Lucian. A Friend
Fr. What a haughty and dignified Lucian returns to us from his journey! He will not vouchsafe us a glance; he stands aloof, and will hold no further communion with us. Altogether a supercilious Lucian! The change is sudden. Might one inquire the cause of this altered demeanour?
Luc. 'Tis the work of Fortune.
Fr. Of Fortune!
Luc. As an incidental result of my journey, you see in me a happy man; 'thrice-blest,' as the tragedians have it.
Fr. Dear me. What, in this short time?
Luc. Even so.
Fr. But what does it all mean? What is the secret of your elation? I decline to rejoice with you in this abridged fashion; I must have details. Tell me all about it.
Luc. What should you think, if I told you that I had exchanged servitude for freedom; poverty for true wealth; folly and presumption for good sense?
Fr. Extraordinary! But I am not quite clear of your meaning yet.
Luc. Why, I went off to Rome to see an oculist—my eyes had been getting worse—
Fr. Yes, I know about that. I have been hoping that you would light on a good man.
Luc. Well, I got up early one morning with the intention of paying a long-deferred visit to Nigrinus, the Platonic philosopher. On reaching his house, I knocked, and was duly announced and admitted to his presence. I found him with a book in his hand, surrounded by various statues of the ancient philosophers. Before him lay a tablet, with geometrical figures described on it, and a globe of reeds, designed apparently to represent the universe. He greeted me cordially, and asked after my welfare. I satisfied his inquiries, and demanded, in my turn, how he did, and whether he had decided on another trip to Greece. Once on that subject, he gave free expression to his sentiments; and, I assure you, 'twas a veritable feast of ambrosia to me. The spells of the Sirens (if ever there were Sirens), of the Pindaric 'Charmers,' of the Homeric lotus, are things to be forgotten, after his truly divine eloquence. Led on by his theme, he spoke the praises of philosophy, and of the freedom which philosophy confers; and expressed his contempt for the vulgar error which sets a value upon wealth and renown and dominion and power, upon gold and purple, and all that dazzles the eyes of the world,—and once attracted my own! I listened with rapt attention, and with a swelling heart. At the time, I knew not what had come over me; my feelings were indescribable. My dearest idols, riches and renown, lay shattered; one moment I was ready to shed bitter tears over the disillusionment, the next, I could have laughed for scorn of these very things, and was exulting in my escape from the murky atmosphere of my past life into the brightness of the upper air. The result was curious: I forgot all about my ophthalmic troubles, in the gradual improvement of my spiritual vision; for till that day I had grovelled in spiritual blindness. Little by little I came into the condition with which you were twitting me just now. Nigrinus's words have raised in me a joyous exaltation of spirit which precludes every meaner thought. Philosophy seems to have produced the same effect on me as wine is said to have produced on the Indians the first time they drank it. The mere taste of such potent liquor threw them into a state of absolute frenzy, the intoxicating power of the wine being doubled in men so warm-blooded by nature. This is my case. I go about like one possessed; I am drunk with the words of wisdom.
Fr. This is not drunkenness, but sobriety and temperance. But I should like to hear what Nigrinus actually said, if that may be. It is only right that you should take that trouble for me; I am your friend, and share your interests.
Luc. Enough! You urge a willing steed. I was about to bespeak your attention. You must be my witness to the world, that there is reason in my madness. Indeed, apart from this, the work of recollection is a pleasure, and has become a constant practice with me; twice, thrice in a day I repeat over his words, though there is none to hear. A lover, in the absence of his mistress, remembers some word, some act of hers, dwells on it, and beguiles hours of sickness with her feigned presence. Sometimes he thinks he is face to face with her; words, heard long since, come again from her lips; he rejoices; his soul cleaves to the memory of the past, and has no time for present vexations. It is so with me. Philosophy is far away, but I have heard a philosopher's words. I piece them together, and revolve them in my heart, and am comforted. Nigrinus is the beacon-fire on which, far out in mid-ocean, in the darkness of night, I fix my gaze; I fancy him present with me in all my doings; I hear ever the same words. At times, in moments of concentration, I see his very face, his voice rings in my ears. Of him it may truly be said, as of Pericles,
In every heart he left his sting.
Fr. Stay, gentle enthusiast. Take a good breath, and start again; I am waiting to hear what Nigrinus said. You beat about the bush in a manner truly exasperating.
Luc. True, I must make a start, as you say. And yet... Tell me, did you never see a tragedy (nay, the comedies fare no better) murdered by bad acting, and the culprits finally hissed off the stage for their pains? As often as not the play is a perfectly good one, and has scored a success.
Fr. I know the sort of thing; and what about it?
Luc. I am afraid that before I have done you will find that I make as sad work of it as they do,—jumbling things together pell-mell, spoiling the whole point sometimes by inadequate expression; and you will end by damning the play instead of the actor. I could put up with my own share of the disgrace; but it would vex me indeed, that my subject should be involved in my downfall; I cannot have it discredited for my shortcomings. Remember, then: whatever the imperfections in my speech, the author is not to be called to account; he sits far aloof from the stage, and knows nothing of what is going forward. The memory of the actor is all that you are invited to criticize; I am neither more nor less than the 'Messenger' in a tragedy. At each flaw in the argument, be this your first thought, that the author probably said something quite different, and much more to the point;—and then you may hiss me off if you will.
Fr. Bless me; here is quite a professional exordium! You are about to add, I think, that 'your consultation with your client has been but brief'; that you 'come into court imperfectly instructed'; that 'it were to be desired that your client were here to plead his own cause; as it is, you are reduced to such a meagre and inadequate statement of the case, as memory will supply.' Am I right? Well then, spare yourself the trouble, as far as I am concerned. Imagine all these preliminaries settled. I stand prepared to applaud: but if you keep me waiting, I shall harbour resentment all through the case, and hiss you accordingly.
Luc. I should, indeed, have been glad to avail myself of the arguments you mention, and of others too. I might have said, that mine would be no set speech, no orderly statement such as that I heard; that is wholly beyond me. Nor can I speak in the person of Nigrinus. There again I should be like a bad actor, taking the part of Agamemnon, or Creon, or Heracles' self; he is arrayed in cloth of gold, and looks very formidable, and his mouth opens tremendously wide; and what comes out of it? A little, shrill, womanish pipe of a voice that would disgrace Polyxena or Hecuba! I for my part have no intention of exposing myself in a mask several sizes too large for me, or of wearing a robe to which I cannot do credit. Rather than play the hero's part, and involve him in my discomfiture, I will speak in my own person.
Fr. Will the man never have done with his masks and his stages?
Luc. Nay, that is all. And now to my subject. Nigrinus's first words were in praise of Greece, and in particular of the Athenians. They are brought up, he said, to poverty and to philosophy. The endeavours, whether of foreigners or of their own countrymen, to introduce luxury into their midst, find no favour with them. When a man comes among them with this view, they quietly set about to correct his tendency, and by gentle degrees to bring him to a better course of life. He mentioned the case of a wealthy man who arrived at Athens in all the vulgar pomp of retinue and gold and gorgeous raiment, expecting that every eye would be turned upon him in envy of his lot; instead of which, they heartily pitied the poor worm, and proceeded to take his education in hand. Not an ill-natured word, not an attempt at direct interference: it was a free city; he was at liberty to live in it as he thought fit. But when he made a public nuisance of himself in the baths or gymnasiums, crowding in with his attendants, and taking up all the room, someone would whisper, in a sly aside, as if the words were not meant to reach his ears: 'He is afraid he will never come out from here alive; yet all is peace; there is no need of such an army.' The remark would be overheard, and would have its educational effect. They soon eased him of his embroidery and purple, by playful allusions to flower and colour. 'Spring is early.'—'How did that peacock get here?'—'His mother must have lent him that shawl,'—and so on. The same with the rest, his rings, his elaborate coiffure, and his table excesses. Little by little he came to his senses, and left Athens very much the better for the public education he had received.
Nor do they scruple to confess their poverty. He mentioned a sentence which he heard pronounced unanimously by the assembled people at the Panathenaic festival. A citizen had been arrested and brought before the Steward for making his appearance in coloured clothes. The onlookers felt for him, and took his part; and when the herald declared that he had violated the law by attending the festival in that attire, they all exclaimed with one voice, as if they had been in consultation, 'that he must be pardoned for wearing those clothes, as he had no others.'
He further commended the Athenian liberty, and unpretentious style of living; the peace and learned leisure which they so abundantly enjoy. To dwell among such men, he declared, is to dwell with philosophy; a single-hearted man, who has been taught to despise wealth, may here preserve a pure morality; no life could be more in harmony with the determined pursuit of all that is truly beautiful. But the man over whom gold has cast its spell, who is in love with riches, and measures happiness by purple raiment and dominion, who, living his life among flatterers and slaves, knows not the sweets of freedom, the blessings of candour, the beauty of truth; he who has given up his soul to Pleasure, and will serve no other mistress, whose heart is set on gluttony and wine and women, on whose tongue are deceit and hypocrisy; he again whose ears must be tickled with lascivious songs, and the voluptuous notes of flute and lyre;—let all such (he cried) dwell here in Rome; the life will suit them. Our streets and market-places are filled with the things they love best. They may take in pleasure through every aperture, through eye and ear, nostril and palate; nor are the claims of Aphrodite forgotten. The turbid stream surges everlastingly through our streets; avarice, perjury, adultery,—all tastes are represented. Under that rush of waters, modesty, virtue, uprightness, are torn from the soul; and in their stead grows the tree of perpetual thirst, whose flowers are many strange desires.
Such was Rome; such were the blessings she taught men to enjoy. 'As for me,' he continued, 'on returning from my first voyage to Greece, I stopped short a little way from the city, and called myself to account, in the words of Homer, for my return.
Ah, wretch! and leav'st thou then the light of day— the joyous freedom of Greece, And wouldst behold—
the turmoil of Rome? slander and insolence and gluttony, flatterers and false friends, legacy-hunters and murderers? And what wilt thou do here? thou canst not endure these things, neither canst thou escape them! Thus reasoning, I withdrew myself out of range, as Zeus did Hector,
Far from the scene of slaughter, blood and strife,
and resolved henceforth to keep my house. I lead the life you see—a spiritless, womanish life, most men would account it—holding converse with Philosophy, with Plato, with Truth. From my high seat in this vast theatre, I look down on the scene beneath me; a scene calculated to afford much entertainment; calculated also to try a man's resolution to the utmost. For, to give evil its due, believe me, there is no better school for virtue, no truer test of moral strength, than life in this same city of Rome. It is no easy thing, to withstand so many temptations, so many allurements and distractions of sight and sound. There is no help for it: like Odysseus, we must sail past them all; and there must be no binding of hands, no stopping of our ears with wax; that would be but sorry courage: our ears must hear, our hands must be free,—and our contempt must be genuine. Well may that man conceive an admiration of philosophy, who is a spectator of so much folly; well may he despise the gifts of Fortune, who views this stage, and its multitudinous actors. The slave grows to be master, the rich man is poor, the pauper becomes a prince, a king; and one is His Majesty's friend, and another is his enemy, and a third he banishes. And here is the strangest thing of all: the affairs of mankind are confessedly the playthings of Fortune, they have no pretence to security; yet, with instances of this daily before their eyes, men will reach after wealth and power;—not one of them but carries his load of hopes unrealized.
'But I said that there was entertainment also to be derived from the scene; and I will maintain it. Our rich men are an entertainment in themselves, with their purple and their rings always in evidence, and their thousand vulgarities. The latest development is the salutation by proxy; [Footnote: The spoken salutation being performed by a servant.] they favour us with a glance, and that must be happiness enough. By the more ambitious spirits, an obeisance is expected; this is not performed at a distance, after the Persian fashion—you go right up, and make a profound bow, testifying with the angle of your body to the self-abasement of your soul; you then kiss his hand or breast—and happy and enviable is he who may do so much! And there stands the great man, protracting the illusion as long as may be. (I heartily acquiesce, by the way, in the churlish sentence which excludes us from a nearer acquaintance with their lips.)
'But if these men are amusing, their courtiers and flatterers are doubly so. They rise in the small hours of the night, to go their round of the city, to have doors slammed in their faces by slaves, to swallow as best they may the compliments of "Dog," "Toadeater," and the like. And the guerdon of their painful circumambulations? A vulgarly magnificent dinner, the source of many woes! They eat too much, they drink more than they want, they talk more than they should; and then they go away, angry and disappointed, grumbling at their fare, and protesting against the scant courtesy shown them by their insolent patron. You may see them vomiting in every alley, squabbling at every brothel. The daylight most of them spend in bed, furnishing employment for the doctors. Most of them, I say; for with some it has come to this, that they actually have no time to be ill. My own opinion is that, of the two parties, the toadies are more to blame, and have only themselves to thank for their patron's insolence. What can they expect him to think, after their commendations of his wealth, their panegyrics on money, their early attendance at his doors, their servile salutations? If by common consent they would abstain, were it only for a few days, from this voluntary servitude, the tables must surely be turned, and the rich come to the doors of the paupers, imploring them not to leave such blessedness as theirs without a witness, their fine houses and elegant furniture lying idle for want of some one to use them. Not wealth, but the envy that waits on wealth, is the object of their desire. The truth is, gold and ivory and noble mansions are of little avail to their owner, if there is no one to admire them. If we would break the power of the rich, and bring down their pretensions, we must raise up within their borders a stronghold of Indifference. As it is, their vanity is fostered by the court that is paid to them. In ordinary men, who have no pretence to education, this conduct, no doubt, is less to be blamed. But that men who call themselves philosophers should actually outdo the rest in degradation,—this, indeed, is the climax. Imagine my feelings, when I see a brother philosopher, an old man, perhaps, mingling in the herd of sycophants; dancing attendance on some great man; adapting himself to the conversational level of a possible host! One thing, indeed, serves to distinguish him from his company, and to accentuate his disgrace;—he wears the garb of philosophy. It is much to be regretted that actors of uniform excellence in other respects will not dress conformably to their part. For in the achievements of the table, what toadeater besides can be compared with them? There is an artlessness in their manner of stuffing themselves, a frankness in their tippling, which defy competition; they sponge with more spirit than other men, and sit on with greater persistency. It is not an uncommon thing for the more courtly sages to oblige the company with a song.'
All this he treated as a jest. But he had much to say on the subject of those paid philosophers, who hawk about virtue like any other marketable commodity. 'Hucksters' and 'petty traders' were his words for them. A man who proposes to teach the contempt of wealth, should begin (he maintained) by showing a soul above fees. And certainly he has always acted on this principle himself. He is not content with giving his services gratis to all comers, but lends a helping hand to all who are in difficulties, and shows an absolute disregard for riches. So far is he from grasping at other men's goods, that he could anticipate without concern the deterioration of his own property. He possessed an estate at no great distance from the city, on which for many years he had never even set foot. Nay, he disclaimed all right of property in it; meaning, I suppose, that we have no natural claim to such things; law, and the rights of inheritance, give us the use of them for an indefinite period, and for that time we are styled 'owners'; presently our term lapses, and another succeeds to the enjoyment of a name.
There are other points in which he sets an admirable example to the serious followers of philosophy: his frugal life, his systematic habits of bodily exercise, his modest bearing, his simplicity of dress, but above all, gentle manners and a constant mind. He urges his followers not to postpone the pursuit of good, as so many do, who allow themselves a period of grace till the next great festival, after which they propose to eschew deceit and lead a righteous life; there must be no shilly-shallying, when virtue is the goal for which we start. On the other hand, there are philosophers whose idea of inculcating virtue in their youthful disciples is to subject them to various tests of physical endurance; whose favourite prescription is the strait waistcoat, varied with flagellations, or the enlightened process of scarification. Of these Nigrinus evidently had no opinion. According to him, our first care should be to inure the soul to pain and hardship; he who aspired to educate men aright must reckon with soul as well as body, with the age of his pupils, and with their previous training; he would then escape the palpable blunder of overtasking them. Many a one (he affirmed) had succumbed under the unreasonable strain put upon him; and I met with an instance myself, of a man who had tasted the hardships of those schools, but no sooner heard the words of true wisdom, than he fled incontinently to Nigrinus, and was manifestly the better for the change.
Leaving the philosophers to themselves, he reverted to more general subjects: the din and bustle of the city, the theatres, the race-course, the statues of charioteers, the nomenclature of horses, the horse-talk in every side-street. The rage for horses has become a positive epidemic; many persons are infected with it whom one would have credited with more sense.
Then the scene changed to the pomp and circumstance attendant upon funerals and testamentary dispositions. 'Only once in his life' (he observed) 'does your thoroughbred Roman say what he means; and then,' meaning, in his will, 'it comes too late for him to enjoy the credit of it.' I could not help laughing when he told me how they thought it necessary to carry their follies with them to the grave, and to leave the record of their inanity behind them in black and white; some stipulating that their clothes or other treasures should be burnt with them, others that their graves should be watched by particular servants, or their monuments crowned with flowers;—sapient end to a life of sapience! 'Of their doings in this world,' said he, 'you may form some idea from their injunctions with reference to the next. These are they who will pay a long price for an entree; whose floors are sprinkled with wine and saffron and spices; who in midwinter smother themselves in roses, ay, for roses are scarce, and out of season, and altogether desirable; but let a thing come in its due course, and oh, 'tis vile, 'tis contemptible. These are they whose drink is of costly essences.' He had no mercy on them here. 'Very bunglers in sensuality, who know not her laws, and confound her ordinances, flinging down their souls to be trampled beneath the heels of luxury! As the play has it, Door or window, all is one to them. Such pleasures are rank solecism.' One observation of his in the same spirit fairly caps the famous censure of Momus. Momus found fault with the divine artificer for not putting his bull's horns in front of the eyes. Similarly, Nigrinus complained that when these men crown themselves in their banquets, they put the garlands in the wrong place; if they are so fond of the smell of violets and roses, they should tie on their garlands as close as may be under their nostrils; they could then snuff up the smell to their hearts' content.
Proceeding to the gentlemen who make such a serious work of their dinner, he was exceedingly merry over their painful elaborations of sauce and seasoning. 'Here again,' he cried, 'these men are sore put to it, to procure the most fleeting of enjoyments. Grant them four inches of palate apiece—'tis the utmost we can allow any man—and I will prove to you that they have four inches of gratification for their trouble. Thus: there is no satisfaction to be got out of the costliest viands before consumption; and after it a full stomach is none the better for the price it has cost to fill it. Ergo, the money is paid for the pleasure snatched in transitu. But what are we to expect? These men are too grossly ignorant to discern those truer pleasures with which Philosophy rewards our resolute endeavours.'
The Baths proved a fertile topic, what with the insolence of the masters and the jostlings of their men;—'they will not stand without the support of a slave; it is much that they retain enough vitality to get away on their own legs at all.' One practice which obtains in the streets and Baths of Rome seemed to arouse his particular resentment. Slaves have to walk on ahead of their masters, and call out to them to 'look to their feet,' whenever there is a hole or a lump in their way; it has come to this, that men must be reminded that they are walking. 'It is too much,' he cried; 'these men can get through their dinner with the help of their own teeth and fingers; they can hear with their own ears: yet they must have other men's eyes to see for them! They are in possession of all their faculties: yet they are content to be spoken to in language which should only be addressed to poor maimed wretches! And this goes on in broad daylight, in our public places; and among the sufferers are men who are responsible for the welfare of cities!'
This he said, and much more to the same effect. At length he was silent. All the time I had listened in awestruck attention, dreading the moment when he should cease. And when it was all over, my condition was like that of the Phaeacians. For a long time I gazed upon him, spellbound; then I was seized with a violent attack of giddiness; I was bathed in perspiration, and when I attempted to speak, I broke down; my voice failed, my tongue stammered, and at last I was reduced to tears. Mine was no surface wound from a random shaft. The words had sunk deep into a vital part; had come with true aim, and cleft my soul asunder. For (if I may venture to philosophize on my own account) I conceive the case thus:-A well-conditioned human soul is like a target of some soft material. As life goes on, many archers take aim thereat; and every man's quiver is full of subtle and varied arguments, but not every man shoots aright. Some draw the bow too tight, and let fly with undue violence. These hit the true direction, but their shafts do not lodge in the mark; their impetus carries them right through the soul, and they pass on their way, leaving only a gaping wound behind them. Others make the contrary mistake: their bows are too slack, and their shafts never reach their destination; as often as not their force is spent at half distance, and they drop to earth. Or if they reach the mark, they do but graze its surface; there can be no deep wound, where the archer lacks strength. But a good marksman, a Nigrinus, begins with a careful examination of the mark, in case it should be particularly soft,—or again too hard; for there are marks which will take no impression from an arrow. Satisfied on this point, he dips his shaft, not in the poisons of Scythia or Crete, but in a certain ointment of his own, which is sweet in flavour and gentle in operation; then, without more ado, he lets fly. The shaft speeds with well-judged swiftness, cleaves the mark right through, and remains lodged in it; and the drug works its way through every part. Thus it is that men hear his words with mingled joy and grief; and this was my own case, while the drug was gently diffusing itself through my soul. Hence I was moved to apostrophize him in the words of Homer:
So aim; and thou shalt bring (to some) salvation.
For as it is not every man that is maddened by the sound of the Phrygian flute, but only those who are inspired of Cybele, and by those strains are recalled to their frenzy,—so too not every man who hears the words of the philosophers will go away possessed, and stricken at heart, but only those in whose nature is something akin to philosophy.
Fr. These are fearful and wonderful words; nay, they are divine. All that you said of ambrosia and lotus is true; I little knew how sumptuous had been your feast. I have listened to you with strange emotion, and now that you have ceased, I feel oppressed, nay, in your own language, 'sore stricken.' This need not surprise you. A person who has been bitten by a mad dog not only goes mad himself, you know, but communicates his madness to any one whom he bites whilst he is in that state, so that the infection may be carried on by this means through a long succession of persons.
Luc. Ah, then you confess to a tenderness?
Fr. I do; and beg that you will think upon some medicine for both our wounded breasts.
Luc. We must take a hint from Telephus.
Fr. What is that?
Luc. We want a hair of the dog that bit us.
TRIAL IN THE COURT OF VOWELS
Archon, Aristarchus of Phalerum. Seventh Pyanepsion. Court of the Seven Vowels. Action for assault with robbery. Sigma v. Tau. Plaintiff's case—that the words in-pp-are wrongfully withheld from him.
Vowels of the jury.—For some time this Mr. Tau's trespasses and encroachments on my property were of minor importance; I made no claim for damages, and affected unconsciousness of what I heard; my conciliatory temper both you and the other letters have reason to know. His covetousness and folly, however, have now so puffed him up, that he is no longer content with my habitual concessions, but insists on more; I accordingly find myself compelled to get the matter settled by you who know both sides of it. The fact is, I am in bodily fear, owing to the crushing to which I am subjected. This evergrowing aggression will end by ousting me completely from my own; I shall be almost dumb, lose my rank as a letter, and be degraded to a mere noise.
Justice requires then that not merely you, the jury in this case, but the other letters also, should be on your guard against such attempts. If any one who chooses is to be licensed to leave his own place and usurp that of others, with no objection on your part (whose concurrence is an indispensable condition of all writing), I fail to see how combinations are to have their ancient constitutional rights secured to them. But my first reliance is upon you, who will surely never be guilty of the negligence and indifference which permits injustice; and even if you decline the contest, I have no intention of sitting down under that injustice myself.
It is much to be regretted that the assaults of other letters were not repelled when they first began their lawless practices; then we should not be watching the still pending dispute between Lambda and Rho for possession of kephalalgia or kephalargia, kishlis or kishris: Gamma would not have had to defend its rights over gyaphalla, constantly almost at blows with Kappa in the debatable land, and per contra it would itself have dropped its campaign against Lambda (if indeed it is more dignified than petty larceny) for converting molis to mogis: in fact lawless confusion generally would have been nipped in the bud. And it is well to abide by the established order; such trespasses betray a revolutionary spirit.
Now our first legislators—Cadmus the islander, Palamedes, son of Nauplius, or Simonides, whom some authorities credit with the measure—were not satisfied with determining merely our order of precedence in the alphabet; they also had an eye to our individual qualities and faculties. You, Vowels of the jury, constitute the first Estate, because you can be uttered independently; the semi-vowels, requiring support before they can be distinctly heard, are the second; and the lowest Estate they declared to consist of those nine which cannot be sounded at all by themselves. The vowels are accordingly the natural guardians of our laws.
But this—this Tau—I would give him a worse designation, but that is a manifest impossibility; for without the assistance of two good presentable members of your Estate, Alpha and Upsilon, he would be a mere nonentity—he it is that has dared to outdo all injuries that I have ever known, expelling me from the nouns and verbs of my inheritance, and hunting me out of my conjunctions and prepositions, till his rapacity has become quite unbearable. I am now to trace proceedings from the beginning.
I was once staying at Cybelus, a pleasant little town, said to be an Athenian colony; my travelling companion was the excellent Rho, best of neighbours. My host was a writer of comedies, called Lysimachus; he seems to have been a Boeotian by descent, though he represented himself as coming from the interior of Attica. It was while with him that I first detected Tau's depredations [Footnote: For the probably corrupt passage Section 7 fin.—Section 8 init. I accept Dindorf's rearrangement as follows: mechr men gar oligois epecheirei, tettarakonta legein axioun, eti de taemeron kai ta homoia epispomenon, sunaetheian thmaen idia tauti legein, kai oiston aen moi to akousma kai ou panu ti edaknomaen ep autois. 8. hupote d ek touton arxamenon etolmaese kattiteron eipein kai kattuma kai pittan, eita aperuthriasan kai basilitgan onomazein, aposteroun me ton suggegenaemenun moi kai suntethrammenun grammatun, ou metrius ipi toutois aganaktu.]. For some earlier occasional attempts (as when he took to tettaroakonta for tessarakonta, taemeron for saemeron, with little pilferings of that sort) I had explained as a trick and peculiarity of pronunciation; I had tolerated the sound without letting it annoy me seriously.
But impunity emboldened him; kassiteros became kattiteros, kassuma and pissa shared its fate; and then he cast off all shame and assaulted basigissa. I found myself losing the society in which I had been born and bred [Footnote: For the probably corrupt passage Section 7 fin.— Section 8 init. I accept Dindorf's rearrangement as follows: _mechr men gar oligois epecheirei, tettarakonta legein axioun, eti de taemeron kai ta homoia epispomenon, sunaetheian thmaen idia tauti legein, kai oiston aen moi to akousma kai ou panu ti edaknomaen ep autois_. 8. _hupote d ek touton arxamenon etolmaese kattiteron eipein kai kattuma kai pittan, eita aperuthriasan kai basilitgan onomazein, aposteroun me ton suggegenaemenun moi kai suntethrammenun grammatun, ou metrius ipi toutois aganaktu.</i]; at such a time equanimity is out of place; I am tortured with apprehension; how long will it be before _suka_ is _tuka_? Bear with me, I beseech you; I despair and have none to help me; do I not well to be angry? It is no petty everyday peril, this threatened separation from my long-tried familiars. My _kissa_, my talking bird that nestled in my breast, he has torn away and named anew; my _phassa_, my _nhssai_, my _khossuphoi_—all gone; and I had Aristarchus's own word that they were mine; half my _melissai_ he has lured to strange hives; Attica itself he has invaded, and wrongfully annexed its Hymettus (as he calls it); and you and the rest looked on at the seizure.
But why dwell on such trifles? I am driven from all Thessaly (Thettaly, forsooth!), thalassa is now mare clausum to me; he will not leave me a poor garden-herb like seutlion, I have never a passalos to hang myself upon. What a long-suffering letter I am myself, your own knowledge is witness enough. When Zeta stole my smaragdos, and robbed me of all Smyrna, I never took proceedings against him; Xi might break all sunthhkai, and appeal to Thucydides (who ought to know) as xympathizing with his xystem; I let them alone. My neighbour Rho I made no difficulty about pardoning as an invalid, when he transplanted my mursinai into his garden, or, in a fit of the spleen, took liberties with my khopsh. So much for my temper.
Tau's, on the other hand, is naturally violent; its manifestations are not confined to me. In proof that he has not spared other letters, but assaulted Delta, Theta, Zeta, and almost the whole alphabet, I wish his various victims to be put in the box. Now, Vowels of the jury, mark the evidence of Delta:—'He robbed me of endelecheia, which he claimed, quite illegally, as entelecheia.' Mark Theta beating his breast and plucking out his hair in grief for the loss of kolokunthh. And Zeta mourns for surizein and salpizein—nay, cannot mourn, for lack of his gryzein. What tolerance is possible, what penalty adequate, for this criminal letter's iniquities?
But his wrongs are not even limited to us, his own species; he has now extended his operations to mankind, as I shall show. He does not permit their tongues to work straight. (But that mention of mankind calls me back for a moment, reminding me how he turns glossa into glotta, half robbing me of the tongue itself. Ay, you are a disease of the tongue in every sense, Tau.) But I return from that digression, to plead the cause of mankind and its wrongs. The prisoner's designs include the constraint, racking, and mutilation of their utterance. A man sees a beautiful thing, and wishes to describe it as kalon, but in comes Tau, and forces the man to say talon he must have precedence everywhere, of course. Another man has something to say about a vine, and lo, before it is out, it is metamorphosed by this miserable creature into misery; he has changed slaema to tlaema, with a suggestive hint of tlaemon. And, not content with middle-class victims, he aims at the Persian king himself, the one for whom land and sea are said to have made way and changed their nature: Cyrus comes out at his bidding as Tyrus.
Such are his verbal offences against man; his offences in deed remain. Men weep, and bewail their lot, and curse Cadmus with many curses for introducing Tau into the family of letters; they say it was his body that tyrants took for a model, his shape that they imitated, when they set up the erections on which men are crucified. Stayros the vile engine is called, and it derives its vile name from him. Now, with all these crimes upon him, does he not deserve death, nay, many deaths? For my part I know none bad enough but that supplied by his own shape —that shape which he gave to the gibbet named Stayros after him by men.
TIMON THE MISANTHROPE
Timon. Zeus. Hermes. Plutus. Poverty. Gnathonides. Philiades. Demeas. Thrasycles. Blepsias.
Tim. O Zeus, thou arbiter of friendship, protector of the guest, preserver of fellowship, lord of the hearth, launcher of the lightning, avenger of oaths, compeller of clouds, utterer of thunder (and pray add any other epithets; those cracked poets have plenty ready, especially when they are in difficulties with their scansion; then it is that a string of your names saves the situation and fills up the metrical gaps), O Zeus, where is now your resplendent lightning, where your deep-toned thunder, where the glowing, white- hot, direful bolt? we know now 'tis all fudge and poetic moonshine— barring what value may attach to the rattle of the names. That renowned projectile of yours, which ranged so far and was so ready to your hand, has gone dead and cold, it seems; never a spark left in it to scorch iniquity.
If men are meditating perjury, a smouldering lamp-wick is as likely to frighten them off it as the omnipotent's levin-bolt; the brand you hold over them is one from which they see neither flame nor smoke can come; a little soot-grime is the worst that need be apprehended from a touch of it. No wonder if Salmoneus challenged you to a thundering-match; he was reasonable enough when he backed his artificial heat against so cool-tempered a Zeus. Of course he was; there are you in your opiate-trance, never hearing the perjurers nor casting a glance at criminals, your glazed eyes dull to all that happens, and your ears as deaf as a dotard's.
When you were young and keen, and your temper had some life in it, you used to bestir yourself against crime and violence; there were no armistices in those days; the thunderbolt was always hard at it, the aegis quivering, the thunder rattling, the lightning engaged in a perpetual skirmish. Earth was shaken like a sieve, buried in snow, bombarded with hail. It rained cats and dogs (if you will pardon my familiarity), and every shower was a waterspout. Why, in Deucalion's time, hey presto, everything was swamped, mankind went under, and just one little ark was saved, stranding on the top of Lycoreus and preserving a remnant of human seed for the generation of greater wickedness.
Mankind pays you the natural wages of your laziness; if any one offers you a victim or a garland nowadays, it is only at Olympia as a perfunctory accompaniment of the games; he does it not because he thinks it is any good, but because he may as well keep up an old custom. It will not be long, most glorious of deities, before they serve you as you served Cronus, and depose you. I will not rehearse all the robberies of your temple—those are trifles; but they have laid hands on your person at Olympia, my lord High-Thunderer, and you had not the energy to wake the dogs or call in the neighbours; surely they might have come to the rescue and caught the fellows before they had finished packing up the swag. But there sat the bold Giant-slayer and Titan-conqueror letting them cut his hair, with a fifteen-foot thunderbolt in his hand all the time! My good sir, when is this careless indifference to cease? how long before you will punish such wickedness? Phaethon-falls and Deucalion-deluges—a good many of them will be required to suppress this swelling human insolence.
To leave generalities and illustrate from my own case—I have raised any number of Athenians to high position, I have turned poor men into rich, I have assisted every one that was in want, nay, flung my wealth broadcast in the service of my friends, and now that profusion has brought me to beggary, they do not so much as know me; I cannot get a glance from the men who once cringed and worshipped and hung upon my nod. If I meet one of them in the street, he passes me by as he might pass the tombstone of one long dead; it has fallen face upwards, loosened by time, but he wastes no moment deciphering it. Another will take the next turning when he sees me in the distance; I am a sight of ill omen, to be shunned by the man whose saviour and benefactor I had been not so long ago.
Thus in disgrace with fortune, I have betaken me to this corner of the earth, where I wear the smock-frock and dig for sixpence a day, with solitude and my spade to assist meditation. So much gain I reckon upon here—to be exempt from contemplating unmerited prosperity; no sight that so offends the eye as that. And now, Son of Cronus and Rhea, may I ask you to shake off that deep sound sleep of yours—why, Epimenides's was a mere nap to it—, put the bellows to your thunderbolt or warm it up in Etna, get it into a good blaze, and give a display of spirit, like a manly vigorous Zeus? or are we to believe the Cretans, who show your grave among their sights?
Zeus. Hermes, who is that calling out from Attica? there, on the lower slopes of Hymettus—a grimy squalid fellow in a smock-frock; he is bending over a spade or something; but he has a tongue in his head, and is not afraid to use it. He must be a philosopher, to judge from his fluent blasphemy.
Her. What, father! have you forgotten Timon—son of Echecratides, of Collytus? many is the time he has feasted us on unexceptionable victims; the rich parvenu of the whole hecatombs, you know, who used to do us so well at the Diasia.
Zeus. Dear, dear, quantum mutatus! is this the admired, the rich, the popular? What has brought him to this pass? There he is in filth and misery, digging for hire, labouring at that ponderous spade.
Her. Why, if you like to put it so, it was kindness and generosity and universal compassion that ruined him; but it would be nearer the truth to call him a fool and a simpleton and a blunderer; he did not realize that his proteges were carrion crows and wolves; vultures were feeding on his unfortunate liver, and he took them for friends and good comrades, showing a fine appetite just to please him. So they gnawed his bones perfectly clean, sucked out with great precision any marrow there might be in them, and went off, leaving him as dry as a tree whose roots have been severed; and now they do not know him or vouchsafe him a nod—no such fools—, nor ever think of showing him charity or repaying his gifts. That is how the spade and smock-frock are accounted for; he is ashamed to show his face in town; so he hires himself out to dig, and broods over his wrongs—the rich men he has made passing him contemptuously by, apparently quite unaware that his name is Timon.
Zeus. This is a case we must take up and see to. No wonder he is down on his luck. We should be putting ourselves on the level of his despicable sycophants, if we forgot all the fat ox and goat thighs he has burnt on our altars; the savour of them is yet in my nostrils. But I have been so busy, there is such a din of perjury, assault, and burglary; I am so frightened of the temple-robbers—they swarm now, you cannot keep them out, nor take a nap with any safety; and, with one thing and another, it is an age since I had a look at Attica. I have hardly been there since philosophy and argument came into fashion; indeed, with their shouting-matches going on, prayers are quite inaudible. One must sit with one's ears plugged, if one does not want the drums of them cracked; such long vociferous rigmaroles about Incorporeal Things, or something they call Virtue! That is how we came to neglect this man—who really deserved better.
However, go to him now without wasting any more time, Hermes, and take Plutus with you. Thesaurus is to accompany Plutus, and they are both to stay with Timon, and not leave him so lightly this time, even though the generous fellow does his best to find other hosts for them. As to those parasites, and the ingratitude they showed him, I will attend to them before long; they shall have their deserts as soon as I have got the thunderbolt in order again. Its two best spikes are broken and blunted; my zeal outran my discretion the other day when I took that shot at Anaxagoras the sophist; the Gods non-existent, indeed! that was what he was telling his disciples. However, I missed him (Pericles had held up his hand to shield him), and the bolt glanced off on to the Anaceum, set it on fire, and was itself nearly pulverized on the rock. But meanwhile it will be quite sufficient punishment for them to see Timon rolling in money.
Her. Nothing like lifting up your voice, making yourself a nuisance, and showing a bold front; it is equally effective whether you are pleading with juries or deities. Here is Timon developing from pauper to millionaire, just because his prayer was loud and free enough to startle Zeus; if he had dug quietly with his face to his work, he might have dug to all eternity, for any notice he would have got.
Pl. Well, Zeus, I am not going to him.
Zeus. Your reason, good Plutus; have I not told you to go?
Pl. Good God! why, he insulted me, threw me about, dismembered me— me, his old family friend—and practically pitchforked me out of the house; he could not have been in a greater hurry to be rid of me if I had been a live coal in his hand. What, go there again, to be transferred to toadies and flatterers and harlots? No, no, Zeus; send me to people who will appreciate the gift, take care of me, value and cherish me. Let these gulls consort with the poverty which they prefer to me; she will find them a smock-frock and a spade, and they can be thankful for a miserable pittance of sixpence a day, these reckless squanderers of 1,000 pound presents.
Zeus. Ah, Timon will not treat you that way again. If his loins are not of cast iron, his spade-work will have taught him a thing or two about your superiority to poverty. You are so particular, you know; now, you are finding fault with Timon for opening the door to you and letting you wander at your own sweet will, instead of keeping you in jealous seclusion. Yesterday it was another story: you were imprisoned by rich men under bolts and locks and seals, and never allowed a glimpse of sunlight. That was the burden of your complaint—you were stifled in deep darkness. We saw you pale and careworn, your fingers hooked with coin-counting, and heard how you would like to run away, if only you could get the chance. It was monstrous, then, that you should be kept in a bronze or iron chamber, like a Danae condemned to virginity, and brought up by those stern unscrupulous tutors, Interest, Debit and Credit.
They were perfectly ridiculous, you know, loving you to distraction, but not daring to enjoy you when they might; you were in their power, yet they could not give the reins to their passion; they kept awake watching you with their eyes glued to bolt and seal; the enjoyment that satisfied them was not to enjoy you themselves, but to prevent others' enjoying you—true dogs in the manger. Yes, and then how absurd it was that they should scrape and hoard, and end by being jealous of their own selves! Ah, if they could but see that rascally slave—steward—trainer—sneaking in bent on carouse! little enough he troubles his head about the luckless unamiable owner at his nightly accounts by a dim little half-fed lamp. How, pray, do you reconcile your old strictures of this sort with your contrary denunciation of Timon?
Pl. Oh, if you consider the thing candidly, you will find both attitudes reasonable. It is clear enough that Timon's utter negligence comes from slackness, and not from any consideration for me. As for the other sort, who keep me shut up in the obscurity of strong-boxes, intent on making me heavy and fat and unwieldy, never touching me themselves, and never letting me see the light, lest some one else should catch sight of me, I always thought of them as fools and tyrants; what harm had I done that they should let me rot in close confinement? and did not they know that in a little while they would pass away and have to resign me to some other lucky man?
No, give me neither these nor the off-hand gentry; my beau ideal is the man who steers a middle course, as far from complete abstention as from utter profusion. Consider, Zeus, by your own great name; suppose a man were to take a fair young wife, and then absolutely decline all jealous precautions, to the point of letting her wander where she would by day or night, keeping company with any one who had a mind to her—or put it a little stronger, and let him be procurer, janitor, pander, and advertiser of her charms in his own person—well, what sort of love is his? come, Zeus, you have a good deal of experience, you know what love is.
On the other hand, let a man make a suitable match for the express purpose of raising heirs, and then let him neither himself have anything to do with her ripe, yet modest, beauty, nor allow any other to set eyes on it, but shut her up in barren, fruitless virginity; let him say all the while that he is in love with her, and let his pallid hue, his wasting flesh and his sunken eyes confirm the statement;—is he a madman, or is he not? he should be raising a family and enjoying matrimony; but he lets this fair-faced lovely girl wither away; he might as well be bringing up a perpetual priestess of Demeter. And now you understand my feelings when one set of people kick me about or waste me by the bucketful, and the others clap irons on me like a runaway convict.
Zeus. However, indignation is superfluous; both sets have just what they deserve—one as hungry and thirsty and dry-mouthed as Tantalus, getting no further than gaping at the gold; and the other finding its food swept away from its very gullet, as the Harpies served Phineus. Come, be off with you; you will find Timon has much more sense nowadays.
Pl. Oh, of course! he will not do his best to let me run out of a leaky vessel before I have done running in! oh no, he will not be consumed with apprehensions of the inflow's gaining on the waste and flooding him! I shall be supplying a cask of the Danaids; no matter how fast I pour in, the thing will not hold water; every gallon will be out almost before it is in; the bore of the waste-pipe is so large, and never a plug.
Zeus. Well, if he does not stop the hole—if the leak is more than temporary—you will run out in no time, and he can find his smock-frock and spade again in the dregs of the cask. Now go along, both of you, and make the man rich. And, Hermes, on your way back, remember to bring the Cyclopes with you from Etna; my thunderbolt wants the grindstone; and I have work for it as soon as it is sharp.
Her. Come along, Plutus. Hullo! limping? My good man, I did not know you were lame as well as blind.
Pl. No, it is intermittent. As sure as Zeus sends me to any one, a sort of lethargy comes over me, my legs are like lead, and I can hardly get to my journey's end; my destined host is sometimes an old man before I reach him. As a parting guest, on the other hand, you may see me wing my way swifter than any dream. 'Are you ready?' and almost before 'Go' has sounded, up goes my name as winner; I have flashed round the course absolutely unseen sometimes.
Her. You are not quite keeping to the truth; I could name you plenty of people who yesterday had not the price of a halter to hang themselves with, and to-day have developed into lavish men of fortune; they drive their pair of high-steppers, whereas a donkey would have been beyond their means before. They go about in purple raiment with jewelled fingers, hardly convinced yet that their wealth is not all a dream.
Pl. Ah, those are special cases, Hermes. I do not go on my own feet on those occasions, and it is not Zeus who sends me, but Pluto, who has his own ways of conferring wealth and making presents; Pluto and Plutus are not unconnected, you see. When I am to flit from one house to another, they lay me on parchment, seal me up carefully, make a parcel of me and take me round. The dead man lies in some dark corner, shrouded from the knees upward in an old sheet, with the cats fighting for possession of him, while those who have expectations wait for me in the public place, gaping as wide as young swallows that scream for their mother's return.
Then the seal is taken off, the string cut, the parchment opened, and my new owner's name made known. It is a relation, or a parasite, or perhaps a domestic minion, whose value lay in his vices and his smooth cheeks; he has continued to supply his master with all sorts of unnatural pleasures beyond the years which might excuse such service, and now the fine fellow is richly rewarded. But whoever it is, he snatches me up, parchment included, and is off with me in a flash; he used to be called Pyrrhias or Dromo or Tibius, but now he is Megacles, Megabyzus, or Protarchus; off he goes, leaving the disappointed ones staring at each other in very genuine mourning-over the fine fish which has jumped out of the landing-net after swallowing their good bait.
The fellow who has pounced on me has neither taste nor feeling; the sight of fetters still gives him a start; crack a whip in his neighbourhood, and his ears tingle; the treadmill is an abode of awe to him. He is now insufferable—insults his new equals, and whips his old fellows to see what that side of the transaction feels like. He ends by finding a mistress, or taking to the turf, or being cajoled by parasites; these have only to swear he is handsomer than Nireus, nobler than Cecrops or Codrus, wiser than Odysseus, richer than a dozen Croesuses rolled into one; and so the poor wretch disperses in a moment what cost so many perjuries, robberies, and swindles to amass.
Her. A very fair picture. But when you go on your own feet, how can a blind man like you find the way? Zeus sends you to people who he thinks deserve riches; but how do you distinguish them?
Pl. Do you suppose I do find them? not much. I should scarcely have passed Aristides by, and gone to Hipponicus, Callias, and any number of other Athenians whose merits could have been valued in copper.
Her. Well, but what do you do when he sends you?
Pl. I just wander up and down till I come across some one; the first comer takes me off home with him, and thanks—whom but the God of windfalls, yourself?
Her. So Zeus is in error, and you do not enrich deserving persons according to his pleasure?
Pl. My dear fellow, how can he expect it? He knows I am blind, and he sends me groping about for a thing so hard to detect, and so nearly extinct this long time, that a Lynceus would have his work cut out spying for its dubious remains. So you see, as the good are few, and cities are crowded with multitudes of the bad, I am much more likely to come upon the latter in my rambles, and they keep me in their nets.
Her. But when you are leaving them, how do you find escape so easy? you do not know the way.
Pl. Ah, there is just one occasion which brings me quickness of eye and foot; and that is flight.
Her. Yet another question. You are not only blind (excuse my frankness), but pallid and decrepit; how comes it, then, that you have so many lovers? All men's looks are for you; if they get possession of you, they count themselves happy men; if they miss you, life is not worth living. Why, I have known not a few so sick for love of you that they have scaled some sky-pointing crag, and thence hurled themselves to unplumbed ocean depths [Footnote: See Apology for 'The Dependent Scholar,'], when they thought they were scorned by you, because you would not acknowledge their first salute. I am sure you know yourself well enough to confess that they must be lunatics, to rave about such charms as yours.
Pl. Why, you do not suppose they see me in my true shape, lame, blind, and so forth?
Her. How else, unless they are all as blind themselves?
Pl. They are not blind, my dear boy; but the ignorant misconceptions now so prevalent obscure their vision. And then I contribute; not to be an absolute fright when they see me, I put on a charming mask, all gilt and jewels, and dress myself up. They take the mask for my face, fall in love with its beauty, and are dying to possess it. If any one were to strip and show me to them naked, they would doubtless reproach themselves for their blindness in being captivated by such an ugly misshapen creature,
Her. How about fruition, then? When they are rich, and have put the mask on themselves, they are still deluded; if any one tries to take it off, they would sooner part with their heads than with it; and it is not likely they do not know by that time that the beauty is adventitious, now that they have an inside view. Pl. There too I have powerful allies.
Pl. When a man makes my acquaintance, and opens the door to let me in, there enter unseen by my side Arrogance, Folly, Vainglory, Effeminacy, Insolence, Deceit, and a goodly company more. These possess his soul; he begins to admire mean things, pursues what he should abhor, reveres me amid my bodyguard of the insinuating vices which I have begotten, and would consent to anything sooner than part with me.
Her. What a smooth, slippery, unstable, evasive fellow you are, Plutus! there is no getting a firm hold of you; you wriggle through one's fingers somehow, like an eel or a snake. Poverty is so different—sticky, clinging, all over hooks; any one who comes near her is caught directly, and finds it no simple matter to get clear. But all this gossip has put business out of our heads.
Pl. Business? What business?
Her. We have forgotten to bring Thesaurus, and we cannot do without him.
Pl. Oh, never mind him. When I come up to see you, I leave him on earth, with strict orders to stay indoors, and open to no one unless he hears my voice.
Her. Then we may make our way into Attica; hold on to my cloak till I find Timon's retreat.
Pl. It is just as well to keep touch; if you let me drop behind, I am as likely as not to be snapped up by Hyperbolus or Cleon. But what is that noise? it sounds like iron on stone.
Her. Ah, here is Timon close to us; what a steep stony little plot he has got to dig! Good gracious, I see Poverty and Toil in attendance, Endurance, Wisdom, Courage, and Hunger's whole company in full force—much more efficient than your guards, Plutus.
Pl. Oh dear, let us make the best of our way home, Hermes. We shall never produce any impression on a man surrounded by such troops.
Her. Zeus thought otherwise; so no cowardice.
Pov. Slayer of Argus, whither away, you two hand in hand?
Her. Zeus has sent us to Timon here.
Pov. Now? What has Plutus to do with Timon now? I found him suffering under Luxury's treatment, put him in the charge of Wisdom and Toil (whom you see here), and made a good worthy man of him. Do you take me for such a contemptible helpless creature that you can rob me of my little all? have I perfected him in virtue, only to see Plutus take him, trust him to Insolence and Arrogance, make him as soft and limp and silly as before, and return him to me a worn-out rag again?
Her. It is Zeus's will.
Pov. I am off, then. Toil, Wisdom, and the rest of you, quick march! Well, he will realize his loss before long; he had a good help meet in me, and a true teacher; with me he was healthy in body and vigorous in spirit; he lived the life of a man, and could be independent, and see the thousand and one needless refinements in all their absurdity.
Her. There they go, Plutus; let us come to him.
Tim. Who are you, villains? What do you want here, interrupting a hired labourer? You shall have something to take with you, confound you all! These clods and stones shall provide you with a broken head or two.
Her. Stop, Timon, don't throw. We are not men; I am Hermes, and this is Plutus; Zeus has sent us in answer to your prayers. So knock off work, take your fortune, and much good may it do you!
Tim. I dare say you are Gods; that shall not save you. I hate every one, man or God; and as for this blind fellow, whoever he may be, I am going to give him one over the head with my spade.
Pl. For God's sake, Hermes, let us get out of this! the man is melancholy-mad, I believe; he will do me a mischief before I get off.
Her. Now don't be foolish, Timon; cease overdoing the ill-tempered boor, hold out your hands, take your luck, and be a rich man again. Have Athens at your feet, and from your solitary eminence you can forget ingratitude.
Tim. I have no use for you; leave me in peace; my spade is riches enough for me; for the rest, I am perfectly happy if people will let me alone.
Her. My dear sir—so unsociable?
So stiff and stubborn a reply to Zeus?
A misanthrope you may well be, after the way men have treated you; but with the Gods so thoughtful for you, you need not be a misotheist.
Tim. Very well, Hermes; I am extremely obliged to you and Zeus for your thoughtfulness—there; but I will not have Plutus.
Her. Why, pray?
Tim. He brought me countless troubles long ago—put me in the power of flatterers, set designing persons on me, stirred up ill-feeling, corrupted me with indulgence, exposed me to envy, and wound up with treacherously deserting me at a moment's notice. Then the excellent Poverty gave me a drilling in manly labour, conversed with me in all frankness and sincerity, rewarded my exertions with a sufficiency, and taught me to despise superfluities; all hopes of a livelihood were to depend on myself, and I was to know my true wealth, unassailable by parasites' flattery or informers' threats, hasty legislatures or decree-mongering legislators, and which even the tyrant's machinations cannot touch.
So, toil-hardened, working with a will at this bit of ground, my eyes rid of city offences, I get bread enough and to spare out of my spade. Go your ways, then, Hermes, and take Plutus back to Zeus. I am quite content to let every man of them go hang.
Her. Oh, that would be a pity; they are not all hanging-ripe. Don't make a passionate child of yourself, but admit Plutus. Zeus's gifts are too good to be thrown away.
Pl. Will you condescend to argue with me, Timon? or does my voice provoke you?
Tim. Oh, talk away; but be brief; no rascally lawyer's 'opening the case.' I can put up with a few words from you, for Hermes' sake.
Pl. A speech of some length might seem to be needed, considering the number of your charges; however, just examine your imputations of injustice. It was I that gave you those great objects of desire— consideration, precedence, honours, and every delight; all eyes and tongues and attentions were yours—my gifts; and if flatterers abused you, I am not responsible for that. It is I who should rather complain; you prostituted me vilely to scoundrels, whose laudations and cajolery of you were only samples of their designs upon me. As to your saying that I wound up by betraying you, you have things topsy-turvy again; I may complain; you took every method to estrange me, and finally kicked me out neck and crop. That is why your revered Dame Poverty has supplied you with a smock-frock to replace your soft raiment. Why, I begged and prayed Zeus (and Hermes heard me) that I might be excused from revisiting a person who had been so unfriendly to me as you.
Her. But you see how he is changed, Plutus; you need not be afraid to live with him now. Just go on digging, Timon; and you, Plutus, put Thesaurus in position; he will come at your call.
Tim. I must obey, and be a rich man again, Hermes; what can one do, when Gods insist? But reflect what troubles you are bringing on my luckless head; I have had a blissful life of late, and now for no fault of my own I am to have my hands full of gold and care again.
Her. Hard, intolerable fate! yet endure for my sake, if only that the flatterers may burst themselves with envy. And now for heaven, via Etna.
Pl. He is off, I suppose, from the beating of his wings. Now, you stay where you are, while I go and fetch Thesaurus to you; or rather, dig hard. Here, Gold! Thesaurus I say! answer Timon's summons and let him unearth you. Now, Timon, with a will; a deep stroke or two. I will leave you together.
Tim. Come, spade, show your mettle; stick to it; invite Thesaurus to step up from his retreat.... O God of Wonders! O mystic priests! O lucky Hermes! whence this flood of gold? Sure, 'tis all a dream; methinks 'twill be ashes when I wake. And yet—coined gold, ruddy and heavy, a feast of delight!
O gold, the fairest gift to mortal eyes! be it night, or be it day, Thou dost outshine all else like living fire.
Come to me, my own, my beloved. I doubt the tale no longer; well might Zeus take the shape of gold; where is the maid that would not open her bosom to receive so fair a lover gliding through the roof?
Talk of Midas, Croesus, Delphic treasures! they were all nothing to Timon and his wealth; why, the Persian King could not match it. My spade, my dearest smock-frock, you must hang, a votive offering to Pan. And now I will buy up this desert corner, and build a tiny castle for my treasure, big enough for me to live in all alone, and, when I am dead, to lie in. And be the rule and law of my remaining days to shun all men, be blind to all men, scorn all men. Friendship, hospitality, society, compassion—vain words all. To be moved by another's tears, to assist another's need—be such things illegal and immoral. Let me live apart like a wolf; be Timon's one friend—Timon.
All others are my foes and ill-wishers; to hold communion with them is pollution; to set eyes upon one of them marks the day unholy; let them be to me even as images of bronze or stone. I will receive no herald from them, keep with them no truce; the bounds of my desert are the line they may not cross. Cousin and kinsman, neighbour and countryman—these are dead useless names, wherein fools may find a meaning. Let Timon keep his wealth to himself, scorn all men, and live in solitary luxury, quit of flattery and vulgar praise; let him sacrifice and feast alone, his own associate and neighbour, far from [Footnote: Reading, with Dindorf, hekas o'n for ekseio'n.] the world. Yea, when his last day comes, let there be none to close his eyes and lay him out, but himself alone.
Be the name he loves Misanthropus, and the marks whereby he may be known peevishness and spleen, wrath and rudeness and abhorrence. If ever one burning to death should call for help against the flames, let me help—with pitch and oil. If another be swept past me by a winter torrent, and stretch out his hands for aid, then let mine press him down head under, that he never rise again. So shall they receive as they have given. Mover of this resolution—Timon, son of Echecratides of Collytus. Presiding officer—the same Timon. The ayes have it. Let it be law, and duly observed.
All the same, I would give a good deal to have the fact of my enormous wealth generally known; they would all be fit to hang themselves over it.... Why, what is this? Well, that is quick work. Here they come running from every point of the compass, all dusty and panting; they have smelt out the gold somehow or other. Now, shall I get on top of this knoll, keep up a galling fire of stones from my point of vantage, and get rid of them that way? Or shall I make an exception to my law by parleying with them for once? contempt might hit harder than stones. Yes, I think that is better; I will stay where I am, and receive them. Let us see, who is this in front? Ah, Gnathonides the flatterer; when I asked an alms of him the other day, he offered me a halter; many a cask of my wine has he made a beast of himself over. I congratulate him on his speed; first come, first served.
Gna. What did I tell them?—Timon was too good a man to be abandoned by Providence. How are you, Timon? as good-looking and good-tempered, as good a fellow, as ever?
Tim. And you, Gnathonides, still teaching vultures rapacity, and men cunning?
Gna. Ah, he always liked his little joke. But where do you dine? I have brought a new song with me, a march out of the last musical thing on.
Tim. It will be a funeral march, then, and a very touching one, with spade obbligato.
Gna. What means this? This is assault, Timon; just let me find a witness! ... Oh, my God, my God! ... I'll have you before the Areopagus for assault and battery.
Tim. You'd better not wait much longer, or you'll have to make it murder.
Gna. Mercy, mercy! ... Now, a little gold ointment to heal the wound; it is a first-rate styptic.
Tim. What! you won't go, won't you?
Gna. Oh, I am going. But you shall repent this. Alas, so genial once, and now so rude!
Tim. Now who is this with the bald crown? Why, it is Philiades; if there is a loathsome flatterer, it is he. When I sang that song that nobody else would applaud, he lauded me to the skies, and swore no dying swan could be more tuneful; his reward was one of my farms, and a 500 pounds portion for his daughter. And then when he found I was ill, and had come to him for assistance, his generous aid took the form of blows.
Phil. You shameless creatures! yes, yes, now you know Timon's merits! now Gnathonides would be his friend and boon-companion! well, he has the right reward of ingratitude. Some of us were his familiars and playmates and neighbours; but we hold back a little; we would not seem to thrust ourselves upon him. Greeting, lord Timon; pray let me warn you against these abominable flatterers; they are your humble servants during meal-times, and else about as useful as carrion crows. Perfidy is the order of the day; everywhere ingratitude and vileness. I was just bringing a couple of hundred pounds, for your immediate necessities, and was nearly here before I heard of your splendid fortune. So I just came on to give you this word of caution; though indeed you are wise enough (I would take your advice before Nestor's myself) to need none of my counsel.
Tim. Quite so, Philiades. But come near, will you not, and receive my—spade!
Phil. Help, help! this thankless brute has broken my head, for giving him good counsel.
Tim. Now for number three. Lawyer Demeas—my cousin, as he calls himself, with a decree in his hand. Between three and four thousand it was that I paid in to the Treasury in ready money for him; he had been fined that amount and imprisoned in default, and I took pity on him. Well, the other day he was distributing-officer of the festival money [Footnote: Every citizen had the right to receive from the State the small sum which would pay for his admission to theatrical or other festival entertainments.]; when I applied for my share, he pretended I was not a citizen.
Dem. Hail, Timon, ornament of our race, pillar of Athens, shield of Hellas! The Assembly and both Councils are met, and expect your appearance. But first hear the decree which I have proposed in your honour. 'WHEREAS Timon son of Echecratides of Collytus who adds to high position and character a sagacity unmatched in Greece is a consistent and indefatigable promoter of his country's good and Whereas he has been victorious at Olympia on one day in boxing wrestling and running as well as in the two and the four-horse chariot races—'
Tim. Why, I was never so much as a spectator at Olympia.
Dem. What does that matter? you will be some day. It looks better to have a good deal of that sort in—'and Whereas he fought with distinction last year at Acharnae cutting two Peloponnesian companies to pieces—'
Tim. Good work that, considering that my name was not on the muster-rolls, because I could not afford a suit of armour.
Dem. Ah, you are modest; but it would be ingratitude in us to forget your services—'and Whereas by political measures and responsible advice and military action he has conferred great benefits on his country Now for all these reasons it is the pleasure of the Assembly and the Council the ten divisions of the High Court and the Borough Councils individually and collectively THAT a golden statue of the said Timon be placed on the Acropolis alongside of Athene with a thunderbolt in the hand and a seven-rayed aureole on the head Further that golden garlands be conferred on him and proclaimed this day at the New Tragedies [Footnote: See Dionysia in Notes] the said day being kept in his honour as the Dionysia. Mover of the Decree Demeas the pleader the said Timon's near relation and disciple the said Timon being as distinguished in pleading as in all else wherein it pleases him to excel.'
So runs the decree. I had designed also to present to you my son, whom I have named Timon after you.
Tim. Why, I thought you were a bachelor, Demeas.
Dem. Ah, but I intend to marry next year; my child—which is to be a boy—I hereby name Timon.
Tim. I doubt whether you will feel like marrying, my man, when I have given you—this!
Dem. Oh Lord! what is that for? ... You are plotting a coup d'etat, you Timon; you assault free men, and you are neither a free man nor a citizen yourself. You shall soon be called to account for your crimes; it was you set fire to the Acropolis, for one thing.
Tim. Why, you scoundrel, the Acropolis has not been set on fire; you are a common blackmailer.
Dem. You got your gold by breaking into the Treasury.
Tim. It has not been broken into, either; you are not even plausible.
Dem. There is time for the burglary yet; meantime, you are in possession of the treasures.
Tim. Well, here is another for you, anyhow.
Dem. Oh! oh! my back!
Tim. Don't make such a noise, if you don't want a third. It would be too absurd, you know, if I could cut two companies of Spartans to pieces without my armour, and not be able to give a single little scoundrel his deserts. My Olympic boxing and wrestling victories would be thrown away.
Whom have we now? is this Thrasycles the philosopher? sure enough it is. A halo of beard, eyebrows an inch above their place, superiority in his air, a look that might storm heaven, locks waving to the wind— 'tis a very Boreas or Triton from Zeuxis' pencil. This hero of the careful get-up, the solemn gait, the plain attire—in the morning he will utter a thousand maxims, expounding Virtue, arraigning self- indulgence, lauding simplicity; and then, when he gets to dinner after his bath, his servant fills him a bumper (he prefers it neat), and draining this Lethe-draught he proceeds to turn his morning maxima inside out; he swoops like a hawk on dainty dishes, elbows his neighbour aside, fouls his beard with trickling sauce, laps like a dog, with his nose in his plate, as if he expected to find Virtue there, and runs his finger all round the bowl, not to lose a drop of the gravy. Let him monopolize pastry or joint, he will still criticize the carving—that is all the satisfaction his ravenous greed brings him—; when the wine is in, singing and dancing are delights not fierce enough; he must brawl and rave. He has plenty to say in his cups—he is then at his best in that kind—upon temperance and decorum; he is full of these when his potations have reduced him to ridiculous stuttering. Next the wine disagrees with him, and at last he is carried out of the room, holding on with all his might to the flute-girl. Take him sober, for that matter, and you will hardly find his match at lying, effrontery or avarice. He is facile princeps of flatterers, perjury sits on his tongue-tip, imposture goes before him, and shamelessness is his good comrade; oh, he is a most ingenious piece of work, finished at all points, a multum in parvo. I am afraid his kind heart will be grieved presently. Why, how is this, Thrasycles? I must say, you have taken your time about coming.
Thr. Ah, Timon, I am not come like the rest of the crowd; they are dazzled by your wealth; they are gathered together with an eye to gold and silver and high living; they will soon be showing their servile tricks before your unsuspicious, generous self. As for me, you know a crust is all the dinner I care for; the relish I like best is a bit of thyme or cress; on festal days I may go as far as a sprinkling of salt. My drink is the crystal spring; and this threadbare cloak is better than your gay robes. Gold—I value it no higher than pebbles on the beach. What brought me was concern for you; I would not have you ruined by this same pestilent wealth, this temptation for plunderers; many is the man it has sunk in helpless misery. Take my advice, and fling it bodily into the sea; a good man, to whom the wealth of philosophy is revealed, has no need of the other. It does not matter about deep water, my good sir; wade in up to your waist when the tide is near flood, and let no one see you but me. Or if that is not satisfactory, here is another plan even better. Get it all out of the house as quick as you can, not reserving a penny for yourself, and distribute it to the poor five shillings to one, five pounds to another, a hundred to a third; philosophy might constitute a claim to a double or triple share. For my part—and I do not ask for myself, only to divide it among my needy friends—I should be quite content with as much as my scrip would hold; it is something short of two standard bushels; if one professes philosophy, one must be moderate and have few needs—none that go beyond the capacity of a scrip.
Tim. Very right, Thrasycles. But instead of a mere scripful, pray take a whole headful of clouts, standard measure by the spade.
Thr. Land of liberty, equality, legality! protect me against this ruffian!
Tim. What is your grievance, my good man? is the measure short? here is a pint or two extra, then, to put it right.
Why, what now? here comes a crowd; friend Blepsias, Laches, Gniphon; their name is legion; they shall howl soon. I had better get up on the rock; my poor tired spade wants a little rest; I will collect all the stones I can lay hands on, and pepper them at long range.
Bl. Don't throw, Timon; we are going.
Tim. Whether the retreat will be bloodless, however, is another question.
PROMETHEUS ON CAUCASUS
Hermes. Hephaestus. Prometheus.
Her. This, Hephaestus, is the Caucasus, to which it is our painful duty to nail our companion. We have now to select a suitable crag, free from snow, on which the chains will have a good hold, and the prisoner will hang in all publicity.
Heph. True. It will not do to fix him too low down, or these men of his might come to their maker's assistance; nor at the top, where he would be invisible from the earth. What do you say to a middle course? Let him hang over this precipice, with his arms stretched across from crag to crag.
Her. The very thing. Steep rocks, slightly overhanging, inaccessible on every side; no foothold but a mere ledge, with scarcely room for the tips of one's toes; altogether a sweet spot for a crucifixion. Now, Prometheus, come and be nailed up; there is no time to lose.
Prom. Nay, hear me; Hephaestus! Hermes! I suffer injustice: have compassion on my woes!
Her. In other words, disobey orders, and promptly be gibbeted in your stead! Do you suppose there is not room on the Caucasus to peg out a couple of us? Come, your right hand! clamp it down, Hephaestus, and in with the nails; bring down the hammer with a will. Now the left; make sure work of that too.—So!—The eagle will shortly be here, to trim your liver; so ingenious an artist is entitled to every attention.
Prom. O Cronus, and Iapetus, and Mother Earth! Behold the sufferings of the innocent!
Her. Why, as to innocence,—to begin with, there was that business of the sacrificial meats, your manner of distributing which was most unfair, most disingenuous: you got all the choice parts for yourself, and put Zeus off with bones 'wrapped up in shining fat'; I remember the passage in Hesiod; those are his very words. Then you made these human beings; creatures of unparalleled wickedness, the women especially. And to crown all, you stole fire, the most precious possession of the Gods, and gave it to them. And with all this on your conscience, you protest that you have done nothing to deserve captivity.
Prom. Ah, Hermes; you are as bad as Hector; you 'blame the blameless.' For such crimes as these, I deserve a round pension, if justice were done. And by the way, I should like, if you can spare the time, to answer to these charges, and satisfy you of the injustice of my sentence. You can employ your practised eloquence on behalf of Zeus, and justify his conduct in nailing me up here at the Gates of the Caspian, for all Scythia to behold and pity.
Her. There is nothing to be gained now by an appeal to another court; it is too late. Proceed, however. We have to wait in any case till the eagle comes to look after that liver of yours; and the time might be worse spent than in listening to the subtleties of such a master in impudence as yourself.
Prom. You begin then, Hermes. Exert all your powers of invective; leave no stone unturned to establish the righteousness of papa's judgements.—You, Hephaestus, shall compose the jury.
Heph. The jury! Not a bit of it; I am a party in this case. My furnace has been cold, ever since you stole that fire.
Prom. Well, at this rate you had better divide the prosecution between you. You conduct the case of larceny, and Hermes can handle the man-making, and the misappropriation of meat. I shall expect a great deal of you; you are both artists.
Heph. Hermes shall speak for me. The law is not in my line; my forge takes up most of my time. But Hermes is an orator; he has made a study of these things.
Prom. Well! I should never have thought that Hermes would have the heart to reproach me with larceny; he ought to have a fellow-feeling for me there. However, with this further responsibility on your shoulders, there is no time to be lost, son of Maia; out with your accusation, and have done with it.
Her. To deal adequately with your crimes, Prometheus, would require many words and much preparation. It is not enough to mention the several counts of the accusation; how, entrusted with the distribution of meats, you defrauded the crown by retaining the choicer portions for your own use; how you created the race of men, with absolutely no justification for so doing; how you stole fire and conveyed it to these same men. You seem not to realize, my friend, that, all-things considered, Zeus has dealt very handsomely by you. Now, if you deny the charges, I shall be compelled to establish your guilt at some length, and to set the facts in the clearest possible light. But if you admit the distribution of meat in the manner described, the introduction of men, and the theft of fire,—then my case is complete, and there is no more to be said. To expatiate further would be to talk nonsense.
Prom. Perhaps there has been some nonsense talked already; that remains to be seen. But as you say your case is now complete, I will see what I can do in the way of refutation. And first about that meat. Though, upon my word, I blush for Zeus when I name it: to think that he should be so touchy about trifles, as to send off a God of my quality to crucifixion, just because he found a little bit of bone in his share! Does he forget the services I have rendered him? And does he think what it is that he is so angry about, and how childish it is to show temper about a little thing like that? What if he did miss getting the better share? Why, Hermes, these tricks that are played over the wine-cups are not worth thinking twice about. A joke, perhaps, is carried a little too far, in the warmth of the feast; still, it is a joke, and resentment should be left behind in the dregs of the bowl. I have no patience with your long memories; this nursing of grievances, this raking up of last night's squabbles, is unworthy of a king, let alone a king of Gods. Once take away from our feasts the little elegancies of quip and crank and wile, and what is left? Muzziness; repletion; silence;—cheerful accompaniments these to the wine-bowl! For my part, I never supposed that Zeus would give the matter a thought the next morning; much less that he would make such a stir about it, and think himself so mightily injured; my little manoeuvre with the meat was merely a playful experiment, to see which he would choose. It might have been worse. Instead of giving him the inferior half, I might have defrauded him of the whole. And what if I had? Would that have been a case for putting heaven and earth in commotion, for deep designs of chain and cross and Caucasus, dispatchings of eagles, rendings of livers? These things tell a sad tale, do they not, of the puny soul, the little mind, the touchy temper of the aggrieved party? How would he take the loss of a whole ox, who storms to such purpose over a few pounds of meat? How much more reasonable is the conduct of mortals, though one would have expected them to be more irritable than Gods! A mortal would never want his cook crucified for dipping a finger into the stew-pan, or filching a mouthful from the roast; they overlook these things. At the worst their resentment is satisfied with a box on the ears or a rap on the head. I find no precedent among them for crucifixion in such cases. So much for the affair of the meat; there is little credit to be got in the refutation of such a charge, and still less in the bringing of it.
I am next to speak of my creation of mankind. And here the terms of your accusation are ambiguous. I have to choose between two distinct possibilities. Do you maintain that I had no right to create men at all, that I ought to have left the senseless clay alone? Or do you only complain of the form in which I designed them? However, I shall have something to say on both points. I shall first endeavour to show that no harm has accrued to the Gods from my bringing mankind into existence; and shall then proceed to the positive advantages and improvements which have resulted to them from the peopling of the earth. The question as to the harm done by my innovation is best answered by an appeal to the past, to those days when the race of heaven-born Gods stood alone, and earth was a hideous shapeless mass, a tangle of rude vegetation. The Gods had no altars then, nor temples (for who should raise them?), no images of wood or stone, such as now abound in every corner of the earth, and are honoured with all observance. It was to me that the idea occurred—amid my ceaseless meditations on the common welfare, on the aggrandizement of the Gods and the promotion of order and beauty in the universe—of setting all to rights with a handful of clay; of creating living things, and moulding them after our own likeness. I saw what was lacking to our godhead: some counterpart, some foil wherein to set off its blessedness. And that counterpart must be mortal; but in all else exquisitely contrived, perfect in intelligence, keen to appreciate our superiority. Thereupon, I moulded my material,
With water mingling clay,
and created man, calling in Athene to aid me in the task. And this is my rank offence against the Gods. Destructive work,—to reduce inanimate clay to life and motion! The Gods, it seems, are Gods no longer, now that there are mortal creatures on the earth. To judge at least by Zeus's indignation, one would suppose that the Gods suffered some loss of prestige from the creation of mankind; unless it is that he is afraid of another revolt, of their waging war with heaven, like the Giants.
That the cause of the Gods suffered nothing at my hands is evident; show me the slightest instance to the contrary, and I will say no more; I have but my deserts. But for the positive benefits I have conferred, use the evidence of your eyes. The earth, no longer barren and untilled, is decked with cities and farms and the fruits of cultivation; the sea has its ships, the islands their inhabitants. Everywhere are altars and temples, everywhere festivals and sacrifices:
Zeus with his presence fills their gatherings, He fills their streets.
Had I created mankind for my own private convenience, it might perhaps have denoted a grasping spirit: but I made them common property; they are at the service of every God of you. Nay more: temples of Zeus, and Apollo, and Hera, temples of Hermes, are everywhere to be seen; but who ever saw a temple of Prometheus? You may judge from this, how far I have sacrificed the common cause to my private ambition.
And further. Consider, Hermes: can any good thing whatsoever, be it gift of Nature or work of our hands, give the full measure of enjoyment to its possessor, when there is none to see, none to admire? You see whither my question tends? But for mankind, the glories of the universe must have been without a witness; and there was little satisfaction to be derived from a wealth which was doomed to excite no envy in others. We should have lacked a standard for comparison; and should never have known the extent of our happiness, while all were as happy as ourselves. The great is not great, till it is compared with the small. Yet instead of honouring me for my political insight, you crucify me; such are the wages of wisdom!
Ah, but (you will say) there is so much wickedness among them; adultery, war, incest, parricide. Well, I fancy these are not unknown among ourselves? And I am sure no one would think that a reason for saying that Uranus and Ge made a mistake in creating us. Or again, you will complain that we have so much trouble in looking after them. At that rate, a shepherd ought to object to the possession of a flock, because he has to look after it. Besides, a certain show of occupation is rather gratifying than otherwise; the responsibility is not unwelcome,—it helps to pass the time. What should we do, if we had not mankind to think of? There would be nothing to live for; we should sit about drinking nectar and gorging ourselves with ambrosia. But what fairly takes away my breath is, your assurance in finding fault with my women in particular, when all the time you are in love with them: our bulls and satyrs and swans are never tired of making descents upon the Earth; women, they find, are good enough to be made the mothers of Gods!
Yes, yes (you will say), it was quite right that men should be created, but they should not have been made in our likeness. And what better model could I have taken than this, whose perfection I knew? Was I to make them brute beasts without understanding? Had they been other than they are, how should they have paid you due honour and sacrifice? When the hecatombs are getting ready, you think nothing of a journey to the ends of the earth to see the 'blameless Ethiopians'; and my reward for procuring you these advantages is—crucifixion! But on this subject I have said enough.
And now, with your permission, I will approach the subject of that stolen fire, of which we hear so much. I have a question to ask, which I beg you will answer frankly. Has there been one spark less fire in Heaven, since men shared it with us? Of course not. It is the nature of fire, that it does not become less by being imparted to others. A fire is not put out by kindling another from it. No, this is sheer envy: you cannot bear that men should have a share of this necessary, though you have suffered no harm thereby. For shame! Gods should be beneficent, 'givers of good'; they should be above all envy. Had I taken away fire altogether, and left not a spark behind, it would have been no great loss. You have no use for it. You are never cold; you need no artificial light; nor is ambrosia improved by boiling. To man, on the other hand, fire is indispensable for many purposes, particularly for those of sacrifice; how else are they to fill their streets with the savour of burnt-offerings, and the fumes of frankincense I how else to burn fat thigh-pieces upon your altars? I observe that you take a particular pleasure in the steam arising therefrom, and think no feast more delicious than the smell of roast meat, as it mounts heavenwards
In eddying clouds of smoke.
Your present complaint, you see, is sadly at variance with this taste. I wonder you do not forbid the Sun to shine on mankind. He too is of fire, and fire of a purer and diviner quality. Has anything been said to him about his lavish expenditure of your property?
And now I have done. If there is any flaw in my defence, it is for you two to refute me. I shall answer your objections in due course.
Her. Nay, you are too hard for us, Prometheus; we will not attempt a sophist of your mettle. Well for you that Zeus is not within earshot, or you would have had a round dozen of hungry vultures to reckon with, for certain; in clearing your own character, you have grievously mishandled his. But one thing puzzles me: you are a prophet; you ought to have foreseen your sentence.
Prom. All this I knew, and more than this; for I shall be released; nay, even now the day is not far off when one of your blood shall come from Thebes, and shoot this eagle with which you threaten me [Footnote: See Prometheus in Notes.].
Her. With all my heart! I shall be delighted to see you free again, and feasting in our midst; but not, my friend, not carving for us!
Prom. You may take my word for it; I shall be with you again. I have the wherewithal to pay abundantly for my ransom.
Her. Oh, indeed? Come, tell us all about it.
Prom. You know Thetis—But no; the secret is best kept. Ransom and reward depend upon it.
Her. Well, you know best. Now, Hephaestus, we must be going; see, here comes the eagle.—Bear a brave heart, Prometheus; and all speed to your Theban archer, who is to set a term to this creature's activity.
DIALOGUES OF THE GODS
Prom. Release me, Zeus; I have suffered enough.
Zeus. Release you? you? Why, by rights your irons should be heavier, you should have the whole weight of Caucasus upon you, and instead of one, a dozen vultures, not just pecking at your liver, but scratching out your eyes. You made these abominable human creatures to vex us, you stole our fire, you invented women. I need not remind you how you overreached me about the meat-offerings; my portion, bones disguised in fat: yours, all the good.
Prom. And have I not been punished enough—riveted to the Caucasus all these years, feeding your bird (on which all worst curses light!) with my liver?
Zeus. 'Tis not a tithe of your deserts.
Prom. Consider, I do not ask you to release me for nothing. I offer you information which is invaluable.
Zeus. Promethean wiles!
Prom. Wiles? to what end? you can find the Caucasus another time; and there are chains to be had, if you catch me cheating.
Zeus. Tell me first the nature of your 'invaluable' offer.
Prom. If I tell you your present errand right, will that convince you that I can prophesy too?
Zeus. Of course it will.
Prom. You are bound on a little visit to Thetis.
Zeus. Right so far. And the sequel? I trust you now.
Prom. Have no dealings with her, Zeus. As sure as Nereus's daughter conceives by you, your child shall mete you the measure you meted to—
Zeus. I shall lose my kingdom, you would say?
Prom. Avert it, Fate! I say only, that union portends this issue.
Zeus. Thetis, farewell! and for this Hephaestus shall set you free.
Eros. You might let me off, Zeus! I suppose it was rather too bad of me; but there!—I am but a child; a wayward child.
Zeus. A child, and born before Iapetus was ever thought of? You bad old man! Just because you have no beard, and no white hairs, are you going to pass yourself off for a child?
Eros. Well, and what such mighty harm has the old man ever done you, that you should talk of chains?
Zeus. Ask your own guilty conscience, what harm. The pranks you have played me! Satyr, bull, swan, eagle, shower of gold,—I have been everything in my time; and I have you to thank for it. You never by any chance make the women in love with me; no one is ever smitten with my charms, that I have noticed. No, there must be magic in it always; I must be kept well out of sight. They like the bull or the swan well enough: but once let them set eyes on me, and they are frightened out of their lives.