mind from a man's attire, from
anything outward?--Understand me!  You attached yourself to these
men--did you not?--because of a certain love you had for the mind in
them, the thoughts they possessed desiring the mind in you to be
improved thereby?

--Assuredly!

--How, then, did you find it possible, by the sort of signs you just
now spoke of, to distinguish the true philosopher from the false?
Matters of that kind are not wont so to reveal themselves.  They are
but hidden mysteries, hardly to be guessed at through the words and
acts which [152] may in some sort be conformable to them.  You,
however, it would seem, can look straight into the heart in men's
bosoms, and acquaint yourself with what really passes there.

--You are making sport of me, Lucian!  In truth, it was with God's help
I made my choice, and I don't repent it.

--And still you refuse to tell me, to save me from perishing in that
'vulgar herd.'

--Because nothing I can tell you would satisfy you.

--You are mistaken, my friend!  But since you deliberately conceal the
thing, grudging me, as I suppose, that true philosophy which would make
me equal to you, I will try, if it may be, to find out for myself the
exact criterion in these matters--how to make a perfectly safe choice.
And, do you listen.

--I will; there may be something worth knowing in what you will say.

--Well!--only don't laugh if I seem a little fumbling in my efforts.
The fault is yours, in refusing to share your lights with me.  Let
Philosophy, then, be like a city--a city whose citizens within it are a
happy people, as your master would tell you, having lately come thence,
as we suppose.  All the virtues are theirs, and they are little less
than gods.  Those acts of violence which happen among us are not to be
seen in their streets.  They live together in one mind, very seemly;
the things which beyond [153] everything else cause men to contend
against each other, having no place upon them.  Gold and silver,
pleasure, vainglory, they have long since banished, as being
unprofitable to the commonwealth; and their life is an unbroken calm,
in liberty, equality, an equal happiness.

--And is it not reasonable that all men should desire to be of a city
such as that, and take no account of the length and difficulty of the
way thither, so only they may one day become its freemen?

--It might well be the business of life:--leaving all else, forgetting
one's native country here, unmoved by the tears, the restraining hands,
of parents or children, if one had them--only bidding them follow the
same road; and if they would not or could not, shaking them off,
leaving one's very garment in their hands if they took hold on us, to
start off straightway for that happy place! For there is no fear, I
suppose, of being shut out if one came thither naked.  I remember,
indeed, long ago an aged man related to me how things passed there,
offering himself to be my leader, and enrol me on my arrival in the
number of the citizens.  I was but fifteen--certainly very foolish: and
it may be that I was then actually within the suburbs, or at the very
gates, of the city. Well, this aged man told me, among other things,
that all the citizens were wayfarers from afar.  Among them were
barbarians and slaves, poor [154] men--aye! and cripples--all indeed
who truly desired that citizenship.  For the only legal conditions of
enrolment were--not wealth, nor bodily beauty, nor noble
ancestry--things not named among them--but intelligence, and the desire
for moral beauty, and earnest labour.  The last comer, thus qualified,
was made equal to the rest: master and slave, patrician, plebeian, were
words they had not--in that blissful place.  And believe me, if that
blissful, that beautiful place, were set on a hill visible to all the
world, I should long ago have journeyed thither.  But, as you say, it
is far off: and one must needs find out for oneself the road to it, and
the best possible guide.  And I find a multitude of guides, who press
on me their services, and protest, all alike, that they have themselves
come thence.  Only, the roads they propose are many, and towards
adverse quarters.  And one of them is steep and stony, and through the
beating sun; and the other is through green meadows, and under grateful
shade, and by many a fountain of water.  But howsoever the road may be,
at each one of them stands a credible guide; he puts out his hand and
would have you come his way.  All other ways are wrong, all other
guides false.  Hence my difficulty!--The number and variety of the
ways!  For you know, There is but one road that leads to Corinth.

--Well!  If you go the whole round, you [155] will find no better
guides than those.  If you wish to get to Corinth, you will follow the
traces of Zeno and Chrysippus.  It is impossible otherwise.

--Yes!  The old, familiar language!  Were one of Plato's
fellow-pilgrims here, or a follower of Epicurus--or fifty others--each
would tell me that I should never get to Corinth except in his company.
One must therefore credit all alike, which would be absurd; or, what is
far safer, distrust all alike, until one has discovered the truth.
Suppose now, that, being as I am, ignorant which of all philosophers is
really in possession of truth, I choose your sect, relying on
yourself--my friend, indeed, yet still acquainted only with the way of
the Stoics; and that then some divine power brought Plato, and
Aristotle, and Pythagoras, and the others, back to life again.  Well!
They would come round about me, and put me on my trial for my
presumption, and say:--'In whom was it you confided when you preferred
Zeno and Chrysippus to me?--and me?--masters of far more venerable age
than those, who are but of yesterday; and though you have never held
any discussion with us, nor made trial of our doctrine?  It is not thus
that the law would have judges do--listen to one party and refuse to
let the other speak for himself.  If judges act thus, there may be an
appeal to another tribunal.'  What should I answer?  Would it [156] be
enough to say:--'I trusted my friend Hermotimus?'--'We know not
Hermotimus, nor he us,' they would tell me; adding, with a smile, 'your
friend thinks he may believe all our adversaries say of us whether in
ignorance or in malice.  Yet if he were umpire in the games, and if he
happened to see one of our wrestlers, by way of a preliminary exercise,
knock to pieces an antagonist of mere empty air, he would not thereupon
pronounce him a victor.  Well! don't let your friend Hermotimus
suppose, in like manner, that his teachers have really prevailed over
us in those battles of theirs, fought with our mere shadows.  That,
again, were to be like children, lightly overthrowing their own
card-castles; or like boy-archers, who cry out when they hit the target
of straw.  The Persian and Scythian bowmen, as they speed along, can
pierce a bird on the wing.'

--Let us leave Plato and the others at rest.  It is not for me to
contend against them.  Let us rather search out together if the truth
of Philosophy be as I say.  Why summon the athletes, and archers from
Persia?

--Yes! let them go, if you think them in the way.  And now do you
speak!  You really look as if you had something wonderful to deliver.

--Well then, Lucian! to me it seems quite possible for one who has
learned the doctrines of the Stoics only, to attain from those a
knowledge [157] of the truth, without proceeding to inquire into all
the various tenets of the others.  Look at the question in this way. If
one told you that twice two make four, would it be necessary for you to
go the whole round of the arithmeticians, to see whether any one of
them will say that twice two make five, or seven?  Would you not see at
once that the man tells the truth?

--At once.

--Why then do you find it impossible that one who has fallen in with
the Stoics only, in their enunciation of what is true, should adhere to
them, and seek after no others; assured that four could never be five,
even if fifty Platos, fifty Aristotles said so?

--You are beside the point, Hermotimus!  You are likening open
questions to principles universally received.  Have you ever met any
one who said that twice two make five, or seven?

--No! only a madman would say that.

--And have you ever met, on the other hand, a Stoic and an Epicurean
who were agreed upon the beginning and the end, the principle and the
final cause, of things?  Never!  Then your parallel is false.  We are
inquiring to which of the sects philosophic truth belongs, and you
seize on it by anticipation, and assign it to the Stoics, alleging,
what is by no means clear, that it is they for whom twice two make
four.  But the Epicureans, or the Platonists, [158] might say that it
is they, in truth, who make two and two equal four, while you make them
five or seven.  Is it not so, when you think virtue the only good, and
the Epicureans pleasure; when you hold all things to be material, while
the Platonists admit something immaterial?  As I said, you resolve
offhand, in favour of the Stoics, the very point which needs a critical
decision.  If it is clear beforehand that the Stoics alone make two and
two equal four, then the others must hold their peace.  But so long as
that is the very point of debate, we must listen to all sects alike, or
be well-assured that we shall seem but partial in our judgment.

--I think, Lucian! that you do not altogether understand my meaning. To
make it clear, then, let us suppose that two men had entered a temple,
of Aesculapius,--say! or Bacchus: and that afterwards one of the sacred
vessels is found to be missing.  And the two men must be searched to
see which of them has hidden it under his garment.  For it is certainly
in the possession of one or the other of them.  Well! if it be found on
the first there will be no need to search the second; if it is not
found on the first, then the other must have it; and again, there will
be no need to search him.

--Yes!  So let it be.

--And we too, Lucian! if we have found the holy vessel in possession of
the Stoics, shall no longer have need to search other philosophers,
[159] having attained that we were seeking.  Why trouble ourselves
further?

--No need, if something had indeed been found, and you knew it to be
that lost thing: if, at the least, you could recognise the sacred
object when you saw it.  But truly, as the matter now stands, not two
persons only have entered the temple, one or the other of whom must
needs have taken the golden cup, but a whole crowd of persons.  And
then, it is not clear what the lost object really is--cup, or flagon,
or diadem; for one of the priests avers this, another that; they are
not even in agreement as to its material: some will have it to be of
brass, others of silver, or gold.  It thus becomes necessary to search
the garments of all persons who have entered the temple, if the lost
vessel is to be recovered.  And if you find a golden cup on the first
of them, it will still be necessary to proceed in searching the
garments of the others; for it is not certain that this cup really
belonged to the temple.  Might there not be many such golden
vessels?--No! we must go on to every one of them, placing all that we
find in the midst together, and then make our guess which of all those
things may fairly be supposed to be the property of the god. For,
again, this circumstance adds greatly to our difficulty, that without
exception every one searched is found to have something upon him--cup,
or flagon, or diadem, of brass, of silver, [160] of gold: and still,
all the while, it is not ascertained which of all these is the sacred
thing.  And you must still hesitate to pronounce any one of them guilty
of the sacrilege--those objects may be their own lawful property: one
cause of all this obscurity being, as I think, that there was no
inscription on the lost cup, if cup it was.  Had the name of the god,
or even that of the donor, been upon it, at least we should have had
less trouble, and having detected the inscription, should have ceased
to trouble any one else by our search.

--I have nothing to reply to that.

--Hardly anything plausible.  So that if we wish to find who it is has
the sacred vessel, or who will be our best guide to Corinth, we must
needs proceed to every one and examine him with the utmost care,
stripping off his garment and considering him closely.  Scarcely, even
so, shall we come at the truth.  And if we are to have a credible
adviser regarding this question of philosophy--which of all
philosophies one ought to follow--he alone who is acquainted with the
dicta of every one of them can be such a guide: all others must be
inadequate.  I would give no credence to them if they lacked
information as to one only.  If somebody introduced a fair person and
told us he was the fairest of all men, we should not believe that,
unless we knew that he had seen all the people in the world.  Fair he
might be; but, fairest of all--none could [161] know, unless he had
seen all.  And we too desire, not a fair one, but the fairest of all.
Unless we find him, we shall think we have failed.  It is no casual
beauty that will content us; what we are seeking after is that supreme
beauty which must of necessity be unique.

--What then is one to do, if the matter be really thus?  Perhaps you
know better than I.  All I see is that very few of us would have time
to examine all the various sects of philosophy in turn, even if we
began in early life.  I know not how it is; but though you seem to me
to speak reasonably, yet (I must confess it) you have distressed me not
a little by this exact exposition of yours.  I was unlucky in coming
out to-day, and in my falling in with you, who have thrown me into
utter perplexity by your proof that the discovery of truth is
impossible, just as I seemed to be on the point of attaining my hope.

--Blame your parents, my child, not me!  Or rather, blame mother Nature
herself, for giving us but seventy or eighty years instead of making us
as long-lived as Tithonus.  For my part, I have but led you from
premise to conclusion.

--Nay! you are a mocker!  I know not wherefore, but you have a grudge
against philosophy; and it is your entertainment to make a jest of her
lovers.

--Ah!  Hermotimus! what the Truth may [162] be, you philosophers may be
able to tell better than I.  But so much at least I know of her, that
she is one by no means pleasant to those who hear her speak: in the
matter of pleasantness, she is far surpassed by Falsehood: and
Falsehood has the pleasanter countenance.  She, nevertheless, being
conscious of no alloy within, discourses with boldness to all men, who
therefore have little love for her.  See how angry you are now because
I have stated the truth about certain things of which we are both alike
enamoured--that they are hard to come by.  It is as if you had fallen
in love with a statue and hoped to win its favour, thinking it a human
creature; and I, understanding it to be but an image of brass or stone,
had shown you, as a friend, that your love was impossible, and
thereupon you had conceived that I bore you some ill-will.

--But still, does it not follow from what you said, that we must
renounce philosophy and pass our days in idleness?

--When did you hear me say that?  I did but assert that if we are to
seek after philosophy, whereas there are many ways professing to lead
thereto, we must with much exactness distinguish them.

--Well, Lucian! that we must go to all the schools in turn, and test
what they say, if we are to choose the right one, is perhaps
reasonable; but surely ridiculous, unless we are to live as [163] many
years as the Phoenix, to be so lengthy in the trial of each; as if it
were not possible to learn the whole by the part!  They say that
Pheidias, when he was shown one of the talons of a lion, computed the
stature and age of the animal it belonged to, modelling a complete lion
upon the standard of a single part of it.  You too would recognise a
human hand were the rest of the body concealed. Even so with the
schools of philosophy:--the leading doctrines of each might be learned
in an afternoon.  That over-exactness of yours, which required so long
a time, is by no means necessary for making the better choice.

--You are forcible, Hermotimus! with this theory of The Whole by the
Part.  Yet, methinks, I heard you but now propound the contrary.  But
tell me; would Pheidias when he saw the lion's talon have known that it
was a lion's, if he had never seen the animal?  Surely, the cause of
his recognising the part was his knowledge of the whole.  There is a
way of choosing one's philosophy even less troublesome than yours. Put
the names of all the philosophers into an urn.  Then call a little
child, and let him draw the name of the philosopher you shall follow
all the rest of your days.

--Nay! be serious with me.  Tell me; did you ever buy wine?

--Surely.

--And did you first go the whole round of [164] the wine-merchants,
tasting and comparing their wines?

--By no means.

--No!  You were contented to order the first good wine you found at
your price.  By tasting a little you were ascertained of the quality of
the whole cask.  How if you had gone to each of the merchants in turn,
and said, 'I wish to buy a cotylé of wine.  Let me drink out the whole
cask.  Then I shall be able to tell which is best, and where I ought to
buy.'  Yet this is what you would do with the philosophies.  Why drain
the cask when you might taste, and see?

--How slippery you are; how you escape from one's fingers!  Still, you
have given me an advantage, and are in your own trap.

--How so?

--Thus!  You take a common object known to every one, and make wine the
figure of a thing which presents the greatest variety in itself, and
about which all men are at variance, because it is an unseen and
difficult thing.  I hardly know wherein philosophy and wine are alike
unless it be in this, that the philosophers exchange their ware for
money, like the wine-merchants; some of them with a mixture of water or
worse, or giving short measure.  However, let us consider your
parallel.  The wine in the cask, you say, is of one kind throughout.
But have the philosophers--has your own [165] master even--but one and
the same thing only to tell you, every day and all days, on a subject
so manifold?  Otherwise, how can you know the whole by the tasting of
one part?  The whole is not the same--Ah! and it may be that God has
hidden the good wine of philosophy at the bottom of the cask.  You must
drain it to the end if you are to find those drops of divine sweetness
you seem so much to thirst for!  Yourself, after drinking so deeply,
are still but at the beginning, as you said.  But is not philosophy
rather like this?  Keep the figure of the merchant and the cask: but
let it be filled, not with wine, but with every sort of grain.  You
come to buy.  The merchant hands you a little of the wheat which lies
at the top.  Could you tell by looking at that, whether the chick-peas
were clean, the lentils tender, the beans full?  And then, whereas in
selecting our wine we risk only our money; in selecting our philosophy
we risk ourselves, as you told me--might ourselves sink into the dregs
of 'the vulgar herd.'  Moreover, while you may not drain the whole cask
of wine by way of tasting, Wisdom grows no less by the depth of your
drinking.  Nay! if you take of her, she is increased thereby.

And then I have another similitude to propose, as regards this tasting
of philosophy.  Don't think I blaspheme her if I say that it may be
with her as with some deadly poison, [166] hemlock or aconite. These
too, though they cause death, yet kill not if one tastes but a minute
portion.  You would suppose that the tiniest particle must be
sufficient.

--Be it as you will, Lucian!  One must live a hundred years: one must
sustain all this labour; otherwise philosophy is unattainable.

--Not so!  Though there were nothing strange in that, if it be true, as
you said at first, that Life is short and art is long.  But now you
take it hard that we are not to see you this very day, before the sun
goes down, a Chrysippus, a Pythagoras, a Plato.

--You overtake me, Lucian! and drive me into a corner; in jealousy of
heart, I believe, because I have made some progress in doctrine whereas
you have neglected yourself.

--Well!  Don't attend to me!  Treat me as a Corybant, a fanatic: and do
you go forward on this road of yours.  Finish the journey in accordance
with the view you had of these matters at the beginning of it.  Only,
be assured that my judgment on it will remain unchanged. Reason still
says, that without criticism, without a clear, exact, unbiassed
intelligence to try them, all those theories--all things--will have
been seen but in vain.  'To that end,' she tells us, 'much time is
necessary, many delays of judgment, a cautious gait; repeated
inspection.'  And we are not to regard the outward appearance, or the
reputation of wisdom, in any of the [167] speakers; but like the judges
of Areopagus, who try their causes in the darkness of the night, look
only to what they say.

--Philosophy, then, is impossible, or possible only in another life!

--Hermotimus!  I grieve to tell you that all this even, may be in truth
insufficient.  After all, we may deceive ourselves in the belief that
we have found something:--like the fishermen!  Again and again they let
down the net.  At last they feel something heavy, and with vast labour
draw up, not a load of fish, but only a pot full of sand, or a great
stone.

--I don't understand what you mean by the net.  It is plain that you
have caught me in it.

--Try to get out!  You can swim as well as another.  We may go to all
philosophers in turn and make trial of them.  Still, I, for my part,
hold it by no mean certain that any one of them really possesses what
we seek.  The truth may be a thing that not one of them has yet found.
You have twenty beans in your hand, and you bid ten persons guess how
many: one says five, another fifteen; it is possible that one of them
may tell the true number; but it is not impossible that all may be
wrong.  So it is with the philosophers.  All alike are in search of
Happiness--what kind of thing it is.  One says one thing, one another:
it is pleasure; it is virtue;--what not?  And Happiness may indeed be
one of those things.  But it is possible [168] also that it may be
still something else, different and distinct from them all.

--What is this?--There is something, I know not how, very sad and
disheartening in what you say.  We seem to have come round in a circle
to the spot whence we started, and to our first incertitude. Ah!
Lucian, what have you done to me?  You have proved my priceless pearl
to be but ashes, and all my past labour to have been in vain.

--Reflect, my friend, that you are not the first person who has thus
failed of the good thing he hoped for.  All philosophers, so to speak,
are but fighting about the 'ass's shadow.'  To me you seem like one who
should weep, and reproach fortune because he is not able to climb up
into heaven, or go down into the sea by Sicily and come up at Cyprus,
or sail on wings in one day from Greece to India.  And the true cause
of his trouble is that he has based his hope on what he has seen in a
dream, or his own fancy has put together; without previous thought
whether what he desires is in itself attainable and within the compass
of human nature.  Even so, methinks, has it happened with you.  As you
dreamed, so largely, of those wonderful things, came Reason, and woke
you up from sleep, a little roughly: and then you are angry with
Reason, your eyes being still but half open, and find it hard to shake
off sleep for the pleasure of what you saw therein.  Only, [169] don't
be angry with me, because, as a friend, I would not suffer you to pass
your life in a dream, pleasant perhaps, but still only a dream--because
I wake you up and demand that you should busy yourself with the proper
business of life, and send you to it possessed of common sense.  What
your soul was full of just now is not very different from those Gorgons
and Chimaeras and the like, which the poets and the painters construct
for us, fancy-free:--things which never were, and never will be, though
many believe in them, and all like to see and hear of them, just
because they are so strange and odd.

And you too, methinks, having heard from some such maker of marvels of
a certain woman of a fairness beyond nature--beyond the Graces, beyond
Venus Urania herself--asked not if he spoke truth, and whether this
woman be really alive in the world, but straightway fell in love with
her; as they say that Medea was enamoured of Jason in a dream. And what
more than anything else seduced you, and others like you, into that
passion, for a vain idol of the fancy, is, that he who told you about
that fair woman, from the very moment when you first believed that what
he said was true, brought forward all the rest in consequent order.
Upon her alone your eyes were fixed; by her he led you along, when once
you had given him a hold upon you--led you along the straight road, as
he said, to the beloved one.  All was easy after that. [170] None of
you asked again whether it was the true way; following one after
another, like sheep led by the green bough in the hand of the shepherd.
He moved you hither and thither with his finger, as easily as water
spilt on a table!

My friend!  Be not so lengthy in preparing the banquet, lest you die of
hunger!  I saw one who poured water into a mortar, and ground it with
all his might with a pestle of iron, fancying he did a thing useful and
necessary; but it remained water only, none the less."

Just there the conversation broke off suddenly, and the disputants
parted.  The horses were come for Lucian.  The boy went on his way, and
Marius onward, to visit a friend whose abode lay further.  As he
returned to Rome towards evening the melancholy aspect, natural to a
city of the dead, had triumphed over the superficial gaudiness of the
early day.  He could almost have fancied Canidia there, picking her way
among the rickety lamps, to rifle some neglected or ruined tomb; for
these tombs were not all equally well cared for (Post mortem nescio!)
and it had been one of the pieties of Aurelius to frame a severe law to
prevent the defacing of such monuments.  To Marius there seemed to be
some new meaning in that terror of isolation, of being left alone in
these places, of which the sepulchral inscriptions were so full.  A
blood-red sunset was dying angrily, and its wild glare upon the shadowy
objects around helped to combine [171] the associations of this famous
way, its deeply graven marks of immemorial travel, together with the
earnest questions of the morning as to the true way of that other sort
of travelling, around an image, almost ghastly in the traces of its
great sorrows--bearing along for ever, on bleeding feet, the instrument
of its punishment--which was all Marius could recall distinctly of a
certain Christian legend he had heard.  The legend told of an encounter
at this very spot, of two wayfarers on the Appian Way, as also upon
some very dimly discerned mental journey, altogether different from
himself and his late companions--an encounter between Love, literally
fainting by the road, and Love "travelling in the greatness of his
strength," Love itself, suddenly appearing to sustain that other.  A
strange contrast to anything actually presented in that morning's
conversation, it seemed nevertheless to echo its very words--"Do they
never come down again," he heard once more the well-modulated voice:
"Do they never come down again from the heights, to help those whom
they left here below?"--"And we too desire, not a fair one, but the
fairest of all. Unless we find him, we shall think we have failed."



CHAPTER XXV: SUNT LACRIMAE RERUM+

[172] It was become a habit with Marius--one of his
modernisms--developed by his assistance at the Emperor's "conversations
with himself," to keep a register of the movements of his own private
thoughts and humours; not continuously indeed, yet sometimes for
lengthy intervals, during which it was no idle self-indulgence, but a
necessity of his intellectual life, to "confess himself," with an
intimacy, seemingly rare among the ancients; ancient writers, at all
events, having been jealous, for the most part, of affording us so much
as a glimpse of that interior self, which in many cases would have
actually doubled the interest of their objective informations.

"If a particular tutelary or genius," writes Marius,--"according to old
belief, walks through life beside each one of us, mine is very
certainly a capricious creature.  He fills one with wayward,
unaccountable, yet quite irresistible humours, [173] and seems always
to be in collusion with some outward circumstance, often trivial enough
in itself--the condition of the weather, forsooth!--the people one
meets by chance--the things one happens to overhear them say, veritable
enodioi symboloi,+ or omens by the wayside, as the old Greeks
fancied--to push on the unreasonable prepossessions of the moment into
weighty motives.  It was doubtless a quite explicable, physical fatigue
that presented me to myself, on awaking this morning, so lack-lustre
and trite.  But I must needs take my petulance, contrasting it with my
accustomed morning hopefulness, as a sign of the ageing of appetite, of
a decay in the very capacity of enjoyment. We need some imaginative
stimulus, some not impossible ideal such as may shape vague hope, and
transform it into effective desire, to carry us year after year,
without disgust, through the routine-work which is so large a part of
life.  "Then, how if appetite, be it for real or ideal, should itself
fail one after awhile?  Ah, yes! is it of cold always that men die; and
on some of us it creeps very gradually.  In truth, I can remember just
such a lack-lustre condition of feeling once or twice before.  But I
note, that it was accompanied then by an odd indifference, as the
thought of them occurred to me, in regard to the sufferings of
others--a kind of callousness, so unusual with me, as at once to mark
the humour it accompanied as a palpably morbid one [174] that could not
last.  Were those sufferings, great or little, I asked myself then, of
more real consequence to them than mine to me, as I remind myself that
'nothing that will end is really long'--long enough to be thought of
importance?  But to-day, my own sense of fatigue, the pity I conceive
for myself, disposed me strongly to a tenderness for others.  For a
moment the whole world seemed to present itself as a hospital of sick
persons; many of them sick in mind; all of whom it would be a brutality
not to humour, not to indulge.

"Why, when I went out to walk off my wayward fancies, did I confront
the very sort of incident (my unfortunate genius had surely beckoned it
from afar to vex me) likely to irritate them further?  A party of men
were coming down the street.  They were leading a fine race-horse; a
handsome beast, but badly hurt somewhere, in the circus, and useless.
They were taking him to slaughter; and I think the animal knew it: he
cast such looks, as if of mad appeal, to those who passed him, as he
went among the strangers to whom his former owner had committed him, to
die, in his beauty and pride, for just that one mischance or fault;
although the morning air was still so animating, and pleasant to snuff.
I could have fancied a human soul in the creature, swelling against its
luck.  And I had come across the incident just when it would figure to
me as the very symbol [175] of our poor humanity, in its capacities for
pain, its wretched accidents, and those imperfect sympathies, which can
never quite identify us with one another; the very power of utterance
and appeal to others seeming to fail us, in proportion as our sorrows
come home to ourselves, are really our own.  We are constructed for
suffering!  What proofs of it does but one day afford, if we care to
note them, as we go--a whole long chaplet of sorrowful mysteries!  Sunt
lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt.+

"Men's fortunes touch us!  The little children of one of those
institutions for the support of orphans, now become fashionable among
us by way of memorial of eminent persons deceased, are going, in long
file, along the street, on their way to a holiday in the country. They
halt, and count themselves with an air of triumph, to show that they
are all there.  Their gay chatter has disturbed a little group of
peasants; a young woman and her husband, who have brought the old
mother, now past work and witless, to place her in a house provided for
such afflicted people.  They are fairly affectionate, but anxious how
the thing they have to do may go--hope only she may permit them to
leave her there behind quietly.  And the poor old soul is excited by
the noise made by the children, and partly aware of what is going to
happen with her.  She too begins to count--one, two, three, five--on
her trembling fingers, misshapen by a life of toil.

[176] 'Yes! yes! and twice five make ten'--they say, to pacify her. It
is her last appeal to be taken home again; her proof that all is not
yet up with her; that she is, at all events, still as capable as those
joyous children.

"At the baths, a party of labourers are at work upon one of the great
brick furnaces, in a cloud of black dust.  A frail young child has
brought food for one of them, and sits apart, waiting till his father
comes--watching the labour, but with a sorrowful distaste for the din
and dirt.  He is regarding wistfully his own place in the world, there
before him.  His mind, as he watches, is grown up for a moment; and he
foresees, as it were, in that moment, all the long tale of days, of
early awakings, of his own coming life of drudgery at work like this.

"A man comes along carrying a boy whose rough work has already
begun--the only child--whose presence beside him sweetened the father's
toil a little.  The boy has been badly injured by a fall of brick-work,
yet, with an effort, he rides boldly on his father's shoulders.  It
will be the way of natural affection to keep him alive as long as
possible, though with that miserably shattered body.--'Ah! with us
still, and feeling our care beside him!'--and yet surely not without a
heartbreaking sigh of relief, alike from him and them, when the end
comes.

"On the alert for incidents like these, yet of necessity passing them
by on the other side, I find [177] it hard to get rid of a sense that
I, for one, have failed in love.  I could yield to the humour till I
seemed to have had my share in those great public cruelties, the
shocking legal crimes which are on record, like that cold-blooded
slaughter, according to law, of the four hundred slaves in the reign of
Nero, because one of their number was thought to have murdered his
master.  The reproach of that, together with the kind of facile
apologies those who had no share in the deed may have made for it, as
they went about quietly on their own affairs that day, seems to come
very close to me, as I think upon it.  And to how many of those now
actually around me, whose life is a sore one, must I be indifferent, if
I ever become aware of their soreness at all?  To some, perhaps, the
necessary conditions of my own life may cause me to be opposed, in a
kind of natural conflict, regarding those interests which actually
determine the happiness of theirs.  I would that a stronger love might
arise in my heart!

"Yet there is plenty of charity in the world.  My patron, the Stoic
emperor, has made it even fashionable.  To celebrate one of his brief
returns to Rome lately from the war, over and above a largess of gold
pieces to all who would, the public debts were forgiven. He made a nice
show of it: for once, the Romans entertained themselves with a
good-natured spectacle, and the whole town came to see the great
bonfire [178] in the Forum, into which all bonds and evidence of debt
were thrown on delivery, by the emperor himself; many private creditors
following his example.  That was done well enough!  But still the
feeling returns to me, that no charity of ours can get at a certain
natural unkindness which I find in things themselves.

"When I first came to Rome, eager to observe its religion, especially
its antiquities of religious usage, I assisted at the most curious,
perhaps, of them all, the most distinctly marked with that immobility
which is a sort of ideal in the Roman religion.  The ceremony took
place at a singular spot some miles distant from the city, among the
low hills on the bank of the Tiber, beyond the Aurelian Gate.  There,
in a little wood of venerable trees, piously allowed their own way, age
after age--ilex and cypress remaining where they fell at last, one over
the other, and all caught, in that early May-time, under a riotous
tangle of wild clematis--was to be found a magnificent sanctuary, in
which the members of the Arval College assembled themselves on certain
days.  The axe never touched those trees--Nay! it was forbidden to
introduce any iron thing whatsoever within the precincts; not only
because the deities of these quiet places hate to be disturbed by the
harsh noise of metal, but also in memory of that better age--the lost
Golden Age--the homely age of the potters, of [179] which the central
act of the festival was a commemoration.

"The preliminary ceremonies were long and complicated, but of a
character familiar enough.  Peculiar to the time and place was the
solemn exposition, after lavation of hands, processions backwards and
forwards, and certain changes of vestments, of the identical earthen
vessels--veritable relics of the old religion of Numa!--the vessels
from which the holy Numa himself had eaten and drunk, set forth above a
kind of altar, amid a cloud of flowers and incense, and many lights,
for the veneration of the credulous or the faithful.

"They were, in fact, cups or vases of burnt clay, rude in form: and the
religious veneration thus offered to them expressed men's desire to
give honour to a simpler age, before iron had found place in human
life: the persuasion that that age was worth remembering: a hope that
it might come again.

"That a Numa, and his age of gold, would return, has been the hope or
the dream of some, in every period.  Yet if he did come back, or any
equivalent of his presence, he could but weaken, and by no means smite
through, that root of evil, certainly of sorrow, of outraged human
sense, in things, which one must carefully distinguish from all
preventible accidents.  Death, and the little perpetual daily dyings,
which have something of its sting, he must [180] necessarily leave
untouched.  And, methinks, that were all the rest of man's life framed
entirely to his liking, he would straightway begin to sadden himself,
over the fate--say, of the flowers!  For there is, there has come to be
since Numa lived perhaps, a capacity for sorrow in his heart, which
grows with all the growth, alike of the individual and of the race, in
intellectual delicacy and power, and which will find its aliment.

"Of that sort of golden age, indeed, one discerns even now a trace,
here and there.  Often have I maintained that, in this generous
southern country at least, Epicureanism is the special philosophy of
the poor.  How little I myself really need, when people leave me alone,
with the intellectual powers at work serenely.  The drops of falling
water, a few wild flowers with their priceless fragrance, a few tufts
even of half-dead leaves, changing colour in the quiet of a room that
has but light and shadow in it; these, for a susceptible mind, might
well do duty for all the glory of Augustus.  I notice sometimes what I
conceive to be the precise character of the fondness of the roughest
working-people for their young children, a fine appreciation, not only
of their serviceable affection, but of their visible graces: and
indeed, in this country, the children are almost always worth looking
at.  I see daily, in fine weather, a child like a delicate nosegay,
running to meet the rudest of brick- [181] makers as he comes from
work.  She is not at all afraid to hang upon his rough hand: and
through her, he reaches out to, he makes his own, something from that
strange region, so distant from him yet so real, of the world's
refinement.  What is of finer soul, of finer stuff in things, and
demands delicate touching--to him the delicacy of the little child
represents that: it initiates him into that.  There, surely, is a touch
of the secular gold, of a perpetual age of gold.  But then again, think
for a moment, with what a hard humour at the nature of things, his
struggle for bare life will go on, if the child should happen to die.
I observed to-day, under one of the archways of the baths, two children
at play, a little seriously--a fair girl and her crippled younger
brother.  Two toy chairs and a little table, and sprigs of fir set
upright in the sand for a garden!  They played at housekeeping.  Well!
the girl thinks her life a perfectly good thing in the service of this
crippled brother.  But she will have a jealous lover in time: and the
boy, though his face is not altogether unpleasant, is after all a
hopeless cripple.

"For there is a certain grief in things as they are, in man as he has
come to be, as he certainly is, over and above those griefs of
circumstance which are in a measure removable--some inexplicable
shortcoming, or misadventure, on the part of nature itself--death, and
old age as it [182] must needs be, and that watching for their
approach, which makes every stage of life like a dying over and over
again.  Almost all death is painful, and in every thing that comes to
an end a touch of death, and therefore of wretched coldness struck home
to one, of remorse, of loss and parting, of outraged attachments.
Given faultless men and women, given a perfect state of society which
should have no need to practise on men's susceptibilities for its own
selfish ends, adding one turn more to the wheel of the great rack for
its own interest or amusement, there would still be this evil in the
world, of a certain necessary sorrow and desolation, felt, just in
proportion to the moral, or nervous perfection men have attained to.
And what we need in the world, over against that, is a certain
permanent and general power of compassion--humanity's standing force of
self-pity--as an elementary ingredient of our social atmosphere, if we
are to live in it at all.  I wonder, sometimes, in what way man has
cajoled himself into the bearing of his burden thus far, seeing how
every step in the capacity of apprehension his labour has won for him,
from age to age, must needs increase his dejection.  It is as if the
increase of knowledge were but an increasing revelation of the radical
hopelessness of his position: and I would that there were one even as
I, behind this vain show of things!

"At all events, the actual conditions of our [183] life being as they
are, and the capacity for suffering so large a principle in
things--since the only principle, perhaps, to which we may always
safely trust is a ready sympathy with the pain one actually sees--it
follows that the practical and effective difference between men will
lie in their power of insight into those conditions, their power of
sympathy.  The future will be with those who have most of it; while for
the present, as I persuade myself, those who have much of it, have
something to hold by, even in the dissolution of a world, or in that
dissolution of self, which is, for every one, no less than the
dissolution of the world it represents for him.  Nearly all of us, I
suppose, have had our moments, in which any effective sympathy for us
on the part of others has seemed impossible; in which our pain has
seemed a stupid outrage upon us, like some overwhelming physical
violence, from which we could take refuge, at best, only in some mere
general sense of goodwill--somewhere in the world perhaps.  And then,
to one's surprise, the discovery of that goodwill, if it were only in a
not unfriendly animal, may seem to have explained, to have actually
justified to us, the fact of our pain.  There have been occasions,
certainly, when I have felt that if others cared for me as I cared for
them, it would be, not so much a consolation, as an equivalent, for
what one has lost or suffered: a realised profit on the summing up
[184] of one's accounts: a touching of that absolute ground amid all
the changes of phenomena, such as our philosophers have of late
confessed themselves quite unable to discover.  In the mere clinging of
human creatures to each other, nay! in one's own solitary self-pity,
amid the effects even of what might appear irredeemable loss, I seem to
touch the eternal.  Something in that pitiful contact, something new
and true, fact or apprehension of fact, is educed, which, on a review
of all the perplexities of life, satisfies our moral sense, and removes
that appearance of unkindness in the soul of things themselves, and
assures us that not everything has been in vain.

"And I know not how, but in the thought thus suggested, I seem to take
up, and re-knit myself to, a well-remembered hour, when by some
gracious accident--it was on a journey--all things about me fell into a
more perfect harmony than is their wont.  Everything seemed to be, for
a moment, after all, almost for the best.  Through the train of my
thoughts, one against another, it was as if I became aware of the
dominant power of another person in controversy, wrestling with me. I
seem to be come round to the point at which I left off then.  The
antagonist has closed with me again.  A protest comes, out of the very
depths of man's radically hopeless condition in the world, with the
energy of one of those suffering yet prevailing [185] deities, of which
old poetry tells.  Dared one hope that there is a heart, even as ours,
in that divine 'Assistant' of one's thoughts--a heart even as mine,
behind this vain show of things!"

NOTES

172. Virgil, Aeneid Book 1, line 462.  "There are the tears of
things..."  See also page 175 of this chapter, where the same text is
quoted in full.

173. +Transliteration: enodioi symboloi.  Pater's Definition: "omens by
the wayside."

175. +Sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt.  Virgil, Aeneid
Book 1, line 462.  Translation: "Here also there be tears for what men
bear, and mortal creatures feel each other's sorrow," from Vergil,
Aeneid, Theodore C. Williams. trans. Boston.  Houghton Mifflin Co. 1910.



CHAPTER XXVI: THE MARTYRS

     "Ah! voilà les âmes qu'il falloit à la mienne!"
                                           Rousseau.

[186] THE charm of its poetry, a poetry of the affections, wonderfully
fresh in the midst of a threadbare world, would have led Marius, if
nothing else had done so, again and again, to Cecilia's house.  He
found a range of intellectual pleasures, altogether new to him, in the
sympathy of that pure and elevated soul.  Elevation of soul,
generosity, humanity--little by little it came to seem to him as if
these existed nowhere else.  The sentiment of maternity, above all, as
it might be understood there,--its claims, with the claims of all
natural feeling everywhere, down to the sheep bleating on the hills,
nay! even to the mother-wolf, in her hungry cave--seemed to have been
vindicated, to have been enforced anew, by the sanction of some divine
pattern thereof.  He saw its legitimate place in the world given at
last to the bare capacity for [187] suffering in any creature, however
feeble or apparently useless.  In this chivalry, seeming to leave the
world's heroism a mere property of the stage, in this so scrupulous
fidelity to what could not help itself, could scarcely claim not to be
forgotten, what a contrast to the hard contempt of one's own or other's
pain, of death, of glory even, in those discourses of Aurelius!

But if Marius thought at times that some long-cherished desires were
now about to blossom for him, in the sort of home he had sometimes
pictured to himself, the very charm of which would lie in its contrast
to any random affections: that in this woman, to whom children
instinctively clung, he might find such a sister, at least, as he had
always longed for; there were also circumstances which reminded him
that a certain rule forbidding second marriages, was among these people
still in force; ominous incidents, moreover, warning a susceptible
conscience not to mix together the spirit and the flesh, nor make the
matter of a heavenly banquet serve for earthly meat and drink.

One day he found Cecilia occupied with the burial of one of the
children of her household.  It was from the tiny brow of such a child,
as he now heard, that the new light had first shone forth upon
them--through the light of mere physical life, glowing there again,
when the child was dead, or supposed to be dead.  The [188] aged
servant of Christ had arrived in the midst of their noisy grief; and
mounting to the little chamber where it lay, had returned, not long
afterwards, with the child stirring in his arms as he descended the
stair rapidly; bursting open the closely-wound folds of the shroud and
scattering the funeral flowers from them, as the soul kindled once more
through its limbs.

Old Roman common-sense had taught people to occupy their thoughts as
little as might be with children who died young.  Here, to-day,
however, in this curious house, all thoughts were tenderly bent on the
little waxen figure, yet with a kind of exultation and joy,
notwithstanding the loud weeping of the mother.  The other children,
its late companions, broke with it, suddenly, into the place where the
deep black bed lay open to receive it.  Pushing away the grim fossores,
the grave-diggers, they ranged themselves around it in order, and
chanted that old psalm of theirs--Laudate pueri dominum! Dead children,
children's graves--Marius had been always half aware of an old
superstitious fancy in his mind concerning them; as if in coming near
them he came near the failure of some lately-born hope or purpose of
his own.  And now, perusing intently the expression with which Cecilia
assisted, directed, returned afterwards to her house, he felt that he
too had had to-day his funeral of a little child. But it had always
been his policy, through all his pursuit [189] of "experience," to take
flight in time from any too disturbing passion, from any sort of
affection likely to quicken his pulses beyond the point at which the
quiet work of life was practicable.  Had he, after all, been taken
unawares, so that it was no longer possible for him to fly?  At least,
during the journey he took, by way of testing the existence of any
chain about him, he found a certain disappointment at his heart,
greater than he could have anticipated; and as he passed over the crisp
leaves, nipped off in multitudes by the first sudden cold of winter, he
felt that the mental atmosphere within himself was perceptibly colder.

Yet it was, finally, a quite successful resignation which he achieved,
on a review, after his manner, during that absence, of loss or gain.
The image of Cecilia, it would seem, was already become for him like
some matter of poetry, or of another man's story, or a picture on the
wall.  And on his return to Rome there had been a rumour in that
singular company, of things which spoke certainly not of any merely
tranquil loving: hinted rather that he had come across a world, the
lightest contact with which might make appropriate to himself also the
precept that "They which have wives be as they that have none."

This was brought home to him, when, in early spring, he ventured once
more to listen to the sweet singing of the Eucharist.  It breathed
[190] more than ever the spirit of a wonderful hope--of hopes more
daring than poor, labouring humanity had ever seriously entertained
before, though it was plain that a great calamity was befallen.  Amid
stifled sobbing, even as the pathetic words of the psalter relieved the
tension of their hearts, the people around him still wore upon their
faces their habitual gleam of joy, of placid satisfaction. They were
still under the influence of an immense gratitude in thinking, even
amid their present distress, of the hour of a great deliverance.  As he
followed again that mystical dialogue, he felt also again, like a
mighty spirit about him, the potency, the half-realised presence, of a
great multitude, as if thronging along those awful passages, to hear
the sentence of its release from prison; a company which represented
nothing less than--orbis terrarum--the whole company of mankind.  And
the special note of the day expressed that relief--a sound new to him,
drawn deep from some old Hebrew source, as he conjectured, Alleluia!
repeated over and over again, Alleluia!  Alleluia! at every pause and
movement of the long Easter ceremonies.

And then, in its place, by way of sacred lection, although in shocking
contrast with the peaceful dignity of all around, came the Epistle of
the churches of Lyons and Vienne, to "their sister," the church of
Rome.  For the "Peace" of the church had been broken--broken, as [191]
Marius could not but acknowledge, on the responsibility of the emperor
Aurelius himself, following tamely, and as a matter of course, the
traces of his predecessors, gratuitously enlisting, against the good as
well as the evil of that great pagan world, the strange new heroism of
which this singular message was full.  The greatness of it certainly
lifted away all merely private regret, inclining one, at last, actually
to draw sword for the oppressed, as if in some new order of knighthood--

"The pains which our brethren have endured we have no power fully to
tell, for the enemy came upon us with his whole strength.  But the
grace of God fought for us, set free the weak, and made ready those
who, like pillars, were able to bear the weight.  These, coming now
into close strife with the foe, bore every kind of pang and shame. At
the time of the fair which is held here with a great crowd, the
governor led forth the Martyrs as a show.  Holding what was thought
great but little, and that the pains of to-day are not deserving to be
measured against the glory that shall be made known, these worthy
wrestlers went joyfully on their way; their delight and the sweet
favour of God mingling in their faces, so that their bonds seemed but a
goodly array, or like the golden bracelets of a bride.  Filled with the
fragrance of Christ, to some they seemed to have been touched with
earthly perfumes.

[192] "Vettius Epagathus, though he was very young, because he would
not endure to see unjust judgment given against us, vented his anger,
and sought to be heard for the brethren, for he was a youth of high
place.  Whereupon the governor asked him whether he also were a
Christian.  He confessed in a clear voice, and was added to the number
of the Martyrs.  But he had the Paraclete within him; as, in truth, he
showed by the fulness of his love; glorying in the defence of his
brethren, and to give his life for theirs.

"Then was fulfilled the saying of the Lord that the day should come,
When he that slayeth you will think that he doeth God service.  Most
madly did the mob, the governor and the soldiers, rage against the
handmaiden Blandina, in whom Christ showed that what seems mean among
men is of price with Him.  For whilst we all, and her earthly mistress,
who was herself one of the contending Martyrs, were fearful lest
through the weakness of the flesh she should be unable to profess the
faith, Blandina was filled with such power that her tormentors,
following upon each other from morning until night, owned that they
were overcome, and had no more that they could do to her; admiring that
she still breathed after her whole body was torn asunder.

"But this blessed one, in the very midst of her 'witness,' renewed her
strength; and to [193] repeat, I am Christ's! was to her rest,
refreshment, and relief from pain.  As for Alexander, he neither
uttered a groan nor any sound at all, but in his heart talked with God.
Sanctus, the deacon, also, having borne beyond all measure pains
devised by them, hoping that they would get something from him, did not
so much as tell his name; but to all questions answered only, I am
Christ's!  For this he confessed instead of his name, his race, and
everything beside.  Whence also a strife in torturing him arose between
the governor and those tormentors, so that when they had nothing else
they could do they set red-hot plates of brass to the most tender parts
of his body.  But he stood firm in his profession, cooled and fortified
by that stream of living water which flows from Christ.  His corpse, a
single wound, having wholly lost the form of man, was the measure of
his pain.  But Christ, paining in him, set forth an ensample to the
rest--that there is nothing fearful, nothing painful, where the love of
the Father overcomes.  And as all those cruelties were made null
through the patience of the Martyrs, they bethought them of other
things; among which was their imprisonment in a dark and most sorrowful
place, where many were privily strangled. But destitute of man's aid,
they were filled with power from the Lord, both in body and mind, and
strengthened their brethren.  Also, much joy was in our virgin mother,
the [194] Church; for, by means of these, such as were fallen away
retraced their steps--were again conceived, were filled again with
lively heat, and hastened to make the profession of their faith.

"The holy bishop Pothinus, who was now past ninety years old and weak
in body, yet in his heat of soul and longing for martyrdom, roused what
strength he had, and was also cruelly dragged to judgment, and gave
witness.  Thereupon he suffered many stripes, all thinking it would be
a wickedness if they fell short in cruelty towards him, for that thus
their own gods would be avenged.  Hardly drawing breath, he was thrown
into prison, and after two days there died.

"After these things their martyrdom was parted into divers manners.
Plaiting as it were one crown of many colours and every sort of
flowers, they offered it to God.  Maturus, therefore, Sanctus and
Blandina, were led to the wild beasts.  And Maturus and Sanctus passed
through all the pains of the amphitheatre, as if they had suffered
nothing before: or rather, as having in many trials overcome, and now
contending for the prize itself, were at last dismissed.

"But Blandina was bound and hung upon a stake, and set forth as food
for the assault of the wild beasts.  And as she thus seemed to be hung
upon the Cross, by her fiery prayers she imparted much alacrity to
those contending Witnesses.  For as they looked upon her with the eye
of [195] flesh, through her, they saw Him that was crucified. But as
none of the beasts would then touch her, she was taken down from the
Cross, and sent back to prison for another day: that, though weak and
mean, yet clothed with the mighty wrestler, Christ Jesus, she might by
many conquests give heart to her brethren.

"On the last day, therefore, of the shows, she was brought forth again,
together with Ponticus, a lad of about fifteen years old. They were
brought in day by day to behold the pains of the rest.  And when they
wavered not, the mob was full of rage; pitying neither the youth of the
lad, nor the sex of the maiden.  Hence, they drave them through the
whole round of pain.  And Ponticus, taking heart from Blandina, having
borne well the whole of those torments, gave up his life.  Last of all,
the blessed Blandina herself, as a mother that had given life to her
children, and sent them like conquerors to the great King, hastened to
them, with joy at the end, as to a marriage-feast; the enemy himself
confessing that no woman had ever borne pain so manifold and great as
hers.

"Nor even so was their anger appeased; some among them seeking for us
pains, if it might be, yet greater; that the saying might be fulfilled,
He that is unjust, let him be unjust still.  And their rage against the
Martyrs took a new form, insomuch that we were in great sorrow for lack
of freedom to entrust their bodies to the earth.

[196] "Neither did the night-time, nor the offer of money, avail us for
this matter; but they set watch with much carefulness, as though it
were a great gain to hinder their burial.  Therefore, after the bodies
had been displayed to view for many days, they were at last burned to
ashes, and cast into the river Rhone, which flows by this place, that
not a vestige of them might be left upon the earth.  For they said, Now
shall we see whether they will rise again, and whether their God can
save them out of our hands."



CHAPTER XXVII: THE TRIUMPH OF MARCUS AURELIUS

[197] NOT many months after the date of that epistle, Marius, then
expecting to leave Rome for a long time, and in fact about to leave it
for ever, stood to witness the triumphal entry of Marcus Aurelius,
almost at the exact spot from which he had watched the emperor's solemn
return to the capital on his own first coming thither.  His triumph was
now a "full" one--Justus Triumphus justified, by far more than the due
amount of bloodshed in those Northern wars, at length, it might seem,
happily at an end.  Among the captives, amid the laughter of the crowds
at his blowsy upper garment, his trousered legs and conical wolf-skin
cap, walked our own ancestor, representative of subject Germany, under
a figure very familiar in later Roman sculpture; and, though certainly
with none of the grace of the Dying Gaul, yet with plenty of uncouth
pathos in his misshapen features, and the pale, servile, yet angry
eyes.  His children, [198] white-skinned and golden-haired "as angels,"
trudged beside him.  His brothers, of the animal world, the ibex, the
wild-cat, and the reindeer, stalking and trumpeting grandly, found
their due place in the procession; and among the spoil, set forth on a
portable frame that it might be distinctly seen (no mere model, but the
very house he had lived in), a wattled cottage, in all the simplicity
of its snug contrivances against the cold, and well-calculated to give
a moment's delight to his new, sophisticated masters.

Andrea Mantegna, working at the end of the fifteenth century, for a
society full of antiquarian fervour at the sight of the earthy relics
of the old Roman people, day by day returning to light out of the
clay--childish still, moreover, and with no more suspicion of
pasteboard than the old Romans themselves, in its unabashed love of
open-air pageantries, has invested this, the greatest, and alas! the
most characteristic, of the splendours of imperial Rome, with a reality
livelier than any description.  The homely sentiments for which he has
found place in his learned paintings are hardly more lifelike than the
great public incidents of the show, there depicted. And then, with all
that vivid realism, how refined, how dignified, how select in type, is
this reflection of the old Roman world!--now especially, in its
time-mellowed red and gold, for the modern visitor to the old English
palace.

[199] It was under no such selected types that the great procession
presented itself to Marius; though, in effect, he found something there
prophetic, so to speak, and evocative of ghosts, as susceptible minds
will do, upon a repetition after long interval of some notable
incident, which may yet perhaps have no direct concern for themselves.
In truth, he had been so closely bent of late on certain very personal
interests that the broad current of the world's doings seemed to have
withdrawn into the distance, but now, as he witnessed this procession,
to return once more into evidence for him.  The world, certainly, had
been holding on its old way, and was all its old self, as it thus
passed by dramatically, accentuating, in this favourite spectacle, its
mode of viewing things.  And even apart from the contrast of a very
different scene, he would have found it, just now, a somewhat vulgar
spectacle.  The temples, wide open, with their ropes of roses flapping
in the wind against the rich, reflecting marble, their startling
draperies and heavy cloud of incense, were but the centres of a great
banquet spread through all the gaudily coloured streets of Rome, for
which the carnivorous appetite of those who thronged them in the glare
of the mid-day sun was frankly enough asserted.  At best, they were but
calling their gods to share with them the cooked, sacrificial, and
other meats, reeking to the sky. The child, who was concerned for the
sorrows of one of  [200] those Northern captives as he passed by, and
explained to his comrade--"There's feeling in that hand, you know!"
benumbed and lifeless as it looked in the chain, seemed, in a moment,
to transform the entire show into its own proper tinsel.  Yes! these
Romans were a coarse, a vulgar people; and their vulgarities of soul in
full evidence here. And Aurelius himself seemed to have undergone the
world's coinage, and fallen to the level of his reward, in a mediocrity
no longer golden.

Yet if, as he passed by, almost filling the quaint old circular chariot
with his magnificent golden-flowered attire, he presented himself to
Marius, chiefly as one who had made the great mistake; to the multitude
he came as a more than magnanimous conqueror.  That he had "forgiven"
the innocent wife and children of the dashing and almost successful
rebel Avidius Cassius, now no more, was a recent circumstance still in
memory.  As the children went past--not among those who, ere the
emperor ascended the steps of the Capitol, would be detached from the
great progress for execution, happy rather, and radiant, as adopted
members of the imperial family--the crowd actually enjoyed an
exhibition of the moral order, such as might become perhaps the
fashion.  And it was in consideration of some possible touch of a
heroism herein that might really have cost him something, that Marius
resolved to seek the emperor once more, [201] with an appeal for
common-sense, for reason and justice.

He had set out at last to revisit his old home; and knowing that
Aurelius was then in retreat at a favourite villa, which lay almost on
his way thither, determined there to present himself.  Although the
great plain was dying steadily, a new race of wild birds establishing
itself there, as he knew enough of their habits to understand, and the
idle contadino, with his never-ending ditty of decay and death,
replacing the lusty Roman labourer, never had that poetic region
between Rome and the sea more deeply impressed him than on this sunless
day of early autumn, under which all that fell within the immense
horizon was presented in one uniform tone of a clear, penitential blue.
Stimulating to the fancy as was that range of low hills to the
northwards, already troubled with the upbreaking of the Apennines, yet
a want of quiet in their outline, the record of wild fracture there, of
sudden upheaval and depression, marked them as but the ruins of nature;
while at every little descent and ascent of the road might be noted
traces of the abandoned work of man.  From time to time, the way was
still redolent of the floral relics of summer, daphne and
myrtle-blossom, sheltered in the little hollows and ravines.  At last,
amid rocks here and there piercing the soil, as those descents became
steeper, and the main line of the Apennines, [202] now visible, gave a
higher accent to the scene, he espied over the plateau, almost like one
of those broken hills, cutting the horizon towards the sea, the old
brown villa itself, rich in memories of one after another of the family
of the Antonines.  As he approached it, such reminiscences crowded upon
him, above all of the life there of the aged Antoninus Pius, in its
wonderful mansuetude and calm.  Death had overtaken him here at the
precise moment when the tribune of the watch had received from his lips
the word Aequanimitas! as the watchword of the night.  To see their
emperor living there like one of his simplest subjects, his hands red
at vintage-time with the juice of the grapes, hunting, teaching his
children, starting betimes, with all who cared to join him, for long
days of antiquarian research in the country around:--this, and the like
of this, had seemed to mean the peace of mankind.

Upon that had come--like a stain! it seemed to Marius just then--the
more intimate life of Faustina, the life of Faustina at home. Surely,
that marvellous but malign beauty must still haunt those rooms, like an
unquiet, dead goddess, who might have perhaps, after all, something
reassuring to tell surviving mortals about her ambiguous self.  When,
two years since, the news had reached Rome that those eyes, always so
persistently turned to vanity, had suddenly closed for ever, a strong
desire to pray had come [203] over Marius, as he followed in fancy on
its wild way the soul of one he had spoken with now and again, and
whose presence in it for a time the world of art could so ill have
spared.  Certainly, the honours freely accorded to embalm her memory
were poetic enough--the rich temple left among those wild villagers at
the spot, now it was hoped sacred for ever, where she had breathed her
last; the golden image, in her old place at the amphitheatre; the altar
at which the newly married might make their sacrifice; above all, the
great foundation for orphan girls, to be called after her name.

The latter, precisely, was the cause why Marius failed in fact to see
Aurelius again, and make the chivalrous effort at enlightenment he had
proposed to himself.  Entering the villa, he learned from an usher, at
the door of the long gallery, famous still for its grand prospect in
the memory of many a visitor, and then leading to the imperial
apartments, that the emperor was already in audience: Marius must wait
his turn--he knew not how long it might be.  An odd audience it seemed;
for at that moment, through the closed door, came shouts of laughter,
the laughter of a great crowd of children--the "Faustinian Children"
themselves, as he afterwards learned--happy and at their ease, in the
imperial presence.  Uncertain, then, of the time for which so pleasant
a reception might last, so pleasant that he would hardly have wished to
[204] shorten it, Marius finally determined to proceed, as it was
necessary that he should accomplish the first stage of his journey on
this day.  The thing was not to be--Vale! anima infelicissima!--He
might at least carry away that sound of the laughing orphan children,
as a not unamiable last impression of kings and their houses.

The place he was now about to visit, especially as the resting-place of
his dead, had never been forgotten.  Only, the first eager period of
his life in Rome had slipped on rapidly; and, almost on a sudden, that
old time had come to seem very long ago.  An almost burdensome
solemnity had grown about his memory of the place, so that to revisit
it seemed a thing that needed preparation: it was what he could not
have done hastily.  He half feared to lessen, or disturb, its value for
himself.  And then, as he travelled leisurely towards it, and so far
with quite tranquil mind, interested also in many another place by the
way, he discovered a shorter road to the end of his journey, and found
himself indeed approaching the spot that was to him like no other.
Dreaming now only of the dead before him, he journeyed on rapidly
through the night; the thought of them increasing on him, in the
darkness.  It was as if they had been waiting for him there through all
those years, and felt his footsteps approaching now, and understood his
devotion, quite gratefully, in that lowliness of theirs, in spite of
its tardy [205] fulfilment.  As morning came, his late tranquillity of
mind had given way to a grief which surprised him by its freshness.  He
was moved more than he could have thought possible by so distant a
sorrow.  "To-day!"--they seemed to be saying as the hard dawn
broke,--"To-day, he will come!"  At last, amid all his distractions,
they were become the main purpose of what he was then doing.  The world
around it, when he actually reached the place later in the day, was in
a mood very different from his:--so work-a-day, it seemed, on that fine
afternoon, and the villages he passed through so silent; the
inhabitants being, for the most part, at their labour in the country.
Then, at length, above the tiled outbuildings, were the walls of the
old villa itself, with the tower for the pigeons; and, not among
cypresses, but half-hidden by aged poplar-trees, their leaves like
golden fruit, the birds floating around it, the conical roof of the
tomb itself.  In the presence of an old servant who remembered him, the
great seals were broken, the rusty key turned at last in the lock, the
door was forced out among the weeds grown thickly about it, and Marius
was actually in the place which had been so often in his thoughts.

He was struck, not however without a touch of remorse thereupon,
chiefly by an odd air of neglect, the neglect of a place allowed to
remain as when it was last used, and left in a hurry, till long years
had covered all alike with thick dust [206] --the faded flowers, the
burnt-out lamps, the tools and hardened mortar of the workmen who had
had something to do there.  A heavy fragment of woodwork had fallen and
chipped open one of the oldest of the mortuary urns, many hundreds in
number ranged around the walls.  It was not properly an urn, but a
minute coffin of stone, and the fracture had revealed a piteous
spectacle of the mouldering, unburned remains within; the bones of a
child, as he understood, which might have died, in ripe age, three
times over, since it slipped away from among his great-grandfathers, so
far up in the line.  Yet the protruding baby hand seemed to stir up in
him feelings vivid enough, bringing him intimately within the scope of
dead people's grievances.  He noticed, side by side with the urn of his
mother, that of a boy of about his own age--one of the serving-boys of
the household--who had descended hither, from the lightsome world of
childhood, almost at the same time with her.  It seemed as if this boy
of his own age had taken filial place beside her there, in his stead.
That hard feeling, again, which had always lingered in his mind with
the thought of the father he had scarcely known, melted wholly away, as
he read the precise number of his years, and reflected suddenly--He was
of my own present age; no hard old man, but with interests, as he
looked round him on the world for the last time, even as mine to-day!

[207] And with that came a blinding rush of kindness, as if two
alienated friends had come to understand each other at last.  There was
weakness in all this; as there is in all care for dead persons, to
which nevertheless people will always yield in proportion as they
really care for one another.  With a vain yearning, as he stood there,
still to be able to do something for them, he reflected that such doing
must be, after all, in the nature of things, mainly for himself.  His
own epitaph might be that old one eskhatos tou idiou genous+ --He was
the last of his race!  Of those who might come hither after himself
probably no one would ever again come quite as he had done to-day; and
it was under the influence of this thought that he determined to bury
all that, deep below the surface, to be remembered only by him, and in
a way which would claim no sentiment from the indifferent.  That took
many days--was like a renewal of lengthy old burial rites--as he
himself watched the work, early and late; coming on the last day very
early, and anticipating, by stealth, the last touches, while the
workmen were absent; one young lad only, finally smoothing down the
earthy bed, greatly surprised at the seriousness with which Marius
flung in his flowers, one by one, to mingle with the dark mould.

NOTES

207. +Transliteration: eskhatos tou idiou genous.  Translation: "[he
was] the last of his race."



CHAPTER XXVIII: ANIMA NATURALITER CHRISTIANA

[208] THOSE eight days at his old home, so mournfully occupied, had
been for Marius in some sort a forcible disruption from the world and
the roots of his life in it.  He had been carried out of himself as
never before; and when the time was over, it was as if the claim over
him of the earth below had been vindicated, over against the interests
of that living world around.  Dead, yet sentient and caressing hands
seemed to reach out of the ground and to be clinging about him.
Looking back sometimes now, from about the midway of life--the age, as
he conceived, at which one begins to redescend one's life--though
antedating it a little, in his sad humour, he would note, almost with
surprise, the unbroken placidity of the contemplation in which it had
been passed.  His own temper, his early theoretic scheme of things,
would have pushed him on to movement and adventure.  Actually, as
circumstances had determined, all its movement [209] had been inward;
movement of observation only, or even of pure meditation; in part,
perhaps, because throughout it had been something of a meditatio
mortis, ever facing towards the act of final detachment.  Death,
however, as he reflected, must be for every one nothing less than the
fifth or last act of a drama, and, as such, was likely to have
something of the stirring character of a dénouement.  And, in fact, it
was in form tragic enough that his end not long afterwards came to him.

In the midst of the extreme weariness and depression which had followed
those last days, Cornelius, then, as it happened, on a journey and
travelling near the place, finding traces of him, had become his guest
at White-nights.  It was just then that Marius felt, as he had never
done before, the value to himself, the overpowering charm, of his
friendship.  "More than brother!"--he felt--like a son also!"
contrasting the fatigue of soul which made himself in effect an older
man, with the irrepressible youth of his companion.  For it was still
the marvellous hopefulness of Cornelius, his seeming prerogative over
the future, that determined, and kept alive, all other sentiment
concerning him.  A new hope had sprung up in the world of which he,
Cornelius, was a depositary, which he was to bear onward in it.
Identifying himself with Cornelius in so dear a friendship, through
him, Marius seemed to touch, to ally himself to, [210] actually to
become a possessor of the coming world; even as happy parents reach
out, and take possession of it, in and through the survival of their
children.  For in these days their intimacy had grown very close, as
they moved hither and thither, leisurely, among the country-places
thereabout, Cornelius being on his way back to Rome, till they came one
evening to a little town (Marius remembered that he had been there on
his first journey to Rome) which had even then its church and
legend--the legend and holy relics of the martyr Hyacinthus, a young
Roman soldier, whose blood had stained the soil of this place in the
reign of the emperor Trajan.

The thought of that so recent death, haunted Marius through the night,
as if with audible crying and sighs above the restless wind, which came
and went around their lodging.  But towards dawn he slept heavily; and
awaking in broad daylight, and finding Cornelius absent, set forth to
seek him.  The plague was still in the place--had indeed just broken
out afresh; with an outbreak also of cruel superstition among its wild
and miserable inhabitants.  Surely, the old gods were wroth at the
presence of this new enemy among them!  And it was no ordinary morning
into which Marius stepped forth.  There was a menace in the dark masses
of hill, and motionless wood, against the gray, although apparently
unclouded sky.  Under this sunless [211] heaven the earth itself seemed
to fret and fume with a heat of its own, in spite of the strong
night-wind.  And now the wind had fallen.

Marius felt that he breathed some strange heavy fluid, denser than any
common air.  He could have fancied that the world had sunken in the
night, far below its proper level, into some close, thick abysm of its
own atmosphere.  The Christian people of the town, hardly less
terrified and overwrought by the haunting sickness about them than
their pagan neighbours, were at prayer before the tomb of the martyr;
and even as Marius pressed among them to a place beside Cornelius, on a
sudden the hills seemed to roll like a sea in motion, around the whole
compass of the horizon.  For a moment Marius supposed himself attacked
with some sudden sickness of brain, till the fall of a great mass of
building convinced him that not himself but the earth under his feet
was giddy.  A few moments later the little marketplace was alive with
the rush of the distracted inhabitants from their tottering houses; and
as they waited anxiously for the second shock of earthquake, a
long-smouldering suspicion leapt precipitately into well-defined
purpose, and the whole body of people was carried forward towards the
band of worshippers below.  An hour later, in the wild tumult which
followed, the earth had been stained afresh with the blood of the
martyrs Felix and Faustinus--Flores  [212] apparuerunt in terra
nostra!--and their brethren, together with Cornelius and Marius, thus,
as it had happened, taken among them, were prisoners, reserved for the
action of the law.  Marius and his friend, with certain others,
exercising the privilege of their rank, made claim to be tried in Rome,
or at least in the chief town of the district; where, indeed, in the
troublous days that had now begun, a legal process had been already
instituted.  Under the care of a military guard the captives were
removed on the same day, one stage of their journey; sleeping, for
security, during the night, side by side with their keepers, in the
rooms of a shepherd's deserted house by the wayside.

It was surmised that one of the prisoners was not a Christian: the
guards were forward to make the utmost pecuniary profit of this
circumstance, and in the night, Marius, taking advantage of the loose
charge kept over them, and by means partly of a large bribe, had
contrived that Cornelius, as the really innocent person, should be
dismissed in safety on his way, to procure, as Marius explained, the
proper means of defence for himself, when the time of trial came.

And in the morning Cornelius in fact set forth alone, from their
miserable place of detention.  Marius believed that Cornelius was to be
the husband of Cecilia; and that, perhaps strangely, had but added to
the desire to get him away safely.--We wait for the great crisis which
[213] is to try what is in us: we can hardly bear the pressure of our
hearts, as we think of it: the lonely wrestler, or victim, which
imagination foreshadows to us, can hardly be one's self; it seems an
outrage of our destiny that we should be led along so gently and
imperceptibly, to so terrible a leaping-place in the dark, for more
perhaps than life or death.  At last, the great act, the critical
moment itself comes, easily, almost unconsciously.  Another motion of
the clock, and our fatal line--the "great climacteric point"--has been
passed, which changes ourselves or our lives.  In one quarter of an
hour, under a sudden, uncontrollable impulse, hardly weighing what he
did, almost as a matter of course and as lightly as one hires a bed for
one's night's rest on a journey, Marius had taken upon himself all the
heavy risk of the position in which Cornelius had then been--the long
and wearisome delays of judgment, which were possible; the danger and
wretchedness of a long journey in this manner; possibly the danger of
death.  He had delivered his brother, after the manner he had sometimes
vaguely anticipated as a kind of distinction in his destiny; though
indeed always with wistful calculation as to what it might cost him:
and in the first moment after the thing was actually done, he felt only
satisfaction at his courage, at the discovery of his possession of
"nerve."

Yet he was, as we know, no hero, no heroic [214] martyr--had indeed no
right to be; and when he had seen Cornelius depart, on his blithe and
hopeful way, as he believed, to become the husband of Cecilia;
actually, as it had happened, without a word of farewell, supposing
Marius was almost immediately afterwards to follow (Marius indeed
having avoided the moment of leave-taking with its possible call for an
explanation of the circumstances), the reaction came.  He could only
guess, of course, at what might really happen.  So far, he had but
taken upon himself, in the stead of Cornelius, a certain amount of
personal risk; though he hardly supposed himself to be facing the
danger of death.  Still, especially for one such as he, with all the
sensibilities of which his whole manner of life had been but a
promotion, the situation of a person under trial on a criminal charge
was actually full of distress.  To him, in truth, a death such as the
recent death of those saintly brothers, seemed no glorious end.  In his
case, at least, the Martyrdom, as it was called--the overpowering act
of testimony that Heaven had come down among men--would be but a common
execution: from the drops of his blood there would spring no
miraculous, poetic flowers; no eternal aroma would indicate the place
of his burial; no plenary grace, overflowing for ever upon those who
might stand around it.  Had there been one to listen just then, there
would have come, from the very depth of his desolation, [215] an
eloquent utterance at last, on the irony of men's fates, on the
singular accidents of life and death.

The guards, now safely in possession of whatever money and other
valuables the prisoners had had on them, pressed them forward, over the
rough mountain paths, altogether careless of their sufferings. The
great autumn rains were falling.  At night the soldiers lighted a fire;
but it was impossible to keep warm.  From time to time they stopped to
roast portions of the meat they carried with them, making their
captives sit round the fire, and pressing it upon them.  But weariness
and depression of spirits had deprived Marius of appetite, even if the
food had been more attractive, and for some days he partook of nothing
but bad bread and water.  All through the dark mornings they dragged
over boggy plains, up and down hills, wet through sometimes with the
heavy rain.  Even in those deplorable circumstances, he could but
notice the wild, dark beauty of those regions--the stormy sunrise, and
placid spaces of evening.  One of the keepers, a very young soldier,
won him at times, by his simple kindness, to talk a little, with wonder
at the lad's half-conscious, poetic delight in the adventures of the
journey.  At times, the whole company would lie down for rest at the
roadside, hardly sheltered from the storm; and in the deep fatigue of
his spirit, his old longing for inopportune sleep overpowered
him.--Sleep anywhere, and under any conditions, [216] seemed just then
a thing one might well exchange the remnants of one's life for.

It must have been about the fifth night, as he afterwards conjectured,
that the soldiers, believing him likely to die, had finally left him
unable to proceed further, under the care of some country people, who
to the extent of their power certainly treated him kindly in his
sickness.  He awoke to consciousness after a severe attack of fever,
lying alone on a rough bed, in a kind of hut.  It seemed a remote,
mysterious place, as he looked around in the silence; but so
fresh--lying, in fact, in a high pasture-land among the mountains--that
he felt he should recover, if he might but just lie there in quiet long
enough.  Even during those nights of delirium he had felt the scent of
the new-mown hay pleasantly, with a dim sense for a moment that he was
lying safe in his old home.  The sunlight lay clear beyond the open
door; and the sounds of the cattle reached him softly from the green
places around.  Recalling confusedly the torturing hurry of his late
journeys, he dreaded, as his consciousness of the whole situation
returned, the coming of the guards.  But the place remained in absolute
stillness.  He was, in fact, at liberty, but for his own disabled
condition.  And it was certainly a genuine clinging to life that he
felt just then, at the very bottom of his mind.  So it had been,
obscurely, even through all the wild fancies of his delirium, from the
moment which followed [217] his decision against himself, in favour of
Cornelius.

The occupants of the place were to be heard presently, coming and going
about him on their business: and it was as if the approach of death
brought out in all their force the merely human sentiments. There is
that in death which certainly makes indifferent persons anxious to
forget the dead: to put them--those aliens--away out of their thoughts
altogether, as soon as may be.  Conversely, in the deep isolation of
spirit which was now creeping upon Marius, the faces of these people,
casually visible, took a strange hold on his affections; the link of
general brotherhood, the feeling of human kinship, asserting itself
most strongly when it was about to be severed for ever.  At nights he
would find this face or that impressed deeply on his fancy; and, in a
troubled sort of manner, his mind would follow them onwards, on the
ways of their simple, humdrum, everyday life, with a peculiar yearning
to share it with them, envying the calm, earthy cheerfulness of all
their days to be, still under the sun, though so indifferent, of
course, to him!--as if these rude people had been suddenly lifted into
some height of earthly good-fortune, which must needs isolate them from
himself.

Tristem neminen fecit+--he repeated to himself; his old prayer shaping
itself now almost as his epitaph.  Yes! so much the very hardest judge
[218] must concede to him.  And the sense of satisfaction which that
thought left with him disposed him to a conscious effort of
recollection, while he lay there, unable now even to raise his head, as
he discovered on attempting to reach a pitcher of water which stood
near.  Revelation, vision, the discovery of a vision, the seeing of a
perfect humanity, in a perfect world--through all his alternations of
mind, by some dominant instinct, determined by the original necessities
of his own nature and character, he had always set that above the
having, or even the doing, of anything. For, such vision, if received
with due attitude on his part, was, in reality, the being something,
and as such was surely a pleasant offering or sacrifice to whatever
gods there might be, observant of him.  And how goodly had the vision
been!--one long unfolding of beauty and energy in things, upon the
closing of which he might gratefully utter his "Vixi!"+  Even then,
just ere his eyes were to be shut for ever, the things they had seen
seemed a veritable possession in hand; the persons, the places, above
all, the touching image of Jesus, apprehended dimly through the
expressive faces, the crying of the children, in that mysterious drama,
with a sudden sense of peace and satisfaction now, which he could not
explain to himself. Surely, he had prospered in life!  And again, as of
old, the sense of gratitude seemed to bring with it the sense also of a
living person at his side.

[219] For still, in a shadowy world, his deeper wisdom had ever been,
with a sense of economy, with a jealous estimate of gain and loss, to
use life, not as the means to some problematic end, but, as far as
might be, from dying hour to dying hour, an end in itself--a kind of
music, all-sufficing to the duly trained ear, even as it died out on
the air.  Yet now, aware still in that suffering body of such vivid
powers of mind and sense, as he anticipated from time to time how his
sickness, practically without aid as he must be in this rude place, was
likely to end, and that the moment of taking final account was drawing
very near, a consciousness of waste would come, with half-angry tears
of self-pity, in his great weakness--a blind, outraged, angry feeling
of wasted power, such as he might have experienced himself standing by
the deathbed of another, in condition like his own.

And yet it was the fact, again, that the vision of men and things,
actually revealed to him on his way through the world, had developed,
with a wonderful largeness, the faculties to which it addressed itself,
his general capacity of vision; and in that too was a success, in the
view of certain, very definite, well-considered, undeniable
possibilities.  Throughout that elaborate and lifelong education of his
receptive powers, he had ever kept in view the purpose of preparing
himself towards possible further revelation some day--towards some
ampler vision, which [220] should take up into itself and explain this
world's delightful shows, as the scattered fragments of a poetry, till
then but half-understood, might be taken up into the text of a lost
epic, recovered at last.  At this moment, his unclouded receptivity of
soul, grown so steadily through all those years, from experience to
experience, was at its height; the house ready for the possible guest;
the tablet of the mind white and smooth, for whatsoever divine fingers
might choose to write there. And was not this precisely the condition,
the attitude of mind, to which something higher than he, yet akin to
him, would be likely to reveal itself; to which that influence he had
felt now and again like a friendly hand upon his shoulder, amid the
actual obscurities of the world, would be likely to make a further
explanation?  Surely, the aim of a true philosophy must lie, not in
futile efforts towards the complete accommodation of man to the
circumstances in which he chances to find himself, but in the
maintenance of a kind of candid discontent, in the face of the very
highest achievement; the unclouded and receptive soul quitting the
world finally, with the same fresh wonder with which it had entered the
world still unimpaired, and going on its blind way at last with the
consciousness of some profound enigma in things, as but a pledge of
something further to come.  Marius seemed to understand how one might
look back upon life here, and its [221] excellent visions, as but the
portion of a race-course left behind him by a runner still swift of
foot: for a moment he experienced a singular curiosity, almost an
ardent desire to enter upon a future, the possibilities of which seemed
so large.

And just then, again amid the memory of certain touching actual words
and images, came the thought of the great hope, that hope against hope,
which, as he conceived, had arisen--Lux sedentibus in tenebris+--upon
the aged world; the hope Cornelius had seemed to bear away upon him in
his strength, with a buoyancy which had caused Marius to feel, not so
much that by a caprice of destiny, he had been left to die in his
place, as that Cornelius was gone on a mission to deliver him also from
death.  There had been a permanent protest established in the world, a
plea, a perpetual after-thought, which humanity henceforth would ever
possess in reserve, against any wholly mechanical and disheartening
theory of itself and its conditions. That was a thought which relieved
for him the iron outline of the horizon about him, touching it as if
with soft light from beyond; filling the shadowy, hollow places to
which he was on his way with the warmth of definite affections;
confirming also certain considerations by which he seemed to link
himself to the generations to come in the world he was leaving.  Yes!
through the survival of their children, happy parents are able to [222]
think calmly, and with a very practical affection, of a world in which
they are to have no direct share; planting with a cheerful good-humour,
the acorns they carry about with them, that their grand-children may be
shaded from the sun by the broad oak-trees of the future. That is
nature's way of easing death to us. It was thus too, surprised,
delighted, that Marius, under the power of that new hope among men,
could think of the generations to come after him. Without it, dim in
truth as it was, he could hardly have dared to ponder the world which
limited all he really knew, as it would be when he should have departed
from it. A strange lonesomeness, like physical darkness, seemed to
settle upon the thought of it; as if its business hereafter must be, as
far as he was concerned, carried on in some inhabited, but distant and
alien, star. Contrariwise, with the sense of that hope warm about him,
he seemed to anticipate some kindly care for himself; never to fail
even on earth, a care for his very body-that dear sister and companion
of his soul, outworn, suffering, and in the very article of death, as
it was now.

For the weariness came back tenfold; and he had finally to abstain from
thoughts like these, as from what caused physical pain. And then, as
before in the wretched, sleepless nights of those forced marches, he
would try to fix his mind, as it were impassively, and like a child
thinking over the toys it loves, one after another, that it [223] may
fall asleep thus, and forget all about them the sooner, on all the
persons he had loved in life--on his love for them, dead or living,
grateful for his love or not, rather than on theirs for him--letting
their images pass away again, or rest with him, as they would. In the
bare sense of having loved he seemed to find, even amid this foundering
of the ship, that on which his soul might "assuredly rest and depend."
One after another, he suffered those faces and voices to come and go,
as in some mechanical exercise, as he might have repeated all the
verses he knew by heart, or like the telling of beads one by one, with
many a sleepy nod between-whiles.

For there remained also, for the old earthy creature still within him,
that great blessedness of physical slumber. To sleep, to lose one's
self in sleep--that, as he had always recognised, was a good thing. And
it was after a space of deep sleep that he awoke amid the murmuring
voices of the people who had kept and tended him so carefully through
his sickness, now kneeling around his bed: and what he heard confirmed,
in the then perfect clearness of his soul, the inevitable suggestion of
his own bodily feelings. He had often dreamt he was condemned to die,
that the hour, with wild thoughts of escape, was arrived; and waking,
with the sun all around him, in complete liberty of life, had been full
of gratitude for his place there, alive still, in the [224] land of the
living.  He read surely, now, in the manner, the doings, of these
people, some of whom were passing out through the doorway, where the
heavy sunlight in very deed lay, that his last morning was come, and
turned to think once more of the beloved.  Often had he fancied of old
that not to die on a dark or rainy day might itself have a little
alleviating grace or favour about it.  The people around his bed were
praying fervently--Abi! Abi!  Anima Christiana!+  In the moments of his
extreme helplessness their mystic bread had been placed, had descended
like a snow-flake from the sky, between his lips.  Gentle fingers had
applied to hands and feet, to all those old passage-ways of the senses,
through which the world had come and gone for him, now so dim and
obstructed, a medicinable oil.  It was the same people who, in the
gray, austere evening of that day, took up his remains, and buried them
secretly, with their accustomed prayers; but with joy also, holding his
death, according to their generous view in this matter, to have been of
the nature of martyrdom; and martyrdom, as the church had always said,
a kind of sacrament with plenary grace.

1881-1884.



THE END


NOTES

217. +"He made no one unhappy."

218. +"I have lived!"

221. +From the Latin Vulgate Bible, Matthew 4:16: "populus qui sedebat
in tenebris lucem vidit magnam et sedentibus in regione et umbra mortis
lux orta est eis."  King James Bible translation: "The people which sat
in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and
shadow of death light is sprung up."

224. "Depart!  Depart!  Christian Soul!"  The thought is from the
Catholic prayer for the departing.





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