Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

master heard Strata's proposition with a smile, and instantly named a sum so large, I was struck with terror lest it be beyond my deliverer's ability; but he answered cheerfully, ' A talent, my friend, is indeed a mighty sum in Grecia, but we, of Babylon, have a different standard of wealth. I could buy me twenty such slaves, and not feel it an outlay.' So saying he pulled out a bag of diamonds, and with three of the largest satisfied Zadec, before he should have leisure to re-consider his bargain.

"As it was now evening, my new master led us into a beautiful hall, lighted with flambeaux in silver branches projecting from the wall. Their smoke filled the hall with a sweet odor. When we had taken our seats upon the couches, he placed himself near me, and helped me to food and wine with his own hands. Presently a company of female slaves entered, bearing instruments of music; and ranging themselves in a circle at the lower end of the hall, they charmed our ears with soft music, singing the praises of Adonai. When they had finished the first strain I made a sign to one of them to bring me her lute, and tuning it with such skill as I possessed, I sang a song descriptive of the sorrows of an exile; nor did I fail to introduce the praises of my deliverer, and the greatness of the gratitude I owed him. Strato was so deeply affected by this appeal, his eyes overflowed with tears; and taking my hand in the tenderest and most respectful manner, he declared he would freely sacrifice his fortune, nay, even his life, to rescue me from the barbarians. Then taking the lute, he touched it skillfully and sang an ode in praise of Greece; expressing, at the close, his desire to return thither, after long absence. I answered him by composing a verse in honor of Corinth, not failing to express again my longing for our common country. Zadec, reclining opposite to us, listened with silent attention. 'I perceive,' said he, when there was a pause, 'that you are like to love each other, as it is well you should do; being equals in age, and children of the same soi'. Be it your care, then, to escape from Babylon, where you are subject to the envy of the Persians, and go with me into Cilicia, whence you may take ship to Rhodes, and from thence to Corinth. Let us leave this mighty capital of iniquity at

to-morrow's dawn; you are even novr b danger of the informer.' Strato instantly approved of Zadec's proposition, and going that night to a place of barter, made an exchange of his house and slaves for merchandise suitable for the journey. To? Syrian was no less expeditious in his bargains; and at sunrise we were mounttd and moving rapidly toward the gate 3! which we entered. I saw behind me tt« morning light shining on the cypresses if the hill of Semiramis, and southward, afa: off, the tower of Belus, with its windm» pathway, stood sharply against the purple sky.

"At noon of that day we united on own troop, which consisted of four canyls for burthen, and horses for ourselves, whi a Scythian caravan ; intending to keep with them while they continued in oar route. After a week's journey northward, through the watered fields of the Euphrates, our company divided into three; a part turning westward toward Phoenicia, another eastward for Bactria, and a third inclining to the west and north toward Cilicia. After a few days' passage over the desert, we came in sight of the se» whose dark bosom we hailed with crje! and even tears of joy, when Strato, who* piety exceeded that of any Greek I hs« known, made a sacrifice to Poseidon, (tbi Sea,) and to the spirit of his father. M whether in worship or in honor only,! could not be sure.

"Our intercourse during this jourcfl established our regard for each other t< a footing of mutual love; nor had I e*4 greater occasion for gratitude to the gods than for the accident that brought me i the power of this Corinthian.

"During our journey we beguiled tedium of the way by relating stories: in this kind of amusement our friend 7 proved himself not unskillful. If it b* i displeasing to you, I will repeat as I member it, a story which he related to i while we moved along the borders of tN sea where the high road of the great kin turns out of Syria into Cilicia.

The banqueters listened with the gre* est attention while Diotima related Zadec story. Socrates in particular seemed t catch and weigh every word of it. Lys remarked, with an animation unusn&l 1 him, that the story was a good one, as the inventor of it a very ingenious liar: but it was rather Diotima's skill in the lelivery of it, than the merit of the piece tself, which charmed them. Socrates did wt conceal his admiration. "No historian ire you," said he, "Diotima, but the most Joquent of narrators: when you speak, lot only my ears but my whole body «*ms to hear; and what you describe I Dstantly behold. Observe, Euripides," :ontinued he, addressing the dramatist, ■ that women are the lords of speech; he tongue is theirs." Socrates' remark vas instantly turned by the parasite into i jest upon women, at which no one augbed; a misfortune which silenced dm again for the time.

"If that were so," said Euripides, 'women should be poets and orators; iut you see they excel only in easy and lowing forms of speech. I know of but >ne woman who is able to compose an ration, and that is Aspasia."

"And Diotima," said Socrates, "excels 11 the sophists in their art. She is the «6t of rhetoricians and the most eloquent f narrators."

"I am in the right still," responded Euripides; "for though I grant you these ronderful exceptions, and might add a few thers who have composed good verses, fomen are not, as I think, equal to men t the use of words. Perhaps we may oncede them a greater fluency and readiess in the use of established phrases, for fe see them always careful to make use f accepted terms, avoiding a new word as bey would a rock; and for this I confess ley have my admiration: but they never riginate thoughts, nor invent scienoes, or advance arts; nay, in these it seems > be a woman's fate to fall behind her acher. But enough of this; please you, •iotima, you who are more than a woman, id as 1 think inspired with the soul- of oth sexes, tell us your opinion of the male sex: are they the equals or Mi perns of men in the use of speech?"

"Is it Euripides, the friend of women," lid Diotima, "who calls upon the weakest r women, in the extremity of garrulous 5«, when her wit is dulled, her senses apaired, her strength wasted, her mind ntuned, her soul faint with the burthen f mortality, and nothing left her but an isily moving tongue, a gift of which she

should rather be ashamed, so common is it and so abused :—is it she whom you call upon to defend the poor race of feeble women? Will you have her defend them by an appeal to your courage—magnanimous hearts that you are? or shall she start up stiffly, and with a shriek, and in eager voice, voluble and vehement, cry out on you for the liberty of the sex, ye hard masters, as did the Amazons of old, and when their husbands would not hear nor redress their injuries, they freed themselves boldly in the night with their knives? No, I see you would not have me cry out upon you; you abhor the vulture shriek of a discontented woman—your wives have taught you to hate that—hey? Meton, Socrates—and I think Euripides has disciplines too, from certain sources. My friends make no question, I am sure, of the superiority of women in glibness and keenness of tongue; they are able to cut and stab with their tongues; the gods have not left them defenceless! You, Socrates, would endure the Spartan swords more easily than your wife's reproaches."

"I confess it, Diotima," said Socrates; "nor do I know a harder trial than the reproaches of a woman."

"What would you be, without this terror to discipline you?" continued Diotima. "When you sleep too long, it rouses you; when you neglect your person, it shames you; when you are negligent of fame and honor, it spurs you on to their acquisition. Fame has no trumpet but a woman's mouth; we praise not our own sex, we rather calumniate and diminish them. But who of you would resign the good opinion of women in the city? Is it not that which sustains Pericles? The people long ago would have ostracised him, but for the women's voice in his favor. Do you then doubt their.power of persuasion, do you doubt their eloquence, who are able to banish you from the city, or exalt you to be its head? whom demagogues consult before they persuade the people, and whom the very gods must take care to please, or their shrines will be deserted?"

"A vain dispute, Diotima," said Lysis, "when matter of fact is turned into matter of opinion. I am fond of knowing the fact, I care not for the opinion or the probabilities. Euripides must yield to the fact, though he be an inventor of improbable fables."

"You mistake my vocation, Lysis," rejoined the dramatist, rather sharply. "My fables have a meaning; you will not forget that, I think."

"Your fables are like a hollow earthen figure full of sweetmeats," said Meton: "the figure is vile, the contents excellent."

"Pray, sir," said Euripides, turning sharply upon the parasite, "be a little more careful of your wit; you flourish it indiscreetly."

Meton, who lay next below, rolled himself awkwardly to the bottom of the couch, which was a long one, as if afraid Euripides would strike him, and with a face of well-feigned terror called out to Socrates to protect him against this wicked fellow, who had put so many innocent people to death in cold blood. "Sec," said he, "how he glares at me with those gray eyes, like a cat in a corner. Now if he had but his style with him and a tablet, I doubt not he would put us all instantly to death in blank verse, a death I desire not to die; for look you, all his heroes die twice,—first when he kills them in his fury, and again when they are forgotten by the Athenians. Zeus defend us, we shall all be hissed!"

"I wonder, Diotima," said the dramatist, growing extremely angry, "you will suffer this rascal at your table: he is one of these rude dogs, who bites more than he favors. I would have a parasite remember his duty, and use a discretion in his talk. A common fly is endurable, but a breeze with a sting in its tail we wish among the dogs, and not at our banquets." Diotima made no reply, but cast a reproving look upon the parasite, which put him to silence.

"I was saying, Lysis," continued the dramatist, making an effort to smother his anger, "that the fables of my dramas, though they be popular traditions and void of truth, are made more profitable than true histories, by my manner of employing them. iEsop's beasts utter much wisdom; my heroes, though they be phantasms and foolish puppets at best, are turned into philosophical oracles. My women set forth the loves and the duties of a woman; silly wretches though they be. The hero of a drama may be a very

milksop, a rascal, a laughing-stock, an object of pity, but he is none the less useful to speak wise sentences to the peopk Understand me: when I bring an old ben in rags upon the stage, I first interest tt? audience in his story. Of all things, yos know, the story of a ragged, wretched old fellow, a mixture of the sage and niggari is the most entertaining, and excites mosi attention: we hear him for pity, and bflieve him for his misery's sake, just as wa believe dying drunkards when they 6V scribe the evils that follow drinking.

"Another principle I wish you to ob serve, is evident in the construction of mi plays. They are very pathetic, and ii this way 1 make them so. I am asfurdl first, in my own mind, that the mass el men and women love pleasure as much n they fear death, and would nearly as soil die as not be gratified in their wisba Observe what a reverence they show to those pious jugglers who come to us fron Egypt and the East, following about i image of Cybele in a little cart drawn b bullocks. These wretches gash then selves with knives, and thrust thoms aa splinters into their flesh in honor of tbej goddess. Now this observation will cot vince you that to interest an audience ia female character, however mean it be i other particulars, you need only resort I this beggar's trick: make them den themselves for the sake of a god, or a ba band, or a brother, or a lover; let tba voluntarily expose themselves to death I save some worthless life, garnishing th<" exit with lamentations for the pleasun they resign, the bridal couch, food, tl light of day, the common rest of life; ai trust me, you shall not fail,—despite of bad fable, a wretched style, mean sen ments, and dry philosophy. They will n stay to inquire probability, or question i vanity of the procedure—enovgh th here is a character who is able to tortu itself for pity's sake—and the people * hear and applaud."

"Your secret is ingenious, I think," « Lysis, "and founded in nature, if we m judge by its great success; but you a to all this a simplicity and elegance of sty in which you are without a rival. To t you honestly, I detest your heroes, * admire the author;—they are to me more than infatuated women, and wretch Id men ; the first uttering sentiments full f tenderness, but certainly inconsistent rith their actions; the others full of wisom and of meanness."

"Well, so be it," replied Euripides, " so mg as you see my art and its happy ef«ts."

"I am reminded by this conversation," ud Socrates, "of a story which my nurse sed to relate to me when I was a child, y often listening to the story, I got it early by heart, in her way of telling it; , then, you observe any traces of rusticity i the language or in the sentiments, atibute them to their proper source. It is not been given me to relate stories ith the grace of Agatho, or the pathos r Euripides ; but if a plain, unvarnished Je can give you pleasure, I shall be well mtent to allow to others the glory of their t of adornment."

Then, when all appeared desirous of ?aring it, Socrates related the story of

THE PASSIONATE LOVERS.

In the city of Corinth, because of its >urishing commerce, there have been, ne out of mind, rich men of mean extrac», who have risen to great reputation r force of their wealth and enterprise, mong these, however, there have also en a few noble families, who pretended a very ancient lineage, tracing their irentage as far even as the days of Atreus, hen the deities were still accustomed, as old, to converse with mortals. Of these ibles, none was prouder, or more boast1 of his origin, than the old man Agaon, whose daughter Lucia, the child of s dotage, inherited her father's nobleness person, but not his pride or hardness of ■jl The mother of Lucia, sharp-visaged me Canopa, was of Thracian origin, a man of a lofty and resolute temper, but vicious and inhuman in her dealings th men.

The wealth of this family had fallen adually, by various accidents of fortune, a mean estate, consisting only of a house the city, and a few slaves whose labor med a meagre subsistence for the house

Notwithstanding the harshness and pride her parents and the poverty of Lucia, bich appeared in the plainness of her

attire, many sons of wealthy merchants, attracted by her beauty, made her offers of marriage, but were always rejected with insult by Agathon, who had resolved that his daughter should marry none but a descendant of the deities. For this prospect he neglected all the promises of wealth that were held out to him; and being troubled by the importunities of young men, and vexed with their gay manners and youthful insolence, he commanded Lucia to appear no more in public, but to remain constantly in her chamber.

In the lives of some men there are, as I think, to be seen the marks of a Divine retribution extended over all their actions. Heaven had not looked kindly on the pride and hardness of Agathon and his dame, but had left them in a deserved and despised poverty. And when the old man, to better his condition, solicited the votes of the citizens to raise him to offices of trust, for which by nature he was well fitted, rumors would get about, on the days previous to election, of his unkindness to his daughter, and people reasoned with themselves that a man who could so vilely forget the office of father and abuse the trust of Heaven, would not be likely to fill any human office with justice.

On one occasion, however, it happened that being on a voyage returning from the island of Crete, whither Agathon had gone to look after an estate which he thought might have fallen to him by the death of a relation, and having taken his wife and daughter with him, because he dared not leave them at home, exposed to the insults of the loose Corinthian youth, the old man found on an island, where his vessel touched for water, a young Athenian, who had been shipwrecked there, and who was miserably subsisting upon roots and wild fruit—the island being an uninhabited rock, covered with a scanty shrubbery. The castaway, whose name was Cleon, offered himself to Agathon as his slave for two years, if he would take him off the island ; for such was the inhumanity of the old man's countenance, it seemed impossible to move him to any thing without some vast reward. Cleon, though he was a man of good family and elegantly accomplished, had acquired, through great misfortune and abuse, an humility and gentleness of manner such as belongs to noble and courteous natures afflicted by the hand of Heaven; which only hardens inferior natures, and makes them more insolent and impracticable. Agathon, however, mistook this effect in Cleon for a meanness of temper, and he, with his haughty dame, thought it a very fair chance to have gottAi so good a slave. In person the young Athenian was large and strong, with a manly countenance; but because of his servile and poor condition they judged it safe to employ him in educating their daughter, whom he could teach to write, and to accompany the lute with songs in the best taste of that day.

Cleon, however, soon began to be violently in love with the fair Lucia, though he took care to conceal his passion; nor did his manly quality and noble disposition, which the occupation of a slave could not suppress, escape the notice of the girl, whose nature, though reserved, was deep and invincible in its choice.

The voyage was long and tedious, and lasted many weeks. Often, while Agathon and his dame sat dozing in the noon-day heat, under an awning on the deck, Lucia and Cleon sang the songs of Tyrteus, or warbled those sweet airs that the shepherds of the Euxine sing to the bormus or soft flute. Sometimes the young man entertained her with stories of his fortunes and wanderings. He described the manners of other nations, and painted to her fancy the wondrous cities of Euphrates and the Nile. At suitable times, and when the soul of contemplation had well attuned their spirits, he raised her mind even to the lofty dreams of Pythagoras, or unfolded the mystical meanings of mythology.

Cleon soon knew that his passion found its echo in the bosom of Lucia. When he spoke of love, she would avert her eyes, nor could she accompany his lute with songs that expressed passion: her voice failed, and a deep sigh, though she struggled to suppress it, would rise from her breath. Matched, as it were, by destiny and nature both in age and disposition, he remarkable for manly as she for feminine beauty, nor either of them too young or ignorant to exert a free choice, it was by an irresistible force that these lovers were united: but with the consciousness of that

union of hearts, arose also a fear, almost i despair, of the future, for the inexorable nature of the old man, and the stem'avaris of his spouse, were very well known to them. By a tacit consent, therefore, they never spoke of their love, nor indulged is passionate expressions. Lucia's educatka advanced wonderfully, and such were b« accomplishments, they at length drew tin attention of the Archon of Corinth, whj saw her at her father's house and belie\ nj that he had now found a suitable ma'.ol for his son, who being immensely rich w just come of age, was esteemed one of tin noblest and most promising young men b all Corinth.

If you have ever suffered the jealm pangs of love, you will conceive in imi gination the grief that afflicted the fji Lucia and her tutor when they discovers the evil that was likely to befall tha through the obduracy and avarice 4 Agathon and his wife. Cleon's years <j servitude had not yet expired, and thougi many opportunities had been given him; acquire his freedom by the offers wealthy citizens who wished to pure his services as a tutor for their chfldr< he preferred the hard fare and the mi> able bed of a slave to all their luxuries, ti he might continue daily in the sight of dear Lucia. The prudence of the lov had concealed their passion, nor had indulged in any of those tender freedo: which are permitted to affection; until a certain occasion, when Lncia had warned by her father that she must rece the visits of the Archon's son, meeting i chance with Cleon, in a solitary part of tl house, she fell upon his neck and, weejq bitterly, besought him to save her fro this stranger, towards whom she felt 1 other emotions than those of terror &i dislike. Cleon, overwhelmed with lo« could only strain her to his breast ai mutter many promises of protection.

Having thus broken the bar of cerenwd the lovers no longer made a secret of tb< wishes to each other; but indulged stolen interviews that served only to i crease their passion, and in the same md sure to enhance their misery. Meanwbi the young Archon continued his eourt^h and made every display of gallantry 1 entertained Agathon with feasts and 1 daughter with costly presents. He Cm

« AnteriorContinuar »