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1851.
The Milesian Tales.

473 shows that education in Ionia was less exclusively directed than in Athens, towards public life, in which men alone could engage; but embraced within its sphere a dilettante study of morals, unaccompanied by the severity of practice, and also of philosophy clothed in that light and graceful drapery in which eloquence can disguise it. To tbis same turn of mind we attribute the productions of which we are speaking. They first appear in Greek literature at a time when all interest in politics had died out, and men, instead of living in public, as their forefathers had done, courted retirement and privacy. In many cases, such a life was one of voluptuous indulgence; in most, a life of intellectual poverty; and these tales became popular, because they relieved the ennui of idleness. This sufficiently explains their character. They were familiar, trifling compositions, containing descriptions of the laughable incidents of life, amusing pieces of fiction, and adventures in love and intrigue, mixed with great liçentiousness. The Romans first became acquainted with them during their campaigns in Lesser Asia. Plutarch tells us that the officers of Crassus's army carried the novels of Aristides in their knapsacks. Their popularity induced Sisenna, the historian of the expedition, to translate them into Latin; but though Ovid mentions the fact of their publication, we hear no more of them during the golden period of Roman literature. In the next century, however, they again came into vogue, and must have been well known to the readers of Apuleius ; for in his preface, he promises to string together his stories in the Milesian strain, and charm their ears with a merry whispering.

He has kept his promise. His story contains a pleasant account of the habits, the follies, and even the vices of his contemporaries. He had enjoyed extensive opportunities for observation, for he spent his early years in Africa, studied at Athens, and, for some years, practised at the bar in Rome ; and as the result, he exhibits to us a collection of portraits taken from different classes of society, sufficiently resembling the sketches made by the satirists of the preceding century, to convince us of their truth, but less harshly drawn. There is the usurer, — the enchantress taking vengeance on her lover, — the harsh stepmother, — the hectoring soldier, — the oppressed provincial, — the Christian woman,the interior of a workshop,and the juggling priests of the Syrian goddess. Every picture tells its own date; the gallery was made under the Empire.

But Apuleius was a philosopher as well as a satirist, and desired, in portraying, to reform his generation. We are aware that this has been denied by many critics, both in ancient VOL. XCIV. NO. CXCII.

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and modern times; but on any other supposition a large portion of the book is unintelligible, and inconsistent with what we know of his character. Our best plan will be to tell the story, and then give the explanation ; following his own words as far as possible, though at the risk of falling into his faults of style. It is but fair to add, that in our quotations we have taken great liberties with Sir George Head's translation.

Lucius, the hero of the novel, is introduced to us mounted on a milk-white steed, upon a journey from Corinth to Thessaly. In the way he overtook a commercial traveller, engaged in earnest conversation with a friend. The subject of their discussion was suited to the spot in which they were travelling, for they were discussing the pretensions of magic on the borders of Thessaly, -the chosen home of witchcraft from the days of Medea even to the present hour. Lucius overheard the loud laugh with which the friend scouted the merchant's story, and was tempted, by his thirst for the marvellous, to introduce himself to them as a man eager for information. He reproved the unbelieving listener in words, which, though intended to convey to us the real scepticism of the novelist, flattered the speaker into repeating his tale. It related the untimely death of an acquaintance, brought about by the incantations of a hag,-a fact of which the merchant had been himself a witness on some former expedition into Thessaly, to procure the honey and cheese for which the district was famous. The story was good enough to beguile the remainder of a toilsome journey, but is not worth our repeating. It is enough to say, that, though supported by the devout belief of the narrator, and the common talk of all the people of Thessaly, it failed to convince the sceptical companion, while the cautious Lucius, when appealed to, gave his verdict that nothing is impossible, but all things proceed according to the decree of fate; “for,' continued he, occurrences happen in the experience of us all, so wonderful, as to have been within an ace of never happening at all.'

The tale thus ended, Lucius parted company at the entrance of Hypata, and inquired for the house of Milo, to whom he had a letter of introduction. Milo was one of a numerous and powerful class, which owed its origin to the imperfect state of commercial credit, and the difficulty of finding secure and ready investment for capital under the Roman Empire ; he was a miser and a money-lender. The influence and extortions of his order had more than once invited the interference of stringent laws, and exposed its members to popular hatred; and the old inn-keeper, who directed Lucius, did not miss the opportunity

1851.

The Money-Lender.

475

of speaking an ill word of her wealthy neighbour, who kept one maid for himself and his wife, and dressed like a beggar. .

The door of the house was bolted fast; but, after a parley with the maid, who mistook him for a customer come to borrow, Lucius was admitted to see Milo. The money-lender was reclining upon a tiny couch, on the point of beginning his evening meal. His wife was sitting at his feet, and before them was a bare table, to which he pointed, and said, You see

all we have to offer.' Then, bidding his wife rise, and dragging his unwilling guest into her place, he apologised for the want of furniture, on the ground of his dread of robbers, and, after a compliment on the handsome figure of Lucius, and his almost feminine delicacy of manners, invited him to occupy a nook in his cottage. Lucius accepted the invitation ; but, observing Milo's parsimonious style of living, determined to forage for himself on his way to his evening bath. Accordingly he went to the market, and bought a basket of fish. Just then he was recognised by an old friend, named Pythias, whose dress and retinue showed him to be a magistrate. The two had not met since their school-days at Athens, and Pythias had now become an ædile and an inspector of the market. He caught sight of the basket, and inquired what had been given for the bargain. The price was exorbitant; and, on hearing it, he grasped Lucius by the hand, and, leading him back to the stall, in the harshest tone which the majesty of the ædile could assume, threatened to show the fishmonger how rogues should be treated. Then, emptying the basket in the middle of the road, he ordered one of his attendants to trample upon the fishes; and, satisfied with his own sternness, advised his friend to come away, adding, “The dis

grace is punishment enough for the old fellow.' Lucius stood aghast at this rigorous system of administration ; but there was no help for it; so, deprived alike of his money and his fish, and, wearied by his long journey and an evening without any supper, except Milo's conversation, he betook himself to rest.

We will take this opportunity of making our readers more intimately acquainted with the female portion of Milo's household - Pamphile and Fotis. The popular belief of Hypata represented the former as a notorious witch,—the mistress of every sepulchral incantation. By the slightest puff of her breath upon a branch or a stone, or any other inanimate object, she could extinguish the light of the heavenly bodies, and plunge the world in the darkness of chaos. She became enamoured of every handsome youth she met, and if he refused to gratify her passion she changed him into some brutish form. Fotis was her mistress's confidante, and herself an adept in magic; but her knowledge was not accompanied by the impatience and dark temper which characterised Pamphile. On the contrary, she was pert and coquettish, and readily responded to, if she did not anticipate, the advances of Lucius. His fancy was taken by her elegant figure, her graceful motions, and, above all, her luxuriant and unadorned tresses, to the praises of which he has devoted a chapter; and he determined to follow up an intimacy, which, besides its own attractions, promised him an opportunity of gaining the knowledge he was in search of. We shall presently see what were its consequences.

One incident during his stay in Hypata is too important to the plot to be omitted. There was a noble and virtuous matron, named Byrrhæna, who took a deep interest in him, and warned him against the dangerous company he had fallen into. It chanced that this lady gave a magnificent entertainment, at which all the fashion of the place was to be present, and she invited Lucius to join the party. Fotis, though unwillingly, gave her consent, on condition he would return early, for fear of the mad-headed band of young nobles who infested the streets and massacred the passers-by. The supper was excellent; the wine flowed freely; one of the guests told how he had lost his ears and his nose, owing to a witch; jokes were bandied from side to side, and it was late before Lucius, with dizzy head and uncertain step, returned to Milo's house. There he saw three tall figures, to all appearance robbers, dashing against the door with the utmost violence. Without a moment's delay he charged into the midst of them, and engaged each in turn, till all three fell, pierced with wounds, at his feet.

Aurora was already shaking her rosy arm above the gloring trappings of her horses, — the fine writing is Lucius's, not ours, — and mounting towards the top of heaven, when night restored him to day. His mind was agitated by the remembrance of the last night's deed. With his legs bent under him, his hands clasped and resting on his knees, he sat up in bed, and wept abundantly, while his imagination pictured a court, a trial, a conviction, and the executioner. At this moment the lictors arrived to arrest him on a charge of murder, and conducted him to the theatre, the only place large enough to accommodate the crowds assembled to witness the trial. The prefect of the night-watch stated the charge, and Lucius was called upon for his defence. He admitted the fact, but repeating word for word the language of their leader, which left no doubt of their intentions, and describing the violence of their

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attack on himself, and the deadly grip he had felt, he asked for a triumphant acquittal. By a procedure allowed in Greek Courts, the widow of one of the deceased, with an infant in her arms, was now produced, in order to excite the commiseration of the judges, and, at her instance, the accused was compelled to lift the sheet which covered the corpses. Beneath it lay three wine-skins, slashed with gaping holes, which his recollection told him corresponded with the wounds inflicted on the robbers.

The laughter, which had been with difficulty suppressed during the trial, now burst into the loudest peals of merriment. The day was the festival of the Lord of Laughter — the patron saint of Hypata, and required annually for its celebration the invention of some new amusement. For this purpose the trial had been devised. Lucius received the explanation with all the composure he could muster; but was hardly appeased even by the honour of a statue, and being enrolled among the patrons of the city. Fotis, in tears, accounted for the rest. She had been sent to the barber's shop for some of the hair of a young man with whom her mistress was in love; but the barber threatened to inform against her; so, fearing to return empty-handed, she picked up the hair from some wine-skins hanging in the street. Her mistress was taken in by its flaxen colour; the sorcery worked its effect, and the wine-skins, animated with a transient vitality, presented themselves at her door instead of the youth.

And now the opportunity for which he was waiting arrived, when he was admitted by Fotis to see Pamphile transform herself into an owl, and fly to her lover. The sight excited his desire to follow, and at length Fotis, yielding to his entreaties, produced a box of ointment from her mistress's cabinet. Lucius shall describe the scene himself.

• Elated at the sight of the precious treasure, I kissed the box several times; and, uttering repeated aspirations in hopes of a prosperous flight, I stripped off all my clothes as quick as possible, dipped my fingers greedily into the box; and having thence extracted a good large lump of ointment, rubbed it all over my body and limbs. When I was thoroughly anointed, I swung my arms up and down, in imitation of the movement of a bird's pinion, and continued to do so a little while, when, instead of any perceptible token of feathers or wings making their appearance, my own skin, alas, grew into a hard leathern hide covered with bristly hair, my fingers and toes disappeared, the palms of my hands and the soles of my feet became firm solid hoofs, and from the end of my spine a long tail proceeded. My face was enormous, my mouth wide, my nostrils gaping, my lips pendulous, and I had a pair of immoderately long, rough, hairy ears. In short, when I came to contemplate my transformation to its full

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