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Marius the Epicurean, Volume Two by Walter Horatio Pater

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

NOTES

75. Joel 2.28.

81. +Halcyone.

CHAPTER XXI: TWO CURIOUS HOUSES

II. THE CHURCH IN CECILIA'S HOUSE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOTES

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

CHAPTER XXII: "THE MINOR PEACE OF THE CHURCH"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHAPTER XXIII: DIVINE SERVICE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOTES

139. *Psalm xxii.22-31.

CHAPTER XXIV: A CONVERSATION NOT IMAGINARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Yes! one blessed moment were enough!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Very different.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Assuredly!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--At once.

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

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

--No! only a madman would say that.

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

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

--Yes! So let it be.

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

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

--I have nothing to reply to that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Surely.

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

--By no means.

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

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

--How so?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHAPTER XXV: SUNT LACRIMAE RERUM+

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

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

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

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

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

"At the baths, a party of labourers are at work upon one of the great
brick furnaces, in a cloud of black dust. A frail young child has
brought food for one of them, and sits apart, waiting till his father

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