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Marius the Epicurean, Volume One by Walter Horatio Pater

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Homer had said--

Hoi d' hote dę limenos polybentheos entos hikonto,
Histia men steilanto, thesan d' en nęi melainę...
Ek de kai autoi bainon epi phęgmini thalassęs.+

And how poetic the simple incident seemed, told just thus! Homer was
always telling [101] things after this manner. And one might think
there had been no effort in it: that here was but the almost
mechanical transcript of a time, naturally, intrinsically, poetic, a
time in which one could hardly have spoken at all without ideal
effect, or, the sailors pulled down their boat without making a
picture in "the great style," against a sky charged with marvels.
Must not the mere prose of an age, itself thus ideal, have counted
for more than half of Homer's poetry? Or might the closer student
discover even here, even in Homer, the really mediatorial function of
the poet, as between the reader and the actual matter of his
experience; the poet waiting, so to speak, in an age which had felt
itself trite and commonplace enough, on his opportunity for the touch
of "golden alchemy," or at least for the pleasantly lighted side of
things themselves? Might not another, in one's own prosaic and used-
up time, so uneventful as it had been through the long reign of these
quiet Antonines, in like manner, discover his ideal, by a due waiting
upon it? Would not a future generation, looking back upon this,
under the power of the enchanted-distance fallacy, find it ideal to
view, in contrast with its own languor--the languor that for some
reason (concerning which Augustine will one day have his view) seemed
to haunt men always? Had Homer, even, appeared unreal and affected
in his poetic flight, to some of the people of his own age, [l02] as
seemed to happen with every new literature in turn? In any case, the
intellectual conditions of early Greece had been--how different from
these! And a true literary tact would accept that difference in
forming the primary conception of the literary function at a later
time. Perhaps the utmost one could get by conscious effort, in the
way of a reaction or return to the conditions of an earlier and
fresher age, would be but novitas, artificial artlessness, naďveté;
and this quality too might have its measure of euphuistic charm,
direct and sensible enough, though it must count, in comparison with
that genuine early Greek newness at the beginning, not as the
freshness of the open fields, but only of a bunch of field-flowers in
a heated room.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Hoi d' hote dę limenos polybentheos entos hikonto,
Histia men steilanto, thesan d' en nęi melainę...
Ek de kai autoi bainon epi phęgmini thalassęs.

Etext editor's translation:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Cras amet qui nunquam amavit,
Quique amavit cras amet!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


116. +Lucretius, Book VI.1153.

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



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

The Emperor Hadrian to his Soul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Omnis Aristippum decuit color et status et res.--

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


145. +Canto VI.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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