From The Bibelot, A Reprint of Poetry and Prose for Book Lovers, chosen in part from scarce editions and sources not generally known, Volume I, Number IV, Testimonial Edition, Edited and Originally Published by Thomas B. Mosher, Portland, Maine; Wm. Wise & Co.; New York; 1895; pp. 93-121.
MARCUS AURELIUS who, though he had little relish for them himself, had been ever willing to humour the taste of his people for magnificent spectacles, was received back to Rome with the lesser honours of the Ovation, conceded by the Senate, so great was the public sense of deliverance, with even more than the laxity which had become habitual to it under imperial rule, for there had been no actual bloodshed in the late achievement. Clad in the civic dress of the chief Roman magistrate, and with a crown of myrtle upon his head, his colleague similarly attired walking beside him, he passed on foot in solemn procession, along the Sacred Way up to the Capitol, to offer sacrifice to the national gods. The victim, a goodly sheep, whose image we may still see, between the pig and the ox of the Suovetaurilia, filletted and stoled almost like 94 ancient canons, on a sculptured fragment in the Forum, was conducted by the priests, clad in rich white vestments, and bearing their sacred utensils of massy gold, immediately behind a company of flute-players led by the great master, or conductor, of that day; visibly tetchy or delighted, according as the instruments he ruled with his training-rod, rose, more or less perfectly amid the difficulties of the way, to the dream of perfect music in the soul within him. The vast crowd, in which were mingled the soldiers of the triumphant army, now restored to wives and children, all alike in holiday whiteness, had left their houses early in the fine, dry morning, in a real affection for “the father of his country,” to await the procession; the two princes having spent the preceding night outside the walls, in the old Villa of the Republic. Marius, full of curiosity, had taken his position with much care; and stood to see the world’s masters pass by, at an angle from which he could command the view of a great part of the processional route, sprinkled with fine yellow sand, and carefully guarded from profane footsteps.95
The coming of the procession was announced by the clear sound of the flutes, heard at length above the acclamations of the people — Salve Imperator! — Dü te servent! — shouted in regular time, over the hills. It was on the central figure, of course, that the whole attention of Marius was fixed from the moment when the procession came in sight, preceded by the lictors with gilded fasces, the imperial image-bearers, and pages carrying lighted torches; a band of knights, among whom was Cornelius in complete military array, following. Amply swathed about in the folds of a richly worked toga, in a manner now long since become obsolete with meaner persons, Marius beheld a man of about five-and-forty years of age, with prominent eyes — eyes, which although demurely downcast during this essentially religious ceremony, were by nature broadly and benignantly observant. He was still, in the main, as we see him in the busts which represent his gracious and courtly youth, when Hadrian had playfully called him, not Verus, after his father, but Verissimus, for that candour of gaze, and the 96 bland capacity of the brow; which, below the brown hair, clustering as thickly as of old, shone out low, broad, and clear, and still without a trace of the trouble of his lips. It was the brow of one who, amid the blindness or perplexity of the people about him, understood all things clearly; with that dilemma, to which his experience so far had brought him, between Chance with meek resignation, and a Providence with boundless possibilities and hope, for him at least distinctly defined.
The outward serenity, which, as a point of expression or manner not unworthy the attention of a public minister, he valued so highly (was it not an outward symbol of the inward religious serenity it was his constant effort to maintain?) was increased to-day, by his sense of the gratitude of his people — that his life had been one of such gifts and blessings as made his person seem indeed divine to them. Yet the trace of some reserved internal sorrow, passing from time to time into an expression of effort and fatigue, of loneliness amid the shouting multitude, as if the sagacious hint of one of his officers — “The soldiers can’t understand 97 you: they don’t know Greek” — were applicable generally to his relationships with other people, might have been read there by the more observant. The nostrils and mouth seemed capable even of peevishness; and Marius noted in them, as in the hands, and in the spare body as a whole, what was new in his experience — something of asceticism, as we say — of a bodily gymnastic, in which, although it told pleasantly in the clear blue humours of the eye, the flesh had scarcely been an equal gainer with the spirit. It was hardly the expression of “the healthy mind in the healthy body,” but rather of a sacrifice of the body to the soul, its needs and aspirations, that Marius seemed to divine in this assiduous student of the Greek sages — a sacrifice, indeed, far beyond the demands of their very saddest philosophy of life.
Dignify thyself, with modesty and simplicity for thine ornaments! — had been a maxim with this dainty and high-bred Stoic; who still thought manners a true part of morals, according to the old sense of the term, and who regrets, now and again, that he cannot control his thoughts equally well 98 with his countenance. That outward composure was deepened during the solemnities of this day by an air of pontifical abstractedness; which though very far from being pride, and a sort of humility rather, yet gave, to himself, an aspect of unapproachableness, and to his whole proceeding, in which every minutest act was considered, the character of a ritual. Certainly, there was no haughtiness, social, moral, or philosophic even, in Aurelius, who had realised, under more difficult circumstances perhaps than anyone before him, that no element of humanity could be alien to him. Yet, as he walked to-day, the centre of ten thousand observers, with eyes discreetly fixed on the ground, veiling his head at times and muttering very rapidly the words of the “supplications,” there was something which many a spectator must have noted, again as a new thing; for, unlike his predecessors, Aurelius took all that with absolute seriousness. The doctrine of the sanctity of kings, that, in the words of Tacitus, Princes are as Gods — principes instar deorum esse, ” seemed to have taken a new and true sense. For Aurelius, indeed, the old legend of his descent from Numa — from Numa 99 who had talked with the gods — meant much. Attached in very early years to the service of the altars, like many another noble youth, he was “observed to perform all his sacerdotal functions with a constancy and exactness unusual at that age; was soon a master of the sacred music; and had all the forms and ceremonies by heart.” And now, as the emperor, who had not only a vague divinity about his person, but was actually the chief religious functionary of the state, recited from time to time the formulas of invocation, he needed not the help of the prompter, or ceremoniarius, who then approached, to assist him by whispering the appointed words in his ear. It was that pontifical collectedness which now impressed itself on Marius as the leading outward characteristic of Aurelius; and to him alone, perhaps, in that vast crowd of observers, it was no strange thing, but a thing he had understood from of old.
Some fanciful writers have assigned the origin of these triumphal processions to the mythic pomps of Dionysus, after his conquests in the East; the very word triumph being, according to this supposition, 100 only Thriambos — the Dionysiac Hymn. And certainly the younger of the two imperial “brothers,” who, with the effect of a strong contrast, walked beside Aurelius, and shared the honours of the day, might well have reminded many of the delicate Greek god of flowers and wine. This new conqueror of the East was now about thirty-six years old, but with his punctilious care for all his advantages of person, and his soft curling beard powdered with gold, looked many years younger. It was one of the best fruits of the more genial element in the wisdom of Aurelius that, amid very difficult circumstances, he had known throughout life how to act in union with persons of character very different from his own; to be more than loyal to the colleague, the younger brother in empire, he had too lightly taken to himself, five years before, then an uncorrupt youth, “skilled in manly exercises and fitted for war.” When Aurelius thanks his gods that a brother had fallen to his lot, whose character was a stimulus to the proper care of his own, one sees that that could only have happened by way of an example, warning him against 101 insidious faults. But it is with sincere amiability that the imperial writer, who was indeed little used to be ironical, adds that the lively respect and affection of the junior had often “gladdened” him. To be able to make his use of the flower, when the fruit perhaps was useless or poisonous — that, was one of the practical successes of his philosophy; and his people noted, with a blessing, the concord of the two Augusti.
The younger, certainly, had to the full that charm of a constitutional freshness of aspect which may defy for a long time extravagant or erring habits of life; a physiognomy healthy-looking, cleanly, and firm, which seemed unassociable with any form of self-tormenting, and made one think of the nozzle of some young hound or roe, such as human beings invariably like to stroke — with all the goodliness, that is, of the finer sort of animalism, though still wholly animal. It was the charm of the blond head, the unshrinking gaze, the warm tints — neither more nor less than one may see every English summer, in youth, manly enough, and with the stuff in it which makes brave soldiers, in spite of the natural kinship it 102 seems to have with playthings and gay flowers. Lucius Verus, indeed, had had a more than womanly fondness for fond things, which had made the atmosphere of the old city of Antioch, heavy with centuries of voluptuousness, a poison to him: he had come to love his delicacies best out of season, and would have gilded the very flowers. But, with a marvellous power of self-obliteration, the elder brother at the capital had directed his procedure successfully and allowed him, now also the husband of his daughter Lucilla, the credit of a conquest, though Verus had certainly not returned a victor over himself. He had returned, as we know, with the plague in his company, along with many another strange creature of his folly; and when the people saw him publicly feeding his favourite horse Fleet with almonds and sweet grapes, wearing the animal’s image in gold, and finally building him a tomb, they felt, with some unsentimental misgiving, that he might revive the manners of Nero — What if, in the chances of war, he should survive the protecting genius of that elder brother?103
He was all himself to-day: and it was with much wistful curiosity that Marius regarded him. For Lucius Verus was, indeed, but a highly expressive type of a class — the true son of his father, adopted by Hadrian. Lucius Verus the elder, also, had had that same strange capacity for misusing the adornments of life, with a masterly grace; as if such misusing were, indeed, the quite adequate occupation of an intelligence, powerful, but distorted by cynical philosophy or some disappointment of the heart. It was almost a sort of genius, of which there had been instances in the imperial purple: it was to ascend the throne, a few years later, in the person of one, now a hopeful little lad in the palace; and it had its following, of course, among the wealthy youth of Rome, who concentrated a very considerable force of shrewdness and tact upon minute details of attire and manner, as upon the one thing needful. Certainly, flowers were pleasant to the eye. Such things had even their sober use, as making the outside of human life superficially attractive, and thereby promoting the first steps towards friendship and social amity. 104 But what precise place could there be for Verus, and his charm, in that Wisdom, that Order of Reason “reaching them from end to end, sweetly and strongly disposing all things;” from the vision of which Aurelius came down, so tolerant of persons like him — a vision into which Marius also was competent to enter. Yet noting his actual perfection after his kind, his undeniable achievement of the select, in all minor things, Marius felt, with some suspicion of himself, that he entered into, and could understand, Lucius Verus too. There was a voice in that theory which he had brought to Rome with him, which whispered “nothing is either great nor small;” as there were times in which he could have thought that, as the “grammarian’s,” or the artist’s ardour of soul may be satisfied by the perfecting of the theory of a sentence or the adjustment of two colours, so his own life also might have been filled by an enthusiastic quest after perfection — say, in the flowering and folding of a toga.
The emperors had burned incense before the image of Jupiter, arrayed in his most gorgeous apparel, amid sudden shouts from 105 the people of Salve Imperator! turned now from the living princes to the deity, as they discerned his countenance through the great opened doors. The imperial brothers had deposited their crowns of myrtle on the richly embroidered lap-cloth of the image; and, with their chosen guest, had sat down to a public feast in the temple itself. And then followed, what was, after all, the great event of the day; an appropriate discourse — a discourse almost wholly de contemptu mundi — pronounced in the presence of the assembled Senate, by the emperor Aurelius; who had thus, on certain rare occasions, condescended to instruct his people, with the double authority of a chief pontiff and a laborious student of philosophy. In those lesser honours of the ovation, there had been no attendant slave behind the emperors, to make mock of their effulgence as they went; and it was as if, timorous, as a discreet philosopher might be, of a jealous Nemesis, he had determined himself to protest in time against the vanity of all outward success.
It was in the vast hall of the Curia Julia that the Senate was assembled to hear the emperor’s discourse. A crowd of high-bred 106 youths, who had near relations among its members, were idling around on the steps before the doors, in the marvellous toilets Marius had noticed in the Via Nova; in attendance, as usual, to learn by observation all the delicacies of the senatorial procedure. Marius had already some acquaintances among them, and passing on found himself suddenly in the presence of what was still the most august assembly the world had seen. Under Aurelius, ever full of veneration for this ancient traditional guardian of public religion, the Senate had recovered all its old dignity and independence. Among its members, many hundreds in number, as the grandest of them all, Marius noted the great sophists or rhetoricians of the day, in all their magnificence. The antique character of their attire, and the ancient mode of wearing it, still surviving with them, added to the imposing character of their persons, as they sat, with their staves of ivory in their hands, on their curule chairs (almost the exact pattern of the chair, still in use in the Roman church when a Bishop pontificates at the divine offices) “tranquil and unmoved, with a majesty that seemed divine,” as Marius 107 thought, like the old Gaul of the Invasion. The rays of the early November sunset slanted full upon the audience, and compelled the officers of the Court to draw the purple curtains over the windows, adding to the solemnity of the scene. In the depth of those warm shadows, surrounded by her noble ladies, the empress Faustina was seated to listen. The beautiful Greek statue of Victory, which ever since the days of Augustus had presided over the assemblies of the Senate, had been brought into the hall, and placed near the chair of the emperor; who, after rising to perform a brief sacrificial service in its honour, bowing reverently to the assembled fathers left and right, took his seat and began to speak.
There was a certain melancholy grandeur in the very simplicity or triteness of the theme; as it were the very quintessence of all the old Roman epitaphs of all that was monumental in that city of tombs, layer upon layer of dead things and people. As if in the very fervor of disillusion, he seemed to be composing — “ωσπερ ἐπιγραφὰς χρόνων καὶ ὄλων ἔνθων — the sepulchral titles of ages and whole peoples — nay! the very epitaph 108 of the living Rome itself. The grandeur of the ruins of Rome — heroism in ruin — it was under the influence of an imaginative anticipation of that, that he appeared to be speaking. And though the impression of the actual greatness of Rome on that day was but enhanced by this strain of contempt falling with an accent of pathetic conviction from the emperor himself, and gaining from his pontifical pretensions the authority of a religious intimation, yet the curious interest of the discourse lay in this, that Marius, as he listened, seemed to foresee a grass-grown Forum, the broken ways of the Capitol, and the Palatine hill itself in humble occupation: and this impression connected itself with what he had already noted of an actual change that was coming over Italian scenery. Throughout, he could trace something of a humour into which Stoicism at all times tends to fall, the tendency to cry, Abase yourselves! With the almost inhuman impassibility of one who had thought too closely on the paradoxical aspect of the love of posthumous fame, with the ascetic pride which lurks, in spite of its poetry, in all Platonism, resultant from its opposition 109 of the seen to the unseen, as falsehood to truth — the imperial Stoic, like his true descendant, the hermit of the middle age, was ready, in no friendly humour, to mock, there in its narrow bed, the corpse, which had made so much of itself in life. Marius could but contrast all that with his own Cyrenaic eagerness, just then, to taste and see and touch; reflecting on the opposite issues deducible from the same text. “The world without and within me flows away like a river,” he had said, “therefore let me make the most of what is here and now.” — “The world and the thinker upon it, are consumed like a flame,” said Aurelius, “therefore let us turn away our eyes from vanity; and renounce; and withdraw ourselves alike from all affections.” He seemed tacitly to claim it, as a sort of personal dignity, that he was very familiarly versed in that view of things, and could discern death’s head everywhere. Now and again, Marius was reminded of the saying that “with the Stoics all people are the vulgar save themselves,” and at times the orator seemed to have forgotten his audience, and to be speaking only to himself.110
“Art thou in love with men’s praises, get thee into the very soul of them, and see! — see what judges they be, even in those matters which concern themselves. Wouldst thou have their praises after death, bethink thee, that they who shall come hereafter, and with whom thou wouldst survive by thy great name, will be but as these, whom here thou hast found so hard to live with. For of a truth, his soul who is aflutter upon renown after death, presents not this aright to itself, that of all whose memory he would have each one will likewise very quickly depart, and thereafter, again, he also who shall receive that from him, until memory herself be put out, as she journeys on by means of such as are themselves on the wing but for a while, and are extinguished in their turn. — Making so much of those thou wilt never see! It is as if thou wouldst have had those who were before thee discourse fair things concerning thee.
“To him, indeed, whose wit hath been whetted by true doctrine, that well-worn sentence of Homer sufficeth, to guard him against regret and fear —
Leaves! little leaves! — thy children, thy flatterers, thine enemies! Leaves in the wind, those who would devote thee to darkness, who scorn or miscall thee here, even as they also whose great fame shall outlast them. For all these, and the like of them, are born indeed in the spring season — ἔαρος επιγιγνωται ὤρῃ — and soon a wind hath scattered them, and thereafter the wood peopleth itself again with another generation of leaves. And what is common to all of them is but the littleness of their lives: and yet wouldst thou love and hate, as if these things should continue for ever. In a little while thine eyes also will be closed, and he on whom thou perchance hast leaned thyself be himself a burden upon another.
“Bethink thee often of the swiftness with which the things that are, or are even now coming to be, are swept past thee: that the very substance of them is but the perpetual motion of water; that there is almost nothing which continueth: and that bottomless depth of time, so close at thy side. Folly! to be lifted up, or sorrowful, or anxious, by reason 112of things like these! Think of infinite matter, and thy portion — how tiny a particle of it! of infinite time, and thine own brief point there; of destiny, and the jot thou art in it; and yield thyself readily to the wheel of Clotho, to spin thee into what web she will.
“As one casting a ball from his hand, the nature of things hath had its aim with every man, not as to the ending only, but the first beginning of his course, and passage thither. And hath the ball any profit of its rising, or loss as it descendeth again, or in its fall? or the bubble, as it groweth or breaketh on the air? or the flame of the lamp, from the beginning to the ending of its brief history?
“All but at this present that future is, in which nature, who disposeth all things in order, will transform whatsoever thou now seest, fashioning from its substance somewhat else, and therefrom somewhat else in its turn, lest the world should grow old. We are such stuff as dreams are made of — disturbing dreams. Awake, then! and see thy dream as it is, in comparison with that erewhile it seemed to thee.
“And for me, especially, it were well to mind those many mutations of empire in time 113past; therein peeping also upon the future, which must needs be of like species with what hath been, continuing ever within the rhythm and number of things which really are; so that in forty years one may note of man and his ways little less than in a thousand. Ah! from this higher place, look we down upon the shipwrecks and the calm! Consider, for example. how the world went, under the emperor Vespasian. They are married and given in marriage, they breed children; love hath its way with them; they heap up riches for others or for themselves: they are murmuring at things as then they are; they are seeking for great place; crafty, flattering, suspicious, waiting upon the death of others — festivals, business, war, sickness, dissolution: and now their whole life is no longer anywhere at all. Pass on to the reign of Trajan: all things continue the same: and that life also is no longer anywhere at all. Ah! but look again, and consider one after another, as it were the sepulchral inscriptions of all peoples and times, according to one pattern — What multitudes, after their utmost striving — a little afterwards! — were dissolved again into their dust.
“Think again of life as it was far off in 114the old time; as it must be when we shall be gone; as it is now among the wild heathen. How many have never heard your names and mine, or will soon forget them! How soon may those who shout my name to-day begin to revile it, because glory , and the memory of men, and all things beside, are but vanity — a sand-heap under the senseless wind, the barking of dogs, the quarreling of children, weeping incontinently upon their laughter.
“This hasteth to be; that other to have been: of that which is now becoming, even now somewhat hath been extinguished. And wilt thou make thy treasure of any one of those things? It were as if one set his love upon the swallow, as it passeth out of sight through the air!
“Bethink thee often, in all contentions public and private, of those whom men have remembered by reason of their anger and vehement spirit — those famous rages, and the occasions of them — the great fortunes and misfortunes, of men’s strife of old. What are they all now, and the dust of their battles/ Dust and ashes indeed; a fable, a mythus, or not so much as that. Yes! keep those before thine eyes who took this or that, the like of which 115happeneth to thee, so hardly; were so querulous, so agitated. And where again are they? Wouldst thou have it not otherwise with thee?
“Consider how quickly all things vanish away — their bodily structure into the general substance of things; the very memory of them into that great gulf and abysm of past thoughts. Ah! ’tis on a tiny space of earth thou art creeping through life — a pigmy soul carrying a dead body to its grave. Consider all this with thyself, and let nothing seem great to thee.
“Let death put thee upon the consideration both of thy body and thy soul — what an atom of all matter hath been distributed to thee; what a little particle of the universal mind. Turn thy body about, and consider what thing it is, and that which old age, and lust, and the languor of disease can make of it. Or come to its substantial and casual qualities, its very type: contemplate that in itself, apart from the accidents of matter, and then measure also the span of time for which the nature of things, at the longest, will maintain that special type. Nay! in the very principles and first constituents of things corruption hath its part — so much dust, humour, stench, 116and scraps of bone! Consider that thy marbles are but the earth’s callosities, thy gold and silver its fæces; this silken robe but a worm’s bedding, and thy purple an unclean fish. Ah! and thy life’s breath is not otherwise; as it passeth out of matters like these, into the like of them again.
“For the one soul in things, taking matter like wax into its hands, moulds and remoulds — how hastily! — beast, and plant, and the babe, in turn: and that which dieth hath not slipped out of the order of nature, but, remaining therein, hath also its changes there, disparting into those elements of which nature herself, and thou too, art compacted. She changes without murmuring. The oaken chest falls to pieces with no more complaining than when the carpenter fitted it together. If one told thee certainly that on the morrow thou shouldst die, or at the farthest on the day after, it would be no great matter to thee to die on the day after to-morrow, rather than to-morrow. Strive to think it a thing no greater that thou wilt die — not to-morrow, but a year, or two years, or ten years from to-day.
“I find that all things are now as they were in the days of our buried ancestors — all things 117sordid in their elements, trite by long usage, and yet ephemeral. How ridiculous, then, how like a countryman in town, is he, who wonders at aught. Doth the sameness, the repetition of the public shows, weary thee? Even so doth that likeness of events make the spectacle of the world a vapid one. And so must it be with thee to the end. For the wheel of the world hath ever the same motion, upward and downward, from generation to generation. When, when, shall time give place to eternity?
“If there be things which trouble thee thou canst put them away, inasmuch as they have their being but in thine own notion concerning them. Consider what death is, and how, if one does but detach from it the notions and appearances that hang about it, resting the eye upon it as in itself it really is, it must be thought of but as an effect of nature, and that man but a child whom an effect of nature shall affright. Nay! not function and effect of nature, only; but a thing profitable also to herself.
“To cease from action — the ending of thine effort to think and do: — there is no evil in that. Turn thy thought to the ages of man’s life, — boyhood, youth, maturity, old age: 118the change in every one of those also is a dying, but evil nowhere. Thou climbedst into the ship, thou hast made thy voyage and touched the shore: go forth now! Be it into some other life; the divine breath is everywhere, even there. Be it into forgetfulness forever; at least thou wilt rest from the beating of sensible images upon thee, from the passions which puck thee this way and that like an unfeeling toy, from those long marches of the intellect, from thy toilsome ministry to the flesh.
“Art thou yet more than dust and ashes and bare bone — a name only, or not even that name, which, also, is but whispering and a resonance, kept alive from mouth to mouth of dying abjects who have hardly known themselves; how much less thee, dead so long ago!
“When thou lookest upon a wise man, a lawyer, a captain of war, think upon another gone. When thou seest thine own face in the glass, call up there before thee one of thine ancestors — one of those old Cæsars. Lo! everywhere, they double before thee! Thereon, let the thought occur to thee: — And where are they? anywhere at all, 119forever? And thou, thyself — how long? Art thou blind to that thou art — thy matter, thy function, how temporal — the nature of thy business? Yet tarry, at least, till thou hast assimilated even these things to thine own proper essence, as a quick fire turneth into heat and light whatsoever be cast upon it.
“As words once in use are antiquated with us, so is it with the names that were once on all men’s lips — Camillus, Volesus, Leonnatus: then, in a little while, Scipio and Cato, and then Augustus, and then Hadrian, and then Antoninus Pius. How many great physicians who lifted wise brows at other men’s sick-beds, have sickened and died? Those wise Chaldeans, who foretold, as a great matter, another man’s last hour, have themselves been taken by surprise. Ay! and all those others, in their pleasant places — those who doated on a Capreæ like Tiberius, on their gardens, on the baths; Pythagoras and Socrates, who reasoned so closely upon immortality; Alexander, who used the lives of others as though his own should last for ever — he and his mule-driver alike now! — one upon another. Wellnigh the whole court of Antoninus is extinct. Panthea and Pergamus sit no longer beside the 120sepulchre of their lord. The watchers over Hadrian’s dust have slipped form his sepulchre. — It were jesting to stay longer. Did they sit there still, would the dead feel it? or feeling it, be glad; or glad, hold those watchers for ever? The time must come when they too shall be aged men and aged women, and decease, and fail from their places; and what shift were there then for imperial service! This too is but the breath of the tomb, and a skinful of dead man’s blood.
“Think again of those inscriptions, which belong not to one soul only, but to whole families — ἔσχατος τος ἰδίου γένους he was the last of his race. Nay! of the burial of whole cities Helice, Pompeii; of others, whose very burial-place is unknown.
“Thou hast been a citizen in this wide city — Count not for how long, nor complain; since that which sends thee hence is no unrighteous judge, no tyrant; but Nature, who brought thee hither; as when a player leaves the stage at the bidding of the conductor who hired him. Sayest thou, ‘I have not played five acts.’ True! but in human life, three acts only make sometimes a complete play. That is the composer’s business, 121not thine. Retire with a good will; for that too hath, perchance, a good will which dismisseth thee from thy part.”
The discourse ended almost in darkness, the evening having set in somewhat suddenly, with a heavy fall of snow. The torches which had been made ready to do him a useless honour were of real service now, as the emperor was solemnly conducted home; one man rapidly catching light from another — a long stream of moving lights across the white Forum, up the great stairs, to the palace. And, in effect, that night winter began, the hardest that had been known for a lifetime. the wolves came from the mountains; and, led by the carrion scent, devoured the dead bodies which had been hastily buried during the plague, and, emboldened by their meal, crept, before the short day was well past, over the walls of the farm-yards of the Campagna. The eagles were seen driving the flocks of the smaller birds across the wintry sky. Only, in the city itself the winter was all the brighter for the contrast, among those who could pay for light and warmth. The habit-makers made a great sale of the spoil of 122all such furry creatures as had escaped wolves and eagles, for presents at the Saturnalia; and at no time had the winter roses from Carthage seemed more lustrously yellow and red.