Diog. Pollux, I have a commission for you; next time you go up—and I think it is your turn for earth to-morrow—if you come across Menippus the Cynic—you will find him about the Craneum at Corinth, or in the Lyceum, laughing at the philosophers' disputes—well, give him this message:—Menippus, Diogenes advises you, if mortal subjects for laughter begin to pall, to come down below, and find much richer material; where you are now, there is always a dash of uncertainty in it; the question will always intrude—who can be quite sure about the hereafter? Here, you can have your laugh out in security, like me; it is the best of sport to see millionaires, governors, despots, now mean and insignificant; you can only tell them by their lamentations, and the spiritless despondency which is the legacy of better days. Tell him this, and mention that he had better stuff his wallet with plenty of lupines, and any un-considered trifles he can snap up in the way of pauper doles [Footnote: In the Greek, 'a Hecate's repast lying at a street corner.' 'Rich men used to make offerings to Hecate on the 30th of every month as Goddess of roads at street corners; and these offerings were at once pounced upon by the poor, or, as here, the Cynics.' Jacobitz.] or lustral eggs. [Footnote: 'Eggs were often used as purificatory offerings and set out in front of the house purified.' Id.]
Pol. I will tell him, Diogenes. But give me some idea of his appearance.
Diog. Old, bald, with a cloak that allows him plenty of light and ventilation, and is patched all colours of the rainbow; always laughing, and usually gibing at pretentious philosophers.
Pol. Ah, I cannot mistake him now.
Diog. May I give you another message to those same philosophers?
Pol. Oh, I don't mind; go on.
Diog. Charge them generally to give up playing the fool, quarrelling over metaphysics, tricking each other with horn and crocodile puzzles [Footnote: See Puzzles in Notes.] and teaching people to waste wit on such absurdities.
Pol. Oh, but if I say anything against their wisdom, they will call me an ignorant blockhead.
Diog. Then tell them from me to go to the devil.
Pol. Very well; rely upon me.
Diog. And then, my most obliging of Polluxes, there is this for the rich:—O vain fools, why hoard gold? why all these pains over interest sums and the adding of hundred to hundred, when you must shortly come to us with nothing beyond the dead-penny?
Pol. They shall have their message too.
Diog. Ah, and a word to the handsome and strong; Megillus of Corinth, and Damoxenus the wrestler will do. Inform them that auburn locks, eyes bright or black, rosy cheeks, are as little in fashion here as tense muscles or mighty shoulders; man and man are as like as two peas, tell them, when it comes to bare skull and no beauty.
Pol. That is to the handsome and strong; yes, I can manage that.
Diog. Yes, my Spartan, and here is for the poor. There are a great many of them, very sorry for themselves and resentful of their helplessness. Tell them to dry their tears and cease their cries; explain to them that here one man is as good as another, and they will find those who were rich on earth no better than themselves. As for your Spartans, you will not mind scolding them, from me, upon their present degeneracy?
Pol. No, no, Diogenes; leave Sparta alone; that is going too far; your other commissions I will execute.
Diog. Oh, well, let them off, if you care about it; but tell all the others what I said.
Before Pluto: Croesus, Midas, and Sardanapalus v. Menippus
Cr. Pluto, we can stand this snarling Cynic no longer in our neighbourhood; either you must transfer him to other quarters, or we are going to migrate.
Pl. Why, what harm does he do to your ghostly community?
Cr. Midas here, and Sardanapalus and I, can never get in a good cry over the old days of gold and luxury and treasure, but he must be laughing at us, and calling us rude names; 'slaves' and 'garbage,' he says we are. And then he sings; and that throws us out.—In short, he is a nuisance.
Pl. Menippus, what's this I hear?
Me. All perfectly true, Pluto. I detest these abject rascals! Not content with having lived the abominable lives they did, they keep on talking about it now they are dead, and harping on the good old days. I take a positive pleasure in annoying them.
Pl. Yes, but you mustn't. They have had terrible losses; they feel it deeply.
Me. Pluto! you are not going to lend your countenance to these whimpering fools?
Pl. It isn't that: but I won't have you quarrelling.
Me. Well, you scum of your respective nations, let there be no misunderstanding; I am going on just the same. Wherever you are, there shall I be also; worrying, jeering, singing you down.
Me. Not a bit of it. Yours was the presumption, when you expected men to fall down before you, when you trampled on men's liberty, and forgot there was such a thing as death. Now comes the weeping and gnashing of teeth: for all is lost!
Cr. Lost! Ah God! My treasure-heaps—
Mid. My gold—
Sar. My little comforts—
Me. That's right: stick to it! You do the whining, and I'll chime in with a string of GNOTHI-SAUTONS, best of accompaniments.
Menippus. Amphilochus. Trophonius
Me. Now I wonder how it is that you two dead men have been honoured with temples and taken for prophets; those silly mortals imagine you are Gods.
Amp. How can we help it, if they are fools enough to have such fancies about the dead?
Me. Ah, they would never have had them, though, if you had not been charlatans in your lifetime, and pretended to know the future and be able to foretell it to your clients.
Tro. Well, Menippus, Amphilochus can take his own line, if he likes; as for me, I am a Hero, and do give oracles to any one who comes down to me. It is pretty clear you were never at Lebadea, or you would not be so incredulous.
Me. What do you mean? I must go to Lebadea, swaddle myself up in absurd linen, take a cake in my hand, and crawl through a narrow passage into a cave, before I could tell that you are a dead man, with nothing but knavery to differentiate you from the rest of us? Now, on your seer-ship, what is a Hero? I am sure I don't know.
Tro. He is half God, and half man.
Me. So what is neither man (as you imply) nor God, is both at once? Well, at present what has become of your diviner half?
Tro. He gives oracles in Boeotia.
Me. What you may mean is quite beyond me; the one thing I know for certain is that you are dead—the whole of you.
Her. Ferryman, what do you say to settling up accounts? It will prevent any unpleasantness later on.
Ch. Very good. It does save trouble to get these things straight.
Her. One anchor, to your order, five shillings.
Ch. That is a lot of money.
Her. So help me Pluto, it is what I had to pay. One rowlock-strap, fourpence.
Ch. Five and four; put that down.
Her. Then there was a needle, for mending the sail; ten-pence.
Ch. Down with it.
Her. Caulking-wax; nails; and cord for the brace. Two shillings the lot.
Ch. They were worth the money.
Her. That's all; unless I have forgotten anything. When will you pay it?
Ch. I can't just now, Hermes; we shall have a war or a plague presently, and then the passengers will come shoaling in, and I shall be able to make a little by jobbing the fares.
Her. So for the present I have nothing to do but sit down, and pray for the worst, as my only chance of getting paid?
Ch. There is nothing else for it;—very little business doing just now, as you see, owing to the peace.
Her. That is just as well, though it does keep me waiting for my money. After all, though, Charon, in old days men were men; you remember the state they used to come down in,—all blood and wounds generally. Nowadays, a man is poisoned by his slave or his wife; or gets dropsy from overfeeding; a pale, spiritless lot, nothing like the men of old. Most of them seem to meet their end in some plot that has money for its object.
Ch. Ah; money is in great request.
Her. Yes; you can't blame me if I am somewhat urgent for payment.
Pl. You know that old, old fellow, Eucrates the millionaire—no children, but a few thousand would-be heirs?
Her. Yes—lives at Sicyon. Well?
Pl. Well, Hermes, he is ninety now; let him live as much longer, please; I should like it to be more still, if possible; and bring me down his toadies one by one, that young Charinus, Damon, and the rest of them.
Her. It would seem so strange, wouldn't it?
Pl. On the contrary, it would be ideal justice. What business have they to pray for his death, or pretend to his money? they are no relations. The most abominable thing about it is that they vary these prayers with every public attention; when he is ill, every one knows what they are after, and yet they vow offerings if he recovers; talk of versatility! So let him be immortal, and bring them away before him with their mouths still open for the fruit that never drops.
Her. Well, they are rascals, and it would be a comic ending. He leads them a pretty life too, on hope gruel; he always looks more dead than alive, but he is tougher than a young man. They have divided up the inheritance among them, and feed on imaginary bliss.
Pl. Just so; now he is to throw off his years like Iolaus, and rejuvenate, while they in the middle of their hopes find themselves here with their dream-wealth left behind them. Nothing like making the punishment fit the crime.
Her. Say no more, Pluto; I will fetch you them one after another; seven of them, is it?
Pl. Down with them; and he shall change from an old man to a blooming youth, and attend their funerals.
Ter. Now is this fair, Pluto,—that I should die at the age of thirty, and that old Thucritus go on living past ninety?
Pl. Nothing could be fairer. Thucritus lives and is in no hurry for his neighbours to die; whereas you always had some design against him; you were waiting to step into his shoes.
Ter. Well, an old man like that is past getting any enjoyment out of his money; he ought to die, and make room for younger men.
Pl. This is a novel principle: the man who can no longer derive pleasure from his money is to die!—Fate and Nature have ordered it otherwise.
Ter. Then they have ordered it wrongly. There ought to be a proper sequence according to seniority. Things are turned upside down, if an old man is to go on living with only three teeth in his head, half blind, tottering about with a pair of slaves on each side to hold him up, drivelling and rheumy-eyed, having no joy of life, a living tomb, the derision of his juniors,—and young men are to die in the prime of their strength and beauty. 'Tis contrary to nature. At any rate the young men have a right to know when the old are going to die, so that they may not throw away their attentions on them for nothing, as is sometimes the case. The present arrangement is a putting of the cart before the horse.
Pl. There is a great deal more sound sense in it than you suppose, Terpsion. Besides, what right have you young fellows got to be prying after other men's goods, and thrusting yourselves upon your childless elders? You look rather foolish, when you get buried first; it tickles people immensely; the more fervent your prayers for the death of your aged friend, the greater is the general exultation when you precede him. It has become quite a profession lately, this amorous devotion to old men and women,—childless, of course; children destroy the illusion. By the way though, some of the beloved objects see through your dirty motives well enough by now; they have children, but they pretend to hate them, and so have lovers all the same. When their wills come to be read, their faithful bodyguard is not included: nature asserts itself, the children get their rights, and the lovers realize, with gnashings of teeth, that they have been taken in.
Ter. Too true! The luxuries that Thucritus has enjoyed at my expense! He always looked as if he were at the point of death. I never went to see him, but he would groan and squeak like a chicken barely out of the shell: I considered that he might step into his coffin at any moment, and heaped gift upon gift, for fear of being outdone in generosity by my rivals; I passed anxious, sleepless nights, reckoning and arranging all; 'twas this, the sleeplessness and the anxiety, that brought me to my death. And he swallows my bait whole, and attends my funeral chuckling.
Pl. Well done, Thucritus! Long may you live to enjoy your wealth,— and your joke at the youngsters' expense; many a toady may you send hither before your own time comes!
Ter. Now I think of it, it would be a satisfaction if Charoeades were to die before him.
Pl. Charoeades! My dear Terpsion, Phido, Melanthus,—every one of them will be here before Thucritus,—all victims of this same anxiety!
Ter. That is as it should be. Hold on, Thucritus!
Ze. Ah, Callidemides, and how did you come by your end? As for me, I was free of Dinias's table, and there died of a surfeit; but that is stale news; you were there, of course.
Cal. Yes, I was. Now there was an element of surprise about my fate. I suppose you know that old Ptoeodorus?
Ze. The rich man with no children, to whom you gave most of your company?
Cal. That is the man; he had promised to leave me his heir, and I used to show my appreciation. However, it went on such a time; Tithonus was a juvenile to him; so I found a short cut to my property. I bought a potion, and agreed with the butler that next time his master called for wine (he is a pretty stiff drinker) he should have this ready in a cup and present it; and I was pledged to reward the man with his freedom.
Ze. And what happened? this is interesting.
Cal. When we came from bath, the young fellow had two cups ready, one with the poison for Ptoeodorus, and the other for me; but by some blunder he handed me the poisoned cup, and Ptoeodorus the plain; and behold, before he had done drinking, there was I sprawling on the ground, a vicarious corpse! Why are you laughing so, Zenophantus? I am your friend; such mirth is unseemly.
Ze. Well, it was such a humorous exit. And how did the old man behave?
Cal. He was dreadfully distressed for the moment; then he saw, I suppose, and laughed as much as you over the butler's trick.
Ze. Ah, short cuts are no better for you than for other people, you see; the high road would have been safer, if not quite so quick.
Cne. Why, 'tis the proverb fulfilled! The fawn hath taken the lion.
Dam. What's the matter, Cnemon?
Cne. The matter! I have been fooled, miserably fooled. I have passed over all whom I should have liked to make my heirs, and left my money to the wrong man.
Dam. How was that?
Cne. I had been speculating on the death of Hermolaus, the millionaire. He had no children, and my attentions had been well received by him. I thought it would be a good idea to let him know that I had made my will in his favour, on the chance of its exciting his emulation.
Dam. Yes; and Hermolaus?
Cne. What his will was, I don't know. I died suddenly,—the roof came down about my ears; and now Hermolaus is my heir. The pike has swallowed hook and bait.
Dam. And your anglership into the bargain. The pit that you digged for other....
Cue. That's about the truth of the matter, confound it.
Si. So here you are at last, Polystratus; you must be something very like a centenarian.
Si. And what sort of a life have you had of it, these thirty years? you were about seventy when I died.
Pol. Delightful, though you may find it hard to believe.
Si. It is surprising that you could have any joy of your life—old, weak, and childless, moreover.
Pol. In the first place, I could do just what I liked; there were still plenty of handsome boys and dainty women; perfumes were sweet, wine kept its bouquet, Sicilian feasts were nothing to mine.
Si. This is a change, to be sure; you were very economical in my day.
Pol. Ah, but, my simple friend, these good things were presents— came in streams. From dawn my doors were thronged with visitors, and in the day it was a procession of the fairest gifts of earth.
Si. Why, you must have seized the crown after my death.
Pol. Oh no, it was only that I inspired a number of tender passions.
Si. Tender passions, indeed! what, you, an old man with hardly a tooth left in your head!
Pol. Certainly; the first of our townsmen were in love with me. Such as you see me, old, bald, blear-eyed, rheumy, they delighted to do me honour; happy was the man on whom my glance rested a moment.
Si. Well, then, you had some adventure like Phaon's, when he rowed Aphrodite across from Chios; your God granted your prayer and made you young and fair and lovely again.
Pol. No, no; I was as you see me, and I was the object of all desire.
Si. Oh, I give it up.
Pol. Why, I should have thought you knew the violent passion for old men who have plenty of money and no children.
Si. Ah, now I comprehend your beauty, old fellow; it was the Golden Aphrodite bestowed it.
Pol. I assure you, Simylus, I had a good deal of satisfaction out of my lovers; they idolized me, almost. Often I would be coy and shut some of them out. Such rivalries! such jealous emulations!
Si. And how did you dispose of your fortune in the end?
Pol. I gave each an express promise to make him my heir; he believed, and treated me to more attentions than ever; meanwhile I had another genuine will, which was the one I left, with a message to them all to go hang.
Si. Who was the heir by this one? one of your relations, I suppose.
Pol. Not likely; it was a handsome young Phrygian I had lately bought.
Pol. About twenty.
Si. Ah, I can guess his office.
Pol. Well, you know, he deserved the inheritance much better than they did; he was a barbarian and a rascal; but by this time he has the best of society at his beck. So he inherited; and now he is one of the aristocracy; his smooth chin and his foreign accent are no bars to his being called nobler than Codrus, handsomer than Nireus, wiser than Odysseus.
Si. Well, I don't mind; let him be Emperor of Greece, if he likes, so long as he keeps the property away from that other crew.
Charon. Hermes. Various Shades
Ch. I'll tell you how things stand. Our craft, as you see, is small, and leaky, and three-parts rotten; a single lurch, and she will capsize without more ado. And here are all you passengers, each with his luggage. If you come on board like that, I am afraid you may have cause to repent it; especially those who have not learnt to swim.
Her. Then how are we to make a trip of it?
Ch. I'll tell you. They must leave all this nonsense behind them on shore, and come aboard in their skins. As it is, there will be no room to spare. And in future, Hermes, mind you admit no one till he has cleared himself of encumbrances, as I say. Stand by the gangway, and keep an eye on them, and make them strip before you let them pass.
Her. Very good. Well, Number One, who are you?
Men. Menippus. Here are my wallet and staff; overboard with them. I had the sense not to bring my cloak.
Her. Pass on, Menippus; you're a good fellow; you shall have the seat of honour, up by the pilot, where you can see every one.—Here is a handsome person; who is he?
Char. Charmoleos of Megara; the irresistible, whose kiss was worth a thousand pounds.
Her. That beauty must come off,—lips, kisses, and all; the flowing locks, the blushing cheeks, the skin entire. That's right. Now we're in better trim;—you may pass on.—And who is the stunning gentleman in the purple and the diadem?
Lam. I am Lampichus, tyrant of Gela.
Her. And what is all this splendour doing here, Lampichus?
Lam. How! would you have a tyrant come hither stripped?
Her. A tyrant! That would be too much to expect. But with a shade we must insist. Off with these things.
Lam. There, then: away goes my wealth.
Her. Pomp must go too, and pride; we shall be overfreighted else.
Lam. At least let me keep my diadem and robes.
Her. No, no; off they come!
Lam. Well? That is all, as you see for yourself.
Her. There is something more yet: cruelty, folly, insolence, hatred.
Lam. There then: I am bare.
Her. Pass on.—And who may you be, my bulky friend?
Dam. Damasias the athlete.
Her. To be sure; many is the time I have seen you in the gymnasium.
Dam. You have. Well, I have peeled; let me pass.
Her. Peeled! my dear sir, what, with all this fleshy encumbrance? Come, off with it; we should go to the bottom if you put one foot aboard. And those crowns, those victories, remove them.
Dam. There; no mistake about it this time; I am as light as any shade among them.
Her. That's more the kind of thing. On with you.—Crato, you can take off that wealth and luxury and effeminacy; and we can't have that funeral pomp here, nor those ancestral glories either; down with your rank and reputation, and any votes of thanks or inscriptions you have about you; and you need not tell us what size your tomb was; remarks of that kind come heavy.
Cra. Well, if I must, I must; there's no help for it.
Her. Hullo! in full armour? What does this mean? and why this trophy?
A General. I am a great conqueror; a valiant warrior; my country's pride.
Her. The trophy may stop behind; we are at peace; there is no demand for arms.—Whom have we here? whose is this knitted Drow, this flowing beard? 'Tis some reverend sage, if outside goes for anything; he mutters; he is wrapped in meditation.
Men. That's a philosopher, Hermes; and an impudent quack not the bargain. Have him out of that cloak; you will find something to amuse you underneath it.
Her. Off with your clothes first; and then we will see to the rest. My goodness, what a bundle: quackery, ignorance, quarrelsomeness, vainglory; idle questionings, prickly arguments, intricate conceptions; humbug and gammon and wishy-washy hair-splittings without end; and hullo! why here's avarice, and self-indulgence, and impudence! luxury, effeminacy and peevishness!—Yes, I see them all; you need not try to hide them. Away with falsehood and swagger and superciliousness; why, the three-decker is not built that would hold you with all this luggage.
A Philosopher. I resign them all, since such is your bidding.
Men. Have his beard off too, Hermes; only look what a ponderous bush of a thing! There's a good five pounds' weight there.
Her. Yes; the beard must go.
Phil. And who shall shave me?
Her. Menippus here shall take it off with the carpenter's axe; the gangway will serve for a block.
Men. Oh, can't I have a saw, Hermes? It would be much better fun.
Her. The axe must serve.—Shrewdly chopped!—Why, you look more like a man and less like a goat already.
Men. A little off the eyebrows?
Her. Why, certainly; he has trained them up all over his forehead, for reasons best known to himself.—Worm! what, snivelling? afraid of death? Oh, get on board with you.
Men. He has still got the biggest thumper of all under his arm.
Her. What's that?
Men. Flattery; many is the good turn that has done him.
Phil. Oh, all right, Menippus; suppose you leave your independence behind you, and your plain—speaking, and your indifference, and your high spirit, and your jests!—No one else here has a jest about him.
Her. Don't you, Menippus! you stick to them; useful commodities, these, on shipboard; light and handy.—You rhetorician there, with your verbosities and your barbarisms, your antitheses and balances and periods, off with the whole pack of them.
Rhet. Away they go.
Her. All's ready. Loose the cable, and pull in the gangway; haul up the anchor; spread all sail; and, pilot, look to your helm. Good luck to our voyage!—What are you all whining about, you fools? You philosopher, late of the beard,—you're as bad as any of them.
Phil. Ah, Hermes: I had thought that the soul was immortal.
Men. He lies: that is not the cause of his distress.
Her. What is it, then?
Men. He knows that he will never have a good dinner again; never sneak about at night with his cloak over his head, going the round of the brothels; never spend his mornings in fooling boys out of their money, under the pretext of teaching them wisdom.
Phil. And pray are you content to be dead?
Men. It may be presumed so, as I sought death of my own accord.—By the way, I surely heard a noise, as if people were shouting on the earth?
Her. You did; and from more than one quarter.—There are people running in a body to the Town-hall, exulting over the death of Lampichus; the women have got hold of his wife; his infant children fare no better,—the boys are giving them handsome pelting. Then again you hear the applause that greets the orator Diophantus, as he pronounces the funeral oration of our friend Crato. Ah yes, and that's Damasias's mother, with her women, striking up a dirge. No one has tear for you, Menippus; your remains are left in peace. Privileged person!
Men. Wait a bit: before long you will hear the mournful howl of dogs, and the beating of crows' wings, as they gather to perform my funeral rites.
Her. I like your spirit.—However, here we are in port. Away with you all to the judgement-seat; it is straight ahead. The ferryman and I must go back for a fresh load.
Men. Good voyage to you, Hermes.—Let us be getting on; what are you all waiting for? We have got to face the judge, sooner or later; and by all accounts his sentences are no joke; wheels, rocks, vultures are mentioned. Every detail of our lives will now come to light!
Cra. Did you know Moerichus of Corinth, Diogenes? A shipowner, rolling in money, with a cousin called Aristeas, nearly as rich. He had a Homeric quotation:—Wilt thou heave me? shall I heave thee?
[Footnote: Homer, Il. xxiii. 724. When Ajax and Odysseus have wrestled for some time without either's producing any impression, and the spectators are getting tired of it, the former proposes a change in tactics. “Let us hoist—try you with me or I with you.” The idea evidently is that each in turn is to offer only a passive resistance, and let his adversary try to fling him thus.' Leaf.]
Diog. What was the point of it?
Cra. Why, the cousins were of equal age, expected to succeed to each other's wealth, and behaved accordingly. They published their wills, each naming the other sole heir in case of his own prior decease. So it stood in black and white, and they vied with each other in showing that deference which the relation demands. All the prophets, astrologers, and Chaldean dream-interpreters alike, and Apollo himself for that matter, held different views at different times about the winner; the thousands seemed to incline now to Aristeas's side, now to Moerichus's.
Diog. And how did it end? I am quite curious.
Cra. They both died on the same day, and the properties passed to Eunomius and Thrasycles, two relations who had never had a presentiment of it. They had been crossing from Sicyon to Cirrha, when they were taken aback by a squall from the north-west, and capsized in mid-channel.
Diog. Cleverly done. Now, when we were alive, we never had such designs on one another. I never prayed for Antisthenes's death, with a view to inheriting his staff—though it was an extremely serviceable one, which he had cut himself from a wild olive; and I do not credit you, Crates, with ever having had an eye to my succession; it included the tub, and a wallet with two pints of lupines in it.
Cra. Why, no; these things were superfluities to me—and to yourself, indeed. The real necessities you inherited from Antisthenes, and I from you; and in those necessities was more grandeur and majesty than in the Persian Empire.
Diog. You allude to—-
Cra. Wisdom, independence, truth, frankness, freedom.
Diog. To be sure; now I think of it, I did inherit all this from Antisthenes, and left it to you with some addition.
Cra. Others, however, were not interested in such property; no one paid us the attentions of an expectant heir; they all lad their eyes on gold, instead.
Diog. Of course; they had no receptacle for such things as we could give; luxury had made them so leaky—as full of holes as a worn-out purse. Put wisdom, frankness, or truth into them, and it would have dropped out; the bottom of the bag would have let them through, like the perforated cask into which those poor Danaids are always pouring. Gold, on the other hand, they could grip with tooth or nail or somehow.
Cra. Result: our wealth will still be ours down here; while they will arrive with no more than one penny, and even that must be left with the ferryman.
Alexander. Hannibal. Minos. Scipio
Alex. Libyan, I claim precedence of you. I am the better man.
Han. Pardon me.
Alex. Then let Minos decide.
Mi. Who are you both?
Alex. This is Hannibal, the Carthaginian: I am Alexander, the son of Philip.
Mi. Bless me, a distinguished pair! And what is the quarrel about?
Alex. It is a question of precedence. He says he is the better general: and I maintain that neither Hannibal nor (I might almost add) any of my predecessors was my equal in strategy; all the world knows that.
Mi. Well, you shall each have your say in turn: the Libyan first.
Han. Fortunately for me, Minos, I have mastered Greek since I have been here; so that my adversary will not have even that advantage of me. Now I hold that the highest praise is due to those who have won their way to greatness from obscurity; who have clothed themselves in power, and shown themselves fit for dominion. I myself entered Spain with a handful of men, took service under my brother, and was found worthy of the supreme command. I conquered the Celtiberians, subdued Western Gaul, crossed the Alps, overran the valley of the Po, sacked town after town, made myself master of the plains, approached the bulwarks of the capital, and in one day slew such a host, that their finger-rings were measured by bushels, and the rivers were bridged by their bodies. And this I did, though I had never been called a son of Ammon; I never pretended to be a god, never related visions of my mother; I made no secret of the fact that I was mere flesh and blood. My rivals were the ablest generals in the world, commanding the best soldiers in the world; I warred not with Medes or Assyrians, who fly before they are pursued, and yield the victory to him that dares take it.
Alexander, on the other hand, in increasing and extending as he did the dominion which he had inherited from his father, was but following the impetus given to him by Fortune. And this conqueror had no sooner crushed his puny adversary by the victories of Issus and Arbela, than he forsook the traditions of his country, and lived the life of a Persian; accepting the prostrations of his subjects, assassinating his friends at his own table, or handing them over to the executioner. I in my command respected the freedom of my country, delayed not to obey her summons, when the enemy with their huge armament invaded Libya, laid aside the privileges of my office, and submitted to my sentence without a murmur. Yet I was a barbarian all unskilled in Greek culture; I could not recite Homer, nor had I enjoyed the advantages of Aristotle's instruction; I had to make a shift with such qualities as were mine by nature.—It is on these grounds that I claim the pre-eminence. My rival has indeed all the lustre that attaches to the wearing of a diadem, and—I know not—for Macedonians such things may have charms: but I cannot think that this circumstance constitutes a higher claim than the courage and genius of one who owed nothing to Fortune, and everything to his own resolution.
Mi. Not bad, for a Libyan.—Well, Alexander, what do you say to that?
Alex. Silence, Minos, would be the best answer to such confident self-assertion. The tongue of Fame will suffice of itself to convince you that I was a great prince, and my opponent a petty adventurer. But I would have you consider the distance between us. Called to the throne while I was yet a boy, I quelled the disorders of my kingdom, and avenged my father's murder. By the destruction of Thebes, I inspired the Greeks with such awe, that they appointed me their commander-in-chief; and from that moment, scorning to confine myself to the kingdom that I inherited from my father, I extended my gaze over the entire face of the earth, and thought it shame if I should govern less than the whole. With a small force I invaded Asia, gained a great victory on the Granicus, took Lydia, lonia, Phrygia,—in short, subdued all that was within my reach, before I commenced my march for Issus, where Darius was waiting for me at the head of his myriads. You know the sequel: yourselves can best say what was the number of the dead whom on one day I dispatched hither. The ferryman tells me that his boat would not hold them; most of them had to come across on rafts of their own construction. In these enterprises, I was ever at the head of my troops, ever courted danger. To say nothing of Tyre and Arbela, I penetrated into India, and carried my empire to the shores of Ocean; I captured elephants; I conquered Porus; I crossed the Tanais, and worsted the Scythians—no mean enemies—in a tremendous cavalry engagement. I heaped benefits upon my friends: I made my enemies taste my resentment. If men took me for a god, I cannot blame them; the vastness of my undertakings might excuse such a belief. But to conclude. I died a king: Hannibal, a fugitive at the court of the Bithynian Prusias—fitting end for villany and cruelty. Of his Italian victories I say nothing; they were the fruit not of honest legitimate warfare, but of treachery, craft, and dissimulation. He taunts me with self-indulgence: my illustrious friend has surely forgotten the pleasant time he spent in Capua among the ladies, while the precious moments fleeted by. Had I not scorned the Western world, and turned my attention to the East, what would it have cost me to make the bloodless conquest of Italy, and Libya, and all, as far West as Gades? But nations that already cowered beneath a master were unworthy of my sword.—I have finished, Minos, and await your decision; of the many arguments I might have used, these shall suffice.
Sci. First, Minos, let me speak.
Mi. And who are you, friend? and where do you come from?
Sci. I am Scipio, the Roman general, who destroyed Carthage, and gained great victories over the Libyans.
Mi. Well, and what have you to say?
Sci. That Alexander is my superior, and I am Hannibal's, having defeated him, and driven him to ignominious flight. What impudence is this, to contend with Alexander, to whom I, your conqueror, would not presume to compare myself!
Mi. Honestly spoken, Scipio, on my word! Very well, then: Alexander comes first, and you next; and I think we must say Hannibal third. And a very creditable third, too.
Diog. Dear me, Alexander, you dead like the rest of us?
Alex. As you see, sir; is there anything extraordinary in a mortal's dying?
Diog. So Ammon lied when he said you were his son; you were Philip's after all.
Alex. Apparently; if I had been Ammon's, I should not have died.
Diog. Strange! there were tales of the same order about Olympias too. A serpent visited her, and was seen in her bed; we were given to understand that that was how you came into the world, and Philip made a mistake when he took you for his.
Alex. Yes, I was told all that myself; however, I know now that my mother's and the Ammon stories were all moonshine.
Diog. Their lies were of some practical value to you, though; your divinity brought a good many people to their knees. But now, whom did you leave your great empire to?
Alex. Diogenes, I cannot tell you. I had no time to leave any directions about it, beyond just giving Perdiccas my ring as I died. Why are you laughing?
Diog. Oh, I was only thinking of the Greeks' behaviour; directly you succeeded, how they flattered you! their elected patron, generalissimo against the barbarian; one of the twelve Gods according to some; temples built and sacrifices offered to the Serpent's son! If I may ask, where did your Macedonians bury you?
Alex. I have lain in Babylon a full month to-day; and Ptolemy of the Guards is pledged, as soon as he can get a moment's respite from present disturbances, to take and bury me in Egypt, there to be reckoned among the Gods.
Diog. I have some reason to laugh, you see; still nursing vain hopes of developing into an Osiris or Anubis! Pray, your Godhead, put these expectations from you; none may re-ascend who has once sailed the lake and penetrated our entrance; Aeacus is watchful, and Cerberus an awkward customer. But there is one thing I wish you would tell me: how do you like thinking over all the earthly bliss you left to come here —your guards and armour-bearers and lieutenant-governors, your heaps of gold and adoring peoples, Babylon and Bactria, your huge elephants, your honour and glory, those conspicuous drives with white-cinctured locks and clasped purple cloak? does the thought of them hurt? What, crying? silly fellow! did not your wise Aristotle include in his instructions any hint of the insecurity of fortune's favours?
Alex. Wise? call him the craftiest of all flatterers. Allow me to know a little more than other people about Aristotle; his requests and his letters came to my address; I know how he profited by my passion for culture; how he would toady and compliment me, to be sure! now it was my beauty—that too is included under The Good; now it was my deeds and my money; for money too he called a Good—he meant that he was not going to be ashamed of taking it. Ah, Diogenes, an impostor; and a past master at it too. For me, the result of his wisdom is that I am distressed for the things you catalogued just now, as if I had lost in them the chief Goods.
Diog. Wouldst know thy course? I will prescribe for your distress. Our flora, unfortunately, does not include hellebore; but you take plenty of Lethe-water—good, deep, repeated draughts; that will relieve your distress over the Aristotelian Goods. Quick; here are Clitus, Callisthenes, and a lot of others making for you; they mean to tear you in pieces and pay you out. Here, go the opposite way; and remember, repeated draughts.
Phil. You cannot deny that you are my son this time, Alexander; you would not have died if you had been Ammon's.
Alex. I knew all the time that you, Philip, son of Amyntas, were my father. I only accepted the statement of the oracle because I thought it was good policy.
Phil. What, to suffer yourself to be fooled by lying priests?
Alex. No, but it had an awe-inspiring effect upon the barbarians. When they thought they had a God to deal with, they gave up the struggle; which made their conquest a simple matter.
Phil. And whom did you ever conquer that was worth conquering? Your adversaries were ever timid creatures, with their bows and their targets and their wicker shields. It was other work conquering the Greeks: Boeotians, Phocians, Athenians; Arcadian hoplites, Thessalian cavalry, javelin-men from Elis, peltasts of Mantinea; Thracians, Illyrians, Paeonians; to subdue these was something. But for gold-laced womanish Medes and Persians and Chaldaeans,—why, it had been done before: did you never hear of the expedition of the Ten Thousand under Clearchus? and how the enemy would not even come to blows with them, but ran away before they were within bow-shot?
Alex. Still, there were the Scythians, father, and the Indian elephants; they were no joke. And my conquests were not gained by dissension or treachery; I broke no oath, no promise, nor ever purchased victory at the expense of honour. As to the Greeks, most of them joined me without a struggle; and I dare say you have heard how I handled Thebes.
Phil. I know all about that; I had it from Clitus, whom you ran through the body, in the middle of dinner, because he presumed to mention my achievements in the same breath with yours. They tell me too that you took to aping the manners of your conquered Medes; abandoned the Macedonian cloak in favour of the candies, assumed the upright tiara, and exacted oriental prostrations from Macedonian freemen! This is delicious. As to your brilliant matches, and your beloved Hephaestion, and your scholars in lions' cages,—the less said the better. I have only heard one thing to your credit: you respected the person of Darius's beautiful wife, and you provided for his mother and daughters; there you acted like a king.
Alex. And have you nothing to say of my adventurous spirit, father, when I was the first to leap down within the ramparts of Oxydracae, and was covered with wounds?
Phil. Not a word. Not that it is a bad thing, in my opinion, for a king to get wounded occasionally, and to face danger at the head of his troops: but this was the last thing that you were called upon to do. You were passing for a God; and your being wounded, and carried off the field on a litter, bleeding and groaning, could only excite the ridicule of the spectators: Ammon stood convicted of quackery, his oracle of falsehood, his priests of flattery. The son of Zeus in a swoon, requiring medical assistance! who could help laughing at the sight? And now that you have died, can you doubt that many a jest is being cracked on the subject of your divinity, as men contemplate the God's corpse laid out for burial, and already going the way of all flesh? Besides, your achievements lose half their credit from this very circumstance which you say was so useful in facilitating your conquests: nothing you did could come up to your divine reputation.
Alex. The world thinks otherwise. I am ranked with Heracles and Dionysus; and, for that matter, I took Aornos, which was more than either of them could do.
Phil. There spoke the son of Ammon. Heracles and Dionysus, indeed! You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Alexander; when will you learn to drop that bombast, and know yourself for the shade that you are?
Ant. Achilles, what you were saying to Odysseus the other day about death was very poor-spirited; I should have expected better things from a pupil of Chiron and Phoenix. I was listening; you said you would rather be a servant on earth to some poor hind 'of scanty livelihood possessed,' than king of all the dead. Such sentiments might have been very well in the mouth of a poor-spirited cowardly Phrygian, dishonourably in love with life: for the son of Peleus, boldest of all Heroes, so to vilify himself, is a disgrace; it gives the lie to all your life; you might have had a long inglorious reign in Phthia, and your own choice was death and glory.
Ach. In those days, son of Nestor, I knew not this place; ignorant whether of those two was the better, I esteemed that flicker of fame more than life; now I see that it is worthless, let folk up there make what verses of it they will. 'Tis dead level among the dead, Antilochus; strength and beauty are no more; we welter all in the same gloom, one no better than another; the shades of Trojans fear me not, Achaeans pay me no reverence; each may say what he will; a man is a ghost, 'or be he churl, or be he peer.' It irks me; I would fain be a servant, and alive.
Ant. But what help, Achilles? 'tis Nature's decree that by all means all die. We must abide by her law, and not fret at her commands. Consider too how many of us are with you here; Odysseus comes ere long; how else? Is there not comfort in the common fate? 'tis something not to suffer alone. See Heracles, Meleager, and many another great one; they, methinks, would not choose return, if one would send them up to serve poor destitute men.
Ach. Ay, your intent is friendly; but I know not, the thought of the past life irks me—and each of you too, if I mistake not. And if you confess it not, the worse for you, smothering your pain.
Ant. Not the worse, Achilles; the better; for we see that speech is unavailing. Be silent, bear, endure—that is our resolve, lest such longings bring mockery on us, as on you.
Diog. Surely this is Heracles I see? By his godhead, 'tis no other! The bow, the club, the lion's-skin, the giant frame; 'tis Heracles complete. Yet how should this be?—a son of Zeus, and mortal? I say, Mighty Conqueror, are you dead? I used to sacrifice to you in the other world; I understood you were a God!
Her. Thou didst well. Heracles is with the Gods in Heaven,
And hath white-ankled Hebe there to wife.
I am his phantom.
Diog. His phantom! What then, can one half of any one be a God, and the other half mortal?
Her. Even so. The God still lives. 'Tis I, his counterpart, am dead.
Diog. I see. You're a dummy; he palms you off upon Pluto, instead of coming himself. And here are you, enjoying his mortality!
Her. 'Tis somewhat as thou hast said.
Diog. Well, but where were Aeacus's keen eyes, that he let a counterfeit Heracles pass under his very nose, and never knew the difference?
Her. I was made very like to him.
Diog. I believe you! Very like indeed, no difference at all! Why, we may find it's the other way round, that you are Heracles, and the phantom is in Heaven, married to Hebe!
Her. Prating knave, no more of thy gibes; else thou shalt presently learn how great a God calls me phantom.
Diog. H'm. That bow looks as if it meant business. And yet,—what have I to fear now? A man can die but once. Tell me, phantom,—by your great Substance I adjure you—did you serve him in your present capacity in the upper world? Perhaps you were one individual during your lives, the separation taking place only at your deaths, when he, the God, soared heavenwards, and you, the phantom, very properly made your appearance here?
Her. Thy ribald questions were best unanswered. Yet thus much thou shalt know.—All that was Amphitryon in Heracles, is dead; I am that mortal part. The Zeus in him lives, and is with the Gods in Heaven.
Diog. Ah, now I see! Alcmena had twins, you mean,—Heracles the son of Zeus, and Heracles the son of Amphitryon? You were really half-bothers all the time?
Her. Fool! not so. We twain were one Heracles.
Diog. It's a little difficult to grasp, the two Heracleses packed into one. I suppose you must have been like a sort of Centaur, man and God all mixed together?
Her. And are not all thus composed of two elements,—the body and the soul? What then should hinder the soul from being in Heaven, with Zeus who gave it, and the mortal part—myself—among the dead?
Diog. Yes, yes, my esteemed son of Amphitryon,—that would be all very well if you were a body; but you see you are a phantom, you have no body. At this rate we shall get three Heracleses.
Diog. Yes; look here. One in Heaven: one in Hades, that's you, the phantom: and lastly the body, which by this time has returned to dust. That makes three. Can you think of a good father for number Three?
Her. Impudent quibbler! And who art thou?
Diog. I am Diogenes's phantom, late of Sinope. But my original, I assure you, is not 'among th' immortal Gods,' but here among dead men; where he enjoys the best of company, and snaps my ringers at Homer and all hair-splitting.
Me. What are you crying out about, Tantalus? standing at the edge and whining like that!
Tan. Ah, Menippus, I thirst, I perish!
Me. What, not enterprise enough to bend down to it, or scoop up some in your palm?
Tan. It is no use bending down; the water shrinks away as soon as it sees me coming. And if I do scoop it up and get it to my mouth, the outside of my lips is hardly moist before it has managed to run through my fingers, and my hand is as dry as ever.
Me. A very odd experience, that. But by the way, why do you want to drink? you have no body—the part of you that was liable to hunger and thirst is buried in Lydia somewhere; how can you, the spirit, hunger or thirst any more?
Tan. Therein lies my punishment—soul thirsts as if it were body.
Me. Well, let that pass, as you say thirst is your punishment. But why do you mind it? are you afraid of dying, for want of drink? I do not know of any second Hades; can you die to this one, and go further?
Tan. No, that is quite true. But you see this is part of the sentence: I must long for drink, though I have no need of it.
Me. There is no meaning in that. There is a draught you need, though; some neat hellebore is what you want; you are suffering from a converse hydrophobia; you are not afraid of water, but you are of thirst.
Tan. I would as life drink hellebore as anything, if I could but drink.
Me. Never fear, Tantalus; neither you nor any other ghost will ever do that; it is impossible, you see; just as well we have not all got a penal thirst like you, with the water running away from us.
Me. Where are all the beauties, Hermes? Show me round; I am a new-comer.
Her. I am busy, Menippus. But look over there to your right, and you will see Hyacinth, Narcissus, Nireus, Achilles, Tyro, Helen, Leda,— all the beauties of old.
Me. I can only see bones, and bare skulls; most of them are exactly alike.
Her. Those bones, of which you seem to think so lightly, have been the theme of admiring poets.
Me. Well, but show me Helen; I shall never be able to make her out by myself.
Her. This skull is Helen.
Me. And for this a thousand ships carried warriors from every part of Greece; Greeks and barbarians were slain, and cities made desolate.
Her. Ah, Menippus, you never saw the living Helen; or you would have said with Homer,
Well might they suffer grievous years
Who strove for such a prize.
We look at withered flowers, whose dye is gone from them, and what can we call them but unlovely things? Yet in the hour of their bloom these unlovely things were things of beauty.
Me. Strange, that the Greeks could not realize what it was for which they laboured; how short-lived, how soon to fade.
Her. I have no time for moralizing. Choose your spot, where you will, and lie down. I must go to fetch new dead.
Aeacus. Protesilaus. Menelaus. Paris
Aea. Now then, Protesilaus, what do you mean by assaulting and throttling Helen?
Pro. Why, it was all her fault that I died, leaving my house half built, and my bride a widow.
Aea. You should blame Menelaus, for taking you all to Troy after such a light-o'-love.
Pro. That is true; he shall answer it.
Me. No, no, my dear sir; Paris surely is the man; he outraged all rights in carrying off his host's wife with him. He deserves throttling, if you like, and not from you only, but from Greeks and barbarians as well, for all the deaths he brought upon them.
Pro. Ah, now I have it. Here, you—you Paris! you shall not escape my clutches.
Pa. Oh, come, sir, you will never wrong one of the same gentle craft as yourself. Am I not a lover too, and a subject of your deity? against love you know (with the best will in the world) how vain it is to strive; 'tis a spirit that draws us whither it will.
Pro. There is reason in that. Oh, would that I had Love himself here in these hands!
Aea. Permit me to charge myself with his defence. He does not absolutely deny his responsibility for Paris's love; but that for your death he refers to yourself, Protesilaus. You forgot all about your bride, fell in love with fame, and, directly the fleet touched the Troad, took that rash senseless leap, which brought you first to shore and to death.
Pro. Now it is my turn to correct, Aeacus. The blame does not rest with me, but with Fate; so was my thread spun from the beginning.
Aea. Exactly so; then why blame our good friends here?
Menippus. Aeacus. Various Shades
Me. In Pluto's name, Aeacus, show me all the sights of Hades.
Aea. That would be rather an undertaking, Menippus. However, you shall see the principal things. Cerberus here you know already, and the ferryman who brought you over. And you saw the Styx on your way, and Pyriphlegethon.
Me. Yes, and you are the gate-keeper; I know all that; and I have seen the King and the Furies. But show me the men of ancient days, especially the celebrities.
Aea. This is Agamemnon; this is Achilles; near him, Idomeneus; next comes Odysseus; then Ajax, Diomede, and all the great Greeks.
Me. Why, Homer, Homer, what is this? All your great heroes flung down upon the earth, shapeless, undistinguishable; mere meaningless dust; 'strengthless heads,' and no mistake.—Who is this one, Aeacus?
Aea. That is Cyrus; and here is Croesus; beyond him Sardanapalus, and beyond him again Midas. And yonder is Xerxes.
Me. Ha! and it was before this creature that Greece trembled? this is our yoker of Hellesponts, our designer of Athos-canals?—Croesus too! a sad spectacle! As to Sardanapalus, I will lend him a box on the ear, with your permission.
Aea. And crack his skull, poor dear! Certainly not.
Me. Then I must content myself with spitting in his ladyship's face.
Aea. Would you like to see the philosophers?
Me. I should like it of all things.
Aea. First comes Pythagoras.
Me. Good-day, Euphorbus, alias Apollo, alias what you will.
Py. Good-day, Menippus.
Me. What, no golden thigh nowadays?
Py. Why, no. I wonder if there is anything to eat in that wallet of yours?
Me. Beans, friend; you don't like beans.
Py. Try me. My principles have changed with my quarters. I find that down here our parents' heads are in no way connected with beans.
Aea. Here is Solon, the son of Execestides, and there is Thales. By them are Pittacus, and the rest of the sages, seven in all, as you see. Me. The only resigned and cheerful countenances yet. Who is the one covered with ashes, like a loaf baked in the embers? He is all over blisters.
Aea. That is Empedocles. He was half-roasted when he got here from Etna.
Me. Tell me, my brazen-slippered friend, what induced you to jump into the crater?
Em. I did it in a fit of melancholy.
Me. Not you. Vanity, pride, folly; these were what burnt you up, slippers and all; and serve you right. All that ingenuity was thrown away, too: your death was detected.—Aeacus, where is Socrates?
Aea. He is generally talking nonsense with Nestor and Palamedes.
Me. But I should like to see him, if he is anywhere about.
Aea. You see the bald one? Me. They are all bald; that is a distinction without a difference.
Aea. The snub-nosed one.
Me. There again: they are all snub-nosed.
Soc. Do you want me, Menippus?
Me. The very man I am looking for.
Soc. How goes it in Athens?
Me. There are a great many young men there professing philosophy; and to judge from their dress and their walk, they should be perfect in it.
Soc. I have seen many such.
Me. For that matter, I suppose you saw Aristippus arrive, reeking with scent; and Plato, the polished flatterer from Sicilian courts?
Soc. And what do they think about me in Athens?
Me. Ah, you are fortunate in that respect. You pass for a most remarkable man, omniscient in fact. And all the time—if the truth must out—you know absolutely nothing.
Soc. I told them that myself: but they would have it that that was my irony.
Me. And who are your friends?
Soc. Charmides; Phaedrus; the son of Clinias.
Me. Ha, ha! still at your old trade; still an admirer of beauty.
Soc. How could I be better occupied? Will you join us?
Me. No, thank you; I am off, to take up my quarters by Croesus and Sardanapalus. I expect huge entertainment from their outcries.
Aea. I must be off, too; or some one may escape. You shall see the rest another day, Menippus.
Me. I need not detain you. I have seen enough.
Me. My dear coz—for Cerberus and Cynic are surely related through the dog—I adjure you by the Styx, tell me how Socrates behaved during the descent. A God like you can doubtless articulate instead of barking, if he chooses.
Cer. Well, while he was some way off, he seemed quite unshaken; and I thought he was bent on letting the people outside realize the fact too. Then he passed into the opening and saw the gloom; I at the same time gave him a touch of the hemlock, and a pull by the leg, as he was rather slow. Then he squalled like a baby, whimpered about his children, and, oh, I don't know what he didn't do.
Me. So he was one of the theorists, was he? His indifference was a sham?
Cer. Yes; it was only that he accepted the inevitable, and put a bold face on it, pretending to welcome the universal fate, by way of impressing the bystanders. All that sort are the same, I tell you— bold resolute fellows as far as the entrance; it is inside that the real test comes.
Me. What did you think of my performance?
Cer. Ah, Menippus, you were the exception; you are a credit to the breed, and so was Diogenes before you. You two came in without any compulsion or pushing, of your own free will, with a laugh for yourselves and a curse for the rest.
Charon. Menippus. Hermes
Ch. Your fare, you rascal.
Me. Bawl away, Charon, if it gives you any pleasure.
Ch. I brought you across: give me my fare.
Me. I can't, if I haven't got it.
Ch. And who is so poor that he has not got a penny?
Me. I for one; I don't know who else.
Ch. Pay: or, by Pluto, I'll strangle you.
Me. And I'll crack your skull with this stick.
Ch. So you are to come all that way for nothing?
Me. Let Hermes pay for me: he put me on board.
Her. I dare say! A fine time I shall have of it, if I am to pay for the shades.
Ch. I'm not going to let you off.
Me. You can haul up your ship and wait, for all I care. If I have not got the money, I can't pay you, can I?
Ch. You knew you ought to bring it?
Me. I knew that: but I hadn't got it. What would you have? I ought not to have died, I suppose?
Ch. So you are to have the distinction of being the only passenger that ever crossed gratis?
Me. Oh, come now: gratis! I took an oar, and I baled; and I didn't cry, which is more than can be said for any of the others.
Ch. That's neither here nor there. I must have my penny; it's only right.
Me. Well, you had better take me back again to life.
Ch. Yes, and get a thrashing from Aeacus for my pains! I like that.
Me. Well, don't bother me.
Ch. Let me see what you have got in that wallet.
Me. Beans: have some?—and a Hecate's supper.
Ch. Where did you pick up this Cynic, Hermes? The noise he made on the crossing, too! laughing and jeering at all the rest, and singing, when every one else was at his lamentations.
Her. Ah, Charon, you little know your passenger! Independence, every inch of him: he cares for no one. 'Tis Menippus.
Ch. Wait till I catch you—-
Me. Precisely; I'll wait—till you catch me again.
Protesilaus. Pluto. Persephone
Pro. Lord, King, our Zeus! and thou, daughter of Demeter! Grant a lover's boon!
Pl. What do you want? who are you?
Pro. Protesilaus, son of Iphiclus, of Phylace, one of the Achaean host, the first that died at Troy. And the boon I ask is release and one day's life.
Pl. Ah, friend, that is the love that all these dead men love, and none shall ever win.
Pro. Nay, dread lord, 'tis not life I love, but the bride that I left new wedded in my chamber that day I sailed away—ah me, to be slain by Hector as my foot touched land! My lord, that yearning gives me no peace. I return content, if she might look on me but for an hour.
Pl. Did you miss your dose of Lethe, man?
Pro. Nay, lord; but this prevailed against it.
Pl. Oh, well, wait a little; she will come to you one day; it is so simple; no need for you to be going up.
Pro. My heart is sick with hope deferred; thou too, O Pluto, hast loved; thou knowest what love is.
Pl. What good will it do you to come to life for a day, and then renew your pains?
Pro. I think to win her to come with me, and bring two dead for one.
Pl. It may not be; it never has been.
Pro. Bethink thee, Pluto. 'Twas for this same cause that ye gave Orpheus his Eurydice; and Heracles had interest enough to be granted Alcestis; she was of my kin.
Pl. Would you like to present that bare ugly skull to your fair bride? will she admit you, when she cannot tell you from another man? I know well enough; she will be frightened and run from you, and you will have gone all that way for nothing.
Per. Husband, doctor that disease yourself: tell Hermes, as soon as Protesilaus reaches the light, to touch him with his wand, and make him young and fair as when he left the bridal chamber.
Pl. Well, I cannot refuse a lady. Hermes, take him up and turn him into a bridegroom. But mind, you sir, a strictly temporary one.
Diog. Why so proud, Carian? How are you better than the rest of us?
Man. Sinopean, to begin with, I was a king; king of all Caria, ruler of many Lydians, subduer of islands, conqueror of well-nigh the whole of Ionia, even to the borders of Miletus. Further, I was comely, and of noble stature, and a mighty warrior. Finally, a vast tomb lies over me in Halicarnassus, of such dimensions, of such exquisite beauty as no other shade can boast. Thereon are the perfect semblances of man and horse, carved in the fairest marble; scarcely may a temple be found to match it. These are the grounds of my pride: are they inadequate?
Diog. Kingship—beauty—heavy tomb; is that it?
Mau. It is as you say.
Diog. But, my handsome Mausolus, the power and the beauty are no longer there. If we were to appoint an umpire now on the question of comeliness, I see no reason why he should prefer your skull to mine. Both are bald, and bare of flesh; our teeth are equally in evidence; each of us has lost his eyes, and each is snub-nosed. Then as to the tomb and the costly marbles, I dare say such a fine erection gives the Halicarnassians something to brag about and show off to strangers: but I don't see, friend, that you are the better for it, unless it is that you claim to carry more weight than the rest of us, with all that marble on the top of you.
Mau. Then all is to go for nothing? Mausolus and Diogenes are to rank as equals?
Diog. Equals! My dear sir, no; I don't say that. While Mausolus is groaning over the memories of earth, and the felicity which he supposed to be his, Diogenes will be chuckling. While Mausolus boasts of the tomb raised to him by Artemisia, his wife and sister, Diogenes knows not whether he has a tomb or no—the question never having occurred to him; he knows only that his name is on the tongues of the wise, as one who lived the life of a man; a higher monument than yours, vile Carian slave, and set on firmer foundations.
Nireus. Thersites. Menippus
Ni. Here we are; Menippus shall award the palm of beauty. Menippus, am I not better-looking than he?
Me. Well, who are you? I must know that first, mustn't I?
Ni. Nireus and Thersites.
Me. Which is which? I cannot tell that yet.
Ther. One to me; I am like you; you have no such superiority as Homer (blind, by the way) gave you when he called you the handsomest of men; he might peak my head and thin my hair, our judge finds me none the worse. Now, Menippus, make up your mind which is handsomer.
Ni. I, of course, I, the son of Aglaia and Charopus,
Comeliest of all that came 'neath Trojan walls.
Me. But not comeliest of all that come 'neath the earth, as far as I know. Your bones are much like other people's; and the only difference between your two skulls is that yours would not take much to stove it in. It is a tender article, something short of masculine.
Ni. Ask Homer what I was, when I sailed with the Achaeans.
Me. Dreams, dreams. I am looking at what you are; what you were is ancient history.
Ni. Am I not handsomer here, Menippus?
Me. You are not handsome at all, nor any one else either. Hades is a democracy; one man is as good as another here.
Ther. And a very tolerable arrangement too, if you ask me.
Me. I have heard that you were a god, Chiron, and that you died of your own choice?
Chi. You were rightly informed. I am dead, as you see, and might have been immortal.
Me. And what should possess you, to be in love with Death? He has no charm for most people.
Chi. You are a sensible fellow; I will tell you. There was no further satisfaction to be had from immortality.
Me. Was it not a pleasure merely to live and see the light?
Chi. No; it is variety, as I take it, and not monotony, that constitutes pleasure. Living on and on, everything always the same; sun, light, food, spring, summer, autumn, winter, one thing following another in unending sequence,—I sickened of it all. I found that enjoyment lay not in continual possession; that deprivation had its share therein.
Me. Very true, Chiron. And how have you got on since you made Hades your home?
Chi. Not unpleasantly. I like the truly republican equality that prevails; and as to whether one is in light or darkness, that makes no difference at all. Then again there is no hunger or thirst here; one is independent of such things.
Me. Take care, Chiron! You may be caught in the snare of your own reasonings.
Chi. How should that be?
Me. Why, if the monotony of the other world brought on satiety, the monotony here may do the same. You will have to look about for a further change, and I fancy there is no third life procurable.
Chi. Then what is to be done, Menippus?
Me. Take things as you find them, I suppose, like a sensible fellow, and make the best of everything.
Diogenes. Antisthenes. Crates
Diog. Now, friends, we have plenty of time; what say you to a stroll? we might go to the entrance and have a look at the new-comers —what they are and how they behave.
Ant. The very thing. It will be an amusing sight—some weeping, some imploring to be let go, some resisting; when Hermes collars them, they will stick their heels in and throw their weight back; and all to no purpose.
Cra. Very well; and meanwhile, let me give you my experiences on the way down.
Diog. Yes, go on, Crates; I dare say you saw some entertaining sights.
Cra. We were a large party, of which the most distinguished were Ismenodorus, a rich townsman of ours, Arsaces, ruler of Media, and Oroetes the Armenian. Ismenodorus had been murdered by robbers going to Eleusis over Cithaeron, I believe. He was moaning, nursing his wound, apostrophizing the young children he had left, and cursing his foolhardiness. He knew Cithaeron and the Eleutherae district were all devastated by the wars, and yet he must take only two servants with him—with five bowls and four cups of solid gold in his baggage, too. Arsaces was an old man of rather imposing aspect; he expressed his feelings in true barbaric fashion, was exceedingly angry at being expected to walk, and kept calling for his horse. In point of fact it had died with him, it and he having been simultaneously transfixed by a Thracian pikeman in the fight with the Cappadocians on the Araxes. Arsaces described to us how he had charged far in advance of his men, and the Thracian, standing his ground and sheltering himself with his buckler, warded off the lance, and then, planting his pike, transfixed man and horse together.
Ant. How could it possibly be done simultaneously?
Cra. Oh, quite simple. The Median was charging with his thirty-foot lance in front of him; the Thracian knocked it aside with his buckler; the point glanced by; then he knelt, received the charge on his pike, pierced the horse's chest—the spirited beast impaling itself by its own impetus—, and finally ran Arsaces through groin and buttock. You see what happened; it was the horse's doing rather than the man's. However, Arsaces did not at all appreciate equality, and wanted to come down on horseback. As for Oroetes, he was so tender-footed that he could not stand, far less walk. That is the way with all the Medes —once they are off their horses, they go delicately on tiptoe as if they were treading on thorns. He threw himself down, and there he lay; nothing would induce him to get up; so the excellent Hermes had to pick him up and carry him to the ferry; how I laughed!
Ant. When I came down, I did not keep with the crowd; I left them to their blubberings, ran on to the ferry, and secured a comfortable seat for the passage. Then as we crossed, they were divided between tears and sea-sickness, and gave me a merry time of it.
Diog. You two have described your fellow passengers; now for mine. There came down with me Blepsias, the Pisatan usurer, Lampis, an Acarnanian freelance, and the Corinthian millionaire Damis. The last had been poisoned by his son, Lampis had cut his throat for love of the courtesan Myrtium, and the wretched Blepsias is supposed to have died of starvation; his awful pallor and extreme emaciation looked like it. I inquired into the manner of their deaths, though I knew very well. When Damis exclaimed upon his son, 'You only have your deserts,' I remarked,—'an old man of ninety living in luxury yourself with your million of money, and fobbing off your eighteen-year son with a few pence! As for you, sir Acarnanian'—he was groaning and cursing Myrtium—, 'why put the blame on Love? it belongs to yourself; you were never afraid of an enemy—took all sorts of risks in other people's service—and then let yourself be caught, my hero, by the artificial tears and sighs of the first wench you came across.' Blepsias uttered his own condemnation, without giving me time to do it for him: he had hoarded his money for heirs who were nothing to him, and been fool enough to reckon on immortality. I assure you it was no common satisfaction I derived from their whinings.
But here we are at the gate; we must keep our eyes open, and get the earliest view. Lord, lord, what a mixed crowd! and all in tears except these babes and sucklings. Why, the hoary seniors are all lamentation too; strange! has madam Life given them a love-potion? I must interrogate this most reverend senior of them all.—Sir, why weep, seeing that you have died full of years? has your excellency any complaint to make, after so long a term? Ah, but you were doubtless a king.
Pauper. Not so.
Diog. A provincial governor, then?
Pauper. No, nor that.
Diog. I see; you were wealthy, and do not like leaving your boundless luxury to die.
Pauper. You are quite mistaken; I was near ninety, made a miserable livelihood out of my line and rod, was excessively poor, childless, a cripple, and had nearly lost my sight.
Diog. And you still wished to live?
Pauper. Ay, sweet is the light, and dread is death; would that one might escape it!
Diog. You are beside yourself, old man; you are like a child kicking at the pricks, you contemporary of the ferryman. Well, we need wonder no more at youth, when age is still in love with life; one would have thought it should court death as the cure for its proper ills.—And now let us go our way, before our loitering here brings suspicion on us: they may think we are planning an escape.
Me. Whether you are blind or not, Tiresias, would be a difficult question. Eyeless sockets are the rule among us; there is no telling Phineus from Lynceus nowadays. However, I know that you were a seer, and that you enjoy the unique distinction of having been both man and woman; I have it from the poets. Pray tell me which you found the more pleasant life, the man's or the woman's?
Ti. The woman's, by a long way; it was much less trouble. Women have the mastery of men; and there is no fighting for them, no manning of walls, no squabbling in the assembly, no cross-examination in the law-courts.
Me. Well, but you have heard how Medea, in Euripides, compassionates her sex on their hard lot—on the intolerable pangs they endure in travail? And by the way—Medea's words remind me did you ever have a child, when you were a woman, or were you barren?
Ti. What do you mean by that question, Menippus?
Me. Oh, nothing; but I should like to know, if it is no trouble to you.
Ti. I was not barren: but I did not have a child, exactly.
Me. No; but you might have had. That's all I wanted to know.
Me. And your feminine characteristics gradually vanished, and you developed a beard, and became a man? Or did the change take place in a moment?
Ti. Whither does your question tend? One would think you doubted the fact.
Me. And what should I do but doubt such a story? Am I to take it in, like a nincompoop, without asking myself whether it is possible or not?
Ti. At that rate, I suppose you are equally incredulous when you hear of women being turned into birds or trees or beasts,—Aedon for instance, or Daphne, or Callisto?
Me. If I fall in with any of these ladies, I will see what they have to say about it. But to return, friend, to your own case: were you a prophet even in the days of your femininity? or did manhood and prophecy come together?
Ti. Pooh, you know nothing of the matter. I once settled a dispute among the Gods, and was blinded by Hera for my pains; whereupon Zeus consoled me with the gift of prophecy.
Me. Ah, you love a lie still, Tiresias. But there, 'tis your trade. You prophets! There is no truth in you.
Ag. If you went mad and wrought your own destruction, Ajax, in default of that you designed for us all, why put the blame on Odysseus? Why would you not vouchsafe him a look or a word, when he came to consult Tiresias that day? you stalked past your old comrade in arms as if he was beneath your notice.
Aj. Had I not good reason? My madness lies at the door of my solitary rival for the arms.
Ag. Did you expect to be unopposed, and carry it over us all without a contest?
Aj. Surely, in such a matter. The armour was mine by natural right, seeing I was Achilles's cousin. The rest of you, his undoubted superiors, refused to compete, recognizing my claim. It was the son of Laertes, he that I had rescued scores of times when he would have been cut to pieces by the Phrygians, who set up for a better man and a stronger claimant than I.
Ag. Blame Thetis, then, my good sir; it was she who, instead of delivering the inheritance to the next of kin, brought the arms and left the ownership an open question.
Aj. No, no; the guilt was in claiming them—alone, I mean.
Ag. Surely, Ajax, a mere man may be forgiven the sin of coveting honour—that sweetest bait for which each one of us adventured; nay, and he outdid you there, if a Trojan verdict counts.
Aj. Who inspired that verdict [Footnote: Athene is meant. The allusion is to Homer, Od. xi. 547, a passage upon the contest for the arms of Achilles, in which Odysseus states that 'The judges were the sons of the Trojans, and Pallas Athene.']? I know, but about the Gods we may not speak. Let that pass; but cease to hate Odysseus? 'tis not in my power, Agamemnon, though Athene's self should require it of me.
Mi. Sostratus, the pirate here, can be dropped into Pyriphlegethon, Hermes; the temple-robber shall be clawed by the Chimera; and lay out the tyrant alongside of Tityus, there to have his liver torn by the vultures. And you honest fellows can make the best of your way to Elysium and the Isles of the Blest; this it is to lead righteous lives.
Sos. A word with you, Minos. See if there is not some justice in my plea.
Mi. What, more pleadings? Have you not been convicted of villany and murder without end?
Sos. I have. Yet consider whether my sentence is just.
Mi. Is it just that you should have your deserts? If so, the sentence is just.
Sos. Well, answer my questions; I will not detain you long.
Mi. Say on, but be brief; I have other cases waiting for me.
Sos. The deeds of my life—were they in my own choice, or were they decreed by Fate?
Mi. Decreed, of course.
Sos. Then all of us, whether we passed for honest men or rogues, were the instruments of Fate in all that we did?
Mi. Certainly; Clotho prescribes the conduct of every man at his birth.
Sos. Now suppose a man commits a murder under compulsion of a power which he cannot resist, an executioner, for instance, at the bidding of a judge, or a bodyguard at that of a tyrant. Who is the murderer, according to you?
Mi. The judge, of course, or the tyrant. As well ask whether the sword is guilty, which is but the tool of his anger who is prime mover in the affair.
Sos. I am indebted to you for a further illustration of my argument. Again: a slave, sent by his master, brings me gold or silver; to whom am I to be grateful? who goes down on my tablets as a benefactor?
Mi. The sender; the bringer is but his minister.
Sos. Observe then your injustice! You punish us who are but the slaves of Clotho's bidding, and reward these, who do but minister to another's beneficence. For it will never be said that it was in our power to gainsay the irresistible ordinances of Fate?
Mi. Ah, Sostratus; look closely enough, and you will find plenty of inconsistencies besides these. However, I see you are no common pirate, but a philosopher in your way; so much you have gained by your questions. Let him go, Hermes; he shall not be punished after that. But mind, Sostratus, you must not put it into other people's heads to ask questions of this kind.
Me. All hail, my roof, my doors, my hearth and home! How sweet again to see the light and thee!
Phi. Menippus the cynic, surely; even so, or there are visions about. Menippus, every inch of him. What has he been getting himself up like that for? sailor's cap, lyre, and lion-skin? However, here goes.—How are you, Menippus? where do you spring from? You have disappeared this long time.
Me. Death's lurking-place I leave, and those dark gates Where Hades dwells, a God apart from Gods.
Phi. Good gracious! has Menippus died, all on the quiet, and come to life for a second spell?
Me. Not so; a living guest in Hades I.
Phi. But what induced you to take this queer original journey?
Me. Youth drew me on—too bold, too little wise.
Phi. My good man, truce to your heroics; get off those iambic stilts, and tell me in plain prose what this get-up means; what did you want with the lower regions? It is a journey that needs a motive to make it attractive.
Me. Dear friend, to Hades' realms I needs must go, To counsel with Tiresias of Thebes.
Phi. Man, you must be mad; or why string verses instead of talking like one friend with another?
Me. My dear fellow, you need not be so surprised. I have just been in Euripides's and Homer's company; I suppose I am full to the throat with verse, and the numbers come as soon as I open my mouth. But how are things going up here? what is Athens about?
Phi. Oh, nothing new; extortion, perjury, forty per cent, face-grinding.
Me. Poor misguided fools! they are not posted up in the latest lower-world legislation; the recent decrees against the rich will be too much for all their evasive ingenuity.
Phi. Do you mean to say the lower world has been making new regulations for us?
Me. Plenty of them, I assure you. But I may not publish them, nor reveal secrets; the result might be a suit for impiety in the court of Rhadamanthus.
Phi. Oh now, Menippus, in Heaven's name, no secrets between friends! you know I am no blabber; and I am initiated, if you come to that.
Me. 'Tis a hard thing you ask, and a perilous; yet for you I must venture it. It was resolved, then, that these rich who roll in money and keep their gold under lock and key like a Danae—-
Phi. Oh, don't come to the decrees yet; begin at the beginning. I am particularly curious about your object in going, who showed you the way, and the whole story of what you saw and heard down there; you are a man of taste, and sure not to have missed anything worth looking at or listening to.
Me. I can refuse you nothing, you see; what is one to do, when a friend insists? Well, I will show you first the state of mind which put me on the venture. When I was a boy, and listened to Homer's and Hesiod's tales of war and civil strife—and they do not confine themselves to the Heroes, but include the Gods in their descriptions, adulterous Gods, rapacious Gods, violent, litigious, usurping, incestuous Gods—, well, I found it all quite proper, and indeed was intensely interested in it. But as I came to man's estate, I observed that the laws flatly contradicted the poets, forbidding adultery, sedition, and rapacity. So I was in a very hazy state of mind, and could not tell what to make of it. The Gods would surely never have been guilty of such behaviour if they had not considered it good; and yet law-givers would never have recommended avoiding it, if avoidance had not seemed desirable.
In this perplexity, I determined to go to the people they call philosophers, put myself in their hands, and ask them to make what they would of me and give me a plain reliable map of life. This was my idea in going to them; but the effort only shifted me from the frying-pan into the fire; it was just among these that my inquiry brought the greatest ignorance and bewilderment to light; they very soon convinced me that the real golden life is that of the man in the street. One of them would have me do nothing but seek pleasure and ensue it; according to him, Happiness was pleasure. Another recommended the exact contrary—toil and moil, bring the body under, be filthy and squalid, disgusting and abusive—concluding always with the tags from Hesiod about Virtue, or something about indefatigable pursuit of the ideal. Another bade me despise money, and reckon the acquisition of it as a thing indifferent; he too had his contrary, who declared wealth a good in itself. I will spare you their metaphysics; I was sickened with daily doses of Ideas, Incorporeal Things, Atoms, Vacua, and a multitude more. The extraordinary thing was that people maintaining the most opposite views would each of them produce convincing plausible arguments; when the same thing was called hot and cold by different persons, there was no refuting one more than the other, however well one knew that it could not be hot and cold at once. I was just like a man dropping off to sleep, with his head first nodding forward, and then jerking back.
Yet that absurdity is surpassed by another. I found by observation that the practice of these same people was diametrically opposed to their precepts. Those who preached contempt of wealth would hold on to it like grim death, dispute about interest, teach for pay, and sacrifice everything to the main chance, while the depreciators of fame directed all their words and deeds to nothing else but fame; pleasure, which had all their private devotions, they were almost unanimous in condemning.
Thus again disappointed of my hope, I was in yet worse case than before; it was slight consolation to reflect that I was in numerous and wise and eminently sensible company, if I was a fool still, all astray in my quest of Truth. One night, while these thoughts kept me sleepless, I resolved to go to Babylon and ask help from one of the Magi, Zoroaster's disciples and successors; I had been told that by incantations and other rites they could open the gates of Hades, take down any one they chose in safety, and bring him up again. I thought the best thing would be to secure the services of one of these, visit Tiresias the Boeotian, and learn from that wise seer what is the best life and the right choice for a man of sense. I got up with all speed and started straight for Babylon. When I arrived, I found a wise and wonderful Chaldean; he was white-haired, with a long imposing beard, and called Mithrobarzanes. My prayers and supplications at last induced him to name a price for conducting me down.
Taking me under his charge, he commenced with a new moon, and brought me down for twenty-nine successive mornings to the Euphrates, where he bathed me, apostrophizing the rising sun in a long formula, of which I never caught much; he gabbled indistinctly, like bad heralds at the Games; but he appeared to be invoking spirits. This charm completed, he spat thrice upon my face, and I went home, not letting my eyes meet those of any one we passed. Our food was nuts and acorns, our drink milk and hydromel and water from the Choaspes, and we slept out of doors on the grass. When he thought me sufficiently prepared, he took me at midnight to the Tigris, purified and rubbed me over, sanctified me with torches and squills and other things, muttering the charm aforesaid, then made a magic circle round me to protect me from ghosts, and finally led me home backwards just as I was; it was now time to arrange our voyage.
He himself put on a magic robe, Median in character, and fetched and gave me the cap, lion's skin, and lyre which you see, telling me if I were asked my name not to say Menippus, but Heracles, Odysseus, or Orpheus.
Phi. What was that for? I see no reason either for the get-up or for the choice of names.
Me. Oh, obvious enough; there is no mystery in that. He thought that as these three had gone down alive to Hades before us, I might easily elude Aeacus's guard by borrowing their appearance, and be passed as an habitue; there is good warrant in the theatre for the efficiency of disguise.
Dawn was approaching when we went down to the river to embark; he had provided a boat, victims, hydromel, and all necessaries for our mystic enterprise. We put all aboard, and then,
Troubled at heart, with welling tears, we went.
For some distance we floated down stream, until we entered the marshy lake in which the Euphrates disappears. Beyond this we came to a desolate, wooded, sunless spot; there we landed, Mithrobarzanes leading the way, and proceeded to dig a pit, slay our sheep, and sprinkle their blood round the edge. Meanwhile the Mage, with a lighted torch in his hand, abandoning his customary whisper, shouted at the top of his voice an invocation to all spirits, particularly the Poenae and Erinyes,
Hecat's dark might, and dread Persephone,
with a string of other names, outlandish, unintelligible, and polysyllabic.
As he ended, there was a great commotion, earth was burst open by the incantation, the barking of Cerberus was heard far off, and all was overcast and lowering;
Quaked in his dark abyss the King of Shades;
for almost all was now unveiled to us, the lake, and Phlegethon, and the abode of Pluto. Undeterred, we made our way down the chasm, and came upon Rhadamanthus half dead with fear. Cerberus barked and looked like getting up; but I quickly touched my lyre, and the first note sufficed to lull him. Reaching the lake, we nearly missed our passage for that time, the ferry-boat being already full; there was incessant lamentation, and all the passengers had wounds upon them; mangled legs, mangled heads, mangled everything; no doubt there was a war going on. Nevertheless, when good Charon saw the lion's skin, taking me for Heracles, he made room, was delighted to give me a passage, and showed us our direction when we got off.
We were now in darkness; so Mithrobarzanes led the way, and I followed holding on to him, until we reached a great meadow of asphodel, where the shades of the dead, with their thin voices, came flitting round us. Working gradually on, we reached the court of Minos; he was sitting on a high throne, with the Poenae, Avengers, and Erinyes standing at the sides. From another direction was being brought a long row of persons chained together; I heard that they were adulterers, procurers, publicans, sycophants, informers, and all the filth that pollutes the stream of life. Separate from them came the rich and usurers, pale, pot-bellied, and gouty, each with a hundredweight of spiked collar upon him. There we stood looking at the proceedings and listening to the pleas they put in; their accusers were orators of a strange and novel species. Phi. Who, in God's name? shrink not; let me know all.
Me. It has not escaped your observation that the sun projects certain shadows of our bodies on the ground.
Phi. How should it have?
Me. These, when we die, are the prosecutors and witnesses who bring home to us our conduct on earth; their constant attendance and absolute attachment to our persons secures them high credit in the witness-box.
Well, Minos carefully examined each prisoner, and sent him off to the place of the wicked to receive punishment proportionate to his transgressions. He was especially severe upon those who, puffed up with wealth and authority, were expecting an almost reverential treatment; he could not away with their ephemeral presumption and superciliousness, their failure to realize the mortality of themselves and their fortunes. Stripped of all that made them glorious, of wealth and birth and power, there they stood naked and downcast, reconstructing their worldly blessedness in their minds like a dream that is gone; the spectacle was meat and drink to me; any that I knew by sight I would come quietly up to, and remind him of his state up here; what a spirit had his been, when morning crowds lined his hall, expectant of his coming, being jostled or thrust out by lacqueys! at last my lord Sun would dawn upon them, in purple or gold or rainbow hues, not unconscious of the bliss he shed upon those who approached, if he let them kiss his breast or his hand. These reminders seemed to annoy them.
Minos, however, did allow his decision to be influenced in one case. Dionysius of Syracuse was accused by Dion of many unholy deeds, and damning evidence was produced by his shadow; he was on the point of being chained to the Chimera, when Aristippus of Cyrene, whose name and influence are great below, got him off on the ground of his constant generosity as a patron of literature.
We left the court at last, and came to the place of punishment. Many a piteous sight and sound was there—cracking of whips, shrieks of the burning, rack and gibbet and wheel; Chimera tearing, Cerberus devouring; all tortured together, kings and slaves, governors and paupers, rich and beggars, and all repenting their sins. A few of them, the lately dead, we recognized. These would turn away and shrink from observation; or if they met our eyes, it would be with a slavish cringing glance—how different from the arrogance and contempt that had marked them in life! The poor were allowed half-time in their tortures, respite and punishment alternating. Those with whom legend is so busy I saw with my eyes—Ixion, Sisyphus, the Phrygian Tantalus in all his misery, and the giant Tityus—how vast, his bulk covering a whole field!
Leaving these, we entered the Acherusian plain, and there found the demi-gods, men and women both, and the common dead, dwelling in their nations and tribes, some of them ancient and mouldering, 'strengthless heads,' as Homer has it, others fresh, with substance yet in them, Egyptians chiefly, these—so long last their embalming drugs. But to know one from another was no easy task; all are so like when the bones are bared; yet with pains and long scrutiny we could make them out. They lay pell-mell in undistinguished heaps, with none of their earthly beauties left. With all those anatomies piled together as like as could be, eyes glaring ghastly and vacant, teeth gleaming bare, I knew not how to tell Thersites from Nireus the beauty, beggar Irus from the Phaeacian king, or cook Pyrrhias from Agamemnon's self. Their ancient marks were gone, and their bones alike—uncertain, unlabelled, indistinguishable.
When I saw all this, the life of man came before me under the likeness of a great pageant, arranged and marshalled by Chance, who distributed infinitely varied costumes to the performers. She would take one and array him like a king, with tiara, bodyguard, and crown complete; another she dressed like a slave; one was adorned with beauty, another got up as a ridiculous hunchback; there must be all kinds in the show. Often before the procession was over she made individuals exchange characters; they could not be allowed to keep the same to the end; Croesus must double parts and appear as slave and captive; Maeandrius, starting as slave, would take over Polycrates's despotism, and be allowed to keep his new clothes for a little while. And when the procession is done, every one disrobes, gives up his character with his body, and appears, as he originally was, just like his neighbour. Some, when Chance comes round collecting the properties, are silly enough to sulk and protest, as though they were being robbed of their own instead of only returning loans. You know the kind of thing on the stage—tragic actors shifting as the play requires from Creon to Priam, from Priam to Agamemnon; the same man, very likely, whom you saw just now in all the majesty of Cecrops or Erechtheus, treads the boards next as a slave, because the author tells him to. The play over, each of them throws off his gold-spangled robe and his mask, descends from the buskin's height, and moves a mean ordinary creature; his name is not now Agamemnon son of Atreus or Creon son of Menoeceus, but Polus son of Charicles of Sunium or Satyrus son of Theogiton of Marathon. Such is the condition of mankind, or so that sight presented it to me.
Phi. Now, if a man occupies a costly towering sepulchre, or leaves monuments, statues, inscriptions behind him on earth, does not this place him in a class above the common dead?
Me. Nonsense, my good man; if you had looked on Mausolus himself— the Carian so famous for his tomb—, I assure you, you would never have stopped laughing; he was a miserable unconsidered unit among the general mass of the dead, flung aside in a dusty hole, with no profit of his sepulchre but its extra weight upon him. No, friend, when Aeacus gives a man his allowance of space—and it never exceeds a foot's breadth—, he must be content to pack himself into its limits. You might have laughed still more if you had beheld the kings and governors of earth begging in Hades, selling salt fish for a living, it might be, or giving elementary lessons, insulted by any one who met them, and cuffed like the most worthless of slaves. When I saw Philip of Macedon, I could not contain myself; some one showed him to me cobbling old shoes for money in a corner. Many others were to be seen begging—people like Xerxes, Darius, or Polycrates.
Phi. These royal downfalls are extraordinary almost incredible. But what of Socrates, Diogenes, and such wise men?
Me. Socrates still goes about proving everybody wrong, the same as ever; Palamedes, Odysseus, Nestor, and a few other conversational shades, keep him company. His legs, by the way, were still puffy and swollen from the poison. Good Diogenes pitches close to Sardanapalus, Midas, and other specimens of magnificence. The sound of their lamentations and better-day memories keeps him in laughter and spirits; he is generally stretched on his back roaring out a noisy song which drowns lamentation; it annoys them, and they are looking out for a new pitch where he may not molest them.
Phi. I am satisfied. And now for that decree which you told me had been passed against the rich.
Me. Well remembered; that was what I meant to tell you about, but I have somehow got far astray. Well, during my stay the presiding officers gave notice of an assembly on matters of general interest. So, when I saw every one flocking to it, I mingled with the shades and constituted myself a member. Various measures were decided upon, and last came this question of the rich. Many grave accusations were preferred against them, including violence, ostentation, pride, injustice; and at last a popular speaker rose and moved this decree.
'Whereas the rich are guilty of many illegalities on earth, harrying and oppressing the poor and trampling upon all their rights, it is the pleasure of the Senate and People that after death they shall be punished in their bodies like other malefactors, but their souls shall be sent on earth to inhabit asses, until they have passed in that shape a quarter-million of years, generation after generation, bearing burdens under the tender mercies of the poor; after which they shall be permitted to die. Mover of this decree—Cranion son of Skeletion of the deme Necysia in the Alibantid [Footnote: The four names are formed from words meaning skull, skeleton, corpse, anatomy.] tribe.' The decree read, a formal vote was taken, in which the people accepted it. A snort from Brimo and a bark from Cerberus completed the proceedings according to the regular form.
So went the assembly. And now, in pursuance of my original design, I went to Tiresias, explained my case fully, and implored him to give me his views upon the best life. He is a blind little old man, pale and weak-voiced. He smiled and said:—'My son, the cause of your perplexity, I know, is the fact that doctors differ; but I may not enlighten you; Rhadamanthus forbids.' 'Ah, say not so, father,' I exclaimed; 'speak out, and leave me not to wander through life in a blindness worse than yours.' So he drew me apart to a considerable distance, and whispered in my ear:—'The life of the ordinary man is the best and most prudent choice; cease from the folly of metaphysical speculation and inquiry into origins and ends, utterly reject their clever logic, count all these things idle talk, and pursue one end alone—how you may do what your hand finds to do, and go your way with ever a smile and never a passion.'
So he, and sought the lawn of asphodel.
It was now late, and I told Mithrobarzanes that our work was done, and we might reascend. 'Very well, Menippus,' said he, 'I will show you an easy short cut.' And taking me to a place where the darkness was especially thick, he pointed to a dim and distant ray of light—a mere pencil admitted through a chink. 'There,' he said, 'is the shrine of Trophonius, from which the Boeotian inquirers start; go up that way, and you will be on Grecian soil without more ado.' I was delighted, took my leave of the Mage, crawled with considerable difficulty through the aperture, and found myself, sure enough, at Lebadea.
Her. So gay, Charon? What makes you leave your ferry to come up here? You are quite a stranger in the upper world.
Ch. I thought I should like to see what life is like; what men do with it, and what are these blessings of which they all lament the loss when they come down to us. Never one of them has made the passage dry-eyed. So I got leave from Pluto to take a day off, like that Thessalian lad [Footnote: See Protesilaus in Notes.], you know; and here I am, in the light of day. I am in luck, it seems, to fall in with you. You will show me round, of course, and point out all that is to be seen, as you know all about it.
Her. I have no time, good ferryman. I am bound on certain errands of the Upper Zeus, certain human matters. He is short-tempered: any loitering on my part, and he may hand me over to you Powers of Darkness for good and all; or treat me as he did Hephaestus the other day—hurl me down headlong from the threshold of Heaven; there would be a pair of lame cupbearers then, to amuse the gods.
Ch. And you would leave an old messmate wandering at large on the face of the earth? Think of the cruises we have sailed together, the cargoes you and I have handled! You might remember one thing, son of Maia; I have never set you down to bale or row. You lie sprawling about the deck, you great strong lubber, snoring away, or chatting the whole trip through with any communicative shade you can find; and the old man plies both oars at once. Come, stand by me, like a true son of Zeus as you are, and show me all the ins and outs, there's a dear lad. I want to see something of life before I go back, and if you leave me in the lurch, I shall be no better off than a blind man: he comes to grief because he is always in the dark, and, contrariwise, I can make nothing of it in the light. Do me this good turn, and I'll not forget it.
Her. Clearly this is to be a flogging matter for me. There will go some shrewd knocks to the settlement of this reckoning. However, I must give you a helping hand. What is one to do, when a friend is so pressing? Now, as to going over everything thoroughly, it is out of the question; it would take us years. Meanwhile, I should have the hue-and-cry out after me, you would be neglecting your ghostly work, Pluto would lose the shades that you ought to be shipping over all that time, and Aeacus would never take a single toll, and would be proportionately furious. We have only to think, therefore, of contriving you a general view of what is going on.
Ch. You must do the best you can for me. I know nothing of the matter, being a stranger up here.
Her. The main thing is to get an elevation from which you may see in every direction. If you could come up to Heaven, we should be saved any further trouble; you would then have a good bird's-eye view of everything. But it would be sacrilege for one so conversant with phantoms to set foot in the courts of Zeus. Let us lose no time, therefore, in looking out a good high mountain.
Ch. You know what I sometimes say to you on the ship, Hermes.—If a sudden gust strikes the sail from a new quarter, and the waves are rising high, you landsmen know not what to make of it; you are for taking in sail, or slackening the sheet, or letting her go before the wind, and then I tell you not to trouble your heads, for I know what to do. Well, now it is your turn; you are sailing this ship; do as you think best, and I'll sit quiet, as a passenger should, and obey orders.
Her. Just so; leave it to me, and I will find a good look-out. How would Caucasus do? Or is Parnassus higher? Olympus, perhaps, is higher than either of them. Olympus! stay, that reminds me; I have a happy thought. But there is work for two here; I shall want your assistance.
Ch. Give your orders, I'll bear a hand, to the best of my ability.
Her. Homer tells us how the sons of Aloeus [Footnote: See Olus in Notes.] (they were but two, like ourselves) took it into their heads, when they were yet children, to drag up Ossa from its foundations, and plant it on the top of Olympus, and then Pelion on the top of all; they thought that would serve as a ladder for getting into heaven. The two boys were rightly punished for their presumption. But we have no design against the Gods: why should not we take the hint, and make an erection of mountains piled one on the top of another? From such a height we should get a better view.
Ch. What, shall we two be able to lift Pelion or Ossa?
Her. Why not? We are gods; I should hope we are as good as those two infants.
Ch. Yes; but I should never have thought we could do such a job as that.
Her. Ah, my dear Charon, you don't understand these things; you have no imagination. To the lofty spirit of Homer this is simplicity itself. Just a couple of lines, and the mountains are in place;—we have only to walk up. I wonder you make such a marvel of this. You know Atlas, of course? He holds up the entire heaven by himself, Gods and all. And I dare say you have heard how my brother Heracles relieved him once, and took the burden on his own shoulders for a time?
Ch. Yes, I have heard it. But you and the poets best know whether it is true.
Her. Oh, perfectly true. What should induce wise men to lie?—Come, let us get to work on Ossa first; for so the masterbuilder directs:
On Ossa leafy Pelion.
There! What think you of this? Is it suave work? is it poetry? I must run up, and see whether we shall want another storey. Oh dear, we are no way up as yet. On the East, it is all I can do to make out Ionia and Lydia; on the West is nothing but Italy and Sicily; on the North, nothing to be seen beyond the Danube; and on the South, Crete, none too clear. It looks to me as if we should want Oeta, my nautical friend; and Parnassus into the bargain.
Ch. So be it; but take care not to make the height too great for the width; or down we shall come, ladder and all, and pay our footing in the Homeric school of architecture with a cracked crown apiece.
Her. No fear; all will be safe enough. Pass Oeta along. Now trundle Parnassus up. There; I'll go up again.... That's better! A fine view. You can come now.
Ch. Give me a hand up, Hermes. This is an erection, and no mistake!
Her. Well, you know, you would see everything. Safety is one thing, my friend, and sight-seeing is another. Here is my hand; hang on, and keep clear of the slippery bits. There, now you are up. Let us sit down; here are two peaks, one for each of us. Now take a general look round at the prospect.
Ch. I see a vast stretch of land, and a huge lake surrounding it, and mountains, and rivers bigger than Cocytus and Pyriphlegethon; and men, tiny little things! and I suppose their dens.
Her. Dens? Those are cities!
Ch. I tell you what it is, Hermes; all this is no use. Here have we been shifting about Parnassus (Castalia and all complete), and Oeta, and these others, and we might have spared ourselves the trouble!
Her. How so?
Ch. Why, I can make nothing out up here. These cities and mountains look for all the world like a map. It is men that I am after; I want to see what they do, and hear what they say. That is what I was laughing about just now, when first you met me, and asked me what the joke was. I had heard something that tickled me hugely.
Her. And what might that be?
Ch. One of them had been asked by a friend to dinner, I think it was, the next day. 'Depend on it,' says he, 'I'll be with you.' And before the words were out of his mouth, down came a tile—started somehow from the roof—and he was a dead man! Ha, ha, thought I, that promise will never be kept. So I think I shall go down again; I want to see and hear.
Her. Sit where you are. I will soon put that right; you shall see with the best; Homer has a charm for this too. Now, the moment I say the lines, there must be no more dull eyes; all must be clear as daylight. Don't forget!
Ch. Say on.
See, from before thine eyes I lift
So shalt thou clearly know both God and man.
Well? Are the eyes any better?
Ch. A marvellous improvement! Lynceus is blind to me. Now, the next thing I want is information. I have some questions to ask. Will you have them couched in the Homeric style, to convince you that I am not wholly unversed in his poems?
Her. And how should you know anything of Homer? A seaman, chained to the oar!
Ch. Come, come; no abuse of my profession. The fact is, when he died, and I ferried him over, I heard a good many of his ballads, and a few of them still run in my head. There was a pretty stiff gale on at the time, too. You see, he began singing a song about Posidon, which boded no good to us mariners,—how Posidon gathered the clouds, and stirred the depths with his trident, as with a ladle, and roused the whirlwind, and a good deal more (enough to raise a storm of itself),—when suddenly there came a black squall which nearly capsized the boat. The poet was extremely ill, and disgorged such an avalanche of minstrelsy (Scylla, Charybdis, the Cyclops, all came up bodily), that I had no difficulty in preserving a few snatches. I should like to know, for instance,
Who is yon hero, stout and strong and
O'ertopping all mankind by head and shoulders?
Her. That is Milo of Croton, the athlete. He has just picked up a bull, and is carrying it along the race-course; and the Greeks are applauding him.
Ch. It would be more to the point, if they were to offer their congratulations to me. I shall presently be picking up Milo himself, and putting him into my boat; that will be after he has had his fall from Death, that most invincible of antagonists, who will have him on his back before he knows what is happening. We shall hear a sad tale then, no doubt, of the crowns and the applause he has left behind him. Meanwhile, he is mightily elated over the bull exploit, and the distinction it has won him. What is one to think? Does it ever occur to him that he must die some day?
Her. How should he think of death? He is at his zenith.
Ch. Well, never mind him. We shall have sport enough with him before long; he will come aboard with no strength left to pick up a gnat, let alone a bull. But pray,
Who is yon haughty hero?
No Greek, to judge by his dress.
Her. That is Cyrus, son of Cambyses, who transferred to the Persians the ancient empire of the Medes. He has lately conquered Assyria, and reduced Babylon; and now it looks as if he meditated an invasion of Lydia, to complete his dominion by the overthrow of Croesus.
Ch. And whereabouts is Croesus?
Her. Look over there. You see the great city with the triple wall? That is Sardis. And there, look, is Croesus himself, reclining on a golden couch, and conversing with Solon the Athenian. Shall we listen to what they are saying?
Ch. Yes, let us.
Cr. Stranger, you have now seen my stores of treasure, my heaps of bullion, and all my riches. Tell me therefore, whom do you account the happiest of mankind?
Ch. What will Solon say, I wonder?
Her. Trust Solon; he will not disgrace himself.
So. Croesus, few men are happy. Of those whom I know, the happiest, I think, were Cleobis and Biton, the sons of the Argive priestess.
Ch. Ah, he means those two who yoked themselves to a waggon, and drew their mother to the temple, and died the moment after. It was but the other day.
Cr. Ah. So they are first on the list. And who comes next ?
So. Tellus the Athenian, who lived a righteous life, and died for his country.
Cr. And where do I come, reptile?
So. That I am unable to say at present, Croesus; I must see you end your days first. Death is the sure test;—a happy end to a life of happiness.
Ch. Bravo, Solon; you have not forgotten us! As you say, Charon's ferry is the proper place for the decision of these questions.—But who are these men whom Croesus is sending out? And what have they got on their shoulders?
Her. Those are bars of gold; they are going to Delphi, to pay for an oracle, which oracle will presently be the ruin of Croesus. But oracles are a hobby of his.
Ch. Oh, so that is gold, that glittering yellow stuff, with just a tinge of red in it. I have often heard of gold, but never saw it before.
Her. Yes, that is the stuff there is so much talking and squabbling about.
Ch. Well now, I see no advantages about it, unless it is an advantage that it is heavy to carry.
Her. Ah, you do not know what it has to answer for; the wars and plots and robberies, the perjuries and murders; for this men will endure slavery and imprisonment; for this they traffic and sail the seas.
Ch. For this stuff? Why, it is not much different from copper. I know copper, of course, because I get a penny from each passenger.
Her. Yes, but copper is plentiful, and therefore not much esteemed by men. Gold is found only in small quantities, and the miners have to go to a considerable depth for it. For the rest, it comes out of the earth, just the same as lead and other metals.
Ch. What fools men must be, to be enamoured of an object of this sallow complexion; and of such a weight!
Her. Well, Solon, at any rate, seems to have no great affection for it. See, he is making merry with Croesus and his outlandish magnificence. I think he is going to ask him a question. Listen.
So. Croesus, will those bars be any use to Apollo, do you think?
Cr. Any use! Why there is nothing at Delphi to be compared to them.
So. And that is all that is wanting to complete his happiness, eh?— some bar gold?
So. Then they must be very hard up in Heaven, if they have to send all the way to Lydia for their gold supply?
Cr. Where else is gold to be had in such abundance as with us?
So. Now is any iron found in Lydia?
Cr. Not much.
So. Ah; so you are lacking in the more valuable metal.
Cr. More valuable? Iron more valuable than gold?
So. Bear with me, while I ask you a few questions, and I will convince you it is so.
So. Of protector and protege, which is the better man?
Cr. The protector, of course.
So. Now in the event of Cyrus's invading Lydia—there is some talk of it—shall you supply your men with golden swords? or will iron be required, on the occasion?
Cr. Oh, iron.
So. Iron accordingly you must have, or your gold would be led captive into Persia?
So. Oh, we will hope for the best. But it is clear, on your own admission, that iron is better than gold.
Cr. And what would you have me do? Recall the gold, and offer the God bars of iron?
So. He has no occasion for iron either. Your offering (be the metal what it may) will fall into other hands than his. It will be snapped up by the Phocians, or the Boeotians, or the God's own priests; or by some tyrant or robber. Your goldsmiths have no interest for Apollo.
Cr. You are always having a stab at my wealth. It is all envy!
Her. This blunt sincerity is not to the Lydian's taste. Things are come to a strange pass, he thinks, if a poor man is to hold up his head, and speak his mind in this frank manner! He will remember Solon presently, when the time comes for Cyrus to conduct him in chains to the pyre. I heard Clotho, the other day, reading over the various dooms. Among other things, Croesus was to be led captive by Cyrus, and Cyrus to be murdered by the queen of the Massagetae. There she is: that Scythian woman, riding on a white horse; do you see?
Her. That is Tomyris. She will cut off Cyrus's head, and put it into a wine-skin filled with blood. And do you see his son, the boy there? That is Cambyses. He will succeed to his father's throne; and, after innumerable defeats in Libya and Ethiopia, will finally slay the god Apis, and die a raving madman.
Ch. What fun! Why, at this moment no one would presume to meet their eyes; from such a height do they look down on the rest of mankind. Who would believe that before long one of them will be a captive, and the other have his head in a bottle of blood?—But who is that in the purple robe, Hermes?—the one with the diadem? His cook has just been cleaning a fish, and is now handing him a ring,—“in yonder sea-girt isle”; “'tis, sure, some king.”
Her.Ha, ha! A parody, this time.—That is Polycrates, tyrant of Samos. He is extremely well pleased with his lot: yet that slave who now stands at his side will betray him to the satrap Oroetes, and he will be crucified. It will not take long to overturn his prosperity, poor man! This, too, I had from Clotho.
Ch. I like Clotho; she is a lady of spirit. Have at them, madam! Off with their heads! To the cross with them! Let them know that they are men. And let them be exalted in the meantime; the higher they mount, the heavier will be the fall. I shall have a merry time of it hereafter, identifying their naked shades, as they come aboard; no more purple robes then; no tiaras; no golden couches!
Her. So much for royalty; and now to the common herd. Do you see them, Charon;—on their ships and on the field of battle; crowding the law-courts and following the plough; usurers here, beggars there?
Ch. I see them. What a jostling life it is! What a world of ups and downs! Their cities remind me of bee-hives. Every man keeps a sting for his neighbour's service; and a few, like wasps, make spoil of their weaker brethren. But what are all these misty shapes that beset them on every side?
Her. Hopes, Fears, Follies, Pleasures, Greeds, Hates, Grudges, and such like. They differ in their habits. The Folly is a domestic creature, with vested rights of its own. The same with the Grudge, the Hate, the Envy, the Greed, the Know-not, and the What's-to-do. But the Fear and the Hope fly overhead. The Fear swoops on its prey from above; sometimes it is content with startling a man out of his wits, sometimes it frightens him in real earnest. The Hope hovers almost within reach, and just when a man thinks he is going to catch it, off it flies, and leaves him gaping—like Tantalus in the water, you know. Now look closely, and you will make out the Fates up aloft, spinning each man his spindle-full; from that spindle a man hangs by a narrow thread. Do you see what looks like a cobweb, coming down to each man from the spindles?
Ch. I see each has a very slight thread. They are mostly entangled, one with another, and that other with a third.
Her. Of course they are. Because the first man has got to be murdered by the second, and he by the third; or again, B is to be A's heir (A's thread being the shorter), and C is to be B's. That is what the entangling means. But you see what thin threads they all have to depend on. Now here is one drawn high up into the air; presently his thread will snap, when the weight becomes too much for it, and down he will come with a bang: whereas yonder fellow hangs so low that when he does fall it makes no noise; his next-door neighbours will scarcely hear him drop.
Ch. How absurd it all is!
Her. My dear Charon, there is no word for the absurdity of it. They do take it all so seriously, that is the best of it; and then, long before they have finished scheming, up comes good old Death, and whisks them off, and all is over! You observe that he has a fine staff of assistants at his command;—agues, consumptions, fevers, inflammations, swords, robbers, hemlock, juries, tyrants,—not one of which gives them a moment's concern so long as they are prosperous; but when they come to grief, then it is Alack! and Well-a-day! and Oh dear me! If only they would start with a clear understanding that they are mortal, that after a brief sojourn on the earth they will wake from the dream of life, and leave all behind them,—they would live more sensibly, and not mind dying so much. As it is, they get it into their heads that what they possess they possess for good and all; the consequence is, that when Death's officer calls for them, and claps on a fever or a consumption, they take it amiss; the parting is so wholly unexpected. Yonder is a man building his house, urging the workmen to use all dispatch. How would he take the news, that he was just to see the roof on and all complete, when he would have to take his departure, and leave all the enjoyment to his heir?—hard fate, not once to sup beneath it! There again is one rejoicing over the birth of a son; the child is to inherit his grandfather's name, and the father is celebrating the occasion with his friends. He would not be so pleased, if he knew that the boy was to die before he was eight years old! It is natural enough: he sees before him some happy father of an Olympian victor, and has no eyes for his neighbour there, who is burying a child; that thin-spun thread escapes his notice. Behold, too, the money-grubbers, whom the aforesaid Death's-officers will never permit to be money-spenders; and the noble army of litigant neighbours!
Ch. Yes! I see it all; and I ask myself, what is the satisfaction in life? What is it that men bewail the loss of? Take their kings; they seem to be best off, though, as you say, they have their happiness on a precarious tenure; but apart from that, we shall find their pleasures to be outweighed by the vexations inseparable from their position—worry and anxiety, flattery here, conspiracy there, enmity everywhere; to say nothing of the tyranny of Sorrow, Disease, and Passion, with whom there is confessedly no respect of persons. And if the king's lot is a hard one, we may make a pretty shrewd guess at that of the commoner. Come now, I will give you a similitude for the life of man. Have you ever stood at the foot of a waterfall, and marked the bubbles rising to the surface and gathering into foam? Some are quite small, and break as soon as they are born. Others last longer; new ones come to join them, and they swell up to a great size: yet in the end they burst, as surely as the rest; it cannot be otherwise. There you have human life. All men are bubbles, great or small, inflated with the breath of life. Some are destined to last for a brief space, others perish in the very moment of birth: but all must inevitably burst.
Her. Homer compares mankind to leaves. Your simile is full as good as his.
Ch. And being the things they are, they do—the things you see; squabbling among themselves, and contending for dominion and power and riches, all of which they will have to leave behind them, when they come down to us with their penny apiece. Now that we are up here, how would it be for me to cry out to them at the top of my voice, to abstain from their vain endeavours, and live with the prospect of Death before their eyes? 'Fools' (I might say), 'why so much in earnest? Rest from your toils. You will not live for ever. Nothing of the pomp of this world will endure; nor can any man take anything hence when he dies. He will go naked out of the world, and his house and his lands and his gold will be another's, and ever another's.' If I were to call out something of this sort, loud enough for them to hear, would it not do some good? Would not the world be the better for it?
Her. Ah, my poor friend, you know not what you say. Ignorance and deceit have done for them what Odysseus did for his crew when he was afraid of the Sirens; they have waxed men's ears up so effectually, that no drill would ever open them. How then should they hear you? You might shout till your lungs gave way. Ignorance is as potent here as the waters of Lethe are with you. There are a few, to be sure, who from a regard for Truth have refused the wax process; men whose eyes are open to discern good and evil.
Ch. Well then, we might call out to them?
Her. There again: where would be the use of telling them what they know already? See, they stand aloof from the rest of mankind, and scoff at all that goes on; nothing is as they would have it. Nay, they are evidently bent on giving life the slip, and joining you. Their condemnations of folly make them unpopular here.
Ch. Well done, my brave boys! There are not many of them, though, Hermes.
Her. These must serve. And now let us go down.
Ch. There is still one thing I had a fancy to see. Show me the receptacles into which they put the corpses, and your office will have been discharged.
Her. Ah, sepulchres, those are called, or tombs , or graves. Well, do you see those mounds, and columns, and pyramids, outside the various city walls? Those are the store-chambers of the dead.
Ch. Why, they are putting flowers on the stones, and pouring costly essences upon them. And in front of some of the mounds they have piled up faggots, and dug trenches. Look: there is a splendid banquet laid out, and they are burning it all; and pouring wine and mead, I suppose it is, into the trenches! What does it all mean?
Her. What satisfaction it affords to their friends in Hades, I am unable to say. But the idea is, that the shades come up, and get as close as they can, and feed upon the savoury steam of the meat, and drink the mead in the trench.
Ch. Eat and drink, when their skulls are dry bone? But I am wasting my breath: you bring them down every day;—you can say whether they are likely ever to get up again, once they are safely underground! That would be too much of a good thing! You would have your work cut out for you and no mistake, if you had not only to bring them down, but also to take them up again when they wanted a drink. Oh, fools and blockheads! You little know how we arrange matters, or what a gulf is set betwixt the living and the dead!
The buried and unburied, both are
He ranks alike the beggar and the king;
Thersites sits by fair-haired Thetis' son.
Naked and withered roam the fleeting shades
Together through the fields of asphodel.
Her. Bless me, what a deluge of Homer! And now I think of it, I must show you Achilles's tomb. There it is on the Trojan shore, at Sigeum. And across the water is Rhoeteum, where Ajax lies buried.
Ch. Rather small tombs, considering. Now show me the great cities, those that we hear talked about in Hades; Nineveh, Babylon, Mycenae, Cleonae, and Troy itself. I shipped numbers across from there, I remember. For ten years running I had no time to haul my boat up and clean it.
Her. Why, as to Nineveh, it is gone, friend, long ago, and has left no trace behind it; there is no saying whereabouts it may have been. But there is Babylon, with its fine battlements and its enormous wall. Before long it will be as hard to find as Nineveh. As to Mycenae and Cleonae, I am ashamed to show them to you, let alone Troy. You will throttle Homer, for certain, when you get back, for puffing them so. They were prosperous cities, too, in their day; but they have gone the way of all flesh. Cities, my friend, die, just like men; stranger still, so do rivers! Inachus is gone from Argos—not a puddle left.
Ch. Oh, Homer, Homer! You and your 'holy Troy,' and your 'city of broad streets,' and your 'strong-walled Cleonae'!—By the way, what is that battle going on over there? What are they murdering one another about?
Her. It is between the Argives and the Lacedaemonians. The general who lies there half-dead, writing an inscription on the trophy with his own blood, is Othryades.
Ch. And what were they fighting for?
Her. For the field of battle, neither more nor less.
Ch. The fools! Not to know that though each one of them should win to himself a whole Peloponnesus, he will get but a bare foot of ground from Aeacus! As to yonder plain, one nation will till it after another, and many a time will that trophy be turned up by the plough.
Her. Even so. And now let us get down, and put these mountains to rights again. After which, I must be off on my errand, and you back to your ferry. You will see me there before long, with the day's contingent of shades.
Ch. I am much obliged to you, Hermes; the service shall be perpetuated in my records. Thanks to you, my outing has been a success. Dear, dear, what a world it is!—And never a word of Charon!
Methinks that man must lie sore stricken under the hand of sorrow, who has not a smile left for the folly of his superstitious brethren, when he sees them at work on sacrifice and festival and worship of the gods, hears the subject of their prayers, and marks the nature of their creed. Nor, I fancy, will a smile be all. He will first have a question to ask himself: Is he to call them devout worshippers or very outcasts, who think so meanly of God as to suppose that he can require anything at the hand of man, can take pleasure in their flattery, or be wounded by their neglect? Thus the afflictions of the Calydonians, that long tale of misery and violence, ending with the death of Meleager—all is attributed to the resentment of Artemis, at Oeneus's neglect in not inviting her to a feast. She must have taken the disappointment very much to heart. I fancy I see her, poor Goddess, left all alone in Heaven, after the rest have set out for Calydon, brooding darkly over the fine spread at which she will not be present. Those Ethiopians, too; privileged, thrice-happy mortals! Zeus, one supposes, is not unmindful of the handsome manner in which they entertained him and all his family for twelve days running. With the Gods, clearly, nothing goes for nothing. Each blessing has its price. Health is to be had, say, for a calf; wealth, for a couple of yoke of oxen; a kingdom, for a hecatomb. A safe conduct from Troy to Pylos has fetched as much as nine bulls, and a passage from Aulis to Troy has been quoted at a princess. For six yoke of oxen and a robe, Athene sold Hecuba a reprieve for Troy; and it is to be presumed that a cock, a garland, a handful of frankincense, will each buy something.
Chryses, that experienced divine and eminent theologian, seems to have realized this principle. Returning from his fruitless visit to Agamemnon, he approaches Apollo with the air of a creditor, and demands repayment of his loan. His attitude is one of remonstrance, almost, 'Good Apollo,' he cries, 'here have I been garlanding your temple, where never garland hung before, and burning unlimited thigh- pieces of bulls and goats upon your altars: yet when I suffer wrong, you take no heed; you count my benefactions as nothing worth.' The God is quite put out of countenance: he seizes his bow, settles down in the harbour and smites the Achaeans with shafts of pestilence, them and their mules and their dogs.
And now that I have mentioned Apollo, I cannot refrain from an allusion to certain other passages in his life, which are recorded by the sages. With his unfortunate love affairs—the sad end of Hyacinth, and the cruelty of Daphne—we are not concerned. But when that vote of censure was passed on him for the slaughter of the Cyclopes, he was dismissed from Heaven, and condemned to share the fortunes of men upon earth. It was then that he served Admetus in Thessaly, and Laomedon in Phrygia; and in the latter service he was not alone. He and Posidon together, since better might not be, made bricks and built the walls of Troy; and did not even get their full wages;—the Phrygian, it is said, remained their debtor for no less a sum than five-and-twenty shillings Trojan, and odd pence. These, and yet holier mysteries than these, are the high themes of our poets. They tell of Hephaestus and of Prometheus; of Cronus and Rhea, and well-nigh all the family of Zeus. And as they never commence their poems without bespeaking the assistance of the Muses, we must conclude that it is under that divine inspiration that they sing, how Cronus unmanned his father Uranus, and was king in his room; and how, like Argive Thyestes, he swallowed his own children; and how thereafter Rhea saved Zeus by the fraud of the stone, and the child was exposed in Crete, and suckled by a goat, as Telephus was by a hind, and Cyrus the Great by a bitch; and how he dethroned his father, and threw him into prison, and was king; and of his many wives, and how finally (like a Persian or an Assyrian) he married his own sister Hera; and of his love adventures, and how he peopled the Heaven with gods, ay, and with demi-gods, the rogued for he wooed the daughters of earth, appearing to them now in a shower of gold, now in the form of a bull or a swan or an eagle; a very Proteus for versatility. Once, and only once, he conceived within his own brain, and gave birth to Athene. For Dionysus, they say, he tore from the womb of Semele before the fire had yet consumed her, and hid the child within his thigh, till the time of travail was come.
Similarly, we find Hera conceiving without external assistance, and giving birth to Hephaestus; no child of fortune he, but a base mechanic, living all his life at the forge, soot-begrimed as any stoker. He is not even sound of limb; he has been lame ever since Zeus threw him down from Heaven. Fortunately for us the Lemnians broke his fall, or there would have been an end of him, as surely as there was of Astyanax when he was flung from the battlements. But Hephaestus is nothing to Prometheus. Who knows not the sorrows of that officious philanthropist? How he too fell a victim to the wrath of Zeus, and was carried into Scythia, and nailed up on Caucasus, with an eagle to keep him company and make daily havoc of his liver? However, there was a reckoning settled, at any rate. But Rhea, now! We cannot, I think, pass over her conduct unnoticed. It is surely most discreditable;—a lady of her venerable years, the mother of such a family, still feeling the pangs of love and jealousy, and carrying her beloved Attis about with her in the lion-drawn car,—and he so ill qualified to play the lover's part! After that, we can but wink, if we find Aphrodite making a slip, or Selene time after time pulling up in mid-career to pay a visit to Endymion.
But enough of scandal. Borne on the wings of poesy, let us take flight for Heaven itself, as Homer and Hesiod have done before us, and see how all is disposed up there. The vault is of brass on the under side, as we know from Homer. But climb over the edge, and take a peep up. You are now actually in Heaven. Observe the increase of light; here is a purer Sun, and brighter stars; daylight is everywhere, and the floor is of gold. We arrive first at the abode of the Seasons; they are the fortresses of Heaven. Then we have Iris and Hermes, the servants and messengers of Zeus; and next Hephaestus's smithy, which is stocked with all manner of cunning contrivances. Last come the dwellings of the Gods, and the palace of Zeus. All are the work of Hephaestus; and noble work it is.
Hard by the throne of Zeus
(I suppose we must adapt our language to our altitude)
sit all the gods.
Their eyes are turned downwards; intently they search every corner of the earth; is there nowhere a fire to be seen, or the steam of burnt- offerings
... in eddying clouds upborne?
If a sacrifice is going forward, all mouths are open to feast upon the smoke; like flies they settle on the altar to drink up the trickling streams of blood. If they are dining at home, nectar and ambrosia is the bill of fare. In ancient days, mortals have eaten and drunk at their table. Such were Ixion and Tantalus; but they forgot their manners, and talked too much. They are paying the penalty for it to this day; and since then mortals have been excluded from Heaven.
The life of the Gods being such as I have described, our religious ordinances are in admirable harmony with the divine requirements. Our first care has been to supply each God with his sacred grove, his holy hill, and his own peculiar bird or plant. The next step was to assign them their various sacred cities. Apollo has the freedom of Delphi and Delos, Athene that of Athens (there is no disputing her nationality); Hera is an Argive, Rhea a Mygdonian, Aphrodite a Paphian. As for Zeus, he is a Cretan born and bred—and buried, as any native of that island will show you. It was a mistake of ours to suppose that Zeus was dispensing the thunder and the rain and the rest of it;—he has been lying snugly underground in Crete all this time. As it would never have done to leave the Gods without a hearth and home, temples were now erected, and the services of Phidias, Polyclitus, and Praxiteles were called in to create images in their likeness. Chance glimpses of their originals (but where obtained I know not) enabled these artists to do justice to the beard of Zeus, the perpetual youth of Apollo, the down on Hermes's cheek, Posidon's sea-green hair, and Athene's flashing eyes; with the result that on entering the temple of Zeus men believe that they see before them, not Indian ivory, nor gold from a Thracian mine, but the veritable son of Cronus and Rhea, translated to earth by the hand of Phidias, with instructions to keep watch over the deserted plains of Pisa, and content with his lot, if, once in four years, a spectator of the games can snatch a moment to pay him sacrifice.
And now the altars stand ready; proclamation has been made, and lustration duly performed. The victims are accordingly brought forward—an ox from the plough, a ram or a goat, according as the worshipper is a farmer, a shepherd, or a goatherd; sometimes it is only frankincense or a honey cake; nay, a poor man may conciliate the God by merely kissing his hand. But it is with the priests that we are concerned. They first make sure that the victim is without blemish, and worthy of the sacrificial knife; then they crown him with garlands and lead him to the altar, where he is slaughtered before the God's eyes, to the broken accompaniment of his own sanctimonious bellowings, most musical, most melancholy. The delight of the Gods at such a spectacle, who can doubt?
According to the proclamation, no man shall approach the holy ground with unclean hands. Yet there stands the priest himself, wallowing in gore; handling his knife like a very Cyclops, drawing out entrails and heart, sprinkling the altar with blood,—in short, omitting no detail of his holy office. Finally, he kindles fire, and sets the victim bodily thereon, sheep or goat, unfleeced, unflayed. A godly steam, and fit for godly nostrils, rises heavenwards, and drifts to each quarter of the sky. The Scythian, by the way, will have nothing to do with paltry cattle: he offers men to Artemis; and the offering is appreciated.
But all this, and all that Assyria, Phrygia, and Lydia can show, amounts to nothing much. If you would see the Gods in their glory, fit denizens of Heaven, you must go to Egypt. There you will find that Zeus has sprouted ram's horns, our old friend Hermes has the muzzle of a dog, and Pan is perfect goat; ibis, crocodile, ape,—each is a God in disguise.
And wouldst thou know the truth that lurks herein?
If so, you will find no lack of sages and scribes and shaven priests to inform you (after expulsion of the profanum vulgus) how, when the Giants and their other enemies rose against them, the Gods fled to Egypt to hide themselves, and there took the form of goat and ram, of bird and reptile, which forms they preserve to this day. Of all this they have documentary evidence, dating from thousands of years back, stored up in their temples. Their sacrifices differ from others only in this respect, that they go into mourning for the victim, slaying him first, and beating their breasts for grief afterwards, and (in some parts) burying him as soon as he is killed. When their great god Apis dies, off comes every man's hair, however much he values himself on it; though he had the purple lock of Nisus, it would make no difference: he must show a sad crown on the occasion, if he die for it. It is as the result of an election that each succeeding Apis leaves his pasture for the temple; his superior beauty and majestic bearing prove that he is something more than bull.
On such absurdities as these, such vulgar credulity, remonstrance would be thrown away; a Heraclitus would best meet the case, or a Democritus; for the ignorance of these men is as laughable as their folly is deplorable.
[Footnote: The distinction between the personified creeds or philosophies here offered for sale, and their various founders or principal exponents, is but loosely kept up. Not only do most of the creeds bear the names of their founders, but some are even credited with their physical peculiarities and their personal experiences.]
Zeus. Hermes. Several Dealers. Creeds.
Zeus. Now get those benches straight there, and make the place fit to be seen. Bring up the lots, one of you, and put them in line. Give them a rub up first, though; we must have them looking their best, to attract bidders. Hermes, you can declare the sale-room open, and a welcome to all comers.—For Sale! A varied assortment of Live Creeds. Tenets of every description.—Cash on delivery; or credit allowed on suitable security.
Hermes. Here they come, swarming in. No time to lose; we must not keep them waiting.
Zeus. Well, let us begin.
Her. What are we to put up first?
Zeus. The Ionic fellow, with the long hair. He seems a showy piece of goods.
Her. Step up, Pythagoreanism, and show yourself.
Zeus. Go ahead.
Her. Now here is a creed of the first water. Who bids for this handsome article? What gentleman says Superhumanity? Harmony of the Universe! Transmigration of souls! Who bids?
First Dealer. He looks all right. And what can he do?
Her. Magic, music, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, jugglery. Prophecy in all its branches.
First D. Can I ask him some questions?
Her. Ask away, and welcome.
First D. Where do you come from?
First D. Where did you get your schooling?
Py. From the sophists in Egypt.
First D. If I buy you, what will you teach me?
Py. Nothing. I will remind you.
First D. Remind me?
Py. But first I shall have to cleanse your soul of its filth.
First D. Well, suppose the cleansing process complete. How is the reminding done?
Py. We shall begin with a long course of silent contemplation. Not a word to be spoken for five years.
First D. You would have been just the creed for Croesus's son! But I have a tongue in my head; I have no ambition to be a statue. And after the five years' silence?
Py. You will study music and geometry.
First D. A charming recipe! The way to be wise: learn the guitar.
Py. Next you will learn to count.
First D. I can do that already.
Py. Let me hear you.
First D. One, two, three, four,—
Py. There you are, you see. Four (as you call it) is ten. Four the perfect triangle. Four the oath of our school.
First D. Now by Four, most potent Four!—higher and holier mysteries than these I never heard.
Py. Then you will learn of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water; their action, their movement, their shapes.
First D. Have Fire and Air and Water shapes?
Py. Clearly. That cannot move which lacks shape and form You will also find that God is a number; an intelligence; a harmony.
First D. You surprise me.
Py. More than this, you have to learn that you yourself are not the person you appear to be.
First D. What, I am some one else, not the I who am speaking to you?
Py. You are that you now: but you have formerly inhabited another body, and borne another name. And in course of time you will change once more.
First D. Why then I shall be immortal, and take one shape after another? But enough of this. And now what is your diet?
Py. Of living things I eat none. All else I eat, except beans.
First D. And why no beans? Do you dislike them?
Py. No. But they are sacred things. Their nature is a mystery. Consider them first in their generative aspect; take a green one and peel it, and you will see what I mean. Again, boil one and expose it to moonlight for a proper number of nights, and you have—blood. What is more, the Athenians use beans to vote with.
First D. Admirable! A very feast of reason. Now just strip, and let me see what you are like. Bless me, here is a creed with a golden thigh! He is no mortal, he is a God. I must have him at any price. What do you start him at?
Her. Forty pounds.
First D. He is mine for forty pounds.
Zeus. Take the gentleman's name and address.
Her. He must come from Italy, I should think; Croton or Tarentum, or one of the Greek towns in those parts. But he is not the only buyer. Some three hundred of them have clubbed together.
Zeus. They are welcome to him. Now up with the next.
Her. What about yonder grubby Pontian? [Footnote: See Diogenes in Notes.]
Zeus. Yes, he will do.
Her. You there with the wallet and cloak; come along, walk round the room. Lot No. 2. A most sturdy and valiant creed, free-born. What offers?
Second D. Hullo, Mr. Auctioneer, are you going to sell a free man?
Her. That was the idea.
Second D. Take care, he may have you up for kidnapping. This might be matter for the Areopagus.
Her. Oh, he would as soon be sold as not. He feels just as free as ever.
Second D. But what is one to do with such a dirty fellow? He is a pitiable sight. One might put him to dig perhaps, or to carry water.
Her. That he can do and more. Set him to guard your house, and you will find him better than any watch-dog.—They call him Dog for short.
Second D. Where does he come from? and what is his method?
Her. He can best tell you that himself.
Second D. I don't like his looks. He will probably snarl if I go near him, or take a snap at me, for all I know. See how he lifts his stick, and scowls; an awkward-looking customer!
Her. Don't be afraid. He is quite tame.
Second D. Tell me, good fellow, where do you come from?
Dio. Everywhere. Second D. What does that mean?
Dio. It means that I am a citizen of the world.
Second D. And your model?
Second D. Then why no lion's-skin? You have the orthodox club.
Dio. My cloak is my lion's-skin. Like Heracles, I live in a state of warfare, and my enemy is Pleasure; but unlike him I am a volunteer. My purpose is to purify humanity.
Second D. A noble purpose. Now what do I understand to be your strong subject? What is your profession?
Dio. The liberation of humanity, and the treatment of the passions. In short, I am the prophet of Truth and Candour.
Second D. Well, prophet; and if I buy you, how shall you handle my case?
Dio. I shall commence operations by stripping off yours superfluities, putting you into fustian, and leaving you closeted with Necessity. Then I shall give you a course of hard labour. You will sleep on the ground, drink water, and fill your belly as best you can. Have you money? Take my advice and throw it into the sea. With wife and children and country you will not concern yourself; there will be no more of that nonsense. You will exchange your present home for a sepulchre, a ruin, or a tub. What with lupines and close-written tomes, your knapsack will never be empty; and you will vote yourself happier than any king. Nor will you esteem it any inconvenience, if a flogging or a turn of the rack should fall to your lot.
Second D. How! Am I a tortoise, a lobster, that I should be flogged and feel it not?
Dio. You will take your cue from Hippolytus; mutates mutandis.
Second D. How so?
Dio. 'The heart may burn, the tongue knows nought thereof'. [Footnote: Hippolytus (in Euripides's play of that name) is reproached with having broken an oath, and thus defends himself: 'The tongue hath sworn: the heart knew nought thereof.'] Above all, be bold, be impudent; distribute your abuse impartially to king and commoner. They will admire your spirit. You will talk the Cynic jargon with the true Cynic snarl, scowling as you walk, and walking as one should who scowls; an epitome of brutality. Away with modesty, good-nature, and forbearance. Wipe the blush from your cheek for ever. Your hunting-ground will be the crowded city. You will live alone in its midst, holding communion with none, admitting neither friend nor guest; for such would undermine your power. Scruple not to perform the deeds of darkness in broad daylight: select your love-adventures with a view to the public entertainment: and finally, when the fancy takes you, swallow a raw cuttle-fish, and die. Such are the delights of Cynicism.
Second D. Oh, vile creed! Monstrous creed! Avaunt!
Dio. But look you, it is all so easy; it is within every man's reach. No education is necessary, no nonsensical argumentation. I offer you a short cut to Glory. You may be the merest clown—cobbler, fishmonger, carpenter, money-changer; yet there is nothing to prevent your becoming famous. Given brass and boldness, you have only to learn to wag your tongue with dexterity.
Second D. All this is of no use to me. But I might make a sailor or a gardener of you at a pinch; that is, if you are to be had cheap. Three-pence is the most I can give.
Her. He is yours, to have and to hold. And good riddance to the brawling foul-mouthed bully. He is a slanderer by wholesale.
Zeus. Now for the Cyrenaic, the crowned and purple-robed.
Her. Attend please, gentlemen all. A most valuable article, this, and calls for a long purse. Look at him. A sweet thing in creeds. A creed for a king. Has any gentleman a use for the Lap of Luxury? Who bids?
Third D. Come and tell me what you know. If you are a practical creed, I will have you.
Her. Please not to worry him with questions, sir. He is drunk, and cannot answer; his tongue plays him tricks, as you see.
Third D. And who in his senses would buy such an abandoned reprobate? How he smells of scent! And how he slips and staggers about! Well, you must speak for him, Hermes. What can he do? What is his line?
Her. Well, for any gentleman who is not strait-laced, who loves a pretty girl, a bottle, and a jolly companion, he is the very thing. He is also a past master in gastronomy, and a connoisseur in voluptuousness generally. He was educated at Athens, and has served royalty in Sicily [Footnote: See Aristippus in Notes.], where he had a very good character. Here are his principles in a nutshell: Think the worst of things: make the most of things: get all possible pleasure out of things.
Third D. You must look for wealthier purchasers. My purse is not equal to such a festive creed.
Her. Zeus, this lot seems likely to remain on our hands.
Zeus. Put it aside, and up with another. Stay, take the pair from Abdera and Ephesus; the creeds of Smiles and Tears. They shall make one lot.
Her. Come forward, you two. Lot No. 4. A superlative pair. The smartest brace of creeds on our catalogue.
Fourth D. Zeus! What a difference is here! One of them does nothing but laugh, and the other might be at a funeral; he is all tears.—You there! what is the joke?
Democr. You ask? You and your affairs are all one vast joke.
Fourth D. So! You laugh at us? Our business is a toy?
Democr. It is. There is no taking it seriously. All is vanity. Mere interchange of atoms in an infinite void.
Fourth D. Your vanity is infinite, if you like. Stop that laughing, you rascal.—And you, my poor fellow, what are you crying for? I must see what I can make of you.
Heracl. I am thinking, friend, upon human affairs; and well may I weep and lament, for the doom of all is sealed. Hence my compassion and my sorrow. For the present, I think not of it; but the future!— the future is all bitterness. Conflagration and destruction of the world. I weep to think that nothing abides. All things are whirled together in confusion. Pleasure and pain, knowledge and ignorance, great and small; up and down they go, the playthings of Time.
Fourth D. And what is Time?
Heracl. A child; and plays at draughts and blindman's-bluff.
Fourth D. And men?
Heracl. Are mortal Gods.
Fourth D. And Gods?
Heracl. Immortal men.
Fourth D. So! Conundrums, fellow? Nuts to crack? You are a very oracle for obscurity.
Heracl. Your affairs do not interest me.
Fourth D. No one will be fool enough to bid for you at that rate.
Heracl. Young and old, him that bids and him that bids not, a murrain seize you all!
Fourth D. A sad case. He will be melancholy mad before long. Neither of these is the creed for my money.
Her. No one bids.
Zeus. Next lot.
Her. The Athenian there? Old Chatterbox?
Zeus. By all means.
Her. Come forward!—A good sensible creed this. Who buys Holiness?
Fifth D. Let me see. What are you good for?
Soc. I teach the art of love.
Fifth D. A likely bargain for me! I want a tutor for my young Adonis.
Soc. And could he have a better? The love I teach is of, the spirit, not of the flesh. Under my roof, be sure, a boy will come to no harm.
Fifth D. Very unconvincing that. A teacher of the art of love, and never meddle with anything but the spirit? Never use the opportunities your office gives you?
Soc. Now by Dog and Plane-tree, it is as I say!
Fifth D. Heracles! What strange Gods are these?
Soc. Why, the Dog is a God, I suppose? Is not Anubis made much of in Egypt? Is there not a Dog-star in Heaven, and a Cerberus in the lower world?
Fifth D. Quite so. My mistake. Now what is your manner of life?
Soc. I live in a city of my own building; I make my own laws, and have a novel constitution of my own.
Fifth D. I should like to hear some of your statutes.
Soc. You shall hear the greatest of them all. No woman shall be restricted to one husband. Every man who likes is her husband.
Fifth D. What! Then the laws of adultery are clean swept away?
Soc. I should think they were! and a world of hair-splitting with them.
Fifth D. And what do you do with the handsome boys?
Soc. Their kisses are the reward of merit, of noble and spirited actions.
Fifth D. Unparalleled generosity!—And now, what are the main features of your philosophy?
Soc. Ideas and types of things. All things that you see, the earth and all that is upon it, the sea, the sky,—each has its counterpart in the invisible world.
Fifth D. And where are they?
Soc. Nowhere. Were they anywhere, they were not what they are.
Fifth D. I see no signs of these 'types' of yours.
Soc. Of course not; because you are spiritually blind. I see the counterparts of all things; an invisible you, an invisible me; everything is in duplicate.
Fifth D. Come, such a shrewd and lynx-eyed creed is worth a bid. Let me see. What do you want for him?
Her. Five hundred.
Fifth D. Done with you. Only I must settle the bill another day.
Her. What name?
Fifth D. Dion; of Syracuse.
Her. Take him, and much good may he do you. Now I want Epicureanism. Who offers for Epicureanism? He is a disciple of the laughing creed and the drunken creed, whom we were offering just now. But he has one extra accomplishment—impiety. For the rest, a dainty, lickerish creed.
Sixth D. What price?
Her. Eight pounds.
Sixth D. Here you are. By the way, you might let me know what he likes to eat.
Her. Anything sweet. Anything with honey in it. Dried figs are his favourite dish.
Sixth D. That is all right. We will get in a supply of Carian fig-cakes.
Zeus. Call the next lot. Stoicism; the creed of the sorrowful countenance, the close-cropped creed.
Her. Ah yes, several customers, I fancy, are on the look-out for him. Virtue incarnate! The very quintessence of creeds! Who is for universal monopoly?
Seventh D. How are we to understand that?
Her. Why, here is monopoly of wisdom, monopoly of beauty, monopoly of courage, monopoly of justice. Sole king, sole orator, sole legislator, sole millionaire.
Seventh D. And I suppose sole cook, sole tanner, sole carpenter, and all that?
Seventh D. Regard me as your purchaser, good fellow, and tell me all about yourself. I dare say you think it rather hard to be sold for a slave?
Chrys. Not at all. These things are beyond our control. And what is beyond our control is indifferent.
Seventh D. I don't see how you make that out.
Chrys. What! Have you yet to learn that of indifferentia some are praeposita and others rejecta?
Seventh D. Still I don't quite see.
Chrys. No; how should you? You are not familiar with our terms. You lack the comprehensio visi. The earnest student of logic knows this and more than this. He understands the nature of subject, predicate, and contingent, and the distinctions between them.
Seventh D. Now in Wisdom's name, tell me, pray, what is a predicate? what is a contingent? There is a ring about those words that takes my fancy.
Chrys. With all my heart. A man lame in one foot knocks that foot accidentally against a stone, and gets a cut. Now the man is subject to lameness; which is the predicate. And the cut is a contingency.
Seventh D. Oh, subtle! What else can you tell me?
Chrys. I have verbal involutions, for the better hampering, crippling, and muzzling of my antagonists. This is performed by the use of the far-famed syllogism.
Seventh D. Syllogism! I warrant him a tough customer.
Chrys. Take a case. You have a child?
Seventh D. Well, and what if I have?
Chrys. A crocodile catches him as he wanders along the bank of a river, and promises to restore him to you, if you will first guess correctly whether he means to restore him or not. Which are you going to say?
Seventh D. A difficult question. I don't know which way I should get him back soonest. In Heaven's name, answer for me, and save the child before he is eaten up.
Chrys. Ha, ha. I will teach you far other things than that.
Seventh D. For instance?
Chrys. There is the 'Reaper.' There is the 'Rightful Owner.' Better still, there is the 'Electra' and the 'Man in the Hood.'
Seventh D. Who was he? and who was Electra?
Chrys. She was the Electra, the daughter of Agamemnon, to whom the same thing was known and unknown at the same time. She knew that Orestes was her brother: yet when he stood before her she did not know (until he revealed himself) that her brother was Orestes. As to the Man in the Hood, he will surprise you considerably. Answer me now: do you know your own father?
Seventh D. Yes.
Chrys. Well now, if I present to you a man in a hood, shall you know him? eh?
Seventh D. Of course not.
Chrys. Well, but the Man in the Hood is your father. You don't know the Man in the Hood. Therefore you don't know your own father.
Seventh D. Why, no. But if I take his hood off, I shall get at the facts. Now tell me, what is the end of your philosophy? What happens when you reach the goal of virtue?
Chrys. In regard to things external, health, wealth, and the like, I am then all that Nature intended me to be. But there is much previous toil to be undergone. You will first sharpen your eyes on minute manuscripts, amass commentaries, and get your bellyful of outlandish terms. Last but not least, it is forbidden to be wise without repeated doses of hellebore.
Seventh D. All this is exalted and magnanimous to a degree. But what am I to think when I find that you are also the creed of cent-per-cent, the creed of the usurer? Has he swallowed his hellebore? is he made perfect in virtue?
Chrys. Assuredly. On none but the wise man does usury sit well. Consider. His is the art of putting two and two together, and usury is the art of putting interest together. The two are evidently connected, and one as much as the other is the prerogative of the true believer; who, not content, like common men, with simple interest, will also take interest upon interest. For interest, as you are probably aware, is of two kinds. There is simple interest, and there is its offspring, compound interest. Hear Syllogism on the subject. 'If I take simple interest, I shall also take compound. But I shall take simple interest: therefore I shall take compound.'
Seventh D. And the same applies to the fees you take from your youthful pupils? None but the true believer sells virtue for a fee?
Chrys. Quite right. I take the fee in my pupil's interest, not because I want it. The world is made up of diffusion and accumulation. I accordingly practise my pupil in the former, and myself in the latter.
Seventh D. But it ought to be the other way. The pupil ought to accumulate, and you, 'sole millionaire,' ought to diffuse.
Chrys. Ha! you jest with me? Beware of the shaft of insoluble syllogism.
Seventh D. What harm can that do?
Chrys. It cripples; it ties the tongue, and turns the brain. Nay, I have but to will it, and you are stone this instant.
Seventh D. Stone! You are no Perseus, friend?
Chrys. See here. A stone is a body?
Seventh D. Yes.
Chrys. Well, and an animal is a body?
Seventh D. Yes.
Chrys. And you are an animal?
Seventh D. I suppose I am.
Chrys. Therefore you are a body. Therefore a stone.
Seventh D. Mercy, in Heaven's name! Unstone me, and let me be flesh as heretofore.
Chrys. That is soon done. Back with you into flesh! Thus: Is every body animate?
Seventh D. No.
Chrys. Is a stone animate?
Seventh D. No.
Chrys. Now, you are a body?
Seventh D. Yes.
Chrys. And an animate body?
Seventh D. Yes.
Chrys. Then being animate, you cannot be a stone.
Seventh D. Ah! thank you, thank you. I was beginning to feel my limbs growing numb and solidifying like Niobe's. Oh, I must have you. What's to pay?
Her. Fifty pounds.
Seventh D. Here it is.
Her. Are you sole purchaser?
Seventh D. Not I. All these gentlemen here are going shares.
Her. A fine strapping lot of fellows, and will do the 'Reaper' credit.
Zeus. Don't waste time. Next lot,—the Peripatetic!
Her. Now, my beauty, now, Affluence! Gentlemen, if you want Wisdom for your money, here is a creed that comprises all knowledge.
Eighth D. What is he like?
Her. He is temperate, good-natured, easy to get on with; and his strong point is, that he is twins.
Eighth D. How can that be?
Her. Why, he is one creed outside, and another inside. So remember, if you buy him, one of him is called Esoteric, and the other Exoteric.
Eighth D. And what has he to say for himself?
Her. He has to say that there are three kinds of good: spiritual, corporeal, circumstantial.
Eighth D. There's something a man can understand. How much is he?
Her. Eighty pounds.
Eighth D. Eighty pounds is a long price.
Her. Not at all, my dear sir, not at all. You see, there is some money with him, to all appearance. Snap him up before it is too late. Why, from him you will find out in no time how long a gnat lives, to how many fathoms' depth the sunlight penetrates the sea, and what an oyster's soul is like.
Eighth D. Heracles! Nothing escapes him.
Her. Ah, these are trifles. You should hear some of his more abstruse speculations, concerning generation and birth and the development of the embryo; and his distinction between man, the laughing creature, and the ass, which is neither a laughing nor a carpentering nor a shipping creature.
Eighth D. Such knowledge is as useful as it is ornamental. Eighty pounds be it, then.
Her. He is yours.
Zeus. What have we left?
Her. There is Scepticism. Come along, Pyrrhias, and be put up. Quick's the word. The attendance is dwindling; there will be small competition. Well, who buys Lot 9?
Ninth D. I. Tell me first, though, what do you know?
Ninth D. But how's that?
Sc. There does not appear to me to be anything.
Ninth D. Are not we something?
Sc. How do I know that?
Ninth D. And you yourself?
Sc. Of that I am still more doubtful.
Ninth D. Well, you are in a fix! And what have you got those scales for?
Sc. I use them to weigh arguments in, and get them evenly balanced, They must be absolutely equal—not a feather-weight to choose between them; then, and not till then, can I make uncertain which is right. Ninth D. What else can you turn your hand to?
Sc. Anything; except catching a runaway.
Ninth D. And why not that?
Sc. Because, friend, everything eludes my grasp.
Ninth D. I believe you. A slow, lumpish fellow you seem to be. And what is the end of your knowledge?
Sc. Ignorance. Deafness. Blindness.
Ninth D. What! sight and hearing both gone?
Sc. And with them judgement and perception, and all, in short, that distinguishes man from a worm.
Ninth D. You are worth money!—What shall we say for him?
Her. Four pounds.
Ninth D. Here it is. Well, fellow; so you are mine?
Sc. I doubt it.
Ninth D. Nay, doubt it not! You are bought and paid for.
Sc. It is a difficult case.... I reserve my decision.
Ninth D. Now, come along with me, like a good slave.
Sc. But how am I to know whether what you say is true?
Ninth D. Ask the auctioneer. Ask my money. Ask the spectators.
Sc. Spectators? But can we be sure there are any?
Ninth D. Oh, I'll send you to the treadmill. That will convince you with a vengeance that I am your master.
Sc. Reserve your decision.
Ninth D. Too late. It is given.
Her. Stop that wrangling and go with your purchaser. Gentlemen, we hope to see you here again to-morrow, when we shall be offering some lots suitable for plain men, artisans, and shopkeepers.
A RESURRECTION PIECE
Lucian or Parrhesiades. Socrates, Empedocles. Plato. Chrysippus. Diogenes. Aristotle. Other Philosophers. Platonists. Pythagoreans. Stoics. Peripatetics. Epicureans. Academics. Philosophy. Truth. Temperance. Virtue. Syllogism. Exposure. Priestess of Athene.
Soc. Stone the miscreant; stone him with many stones; clod him with clods; pot him with pots; let the culprit feel your sticks; leave him no way out. At him, Plato! come, Chrysippus, let him have it! Shoulder to shoulder, close the ranks;
Let wallet succour wallet, staff aid staff!
We are all parties in this war; not one of us but he has assailed. You, Diogenes, now if ever is the time for that stick of yours; stand firm, all of you. Let him reap the fruits of his reveling. What, Epicurus, Aristippus, tired already? 'tis too soon; ye sages,
Be men; relume that erstwhile furious wrath!
Aristotle, one more sprint. There! the brute is caught; we have you, villain. You shall soon know a little more about the characters you have assailed. Now, what shall we do with him? it must be rather an elaborate execution, to meet all our claims upon him; he owes a separate death to every one of us.
First Phil. Impale him, say I.
Second Phil. Yes, but scourge him first.
Third Phil. Tear out his eyes.
Fourth Phil. Ah, but first out with the offending tongue.
Soc. What say you, Empedocles?
Emp. Oh, fling him into a crater; that will teach him to vilify his betters.
Pl. 'Twere best for him, Orpheus or Pentheus like, to
Find death, dashed all to pieces on the rock;
so each might have taken a piece home with him.
Lu. Forbear; spare me; I appeal to the God of suppliants.
Soc. Too late; no loophole is left you now. And you know your Homer:
'Twixt men and lions, covenants are null.'
Lu. Why, it is in Homer's name that I ask my boon. You will perhaps pay reverence to his lines, and listen to a selection from him:
Slay not; no churl is he; a ransom
Of bronze and gold, whereof wise hearts are fain.
Pl. Why, two can play at that game; exempli gratia,
Reviler, babble not of gold, nor
Hope of escape from these our hands that hold thee.
Lu. Ah me, ah me! my best hopes dashed, with Homer! Let me fly to Euripides; it may be he will protect me:
Leave him his life; the suppliant's life is sacred.
Pl. Does this happen to be Euripides too—
Evil men evil treated is no evil?
Lu. And will you slay me now for nought but words?
Pl. Most certainly; our author has something on that point too:
And folly's slips
Invite Fate's whips.
Lu. Oh, very well; as you are all set on murdering me, and escape is impossible, do at least tell me who you are, and what harm I have done you; it must be something irreparable, to judge by your relentless murderous pursuit.
Pl. What harm you have done us, vile fellow? your own conscience and your fine dialogues will tell you; you have called Philosophy herself bad names, and as for us, you have subjected us to the indignity of a public auction, and put up wise men—ay, and free men, which is more— for sale. We have reason to be angry; we have got a short leave of absence from Hades, and come up against you—Chrysippus here, Epicurus and myself, Aristotle yonder, the taciturn Pythagoras, Diogenes and all of us that your dialogues have made so free with.
Lu. Ah, I breathe again. Once hear the truth about my conduct to you, and you will never put me to death. You can throw away those stones. Or, no, keep them; you shall have a better mark for them presently.
Pl. This is trifling. This day thou diest; nay, even now,
A suit of stones shalt don, thy livery due.
Lu. Believe me, good gentlemen, I have been at much pains on your behalf to slay me is to slay one who should rather be selected for commendation a kindred spirit, a well-wisher, a man after your own heart, a promoter, if I may be bold to say it, of your pursuits. See to it that you catch not the tone of our latter-day philosophers, and be thankless, petulant, and hard of heart, to him that deserves better of you.
Pl. Talk of a brazen front! So to abuse us is to oblige us. I believe you are under the delusion that you are really talking to slaves; after the insolent excesses of your tongue, do you propose to chop gratitude with us?
Lu. How or when was I ever insolent to you? I have always been an admirer of philosophy, your panegyrist, and a student of the writings you left. All that comes from my pen is but what you give me; I deflower you, like a bee, for the behoof of mankind; and then there is praise and recognition; they know the flowers, whence and whose the honey was, and the manner of my gathering; their surface feeling is for my selective art, but deeper down it is for you and your meadow, where you put forth such bright blooms and myriad dyes, if one knows but how to sort and mix and match, that one be not in discord with another. Could he that had found you such have the heart to abuse those benefactors to whom his little fame was due? then he must be a Thamyris or Eurytus, defying the Muses who gave his gift of song, or challenging Apollo with the bow, forgetful from whom he had his marksmanship.
Pl. All this, good sir, is quite according to the principles of rhetoric; that is to say, it is clean contrary to the facts; your unscrupulousness is only emphasized by this adding of insult to injury; you confess that your arrows are from our quiver, and you use them against us; your one aim is to abuse us. This is our reward for showing you that meadow, letting you pluck freely, fill your bosom, and depart. For this alone you richly deserve death.
Lu. There; your ears are partial; they are deaf to the right. Why, I would never have believed that personal feeling could affect a Plato, a Chrysippus, an Aristotle; with you, of all men, I thought there was dry light. But, dear sirs, do not condemn me unheard; give me trial first. Was not the principle of your establishing—that the law of the stronger was not the law of the State, and that differences should be settled in court after due hearing of both sides? Appoint a judge, then; be you my accusers, by your own mouths or by your chosen representative; and let me defend my own case; then if I be convicted of wrong, and that be the court's decision, I shall get my deserts, and you will have no violence upon your consciences. But if examination shows me spotless and irreproachable, the court will acquit me, and then turn you your wrath upon the deceivers who have excited you against me.
Pl. Ah, every cock to his own dunghill! You think you will hoodwink the jury and get off. I hear you are a lawyer, an advocate, an old hand at a speech. Have you any judge to suggest who will be proof against such an experienced corrupter as you?
Lu. Oh, be reassured. The official I think of proposing is no suspicious, dubious character likely to sell a verdict. What say you to forming the court yourselves, with Philosophy for your President?
Pl. Who is to prosecute, if we are the jury?
Lu. Oh, you can do both; I am not in the least afraid; so much stronger is my case; the defence wins, hands down.
Pl. Pythagoras, Socrates, what do you think? perhaps the I man's appeal to law is not unreasonable.
Soc. No; come along, form the court, fetch Philosophy, and see what he has to say for himself. To condemn unheard is a sadly crude proceeding, not for us; leave that to the hasty people with whom might is right. We shall give occasion to the enemy to blaspheme if we stone a man without a hearing, professed lovers of justice as we are. We shall have to keep quiet about Anytus and Meletus, my accusers, and the jury on that occasion, if we cannot spare an hour to hear this fellow before he suffers. Pl. Very true, Socrates. We will go and fetch Philosophy. The decision shall be hers, and we will accept it, whatever it is.
Lu. Why, now, my masters, you are in a better and more law-abiding mood. However, keep those stones, as I said; you will need them in court. But where is Philosophy to be found? I do not know where she lives, myself. I once spent a long time wandering about in search of her house, wishing to make her acquaintance. Several times I met some long-bearded people in threadbare cloaks who professed to be fresh from her presence; I took their word for it, and asked them the way; but they knew considerably less about it than I, and either declined to answer, by way of concealing their ignorance, or else pointed to one door after another. I have never been able to find the right one to this day.
Many a time, upon some inward prompting or external offer of guidance, I have come to a door with the confident hope that this time I really was right; there was such a crowd flowing in and out, all of solemn persons decently habited and thoughtful-faced; I would insinuate myself into the press and go in too. What I found would be a woman who was not really natural, however skillfully she played at beauty unadorned; I could see at once that the apparent neglige of her hair was studied for effect, and the folds of her dress not so careless as they looked. One could tell that nature was a scheme of decoration with her, and artlessness an artistic device. The white lead and the rouge did not absolutely defy detection, and her talk betrayed her real vocation; she liked her lovers to appreciate her beauty, had a ready hand for presents, made room by her side for the rich, and hardly vouchsafed her poorer lovers a distant glance. Now and then, when her dress came a little open by accident, I saw that she had on a massive gold necklace heavier than a penal collar. That was enough for me; I would retrace my steps, sincerely pitying the unfortunates whom she led by the—beard, and their Ixion embracings of a phantom.
Pl. You are right there; the door is not conspicuous, nor generally known. However, we need not go to her house; we will wait for her here in the Ceramicus. I should think it is near her hour for coming back from the Academy, and taking her walk in the Poecile; she is very regular; to be sure, here she comes. Do you see the orderly, rather prim lady there, with the kindly look in her eyes, and the slow meditative walk?
Lu. I see several answering the description so far as looks and walk and clothes go. Yet among them all the real lady Philosophy can be but one.
Pl. True; but as soon as she opens her lips you will know.
Philos. Dear me, what are Plato and Chrysippus and Aristotle doing up here, and the rest of them—a living dictionary of my teachings? Alive again? how is this? have things been going wrong down there? you look angry. And who is your prisoner? a rifler of tombs? A murderer? a temple-robber?
Pl. Worse yet, Philosophy. He has dared to slander your most sacred self, and all of us who have been privileged to impart anything from you to posterity.
Philos. And did you lose your tempers over abusive words? Did you forget how Comedy handled me at the Dionysia, and how I yet counted her a friend? Did I ever sue her, or go and remonstrate? Or did I let her enjoy her holidays in the harmless old-fashioned way? I know very well that a jest spoils no real beauty, but rather improves it; so gold is polished by hard rubs, and shines all the brighter for it. But you seem to have grown passionate and censorious. Come, why are you strangling him like that?
Pl. We have got this one day's leave, and come after him to give him his deserts. Rumours had reached us of the things he used to say about us in his lectures.
Philos. And are you going to kill him without a trial or a hearing? I can see he wishes to say something.
Pl. No; we decided to refer it all to you. If you will accept the task, the decision shall be yours.
Philos. Sir, what is your wish?
Lu. The same, dear Mistress; for none but you can find the truth. It cost me much entreaty to get the case reserved for you.
Pl. You call her Mistress now, scoundrel; the other day you were making out Philosophy the meanest of things, when before that great audience you let her several doctrines go for a pitiful threepence apiece.
Philos. It may be that it was not Ourself he then reviled, but some impostors who practised vile arts in our name.
Pl. The truth will soon come to light, if you will hear his defence.
Philos. Come we to the Areopagus—or better, to the Acropolis, where the panorama of Athens will be before us.
Ladies, will you stroll in the Poecile meanwhile? I will join you when I have given judgement.
Lu. Who are these, Philosophy? methinks their appearance is seemly as your own.
Philos. This with the masculine features is Virtue; then there is Temperance, and Justice by her side. In front is Culture; and this shadowy creature with the indefinite complexion is Truth.
Lu. I do not see which you mean.
Philos. Not see her? over there, all naked and unadorned, shrinking from observation, and always slipping out of sight.
Lu. Now I just discern her. But why not bring them all with you? there would be a fullness and completeness about that commission. Ah yes, and I should like to brief Truth on my behalf.
Philos. Well thought of; come, all of you; you will not mind sitting through a single case—in which we have a personal interest, too?
Truth. Go on, the rest of you; it is superfluous for me to hear what I know all about before.
Philos. But, Truth dear, your presence will be useful to us; you will show us what to think.
Truth. May I bring my two favourite maids, then?
Philos. And as many more as you like.
Truth. Come with me, Freedom and Frankness; this poor little adorer of ours is in trouble without any real reason; we shall be able to get him out of it. Exposure, my man, we shall not want you.
Lu. Ah yes, Mistress, let us have him, of all others; my opponents are no ordinary ruffians; they are people who make a fine show and are hard to expose; they have always some back way out of a difficulty; we must have Exposure.
Philos. Yes, we must, indeed; and you had better bring Demonstration too.
Truth. Come all of you, as you are such important legal persons.
Ar. What is this? Philosophy, he is employing Truth against us!
Philos. And are Plato and Chrysippus and Aristotle afraid of her lying on his behalf, being who she is?
Pl. Oh, well, no; only he is a sad plausible rogue; he will take her in.
Philos. Never fear; no wrong will be done, with madam Justice on the bench by us. Let us go up.
Prisoner, your name?
Lu. Parrhesiades, son of Alethion, son of Elanxicles. [Footnote: i e Free-speaker, son of Truthful, son of Exposure.]
Philos. And your country?
Lu. I am a Syrian from the Euphrates, my lady. But is the question relevant? Some of my accusers I know to be as much barbarians by blood as myself; but character and culture do not vary as a man comes from Soli or Cyprus, Babylon or Stagira. However, even one who could not talk Greek would be none the worse in your eyes, so long as his sentiments were right and just.
Philos. True, the question was unnecessary.
But what is your profession? that at least is essential.
Lu. I profess hatred of pretension and imposture, lying, and pride; the whole loathsome tribe of them I hate; and you know how numerous they are.
Philos. Upon my word, you must have your hands full at this profession!
Lu. I have; you see what general dislike and danger it brings upon me. However, I do not neglect the complementary branch, in which love takes the place of hate; it includes love of truth and beauty and simplicity and all that is akin to love. But the subjects for this branch of the profession are sadly few; those of the other, for whom hatred is the right treatment, are reckoned by the thousand. Indeed there is some danger of the one feeling being atrophied, while the other is over-developed.
Philos. That should not be; they run in couples, you know. Do not separate your two branches; they should have unity in diversity.
Lu. You know better than I, Philosophy. My way is just to hate a villain, and love and praise the good.
Philos. Well, well. Here we are at the appointed place. We will hold the trial in the forecourt of Athene Polias. Priestess, arrange our seats, while we salute the Goddess.
Lu. Polias, come to my aid against these pretenders, mindful of the daily perjuries thou hearest from them. Their deeds too are revealed to thee alone, in virtue of thy charge. Thou hast now thine hour of vengeance. If thou see me in evil case, if blacks be more than whites, then cast thou thy vote and save me!
Philos. So. Now we are seated, ready to hear your words. Choose one of your number, the best accuser you may, make your charge, and bring your proofs. Were all to speak, there would be no end. And you, Parrhesiades, shall afterwards make your defence.
Ch. Plato, none of us will conduct the prosecution better than you. Your thoughts are heaven-high, your style the perfect Attic; grace and persuasion, insight and subtlety, the cogency of well-ordered proof— all these are gathered in you. Take the spokesman's office and say what is fitting on our behalf. Call to memory and roll in one all that ever you said against Gorgias, Polus, Hippias, Prodicus; you have now to do with a worse than them. Let him taste your irony; ply him with your keen incessant questions; and if you will, perorate with the mighty Zeus charioting his winged car through Heaven, and grudging if this fellow get not his deserts.
Pl. Nay, nay; choose one of more strenuous temper—Diogenes, Antisthenes, Crates, or yourself, Chrysippus. It is no time now for beauty or literary skill; controversial and forensic resource is what we want. This Parrhesiades is an orator.
Diog. Let me be accuser; no need for long speeches here. Moreover, I was the worst treated of all; threepence was my price the other day.
Pl. Philosophy, Diogenes will speak for us. But mind, friend, you are not to represent yourself alone, but think of us all. If we have any private differences of doctrine, do not go into that; never mind now which of us is right, but keep your indignation for Philosophy's wrongs and the names he has called her. Leave alone the principles we differ about, and maintain what is common to us all. Now mark, you stand for us all; on you our whole fame depends; shall it come out majestic, or in the semblance he has given it?
Diog. Never fear; nothing shall be omitted; I speak for all. Philosophy may be softened by his words—she was ever gentle and forgiving—she may be minded to acquit him; but the fault shall not be mine; I will show him that our staves are more than ornaments.
Philos. Nay, take not that way; words, not bludgeons; 'tis better so. But no delay now; your time-allowance has begun; and the court is all attention.
Lu. Philosophy, let the rest take their seats and vote with you, leaving Diogenes as sole accuser.
Philos. Have you no fears of their condemning you?
Lu. None whatever; I wish to increase my majority, that is all.
Philos. I commend your spirit. Gentlemen, take your seats. Now, Diogenes.
Diog. With our lives on earth, Philosophy, you are acquainted; I need not dwell long upon them. Of myself I say nothing; but Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, Chrysippus, and the rest—who knows not the benefits that they conferred on mankind? I will come at once, then, to the insults to which we have been subjected by the thrice accursed Parrhesiades. He was, by his own account, an advocate; but he has left the courts and the fame there to be won, and has availed himself of all the verbal skill and proficiency so acquired for a campaign of abuse against us. We are impostors and deceivers; his audiences must ridicule and scorn us for nobodies. Did I say 'nobodies'? he has made us an abomination, rather, in the eyes of the vulgar, and yourself with us, Philosophy. Your teachings are balderdash and rubbish; the noblest of your precepts to us he parodies, winning for himself applause and approval, and for us humiliation. For so it is with the great public; it loves a master of flouts and jeers, and loves him in proportion to the grandeur of what he assails; you know how it delighted long ago in Aristophanes and Eupolis, when they caricatured our Socrates on the stage, and wove farcical comedies around him. But they at least confined themselves to a single victim, and they had the charter of Dionysus; a jest might pass at holiday time, and the laughing God might be well pleased.
But this fellow gets together an upper-class audience, gives long thought to his preparations, writes down his slanders in a thick notebook, and uplifts his voice in vituperation of Plato, Pythagoras, Aristotle, Chrysippus, and in short all of us; he cannot plead holiday time, nor yet any private grievance; he might perhaps be forgiven if he had done it in self-defence; but it was he that opened hostilities. Worst of all, Philosophy, he shelters himself under your name, entices Dialogue from our company to be his ally and mouthpiece, and induces our good comrade Menippus to collaborate constantly with him; Menippus, more by token, is the one deserter and absentee on this occasion.
Does he not then abundantly deserve his fate? What conceivable defence is open to him, after his public defamation of all that is noblest? On the public which listened to him, too, the spectacle of his condign punishment will have a healthy effect; we shall see no more ridicule of Philosophy. Tame submission to insult would naturally enough be taken, not for moderation, but for insensibility and want of spirit. Who could be expected to put up with his last performance? He brought us to market like a gang of slaves, and handed us over to the auctioneer. Some, I believe, fetched high prices; but others went for four or five pounds, and as for me—confound his impudence, threepence! And fine fun the audience had out of it! We did well to be angry; we have come from Hades; and we ask you to give us satisfaction for this abominable outrage.
Resurgents. Hear, hear! well spoken, Diogenes; well and loyally.
Philos. Silence in court! Time the defence. Parrhesiades, it is now your turn; they are timing you; so proceed.
Par. Philosophy, Diogenes has been far indeed from exhausting his material; the greater part of it, and the more strongly expressed, he has passed by, for reasons best known to himself. I refer to statements of mine which I am as far from denying that I made as from having provided myself with any elaborate defence of them. Any of these that have been omitted by him, and not previously emphasized by myself, I propose now to quote; this will be the best way to show you who were the persons that I sold by auction and inveighed against as pretenders and impostors; please to concentrate your vigilance on the truth or falsehood of my descriptions. If what I say is injurious or severe, your censure will be more fairly directed at the perpetrators than at the discoverer of such iniquities. I had no sooner realized the odious practices which his profession imposes on an advocate—the deceit, falsehood, bluster, clamour, pushing, and all the long hateful list, than I fled as a matter of course from these, betook myself to your dear service, Philosophy, and pleased myself with the thought of a remainder of life spent far from the tossing waves in a calm haven beneath your shadow.
At my first peep into your realm, how could I but admire yourself and all these your disciples? there they were, legislating for the perfect life, holding out hands of help to those that would reach it, commending all that was fairest and best; fairest and best—but a man must keep straight on for it and never slip, must set his eyes unwaveringly on the laws that you have laid down, must tune and test his life thereby; and that, Zeus be my witness, there are few enough in these days of ours to do.
So I saw how many were in love, not with Philosophy, but with the credit it brings; in the vulgar externals, so easy for any one to ape, they showed a striking resemblance to the real article, perfect in beard and walk and attire; but in life and conduct they belied their looks, read your lessons backwards, and degraded their profession. Then I was wroth; methought it was as though some soft womanish actor on the tragic stage should give us Achilles or Theseus or Heracles himself; he cannot stride nor speak out as a Hero should, but minces along under his enormous mask; Helen or Polyxena would find him too realistically feminine to pass for them; and what shall an invincible Heracles say? Will he not swiftly pound man and mask together into nothingness with his club, for womanizing and disgracing him?
Well, these people were about as fit to represent you, and the degradation of it all was too much for me. Apes daring to masquerade as heroes! emulators of the ass at Cyme! The Cymeans, you know, had never seen ass or lion; so the ass came the lion over them, with the aid of a borrowed skin and his most awe-inspiring bray; however, a stranger who had often seen both brought the truth to light with a stick. But what most distressed me, Philosophy, was this: when one of these people was detected in rascality, impropriety, or immorality, every one put it down to philosophy, and to the particular philosopher whose name the delinquent took in vain without ever acting on his principles; the living rascal disgraced you, the long dead; for you were not there in the flesh to point the contrast; so, as it was clear enough that his life was vile and disgusting, your case was given away by association with his, and you had to share his disgrace.
This spectacle, I say, was too much for me; I began exposing them, and distinguishing between them and you; and for this good work you now arraign me. So then, if I find one of the Initiated betraying and parodying the Mysteries of the two Goddesses, and if I protest and denounce him, the transgression will be mine? There is something wrong there; why, at the Games, if an actor who has to present Athene or Posidon or Zeus plays his part badly, derogating from the divine dignity, the stewards have him whipped; well, the Gods are not angry with them for having the officers whip the man who wears their mask and their attire; I imagine they approve of the punishment. To play a slave or a messenger badly is a trifling offence, but to represent Zeus or Heracles to the spectators in an unworthy manner—that is a crime and a sacrilege.
I can indeed conceive nothing more extraordinary than that so many of them should get themselves absolutely perfect in your words, and then live precisely as if the sole object of reading and studying them had been to reverse them in practice. All their professions of despising wealth and appearances, of admiring nothing but what is noble, of superiority to passion, of being proof against splendour, and associating with its owners only on equal terms—how fair and wise and laudable they all are! But they take pay for imparting them, they are abashed in presence of the rich, their lips water at sight of coin; they are dogs for temper, hares for cowardice, apes for imitativeness, asses for lust, cats for thievery, cocks for jealousy. They are a perfect laughing-stock with their strivings after vile ends, their jostling of each other at rich men's doors, their attendance at crowded dinners, and their vulgar obsequiousness at table. They swill more than they should and would like to swill more than they do, they spoil the wine with unwelcome and untimely disquisitions, and they cannot carry their liquor. The ordinary people who are present naturally flout them, and are revolted by the philosophy which breeds such brutes.
What is so monstrous is that every man of them says he has no needs, proclaims aloud that wisdom is the only wealth, and directly afterwards comes begging and makes a fuss if he is refused; it would hardly be stranger to see one in kingly attire, with tall tiara, crown, and all the attributes of royalty, asking his inferiors for a little something more. When they want to get something, we hear a great deal, to be sure, about community of goods—how wealth is a thing indifferent—and what is gold and silver?—neither more nor less worth than pebbles on the beach. But when an old comrade and tried friend needs help and comes to them with his modest requirements, ah, then there is silence and searchings of heart, unlearning of tenets and flat renunciation of doctrines. All their fine talk of friendship, with Virtue and The Good, have vanished and flown, who knows whither? they were winged words in sad truth, empty phantoms, only meant for daily conversational use.
These men are excellent friends so long as there is no gold or silver for them to dispute the possession of; exhibit but a copper or two, and peace is broken, truce void, armistice ended; their books are blank, their Virtue fled, and they so many dogs; some one has flung a bone into the pack, and up they spring to bite each other and snarl at the one which has pounced successfully. There is a story of an Egyptian king who taught some apes the sword-dance; the imitative creatures very soon picked it up, and used to perform in purple robes and masks; for some time the show was a great success, till at last an ingenious spectator brought some nuts in with him and threw them down. The apes forgot their dancing at the sight, dropped their humanity, resumed their apehood, and, smashing masks and tearing dresses, had a free fight for the provender. Alas for the corps de ballet and the gravity of the audience!
These people are just those apes; it is they that I reviled; and I shall never cease exposing and ridiculing them; but about you and your like—for there are, in spite of all, some true lovers of philosophy and keepers of your laws—about you or them may I never be mad enough to utter an injurious or rude word! Why, what could I find to say? what is there in your lives that lends itself to such treatment? but those pretenders deserve my detestation, as they have that of heaven. Why, tell me, all of you, what have such creatures to do with you? Is there a trace in their lives of kindred and affinity? Does oil mix with water? If they grow their beards and call themselves philosophers and look solemn, do these things make them like you? I could have contained myself if there had been any touch of plausibility in their acting; but the vulture is more like the nightingale than they like philosophers. And now I have pleaded my cause to the best of my ability. Truth, I rely upon you to confirm my words.
Philos. Parrhesiades, retire to a further distance. Well, and our verdict? How think you the man has spoken?
Truth. Ah, Philosophy, while he was speaking I was ready to sink through the ground; it was all so true. As I listened, I could identify every offender, and I was fitting caps all the time—this is so-and-so, that is the other man, all over. I tell you they were all as plain as in a picture—speaking likenesses not of their bodies only, but of their very souls.
Tem. Yes, Truth, I could not help blushing at it.
Philos. What say you, gentlemen?
Res. Why, of course, that he is acquitted of the charge, and stands recorded as our friend and benefactor. Our case is just that of the Trojans, who entertained the tragic actor only to find him reciting their own calamities. Well, recite away, our tragedian, with these pests of ours for dramatis personae.
Diog. I too, Philosophy, give him my need of praise; I withdraw my charges, and count him a worthy friend.
Philos. I congratulate you, Parrhesiades; you are unanimously acquitted, and are henceforth one of us.
Par. Your humble servant. Or no, I must find more tragic words to fit the solemnity of the occasion:
My life's path light,
And ever strew with garlands bright!
Vir. Well, now we come to our second course; let us have in the other people and try them for their insults. Parrhesiades shall accuse them each in turn.
Par. Well said, Virtue. Syllogism, my boy, put your head out over the city and summon the philosophers.
Syl. Oyez, oyez! All philosophers to the Acropolis to make their defence before Virtue, Philosophy, and Justice.
Par. The proclamation does not bring them in flocks, does it? They have their reasons for keeping clear of Justice. And a good many of them are too busy with their rich friends. If you want them all to come, Syllogism, I will tell you what to say.
Philos. No, no; call them yourself, Parrhesiades, in your own way.
Par. Quite a simple matter. Oyez, oyez! All who profess philosophy and hold themselves entitled to the name of philosopher shall appear on the Acropolis for largesse; 8 pounds, with a sesame cake, to each. A long beard shall qualify for a square of compressed figs, in addition. Every applicant to have with him, of temperance, justice, and self-control, any that he is in possession of, it being clearly understood that these are not indispensable, and, of syllogisms, a complete set of five, these being the condition precedent of wisdom.
Two golden talents in the midst are
His prize who wrangles best amongst his peers.
Just look! the ascent packed with a pushing crowd, at the very first sound of my 8 pounds. More of them along the Pelasgicum, more by the temple of Asclepius, a bigger crowd still over the Areopagus. Why, positively there are a few at the tomb of Talos; and see those putting ladders against the temple of Castor and Pollux; up they climb, buzzing and clustering like a swarm of bees. In Homeric phrase, on this side are exceeding many, and on that
Ten thousand, thick as leaves and flowers in spring.
Noisily they settle, the Acropolis is covered with them in a trice; everywhere wallet and beard, flattery and effrontery, staves and greed, logic and avarice. The little company which came up at the first proclamation is swamped beyond recovery, swallowed up in these later crowds; it is hopeless to find them, because of the external resemblance. That is the worst of it, Philosophy; you are really open to censure for not marking and labelling them; these impostors are often more convincing than the true philosophers.
Philos. It shall be done before long; at present let us receive them.
Platon. Platonists first!
Pyth. No, no; Pythagoreans first; our master is senior.
Stoics. Rubbish! the Porch is the best.
Peri. Now, now, this is a question of money; Peripatetics first there!
Epic. Hand over those cakes and fig-squares; as to the money, Epicureans will not mind waiting till the last.
Acad. Where are the two talents? none can touch the Academy at a wrangle; we will soon show you that.
Stoics. Not if we know it.
Philos. Cease your strife. Cynics there, no more pushing! And keep those sticks quiet. You have mistaken the nature of this summons. We three, Philosophy, Virtue, and Truth, are about to decide which are the true philosophers; that done, those whose lives are found to be in accord with our pleasure will be made happy by our award; but the impostors who are not truly of our kin we shall crush as they deserve, that they may no more make vain claims to what is too high for them. Ha! you fly? In good truth they do, jumping down the crags, most of them. Why, the Acropolis is deserted, except for—yes, a few have stood their ground and are not afraid of the judgement.
Attendants, pick up the wallet which yonder flying Cynic has dropped. Let us see what it contains—beans? a book? some coarse crust?
Par. Oh dear no. Here is gold; some scent; a mirror; dice.
Philos. Ah, good honest man! such were his little necessaries for the philosophic life, such his title to indulge in general abuse and instruct his neighbours.
Par. There you have them. The problem before you is, how the general ignorance is to be dispersed, and other people enabled to discriminate between the genuine and the other sort. Find the solution, Truth; for indeed it concerns you; Falsehood must not prevail; shall Ignorance shield the base while they counterfeit the good, and you never know it?
Truth. I think we had better give Parrhesiades this commission; he has been shown an honest man, our friend and your true admirer, Philosophy. Let him take Exposure with him and have interviews with all who profess philosophy; any genuine scion that he finds let him crown with olive and entertain in the Banqueting Hall; and for the rascals—ah, how many!—who are only costume philosophers, let him pull their cloaks off them, clip their beards short with a pair of common goatshears, and mark their foreheads or brand them between the eyebrows; the design on the branding iron to be a fox or an ape.
Philos. Well planned, Truth. And, Parrhesiades, here is a test for you; you know how young eagles are supposed to be tested by the sun; well, our candidates have not got to satisfy us that they can look at light, of course; but put gold, fame, and pleasure before their eyes; when you see one remain unconscious and unattracted, there is your man for the olive; but when one looks hard that way, with a motion of his hand in the direction of the gold, first off with his beard, and then off with him to the brander.
Par. I will follow your instructions, Philosophy; you will soon find a large majority ornamented with fox or ape, and very few with olive. If you like, though, I will get some of them up here for you to see.
Philos. What do you mean? bring them back after that stampede?
Par. Oh yes, if the priestess will lend me the line I see there and the Piraean fisherman's votive hook; I will not keep them long.
Priestess. You can have them; and the rod to complete the equipment.
Par. Thanks; now quickly, please, a few dried figs and a handful of gold.
Philos. What is all this about?
Priestess. He has baited his hook with the figs and gold, and is sitting on the parapet dangling it over the city.
Philos. What are you doing, Parrhesiades? do you think you are going to fish up stones from the Pelasgicum?
Par. Hush! I wait till I get a bite. Posidon, the fisherman's friend, and you, dear Amphitrite, send me good fishing!
Ah, a fine bass; no, it is not; it is a gilthead.
Expo. A shark, you mean; there, see, he is getting near the hook, open-mouthed too. He scents the gold; now he is close—touching—he has it; up with him!
Par. Give me a hand with the line, Exposure; here he is. Now, my best of fishes, what do we make of you? Salmo Cynicus, that is what you are. Good gracious, what teeth! Aha, my brave fish, caught snapping up trifles in the rocks, where you thought you could lurk unobserved? But now you shall hang by the gills for every one to look at you. Pull out hook and bait. Why, the hook is bare; he has not been long assimilating the figs, eh? and the gold has gone down too.
Diog. Make him disgorge; we want the bait for some more.
Par. There, then. Now, Diogenes, do you know who it is? has the fellow anything to do with you?
Diog. Nothing whatever.
Par. Well, what do you put him at? threepence was the price fixed the other day.
Diog. Too much. His flavour and his looks are intolerable—a coarse worthless brute. Drop him head first over the rock, and catch another. But take care your rod does not bend to breaking point.
Par. No fear; they are quite light—about the weight of a gudgeon.
Diog. About the weight and about the wit. However, up with them.
Par. Look; what is this one? a sole? flat as a plate, thin as one of his own fillets; he gapes for the hook; down it goes; we have him; up he comes.
Diog. What is he?
Expo. His plateship would be a Platonist.
Pl. You too after the gold, villain?
Par. Well, Plato? what shall we do with him?
Pl. Off with him from the same rock.
Diog. Try again.
Par. Ah, here is a lovely one coming, as far as one can judge in deep water, all the colours of the rainbow, with gold bars across the back. Do you see, Exposure? this is the sham Aristotle. There he is; no, he has shied. He is having a good look round; here he comes again; his jaws open; caught! haul up.
Ar. You need not apply to me; I do not know him.
Par. Very well, Aristotle; over he goes.
Hullo! I see a whole school of them together, all one colour, and covered with spines and horny scales, as tempting to handle as a hedgehog. We want a net for these; but we have not got one. Well, it will do if we pull up one out of the lot. The boldest of them will no doubt try the hook.
Expo. You had better sheathe a good bit of the line before you let it down; else he will gorge the gold and then saw the line through.
Par. There it goes. Posidon grant me a quick catch! There now! they are fighting for the bait, a lot of them together nibbling at the figs, and others with their teeth well in the gold. That is right; one soundly hooked. Now let me see, what do you call yourself? And yet how absurd to try and make a fish speak; they are dumb. Exposure, tell us who is his master,
Par. Ah, he must have a master with gold in his name, must he? Chrysippus, tell me seriously, do you know these men? are you responsible for the way they live?
Ch. My dear Parrhesiades, I take it ill that you should suggest any connexion between me and such creatures.
Par. Quite right, and like you. Over he goes head first like the others; if one tried to eat him, those spines might stick in one's throat.
Philos. You have fished long enough, Parrhesiades; there are so many of them, one might get away with gold, hook and all, and you have the priestess to pay. Let us go for our usual stroll; and for all you it is time to be getting back to your place, if you are not to outstay your leave. Parrhesiades, you and Exposure can go the rounds now, and crown or brand as I told you.
Par. Good, Philosophy. Farewell, ye best of men. Come, Exposure, to our commission. Where shall we go first? the Academy, do you think, or the Porch?
Expo. We will begin with the Lyceum.
Par. Well, it makes no difference. I know well enough that wherever we go there will be few crowns wanted, and a good deal of branding.
Charon. Clotho. Hermes. Shades. Rhadamanthus. Tisiphone. Lamp. Bed
Cha. You see how it is, Clotho; here has all been ship-shape and ready for a start this long time; the hold baled out, the mast stepped, the sail hoisted, every oar in its rowlock; it is no fault of mine that we don't weigh anchor and sail. 'Tis Hermes keeps us; he should have been here long ago. Not a passenger on board, as you may see; and we might have made the trip three times over by this. Evening is coming on now; and never a penny taken all day! I know how it will be: Pluto will think I have been wanting to my work. It is not I that am to blame, but our fine gentleman of a supercargo. He is just like any mortal: he has taken a drink of their Lethe up there, and forgotten to come back to us. He'll be wrestling with the lads, or playing on his lyre, or giving his precious gift of the gab a good airing; or he's off after plunder, the rascal, for what I know: 'tis all in the day's work with him. He is getting too independent: he ought to remember that he belongs to us, one half of him.
Clo. Well, well, Charon; perhaps he has been busy: Zeus may have had some particular occasion for his services in the upper world; he has the use of him too, remember.
Cha. That doesn't say that he should make use of him beyond what's reasonable. Hermes is common property. We have never kept him here when he was due to go. No, I know what it is. In these parts of ours all is mist and gloom and darkness, and nothing to be had but asphodel and libations and sacrificial cakes and meats. Yonder in Heaven, all's bright, with plenty of ambrosia, and no end of nectar. Small wonder that he likes to loiter there. When he leaves us, 'tis on wings; it is as though he escaped from prison. But when the time comes for return, he tramps it on foot, and has much ado to get here at all.
Clo. Well, never mind now; here he comes, look, and a fine host of passengers with him; a fine flock, rather; he hustles them along with his staff like so many goats. But what's this? One of them is bound, and another enjoying the joke; and there is one with a wallet slung beside him, and a stick in his hand; a cantankerous-looking fellow; he keeps the rest moving. And just look at Hermes! Bathed in perspiration, and his feet covered with dust! See how he pants; he is quite out of breath. What is the matter, Hermes? Tell us all about it; you seem disturbed.
Her. The matter is that this rascal ran away; I had to go after him, and had well nigh played you false for this trip, I can tell you.
Clo. Why, who is he? What did he want to run away for?
Her. His motive is sufficiently clear: he had a preference for remaining alive. He is some king or tyrant, as I gather from his piteous allusions to blessedness no longer his.
Clo. And the fool actually tried to run away, and thought to prolong his life when the thread of Fate was exhausted?
Her. Tried! He would have got clean away, but for that capital fellow there with the club; he gave me a hand, and we caught and bound him. The whole way along, from the moment that Atropus handed him over to me, he dragged and hung back, and dug his heels into the ground: it was no easy work getting him along. Every now and then he would take to prayers and entreaties: Would I let him go just for a few minutes? he would make it worth my while. Of course I was not going to do that; it was out of the question.—Well, we had actually got to the very pit's mouth, when somehow or other this double-dyed knave managed to slip off, whilst I was telling over the Shades to Aeacus, as usual, and he checking them by your sister's invoice. The consequence was, we were one short of tally. Aeacus raised his eyebrows. 'Hermes,' he said, 'everything in its right place: no larcenous work here, please. You play enough of those tricks in Heaven. We keep strict accounts here: nothing escapes us. The invoice says 1,004; there it is in black and white. You have brought me one short, unless you say that Atropus was too clever for you.' I coloured up at that; and then all at once I remembered what had happened on the way, and when I looked round and this fellow was nowhere to be seen, I knew that he must have made off, and I set off after him along the road to the upper world, as fast as I could go. My worthy friend here volunteered for the service; so we made a race of it, and caught the runaway just as he got to Taenarum! It was a near thing.
Clo. There now, Charon! And we were beginning to accuse Hermes of neglect.
Cha. Well, and why are we waiting here, as if there had not been enough delay already?
Clo. True. Let them come aboard. I'll to my post by the gangway, with my notebook, and take their names and countries as they come up, and details of their deaths; and you can stow them away as you get them.—Hermes, let us have those babies in first; I shall get nothing out of them.
Her. Here, skipper. Three hundred of them, including those that were exposed.
Cha. A precious haul, on my word!-These are but green grapes, Hermes.
Her. Who next, Clotho? The Unwept?
Clo. Ah! I take you.—Yes, up with the old fellows. I have no time to-day for prehistoric research. All over sixty, pass on! What's the matter with them? They don't hear me; they are deaf with age. I think you will have to pick them up, like the babies, and get them along that way.
Her. Here they are; fine well-matured fruit, gathered in due season; three hundred and ninety-eight of them.
Cha. Nay, nay; these are no better than raisins.
Clo. Bring up the wounded next, Hermes. Now I can get to work. Tell me how you were killed. Or no; I had better look at my notes, and call you over. Eighty-four due to be killed in battle yesterday, in Mysia, These to include Gobares, son of Oxyartes.
Clo. The seven who killed themselves for love. Also Theagenes, the philosopher, for love of the Megarian courtesan.
Her. Here they are, look.
Clo. And the rival claimants to thrones, who slew one another?
Clo. And the one murdered by his wife and her paramour?
Her. Straight in front of you.
Clo. Now the victims of the law,—the cudgelled and the crucified. And where are those sixteen who were killed by robbers?
Her. Here; you may know them by their wounds. Am I to bring the women too?
Clo. Yes, certainly; and all who were shipwrecked; it is the same kind of death. And those who died of fever, bring them too, the doctor Agathocles and all. Then there was a Cynic philosopher, who was to have succumbed to a dinner with Dame Hecate, eked out with sacrificial eggs and a raw cuttlefish; where is he?
Cy. Here I stand this long time, my good Clotho.—Now what had I done to deserve such a weary spell of life? You gave me pretty nearly a spindleful of it. I often tried to cut the thread and away; but somehow it never would give.
Clo. I left you as a censor and physician of human frailties; pass on, and good luck to you.
Cy. No, by Zeus! First let us see our captive safe on board. Your judgement might be perverted by his entreaties.
Clo. Let me see; who is he?
Her. Megapenthes, son of Lacydes; tyrant.
Clo. Come up, Megapenthes.
Me. Nay, nay, my lady Clotho; suffer me to return for a little while, and I will come of my own accord, without waiting to be summoned.
Clo. What do you want to go for?
Me. I crave permission to complete my palace; I left the building half-finished.
Clo. Pooh! Come along.
Me. Oh Fate, I ask no long reprieve. Vouchsafe me this one day, that I may inform my wife where my great treasure lies buried.
Clo. Impossible. 'Tis Fate's decree.
Me. And all that money is to be thrown away?
Clo. Not thrown away. Be under no uneasiness. Your cousin Megacles will take charge of it.
Me. Oh, monstrous! My enemy, whom from sheer good nature I omitted to put to death?
Clo. The same. He will survive you for rather more than forty years; in the full enjoyment of your harem, your wardrobe, and your treasure.
Me. It is too bad of you, Clotho, to hand over my property to my worst enemy.
Clo. My dear sir, it was Cydimachus's property first, surely? You only succeeded to it by murdering him, and butchering his children before his eyes.
Me. Yes, but it was mine after that.
Clo. Well, and now your term of possession expires.
Me. A word in your ear, madam; no one else must hear this.—Sirs, withdraw for a space.—Clotho, if you will let me escape, I pledge myself to give you a quarter of a million sterling this very day.
Clo. Ha, ha! So your millions are still running in your head?
Me. Shall I throw in the two mixing-bowls that I got by the murder of Cleocritus? They weigh a couple of tons apiece; refined gold!
Clo. Drag him up. We shall never get him to come on board by himself.
Me. I call you all to witness! My city-wall, my docks, remain unfinished. I only wanted five days more to complete them.
Clo. Never mind. It will be another's work now.
Me. Stay! One request I can make with a clear conscience.
Me. Suffer me only to complete the conquest of Persia; ... and to impose tribute on Lydia; ... and erect a colossal monument to myself, ... and inscribe thereon the military achievements of my life. Then let me die.
Clo. Creature, this is no single day's reprieve: you would want something like twenty years.
Me. Oh, but I am quite prepared to give security for my expeditious return. Nay, I could provide a substitute, if preferred—my well-beloved!
Clo. Wretch! How often have you prayed that he might survive you!
Me. That was a long time ago. Now,—I see a better use for him.
Clo. But he is due to be here, shortly, let me tell you. He is to be put to death by the new sovereign.
Me. Well, Clotho, I hope you will not refuse my last request.
Clo. Which is?
Me. I should like to know how things will be, now that I am gone.
Clo. Certainly; you shall have that mortification. Your wife will pass into the hands of Midas, your slave; he has been her gallant for some time past.
Me. A curse on him! 'Twas at her request that I gave him his freedom.
Clo. Your daughter will take her place in the harem of the present monarch. Then all the old statues and portraits which the city set up in your honour will be overturned,—to the entertainment, no doubt, of the spectators.
Me. And will no friend resent these doings?
Clo. Who was your friend? Who had any reason to be? Need I explain that the cringing courtiers who lauded your every word and deed were actuated either by hope or by fear—time-servers every man of them, with a keen eye to the main chance?
Me. And these are they whose feasts rang with my name! who, as they poured their libations, invoked every blessing on my head! Not one but would have died before me, could he have had his will; nay, they swore by no other name.
Clo. Yes; and you dined with one of them yesterday, and it cost you your life. It was that last cup you drank that brought you here.
Me. Ah, I noticed a bitter taste.—But what was his object?
Clo. Oh, you want to know too much. It is high time you came on board.
Me. Clotho, I had a particular reason for desiring one more glimpse of daylight. I have a burning grievance!
Clo. And what is that? Something of vast importance, I make no doubt.
Me. It is about my slave Carion. The moment he knew of my death, he came up to the room where I lay; it was late in the evening; he had plenty of time in front of him, for not a soul was watching by me; he brought with him my concubine Glycerium (an old affair, this, I suspect), closed the door, and proceeded to take his pleasure with her, as if no third person had been in the room! Having satisfied the demands of passion, he turned his attention to me. 'You little villain,' he cried, 'many's the flogging I've had from you, for no fault of mine!' And as he spoke he plucked out my hair and smote me on the face. 'Away with you,' he cried finally, spitting on me, 'away to the place of the damned!'—and so withdrew. I burned with resentment: but there I lay stark and cold, and could do nothing. That baggage Glycerium, too, hearing footsteps approaching, moistened her eyes and pretended she had been weeping for me; and withdrew sobbing, and repeating my name.—If I could but get hold of them—
Clo. Never mind what you would do to them, but come on board. The hour is at hand when you must appear before the tribunal.
Me. And who will presume to give his vote against a tyrant?
Clo. Against a tyrant, who indeed? Against a Shade, Rhadamanthus will take that liberty. He is strictly impartial, as you will presently observe, in adapting his sentences to the requirements of individual cases. And now, no more delay.
Me. Dread Fate, let me be some common man,—some pauper! I have been a king,—let me be a slave! Only let me live!
Clo. Where is the one with the stick? Hermes, you and he must drag him up feet foremost. He will never come up by himself.
Her. Come along, my runagate. Here you are, skipper. And I say, keep an eye—
Cha. Never fear. We'll lash him to the mast.
Me. Look you, I must have the seat of honour.
Clo. And why exactly?
Me. Can you ask? Was I not a tyrant, with a guard of ten thousand men?
Cy. Oh, dullard! And you complain of Carion's pulling your hair! Wait till you get a taste of this stick; you shall know what it is to be a tyrant.
Me. What, shall a Cynic dare to raise his staff against me? Sirrah, have you forgotten the other day, when I had all but nailed you to the cross, for letting that sharp censorious tongue of yours wag too freely?
Cynic. Well, and now it is your turn to be nailed,—to the mast.
Mi. And what of me, mistress? Am I to be left out of the reckoning? Because I am poor, must I be the last to come aboard?
Clo. Who are you?
Mi. Micyllus the cobbler.
Clo. A cobbler, and cannot wait your turn? Look at the tyrant: see what bribes he offers us, only for a short reprieve. It is very strange that delay is not to your fancy too.
Mi. It is this way, my lady Fate. I find but cold comfort in that promise of the Cyclops: 'Outis shall be eaten last,' said he; but first or last, the same teeth are waiting. And then, it is not the same with me as with the rich. Our lives are what they call 'diametrically opposed.' This tyrant, now, was thought happy while he lived; he was feared and respected by all: he had his gold and his silver; his fine clothes and his horses and his banquets; his smart pages and his handsome ladies,—and had to leave them all. No wonder if he was vexed, and felt the tug of parting. For I know not how it is, but these things are like birdlime: a man's soul sticks to them, and will not easily come away; they have grown to be a part of him. Nay, 'tis as if men were bound in some chain that nothing can break; and when by sheer force they are dragged away, they cry out and beg for mercy. They are bold enough for aught else, but show them this same road to Hades, and they prove to be but cowards. They turn about, and must ever be looking back at what they have left behind them, far off though it be,—like men that are sick for love. So it was with the fool yonder: as we came along, he was for running away; and now he tires you with his entreaties. As for me, I had no stake in life; lands and horses, money and goods, fame, statues,—I had none of them; I could not have been in better trim: it needed but one nod from Atropus,—I was busied about a boot at the time, but down I flung knife and leather with a will, jumped up, and never waited to get my shoes, or wash the blacking from my hands, but joined the procession there and then, ay, and headed it, looking ever forward; I had left nothing behind me that called for a backward glance. And, on my word, things begin to look well already. Equal rights for all, and no man better than his neighbour; that is hugely to my liking. And from what I can learn there is no collecting of debts in this country, and no taxes; better still, no shivering in winter, no sickness, no hard knocks from one's betters. All is peace. The tables are turned: the laugh is with us poor men; it is the rich that make moan, and are ill at ease.
Clo. To be sure, I noticed that you were laughing, some time ago. What was it in particular that excited your mirth?
Mi. I'll tell you, best of Goddesses. Being next door to a tyrant up there, I was all eyes for what went on in his house; and he seemed to me neither more nor less than a God. I saw the embroidered purple, the host of courtiers, the gold, the jewelled goblets, the couches with their feet of silver: and I thought, this is happiness. As for the sweet savour that arose when his dinner was getting ready, it was too much for me; such blessedness seemed more than human. And then his proud looks and stately walk and high carriage, striking admiration into all beholders! It seemed almost as if he must be handsomer than other men, and a good eighteen inches taller. But when he was dead, he made a queer figure, with all his finery gone; though I laughed more at myself than at him: there had I been worshipping mere scum on no better authority than the smell of roast meat, and reckoning happiness by the blood of Lacedaemonian sea-snails! There was Gniphon the usurer, too, bitterly reproaching himself for having died without ever knowing the taste of wealth, leaving all his money to his nearest relation and heir-at-law, the spendthrift Rhodochares, when he might have had the enjoyment of it himself.
When I saw him, I laughed as if I should never stop: to think of him as he used to be, pale, wizened, with a face full of care, his fingers the only rich part of him, for they had the talents to count,— scraping the money together bit by bit, and all to be squandered in no time by that favourite of Fortune, Rhodochares!—But what are we waiting for now? There will be time enough on the voyage to enjoy their woebegone faces, and have our laugh out.
Clo. Come on board, and then the ferryman can haul up the anchor.
Cha. Now, now! What are you doing here? The boat is full. You wait till to-morrow. We can bring you across in the morning.
Mi. What right have you to leave me behind,—a shade of twenty-four hours' standing? I tell you what it is, I shall have you up before Rhadamanthus. A plague on it, she's moving! And here I shall be left all by myself. Stay, though: why not swim across in their wake? No matter if I get tired; a dead man will scarcely be drowned. Not to mention that I have not a penny to pay my fare.
Clo. Micyllus! Stop! You must not come across that way; Heaven forbid!
Mi. Ha, ha! I shall get there first, and I shouldn't wonder.
Clo. This will never do. We must get to him, and pick him up.... Hermes, give him a hand up.
Cha. And where is he to sit now he is here? We are full up, as you may see.
Her. What do you say to the tyrant's shoulders?
Clo. A good idea that.
Cha. Up with you then; and make the rascal's back ache. And now, good luck to our voyage!
Cy. Charon, I may as well tell you the plain truth at once. The penny for my fare is not forthcoming; I have nothing but my wallet, look, and this stick. But if you want a hand at baling, here I am; or I could take an oar; only give me a good stout one, and you shall have no fault to find with me.
Cha. To it, then; and I'll ask no other payment of you.
Cy. Shall I tip them a stave?
Cha. To be sure, if you have a sea-song about you.
Cy. I have several. Look here though, an opposition is starting: a song of lamentation. It will throw me out.
Sh. Oh, my lands, my lands!—Ah, my money, my money!—Farewell, my fine palace!—The thousands that fellow will have to squander!—Ah, my helpless children!—To think of the vines I planted last year! Who, ah who, will pluck the grapes?—-
Her. Why, Micyllus, have you never an Oh or an Ah? It is quite improper that any shade should cross the stream, and make no moan.
Mi. Get along with you. What have I to do with Ohs and Ahs? I'm enjoying the trip!
Her. Still, just a groan or two. It's expected.
Mi. Well, if I must, here goes.—Farewell, leather, farewell! Ah, Soles, old Soles!—Oh, ancient Boots!—Woe's me! Never again shall I sit empty from morn till night; never again walk up and down, of a winter's day, naked, unshod, with chattering teeth! My knife, my awl, will be another's: whose, ah! whose?
Her. Yes, that will do. We are nearly there.
Cha. Wait a bit! Fares first, please. Your fare, Micyllus; every one else has paid; one penny.
Mi. You don't expect to get a penny out of the poor cobbler? You're joking, Charon; or else this is what they call a 'castle in the air.' I know not whether your penny is square or round.
Cha. A fine paying trip this, I must say! However,—all ashore! I must fetch the horses, cows, dogs, and other livestock. Their turn comes now.
Clo. You can take charge of them for the rest of the way, Hermes. I am crossing again to see after the Chinamen, Indopatres and Heramithres. They have been fighting about boundaries, and have killed one another by this time.
Her. Come, shades, let us get on;—follow me, I mean, in single file.
Mi. Bless me, how dark it is! Where is handsome Megillus now? There would be no telling Simmiche from Phryne. All complexions are alike here, no question of beauty, greater or less. Why, the cloak I thought so shabby before passes muster here as well as royal purple; the darkness hides both alike. Cyniscus, whereabouts are you?
Cy. Use your ears; here I am. We might walk together. What do you say?
Mi. Very good; give me your hand.—I suppose you have been admitted to the mysteries at Eleusis? That must have been something like this, I should think?
Cy. Pretty much. Look, here comes a torch-bearer; a grim, forbidding dame. A Fury, perhaps?
Mi. She looks like it, certainly.
Her. Here they are, Tisiphone. One thousand and four.
Ti. It is time we had them. Rhadamanthus has been waiting.
Rhad. Bring them up, Tisiphone. Hermes, you call out their names as they are wanted.
Cy. Rhadamanthus, as you love your father Zeus, have me up first for examination.
Cy. There is a certain shade whose misdeeds on earth I am anxious to denounce. And if my evidence is to be worth anything, you must first be satisfied of my own character and conduct.
Rhad. Who are you?
Cy. Cyniscus, your worship; a student of philosophy.
Rhad. Come up for judgement; I will take you first. Hermes, summon the accusers.
Her. If any one has an accusation to bring against Cyniscus here present, let him come forward.
Cy. No one stirs!
Rhad. Ah, but that is not enough, my friend. Off with your clothes; I must have a look at your brands.
Cy. Brands? Where will you find them?
Rhad. Never yet did mortal man sin, but he carried about the secret record thereof, branded on his soul.
Cy. Well, here I am stripped. Now for the 'brands.'
Rhad. Clean from head to heel, except three or four very faint marks, scarcely to be made out. Ah! what does this mean? Here is place after place that tells of the iron; all rubbed out apparently, or cut out. How do you explain this, Cyniscus? How did you get such a clean skin again?
Cy. Why, in old days, when I knew no better, I lived an evil life, and acquired thereby a number of brands. But from the day that I began to practise philosophy, little by little I washed out all the scars from my soul,-thanks to the efficiency of that admirable lotion.
Rhad. Off with you then to the Isles of the Blest, and the excellent company you will find there. But we must have your impeachment of the tyrant before you go. Next shade, Hermes!
Mi. Mine is a very small affair, too, Rhadamanthus; I shall not keep you long. I have been stripped all this time; so do take me next.
Rhad. And who may you be?
Mi. Micyllus the cobbler.
Rhad. Very well, Micyllus. As clean as clean could be; not a mark anywhere. You may join Cyniscus. Now the Tyrant.
Her. Megapenthes, son of Lacydes, wanted! Where are you off to? This way! You there, the Tyrant! Up with him, Tisiphone, neck and crop.
Rhad. Now, Cyniscus, your accusation and your proofs. Here is the party.
Cy. There is in fact no need of an accusation. You will very soon know the man by the marks upon him. My words however may serve to unveil him, and to show his character in a clearer light. With the conduct of this monster as a private citizen, I need not detain you. Surrounded with a bodyguard, and aided by unscrupulous accomplices, he rose against his native city, and established a lawless rule. The persons put to death by him without trial are to be counted by thousands, and it was the confiscation of their property that gave him his enormous wealth. Since then, there is no conceivable iniquity which he has not perpetrated. His hapless fellow-citizens have been subjected to every form of cruelty and insult. Virgins have been seduced, boys corrupted, the feelings of his subjects outraged in every possible way. His overweening pride, his insolent bearing towards all who had to do with him, were such as no doom of yours can adequately requite. A man might with more security have fixed his gaze upon the blazing sun, than upon yonder tyrant. As for the refined cruelty of his punishments, it baffles description; and not even his familiars were exempt. That this accusation has not been brought without sufficient grounds, you may easily satisfy yourself, by summoning the murderer's victims.—Nay, they need no summons; see, they are here; they press round as though they would stifle him. Every man there, Rhadamanthus, fell a prey to his iniquitous designs. Some had attracted his attention by the beauty of their wives; others by their resentment at the forcible abduction of their children; others by their wealth; others again by their understanding, their moderation, and their unvarying disapproval of his conduct.
Rhad. Villain, what have you to say to this?
Me. I committed the murders referred to. As for the rest, the adulteries and corruptions and seductions, it is all a pack of lies.
Cy. I can bring witnesses to these points too, Rhadamanthus.
Rhad. Witnesses, eh?
Cy. Hermes, kindly summon his Lamp and Bed. They will appear in evidence, and state what they know of his conduct.
Her. Lamp and Bed of Megapenthes, come into court. Good, they respond to the summons.
Rhad. Now, tell us all you know about Megapenthes. Bed, you speak first.
Bed. All that Cyniscus said is true. But really, Mr. Rhadamanthus, I don't quite like to speak about it; such strange things used to happen overhead.
Rhad. Why, your unwillingness to speak is the most telling evidence of all!—Lamp, now let us have yours.
Lamp. What went on in the daytime I never saw, not being there. As for his doings at night, the less said the better. I saw some very queer things, though, monstrous queer. Many is the time I have stopped taking oil on purpose, and tried to go out. But then he used to bring me close up. It was enough to give any lamp a bad character.
Rhad. Enough of verbal evidence. Now, just divest yourself of that purple, and we will see what you have in the way of brands. Goodness gracious, the man's a positive network! Black and blue with them! Now, what punishment can we give him? A bath in Pyriphlegethon? The tender mercies of Cerberus, perhaps?
Cy. No, no. Allow me,—I have a novel idea; something that will just suit him.
Rhad. Yes? I shall be obliged to you for a suggestion.
Cy. I fancy it is usual for departed spirits to take a draught of the water of Lethe?
Rhad. Just so.
Cy. Let him be the sole exception.
Rhad. What is the idea in that?
Cy. His earthly pomp and power for ever in his mind; his fingers ever busy on the tale of blissful items;—'tis a heavy sentence!
Rhad. True. Be this the tyrant's doom. Place him in fetters at Tantalus's side,—never to forget the things of earth.