Part 1 out of 9
This Etext was prepared by John T. Horner, firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII
by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton
BOOK THE FIRST
THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF POMPEII.
'HO, Diomed, well met! Do you sup with Glaucus to-night?' said a young man
of small stature, who wore his tunic in those loose and effeminate folds
which proved him to be a gentleman and a coxcomb.
'Alas, no! dear Clodius; he has not invited me,' replied Diomed, a man of
portly frame and of middle age. 'By Pollux, a scurvy trick! for they say
his suppers are the best in Pompeii'.
'Pretty well--though there is never enough of wine for me. It is not the
old Greek blood that flows in his veins, for he pretends that wine makes him
dull the next morning.'
'There may be another reason for that thrift,' said Diomed, raising his
brows. 'With all his conceit and extravagance he is not so rich, I fancy,
as he affects to be, and perhaps loves to save his amphorae better than his
'An additional reason for supping with him while the sesterces last. Next
year, Diomed, we must find another Glaucus.'
'He is fond of the dice, too, I hear.'
'He is fond of every pleasure; and while he likes the pleasure of giving
suppers, we are all fond of him.'
'Ha, ha, Clodius, that is well said! Have you ever seen my wine-cellars,
'I think not, my good Diomed.'
'Well, you must sup with me some evening; I have tolerable muraenae in my
reservoir, and I ask Pansa the aedile to meet you.'
'O, no state with me!--Persicos odi apparatus, I am easily contented. Well,
the day wanes; I am for the baths--and you...'
'To the quaestor--business of state--afterwards to the temple of Isis.
'An ostentatious, bustling, ill-bred fellow,' muttered Clodius to himself,
as he sauntered slowly away. 'He thinks with his feasts and his
wine-cellars to make us forget that he is the son of a freedman--and so we
will, when we do him the honour of winning his money; these rich plebeians
are a harvest for us spendthrift nobles.'
Thus soliloquising, Clodius arrived in the Via Domitiana, which was crowded
with passengers and chariots, and exhibited all that gay and animated
exuberance of life and motion which we find at this day in the streets of
The bells of the cars as they rapidly glided by each other jingled merrily
on the ear, and Clodius with smiles or nods claimed familiar acquaintance
with whatever equipage was most elegant or fantastic: in fact, no idler was
better known in Pompeii.
'What, Clodius! and how have you slept on your good fortune?' cried, in a
pleasant and musical voice, a young man, in a chariot of the most fastidious
and graceful fashion. Upon its surface of bronze were elaborately wrought,
in the still exquisite workmanship of Greece, reliefs of the Olympian games;
the two horses that drew the car were of the rarest breed of Parthia; their
slender limbs seemed to disdain the ground and court the air, and yet at the
slightest touch of the charioteer, who stood behind the young owner of the
equipage, they paused motionless, as if suddenly transformed into
stone--lifeless, but lifelike, as one of the breathing wonders of
Praxiteles. The owner himself was of that slender and beautiful symmetry
from which the sculptors of Athens drew their models; his Grecian origin
betrayed itself in his light but clustering locks, and the perfect harmony
of his features. He wore no toga, which in the time of the emperors had
indeed ceased to be the general distinction of the Romans, and was
especially ridiculed by the pretenders to fashion; but his tunic glowed in
the richest hues of the Tyrian dye, and the fibulae, or buckles, by which it
was fastened, sparkled with emeralds: around his neck was a chain of gold,
which in the middle of his breast twisted itself into the form of a
serpent's head, from the mouth of which hung pendent a large signet ring of
elaborate and most exquisite workmanship; the sleeves of the tunic were
loose, and fringed at the hand with gold: and across the waist a girdle
wrought in arabesque designs, and of the same material as the fringe, served
in lieu of pockets for the receptacle of the handkerchief and the purse, the
stilus and the tablets.
'My dear Glaucus!' said Clodius, 'I rejoice to see that your losses have so
little affected your mien. Why, you seem as if you had been inspired by
Apollo, and your face shines with happiness like a glory; any one might take
you for the winner, and me for the loser.'
'And what is there in the loss or gain of those dull pieces of metal that
should change our spirit, my Clodius? By Venus, while yet young, we can
cover our full locks with chaplets--while yet the cithara sounds on unsated
ears--while yet the smile of Lydia or of Chloe flashes over our veins in
which the blood runs so swiftly, so long shall we find delight in the sunny
air, and make bald time itself but the treasurer of our joys. You sup with
me to-night, you know.'
'Who ever forgets the invitation of Glaucus!'
'But which way go you now?'
'Why, I thought of visiting the baths: but it wants yet an hour to the usual
'Well, I will dismiss my chariot, and go with you. So, so, my Phylias,'
stroking the horse nearest to him, which by a low neigh and with backward
ears playfully acknowledged the courtesy: 'a holiday for you to-day. Is he
not handsome, Clodius?'
'Worthy of Phoebus,' returned the noble parasite--'or of Glaucus.'
THE BLIND FLOWER-GIRL, AND THE BEAUTY OF FASHION. THE ATHENIAN'S
CONFESSION. THE READER'S INTRODUCTION TO ARBACES OF EGYPT.
TALKING lightly on a thousand matters, the two young men sauntered through
the streets; they were now in that quarter which was filled with the gayest
shops, their open interiors all and each radiant with the gaudy yet
harmonious colors of frescoes, inconceivably varied in fancy and design.
The sparkling fountains, that at every vista threw upwards their grateful
spray in the summer air; the crowd of passengers, or rather loiterers,
mostly clad in robes of the Tyrian dye; the gay groups collected round each
more attractive shop; the slaves passing to and fro with buckets of bronze,
cast in the most graceful shapes, and borne upon their heads; the country
girls stationed at frequent intervals with baskets of blushing fruit, and
flowers more alluring to the ancient Italians than to their descendants
(with whom, indeed, "latet anguis in herba," a disease seems lurking in
every violet and rose); the numerous haunts which fulfilled with that idle
people the office of cafes and clubs at this day; the shops, where on
shelves of marble were ranged the vases of wine and oil, and before whose
thresholds, seats, protected from the sun by a purple awning, invited the
weary to rest and the indolent to lounge--made a scene of such glowing and
vivacious excitement, as might well give the Athenian spirit of Glaucus an
excuse for its susceptibility to joy.
'Talk to me no more of Rome,' said he to Clodius. 'Pleasure is too stately
and ponderous in those mighty walls: even in the precincts of the
court--even in the Golden House of Nero, and the incipient glories of the
palace of Titus, there is a certain dulness of magnificence--the eye
aches--the spirit is wearied; besides, my Clodius, we are discontented when
we compare the enormous luxury and wealth of others with the mediocrity of
our own state. But here we surrender ourselves easily to pleasure, and we
have the brilliancy of luxury without the lassitude of its pomp.'
'It was from that feeling that you chose your summer retreat at Pompeii?'
'It was. I prefer it to Baiae: I grant the charms of the latter, but I love
not the pedants who resort there, and who seem to weigh out their pleasures
by the drachm.'
'Yet you are fond of the learned, too; and as for poetry, why, your house is
literally eloquent with AEschylus and Homer, the epic and the drama.'
'Yes, but those Romans who mimic my Athenian ancestors do everything so
heavily. Even in the chase they make their slaves carry Plato with them;
and whenever the boar is lost, out they take their books and their papyrus,
in order not to lose their time too. When the dancing-girls swim before them
in all the blandishment of Persian manners, some drone of a freedman, with a
face of stone, reads them a section of Cicero "De Officiis". Unskilful
pharmacists! pleasure and study are not elements to be thus mixed together,
they must be enjoyed separately: the Romans lose both by this pragmatical
affectation of refinement, and prove that they have no souls for either.
Oh, my Clodius, how little your countrymen know of the true versatility of a
Pericles, of the true witcheries of an Aspasia! It was but the other day
that I paid a visit to Pliny: he was sitting in his summer-house writing,
while an unfortunate slave played on the tibia. His nephew (oh! whip me
such philosophical coxcombs!) was reading Thucydides' description of the
plague, and nodding his conceited little head in time to the music, while
his lips were repeating all the loathsome details of that terrible
delineation. The puppy saw nothing incongruous in learning at the same time
a ditty of love and a description of the plague.'
'Why, they are much the same thing,' said Clodius.
'So I told him, in excuse for his coxcombry--but my youth stared me
rebukingly in the face, without taking the jest, and answered, that it was
only the insensate ear that the music pleased, whereas the book (the
description of the plague, mind you!) elevated the heart. "Ah!" quoth the
fat uncle, wheezing, "my boy is quite an Athenian, always mixing the utile
with the dulce." O Minerva, how I laughed in my sleeve! While I was there,
they came to tell the boy-sophist that his favorite freedman was just dead
of a fever. "Inexorable death!" cried he; "get me my Horace. How
beautifully the sweet poet consoles us for these misfortunes!" Oh, can
these men love, my Clodius? Scarcely even with the senses. How rarely a
Roman has a heart! He is but the mechanism of genius--he wants its bones
Though Clodius was secretly a little sore at these remarks on his
countrymen, he affected to sympathize with his friend, partly because he was
by nature a parasite, and partly because it was the fashion among the
dissolute young Romans to affect a little contempt for the very birth which,
in reality, made them so arrogant; it was the mode to imitate the Greeks,
and yet to laugh at their own clumsy imitation.
Thus conversing, their steps were arrested by a crowd gathered round an open
space where three streets met; and, just where the porticoes of a light and
graceful temple threw their shade, there stood a young girl, with a
flower-basket on her right arm, and a small three-stringed instrument of
music in the left hand, to whose low and soft tones she was modulating a
wild and half-barbaric air. At every pause in the music she gracefully
waved her flower-basket round, inviting the loiterers to buy; and many a
sesterce was showered into the basket, either in compliment to the music or
in compassion to the songstress--for she was blind.
'It is my poor Thessalian,' said Glaucus, stopping; 'I have not seen her
since my return to Pompeii. Hush! her voice is sweet; let us listen.'
THE BLIND FLOWER-GIRL'S SONG
Buy my flowers--O buy--I pray!
The blind girl comes from afar;
If the earth be as fair as I hear them say,
These flowers her children are!
Do they her beauty keep?
They are fresh from her lap, I know;
For I caught them fast asleep
In her arms an hour ago.
With the air which is her breath--
Her soft and delicate breath--
Over them murmuring low!
On their lips her sweet kiss lingers yet,
And their cheeks with her tender tears are wet.
For she weeps--that gentle mother weeps--
(As morn and night her watch she keeps,
With a yearning heart and a passionate care)
To see the young things grow so fair;
She weeps--for love she weeps;
And the dews are the tears she weeps
From the well of a mother's love!
Ye have a world of light,
Where love in the loved rejoices;
But the blind girl's home is the House of Night,
And its beings are empty voices.
As one in the realm below,
I stand by the streams of woe!
I hear the vain shadows glide,
I feel their soft breath at my side.
And I thirst the loved forms to see,
And I stretch my fond arms around,
And I catch but a shapeless sound,
For the living are ghosts to me.
Come buy--come buy?--
Hark! how the sweet things sigh
For they have a voice like ours),
`The breath of the blind girl closes
The leaves of the saddening roses--
We are tender, we sons of light,
We shrink from this child of night;
From the grasp of the blind girl free us--
We yearn for the eyes that see us--
We are for night too gay,
In your eyes we behold the day--
O buy--O buy the flowers!'
'I must have yon bunch of violets, sweet Nydia,' said Glaucus, pressing
through the crowd, and dropping a handful of small coins into the basket;
'your voice is more charming than ever.'
The blind girl started forward as she heard the Athenian's voice; then as
suddenly paused, while the blood rushed violently over neck, cheek, and
'So you are returned!' said she, in a low voice; and then repeated half to
herself, 'Glaucus is returned!'
'Yes, child, I have not been at Pompeii above a few days. My garden wants
your care, as before; you will visit it, I trust, to-morrow. And mind, no
garlands at my house shall be woven by any hands but those of the pretty
Nydia smiled joyously, but did not answer; and Glaucus, placing in his
breast the violets he had selected, turned gaily and carelessly from the
'So she is a sort of client of yours, this child?' said Clodius.
'Ay--does she not sing prettily? She interests me, the poor slave! Besides,
she is from the land of the Gods' hill--Olympus frowned upon her cradle--she
is of Thessaly.'
'The witches' country.'
'True: but for my part I find every woman a witch; and at Pompeii, by Venus!
the very air seems to have taken a love-philtre, so handsome does every face
without a beard seem in my eyes.'
'And lo! one of the handsomest in Pompeii, old Diomed's daughter, the rich
Julia!' said Clodius, as a young lady, her face covered by her veil, and
attended by two female slaves, approached them, in her way to the baths.
'Fair Julia, we salute thee!' said Clodius.
Julia partly raised her veil, so as with some coquetry to display a bold
Roman profile, a full dark bright eye, and a cheek over whose natural olive
art shed a fairer and softer rose.
'And Glaucus, too, is returned!' said she, glancing meaningly at the
Athenian. 'Has he forgotten,' she added, in a half-whisper, 'his friends of
the last year?'
'Beautiful Julia! even Lethe itself, if it disappear in one part of the
earth, rises again in another. Jupiter does not allow us ever to forget for
more than a moment: but Venus, more harsh still, vouchsafes not even a
'Glaucus is never at a loss for fair words.'
'Who is, when the object of them is so fair?'
'We shall see you both at my father's villa soon,' said Julia, turning to
'We will mark the day in which we visit you with a white stone,' answered
Julia dropped her veil, but slowly, so that her last glance rested on the
Athenian with affected timidity and real boldness; the glance bespoke
tenderness and reproach.
The friends passed on.
'Julia is certainly handsome,' said Glaucus.
'And last year you would have made that confession in a warmer tone.'
'True; I was dazzled at the first sight, and mistook for a gem that which
was but an artful imitation.'
'Nay,' returned Clodius, 'all women are the same at heart. Happy he who
weds a handsome face and a large dower. What more can he desire?'
They were now in a street less crowded than the rest, at the end of which
they beheld that broad and most lovely sea, which upon those delicious
coasts seems to have renounced its prerogative of terror--so soft are the
crisping winds that hover around its bosom, so glowing and so various are
the hues which it takes from the rosy clouds, so fragrant are the perfumes
which the breezes from the land scatter over its depths. From such a sea
might you well believe that Aphrodite rose to take the empire of the earth.
'It is still early for the bath,' said the Greek, who was the creature of
every poetical impulse; 'let us wander from the crowded city, and look upon
the sea while the noon yet laughs along its billows.'
'With all my heart,' said Clodius; 'and the bay, too, is always the most
animated part of the city.'
Pompeii was the miniature of the civilization of that age. Within the narrow
compass of its walls was contained, as it were, a specimen of every gift
which luxury offered to power. In its minute but glittering shops, its tiny
palaces, its baths, its forum, its theatre, its circus--in the energy yet
corruption, in the refinement yet the vice, of its people, you beheld a
model of the whole empire. It was a toy, a plaything, a showbox, in which
the gods seemed pleased to keep the representation of the great monarchy of
earth, and which they afterwards hid from time, to give to the wonder of
posterity--the moral of the maxim, that under the sun there is nothing new.
Crowded in the glassy bay were the vessels of commerce and the gilded
galleys for the pleasures of the rich citizens. The boats of the fishermen
glided rapidly to and fro; and afar off you saw the tall masts of the fleet
under the command of Pliny. Upon the shore sat a Sicilian who, with
vehement gestures and flexile features, was narrating to a group of
fishermen and peasants a strange tale of shipwrecked mariners and friendly
dolphins--just as at this day, in the modern neighborhood, you may hear upon
the Mole of Naples.
Drawing his comrade from the crowd, the Greek bent his steps towards a
solitary part of the beach, and the two friends, seated on a small crag
which rose amidst the smooth pebbles, inhaled the voluptuous and cooling
breeze, which dancing over the waters, kept music with its invisible feet.
There was, perhaps, something in the scene that invited them to silence and
reverie. Clodius, shading his eyes from the burning sky, was calculating
the gains of the last week; and the Greek, leaning upon his hand, and
shrinking not from that sun--his nation's tutelary deity--with whose fluent
light of poesy, and joy, and love, his own veins were filled, gazed upon the
broad expanse, and envied, perhaps, every wind that bent its pinions towards
the shores of Greece.
'Tell me, Clodius,' said the Greek at last, 'hast thou ever been in love?'
'Yes, very often.'
'He who has loved often,' answered Glaucus, 'has loved never. There is but
one Eros, though there are many counterfeits of him.'
'The counterfeits are not bad little gods, upon the whole,' answered
'I agree with you,' returned the Greek. 'I adore even the shadow of Love;
but I adore himself yet more.'
'Art thou, then, soberly and honestly in love? Hast thou that feeling which
the poets describe--a feeling that makes us neglect our suppers, forswear
the theatre, and write elegies? I should never have thought it. You
'I am not far gone enough for that,' returned Glaucus, smiling, 'or rather I
say with Tibullus--
He whom love rules, where'er his path may be,
Walks safe and sacred.
In fact, I am not in love; but I could be if there were but occasion to see
the object. Eros would light his torch, but the priests have given him no
'Shall I guess the object?--Is it not Diomed's daughter? She adores you,
and does not affect to conceal it; and, by Hercules, I say again and again,
she is both handsome and rich. She will bind the door-posts of her husband
with golden fillets.'
'No, I do not desire to sell myself. Diomed's daughter is handsome, I
grant: and at one time, had she not been the grandchild of a freedman, I
might have... Yet no--she carries all her beauty in her face; her manners
are not maiden-like, and her mind knows no culture save that of pleasure.'
'You are ungrateful. Tell me, then, who is the fortunate virgin?'
'You shall hear, my Clodius. Several months ago I was sojourning at
Neapolis, a city utterly to my own heart, for it still retains the manners
and stamp of its Grecian origin--and it yet merits the name of Parthenope,
from its delicious air and its beautiful shores. One day I entered the
temple of Minerva, to offer up my prayers, not for myself more than for the
city on which Pallas smiles no longer. The temple was empty and deserted.
The recollections of Athens crowded fast and meltingly upon me: imagining
myself still alone in the temple, and absorbed in the earnestness of my
devotion, my prayer gushed from my heart to my lips, and I wept as I prayed.
I was startled in the midst of my devotions, however, by a deep sigh; I
turned suddenly round, and just behind me was a female. She had raised her
veil also in prayer: and when our eyes met, methought a celestial ray shot
from those dark and smiling orbs at once into my soul. Never, my Clodius,
have I seen mortal face more exquisitely molded: a certain melancholy
softened and yet elevated its expression: that unutterable something, which
springs from the soul, and which our sculptors have imparted to the aspect
of Psyche, gave her beauty I know not what of divine and noble; tears were
rolling down her eyes. I guessed at once that she was also of Athenian
lineage; and that in my prayer for Athens her heart had responded to mine.
I spoke to her, though with a faltering voice--"Art thou not, too,
Athenian?" said I, "O beautiful virgin!" At the sound of my voice she
blushed, and half drew her veil across her face.--"My forefathers' ashes,"
said she, "repose by the waters of Ilissus: my birth is of Neapolis; but my
heart, as my lineage, is Athenian."--"Let us, then," said I, "make our
offerings together": and, as the priest now appeared, we stood side by side,
while we followed the priest in his ceremonial prayer; together we touched
the knees of the goddess--together we laid our olive garlands on the altar.
I felt a strange emotion of almost sacred tenderness at this companionship.
We, strangers from a far and fallen land, stood together and alone in that
temple of our country's deity: was it not natural that my heart should yearn
to my countrywoman, for so I might surely call her? I felt as if I had
known her for years; and that simple rite seemed, as by a miracle, to
operate on the sympathies and ties of time. Silently we left the temple,
and I was about to ask her where she dwelt, and if I might be permitted to
visit her, when a youth, in whose features there was some kindred
resemblance to her own, and who stood upon the steps of the fane, took her
by the hand. She turned round and bade me farewell. The crowd separated
us: I saw her no more. On reaching my home I found letters, which obliged
me to set out for Athens, for my relations threatened me with litigation
concerning my inheritance. When that suit was happily over, I repaired once
more to Neapolis; I instituted inquiries throughout the whole city, I could
discover no clue of my lost countrywoman, and, hoping to lose in gaiety all
remembrance of that beautiful apparition, I hastened to plunge myself amidst
the luxuries of Pompeii. This is all my history. I do not love; but I
remember and regret.'
As Clodius was about to reply, a slow and stately step approached them, and
at the sound it made amongst the pebbles, each turned, and each recognized
It was a man who had scarcely reached his fortieth year, of tall stature,
and of a thin but nervous and sinewy frame. His skin, dark and bronzed,
betrayed his Eastern origin; and his features had something Greek in their
outline (especially in the chin, the lip, and the brow), save that the nose
was somewhat raised and aquiline; and the bones, hard and visible, forbade
that fleshy and waving contour which on the Grecian physiognomy preserved
even in manhood the round and beautiful curves of youth. His eyes, large
and black as the deepest night, shone with no varying and uncertain lustre.
A deep, thoughtful, and half-melancholy calm seemed unalterably fixed in
their majestic and commanding gaze. His step and mien were peculiarly
sedate and lofty, and something foreign in the fashion and the sober hues of
his sweeping garments added to the impressive effect of his quiet
countenance and stately form. Each of the young men, in saluting the
new-comer, made mechanically, and with care to conceal it from him, a slight
gesture or sign with their fingers; for Arbaces, the Egyptian, was supposed
to possess the fatal gift of the evil eye.
'The scene must, indeed, be beautiful,' said Arbaces, with a cold though
courteous smile, 'which draws the gay Clodius, and Glaucus the all admired,
from the crowded thoroughfares of the city.'
'Is Nature ordinarily so unattractive?' asked the Greek.
'To the dissipated--yes.'
'An austere reply, but scarcely a wise one. Pleasure delights in contrasts;
it is from dissipation that we learn to enjoy solitude, and from solitude
'So think the young philosophers of the Garden,' replied the Egyptian; 'they
mistake lassitude for meditation, and imagine that, because they are sated
with others, they know the delight of loneliness. But not in such jaded
bosoms can Nature awaken that enthusiasm which alone draws from her chaste
reserve all her unspeakable beauty: she demands from you, not the exhaustion
of passion, but all that fervor, from which you only seek, in adoring her, a
release. When, young Athenian, the moon revealed herself in visions of
light to Endymion, it was after a day passed, not amongst the feverish
haunts of men, but on the still mountains and in the solitary valleys of the
'Beautiful simile!' cried Glaucus; 'most unjust application! Exhaustion!
that word is for age, not youth. By me, at least, one moment of satiety has
never been known!'
Again the Egyptian smiled, but his smile was cold and blighting, and even
the unimaginative Clodius froze beneath its light. He did not, however,
reply to the passionate exclamation of Glaucus; but, after a pause, he said,
in a soft and melancholy voice:
'After all, you do right to enjoy the hour while it smiles for you; the rose
soon withers, the perfume soon exhales. And we, O Glaucus! strangers in the
land and far from our fathers' ashes, what is there left for us but pleasure
or regret!--for you the first, perhaps for me the last.'
The bright eyes of the Greek were suddenly suffused with tears. 'Ah, speak
not, Arbaces,' he cried--'speak not of our ancestors. Let us forget that
there were ever other liberties than those of Rome! And Glory!--oh, vainly
would we call her ghost from the fields of Marathon and Thermopylae!'
'Thy heart rebukes thee while thou speakest,' said the Egyptian; 'and in thy
gaieties this night, thou wilt be more mindful of Leoena than of Lais.
Thus saying, he gathered his robe around him, and slowly swept away.
'I breathe more freely,' said Clodius. 'Imitating the Egyptians, we
sometimes introduce a skeleton at our feasts. In truth, the presence of
such an Egyptian as yon gliding shadow were spectre enough to sour the
richest grape of the Falernian.'
'Strange man! said Glaucus, musingly; 'yet dead though he seem to pleasure,
and cold to the objects of the world, scandal belies him, or his house and
his heart could tell a different tale.'
'Ah! there are whispers of other orgies than those of Osiris in his gloomy
mansion. He is rich, too, they say. Can we not get him amongst us, and
teach him the charms of dice? Pleasure of pleasures! hot fever of hope and
fear! inexpressible unjaded passion! how fiercely beautiful thou art, O
'Inspired--inspired!' cried Glaucus, laughing; 'the oracle speaks poetry in
Clodius. What miracle next!'
PARENTAGE OF GLAUCUS. DESCRIPTION OF THE HOUSES OF POMPEII. CLASSIC REVEL.
HEAVEN had given to Glaucus every blessing but one: it had given him beauty,
health, fortune, genius, illustrious descent, a heart of fire, a mind of
poetry; but it had denied him the heritage of freedom. He was born in
Athens, the subject of Rome. Succeeding early to an ample inheritance, he
had indulged that inclination for travel so natural to the young, and had
drunk deep of the intoxicating draught of pleasure amidst the gorgeous
luxuries of the imperial court.
He was an Alcibiades without ambition. He was what a man of imagination,
youth, fortune, and talents, readily becomes when you deprive him of the
inspiration of glory. His house at Rome was the theme of the debauchees,
but also of the lovers of art; and the sculptors of Greece delighted to task
their skill in adorning the porticoes and exedrae of an Athenian. His
retreat in Pompeii--alas! the colors are faded now, the walls stripped of
their paintings!--its main beauty, its elaborate finish of grace and
ornament, is gone; yet when first given once more to the day, what eulogies,
what wonder, did its minute and glowing decorations create--its
paintings--its mosaics! Passionately enamoured of poetry and the drama,
which recalled to Glaucus the wit and the heroism of his race, that fairy
mansion was adorned with representations of AEschylus and Homer. And
antiquaries, who resolve taste to a trade, have turned the patron to the
professor, and still (though the error is now acknowledged) they style in
custom, as they first named in mistake, the disburied house of the Athenian
Glaucus 'THE HOUSE OF THE DRAMATIC POET'.
Previous to our description of this house, it may be as well to convey to
the reader a general notion of the houses of Pompeii, which he will find to
resemble strongly the plans of Vitruvius; but with all those differences in
detail, of caprice and taste, which being natural to mankind, have always
puzzled antiquaries. We shall endeavor to make this description as clear
and unpedantic as possible.
You enter then, usually, by a small entrance-passage (called cestibulum),
into a hall, sometimes with (but more frequently without) the ornament of
columns; around three sides of this hall are doors communicating with
several bedchambers (among which is the porter's), the best of these being
usually appropriated to country visitors. At the extremity of the hall, on
either side to the right and left, if the house is large, there are two
small recesses, rather than chambers, generally devoted to the ladies of the
mansion; and in the centre of the tessellated pavement of the hall is
invariably a square, shallow reservoir for rain water (classically termed
impluvium), which was admitted by an aperture in the roof above; the said
aperture being covered at will by an awning. Near this impluvium, which had
a peculiar sanctity in the eyes of the ancients, were sometimes (but at
Pompeii more rarely than at Rome) placed images of the household gods--the
hospitable hearth, often mentioned by the Roman poets, and consecrated to
the Lares, was at Pompeii almost invariably formed by a movable brazier;
while in some corner, often the most ostentatious place, was deposited a
huge wooden chest, ornamented and strengthened by bands of bronze or iron,
and secured by strong hooks upon a stone pedestal so firmly as to defy the
attempts of any robber to detach it from its position. It is supposed that
this chest was the money-box, or coffer, of the master of the house; though
as no money has been found in any of the chests discovered at Pompeii, it is
probable that it was sometimes rather designed for ornament than use.
In this hall (or atrium, to speak classically) the clients and visitors of
inferior rank were usually received. In the houses of the more
'respectable', an atriensis, or slave peculiarly devoted to the service of
the hall, was invariably retained, and his rank among his fellow-slaves was
high and important. The reservoir in the centre must have been rather a
dangerous ornament, but the centre of the hall was like the grass-plot of a
college, and interdicted to the passers to and fro, who found ample space in
the margin. Right opposite the entrance, at the other end of the hall, was
an apartment (tablinum), in which the pavement was usually adorned with rich
mosaics, and the walls covered with elaborate paintings. Here were usually
kept the records of the family, or those of any public office that had been
filled by the owner: on one side of this saloon, if we may so call it, was
often a dining-room, or triclinium; on the other side, perhaps, what we
should now term a cabinet of gems, containing whatever curiosities were
deemed most rare and costly; and invariably a small passage for the slaves
to cross to the further parts of the house, without passing the apartments
thus mentioned. These rooms all opened on a square or oblong colonnade,
technically termed peristyle. If the house was small, its boundary ceased
with this colonnade; and in that case its centre, however diminutive, was
ordinarily appropriated to the purpose of a garden, and adorned with vases
of flowers, placed upon pedestals: while, under the colonnade, to the right
and left, were doors admitting to bedrooms, to a second triclinium, or
eating-room (for the ancients generally appropriated two rooms at least to
that purpose, one for summer, and one for winter--or, perhaps, one for
ordinary, the other for festive, occasions); and if the owner affected
letters, a cabinet, dignified by the name of library--for a very small room
was sufficient to contain the few rolls of papyrus which the ancients deemed
a notable collection of books.
At the end of the peristyle was generally the kitchen. Supposing the house
was large, it did not end with the peristyle, and the centre thereof was not
in that case a garden, but might be, perhaps, adorned with a fountain, or
basin for fish; and at its end, exactly opposite to the tablinum, was
generally another eating-room, on either side of which were bedrooms, and,
perhaps, a picture-saloon, or pinacotheca. These apartments communicated
again with a square or oblong space, usually adorned on three sides with a
colonnade like the peristyle, and very much resembling the peristyle, only
usually longer. This was the proper viridarium, or garden, being commonly
adorned with a fountain, or statues, and a profusion of gay flowers: at its
extreme end was the gardener's house; on either side, beneath the colonnade,
were sometimes, if the size of the family required it, additional rooms.
At Pompeii, a second or third story was rarely of importance, being built
only above a small part of the house, and containing rooms for the slaves;
differing in this respect from the more magnificent edifices of Rome, which
generally contained the principal eating-room (or caenaculum) on the second
floor. The apartments themselves were ordinarily of small size; for in
those delightful climes they received any extraordinary number of visitors
in the peristyle (or portico), the hall, or the garden; and even their
banquet-rooms, however elaborately adorned and carefully selected in point
of aspect, were of diminutive proportions; for the intellectual ancients,
being fond of society, not of crowds, rarely feasted more than nine at a
time, so that large dinner-rooms were not so necessary with them as with us.
But the suite of rooms seen at once from the entrance, must have had a very
imposing effect: you beheld at once the hall richly paved and painted--the
tablinum--the graceful peristyle, and (if the house extended farther) the
opposite banquet-room and the garden, which closed the view with some
gushing fount or marble statue.
The reader will now have a tolerable notion of the Pompeian houses, which
resembled in some respects the Grecian, but mostly the Roman fashion of
domestic architecture. In almost every house there is some difference in
detail from the rest, but the principal outline is the same in all. In all
you find the hall, the tablinum, and the peristyle, communicating with each
other; in all you find the walls richly painted; and all the evidence of a
people fond of the refining elegancies of life. The purity of the taste of
the Pompeians in decoration is, however, questionable: they were fond of the
gaudiest colors, of fantastic designs; they often painted the lower half of
their columns a bright red, leaving the rest uncolored; and where the garden
was small, its wall was frequently tinted to deceive the eye as to its
extent, imitating trees, birds, temples, etc., in perspective--a
meretricious delusion which the graceful pedantry of Pliny himself adopted,
with a complacent pride in its ingenuity.
But the house of Glaucus was at once one of the smallest, and yet one of the
most adorned and finished of all the private mansions of Pompeii: it would
be a model at this day for the house of 'a single man in Mayfair'--the envy
and despair of the coelibian purchasers of buhl and marquetry.
You enter by a long and narrow vestibule, on the floor of which is the image
of a dog in mosaic, with the well-known 'Cave canem'--or 'Beware the dog'.
On either side is a chamber of some size; for the interior part of the house
not being large enough to contain the two great divisions of private and
public apartments, these two rooms were set apart for the reception of
visitors who neither by rank nor familiarity were entitled to admission in
the penetralia of the mansion.
Advancing up the vestibule you enter an atrium, that when first discovered
was rich in paintings, which in point of expression would scarcely disgrace
a Rafaele. You may see them now transplanted to the Neapolitan Museum: they
are still the admiration of connoisseurs--they depict the parting of
Achilles and Briseis. Who does not acknowledge the force, the vigour, the
beauty, employed in delineating the forms and faces of Achilles and the
On one side the atrium, a small staircase admitted to the apartments for the
slaves on the second floor; there also were two or three small bedrooms, the
walls of which portrayed the rape of Europa, the battle of the Amazons, etc.
You now enter the tablinum, across which, at either end, hung rich draperies
of Tyrian purple, half withdrawn. On the walls was depicted a poet reading
his verses to his friends; and in the pavement was inserted a small and most
exquisite mosaic, typical of the instructions given by the director of the
stage to his comedians.
You passed through this saloon and entered the peristyle; and here (as I
have said before was usually the case with the smaller houses of Pompeii)
the mansion ended. From each of the seven columns that adorned this court
hung festoons of garlands: the centre, supplying the place of a garden,
bloomed with the rarest flowers placed in vases of white marble, that were
supported on pedestals. At the left hand of this small garden was a
diminutive fane, resembling one of those small chapels placed at the side of
roads in Catholic countries, and dedicated to the Penates; before it stood a
bronzed tripod: to the left of the colonnade were two small cubicula, or
bedrooms; to the right was the triclinium, in which the guests were now
This room is usually termed by the antiquaries of Naples 'The Chamber of
Leda'; and in the beautiful work of Sir William Gell, the reader will find
an engraving from that most delicate and graceful painting of Leda
presenting her newborn to her husband, from which the room derives its name.
This charming apartment opened upon the fragrant garden. Round the table of
citrean wood, highly polished and delicately wrought with silver arabesques,
were placed the three couches, which were yet more common at Pompeii than
the semicircular seat that had grown lately into fashion at Rome: and on
these couches of bronze, studded with richer metals, were laid thick
quiltings covered with elaborate broidery, and yielding luxuriously to the
'Well, I must own,' said the aedile Pansa, 'that your house, though scarcely
larger than a case for one's fibulae, is a gem of its kind. How beautifully
painted is that parting of Achilles and Briseis!--what a style!--what
'Praise from Pansa is indeed valuable on such subjects,' said Clodius,
gravely. 'Why, the paintings on his walls!--Ah! there is, indeed, the hand
of a Zeuxis!'
'You flatter me, my Clodius; indeed you do,' quoth the aedile, who was
celebrated through Pompeii for having the worst paintings in the world; for
he was patriotic, and patronized none but Pompeians. 'You flatter me; but
there is something pretty--AEdepol, yes--in the colors, to say nothing of
the design--and then for the kitchen, my friends--ah! that was all my
'What is the design?' said Glaucus. 'I have not yet seen your kitchen,
though I have often witnessed the excellence of its cheer.'
'A cook, my Athenian--a cook sacrificing the trophies of his skill on the
altar of Vesta, with a beautiful muraena (taken from the life) on a spit at
a distance--there is some invention there!'
At that instant the slaves appeared, bearing a tray covered with the first
preparative initia of the feast. Amidst delicious figs, fresh herbs strewed
with snow, anchovies, and eggs, were ranged small cups of diluted wine
sparingly mixed with honey. As these were placed on the table, young slaves
bore round to each of the five guests (for there were no more) the silver
basin of perfumed water, and napkins edged with a purple fringe. But the
aedile ostentatiously drew forth his own napkin, which was not, indeed, of
so fine a linen, but in which the fringe was twice as broad, and wiped his
hands with the parade of a man who felt he was calling for admiration.
'A splendid nappa that of yours,' said Clodius; 'why, the fringe is as broad
as a girdle!'
'A trifle, my Clodius: a trifle! They tell me this stripe is the latest
fashion at Rome; but Glaucus attends to these things more than I.'
'Be propitious, O Bacchus!' said Glaucus, inclining reverentially to a
beautiful image of the god placed in the centre of the table, at the corners
of which stood the Lares and the salt-holders. The guests followed the
prayer, and then, sprinkling the wine on the table, they performed the
This over, the convivialists reclined themselves on the couches, and the
business of the hour commenced.
'May this cup be my last!' said the young Sallust, as the table, cleared of
its first stimulants, was now loaded with the substantial part of the
entertainment, and the ministering slave poured forth to him a brimming
cyathus--'May this cup be my last, but it is the best wine I have drunk at
'Bring hither the amphora,' said Glaucus, 'and read its date and its
The slave hastened to inform the party that the scroll fastened to the cork
betokened its birth from Chios, and its age a ripe fifty years.
'How deliciously the snow has cooled it!' said Pansa. 'It is just enough.'
'It is like the experience of a man who has cooled his pleasures
sufficiently to give them a double zest,' exclaimed Sallust.
'It is like a woman's "No",' added Glaucus: 'it cools, but to inflame the
'When is our next wild-beast fight?' said Clodius to Pansa.
'It stands fixed for the ninth ide of August,' answered Pansa: 'on the day
after the Vulcanalia--we have a most lovely young lion for the occasion.'
'Whom shall we get for him to eat?' asked Clodius. 'Alas! there is a great
scarcity of criminals. You must positively find some innocent or other to
condemn to the lion, Pansa!'
'Indeed I have thought very seriously about it of late,' replied the aedile,
gravely. 'It was a most infamous law that which forbade us to send our own
slaves to the wild beasts. Not to let us do what we like with our own,
that's what I call an infringement on property itself.'
'Not so in the good old days of the Republic,' sighed Sallust.
'And then this pretended mercy to the slaves is such a disappointment to the
poor people. How they do love to see a good tough battle between a man and
a lion; and all this innocent pleasure they may lose (if the gods don't send
us a good criminal soon) from this cursed law!'
'What can be worse policy,' said Clodius, sententiously, 'than to interfere
with the manly amusements of the people?'
'Well thank Jupiter and the Fates! we have no Nero at present,' said
'He was, indeed, a tyrant; he shut up our amphitheatre for ten years.'
'I wonder it did not create a rebellion,' said Sallust.
'It very nearly did,' returned Pansa, with his mouth full of wild boar.
Here the conversation was interrupted for a moment by a flourish of flutes,
and two slaves entered with a single dish.
'Ah, what delicacy hast thou in store for us now, my Glaucus?' cried the
young Sallust, with sparkling eyes.
Sallust was only twenty-four, but he had no pleasure in life like
eating--perhaps he had exhausted all the others: yet had he some talent, and
an excellent heart--as far as it went.
'I know its face, by Pollux!' cried Pansa. 'It is an Ambracian Kid. Ho
(snapping his fingers, a usual signal to the slaves) we must prepare a new
libation in honour to the new-comer.'
'I had hoped said Glaucus, in a melancholy tone, 'to have procured you some
oysters from Britain; but the winds that were so cruel to Caesar have forbid
us the oysters.'
'Are they in truth so delicious?' asked Lepidus, loosening to a yet more
luxurious ease his ungirdled tunic.
'Why, in truth, I suspect it is the distance that gives the flavor; they
want the richness of the Brundusium oyster. But, at Rome, no supper is
complete without them.'
'The poor Britons! There is some good in them after all,' said Sallust.
'They produce an oyster.'
'I wish they would produce us a gladiator,' said the aedile, whose provident
mind was musing over the wants of the amphitheatre.
'By Pallas!' cried Glaucus, as his favorite slave crowned his streaming
locks with a new chaplet, 'I love these wild spectacles well enough when
beast fights beast; but when a man, one with bones and blood like ours, is
coldly put on the arena, and torn limb from limb, the interest is too
horrid: I sicken--I gasp for breath--I long to rush and defend him. The
yells of the populace seem to me more dire than the voices of the Furies
chasing Orestes. I rejoice that there is so little chance of that bloody
exhibition for our next show!'
The aedile shrugged his shoulders. The young Sallust, who was thought the
best-natured man in Pompeii, stared in surprise. The graceful Lepidus, who
rarely spoke for fear of disturbing his features, ejaculated 'Hercle!' The
parasite Clodius muttered 'AEdepol!' and the sixth banqueter, who was the
umbra of Clodius, and whose duty it was to echo his richer friend, when he
could not praise him--the parasite of a parasite--muttered also 'AEdepol!'
'Well, you Italians are used to these spectacles; we Greeks are more
merciful. Ah, shade of Pindar!--the rapture of a true Grecian game--the
emulation of man against man--the generous strife--the half-mournful
triumph--so proud to contend with a noble foe, so sad to see him overcome!
But ye understand me not.'
'The kid is excellent,' said Sallust. The slave, whose duty it was to
carve, and who valued himself on his science, had just performed that office
on the kid to the sound of music, his knife keeping time, beginning with a
low tenor and accomplishing the arduous feat amidst a magnificent diapason.
'Your cook is, of course, from Sicily?' said Pansa.
'Yes, of Syracuse.'
'I will play you for him,' said Clodius. 'We will have a game between the
'Better that sort of game, certainly, than a beast fight; but I cannot stake
my Sicilian--you have nothing so precious to stake me in return.'
'My Phillida--my beautiful dancing-girl!'
'I never buy women,' said the Greek, carelessly rearranging his chaplet.
The musicians, who were stationed in the portico without, had commenced
their office with the kid; they now directed the melody into a more soft, a
more gay, yet it may be a more intellectual strain; and they chanted that
song of Horace beginning 'Persicos odi', etc., so impossible to translate,
and which they imagined applicable to a feast that, effeminate as it seems
to us, was simple enough for the gorgeous revelry of the time. We are
witnessing the domestic, and not the princely feast--the entertainment of a
gentleman, not an emperor or a senator.
'Ah, good old Horace!' said Sallust, compassionately; 'he sang well of
feasts and girls, but not like our modern poets.'
'The immortal Fulvius, for instance,' said Clodius.
'Ah, Fulvius, the immortal!' said the umbra.
'And Spuraena; and Caius Mutius, who wrote three epics in a year--could
Horace do that, or Virgil either said Lepidus. 'Those old poets all fell
into the mistake of copying sculpture instead of painting. Simplicity and
repose--that was their notion; but we moderns have fire, and passion, and
energy--we never sleep, we imitate the colors of painting, its life, and its
action. Immortal Fulvius!'
'By the way,' said Sallust, 'have you seen the new ode by Spuraena, in
honour of our Egyptian Isis? It is magnificent--the true religious fervor.'
'Isis seems a favorite divinity at Pompeii,' said Glaucus.
'Yes!' said Pansa, 'she is exceedingly in repute just at this moment; her
statue has been uttering the most remarkable oracles. I am not
superstitious, but I must confess that she has more than once assisted me
materially in my magistracy with her advice. Her priests are so pious, too!
none of your gay, none of your proud, ministers of Jupiter and Fortune: they
walk barefoot, eat no meat, and pass the greater part of the night in
'An example to our other priesthoods, indeed!--Jupiter's temple wants
reforming sadly,' said Lepidus, who was a great reformer for all but
'They say that Arbaces the Egyptian has imparted some most solemn mysteries
to the priests of Isis,' observed Sallust. 'He boasts his descent from the
race of Rameses, and declares that in his family the secrets of remotest
antiquity are treasured.'
'He certainly possesses the gift of the evil eye,' said Clodius. 'If I ever
come upon that Medusa front without the previous charm, I am sure to lose a
favorite horse, or throw the canes nine times running.'
'The last would be indeed a miracle!' said Sallust, gravely.
'How mean you, Sallust?' returned the gamester, with a flushed brow.
'I mean, what you would leave me if I played often with you; and that
Clodius answered only by a smile of disdain.
'If Arbaces were not so rich,' said Pansa, with a stately air, 'I should
stretch my authority a little, and inquire into the truth of the report
which calls him an astrologer and a sorcerer. Agrippa, when aedile of Rome,
banished all such terrible citizens. But a rich man--it is the duty of an
aedile to protect the rich!'
'What think you of this new sect, which I am told has even a few proselytes
in Pompeii, these followers of the Hebrew God--Christus?'
'Oh, mere speculative visionaries,' said Clodius; 'they have not a single
gentleman amongst them; their proselytes are poor, insignificant, ignorant
'Who ought, however, to be crucified for their blasphemy,' said Pansa, with
vehemence; 'they deny Venus and Jove! Nazarene is but another name for
atheist. Let me catch them--that's all.'
The second course was gone--the feasters fell back on their couches--there
was a pause while they listened to the soft voices of the South, and the
music of the Arcadian reed. Glaucus was the most rapt and the least
inclined to break the silence, but Clodius began already to think that they
'Bene vobis! (Your health!) my Glaucus,' said he, quaffing a cup to each
letter of the Greek's name, with the ease of the practised drinker. 'Will
you not be avenged on your ill-fortune of yesterday? See, the dice court
'As you will,' said Glaucus.
'The dice in summer, and I an aedile!' said Pansa, magisterially; 'it is
against all law.'
'Not in your presence, grave Pansa,' returned Clodius, rattling the dice in
a long box; 'your presence restrains all license: it is not the thing, but
the excess of the thing, that hurts.'
'What wisdom!' muttered the umbra.
'Well, I will look another way,' said the aedile.
'Not yet, good Pansa; let us wait till we have supped,' said Glaucus.
Clodius reluctantly yielded, concealing his vexation with a yawn.
'He gapes to devour the gold,' whispered Lepidus to Sallust, in a quotation
from the Aulularia of Plautus.
'Ah! how well I know these polypi, who hold all they touch,' answered
Sallust, in the same tone, and out of the same play.
The third course, consisting of a variety of fruits, pistachio nuts,
sweetmeats, tarts, and confectionery tortured into a thousand fantastic and
airy shapes, was now placed upon the table; and the ministri, or attendants,
also set there the wine (which had hitherto been handed round to the guests)
in large jugs of glass, each bearing upon it the schedule of its age and
'Taste this Lesbian, my Pansa,' said Sallust; 'it is excellent.'
'It is not very old,' said Glaucus, 'but it has been made precocious, like
ourselves, by being put to the fire:--the wine to the flames of Vulcan--we
to those of his wife--to whose honour I pour this cup.'
'It is delicate,' said Pansa, 'but there is perhaps the least particle too
much of rosin in its flavor.'
'What a beautiful cup!' cried Clodius, taking up one of transparent crystal,
the handles of which were wrought with gems, and twisted in the shape of
serpents, the favorite fashion at Pompeii.
'This ring,' said Glaucus, taking a costly jewel from the first joint of his
finger and hanging it on the handle, 'gives it a richer show, and renders it
less unworthy of thy acceptance, my Clodius, on whom may the gods bestow
health and fortune, long and oft to crown it to the brim!'
'You are too generous, Glaucus,' said the gamester, handing the cup to his
slave; 'but your love gives it a double value.'
'This cup to the Graces!' said Pansa, and he thrice emptied his calix. The
guests followed his example.
'We have appointed no director to the feast,' cried Sallust.
'Let us throw for him, then,' said Clodius, rattling the dice-box.
'Nay,' cried Glaucus, 'no cold and trite director for us: no dictator of the
banquet; no rex convivii. Have not the Romans sworn never to obey a king?
Shall we be less free than your ancestors? Ho! musicians, let us have the
song I composed the other night: it has a verse on this subject, "The
Bacchic hymn of the Hours".'
The musicians struck their instruments to a wild Ionic air, while the
youngest voice in the band chanted forth, in Greek words, as numbers, the
THE EVENING HYMN OF THE HOURS
"Through the summer day, through the weary day,
We have glided long;
Ere we speed to the Night through her portals grey,
Hail us with song!--
With song, with song,
With a bright and joyous song;
Such as the Cretan maid,
While the twilight made her bolder,
Woke, high through the ivy shade,
When the wine-god first consoled her.
From the hush'd, low-breathing skies,
Half-shut look'd their starry eyes,
And all around,
With a loving sound,
The AEgean waves were creeping:
On her lap lay the lynx's head;
Wild thyme was her bridal bed;
And aye through each tiny space,
In the green vine's green embrace
The Fauns were slily peeping--
The Fauns, the prying Fauns--
The arch, the laughing Fauns--
The Fauns were slily peeping!
Flagging and faint are we
With our ceaseless flight,
And dull shall our journey be
Through the realm of night,
Bathe us, O bathe our weary wings
In the purple wave, as it freshly springs
To your cups from the fount of light--
From the fount of light--from the fount of light,
For there, when the sun has gone down in night,
There in the bowl we find him.
The grape is the well of that summer sun,
Or rather the stream that he gazed upon,
Till he left in truth, like the Thespian youth,
His soul, as he gazed, behind him.
A cup to Jove, and a cup to Love,
And a cup to the son of Maia;
And honour with three, the band zone-free,
The band of the bright Aglaia.
But since every bud in the wreath of pleasure
Ye owe to the sister Hours,
No stinted cups, in a formal measure,
The Bromian law makes ours.
He honors us most who gives us most,
And boasts, with a Bacchanal's honest boast,
He never will count the treasure.
Fastly we fleet, then seize our wings,
And plunge us deep in the sparkling springs;
And aye, as we rise with a dripping plume,
We'll scatter the spray round the garland's bloom;
We glow--we glow,
Behold, as the girls of the Eastern wave
Bore once with a shout to the crystal cave
The prize of the Mysian Hylas,
Even so--even so,
We have caught the young god in our warm embrace
We hurry him on in our laughing race;
We hurry him on, with a whoop and song,
The cloudy rivers of night along--
Ho, ho!--we have caught thee, Psilas!
The guests applauded loudly. When the poet is your host, his verses are
sure to charm.
'Thoroughly Greek,' said Lepidus: 'the wildness, force, and energy of that
tongue, it is impossible to imitate in the Roman poetry.'
'It is, indeed, a great contrast,' said Clodius, ironically at heart, though
not in appearance, 'to the old-fashioned and tame simplicity of that ode of
Horace which we heard before. The air is beautifully Ionic: the word puts
me in mind of a toast--Companions, I give you the beautiful Ione.'
'Ione!--the name is Greek,' said Glaucus, in a soft voice. 'I drink the
health with delight. But who is Ione?'
'Ah! you have but just come to Pompeii, or you would deserve ostracism for
your ignorance,' said Lepidus, conceitedly; 'not to know Ione, is not to
know the chief charm of our city.'
'She is of the most rare beauty,' said Pansa; 'and what a voice!'
'She can feed only on nightingales' tongues,' said Clodius.
'Nightingales' tongues!--beautiful thought!' sighed the umbra.
'Enlighten me, I beseech you,' said Glaucus.
'Know then...' began Lepidus.
'Let me speak,' cried Clodius; 'you drawl out your words as if you spoke
'And you speak stones,' muttered the coxcomb to himself, as he fell back
disdainfully on his couch.
'Know then, my Glaucus,' said Clodius, 'that Ione is a stranger who has but
lately come to Pompeii. She sings like Sappho, and her songs are her own
composing; and as for the tibia, and the cithara, and the lyre, I know not
in which she most outdoes the Muses. Her beauty is most dazzling. Her
house is perfect; such taste--such gems--such bronzes! She is rich, and
generous as she is rich.'
'Her lovers, of course,' said Glaucus, 'take care that she does not starve;
and money lightly won is always lavishly spent.'
'Her lovers--ah, there is the enigma!--Ione has but one vice--she is chaste.
She has all Pompeii at her feet, and she has no lovers: she will not even
'No lovers!' echoed Glaucus.
'No; she has the soul of Vestal with the girdle of Venus.'
'What refined expressions!' said the umbra.
'A miracle!' cried Glaucus. 'Can we not see her?'
'I will take you there this evening, said Clodius; 'meanwhile...' added he,
once more rattling the dice.
'I am yours!' said the complaisant Glaucus. 'Pansa, turn your face!'
Lepidus and Sallust played at odd and even, and the umbra looked on, while
Glaucus and Clodius became gradually absorbed in the chances of the dice.
'By Pollux!' cried Glaucus, 'this is the second time I have thrown the
caniculae' (the lowest throw).
'Now Venus befriend me!' said Clodius, rattling the box for several moments.
'O Alma Venus--it is Venus herself!' as he threw the highest cast, named
from that goddess--whom he who wins money, indeed, usually propitiates!
'Venus is ungrateful to me,' said Glaucus, gaily; 'I have always sacrificed
on her altar.'
'He who plays with Clodius,' whispered Lepidus, 'will soon, like Plautus's
Curculio, put his pallium for the stakes.'
'Poor Glaucus!--he is as blind as Fortune herself,' replied Sallust, in the
'I will play no more,' said Glaucus; 'I have lost thirty sestertia.'
'I am sorry...' began Clodius.
'Amiable man!' groaned the umbra.
'Not at all!' exclaimed Glaucus; 'the pleasure I take in your gain
compensates the pain of my loss.'
The conversation now grew general and animated; the wine circulated more
freely; and Ione once more became the subject of eulogy to the guests of
'Instead of outwatching the stars, let us visit one at whose beauty the
stars grow pale,' said Lepidus.
Clodius, who saw no chance of renewing the dice, seconded the proposal; and
Glaucus, though he civilly pressed his guests to continue the banquet, could
not but let them see that his curiosity had been excited by the praises of
Ione: they therefore resolved to adjourn (all, at least, but Pansa and the
umbra) to the house of the fair Greek. They drank, therefore, to the health
of Glaucus and of Titus--they performed their last libation--they resumed
their slippers--they descended the stairs--passed the illumined atrium--and
walking unbitten over the fierce dog painted on the threshold, found
themselves beneath the light of the moon just risen, in the lively and still
crowded streets of Pompeii.
They passed the jewellers' quarter, sparkling with lights, caught and
reflected by the gems displayed in the shops, and arrived at last at the
door of Ione. The vestibule blazed with rows of lamps; curtains of
embroidered purple hung on either aperture of the tablinum, whose walls and
mosaic pavement glowed with the richest colors of the artist; and under the
portico which surrounded the odorous viridarium they found Ione, already
surrounded by adoring and applauding guests!
'Did you say she was Athenian?' whispered Glaucus, ere he passed into the
'No, she is from Neapolis.'
'Neapolis!' echoed Glaucus; and at that moment the group, dividing on either
side of Ione, gave to his view that bright, that nymph-like beauty, which
for months had shone down upon the waters of his memory.
THE TEMPLE OF ISIS. ITS PRIEST. THE CHARACTER OF ARBACES DEVELOPS ITSELF.
THE story returns to the Egyptian. We left Arbaces upon the shores of the
noonday sea, after he had parted from Glaucus and his companion. As he
approached to the more crowded part of the bay, he paused and gazed upon
that animated scene with folded arms, and a bitter smile upon his dark
'Gulls, dupes, fools, that ye are!' muttered he to himself; 'whether
business or pleasure, trade or religion, be your pursuit, you are equally
cheated by the passions that ye should rule! How I could loathe you, if I
did not hate--yes, hate! Greek or Roman, it is from us, from the dark lore
of Egypt, that ye have stolen the fire that gives you souls. Your
knowledge--your poesy--your laws--your arts--your barbarous mastery of war
(all how tame and mutilated, when compared with the vast original!)--ye have
filched, as a slave filches the fragments of the feast, from us! And now,
ye mimics of a mimic!--Romans, forsooth! the mushroom herd of robbers! ye
are our masters! the pyramids look down no more on the race of Rameses--the
eagle cowers over the serpent of the Nile. Our masters--no, not mine. My
soul, by the power of its wisdom, controls and chains you, though the
fetters are unseen. So long as craft can master force, so long as religion
has a cave from which oracles can dupe mankind, the wise hold an empire over
earth. Even from your vices Arbaces distills his pleasures--pleasures
unprofaned by vulgar eyes--pleasures vast, wealthy, inexhaustible, of which
your enervate minds, in their unimaginative sensuality, cannot conceive or
dream! Plod on, plod on, fools of ambition and of avarice! your petty
thirst for fasces and quaestorships, and all the mummery of servile power,
provokes my laughter and my scorn. My power can extend wherever man
believes. I ride over the souls that the purple veils. Thebes may fall,
Egypt be a name; the world itself furnishes the subjects of Arbaces.'
Thus saying, the Egyptian moved slowly on; and, entering the town, his tall
figure towered above the crowded throng of the forum, and swept towards the
small but graceful temple consecrated to Isis.
That edifice was then but of recent erection; the ancient temple had been
thrown down in the earthquake sixteen years before, and the new building had
become as much in vogue with the versatile Pompeians as a new church or a
new preacher may be with us. The oracles of the goddess at Pompeii were
indeed remarkable, not more for the mysterious language in which they were
clothed, than for the credit which was attached to their mandates and
predictions. If they were not dictated by a divinity, they were framed at
least by a profound knowledge of mankind; they applied themselves exactly to
the circumstances of individuals, and made a notable contrast to the vague
and loose generalities of their rival temples. As Arbaces now arrived at
the rails which separated the profane from the sacred place, a crowd,
composed of all classes, but especially of the commercial, collected,
breathless and reverential, before the many altars which rose in the open
court. In the walls of the cella, elevated on seven steps of Parian marble,
various statues stood in niches, and those walls were ornamented with the
pomegranate consecrated to Isis. An oblong pedestal occupied the interior
building, on which stood two statues, one of Isis, and its companion
represented the silent and mystic Orus. But the building contained many
other deities to grace the court of the Egyptian deity: her kindred and
many-titled Bacchus, and the Cyprian Venus, a Grecian disguise for herself,
rising from her bath, and the dog-headed Anubis, and the ox Apis, and
various Egyptian idols of uncouth form and unknown appellations.
But we must not suppose that among the cities of Magna Graecia, Isis was
worshipped with those forms and ceremonies which were of right her own. The
mongrel and modern nations of the South, with a mingled arrogance and
ignorance, confounded the worships of all climes and ages. And the profound
mysteries of the Nile were degraded by a hundred meretricious and frivolous
admixtures from the creeds of Cephisus and of Tibur. The temple of Isis in
Pompeii was served by Roman and Greek priests, ignorant alike of the
language and the customs of her ancient votaries; and the descendant of the
dread Egyptian kings, beneath the appearance of reverential awe, secretly
laughed to scorn the puny mummeries which imitated the solemn and typical
worship of his burning clime.
Ranged now on either side the steps was the sacrificial crowd, arrayed in
white garments, while at the summit stood two of the inferior priests, the
one holding a palm branch, the other a slender sheaf of corn. In the narrow
passage in front thronged the bystanders.
'And what,' whispered Arbaces to one of the bystanders, who was a merchant
engaged in the Alexandrian trade, which trade had probably first introduced
in Pompeii the worship of the Egyptian goddess--'what occasion now assembles
you before the altars of the venerable Isis? It seems, by the white robes
of the group before me, that a sacrifice is to be rendered; and by the
assembly of the priests, that ye are prepared for some oracle. To what
question is it to vouchsafe a reply?'
'We are merchants,' replied the bystander (who was no other than Diomed) in
the same voice, 'who seek to know the fate of our vessels, which sail for
Alexandria to-morrow. We are about to offer up a sacrifice and implore an
answer from the goddess. I am not one of those who have petitioned the
priest to sacrifice, as you may see by my dress, but I have some interest in
the success of the fleet--by Jupiter! yes. I have a pretty trade, else how
could I live in these hard times?
The Egyptian replied gravely--'That though Isis was properly the goddess of
agriculture, she was no less the patron of commerce.' Then turning his head
towards the east, Arbaces seemed absorbed in silent prayer.
And now in the centre of the steps appeared a priest robed in white from
head to foot, the veil parting over the crown; two new priests relieved
those hitherto stationed at either corner, being naked half-way down to the
breast, and covered, for the rest, in white and loose robes. At the same
time, seated at the bottom of the steps, a priest commenced a solemn air
upon a long wind-instrument of music. Half-way down the steps stood another
flamen, holding in one hand the votive wreath, in the other a white wand;
while, adding to the picturesque scene of that eastern ceremony, the stately
ibis (bird sacred to the Egyptian worship) looked mutely down from the wall
upon the rite, or stalked beside the altar at the base of the steps.
At that altar now stood the sacrificial flamen.
The countenance of Arbaces seemed to lose all its rigid calm while the
aruspices inspected the entrails, and to be intent in pious anxiety--to
rejoice and brighten as the signs were declared favorable, and the fire
began bright and clearly to consume the sacred portion of the victim amidst
odorous of myrrh and frankincense. It was then that a dead silence fell
over the whispering crowd, and the priests gathering round the cella,
another priest, naked save by a cincture round the middle, rushed forward,
and dancing with wild gestures, implored an answer from the goddess. He
ceased at last in exhaustion, and a low murmuring noise was heard within the
body of the statue: thrice the head moved, and the lips parted, and then a
hollow voice uttered these mystic words:
There are waves like chargers that meet and glow,
There are graves ready wrought in the rocks below,
On the brow of the future the dangers lour,
But blest are your barks in the fearful hour.
The voice ceased--the crowd breathed more freely--the merchants looked at
each other. 'Nothing can be more plain,' murmured Diomed; 'there is to be a
storm at sea, as there very often is at the beginning of autumn, but our
vessels are to be saved. O beneficent Isis!'
'Lauded eternally be the goddess!' said the merchants: 'what can be less
equivocal than her prediction?'
Raising one hand in sign of silence to the people, for the rites of Isis
enjoined what to the lively Pompeians was an impossible suspense from the
use of the vocal organs, the chief priest poured his libation on the altar,
and after a short concluding prayer the ceremony was over, and the
congregation dismissed. Still, however, as the crowd dispersed themselves
here and there, the Egyptian lingered by the railing, and when the space
became tolerably cleared, one of the priests, approaching it, saluted him
with great appearance of friendly familiarity.
The countenance of the priest was remarkably unprepossessing--his shaven
skull was so low and narrow in the front as nearly to approach to the
conformation of that of an African savage, save only towards the temples,
where, in that organ styled acquisitiveness by the pupils of a science
modern in name, but best practically known (as their sculpture teaches us)
amongst the ancients, two huge and almost preternatural protuberances yet
more distorted the unshapely head--around the brows the skin was puckered
into a web of deep and intricate wrinkles--the eyes, dark and small, rolled
in a muddy and yellow orbit--the nose, short yet coarse, was distended at
the nostrils like a satyr's--and the thick but pallid lips, the high
cheek-bones, the livid and motley hues that struggled through the parchment
skin, completed a countenance which none could behold without repugnance,
and few without terror and distrust: whatever the wishes of the mind, the
animal frame was well fitted to execute them; the wiry muscles of the
throat, the broad chest, the nervous hands and lean gaunt arms, which were
bared above the elbow, betokened a form capable alike of great active
exertion and passive endurance.
'Calenus,' said the Egyptian to this fascinating flamen, 'you have improved
the voice of the statue much by attending to my suggestion; and your verses
are excellent. Always prophesy good fortune, unless there is an absolute
impossibility of its fulfilment.'
'Besides,' added Calenus, 'if the storm does come, and if it does overwhelm
the accursed ships, have we not prophesied it? and are the barks not blest
to be at rest?--for rest prays the mariner in the AEgean sea, or at least so
says Horace--can the mariner be more at rest in the sea than when he is at
the bottom of it?'
'Right, my Calenus; I wish Apaecides would take a lesson from your wisdom.
But I desire to confer with you relative to him and to other matters: you
can admit me into one of your less sacred apartments?'
'Assuredly,' replied the priest, leading the way to one of the small
chambers which surrounded the open gate. Here they seated themselves before
a small table spread with dishes containing fruit and eggs, and various cold
meats, with vases of excellent wine, of which while the companions partook,
a curtain, drawn across the entrance opening to the court, concealed them
from view, but admonished them by the thinness of the partition to speak
low, or to speak no secrets: they chose the former alternative.
'Thou knowest,' said Arbaces, in a voice that scarcely stirred the air, so
soft and inward was its sound, 'that it has ever been my maxim to attach
myself to the young. From their flexile and unformed minds I can carve out
my fittest tools. I weave--I warp--I mould them at my will. Of the men I
make merely followers or servants; of the women...'
'Mistresses,' said Calenus, as a livid grin distorted his ungainly features.
'Yes, I do not disguise it: woman is the main object, the great appetite, of
my soul. As you feed the victim for the slaughter, I love to rear the
votaries of my pleasure. I love to train, to ripen their minds--to unfold
the sweet blossom of their hidden passions, in order to prepare the fruit to
my taste. I loathe your ready-made and ripened courtesans; it is in the
soft and unconscious progress of innocence to desire that I find the true
charm of love; it is thus that I defy satiety; and by contemplating the
freshness of others, I sustain the freshness of my own sensations. From the
young hearts of my victims I draw the ingredients of the caldron in which I
re-youth myself. But enough of this: to the subject before us. You know,
then, that in Neapolis some time since I encountered Ione and Apaecides,
brother and sister, the children of Athenians who had settled at Neapolis.
The death of their parents, who knew and esteemed me, constituted me their
guardian. I was not unmindful of the trust. The youth, docile and mild,
yielded readily to the impression I sought to stamp upon him. Next to
woman, I love the old recollections of my ancestral land; I love to keep
alive--to propagate on distant shores (which her colonies perchance yet
people) her dark and mystic creeds. It may be, that it pleases me to delude
mankind, while I thus serve the deities. To Apaecides I taught the solemn
faith of Isis. I unfolded to him something of those sublime allegories
which are couched beneath her worship. I excited in a soul peculiarly alive
to religious fervor that enthusiasm which imagination begets on faith. I
have placed him amongst you: he is one of you.'
'He is so,' said Calenus: 'but in thus stimulating his faith, you have
robbed him of wisdom. He is horror-struck that he is no longer duped: our
sage delusions, our speaking statues and secret staircases dismay and revolt
him; he pines; he wastes away; he mutters to himself; he refuses to share
our ceremonies. He has been known to frequent the company of men suspected
of adherence to that new and atheistical creed which denies all our gods,
and terms our oracles the inspirations of that malevolent spirit of which
eastern tradition speaks. Our oracles--alas! we know well whose
inspirations they are!'
'This is what I feared,' said Arbaces, musingly, 'from various reproaches he
made me when I last saw him. Of late he hath shunned my steps. I must find
him: I must continue my lessons: I must lead him into the adytum of Wisdom.
I must teach him that there are two stages of sanctity--the first,
FAITH--the next, DELUSION; the one for the vulgar, the second for the sage.'
'I never passed through the first, I said Calenus; 'nor you either, I think,
'You err,' replied the Egyptian, gravely. 'I believe at this day (not
indeed that which I teach, but that which I teach not). Nature has a
sanctity against which I cannot (nor would I) steel conviction. I believe
in mine own knowledge, and that has revealed to me--but no matter. Now to
earthlier and more inviting themes. If I thus fulfilled my object with
Apaecides, what was my design for Ione? Thou knowest already I intend her
for my queen--my bride--my heart's Isis. Never till I saw her knew I all
the love of which my nature is capable.'
'I hear from a thousand lips that she is a second Helen,' said Calenus; and
he smacked his own lips, but whether at the wine or at the notion it is not
easy to decide.
'Yes, she has a beauty that Greece itself never excelled,' resumed Arbaces.
'But that is not all: she has a soul worthy to match with mine. She has a
genius beyond that of woman--keen--dazzling--bold. Poetry flows spontaneous
to her lips: utter but a truth, and, however intricate and profound, her
mind seizes and commands it. Her imagination and her reason are not at war
with each other; they harmonize and direct her course as the winds and the
waves direct some lofty bark. With this she unites a daring independence of
thought; she can stand alone in the world; she can be brave as she is
gentle; this is the nature I have sought all my life in woman, and never
found till now. Ione must be mine! In her I have a double passion; I wish
to enjoy a beauty of spirit as of form.'
'She is not yours yet, then?' said the priest.
'No; she loves me--but as a friend--she loves me with her mind only. She
fancies in me the paltry virtues which I have only the profounder virtue to
disdain. But you must pursue with me her history. The brother and sister
were young and rich: Ione is proud and ambitious--proud of her genius--the
magic of her poetry--the charm of her conversation. When her brother left
me, and entered your temple, in order to be near him she removed also to
Pompeii. She has suffered her talents to be known. She summons crowds to
her feasts; her voice enchants them; her poetry subdues. She delights in
being thought the successor of Erinna.'
'Or of Sappho?'
'But Sappho without love! I encouraged her in this boldness of career--in
this indulgence of vanity and of pleasure. I loved to steep her amidst the
dissipations and luxury of this abandoned city. Mark me, Calenus! I
desired to enervate her mind!--it has been too pure to receive yet the
breath which I wish not to pass, but burningly to eat into, the mirror. I
wished her to be surrounded by lovers, hollow, vain, and frivolous (lovers
that her nature must despise), in order to feel the want of love. Then, in
those soft intervals of lassitude that succeed to excitement--I can weave my
spells--excite her interest--attract her passions--possess myself of her
heart. For it is not the young, nor the beautiful, nor the gay, that should
fascinate Ione; her imagination must be won, and the life of Arbaces has
been one scene of triumph over the imaginations of his kind.'
'And hast thou no fear, then, of thy rivals? The gallants of Italy are
skilled in the art to please.'
'None! Her Greek soul despises the barbarian Romans, and would scorn itself
if it admitted a thought of love for one of that upstart race.'
'But thou art an Egyptian, not a Greek!'
'Egypt,' replied Arbaces, 'is the mother of Athens. Her tutelary Minerva is
our deity; and her founder, Cecrops, was the fugitive of Egyptian Sais.
This have I already taught to her; and in my blood she venerates the eldest
dynasties of earth. But yet I will own that of late some uneasy suspicions
have crossed my mind. She is more silent than she used to be; she loves
melancholy and subduing music; she sighs without an outward cause. This may
be the beginning of love--it may be the want of love. In either case it is
time for me to begin my operations on her fancies and her heart: in the one
case, to divert the source of love to me; in the other, in me to awaken it.
It is for this that I have sought you.'
'And how can I assist you?'
'I am about to invite her to a feast in my house: I wish to dazzle--to
bewilder--to inflame her senses. Our arts--the arts by which Egypt trained
her young novitiates--must be employed; and, under veil of the mysteries of
religion, I will open to her the secrets of love.'
'Ah! now I understand:--one of those voluptuous banquets that, despite our
dull vows of mortified coldness, we, the priests of Isis, have shared at thy
'No, no! Thinkest thou her chaste eyes are ripe for such scenes? No; but
first we must ensnare the brother--an easier task. Listen to me, while I
give you my instructions.'
MORE OF THE FLOWER-GIRL. THE PROGRESS OF LOVE.
THE sun shone gaily into that beautiful chamber in the house of Glaucus,
which I have before said is now called the 'Room of Leda'. The morning rays
entered through rows of small casements at the higher part of the room, and
through the door which opened on the garden, that answered to the
inhabitants of the southern cities the same purpose that a greenhouse or
conservatory does to us. The size of the garden did not adapt it for
exercise, but the various and fragrant plants with which it was filled gave
a luxury to that indolence so dear to the dwellers in a sunny clime. And
now the odorous, fanned by a gentle wind creeping from the adjacent sea,
scattered themselves over that chamber, whose walls vied with the richest
colors of the most glowing flowers. Besides the gem of the room--the
painting of Leda and Tyndarus--in the centre of each compartment of the
walls were set other pictures of exquisite beauty. In one you saw Cupid
leaning on the knees of Venus; in another Ariadne sleeping on the beach,
unconscious of the perfidy of Theseus. Merrily the sunbeams played to and
fro on the tessellated floor and the brilliant walls--far more happily came
the rays of joy to the heart of the young Glaucus.
'I have seen her, then,' said he, as he paced that narrow chamber--'I have
heard her--nay, I have spoken to her again--I have listened to the music of
her song, and she sung of glory and of Greece. I have discovered the
long-sought idol of my dreams; and like the Cyprian sculptor, I have
breathed life into my own imaginings.'
Longer, perhaps, had been the enamoured soliloquy of Glaucus, but at that
moment a shadow darkened the threshold of the chamber, and a young female,
still half a child in years, broke upon his solitude. She was dressed
simply in a white tunic, which reached from the neck to the ankles; under
her arm she bore a basket of flowers, and in the other hand she held a
bronze water-vase; her features were more formed than exactly became her
years, yet they were soft and feminine in their outline, and without being
beautiful in themselves, they were almost made so by their beauty of
expression; there was something ineffably gentle, and you would say patient,
in her aspect. A look of resigned sorrow, of tranquil endurance, had
banished the smile, but not the sweetness, from her lips; something timid
and cautious in her step--something wandering in her eyes, led you to
suspect the affliction which she had suffered from her birth--she was blind;
but in the orbs themselves there was no visible defect--their melancholy and
subdued light was clear, cloudless, and serene. 'They tell me that Glaucus
is here,' said she; 'may I come in?'
'Ah, my Nydia,' said the Greek, 'is that you I knew you would not neglect my
'Glaucus did but justice to himself,' answered Nydia, with a blush; 'for he
has always been kind to the poor blind girl.'
'Who could be otherwise?' said Glaucus, tenderly, and in the voice of a
Nydia sighed and paused before she resumed, without replying to his remark.
'You have but lately returned?'
'This is the sixth sun that hath shone upon me at Pompeii.'
'And you are well? Ah, I need not ask--for who that sees the earth, which
they tell me is so beautiful, can be ill?'
'I am well. And you, Nydia--how you have grown! Next year you will be
thinking what answer to make your lovers.'
A second blush passed over the cheek of Nydia, but this time she frowned as
she blushed. 'I have brought you some flowers,' said she, without replying
to a remark that she seemed to resent; and feeling about the room till she
found the table that stood by Glaucus, she laid the basket upon it: 'they
are poor, but they are fresh-gathered.'
'They might come from Flora herself,' said he, kindly; 'and I renew again my
vow to the Graces, that I will wear no other garlands while thy hands can
weave me such as these.'
'And how find you the flowers in your viridarium?--are they thriving?'
'Wonderfully so--the Lares themselves must have tended them.'
'Ah, now you give me pleasure; for I came, as often as I could steal the
leisure, to water and tend them in your absence.'
'How shall I thank thee, fair Nydia?' said the Greek. 'Glaucus little
dreamed that he left one memory so watchful over his favorites at Pompeii.'
The hand of the child trembled, and her breast heaved beneath her tunic.
She turned round in embarrassment. 'The sun is hot for the poor flowers,'
said she, 'to-day and they will miss me; for I have been ill lately, and it
is nine days since I visited them.'
'Ill, Nydia!--yet your cheek has more color than it had last year.'
'I am often ailing,' said the blind girl, touchingly; 'and as I grow up I
grieve more that I am blind. But now to the flowers!' So saying, she made a
slight reverence with her head, and passing into the viridarium, busied
herself with watering the flowers.
'Poor Nydia,' thought Glaucus, gazing on her; 'thine is a hard doom! Thou
seest not the earth--nor the sun--nor the ocean--nor the stars--above all,
thou canst not behold Ione.'
At that last thought his mind flew back to the past evening, and was a
second time disturbed in its reveries by the entrance of Clodius. It was a
proof how much a single evening had sufficed to increase and to refine the
love of the Athenian for Ione, that whereas he had confided to Clodius the
secret of his first interview with her, and the effect it had produced on
him, he now felt an invincible aversion even to mention to him her name. He
had seen Ione, bright, pure, unsullied, in the midst of the gayest and most
profligate gallants of Pompeii, charming rather than awing the boldest into
respect, and changing the very nature of the most sensual and the least
ideal--as by her intellectual and refining spells she reversed the fable of
Circe, and converted the animals into men. They who could not understand
her soul were made spiritual, as it were, by the magic of her beauty--they
who had no heart for poetry had ears, at least, for the melody of her voice.
Seeing her thus surrounded, purifying and brightening all things with her
presence, Glaucus almost for the first time felt the nobleness of his own
nature--he felt how unworthy of the goddess of his dreams had been his
companions and his pursuits. A veil seemed lifted from his eyes; he saw
that immeasurable distance between himself and his associates which the
deceiving mists of pleasure had hitherto concealed; he was refined by a
sense of his courage in aspiring to Ione. He felt that henceforth it was
his destiny to look upward and to soar. He could no longer breathe that
name, which sounded to the sense of his ardent fancy as something sacred and
divine, to lewd and vulgar ears. She was no longer the beautiful girl once
seen and passionately remembered--she was already the mistress, the divinity
of his soul. This feeling who has not experienced?--If thou hast not, then
thou hast never loved.
When Clodius therefore spoke to him in affected transport of the beauty of
Ione, Glaucus felt only resentment and disgust that such lips should dare to
praise her; he answered coldly, and the Roman imagined that his passion was
cured instead of heightened. Clodius scarcely regretted it, for he was
anxious that Glaucus should marry an heiress yet more richly endowed--Julia,
the daughter of the wealthy Diomed, whose gold the gamester imagined he
could readily divert into his own coffers. Their conversation did not flow
with its usual ease; and no sooner had Clodius left him than Glaucus bent
his way to the house of Ione. In passing by the threshold he again
encountered Nydia, who had finished her graceful task. She knew his step on
'You are early abroad?' said she.
'Yes; for the skies of Campania rebuke the sluggard who neglects them.'
'Ah, would I could see them!' murmured the blind girl, but so low that
Glaucus did not overhear the complaint.
The Thessalian lingered on the threshold a few moments, and then guiding her
steps by a long staff, which she used with great dexterity, she took her way
homeward. She soon turned from the more gaudy streets, and entered a
quarter of the town but little loved by the decorous and the sober. But
from the low and rude evidences of vice around her she was saved by her
misfortune. And at that hour the streets were quiet and silent, nor was her
youthful ear shocked by the sounds which too often broke along the obscene
and obscure haunts she patiently and sadly traversed.
She knocked at the back-door of a sort of tavern; it opened, and a rude
voice bade her give an account of the sesterces. Ere she could reply,
another voice, less vulgarly accented, said:
'Never mind those petty profits, my Burbo. The girl's voice will be wanted
again soon at our rich friend's revels; and he pays, as thou knowest, pretty
high for his nightingales' tongues.
'Oh, I hope not--I trust not,' cried Nydia, trembling. 'I will beg from
sunrise to sunset, but send me not there.'
'And why?' asked the same voice.
'Because--because I am young, and delicately born, and the female companions
I meet there are not fit associates for one who--who...'
'Is a slave in the house of Burbo,' returned the voice ironically, and with
a coarse laugh.
The Thessalian put down the flowers, and, leaning her face on her hands,
Meanwhile, Glaucus sought the house of the beautiful Neapolitan. He found
Ione sitting amidst her attendants, who were at work around her. Her harp
stood at her side, for Ione herself was unusually idle, perhaps unusually
thoughtful, that day. He thought her even more beautiful by the morning
light and in her simple robe, than amidst the blazing lamps, and decorated
with the costly jewels of the previous night: not the less so from a certain
paleness that overspread her transparent hues--not the less so from the
blush that mounted over them when he approached. Accustomed to flatter,
flattery died upon his lips when he addressed Ione. He felt it beneath her
to utter the homage which every look conveyed. They spoke of Greece; this
was a theme on which Ione loved rather to listen than to converse: it was a
theme on which the Greek could have been eloquent for ever. He described to
her the silver olive groves that yet clad the banks of Ilyssus, and the
temples, already despoiled of half their glories--but how beautiful in
decay! He looked back on the melancholy city of Harmodius the free, and
Pericles the magnificent, from the height of that distant memory, which
mellowed into one hazy light all the ruder and darker shades. He had seen
the land of poetry chiefly in the poetical age of early youth; and the
associations of patriotism were blended with those of the flush and spring
of life. And Ione listened to him, absorbed and mute; dearer were those
accents, and those descriptions, than all the prodigal adulation of her
numberless adorers. Was it a sin to love her countryman? she loved Athens
in him--the gods of her race, the land of her dreams, spoke to her in his
voice! From that time they daily saw each other. At the cool of the
evening they made excursions on the placid sea. By night they met again in
Ione's porticoes and halls. Their love was sudden, but it was strong; it
filled all the sources of their life. Heart--brain--sense--imagination, all
were its ministers and priests. As you take some obstacle from two objects
that have a mutual attraction, they met, and united at once; their wonder
was, that they had lived separate so long. And it was natural that they
should so love. Young, beautiful, and gifted--of the same birth, and the
same soul--there was poetry in their very union. They imagined the heavens
smiled upon their affection. As the persecuted seek refuge at the shrine,
so they recognized in the altar of their love an asylum from the sorrows of
earth; they covered it with flowers--they knew not of the serpents that lay
One evening, the fifth after their first meeting at Pompeii, Glaucus and
Ione, with a small party of chosen friends, were returning from an excursion
round the bay; their vessel skimmed lightly over the twilight waters, whose
lucid mirror was only broken by the dripping oars. As the rest of the party
conversed gaily with each other, Glaucus lay at the feet of Ione, and he
would have looked up in her face, but he did not dare. Ione broke the pause
'My poor brother,' said she, sighing, 'how once he would have enjoyed this
'Your brother!' said Glaucus; 'I have not seen him. Occupied with you, I
have thought of nothing else, or I should have asked if that was not your
brother for whose companionship you left me at the Temple of Minerva, in
'And is he here?'
'At Pompeii! and not constantly with you? Impossible!'
'He has other duties,' answered Ione, sadly; 'he is a priest of Isis.'
'So young, too; and that priesthood, in its laws at least, so severe!' said
the warm and bright-hearted Greek, in surprise and pity. 'What could have
been his inducement?'
'He was always enthusiastic and fervent in religious devotion: and the
eloquence of an Egyptian--our friend and guardian--kindled in him the pious
desire to consecrate his life to the most mystic of our deities. Perhaps in
the intenseness of his zeal, he found in the severity of that peculiar
priesthood its peculiar attraction.'
'And he does not repent his choice?--I trust he is happy.'
Ione sighed deeply, and lowered her veil over her eyes.
'I wish,' said she, after a pause, 'that he had not been so hasty. Perhaps,
like all who expect too much, he is revolted too easily!'
'Then he is not happy in his new condition. And this Egyptian, was he a
priest himself? was he interested in recruits to the sacred band?
'No. His main interest was in our happiness. He thought he promoted that
of my brother. We were left orphans.'
'Like myself,' said Glaucus, with a deep meaning in his voice.
Ione cast down her eyes as she resumed:
'And Arbaces sought to supply the place of our parent. You must know him.
He loves genius.'
'Arbaces! I know him already; at least, we speak when we meet. But for your
praise I would not seek to know more of him. My heart inclines readily to
most of my kind. But that dark Egyptian, with his gloomy brow and icy
smiles, seems to me to sadden the very sun. One would think that, like
Epimenides, the Cretan, he had spent forty years in a cave, and had found
something unnatural in the daylight ever afterwards.'
'Yet, like Epimenides, he is kind, and wise, and gentle,' answered Ione.
'Oh, happy that he has thy praise! He needs no other virtues to make him
dear to me.'
'His calm, his coldness,' said Ione, evasively pursuing the subject, 'are
perhaps but the exhaustion of past sufferings; as yonder mountain (and she
pointed to Vesuvius), which we see dark and tranquil in the distance, once
nursed the fires for ever quenched.'
They both gazed on the mountain as Ione said these words; the rest of the
sky was bathed in rosy and tender hues, but over that grey summit, rising
amidst the woods and vineyards that then clomb half-way up the ascent, there
hung a black and ominous cloud, the single frown of the landscape. A sudden
and unaccountable gloom came over each as they thus gazed; and in that
sympathy which love had already taught them, and which bade them, in the
slightest shadows of emotion, the faintest presentiment of evil, turn for
refuge to each other, their gaze at the same moment left the mountain, and
full of unimaginable tenderness, met. What need had they of words to say
THE FOWLER SNARES AGAIN THE BIRD THAT HAD JUST ESCAPED, AND SETS HIS NETS
FOR A NEW VICTIM.
IN the history I relate, the events are crowded and rapid as those of the
drama. I write of an epoch in which days sufficed to ripen the ordinary
fruits of years.
Meanwhile, Arbaces had not of late much frequented the house of Ione; and
when he had visited her he had not encountered Glaucus, nor knew he, as yet,
of that love which had so suddenly sprung up between himself and his
designs. In his interest for the brother of Ione, he had been forced, too,
a little while, to suspend his interest in Ione herself. His pride and his
selfishness were aroused and alarmed at the sudden change which had come
over the spirit of the youth. He trembled lest he himself should lose a
docile pupil, and Isis an enthusiastic servant. Apaecides had ceased to
seek or to consult him. He was rarely to be found; he turned sullenly from
the Egyptian--nay, he fled when he perceived him in the distance. Arbaces
was one of those haughty and powerful spirits accustomed to master others;
he chafed at the notion that one once his own should ever elude his grasp.
He swore inly that Apaecides should not escape him.
It was with this resolution that he passed through a thick grove in the
city, which lay between his house and that of Ione, in his way to the
latter; and there, leaning against a tree, and gazing on the ground, he came
unawares on the young priest of Isis.
'Apaecides!' said he--and he laid his hand affectionately on the young man's
The priest started; and his first instinct seemed to be that of flight. 'My
son,' said the Egyptian, 'what has chanced that you desire to shun me?'
Apaecides remained silent and sullen, looking down on the earth, as his lips
quivered, and his breast heaved with emotion.
'Speak to me, my friend,' continued the Egyptian. 'Speak. Something burdens
thy spirit. What hast thou to reveal?'
'And why is it to me thou art thus unconfidential?'
'Because thou hast been my enemy.'
'Let us confer,' said Arbaces, in a low voice; and drawing the reluctant arm
of the priest in his own, he led him to one of the seats which were
scattered within the grove. They sat down--and in those gloomy forms there
was something congenial to the shade and solitude of the place.
Apaecides was in the spring of his years, yet he seemed to have exhausted
even more of life than the Egyptian; his delicate and regular features were
worn and colorless; his eyes were hollow, and shone with a brilliant and
feverish glare: his frame bowed prematurely, and in his hands, which were
small to effeminacy, the blue and swollen veins indicated the lassitude and
weakness of the relaxed fibres. You saw in his face a strong resemblance to
Ione, but the expression was altogether different from that majestic and
spiritual calm which breathed so divine and classical a repose over his
sister's beauty. In her, enthusiasm was visible, but it seemed always
suppressed and restrained; this made the charm and sentiment of her
countenance; you longed to awaken a spirit which reposed, but evidently did
not sleep. In Apaecides the whole aspect betokened the fervor and passion
of his temperament, and the intellectual portion of his nature seemed, by
the wild fire of the eyes, the great breadth of the temples when compared
with the height of the brow, the trembling restlessness of the lips, to be
swayed and tyrannized over by the imaginative and ideal. Fancy, with the
sister, had stopped short at the golden goal of poetry; with the brother,
less happy and less restrained, it had wandered into visions more intangible
and unembodied; and the faculties which gave genius to the one threatened
madness to the other.
'You say I have been your enemy,' said Arbaces, 'I know the cause of that
unjust accusation: I have placed you amidst the priests of Isis--you are
revolted at their trickeries and imposture--you think that I too have
deceived you--the purity of your mind is offended--you imagine that I am one