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Greek Studies: A Series of Essays by Walter Horatio Pater

Part 2 out of 4

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sorrow, she sat down at the wayside by the virgin's well, where the
people of Eleusis come to draw water, under the shadow of an olive-
tree. She seemed as an aged woman whose time of child-bearing is
gone by, and from whom the gifts of Aphrodite have been withdrawn,
like one of the hired servants, who nurse the children or keep house,
in kings' palaces. And the daughters of Celeus, four of them, like
goddesses, possessing the flower of their youth, Callidice,
Cleisidice, Demo, and Callithoe the eldest of them, coming to draw
water that they [86] might bear it in their brazen pitchers to their
father's house, saw Demeter and knew her not. The gods are hard for
men to recognise.

"They asked her kindly what she did there, alone; and Demeter
answered, dissemblingly, that she was escaped from certain pirates,
who had carried her from her home and meant to sell her as a slave.
Then they prayed her to abide there while they returned to the
palace, to ask their mother's permission to bring her home.

"Demeter bowed her head in assent; and they, having filled their
shining vessels with water, bore them away, rejoicing in their
beauty. They came quickly to their father's house, and told their
mother what they had seen and heard. Their mother bade them return,
and hire the woman for a great price; and they, like the hinds or
young heifers leaping in the fields in spring, fulfilled with the
pasture, holding up the folds of their raiment, sped along the hollow
road-way, their hair, in colour like the crocus, floating about their
shoulders as they went. They found the glorious goddess still
sitting by the wayside, unmoved. Then they led her to their father's
house; and she, veiled from head to foot, in her deep grief, followed
them on the way, and her blue robe gathered itself as she walked, in
many folds about her feet. They came to the house, and passed
through the sunny porch, where their mother, Metaneira, was [87]
sitting against one of the pillars of the roof, having a young child
in her bosom. They ran up to her; but Demeter crossed the threshold,
and, as she passed through, her head rose and touched the roof, and
her presence filled the doorway with a divine brightness.

"Still they did not wholly recognise her. After a time she was made
to smile. She refused to drink wine, but tasted of a cup mingled of
water and barley, flavoured with mint. It happened that Metaneira
had lately borne a child. It had come beyond hope, long after its
elder brethren, and was the object of a peculiar tenderness and of
many prayers with all. Demeter consented to remain, and become the
nurse of this child. She took the child in her immortal hands, and
placed it in her fragrant bosom; and the heart of the mother
rejoiced. Thus Demeter nursed Demophoon. And the child grew like a
god, neither sucking the breast, nor eating bread; but Demeter daily
anointed it with ambrosia, as if it had indeed been the child of a
god, breathing sweetly over it and holding it in her bosom; and at
nights, when she lay alone with the child, she would hide it secretly
in the red strength of the fire, like a brand; for her heart yearned
towards it, and she would fain have given to it immortal youth.

"But the foolishness of his mother prevented it. For a suspicion
growing up within her, she awaited her time, and one night peeped in
upon [88] them, and thereupon cried out in terror at what she saw.
And the goddess heard her; and a sudden anger seizing her, she
plucked the child from the fire and cast it on the ground,--the child
she would fain have made immortal, but who must now share the common
destiny of all men, though some inscrutable grace should still be
his, because he had lain for awhile on the knees and in the bosom of
the goddess.

"Then Demeter manifested herself openly. She put away the mask of
old age, and changed her form, and the spirit of beauty breathed
about her. A fragrant odour fell from her raiment, and her flesh
shone from afar; the long yellow hair descended waving over her
shoulders, and the great house was filled as with the brightness of
lightning. She passed out through the halls; and Metaneira fell to
the earth, and was speechless for a long time, and remembered not to
lift the child from the ground. But the sisters, hearing its piteous
cries, leapt from their beds and ran to it. Then one of them lifted
the child from the earth, and wrapped it in her bosom, and another
hastened to her mother's chamber to awake her: they came round the
child, and washed away the flecks of the fire from its panting body,
and kissed it tenderly all about: but the anguish of the child ceased
not; the arms of other and different nurses were about to enfold it.

"So, all night, trembling with fear, they [89] sought to propitiate
the glorious goddess; and in the morning they told all to their
father, Celeus. And he, according to the commands of the goddess,
built a fair temple; and all the people assisted; and when it was
finished every man departed to his own home. Then Demeter returned,
and sat down within the temple-walls, and remained still apart from
the company of the gods, alone in her wasting regret for her daughter
Persephone.

"And, in her anger, she sent upon the earth a year of grievous
famine. The dry seed remained hidden in the soil; in vain the oxen
drew the ploughshare through the furrows; much white seed-corn fell
fruitless on the earth, and the whole human race had like to have
perished, and the gods had no more service of men, unless Zeus had
interfered. First he sent Iris, afterwards all the gods, one by one,
to turn Demeter from her anger; but none was able to persuade her;
she heard their words with a hard countenance, and vowed by no means
to return to Olympus, nor to yield the fruit of the earth, until her
eyes had seen her lost daughter again. Then, last of all, Zeus sent
Hermes into the kingdom of the dead, to persuade Aidoneus to suffer
his bride to return to the light of day. And Hermes found the king
at home in his palace, sitting on a couch, beside the shrinking
Persephone, consumed within herself by desire for her mother. A
doubtful smile passed over [90] the face of Aidoneus; yet he obeyed
the message, and bade Persephone return; yet praying her a little to
have gentle thoughts of him, nor judge him too hardly, who was also
an immortal god. And Persephone arose up quickly in great joy; only,
ere she departed, he caused her to eat a morsel of sweet pomegranate,
designing secretly thereby, that she should not remain always upon
earth, but might some time return to him. And Aidoneus yoked the
horses to his chariot; and Persephone ascended into it; and Hermes
took the reins in his hands and drove out through the infernal halls;
and the horses ran willingly; and they two quickly passed over the
ways of that long journey, neither the waters of the sea, nor of the
rivers, nor the deep ravines of the hills, nor the cliffs of the
shore, resisting them; till at last Hermes placed Persephone before
the door of the temple where her mother was; who, seeing her, ran out
quickly to meet her, like a Maenad coming down a mountain-side, dusky
with woods.

"So they spent all that day together in intimate communion, having
many things to hear and tell. Then Zeus sent to them Rhea, his
venerable mother, the oldest of divine persons, to bring them back
reconciled, to the company of the gods; and he ordained that
Persephone should remain two parts of the year with her mother, and
one third part only with her husband, in the kingdom of the dead. So
Demeter suffered [91] the earth to yield its fruits once more, and
the land was suddenly laden with leaves and flowers and waving corn.
Also she visited Triptolemus and the other princes of Eleusis, and
instructed them in the performance of her sacred rites,--those
mysteries of which no tongue may speak. Only, blessed is he whose
eyes have seen them; his lot after death is not as the lot of other
men!"

In the story of Demeter, as in all Greek myths, we may trace the
action of three different influences, which have moulded it with
varying effects, in three successive phases of its development.
There is first its half-conscious, instinctive, or mystical, phase,
in which, under the form of an unwritten legend, living from mouth to
mouth, and with details changing as it passes from place to place,
there lie certain primitive impressions of the phenomena of the
natural world. We may trace it next in its conscious, poetical or
literary, phase, in which the poets become the depositaries of the
vague instinctive product of the popular imagination, and handle it
with a purely literary interest, fixing its outlines, and simplifying
or developing its situations. Thirdly, the myth passes into the
ethical phase, in which the persons and the incidents of the poetical
narrative are realised as abstract symbols, because intensely
characteristic examples, of moral or spiritual conditions. [92]
Behind the adventures of the stealing of Persephone and the
wanderings of Demeter in search of her, as we find them in the
Homeric hymn, we may discern the confused conception, under which
that early age, in which the myths were first created, represented to
itself those changes in physical things, that order of summer and
winter, of which it had no scientific, or systematic explanation, but
in which, nevertheless, it divined a multitude of living agencies,
corresponding to those ascertained forces, of which our colder modern
science tells the number and the names. Demeter--Demeter and
Persephone, at first, in a sort of confused union--is the earth, in
the fixed order of its annual changes, but also in all the accident
and detail of the growth and decay of its children. Of this
conception, floating loosely in the air, the poets of a later age
take possession; they create Demeter and Persephone as we know them
in art and poetry. From the vague and fluctuating union, in which
together they had represented the earth and its changes, the mother
and the daughter define themselves with special functions, and with
fixed, well-understood relationships, the incidents and emotions of
which soon weave themselves into a pathetic story. Lastly, in
proportion as the literary or aesthetic activity completes the
picture or the poem, the ethical interest makes itself felt. These
strange persons--Demeter and Persephone--these marvellous incidents--
the translation into Hades, the seeking [93] of Demeter, the return
of Persephone to her,--lend themselves to the elevation and
correction of the sentiments of sorrow and awe, by the presentment to
the senses and the imagination of an ideal expression of them.
Demeter cannot but seem the type of divine grief. Persephone is the
goddess of death, yet with a promise of life to come. Those three
phases, then, which are more or less discernible in all mythical
development, and constitute a natural order in it, based on the
necessary conditions of human apprehension, are fixed more plainly,
perhaps, than in any other passage of Greek mythology in the story of
Demeter. And as the Homeric hymn is the central expression of its
literary or poetical phase, so the marble remains, of which I shall
have to speak by and bye, are the central extant illustration of what
I have called its ethical phase.

Homer, in the Iliad, knows Demeter, but only as the goddess of the
fields, the originator and patroness of the labours of the
countryman, in their yearly order. She stands, with her hair yellow
like the ripe corn, at the threshing-floor, and takes her share in
the toil, the heap of grain whitening, as the flails, moving in the
wind, disperse the chaff. Out in the fresh fields, she yields to the
embraces of Iasion, to the extreme jealousy of Zeus, who slays her
mortal lover with lightning. The flowery town of Pyrasus--the wheat-
town,--an ancient place in Thessaly, is her sacred precinct. But
when [94] Homer gives a list of the orthodox gods, her name is not
mentioned.

Homer, in the Odyssey, knows Persephone also, but not as Kore; only
as the queen of the dead--epain Persephon+--dreadful Persephone, the
goddess of destruction and death, according to the apparent import of
her name.+ She accomplishes men's evil prayers; she is the mistress
and manager of men's shades, to which she can dispense a little more
or less of life, dwelling in her mouldering palace on the steep shore
of the Oceanus, with its groves of barren willows and tall poplars.
But that Homer knew her as the daughter of Demeter there are no
signs; and of his knowledge of the rape of Persephone there is only
the faintest sign,--he names Hades by the golden reins of his
chariot, and his beautiful horses.

The main theme, then, the most characteristic peculiarities, of the
story, as subsequently developed, are not to be found, expressly, in
the true Homer. We have in him, on the one hand, Demeter, as the
perfectly fresh and blithe goddess of the fields, whose children, if
she has them, must be as the perfectly discreet and peaceful,
unravished Kore; on the other hand, we have Persephone, as the wholly
terrible goddess of death, who brings to Ulysses the querulous
shadows of the dead, and has the head of the gorgon Medusa in her
keeping. And it is only when these two contrasted images have been
[95] brought into intimate relationship, only when Kore and
Persephone have been identified, that the deeper mythology of Demeter
begins.

This combination has taken place in Hesiod; and in three lines of the
Theogony we find the stealing of Persephone by Aidoneus,*--one of
those things in Hesiod, perhaps, which are really older than Homer.
Hesiod has been called the poet of helots, and is thought to have
preserved some of the traditions of those earlier inhabitants of
Greece who had become a kind of serfs; and in a certain shadowiness
in his conceptions of the gods, contrasting with the concrete and
heroic forms of the gods of Homer, we may perhaps trace something of
the quiet unspoken brooding of a subdued people--of that silently
dreaming temper to which the story of Persephone properly belongs.
However this may be, it is in Hesiod that the two images,
unassociated in Homer--the goddess of summer and the goddess of
death, Kore and Persephone--are identified with much significance;
and that strange, dual being makes her first appearance, whose latent
capabilities the poets afterwards developed; among the rest, a
peculiar blending of those two contrasted aspects, full of purpose
for the duly chastened intelligence; death, resurrection,
rejuvenescence.--Awake, and sing, ye that dwell in the dust!

[96] Modern science explains the changes of the natural world by the
hypothesis of certain unconscious forces; and the sum of these
forces, in their combined action, constitutes the scientific
conception of nature. But, side by side with the growth of this more
mechanical conception, an older and more spiritual, Platonic,
philosophy has always maintained itself, a philosophy more of
instinct than of the understanding, the mental starting-point of
which is not an observed sequence of outward phenomena, but some such
feeling as most of us have on the first warmer days in spring, when
we seem to feel the genial processes of nature actually at work; as
if just below the mould, and in the hard wood of the trees, there
were really circulating some spirit of life, akin to that which makes
its energies felt within ourselves. Starting with a hundred
instincts such as this, that older unmechanical, spiritual, or
Platonic, philosophy envisages nature rather as the unity of a living
spirit or person, revealing itself in various degrees to the kindred
spirit of the observer, than as a system of mechanical forces. Such
a philosophy is a systematised form of that sort of poetry (we may
study it, for instance, either in Shelley or in Wordsworth), which
also has its fancies of a spirit of the earth, or of the sky,--a
personal intelligence abiding in them, the existence of which is
assumed in every suggestion such poetry makes to us of a sympathy
between the ways [97] and aspects of outward nature and the moods of
men. And what stood to the primitive intelligence in place of such
metaphysical conceptions were those cosmical stories or myths, such
as this of Demeter and Persephone, which springing up spontaneously
in many minds, came at last to represent to them, in a certain number
of sensibly realised images, all they knew, felt, or fancied, of the
natural world about them. The sky in its unity and its variety,--the
sea in its unity and its variety,--mirrored themselves respectively
in these simple, but profoundly impressible spirits, as Zeus, as
Glaucus or Poseidon. And a large part of their experience--all, that
is, that related to the earth in its changes, the growth and decay of
all things born of it--was covered by the story of Demeter, the myth
of the earth as a mother. They thought of Demeter as the old Germans
thought of Hertha, or the later Greeks of Pan, as the Egyptians
thought of Isis, the land of the Nile, made green by the streams of
Osiris, for whose coming Isis longs, as Demeter for Persephone; thus
naming together in her all their fluctuating thoughts, impressions,
suspicions, of the earth and its appearances, their whole complex
divination of a mysterious life, a perpetual working, a continuous
act of conception there. Or they thought of the many-coloured earth
as the garment of Demeter, as the great modern pantheist poet speaks
of it as the "garment of God." Its [98] brooding fertility; the
spring flowers breaking from its surface, the thinly disguised
unhealthfulness of their heavy perfume, and of their chosen places of
growth; the delicate, feminine, Prosperina-like motion of all growing
things; its fruit, full of drowsy and poisonous, or fresh, reviving
juices; its sinister caprices also, its droughts and sudden volcanic
heats; the long delays of spring; its dumb sleep, so suddenly flung
away; the sadness which insinuates itself into its languid
luxuriance; all this grouped itself round the persons of Demeter and
her circle. They could turn always to her, from the actual earth
itself, in aweful yet hopeful prayer, and a devout personal
gratitude, and explain it through her, in its sorrow and its promise,
its darkness and its helpfulness to man.

The personification of abstract ideas by modern painters or
sculptors, of wealth, of commerce, of health, for instance, shocks,
in most cases, the aesthetic sense, as something conventional or
rhetorical, as a mere transparent allegory, or figure of speech,
which could please almost no one. On the other hand, such symbolical
representations, under the form of human persons, as Giotto's Virtues
and Vices at Padua, or his Saint Poverty at Assisi, or the series of
the planets in certain early Italian engravings, are profoundly
poetical and impressive. They seem to be something more than mere
symbolism, [99] and to be connected with some peculiarly sympathetic
penetration, on the part of the artist, into the subjects he intended
to depict. Symbolism intense as this, is the creation of a special
temper, in which a certain simplicity, taking all things literally,
au pied de la lettre, is united to a vivid pre-occupation with the
aesthetic beauty of the image itself, the figured side of figurative
expression, the form of the metaphor. When it is said, "Out of his
mouth goeth a sharp sword," that temper is ready to deal directly and
boldly with that difficult image, like that old designer of the
fourteenth century, who has depicted this, and other images of the
Apocalypse, in a coloured window at Bourges. Such symbolism cares a
great deal for the hair of Temperance, discreetly bound, for some
subtler likeness to the colour of the sky in the girdle of Hope, for
the inwoven flames in the red garment of Charity. And what was
specially peculiar to the temper of the old Florentine painter,
Giotto, to the temper of his age in general, doubtless, more than to
that of ours, was the persistent and universal mood of the age in
which the story of Demeter and Persephone was first created. If some
painter of our own time has conceived the image of The Day so
intensely, that we hardly think of distinguishing between the image,
with its girdle of dissolving morning mist, and the meaning of the
image; if William Blake, to our so great delight, makes the morning
stars [100] literally "sing together,"--these fruits of individual
genius are in part also a "survival" from a different age, with the
whole mood of which this mode of expression was more congruous than
it is with ours. But there are traces of the old temper in the man
of to-day also; and through these we can understand that earlier
time--a very poetical time, with the more highly gifted peoples--in
which every impression men received of the action of powers without
or within them suggested to them the presence of a soul or will, like
their own--a person, with a living spirit, and senses, and hands, and
feet; which, when it talked of the return of Kore to Demeter, or the
marriage of Zeus and Here, was not using rhetorical language, but
yielding to a real illusion; to which the voice of man "was really a
stream, beauty an effluence, death a mist."

The gods of Greek mythology overlap each other; they are confused or
connected with each other, lightly or deeply, as the case may be, and
sometimes have their doubles, at first sight as in a troubled dream,
yet never, when we examine each detail more closely, without a
certain truth to human reason. It is only in a limited sense that it
is possible to lift, and examine by itself, one thread of the network
of story and imagery, which, in a certain age of civilisation, wove
itself over every detail of life and thought, over every name in the
past, and almost every place in [101] Greece. The story of Demeter,
then, was the work of no single author or place or time; the poet of
its first phase was no single person, but the whole consciousness of
an age, though an age doubtless with its differences of more or less
imaginative individual minds--with one, here or there, eminent,
though but by a little, above a merely receptive majority, the
spokesman of a universal, though faintly-felt prepossession,
attaching the errant fancies of the people around him to definite
names and images. The myth grew up gradually, and at many distant
places, in many minds, independent of each other, but dealing in a
common temper with certain elements and aspects of the natural world,
as one here, and another there, seemed to catch in that incident or
detail which flashed more incisively than others on the inward eye,
some influence, or feature, or characteristic of the great mother.
The various epithets of Demeter, the local variations of her story,
its incompatible incidents, bear witness to the manner of its
generation. They illustrate that indefiniteness which is
characteristic of Greek mythology, a theology with no central
authority, no link on historic time, liable from the first to an
unobserved transformation. They indicate the various, far-distant
spots from which the visible body of the goddess slowly collected its
constituents, and came at last to have a well-defined existence in
the popular mind. In this sense, Demeter appears to one in [102] her
anger, sullenly withholding the fruits of the earth, to another in
her pride of Persephone, to another in her grateful gift of the arts
of agriculture to man; at last only, is there a general recognition
of a clearly-arrested outline, a tangible embodiment, which has
solidified itself in the imagination of the people, they know not
how.

The worship of Demeter belongs to that older religion, nearer to the
earth, which some have thought they could discern, behind the more
definitely national mythology of Homer. She is the goddess of dark
caves, and is not wholly free from monstrous form. She gave men the
first fig in one place, the first poppy in another; in another, she
first taught the old Titans to mow. She is the mother of the vine
also; and the assumed name by which she called herself in her
wanderings, is Ds--a gift; the crane, as the harbinger of rain, is
her messenger among the birds. She knows the magic powers of certain
plants, cut from her bosom, to bane or bless; and, under one of her
epithets, herself presides over the springs, as also coming from the
secret places of the earth. She is the goddess, then, at first, of
the fertility of the earth in its wildness; and so far, her
attributes are to some degree confused with those of the Thessalian
Gaia and the Phrygian Cybele. Afterwards, and it is now that her
most characteristic attributes begin to concentrate themselves, [103]
she separates herself from these confused relationships, as specially
the goddess of agriculture, of the fertility of the earth when
furthered by human skill. She is the preserver of the seed sown in
hope, under many epithets derived from the incidents of vegetation,
as the simple countryman names her, out of a mind full of the various
experiences of his little garden or farm. She is the most definite
embodiment of all those fluctuating mystical instincts, of which
Gaia,* the mother of the earth's gloomier offspring, is a vaguer and
mistier one. There is nothing of the confused outline, the mere
shadowiness of mystical dreaming, in this most concrete human figure.
No nation, less aesthetically gifted than the Greeks, could have thus
lightly thrown its mystical surmise and divination into images so
clear and idyllic as those of the solemn goddess of the country, in
whom the characteristics of the mother are expressed with so much
tenderness, and the "beauteous head" of Kore, then so fresh and
peaceful.

In this phase, then, the story of Demeter appears as the peculiar
creation of country-people of a high impressibility, dreaming over
their work in spring or autumn, half consciously touched by a sense
of its sacredness, and a sort of [104] mystery about it. For there
is much in the life of the farm everywhere which gives to persons of
any seriousness of disposition, special opportunity for grave and
gentle thoughts. The temper of people engaged in the occupations of
country life, so permanent, so "near to nature," is at all times
alike; and the habitual solemnity of thought and expression which
Wordsworth found in the peasants of Cumberland, and the painter
Franois Millet in the peasants of Brittany, may well have had its
prototype in early Greece. And so, even before the development, by
the poets, of their aweful and passionate story, Demeter and
Persephone seem to have been pre-eminently the venerable, or aweful,
goddesses. Demeter haunts the fields in spring, when the young lambs
are dropped; she visits the barns in autumn; she takes part in mowing
and binding up the corn, and is the goddess of sheaves. She presides
over all the pleasant, significant details of the farm, the
threshing-floor and the full granary, and stands beside the woman
baking bread at the oven. With these fancies are connected certain
simple rites; the half-understood local observance, and the half-
believed local legend, reacting capriciously on each other. They
leave her a fragment of bread and a morsel of meat, at the cross-
roads, to take on her journey; and perhaps some real Demeter carries
them away, as she wanders through the country. The incidents of
their yearly labour become to [105] them acts of worship; they seek
her blessing through many expressive names, and almost catch sight of
her, at dawn or evening, in the nooks of the fragrant fields. She
lays a finger on the grass at the road-side, and some new flower
comes up. All the picturesque implements of country life are hers;
the poppy also, emblem of an inexhaustible fertility, and full of
mysterious juices for the alleviation of pain. The countrywoman who
puts her child to sleep in the great, cradle-like, basket, for
winnowing the corn, remembers Demeter Courotrophos, the mother of
corn and children alike, and makes it a little coat out of the dress
worn by its father at his initiation into her mysteries. Yet she is
an angry goddess too, sometimes--Demeter Erinnys, the goblin of the
neighbourhood, haunting its shadowy places. She lies on the ground
out of doors on summer nights, and becomes wet with the dew. She
grows young again every spring, yet is of great age, the wrinkled
woman of the Homeric hymn, who becomes the nurse of Demophoon. Other
lighter, errant stories nest themselves, as time goes on, within the
greater. The water-newt, which repels the lips of the traveller who
stoops to drink, is a certain urchin, Abas, who spoiled by his
mockery the pleasure of the thirsting goddess, as she drank once of a
wayside spring in her wanderings. The night-owl is the transformed
Ascalabus, who alone had seen Persephone eat that morsel [106] of
pomegranate, in the garden of Aidoneus. The bitter wild mint was
once a girl, who for a moment had made her jealous, in Hades.

The episode of Triptolemus, to whom Demeter imparts the mysteries of
the plough, like the details of some sacred rite, that he may bear
them abroad to all people, embodies, in connexion with her, another
group of the circumstances of country life. As with all the other
episodes of the story, there are here also local variations,
traditions of various favourites of the goddess at different places,
of whom grammarians can tell us, finally obscured behind the greater
fame of Triptolemus of Eleusis. One might fancy, at first, that
Triptolemus was a quite Boeotian divinity, of the ploughshare. Yet
we know that the thoughts of the Greeks concerning the culture of the
earth from which they came, were most often noble ones; and if we
examine carefully the works of ancient art which represent him, the
second thought will suggest itself, that there was nothing clumsy or
coarse about this patron of the plough--something, rather, of the
movement of delicate wind or fire, about him and his chariot. And
this finer character is explained, if, as we are justified in doing,
we bring him into closest connexion with that episode, so full of a
strange mysticism, of the Nursing of Demophoon, in the Homeric hymn.
For, according to some traditions, none other [107] than Triptolemus
himself was the subject of that mysterious experiment, in which
Demeter laid the child nightly, in the red heat of the fire; and he
lives afterwards, not immortal indeed, not wholly divine, yet, as
Shakspere says, a "nimble spirit," feeling little of the weight of
the material world about him--the element of winged fire in the clay.
The delicate, fresh, farm-lad we may still actually see sometimes,
like a graceful field-flower among the corn, becomes, in the sacred
legend of agriculture, a king's son; and then, the fire having
searched out from him the grosser elements on that famous night, all
compact now of spirit, a priest also, administering the gifts of
Demeter to all the earth. Certainly, the extant works of art which
represent him, gems or vase-paintings, conform truly enough to this
ideal of a "nimble spirit," though he wears the broad country hat,
which Hermes also wears, going swiftly, half on the airy, mercurial
wheels of his farm instrument, harrow or plough--half on wings of
serpents--the worm, symbolical of the soil, but winged, as sending up
the dust committed to it, after subtle firing, in colours and odours
of fruit and flowers. It is an altogether sacred character, again,
that he assumes in another precious work, of the severer period of
Greek art, lately discovered at Eleusis, and now preserved in the
museum of Athens, a singularly refined bas-relief, in which he
stands, a firm and serious youth, between Demeter and [108]
Persephone, who places her hand as with some sacred influence, and
consecrating gesture, upon him.

But the house of the prudent countryman will be, of course, a place
of honest manners; and Demeter Thesmophoros is the guardian of
married life, the deity of the discretion of wives. She is therefore
the founder of civilised order. The peaceful homes of men, scattered
about the land, in their security--Demeter represents these fruits of
the earth also, not without a suggestion of the white cities, which
shine upon the hills above the waving fields of corn, seats of
justice and of true kingship. She is also in a certain sense the
patron of travellers, having, in her long wanderings after
Persephone, recorded and handed down those omens, caught from little
things--the birds which crossed her path, the persons who met her on
the way, the words they said, the things they carried in their hands,
einodia symbola+--by noting which, men bring their journeys to a
successful end; so that the simple countryman may pass securely on
his way; and is led by signs from the goddess herself, when he
travels far to visit her, at Hermione or Eleusis.

So far the attributes of Demeter and Kore are similar. In the
mythical conception, as in the religious acts connected with it, the
mother and the daughter are almost interchangeable; [109] they are
the two goddesses, the twin-named. Gradually, the office of
Persephone is developed, defines itself; functions distinct from
those of Demeter are attributed to her. Hitherto, always at the side
of Demeter and sharing her worship, she now appears detached from
her, going and coming, on her mysterious business. A third part of
the year she abides in darkness; she comes up in the spring; and
every autumn, when the countryman sows his seed in the earth, she
descends thither again, and the world of the dead lies open, spring
and autumn, to let her in and out. Persephone, then, is the summer-
time, and, in this sense, a daughter of the earth; but the summer as
bringing winter; the flowery splendour and consummated glory of the
year, as thereafter immediately beginning to draw near to its end, as
the first yellow leaf crosses it, in the first severer wind. She is
the last day of spring, or the first day of autumn, in the threefold
division of the Greek year. Her story is, indeed, but the story, in
an intenser form, of Adonis, of Hyacinth, of Adrastus--the king's
blooming son, fated, in the story of Herodotus, to be wounded to
death with an iron spear--of Linus, a fair child who is torn to
pieces by hounds every spring-time--of the English Sleeping Beauty.
From being the goddess of summer and the flowers, she becomes the
goddess of night and sleep and death, confuseable with Hecate, the
goddess of midnight [110] terrors--Kor arrtos,+ the mother of the
Erinnyes, who appeared to Pindar, to warn him of his approaching
death, upbraiding him because he had made no hymn in her praise,
which swan's song he thereupon began, but finished with her. She is
a twofold goddess, therefore, according as one or the other of these
two contrasted aspects of her nature is seized, respectively. A
duality, an inherent opposition in the very conception of Persephone,
runs all through her story, and is part of her ghostly power. There
is ever something in her of a divided or ambiguous identity: hence
the many euphemisms of later language concerning her.

The "worship of sorrow," as Goethe called it, is sometimes supposed
to have had almost no place in the religion of the Greeks. Their
religion has been represented as a religion of mere cheerfulness, the
worship by an untroubled, unreflecting humanity, conscious of no
deeper needs, of the embodiments of its own joyous activity. It
helped to hide out of their sight those traces of decay and
weariness, of which the Greeks were constitutionally shy, to keep
them from peeping too curiously into certain shadowy places,
appropriate enough to the gloomy imagination of the middle age; and
it hardly proposed to itself to give consolation to people who, in
truth, were never "sick or sorry." But this familiar view of Greek
religion is based on a consideration of a part only of what is known
[111] concerning it, and really involves a misconception, akin to
that which underestimates the influence of the romantic spirit
generally, in Greek poetry and art; as if Greek art had dealt
exclusively with human nature in its sanity, suppressing all motives
of strangeness, all the beauty which is born of difficulty,
permitting nothing but an Olympian, though perhaps somewhat wearisome
calm. In effect, such a conception of Greek art and poetry leaves in
the central expressions of Greek culture none but negative qualities;
and the legend of Demeter and Persephone, perhaps the most popular of
all Greek legends, is sufficient to show that the "worship of sorrow"
was not without its function in Greek religion; their legend is a
legend made by and for sorrowful, wistful, anxious people; while the
most important artistic monuments of that legend sufficiently prove
that the Romantic spirit was really at work in the minds of Greek
artists, extracting by a kind of subtle alchemy, a beauty, not
without the elements of tranquillity, of dignity and order, out of a
matter, at first sight painful and strange.

The student of origins, as French critics say, of the earliest stages
of art and poetry, must be content to follow faint traces; and in
what has been here said, much may seem to have been made of little,
with too much completion, by a general framework or setting, of what
after [112] all are but doubtful or fragmentary indications. Yet
there is a certain cynicism too, in that over-positive temper, which
is so jealous of our catching any resemblance in the earlier world to
the thoughts that really occupy our own minds, and which, in its
estimate of the actual fragments of antiquity, is content to find no
seal of human intelligence upon them. Slight indeed in themselves,
these fragmentary indications become suggestive of much, when viewed
in the light of such general evidence about the human imagination as
is afforded by the theory of "comparative mythology," or what is
called the theory of "animism." Only, in the application of these
theories, the student of Greek religion must never forget that, after
all, it is with poetry, not with systematic theological belief or
dogma, that he has to do. As regards this story of Demeter and
Persephone, what we actually possess is some actual fragments of
poetry, some actual fragments of sculpture; and with a curiosity,
justified by the direct aesthetic beauty of these fragments, we feel
our way backwards to that engaging picture of the poet-people, with
which the ingenuity of modern theory has filled the void in our
knowledge. The abstract poet of that first period of mythology,
creating in this wholly impersonal, intensely spiritual way,--the
abstract spirit of poetry itself, rises before the mind; and, in
speaking of this poetical age, we must take heed, before all things,
in no sense to misconstrue the poets.

NOTES

94. +Transliteration: epain Persephon. Translation: "dread
Persephone." See, for example, Odyssey, Book 10.490 and 563.

94. +"According to the apparent import of her name"; Pater likely
refers to the etymology of "Persophone"--"bringer of destruction."

95. *Theogony, 912-14:

+Transliteration:

Autar ho Dmtros polyphorbs es lechos lthen
teke Persephonn leuklenon, hn Aidneus
hrpasen hs para mtros, edke de mtieta Zeus.

+Translation: "And he came to bountiful Demeters bed, / and she
gave birth to white-armed Persephone, whom Aidoneus / took from her
mothers side; but Zeus, wise counsellor, gave her to him." Hesiod.
The Homeric Hymns and Homerica. Theogony. Cambridge, MA., Harvard
University Press. London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1914.

103. *In the Homeric hymn, pre-eminently, of the flower which grew up
for the first time, to snare the footsteps of Kore, the fair but
deadly Narcissus, the flower of nark, the numbness of death.

108. +Transliteration: einodia symbola. Translation: "signs along
the roadside."

110. +Transliteration: Kor arrtos. Translation: "Kor the
mysterious, the horrible ."

THE MYTH OF DEMETER AND PERSEPHONE: II

[113] THE stories of the Greek mythology, like other things which
belong to no man, and for which no one in particular is responsible,
had their fortunes. In that world of floating fancies there was a
struggle for life; there were myths which never emerged from that
first stage of popular conception, or were absorbed by stronger
competitors, because, as some true heroes have done, they lacked the
sacred poet or prophet, and were never remodelled by literature;
while, out of the myth of Demeter, under the careful conduct of
poetry and art, came the little pictures, the idylls, of the Homeric
hymn, and the gracious imagery of Praxiteles. The myth has now
entered its second or poetical phase, then, in which more definite
fancies are grouped about the primitive stock, in a conscious
literary temper, and the whole interest settles round the images of
the beautiful girl going down into the darkness, and the weary woman
who seeks her lost daughter--divine persons, then sincerely believed
in by the majority of the Greeks. The Homeric hymn [114] is the
central monument of this second phase. In it, the changes of the
natural year have become a personal history, a story of human
affection and sorrow, yet with a far-reaching religious significance
also, of which the mere earthly spring and autumn are but an analogy;
and in the development of this human element, the writer of the hymn
sometimes displays a genuine power of pathetic expression. The whole
episode of the fostering of Demophoon, in which over the body of the
dying child human longing and regret are blent so subtly with the
mysterious design of the goddess to make the child immortal, is an
excellent example of the sentiment of pity in literature. Yet though
it has reached the stage of conscious literary interpretation, much
of its early mystical or cosmical character still lingers about the
story, as it is here told. Later mythologists simply define the
personal history; but in this hymn we may, again and again, trace
curious links of connexion with the original purpose of the myth.
Its subject is the weary woman, indeed, our Lady of Sorrows, the
mater dolorosa of the ancient world, but with a certain latent
reference, all through, to the mystical person of the earth. Her
robe of dark blue is the raiment of her mourning, but also the blue
robe of the earth in shadow, as we see it in Titian's landscapes; her
great age is the age of the immemorial earth; she becomes a nurse,
therefore, holding Demophoon in her bosom; [115] the folds of her
garment are fragrant, not merely with the incense of Eleusis, but
with the natural perfume of flowers and fruit. The sweet breath with
which she nourishes the child Demophoon, is the warm west wind,
feeding all germs of vegetable life; her bosom, where he lies, is the
bosom of the earth, with its strengthening heat, reserved and shy,
offended if human eyes scrutinise too closely its secret chemistry;
it is with the earth's natural surface of varied colour that she has,
"in time past, given pleasure to the sun"; the yellow hair which
falls suddenly over her shoulders, at her transformation in the house
of Celeus, is still partly the golden corn;--in art and poetry she is
ever the blond goddess; tarrying in her temple, of which an actual
hollow in the earth is the prototype, among the spicy odours of the
Eleusinian ritual, she is the spirit of the earth, lying hidden in
its dark folds until the return of spring, among the flower-seeds and
fragrant roots, like the seeds and aromatic woods hidden in the
wrappings of the dead. Throughout the poem, we have a sense of a
certain nearness to nature, surviving from an earlier world; the sea
is understood as a person, yet is still the real sea, with the waves
moving. When it is said that no bird gave Demeter tidings of
Persephone, we feel that to that earlier world, ways of communication
between all creatures may have seemed open, which are closed to us.
It is Iris who brings to Demeter the message of Zeus; [116] that is,
the rainbow signifies to the earth the good-will of the rainy sky
towards it. Persephone springing up with great joy from the couch of
Aidoneus, to return to her mother, is the sudden outburst of the
year. The heavy and narcotic aroma of spring flowers hangs about
her, as about the actual spring. And this mingling of the primitive
cosmical import of the myth with the later, personal interests of the
story, is curiously illustrated by the place which the poem assigns
to Hecate. This strange Titaness is, first, a nymph only;
afterwards, as if changed incurably by the passionate cry of
Persephone, she becomes her constant attendant, and is even
identified with her. But in the Homeric hymn her lunar character is
clear; she is really the moon only, who hears the cry of Persephone,
as the sun saw her, when Aidoneus carried her away. One morning, as
the mother wandered, the moon appeared, as it does in its last
quarter, rising very bright, just before dawn; that is, in the words
of the Homeric hymn--"on the tenth morning Hecate met her, having a
light in her hands." The fascinating, but enigmatical figure,
"sitting ever in her cave, half-veiled with a shining veil, thinking
delicate thoughts," in which we seem to see the subject of some
picture of the Italian Renaissance, is but the lover of Endymion--
like Persephone, withdrawn, in her season, from the eyes of men. The
sun saw her; the moon saw her not, but heard her cry, and is [117]
ever after the half-veiled attendant of the queen of dreams and of
the dead.

But the story of Demeter and Persephone lends itself naturally to
description, and it is in descriptive beauties that the Homeric hymn
excels; its episodes are finished designs, and directly stimulate the
painter and the sculptor to a rivalry with them. Weaving the names
of the flowers into his verse, names familiar to us in English,
though their Greek originals are uncertain, the writer sets
Persephone before us, herself like one of them--kalykpis+--like the
budding calyx of a flower,--in a picture, which, in its mingling of a
quaint freshness and simplicity with a certain earnestness, reads
like a description of some early Florentine design, such as Sandro
Botticelli's Allegory of the Seasons. By an exquisite chance also, a
common metrical expression connects the perfume of the newly-created
narcissus with the salt odour of the sea. Like one of those early
designs also, but with a deeper infusion of religious earnestness, is
the picture of Demeter sitting at the wayside, in shadow as always,
with the well of water and the olive-tree. She has been journeying
all night, and now it is morning, and the daughters of Celeus bring
their vessels to draw water. That image of the seated Demeter,
resting after her long flight "through the dark continent," or in the
house of Celeus, when she refuses the red wine, or again, solitary,
in her newly-finished [118] temple of Eleusis, enthroned in her
grief, fixed itself deeply on the Greek imagination, and became a
favourite subject of Greek artists. When the daughters of Celeus
come to conduct her to Eleusis, they come as in a Greek frieze, full
of energy and motion and waving lines, but with gold and colours upon
it. Eleusis--coming--the coming of Demeter thither, as thus told in
the Homeric hymn, is the central instance in Greek mythology of such
divine appearances. "She leaves for a season the company of the gods
and abides among men;" and men's merit is to receive her in spite of
appearances. Metaneira and others, in the Homeric hymn, partly
detect her divine character; they find charis+;--a certain gracious
air--about her, which makes them think her, perhaps, a royal person
in disguise. She becomes in her long wanderings almost wholly
humanised, and in return, she and Persephone, alone of the Greek
gods, seem to have been the objects of a sort of personal love and
loyalty. Yet they are ever the solemn goddesses,--theai semnai,+
the word expressing religious awe, the Greek sense of the divine
presence.

Plato, in laying down the rules by which the poets are to be guided
in speaking about divine things to the citizens of the ideal
republic, forbids all those episodes of mythology which represent the
gods as assuming various forms, and visiting the earth in disguise.
Below the [119] express reasons which he assigns for this rule, we
may perhaps detect that instinctive antagonism to the old Heraclitean
philosophy of perpetual change, which forces him, in his theory of
morals and the state, of poetry and music, of dress and manners even,
and of style in the very vessels and furniture of daily life, on an
austere simplicity, the older Dorian or Egyptian type of a rigid,
eternal immobility. The disintegrating, centrifugal influence, which
had penetrated, as he thought, political and social existence, making
men too myriad-minded, had laid hold on the life of the gods also,
and, even in their calm sphere, one could hardly identify a single
divine person as himself, and not another. There must, then, be no
doubling, no disguises, no stories of transformation. The modern
reader, however, will hardly acquiesce in this "improvement" of Greek
mythology. He finds in these stories, like that, for instance, of
the appearance of Athene to Telemachus, in the first book of the
Odyssey, which has a quite biblical mysticity and solemnity,--stories
in which, the hard material outline breaking up, the gods lay aside
their visible form like a garment, yet remain essentially
themselves,--not the least spiritual element of Greek religion, an
evidence of the sense therein of unseen presences, which might at any
moment cross a man's path, to be recognised, in half disguise, by the
more delicately trained eye, here or there, by one and not by [120]
another. Whatever religious elements they lacked, they had at least
this sense of subtler and more remote ways of personal presence.

And as there are traces in the Homeric hymn of the primitive cosmical
myth, relics of the first stage of the development of the story, so
also many of its incidents are probably suggested by the
circumstances and details of the Eleusinian ritual. There were
religious usages before there were distinct religious conceptions,
and these antecedent religious usages shape and determine, at many
points, the ultimate religious conception, as the details of the myth
interpret or explain the religious custom. The hymn relates the
legend of certain holy places, to which various impressive religious
rites had attached themselves--the holy well, the old fountain, the
stone of sorrow, which it was the office of the "interpreter" of the
holy places to show to the people. The sacred way which led from
Athens to Eleusis was rich in such memorials. The nine days of the
wanderings of Demeter in the Homeric hymn are the nine days of the
duration of the greater or autumnal mysteries; the jesting of the old
woman Iambe, who endeavours to make Demeter smile, are the customary
mockeries with which the worshippers, as they rested on the bridge,
on the seventh day of the feast, assailed those who passed by. The
torches in the hands of Demeter are borrowed from the same source;
and the shadow in which she is [121] constantly represented, and
which is the peculiar sign of her grief, is partly ritual, and a
relic of the caves of the old Chthonian worship, partly poetical--
expressive, half of the dark earth to which she escapes from Olympus,
half of her mourning. She appears consistently, in the hymn, as a
teacher of rites, transforming daily life, and the processes of life,
into a religious solemnity. With no misgiving as to the proprieties
of a mere narration, the hymn-writer mingles these symbolical
imitations with the outlines of the original story; and, in his
Demeter, the dramatic person of the mysteries mixes itself with the
primitive mythical figure. And the worshipper, far from being
offended by these interpolations, may have found a special
impressiveness in them, as they linked continuously its inner sense
with the outward imagery of the ritual.

And, as Demeter and her story embodied themselves gradually in the
Greek imagination, so these mysteries in which her worship found its
chief expression, grew up little by little, growing always in close
connexion with the modifications of the story, sometimes prompting
them, at other times suggested by them. That they had a single
special author is improbable, and a mere invention of the Greeks,
ignorant of their real history and the general analogy of such
matters. Here again, as in the story itself, the idea of
development, of degrees, of a slow [122] and natural growth, impeded
here, diverted there, is the illuminating thought which earlier
critics lacked. "No tongue may speak of them," says the Homeric
hymn; and the secret has certainly been kept. The antiquarian,
dealing, letter by letter, with what is recorded of them, has left
few certain data for the reflexion of the modern student of the Greek
religion; and of this, its central solemnity, only a fragmentary
picture can be made. It is probable that these mysteries developed
the symbolical significance of the story of the descent into Hades,
the coming of Demeter to Eleusis, the invention of Persephone. They
may or may not have been the vehicle of a secret doctrine, but were
certainly an artistic spectacle, giving, like the mysteries of the
middle age, a dramatic representation of the sacred story,--perhaps a
detailed performance, perhaps only such a conventional
representation, as was afforded for instance by the medieval
ceremonies of Palm Sunday; the whole, probably, centering in an image
of Demeter--the work of Praxiteles or his school, in ivory and gold.
There is no reason to suppose any specific difference between the
observances of the Eleusinian festival and the accustomed usages of
the Greek religion; nocturns, libations, quaint purifications,
processions--are common incidents of all Greek worship; in all
religious ceremonies there is an element of dramatic symbolism; and
what we really do see, through those scattered notices, [123] are
things which have their parallels in a later age, the whole being not
altogether unlike a modern pilgrimage. The exposition of the sacred
places--the threshing-floor of Triptolemus, the rocky seat on which
Demeter had rested in her sorrow, the well of Callichorus--is not so
strange, as it would seem, had it no modern illustration. The
libations, at once a watering of the vines and a drink-offering to
the dead--still needing men's services, waiting for purification
perhaps, or thirsting, like Dante's Adam of Brescia, in their close
homes--must, to almost all minds, have had a certain natural
impressiveness; and a parallel has sometimes been drawn between this
festival and All Souls' Day.

And who, everywhere, has not felt the mystical influence of that
prolonged silence, the mystic silence, from which the very word
"mystery" has its origin? Something also there undoubtedly was,
which coarser minds might misunderstand. On one day, the initiated
went in procession to the sea-coast, where they underwent a
purification by bathing in the sea. On the fifth night there was the
torchlight procession; and, by a touch of real life in him, we gather
from the first page of Plato's Republic that such processions were
popular spectacles, having a social interest, so that people made
much of attending them. There was the procession of the sacred
basket filled with poppy-seeds and pomegranates. There was the day
of rest, after [124] the stress and excitement of the "great night."
On the sixth day, the image of Iacchus, son of Demeter, crowned with
myrtle and having a torch in its hand, was carried in procession,
through thousands of spectators, along the sacred way, amid joyous
shouts and songs. We have seen such processions; we understand how
many different senses, and how lightly, various spectators may put on
them; how little definite meaning they may have even for those who
officiate in them. Here, at least, there was the image itself, in
that age, with its close connexion between religion and art,
presumably fair. Susceptibility to the impressions of religious
ceremonial must always have varied with the peculiarities of
individual temperament, as it varies in our own day; and Eleusis,
with its incense and sweet singing, may have been as little
interesting to the outward senses of some worshippers there, as the
stately and affecting ceremonies of the medieval church to many of
its own members. In a simpler yet profounder sense than has
sometimes been supposed, these things were really addressed to the
initiated only.*

We have to travel a long way from the Homeric hymn to the hymn of
Callimachus, who writes in the end of Greek literature, in the third
century before Christ, in celebration of the procession of the sacred
basket of Demeter, not [125] at the Attic, but at the Alexandrian
Eleusinia. He developes, in something of the prosaic spirit of a
medieval writer of "mysteries," one of the burlesque incidents of the
story, the insatiable hunger which seized on Erysichthon because he
cut down a grove sacred to the goddess. Yet he finds his
opportunities for skilful touches of poetry;--"As the four white
horses draw her sacred basket," he says, "so will the great goddess
bring us a white spring, a white summer." He describes the grove
itself, with its hedge of trees, so thick that an arrow could hardly
pass through, its pines and fruit-trees and tall poplars within, and
the water, like pale gold, running from the conduits. It is one of
those famous poplars that receives the first stroke; it sounds
heavily to its companion trees, and Demeter perceives that her sacred
grove is suffering. Then comes one of those transformations which
Plato will not allow. Vainly anxious to save the lad from his ruin,
she appears in the form of a priestess, but with the long hood of the
goddess, and the poppy in her hand; and there is something of a real
shudder, some still surviving sense of a haunting presence in the
groves, in the verses which describe her sudden revelation, when the
workmen flee away, leaving their axes in the cleft trees.

Of the same age as the hymn of Callimachus, but with very different
qualities, is the idyll of Theocritus on the Shepherds' Journey.
Although it is possible to define an epoch in mythological [126]
development in which literary and artificial influences began to
remodel the primitive, popular legend, yet still, among children, and
unchanging childlike people, we may suppose that that primitive stage
always survived, and the old, instinctive influences were still at
work. As the subject of popular religious celebrations also, the
myth was still the property of the people, and surrendered to its
capricious action. The shepherds in Theocritus, on their way to
celebrate one of the more homely feasts of Demeter, about the time of
harvest, are examples of these childlike people; the age of the poets
has long since come, but they are of the older and simpler order,
lingering on in the midst of a more self-conscious world. In an
idyll, itself full of the delightful gifts of Demeter, Theocritus
sets them before us; through the blazing summer day's journey, the
smiling image of the goddess is always before them; and now they have
reached the end of their journey:--

"So I, and Eucritus, and the fair Amyntichus, turned aside into the
house of Phrasidamus, and lay down with delight in beds of sweet
tamarisk and fresh cuttings from the vines, strewn on the ground.
Many poplars and elm-trees were waving over our heads, and not far
off the running of the sacred water from the cave of the nymphs
warbled to us; in the shimmering branches the sun-burnt grasshoppers
were busy with their talk, and from afar the little owl cried softly,
out of [127] the tangled thorns of the blackberry; the larks were
singing and the hedge-birds, and the turtle-dove moaned; the bees
flew round and round the fountains, murmuring softly; the scent of
late summer and of the fall of the year was everywhere; the pears
fell from the trees at our feet, and apples in number rolled down at
our sides, and the young plum-trees were bent to the earth with the
weight of their fruit. The wax, four years old, was loosed from the
heads of the wine-jars. O! nymphs of Castalia, who dwell on the
steeps of Parnassus, tell me, I pray you, was it a draught like this
that the aged Chiron placed before Hercules, in the stony cave of
Pholus? Was it nectar like this that made the mighty shepherd on
Anapus' shore, Polyphemus, who flung the rocks upon Ulysses' ships,
dance among his sheepfolds?--A cup like this ye poured out now upon
the altar of Demeter, who presides over the threshing-floor. May it
be mine, once more, to dig my big winnowing-fan through her heaps of
corn; and may I see her smile upon me, holding poppies and handfuls
of corn in her two hands!"

Some of the modifications of the story of Demeter, as we find it in
later poetry, have been supposed to be due, not to the genuine action
of the Greek mind, but to the influence of that so-called Orphic
literature, which, in the generation succeeding Hesiod, brought, from
Thessaly and Phrygia, a tide of mystical ideas into the Greek [128]
religion, sometimes, doubtless, confusing the clearness and
naturalness of its original outlines, but also sometimes imparting to
them a new and peculiar grace. Under the influence of this Orphic
poetry, Demeter was blended, or identified, with Rhea Cybele, the
mother of the gods, the wilder earth-goddess of Phrygia; and the
romantic figure of Dionysus Zagreus, Dionysus the Hunter, that most
interesting, though somewhat melancholy variation on the better known
Dionysus, was brought, as son or brother of Persephone, into her
circle, the mystical vine, who, as Persephone descends and ascends
from the earth, is rent to pieces by the Titans every year and
remains long in Hades, but every spring-time comes out of it again,
renewing his youth. This identification of Demeter with Rhea Cybele
is the motive which has inspired a beautiful chorus in the Helena--
the new Helena--of Euripides, that great lover of all subtle
refinements and modernisms, who, in this play, has worked on a
strange version of the older story, which relates that Helen had
never really gone to Troy at all, but sent her soul only there, apart
from her sweet body, which abode all that time in Egypt, at the court
of King Proteus, where she is found at last by her husband Menelaus,
so that the Trojan war was about a phantom, after all. The chorus
has even less than usual to do with the action of the play, being
linked to it only by a sort of parallel, which may be understood,
[129] between Menelaus seeking Helen, and Demeter seeking Persephone.
Euripides, then, takes the matter of the Homeric hymn into the region
of a higher and swifter poetry, and connects it with the more
stimulating imagery of the Idaean mother. The Orphic mysticism or
enthusiasm has been admitted into the story, which is now full of
excitement, the motion of rivers, the sounds of the Bacchic cymbals
heard over the mountains, as Demeter wanders among the woody valleys
seeking her lost daughter, all directly expressed in the vivid Greek
words. Demeter is no longer the subdued goddess of the quietly-
ordered fields, but the mother of the gods, who has her abode in the
heights of Mount Ida, who presides over the dews and waters of the
white springs, whose flocks feed, not on grain, but on the curling
tendrils of the vine, both of which she withholds in her anger, and
whose chariot is drawn by wild beasts, fruit and emblem of the earth
in its fiery strength. Not Hecate, but Pallas and Artemis, in full
armour, swift-footed, vindicators of chastity, accompany her in her
search for Persephone, who is already expressly, kor arrtos+--"the
maiden whom none may name." When she rests from her long wanderings,
it is into the stony thickets of Mount Ida, deep with snow, that she
throws herself, in her profound grief. When Zeus desires to end her
pain, the Muses and the "solemn" Graces are sent to dance and sing
before her. It is then [130] that Cypris, the goddess of beauty, and
the original cause, therefore, of her distress, takes into her hands
the brazen tambourines of the Dionysiac worship with their Chthonian
or deep-noted sound; and it is she, not the old Iambe, who with this
wild music, heard thus for the first time, makes Demeter smile at
last. "Great," so the chorus ends with a picture, "great is the
power of the stoles of spotted fawn-skins, and the green leaves of
ivy twisted about the sacred wands, and the wheeling motion of the
tambourine whirled round in the air, and the long hair floating
unbound in honour of Bromius, and the nocturns of the goddess, when
the moon looks full upon them."

The poem of Claudian on the Rape of Proserpine, the longest extant
work connected with the story of Demeter, yet itself unfinished,
closes the world of classical poetry. Writing in the fourth century
of the Christian era, Claudian has his subject before him in the
whole extent of its various development, and also profits by those
many pictorial representations of it, which, from the famous picture
of Polygnotus downwards, delighted the ancient world. His poem,
then, besides having an intrinsic charm, is valuable for some
reflexion in it of those lost works, being itself pre-eminently a
work in colour, and excelling in a kind of painting in words, which
brings its subject very pleasantly almost to the eye of the reader.
The mind of this late votary [131] of the old gods, in a world
rapidly changing, is crowded with all the beautiful forms generated
by mythology, and now about to be forgotten. In this after-glow of
Latin literature, lighted up long after their fortune had set, and
just before their long night began, they pass before us, in his
verses, with the utmost clearness, like the figures in an actual
procession. The nursing of the infant Sun and Moon by Tethys;
Proserpine and her companions gathering flowers at early dawn, when
the violets are drinking in the dew, still lying white upon the
grass; the image of Pallas winding the peaceful blossoms about the
steel crest of her helmet; the realm of Proserpine, softened somewhat
by her coming, and filled with a quiet joy; the matrons of Elysium
crowding to her marriage toilet, with the bridal veil of yellow in
their hands; the Manes, crowned with ghostly flowers yet warmed a
little, at the marriage feast; the ominous dreams of the mother; the
desolation of the home, like an empty bird's-nest or an empty fold,
when she returns and finds Proserpine gone, and the spider at work
over her unfinished embroidery; the strangely-figured raiment, the
flowers in the grass, which were once blooming youths, having both
their natural colour and the colour of their poetry in them, and the
clear little fountain there, which was once the maiden Cyane;--all
this is shown in a series of descriptions, like the designs in some
unwinding tapestry, like Proserpine's own [132] embroidery, the
description of which is the most brilliant of these pictures, and, in
its quaint confusion of the images of philosophy with those of
mythology, anticipates something of the fancy of the Italian
Renaissance.

"Proserpina, filling the house soothingly with her low song, was
working a gift against the return of her mother, with labour all to
be in vain. In it, she marked out with her needle the houses of the
gods and the series of the elements, showing by what law, nature, the
parent of all, settled the strife of ancient times, and the seeds of
things disparted into their places; the lighter elements are borne
aloft, the heavier fall to the centre; the air grows bright with
heat, a blazing light whirls round the firmament; the sea flows; the
earth hangs suspended in its place. And there were divers colours in
it; she illuminated the stars with gold, infused a purple shade into
the water, and heightened the shore with gems of flowers; and, under
her skilful hand, the threads, with their inwrought lustre, swell up,
in momentary counterfeit of the waves; you might think that the sea-
wind flapped against the rocks, and that a hollow murmur came
creeping over the thirsty sands. She puts in the five zones, marking
with a red ground the midmost zone, possessed by burning heat; its
outline was parched and stiff; the threads seemed thirsty with the
constant sunshine; on either side lay the two zones proper for human
life, [133] where a gentle temperance reigns; and at the extremes she
drew the twin zones of numbing cold, making her work dun and sad with
the hues of perpetual frost. She paints in, too, the sacred places of
Dis, her father's brother, and the Manes, so fatal to her; and an
omen of her doom was not wanting; for, as she worked, as if with
foreknowledge of the future, her face became wet with a sudden burst
of tears. And now, in the utmost border of the tissue, she had begun
to wind in the wavy line of the river Oceanus, with its glassy
shallows; but the door sounds on its hinges, and she perceives the
goddesses coming; the unfinished work drops from her hands, and a
ruddy blush lights up in her clear and snow-white face."

I have reserved to the last what is perhaps the daintiest treatment
of this subject in classical literature, the account of it which Ovid
gives in the Fasti--a kind of Roman Calendar--for the seventh of
April, the day of the games of Ceres. He tells over again the old
story, with much of which, he says, the reader will be already
familiar; but he has something also of his own to add to it, which
the reader will hear for the first time; and, like one of those old
painters who, in depicting a scene of Christian history, drew from
their own fancy or experience its special setting and accessories, he
translates the story into something very different from the Homeric
hymn. The writer of the Homeric [134] hymn had made Celeus a king,
and represented the scene at Eleusis in a fair palace, like the
Venetian painters who depict the persons of the Holy Family with
royal ornaments. Ovid, on the other hand, is more like certain
painters of the early Florentine school, who represent the holy
persons amid the more touching circumstances of humble life; and the
special something of his own which he adds, is a pathos caught from
homely things, not without a delightful, just perceptible, shade of
humour even, so rare in such work. All the mysticism has
disappeared; but, instead, we trace something of that "worship of
sorrow," which has been sometimes supposed to have had no place in
classical religious sentiment. In Ovid's well-finished elegiacs,
Persephone's flower-gathering, the Anthology, reaches its utmost
delicacy; but I give the following episode for the sake of its
pathetic expression.

"After many wanderings Ceres was come to Attica. There, in the
utmost dejection, for the first time, she sat down to rest on a bare
stone, which the people of Attica still call the stone of sorrow.
For many days she remained there motionless, under the open sky,
heedless of the rain and of the frosty moonlight. Places have their
fortunes; and what is now the illustrious town of Eleusis was then
the field of an old man named Celeus. He was carrying home a load of
acorns, and wild berries shaken down from the [135] brambles, and dry
wood for burning on the hearth; his little daughter was leading two
goats home from the hills; and at home there was a little boy lying
sick in his cradle. 'Mother,' said the little girl--and the goddess
was moved at the name of mother--'what do you, all alone, in this
solitary place?' The old man stopped too, in spite of his heavy
burden, and bade her take shelter in his cottage, though it was but a
little one. But at first she refused to come; she looked like an
old woman, and an old woman's coif confined her hair; and as the man
still urged her, she said to him, 'Heaven bless you; and may children
always be yours! My daughter has been stolen from me. Alas! how
much happier is your lot than mine'; and, though weeping is
impossible for the gods, as she spoke, a bright drop, like a tear,
fell into her bosom. Soft-hearted, the little girl and the old man
weep together. And after that the good man said, 'Arise! despise not
the shelter of my little home; so may the daughter whom you seek be
restored to you.' 'Lead me,' answered the goddess; 'you have found
out the secret of moving me;' and she arose from the stone, and
followed the old man; and as they went he told her of the sick child
at home--how he is restless with pain, and cannot sleep. And she,
before entering the little cottage, gathered from the untended earth
the soothing and sleep-giving poppy; and as she gathered it, it is
said that she [136] forgot her vow, and tasted of the seeds, and
broke her long fast, unaware. As she came through the door, she saw
the house full of trouble, for now there was no more hope of life for
the sick boy. She saluted the mother, whose name was Metaneira, and
humbly kissed the lips of the child, with her own lips; then the
paleness left its face, and suddenly the parents see the strength
returning to its body; so great is the force that comes from the
divine mouth. And the whole family was full of joy--the mother and
the father and the little girl; they were the whole household.*

Three profound ethical conceptions, three impressive sacred figures,
have now defined themselves for the Greek imagination, condensed from
all the traditions which have now been traced, from the hymns of the
poets, from the instinctive and unformulated mysticism of primitive
minds. Demeter is become the divine sorrowing mother. Kore, the
goddess of summer, is become Persephone, the goddess of death, still
associated with the forms and odours of flowers and fruit, yet as one
risen from the dead also, presenting one side of her ambiguous nature
to men's gloomier fancies. Thirdly, there is the image of Demeter
enthroned, chastened by sorrow, and somewhat advanced in age,
blessing the earth, in her joy at the return of Kore. The myth has
[137] now entered on the third phase of its life, in which it becomes
the property of those more elevated spirits, who, in the decline of
the Greek religion, pick and choose and modify, with perfect freedom
of mind, whatever in it may seem adapted to minister to their
culture. In this way, the myths of the Greek religion become parts
of an ideal, visible embodiments of the susceptibilities and
intuitions of the nobler kind of souls; and it is to this latest
phase of mythological development that the highest Greek sculpture
allies itself. Its function is to give visible aesthetic expression
to the constituent parts of that ideal. As poetry dealt chiefly with
the incidents of the story, so it is with the personages of the
story--with Demeter and Kore themselves--that sculpture has to do.

For the myth of Demeter, like the Greek religion in general, had its
unlovelier side, grotesque, unhellenic, unglorified by art,
illustrated well enough by the description Pausanias gives us of his
visit to the cave of the Black Demeter at Phigalia. In his time the
image itself had vanished; but he tells us enough about it to enable
us to realise its general characteristics, monstrous as the special
legend with which it was connected, the black draperies, the horse's
head united to the woman's body, with the carved reptiles creeping
about it. If, with the thought of this gloomy image of our mother
the earth, in our minds, we take up one of those coins [138] which
bear the image of Kore or Demeter,* we shall better understand what
the function of sculpture really was, in elevating and refining the
religious conceptions of the Greeks. Looking on the profile, for
instance, on one of those coins of Messene, which almost certainly
represent Demeter, and noting the crisp, chaste opening of the lips,
the minutely wrought earrings, and the delicately touched ears of
corn,--this trifling object being justly regarded as, in its
aesthetic qualities, an epitome of art on a larger scale,--we shall
see how far the imagination of the Greeks had travelled from what
their Black Demeter shows us had once been possible for them, and in
making the gods of their worship the objects of a worthy
companionship in their thoughts. Certainly, the mind of the old
workman who struck that coin was, if we may trust the testimony of
his work, unclouded by impure or gloomy shadows. The thought of
Demeter is impressed here, with all the purity and proportion, the
purged and dainty intelligence of the human countenance. The mystery
of it is indeed absent, perhaps could hardly have been looked for in
so slight a thing, intended for no sacred purpose, and tossed lightly
from hand to hand. But in his firm hold on the harmonies of the
human face, the designer of this tranquil head of [139] Demeter is on
the one road to a command over the secrets of all imaginative pathos
and mystery; though, in the perfect fairness and blitheness of his
work, he might seem almost not to have known the incidents of her
terrible story.

It is probable that, at a later period than in other equally
important temples of Greece, the earlier archaic representation of
Demeter in the sanctuary of Eleusis, was replaced by a more beautiful
image in the new style, with face and hands of ivory, having
therefore, in tone and texture, some subtler likeness to women's
flesh, and the closely enveloping drapery being constructed in
daintily beaten plates of gold. Praxiteles seems to have been the
first to bring into the region of a freer artistic handling these shy
deities of the earth, shrinking still within the narrow restraints of
a hieratic, conventional treatment, long after the more genuine
Olympians had broken out of them. The school of Praxiteles, as
distinguished from that of Pheidias, is especially the school of
grace, relaxing a little the severe ethical tension of the latter, in
favour of a slightly Asiatic sinuosity and tenderness. Pausanias
tells us that he carved the two goddesses for the temple of Demeter
at Athens; and Pliny speaks of two groups of his in brass, the one
representing the stealing of Persephone, the other her later, annual
descent into Hades, conducted thither by the now pacified mother.
All alike have perished; though perhaps some [140] more or less faint
reflexion of the most important of these designs may still be traced
on many painted vases which depict the stealing of Persephone,--a
helpless, plucked flower in the arms of Aidoneus. And in this almost
traditional form, the subject was often represented, in low relief,
on tombs, some of which still remain; in one or two instances, built
up, oddly enough, in the walls of Christian churches. On the tombs
of women who had died in early life, this was a favourite subject,
some likeness of the actual lineaments of the deceased being
sometimes transferred to the features of Persephone.

Yet so far, it might seem, when we consider the interest of this
story in itself, and its importance in the Greek religion, that no
adequate expression of it had remained to us in works of art. But in
the year 1857, the discovery of the marbles, in the sacred precinct
of Demeter at Cnidus, restored to us an illustration of the myth in
its artistic phase, hardly less central than the Homeric hymn in its
poetical phase. With the help of the descriptions and plans of Mr.
Newton's book,* we can form, as one always wishes to do in such
cases, a clear idea of the place where these marbles--three statues
of the best style of Greek sculpture, now in the British Museum--were
found. Occupying a ledge of rock, looking towards the sea, at the
base of a [141] cliff of upheaved limestone, of singular steepness
and regularity of surface, the spot presents indications of volcanic
disturbance, as if a chasm in the earth had opened here. It was this
character, suggesting the belief in an actual connexion with the
interior of the earth (local tradition claiming it as the scene of
the stealing of Persephone), which probably gave rise, as in other
cases where the landscape presented some peculiar feature in harmony
with the story, to the dedication upon it of a house and an image of
Demeter, with whom were associated Kore and "the gods with Demeter"--
hoi theoi para Damatri+--Aidoneus, and the mystical or Chthonian
Dionysus. The house seems to have been a small chapel only, of
simple construction, and designed for private use, the site itself
having been private property, consecrated by a particular family, for
their own religious uses, although other persons, servants or
dependents of the founders, may also have frequented it. The
architecture seems to have been insignificant, but the sculpture
costly and exquisite, belonging, if contemporary with the erection of
the building, to a great period of Greek art, of which also it is
judged to possess intrinsic marks--about the year 350 before Christ,
the probable date of the dedication of the little temple. The
artists by whom these works were produced were, therefore, either the
contemporaries of Praxiteles, whose Venus was for many centuries the
glory of [142] Cnidus, or belonged to the generation immediately
succeeding him. The temple itself was probably thrown down by a
renewal of the volcanic disturbances; the statues however remaining,
and the ministers and worshippers still continuing to make shift for
their sacred business in the place, now doubly venerable, but with
its temple unrestored, down to the second or third century of the
Christian era, its frequenters being now perhaps mere chance comers,
the family of the original donors having become extinct, or having
deserted it. Into this later arrangement, clearly divined by Mr.
Newton, through those faint indications which mean much for true
experts, the extant remains, as they were found upon the spot, permit
us to enter. It is one of the graves of that old religion, but with
much still fresh in it. We see it with its provincial superstitions,
and its curious magic rites, but also with its means of really solemn
impressions, in the culminating forms of Greek art; the two faces of
the Greek religion confronting each other here, and the whole having
that rare peculiarity of a kind of personal stamp upon it, the place
having been designed to meet the fancies of one particular soul, or
at least of one family. It is always difficult to bring the every-
day aspect of Greek religion home to us; but even the slighter
details of this little sanctuary help us to do this; and knowing so
little, as we do, of the greater mysteries of [143] Demeter, this
glance into an actual religious place dedicated to her, and with the
air of her worship still about it, is doubly interesting. The little
votive figures of the goddesses, in baked earth, were still lying
stored in the small treasury intended for such objects, or scattered
about the feet of the images, together with lamps in great number, a
lighted lamp being a favourite offering, in memory of the torches
with which Demeter sought Persephone, or from some sense of inherent
darkness in these gods of the earth; those torches in the hands of
Demeter being indeed originally the artificial warmth and brightness
of lamp and fire, on winter nights. The dirae or spells,--katadesmoi+-
-binding or devoting certain persons to the infernal gods, inscribed
on thin rolls of lead, with holes, sometimes, for hanging them up
about those quiet statues, still lay, just as they were left,
anywhere within the sacred precinct, illustrating at once the
gloomier side of the Greek religion in general, and of Demeter and
Persephone especially, in their character of avenging deities, and as
relics of ancient magic, reproduced so strangely at other times and
places, reminding us of the permanence of certain odd ways of human
thought. A woman binds with her spell the person who seduces her
husband away from her and her children; another, the person who has
accused her of preparing poison for her husband; another devotes one
who has not restored a borrowed [144] garment, or has stolen a
bracelet, or certain drinking-horns; and, from some instances, we
might infer that this was a favourite place of worship for the poor
and ignorant. In this living picture, we find still lingering on, at
the foot of the beautiful Greek marbles, that phase of religious
temper which a cynical mind might think a truer link of its unity and
permanence than any higher aesthetic instincts--a phase of it, which
the art of sculpture, humanising and refining man's conceptions of
the unseen, tended constantly to do away. For the higher side of the
Greek religion, thus humanised and refined by art, and elevated by it
to the sense of beauty, is here also.

There were three ideal forms, as we saw, gradually shaping themselves
in the development of the story of Demeter, waiting only for complete
realisation at the hands of the sculptor; and now, with these forms
in our minds, let us place ourselves in thought before the three
images which once probably occupied the three niches or ambries in
the face of that singular cliff at Cnidus, one of them being then
wrought on a larger scale. Of the three figures, one probably
represents Persephone, as the goddess of the dead; the second,
Demeter enthroned; the third is probably a portrait-statue of a
priestess of Demeter, but may perhaps, even so, represent Demeter
herself, Demeter Achaea, Ceres Deserta, the mater dolorosa of the
Greeks, a type not as yet [145] recognised in any other work of
ancient art. Certainly, it seems hard not to believe that this work
is in some way connected with the legend of the place to which it
belonged, and the main subject of which it realises so completely;
and, at least, it shows how the higher Greek sculpture would have
worked out this motive. If Demeter at all, it is Demeter the
seeker,--D+--as she was called in the mysteries, in some pause of
her restless wandering over the world in search of the lost child,
and become at last an abstract type of the wanderer. The Homeric
hymn, as we saw, had its sculptural motives, the great gestures of
Demeter, who was ever the stately goddess, as she followed the
daughters of Celeus, or sat by the well-side, or went out and in,
through the halls of the palace, expressed in monumental words. With
the sentiment of that monumental Homeric presence this statue is
penetrated, uniting a certain solemnity of attitude and bearing, to a
profound piteousness, an unrivalled pathos of expression. There is
something of the pity of Michelangelo's mater dolorosa, in the wasted
form and marred countenance, yet with the light breaking faintly over
it from the eyes, which, contrary to the usual practice in ancient
sculpture, are represented as looking upwards. It is the aged woman
who has escaped from pirates, who has but just escaped being sold as
a slave, calling on the young for pity. The sorrows of her long
wanderings seem to have passed into the marble; [146] and in this
too, it meets the demands which the reader of the Homeric hymn, with
its command over the resources of human pathos, makes upon the
sculptor. The tall figure, in proportion above the ordinary height,
is veiled, and clad to the feet in the longer tunic, its numerous
folds hanging in heavy parallel lines, opposing the lines of the
peplus, or cloak, which cross it diagonally over the breast,
enwrapping the upper portion of the body somewhat closely. It is the
very type of the wandering woman, going grandly, indeed, as Homer
describes her, yet so human in her anguish, that we seem to recognise
some far descended shadow of her, in the homely figure of the roughly
clad French peasant woman, who, in one of Corot's pictures, is
hasting along under a sad light, as the day goes out behind the
little hill. We have watched the growth of the merely personal
sentiment in the story; and we may notice that, if this figure be
indeed Demeter, then the conception of her has become wholly
humanised; no trace of the primitive cosmical import of the myth, no
colour or scent of the mystical earth, remains about it.

The seated figure, much mutilated, and worn by long exposure, yet
possessing, according to the best critics, marks of the school of
Praxiteles, is almost undoubtedly the image of Demeter enthroned.
Three times in the Homeric hymn she is represented as sitting, once
by the fountain at the wayside, again in the house of Celeus, and
[147] again in the newly finished temple of Eleusis; but always in
sorrow; seated on the petra agelastos,+ which, as Ovid told us, the
people of Attica still called the stone of sorrow. Here she is
represented in her later state of reconciliation, enthroned as the
glorified mother of all things. The delicate plaiting of the tunic
about the throat, the formal curling of the hair, and a certain
weight of over-thoughtfulness in the brows, recall the manner of
Leonardo da Vinci, a master, one of whose characteristics is a very
sensitive expression of the sentiment of maternity. It reminds one
especially of a work by one of his scholars, the Virgin of the
Balances, in the Louvre, a picture which has been thought to
represent, under a veil, the blessing of universal nature, and in
which the sleepy-looking heads, with a peculiar grace and refinement
of somewhat advanced life in them, have just this half-weary posture.
We see here, then, the Here of the world below, the Stygian Juno, the
chief of those Elysian matrons who come crowding, in the poem of
Claudian, to the marriage toilet of Proserpine, the goddess of the
fertility of the earth and of all creatures, but still of fertility
as arisen out of death;* and therefore she is not without a certain
pensiveness, having seen the seed fall into the ground and die, many
times. Persephone is returned to her, and the hair [148] spreads,
like a rich harvest, over her shoulders; but she is still veiled, and
knows that the seed must fall into the ground again, and Persephone
descend again from her.

The statues of the supposed priestess, and of the enthroned Demeter,
are of more than the size of life; the figure of Persephone is but
seventeen inches high, a daintily handled toy of Parian marble, the
miniature copy perhaps of a much larger work, which might well be
reproduced on a magnified scale. The conception of Demeter is
throughout chiefly human, and even domestic, though never without a
hieratic interest, because she is not a goddess only, but also a
priestess. In contrast, Persephone is wholly unearthly, the close
companion, and even the confused double, of Hecate, the goddess of
midnight terrors,--Despoena,--the final mistress of all that lives;
and as sorrow is the characteristic sentiment of Demeter, so awe of
Persephone. She is compact of sleep, and death, and flowers, but of
narcotic flowers especially,--a revenant, who in the garden of
Aidoneus has eaten of the pomegranate, and bears always the secret of
decay in her, of return to the grave, in the mystery of those
swallowed seeds; sometimes, in later work, holding in her hand the
key of the great prison-house, but which unlocks all secrets also;
(there, finally, or through oracles revealed in dreams;) sometimes,
like Demeter, the poppy, emblem of sleep and death by its [149]
narcotic juices, of life and resurrection by its innumerable seeds,
of the dreams, therefore, that may intervene between falling asleep
and waking. Treated as it is in the Homeric hymn, and still more in
this statue, the image of Persephone may be regarded as the result of
many efforts to lift the old Chthonian gloom, still lingering on in
heavier souls, concerning the grave, to connect it with impressions
of dignity and beauty, and a certain sweetness even; it is meant to
make men in love, or at least at peace, with death. The Persephone
of Praxiteles' school, then, is Aphrodite-Persephone, Venus-Libitina.
Her shadowy eyes have gazed upon the fainter colouring of the under-
world, and the tranquillity, born of it, has "passed into her face";
for the Greek Hades is, after all, but a quiet, twilight place, not
very different from that House of Fame where Dante places the great
souls of the classical world; Aidoneus himself being conceived, in
the highest Greek sculpture, as but a gentler Zeus, the great
innkeeper; so that when a certain Greek sculptor had failed in his
portraiture of Zeus, because it had too little hilarity, too little,
in the eyes and brow, of the open and cheerful sky, he only changed
its title, and the thing passed excellently, with its heavy locks and
shadowy eyebrows, for the god of the dead. The image of Persephone,
then, as it is here composed, with the tall, tower-like head-dress,
from which the veil depends--the corn-basket, [150] originally
carried thus by the Greek women, balanced on the head--giving the
figure unusual length, has the air of a body bound about with grave-
clothes; while the archaic hands and feet, and a certain stiffness in
the folds of the drapery, give it something of a hieratic character,
and to the modern observer may suggest a sort of kinship with the
more chastened kind of Gothic work. But quite of the school of
Praxiteles is the general character of the composition; the graceful
waving of the hair, the fine shadows of the little face, of the eyes
and lips especially, like the shadows of a flower--a flower risen
noiselessly from its dwelling in the dust--though still with that
fulness or heaviness in the brow, as of sleepy people, which, in the
delicate gradations of Greek sculpture, distinguish the infernal
deities from their Olympian kindred. The object placed in the hand
may be, perhaps, a stiff, archaic flower, but is probably the partly
consumed pomegranate--one morsel gone; the most usual emblem of
Persephone being this mystical fruit, which, because of the multitude
of its seeds, was to the Romans a symbol of fecundity, and was sold
at the doors of the temple of Ceres, that the women might offer it
there, and bear numerous children; and so, to the middle age, became
a symbol of the fruitful earth itself; and then of that other seed
sown in the dark under-world; and at last of that whole hidden
region, so thickly sown, which Dante visited, Michelino painting him,
[151] in the Duomo of Florence, with this fruit in his hand, and
Botticelli putting it into the childish hands of Him, who, if men "go
down into hell, is there also."

There is an attractiveness in these goddesses of the earth, akin to
the influence of cool places, quiet houses, subdued light,
tranquillising voices. What is there in this phase of ancient
religion for us, at the present day? The myth of Demeter and
Persephone, then, illustrates the power of the Greek religion as a
religion of pure ideas--of conceptions, which having no link on
historical fact, yet, because they arose naturally out of the spirit
of man, and embodied, in adequate symbols, his deepest thoughts
concerning the conditions of his physical and spiritual life,
maintained their hold through many changes, and are still not without
a solemnising power even for the modern mind, which has once admitted
them as recognised and habitual inhabitants; and, abiding thus for
the elevation and purifying of our sentiments, long after the earlier
and simpler races of their worshippers have passed away, they may be
a pledge to us of the place in our culture, at once legitimate and
possible, of the associations, the conceptions, the imagery, of Greek
religious poetry in general, of the poetry of all religions.

NOTES

117. +Transliteration: kalykpis. Liddell and Scott definition:
"Like a flower-bud, blushing, roseate."

118. +Transliteration: charis. Liddell and Scott definition:
"favour, grace ... loveliness."

118. +Transliteration: theai semnai. Translation: "august
goddesses."

124. *The great Greek myths are, in truth, like abstract forces,
which ally themselves to various conditions.

129. +Transliteration: kor arrtos. Translation: "Kor the
mysterious, the horrible." Another meaning of arrtos, as Pater
points out, is "unsaid, not to be spoken."

136. *With this may be connected another passage of Ovid--
Metamorphoses, v. 391-408.

138. *On these small objects the mother and daughter are hard to
distinguish, the latter being recognisable only by a greater delicacy
in the features and the more evident stamp of youth.

140. *A History of Discoveries at Halicarnassus, Cnidus, and
Branchidae.

141. +Transliteration: hoi theoi para Damatri. Pater's translation:
"the gods with Demeter."

143. +Transliteration: katadesmoi. Liddell and Scott definition: "a
tie or band: a magic knot, love-knot."

145. +Transliteration: D. Liddell and Scott definition: the verb
d means "I shall find," while the proper noun refers to Demeter.

147. +Transliteration: petra agelastos. Translation: "sullen rock."

147. *Pallere ligustra, / Exspirare rosas, decrescere lilia vidi.

HIPPOLYTUS VEILED: A STUDY FROM EURIPIDES

[152] CENTURIES of zealous archaeology notwithstanding, many phases
of the so varied Greek genius are recorded for the modern student in
a kind of shorthand only, or not at all. Even for Pausanias,
visiting Greece before its direct part in affairs was quite played
out, much had perished or grown dim--of its art, of the truth of its
outward history, above all of its religion as a credible or
practicable thing. And yet Pausanias visits Greece under
conditions as favourable for observation as those under which later
travellers, Addison or Eustace, proceed to Italy. For him the
impress of life in those old Greek cities is not less vivid and
entire than that of medieval Italy to ourselves; at Siena, for
instance, with its ancient palaces still in occupation, its public
edifices as serviceable as if the old republic had but just now
vacated them, the tradition of their primitive worship still unbroken
in its churches. Had the opportunities in which Pausanias was [153]
fortunate been ours, how many haunts of the antique Greek life
unnoticed by him we should have peeped into, minutely systematic in
our painstaking! how many a view would broaden out where he notes
hardly anything at all on his map of Greece!

One of the most curious phases of Greek civilisation which has thus
perished for us, and regarding which, as we may fancy, we should have
made better use of that old traveller's facilities, is the early
Attic deme-life--its picturesque, intensely localised variety, in the
hollow or on the spur of mountain or sea-shore; and with it many a
relic of primitive religion, many an early growth of art parallel to
what Vasari records of artistic beginnings in the smaller cities of
Italy. Colonus and Acharnae, surviving still so vividly by the magic
of Sophocles, of Aristophanes, are but isolated examples of a
widespread manner of life, in which, amid many provincial
peculiarities, the first, yet perhaps the most costly and telling
steps were made in all the various departments of Greek culture.
Even in the days of Pausanias, Piraeus was still traceable as a
distinct township, once the possible rival of Athens, with its little
old covered market by the seaside, and the symbolical picture of the
place, its Genius, visible on the wall. And that is but the type of
what there had been to know of threescore and more village
communities, each having its own altars, its special worship and
[154] place of civic assembly, its trade and crafts, its name drawn
from physical peculiarity or famous incident, its body of heroic
tradition. Lingering on while Athens, the great deme, gradually
absorbed into itself more and more of their achievements, and passing
away almost completely as political factors in the Peloponnesian war,
they were still felt, we can hardly doubt, in the actual physiognomy
of Greece. That variety in unity, which its singular geographical
formation secured to Greece as a whole, was at its utmost in these
minute reflexions of the national character, with all the relish
of local difference--new art, new poetry, fresh ventures in political
combination, in the conception of life, springing as if straight from
the soil, like the thorn-blossom of early spring in magic lines over
all that rocky land. On the other hand, it was just here that
ancient habits clung most tenaciously--that old-fashioned, homely,
delightful existence, to which the refugee, pent up in Athens in the
years of the Peloponnesian war, looked back so fondly. If the
impression of Greece generally is but enhanced by the littleness of
the physical scene of events intellectually so great--such a system
of grand lines, restrained within so narrow a compass, as in one of
its fine coins--still more would this be true of those centres of
country life. Here, certainly, was that assertion of seemingly small
interests, which brings into free play, and gives his utmost value
[155] to, the individual; making his warfare, equally with his more
peaceful rivalries, deme against deme, the mountain against the
plain, the sea-shore, (as in our own old Border life, but played out
here by wonderfully gifted people) tangible as a personal history, to
the doubling of its fascination for those whose business is with the
survey of the dramatic side of life.

As with civil matters, so it was also, we may fairly suppose, with
religion; the deme-life was a manifestation of religious custom and
sentiment, in all their primitive local variety. As Athens,
gradually drawing into itself the various elements of provincial
culture, developed, with authority, the central religious position,
the demes-men did but add the worship of Athene Polias, the goddess
of the capital, to their own pre-existent ritual uses. Of local and
central religion alike, time and circumstance had obliterated much
when Pausanias came. A devout spirit, with religion for his chief
interest, eager for the trace of a divine footstep, anxious even in
the days of Lucian to deal seriously with what had counted for so
much to serious men, he has, indeed, to lament that "Pan is dead":--
"They come no longer!"--"These things happen no longer!" But the
Greek--his very name also, Hellen, was the title of a priesthood--had
been religious abundantly, sanctifying every detail of his actual
life with the religious idea; and as Pausanias goes on his way he
finds many a remnant of that [156] earlier estate of religion, when,
as he fancied, it had been nearer the gods, as it was certainly
nearer the earth. It is marked, even in decay, with varieties of
place; and is not only continuous but in situ. At Phigaleia he
makes his offerings to Demeter, agreeably to the paternal rites of
the inhabitants, wax, fruit, undressed wool "still full of the sordes
of the sheep." A dream from heaven cuts short his notice of the
mysteries of Eleusis. He sees the stone, "big enough for a little
man," on which Silenus was used to sit and rest; at Athens, the
tombs of the Amazons, of the purple-haired Nisus, of Deucalion;--"it
is a manifest token that he had dwelt there." The worshippers of
Poseidon, even at his temple among the hills, might still feel the
earth fluctuating beneath their feet. And in care for divine things,
he tells us, the Athenians outdid all other Greeks. Even in the days
of Nero it revealed itself oddly; and it is natural to suppose that
of this temper the demes, as the proper home of conservatism, were
exceptionally expressive. Scattered in those remote, romantic
villages, among their olives or sea-weeds, lay the heroic graves, the
relics, the sacred images, often rude enough amid the delicate
tribute of later art; this too oftentimes finding in such retirement
its best inspirations, as in some Attic Fiesole. Like a network over
the land of gracious poetic tradition, as also of undisturbed
ceremonial usage surviving late for those who cared to seek it, the
[157] local religions had been never wholly superseded by the worship
of the great national temples. They were, in truth, the most
characteristic developments of a faith essentially earth-born or
indigenous.

And how often must the student of fine art, again, wish he had the
same sort of knowledge about its earlier growth in Greece, that he
actually possesses in the case of Italian art! Given any development
at all in this matter, there must have been phases of art, which, if
immature, were also veritable expressions of power to come,
intermediate discoveries of beauty, such as are by no means a mere
anticipation, and of service only as explaining historically larger
subsequent achievements, but of permanent attractiveness in
themselves, being often, indeed, the true maturity of certain amiable
artistic qualities. And in regard to Greek art at its best--the
Parthenon--no less than to the art of the Renaissance at its best--
the Sistine Chapel--the more instructive light would be derived
rather from what precedes than what follows such central success,
from the determination to apprehend the fulfilment of past effort
rather than the eve of decline, in the critical, central moment which
partakes of both. Of such early promise, early achievement, we have
in the case of Greek art little to compare with what is extant of the
youth of the arts in Italy. Overbeck's careful gleanings of its
history form indeed [158] a sorry relic as contrasted with Vasari's
intimations of the beginnings of the Renaissance. Fired by certain
fragments of its earlier days, of a beauty, in truth, absolute, and
vainly longing for more, the student of Greek sculpture indulges the
thought of an ideal of youthful energy therein, yet withal of
youthful self-restraint; and again, as with survivals of old
religion, the privileged home, he fancies, of that ideal must have
been in those venerable Attic townships, as to a large extent it
passed away with them.

The budding of new art, the survival of old religion, at isolated
centres of provincial life, where varieties of human character also
were keen, abundant, asserted in correspondingly effective incident--
this is what irresistible fancy superinduces on historic details,
themselves meagre enough. The sentiment of antiquity is indeed a
characteristic of all cultivated people, even in what may seem the
freshest ages, and not exclusively a humour of our later world. In
the earliest notices about them, as we know, the people of Attica
appear already impressed by the immense antiquity of their occupation
of its soil, of which they claim to be the very first flower. Some
at least of those old demes-men we may well fancy sentimentally
reluctant to change their habits, fearful of losing too much of
themselves in the larger stream of life, clinging to what is
antiquated as the work of centralisation goes on, needful as that
work was, [159] with the great "Eastern difficulty" already ever in
the distance. The fear of Asia, barbaric, splendid, hardly known,
yet haunting the curious imagination of those who had borrowed thence
the art in which they were rapidly excelling it, developing, as we
now see, in the interest of Greek humanity, crafts begotten of
tyrannic and illiberal luxury, was finally to suppress the rivalries
of those primitive centres of activity, when the "invincible armada"
of the common foe came into sight.

At a later period civil strife was to destroy their last traces. The
old hoplite, from Rhamnus or Acharnae, pent up in beleaguered Athens
during that first summer of the Peloponnesian war, occupying with his
household a turret of the wall, as Thucydides describes--one of many
picturesque touches in that severe historian--could well remember the
ancient provincial life which this conflict with Sparta was bringing
to an end. He could recall his boyish, half-scared curiosity
concerning those Persian ships, coming first as merchantmen, or with
pirates on occasion, in the half-savage, wicked splendours of their
decoration, the monstrous figure-heads, their glittering freightage.
Men would hardly have trusted their women or children with that
suspicious crew, hovering through the dusk. There were soothsayers,
indeed, who had long foretold what happened soon after, giving shape
to vague, supernatural terrors. And then he had crept [160] from his
hiding-place with other lads to go view the enemies' slain at
Marathon, beside those belated Spartans, this new war with whom
seemed to be reviving the fierce local feuds of his younger days.
Paraloi and Diacrioi had ever been rivals. Very distant it all
seemed now, with all the stories he could tell; for in those
crumbling little towns, as heroic life had lingered on into the
actual, so, at an earlier date, the supernatural into the heroic.
Like mist at dawn, the last traces of its divine visitors had then
vanished from the land, where, however, they had already begotten
"our best and oldest families."

It was Theseus, uncompromising young master of the situation, in
fearless application of "the modern spirit" of his day to every phase
of life where it was applicable, who, at the expense of Attica, had
given Athens a people, reluctant enough, in truth, as Plutarch
suggests, to desert "their homes and religious usages and many good
and gracious kings of their own" for this elect youth, who thus
figures, passably, as a kind of mythic shorthand for civilisation,
making roads and the like, facilitating travel, suppressing various
forms of violence, but many innocent things as well. So it must
needs be in a world where, even hand in hand with a god-assisted
hero, Justice goes blindfold. He slays the bull of Marathon and many
another local tyrant, but also exterminates that delightful creature,
the Centaur. The Amazon, whom Plato will [161] reinstate as the type
of improved womanhood, has no better luck than Phaea, the sow-pig of
Crommyon, foul old landed-proprietress. They exerted, however, the
prerogative of poetic protest, and survive thereby. Centaur and
Amazon, as we see them in the fine art of Greece, represent the
regret of Athenians themselves for something that could never be
brought to life again, and have their pathos. Those young heroes
contending with Amazons on the frieze of the Mausoleum had best make
haste with their bloody work, if young people's eyes can tell a true
story. A type still of progress triumphant through injustice, set on
improving things off the face of the earth, Theseus took occasion to
attack the Amazons in their mountain home, not long after their
ruinous conflict with Hercules, and hit them when they were down.
That greater bully had laboured off on the world's highway, carrying
with him the official girdle of Antiope, their queen, gift of Ares,
and therewith, it would seem, the mystic secret of their strength.
At sight of this new foe, at any rate, she came to a strange
submission. The savage virgin had turned to very woman, and was
presently a willing slave, returning on the gaily appointed ship in
all haste to Athens, where in supposed wedlock she bore King Theseus
a son.

With their annual visit--visit to the Gargareans!--for the purpose of
maintaining their [162] species, parting with their boys early, these
husbandless women could hardly be supposed a very happy, certainly
not a very joyous people. They figure rather as a sorry measure of
the luck of the female sex in taking a hard natural law into their
own hands, and by abnegation of all tender companionship making shift
with bare independence, as a kind of second-best--the best
practicable by them in the imperfect actual condition of things. But
the heart-strings would ache still where the breast had been cut
away. The sisters of Antiope had come, not immediately, but in
careful array of battle, to bring back the captive. All along the
weary roads from the Caucasus to Attica, their traces had remained in
the great graves of those who died by the way. Against the little
remnant, carrying on the fight to the very midst of Athens, Antiope
herself had turned, all other thoughts transformed now into wild
idolatry of her hero. Superstitious, or in real regret, the
Athenians never forgot their tombs. As for Antiope, the conscience
of her perfidy remained with her, adding the pang of remorse to her
own desertion, when King Theseus, with his accustomed bad faith to
women, set her, too, aside in turn. Phaedra, the true wife, was
there, peeping suspiciously at her arrival; and even as Antiope
yielded to her lord's embraces the thought had come that a male child
might be the instrument of her anger, and one day judge her cause.

[163] In one of these doomed, decaying villages, then, King Theseus
placed the woman and her babe, hidden, yet secure, within the Attic
border, as men veil their mistakes or crimes. They might pass away,
they and their story, together with the memory of other antiquated
creatures of such places, who had had connubial dealings with the
stars. The white, paved waggon-track, a by-path of the sacred way to
Eleusis, zigzagged through sloping olive-yards, from the plain of
silvered blue, with Athens building in the distance, and passed the
door of the rude stone house, furnished scantily, which no one had
ventured to inhabit of late years till they came there. On the
ledges of the grey cliffs above, the laurel groves, stem and foliage
of motionless bronze, had spread their tents. Travellers bound
northwards were glad to repose themselves there, and take directions,
or provision for their journey onwards, from the highland people, who
came down hither to sell their honey, their cheese, and woollen
stuff, in the tiny market-place. At dawn the great stars seemed to
halt a while, burning as if for sacrifice to some pure deity, on
those distant, obscurely named heights, like broken swords, the rim
of the world. A little later you could just see the newly opened
quarries, like streaks of snow on their russet-brown bosoms. Thither
in spring-time all eyes turned from Athens devoutly, intent till the
first shaft of lightning gave signal for the departure of the [164]
sacred ship to Delos. Racing over those rocky surfaces, the virgin
air descended hither with the secret of profound sleep, as the child
lay in its cubicle hewn in the stone, the white fleeces heaped warmly
round him. In the wild Amazon's soul, to her surprise, and at first
against her will, the maternal sense had quickened from the moment of
his conception, and (that burst of angry tears with which she had
received him into the world once dried up), kindling more eagerly at
every token of manly growth, had at length driven out every other
feeling. And this animal sentiment, educating the human hand and
heart in her, had become a moral one, when, King Theseus leaving her
in anger, visibly unkind, the child had crept to her side, and
tracing with small fingers the wrinkled lines of her woebegone brow,
carved there as if by a thousand years of sorrow, had sown between
himself and her the seed of an undying sympathy.

She was thus already on the watch for a host of minute recognitions
on his part, of the self-sacrifice involved in her devotion to a
career of which she must needs drain out the sorrow, careful that he
might taste only the joy. So far, amid their spare living, the
child, as if looking up to the warm broad wing of her love above him,
seemed replete with comfort. Yet in his moments of childish
sickness, the first passing shadows upon the deep joy of her
motherhood, she teaches him betimes to soothe [165] or cheat pain--
little bodily pains only, hitherto. She ventures sadly to assure him
of the harsh necessities of life: "Courage, child! Every one must
take his share of suffering. Shift not thy body so vehemently.
Pain, taken quietly, is easier to bear."

Carefully inverting the habits of her own rude childhood, she learned
to spin the wools, white and grey, to clothe and cover him
pleasantly. The spectacle of his unsuspicious happiness, though at
present a matter of purely physical conditions, awoke a strange sense
of poetry, a kind of artistic sense in her, watching, as her own
long-deferred recreation in life, his delight in the little
delicacies she prepared to his liking--broiled kids' flesh, the red
wine, the mushrooms sought through the early dew--his hunger and
thirst so daintily satisfied, as he sat at table, like the first-born
of King Theseus, with two wax-lights and a fire at dawn or nightfall
dancing to the prattle and laughter, a bright child, never stupidly
weary. At times his very happiness would seem to her like a menace
of misfortune to come. Was there not with herself the curse of that
unsisterly action? and not far from him, the terrible danger of the
father's, the step-mother's jealousy, the mockery of those half-
brothers to come? Ah! how perilous for happiness the sensibilities
which make him so exquisitely happy now! Before they started on
their dreadful visit to the Minotaur, says Plutarch, the women told
their [166] sons many tales and other things to encourage them; and,
even as she had furnished the child betimes with rules for the solace
of bodily pain, so now she would have brought her own sad experience
into service in precepts for the ejection of its festering power out
of any other trouble that might visit him. Already those little
disappointments which are as the shadow beside all conscious
enjoyment, were no petty things to her, but had for her their pathos,
as children's troubles will have, in spite of the longer chance
before them. They were as the first steps in a long story of
deferred hopes, or anticipations of death itself and the end of them.

The gift of Ares gone, the mystic girdle she would fain have
transferred to the child, that bloody god of storm and battle,
hereditary patron of her house, faded from her thoughts together with
the memory of her past life--the more completely, because another
familiar though somewhat forbidding deity, accepting certainly a
cruel and forbidding worship, was already in possession, and reigning
in the new home when she came thither. Only, thanks to some kindly
local influence (by grace, say, of its delicate air), Artemis, this
other god she had known in the Scythian wilds, had put aside her
fierce ways, as she paused awhile on her heavenly course among these
ancient abodes of men, gliding softly, mainly through their dreams,
with abundance of salutary touches. Full, in truth, of [167]
grateful memory of some timely service at human hands! In these
highland villages the tradition of celestial visitants clung fondly,
of god or hero, belated or misled on long journeys, yet pleased to be
among the sons of men, as their way led them up the steep, narrow,
crooked street, condescending to rest a little, as one, under some
sudden stress not clearly ascertained, had done here, in this very
house, thereafter for ever sacred. The place and its inhabitants, of
course, had been something bigger in the days of those old mythic
hospitalities, unless, indeed, divine persons took kindly the will
for the deed--very different, surely, from the present condition of
things, for there was little here to detain a delicate traveller,
even in the abode of Antiope and her son, though it had been the
residence of a king.

Hard by stood the chapel of the goddess, who had thus adorned the
place with her memories. The priests, indeed, were already departed
to Athens, carrying with them the ancient image, the vehicle of her
actual presence, as the surest means of enriching the capital at the
expense of the country, where she must now make poor shift of the
occasional worshipper on his way through these mountain passes. But
safely roofed beneath the sturdy tiles of grey Hymettus marble, upon
the walls of the little square recess enclosing the deserted
pedestal, a series of crowded imageries, in the devout spirit [168]
of earlier days, were eloquent concerning her. Here from scene to
scene, touched with silver among the wild and human creatures in dun
bronze, with the moon's disk around her head, shrouded closely, the
goddess of the chase still glided mystically through all the varied
incidents of her story, in all the detail of a written book.

A book for the delighted reading of a scholar, willing to ponder at
leisure, to make his way surely, and understand. Very different,
certainly, from the cruel-featured little idol his mother had brought
in her bundle--the old Scythian Artemis, hanging there on the wall,
side by side with the forgotten Ares, blood-red,--the goddess reveals
herself to the lad, poring through the dusk by taper-light, as at
once a virgin, necessarily therefore the creature of solitude, yet
also as the assiduous nurse of children, and patroness of the young.
Her friendly intervention at the act of birth everywhere, her claim
upon the nursling, among tame and wild creatures equally, among men
as among gods, nay! among the stars (upon the very star of dawn),
gave her a breadth of influence seemingly coextensive with the sum of
things. Yes! his great mother was in touch with everything. Yet
throughout he can but note her perpetual chastity, with pleasurable
though half-suspicious wonder at the mystery, he knows not what,
involved therein, as though he awoke suddenly in some distant,
unexplored region of her person and activity. [169] Why the lighted
torch always, and that long straight vesture rolled round so
formally? Was it only against the cold of these northern heights?

To her, nevertheless, her maternity, her solitude, to this virgin
mother, who, with no husband, no lover, no fruit of her own, is so
tender to the children of others, in a full heart he devotes himself-
-his immaculate body and soul. Dedicating himself thus, he has the
sense also that he becomes more entirely than ever the chevalier of
his mortal mother, of her sad cause. The devout, diligent hands
clear away carefully the dust, the faded relics of her former
worship; a worship renewed once more as the sacred spring, set free
from encumbrance, in answer to his willing ministries murmurs again
under the dim vault in its marble basin, work of primitive Titanic
fingers--flows out through its rocky channel, filling the whole
township with chaste thoughts of her.

Through much labour at length he comes to the veritable story of her
birth, like a gift direct from the goddess herself to this loyal
soul. There were those in later times who, like Aeschylus, knew
Artemis as the daughter not of Leto but of Demeter, according to the
version of her history now conveyed to the young Hippolytus, together
with some deepened insight into her character. The goddess of
Eleusis, on a journey, in the old days when, as Plato says, [170] men
lived nearer the gods, finding herself with child by some starry
inmate of those high places, had lain down in the rock-hewn cubicle
of the inner chamber, and, certainly in sorrow, brought forth a
daughter. Here was the secret at once of the genial, all-embracing
maternity of this new strange Artemis, and of those more dubious
tokens, the lighted torch, the winding-sheet, the arrow of death on
the string--of sudden death, truly, which may be thought after all
the kindest, as prevenient of all disgraceful sickness or waste in
the unsullied limbs. For the late birth into the world of this so
shadowy daughter was somehow identified with the sudden passing into
Hades of her first-born, Persephone. As he scans those scenes anew,
an awful surmise comes to him; his divine patroness moves there as
death, surely. Still, however, gratefully putting away suspicion, he
seized even in these ambiguous imageries their happier suggestions,
satisfied in thinking of his new mother as but the giver of sound
sleep, of the benign night, whence--mystery of mysteries!--good
things are born softly, from which he awakes betimes for his
healthful service to her. Either way, sister of Apollo or sister of
Persephone, to him she should be a power of sanity, sweet as the
flowers he offered her gathered at dawn, setting daily their purple
and white frost against her ancient marbles. There was more
certainly than the first breath of day in them. Was there [171] here
something of her person, her sensible presence, by way of direct
response to him in his early devotion, astir for her sake before the
very birds, nesting here so freely, the quail above all, in some
privileged connexion with her story still unfathomed by the learned
youth? Amid them he too found a voice, and sang articulately the
praises of the great goddess.

Those more dubious traits, nevertheless, so lightly disposed of by
Hippolytus (Hecate thus counting for him as Artemis goddess of
health), became to his mother, in the light of her sad experience,

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