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Copyright, 1911, hij Charles Scribner's Sons





Caesar's apostasy 37

Translated by William Akcheb

the emperor JULIAN 273

Translated by William Archer










In a speech delivered at Copenhagen in 1898, Ibsen
said: "It is now thirty-four years since I journeyed
southward by way of Germany and Austria, and passed
through the Alps on May 9. Over the mountains the
clouds hung like a great dark curtain. We plunged in
under it, steamed through the tunnel, and suddenly found
ourselves at Miramare, where the beauty of the South,
a strange luminosity, shining like white marble, suddenly
revealed itself to me, and left its mark on my whole sub-
sequent production, even though it may not all have
taken the form of beauty." Whatever else may have
had its origin in this memorable moment of revelation.
Emperor and Galilean certainly sprang from it. The
poet felt an irresistible impulse to let his imagination
loose in the Mediterranean world of sunshine and marble
that had suddenly burst upon him. Antiquity sprang to
life before his mental vision, and he felt that he must cap-
ture and perpetuate the shining pageant in the medium
of his art. We see throughout the play how constantly
the element of external picturesqueness was present to
his mind. Though it has only once or twice found its

* Copyright 1907, by Charles Scribner's Sons.


way to the stage/ it is nevertheless — for good and for ill
— a great piece of scene-painting.

It did not take him long to decide upon the central fig-
ure for his picture. What moved him, as it must move
every one who brings to Rome the smallest scintilla of
imagination, was the spectacle of a superb civilisation, a
polity of giant strength and radiant beauty, obliterated,
save for a few pathetic fragments, and overlaid by forms
of life in many ways so retrograde and inferior. The
Rome of the sixties, even more than the Rome of to-day,
was a standing monument to the triumph of medisevalism
over antiquity. The poet who would give dramatic ut-
terance to the emotions engendered by this spectacle
must almost inevitably pitch upon the decisive moment
in the transition — and Ibsen found that moment in the
reaction of Julian. He attributed to it more "world-
historic" import than the sober historian is disposed to
allow it. Gaetano Negri ^ shows very clearly (what, in-
deed, is plain enough in Gibbon) that Julian's action had
not the critical importance which Ibsen assigns it. His
brief reign produced, as nearly as possible, no effect at
all upon the evolution of Christianity. None the less is
it true that Julian made a spiritual struggle of what had
been, to his predecessors, a mere question of politics,
one might almost say of police. Never until his day did
the opposing forces confront each other in full conscious-
ness of what was at stake; and never after his day had

■ It was acted at the Leipzig Stadttheater, December 5, 1896,
and at the Bello-Alliance Theater, Berlin, on the occasion of the
poet's seventieth birthday, in March 1898. It must, of course,
have been enormously cut down.

^ Julian the Apostate. 2 vols. New York, 1905.


they even the semblance of equality requisite to give the
strucfffle dramatic interest. As a dramatist, then — what-
ever the historian may say — Ibsen chose his protagonist
with unerring instinct. Julian was the last, and not the
least, of the heroes of antiquity.

Ibsen arrived in Rome in the middle of June 1864.
At the beginning of July he went into summer quarters
at Genzano; and there he found his friend Lorenz Diet-
richson, who writes in his book entitled Bygone Days
(Vol. I, p. 336):— "In the afternoon, we generally lay
reading or chatting under the trees on one of the hill-
sides overlooking the Lake of Nemi. I remember es-
pecially one day when I read to him Ammianus Mar-
cellinus's description of Julian the Apostate's campaigns,
which interested him greatly. We fell to talking about
Julian, and I know that on that day the idea of treating
this subject dramatically first took serious hold on his
mind. At any rate, he said at the end of our talk that
he hoped no one would get ahead of him in dealing with
it." About two months later he wrote to Bjornson (Sep-
tember 16, 1864) : "I am busied with a long poem, and
have in preparation a tragedy, Julianus Apostata, a piece
of work which I set about with intense gusto, and in
which I believe I shall succeed. I hope to have both fin-
ished next spring, or, at any rate, in the course of the sum-
mer." As regards Julianus Apostata, this hope was very
far astray, for nine years elapsed before the play was
finished.^ Not until May 4, 1866, is the project again

1 The poem was never finished at all. It is doubtless the " epic
Brand," a fragment of which was pubhshed in 1907. See Introduc-
tions to Brand and Peer Gynt.


mentioned, when Ibsen writes to his friend, Michael
Birkeland, that, though the Danish poet, Hauch, has in
the meantime produced a play on the same theme, he
does not intend to abandon it. On May 21, 1866, he
writes to his publisher, Hegel, that, now that Brand is
out of hand, he is still undecided what subject to tackle
next. "I feel more and more disposed," he says, "to
set to work in earnest at Kejser Julian, which I have had
in mind for two years." He feels sure that Hauch's con-
ception of the subject must be entirely different from his;
and he does not intend to read Hauch's play. On July
22, 1866, he whites from Frascati to Paul Botten-Hansen
that he is "wrestling with a subject and knows that he
will soon get the upper hand of the brute." His Ger-
man editors take this to refer to Emperor and Galilean,
and they are probably right; but it is not quite certain.
The work he actually produced was Peer Gynt; and we
know that he had a third subject in mind at the time.
We hear no more of Julian until October 28, 1870, when,
in his autobiographic letter to Peter Hansen, he writes
from Dresden: "... Here I live in a tediously well-
ordered community. What will become of me when at last
I actually reach home ! I must seek salvation in remote-
ness of subject, and think of attacking Kejser Jidian."

This was, in fact, to be his next work; but two years
and a half were still to pass before he finally "got the
upper hand of the brute." On January 18, 1871, he
writes to Hegel: "Your supposition that Julian is so
far advanced that it may go to the printers next month
arises from a misunderstanding. The first part is fin-
ished; I am working at the second part; but the third


part is not even begun. This third part will, however,
go comparatively quickly, and I confidently hope to place
the whole in your hands by the month of June." This is
the first mention we have of the division into three parts,
which he ultimately abandoned. If Hegel looked for
the manuscript in June, he looked in vain. On July 12
Ibsen wrote to him: "Now for the reason of my long
silence : I am hard at work on Kejser Julian. This book
will be my chief work, and it is engrossing all my thoughts
and all my time. That positive view of the world which
the critics have so long been demanding of me, they will
find here." Then he asks Hegel to procure for him three
articles on Julian by Pastor Listov, which had appeared
in the Danish paper, Fcedrelandet, and enquires whether
there is in Danish any other statement of the facts of
Julian's career. "I have Neander's German works on
the subject; also D. Strauss's; but the latter's book con-
tains nothing but argumentative figments,* and that sort
of thing I can do myself. It is facts that I require."
His demand for more facts, even at this stage of the pro-
ceedings, shows that his work must still have been in a
pretty fluid state.

Two months later (September 24, 1871) Ibsen wrote to
Brandes, who had apparently been urging him to "hang
out a banner" or nail his colours to the mast: "While I
have been busied upon Julian, I have become, in a way,
a fatalist; and yet this play will be a sort of a banner.
Do not be afraid, however, of any tendency-nonsense: I
look at the characters, at the conflicting designs, at his-

' It was, in fact, a pamphlet aimed at Frederick William IV. of
Prussia, and entitled A Romanticist on the Throne of the Caesars.


tory, and do not concern myself with the 'moral ' of it all.
Of course, you will not confound the moral of history with
its philosophy; for that must inevitably shine forth as the
final verdict on the conflicting and conquering forces."
On December 27 (still from Dresden) he writes to Hegel :
"My new work goes steadily forward. The first part,
Julian and the Philosophers, in three acts, is already cop-
ied out. ... I am busily at work upon the second part,
which will go quicker and be considerably shorter; the
third part, on the other hand, will be somewhat longer."
To the same correspondent, on April 24, 1872, he reports
the second part almost finished. "The third and last
part," he says, "will be mere child's play. The spring
has now come, and the warm season is my best time for
working." To Brandes, on May 31, he writes, "I go
on wrestling with Julian"; and on July 23 (from Berch-
tesgaden) "That monster Julian has still such a grip of
me that I cannot shake him off." On August 8 he an-
nounces to Hegel that he has "completed the second part
of the trilogy. The first part, Julian and the Philoso-
pJiers, a play in three acts, will make about a hundred
printed pages. The second part, Julian's Apostasy, a
play in three acts, of which I am now making a fair copy,
will be of about equal length. The third play, Julian on
the Imperial Throne, will run to five acts, and my prep-
arations for it are so far advanced that I shall get it out
of hand very much quicker than the others. What I
have done forms a whole in itself, and could quite well be
published separately; but for the sake of the complete
impression I think it most advisable that all three plays
should appear together."


Two months later (October 14) the poet is back in
Dresden, and writes as follows to a new and much-valued
friend, Mr. Edmund Gosse: "I am working daily at
Julianus Apostata, and . . . hope that it may meet with
your approval. I am putting into this book a part of my
own spiritual life; what I depict, I have, under other
forms, myself gone through, and the historic theme I have
chosen has also a much closer relation to the movements
of our own time than one might at first suppose. I be-
lieve such a relation to be indispensable to every modern
treatment of so remote a subject, if it is, as a poem, to
arouse interest." In a somewhat later letter to Mr. Gosse
he says: "I have kept strictly to history. . . . And yet
I have put much self-anatomy into this book."

In February, 1873, the play was finished. On the
4th of that month, Ibsen writes to his old friend Ludvig
Daae that he is on the point of beginning his fair copy of
what he can confidently say will be his "Hauptwerk,"
and wants some guidance as to the proper way of spelling
Greek names. Oddly enough, he is still in search of
facts, and asks for information as to the Vita Maximi of
Eunapius, which has not been accessible to him. Two
days later (February 6) he writes to Hegel: "I have the
great pleasure of being able to inform you that my long
work is finished — and more to my satisfaction than any of
my earlier works. The book is entitled Emperor and
Galilean, a World-Drama in Two Parts. It contains:
Part First, Caesar's Apostasy, play in five acts (170 pp.);
Part Second, The Emperor Julian, play in five acts (252
pp.). . . . Owing to the growth of the idea during the
process of composition, I shall have to make another


fair copy of the first play. But it will not become longer
in the process; on the contrary, I hope to reduce it by
about twenty pages. . . . This play has been to me a
labour of Hercules — not the actual composition: that has
been easy — but the effort it has cost me to live myself into
a fresh and visual realisation of so remote and so unfa-
miliar an age." On February 23, he writes to Ludvig
Daae, discussing further the orthography of the Greek
names, and adding: "My play deals with a struggle be-
tween two irreconcilable powers in the life of the world —
a struggle which will always repeat itself. Because of this
universality, I call the book 'a world-historic drama.'
For the rest, there is in the character of Julian, as in most
that I have written during my riper years, more of my own
spiritual experience than I care to acknowledge to the
public. But it is at the same time an entirely realistic
piece of work. The figures stood solidly before my eyes
in the light of their time — and I hope they will so stand
before the readers' eyes."

The book was not published until the autumn (Oc-
tober 16, 1873). On September 8, Ibsen wrote to Bran-
des that he was daily expecting its appearance. "I hear
from Norway," he went on, "that Bjornson, though he
cannot know anything about the book, has declared it to
be 'Atheism,' adding that it was inevitable it should come
to that with me. What the book is or is not I won't at-
tempt to decide; I only know that I have energetically
seen a fragment of the history of humanity, and what I
saw I have tried to reproduce." On the very day of the
book's appearance, he again writes to Brandes from Dres-
den: "The direction public afl'airs have taken in these


parts gives this poem an actuality I myself had not fore-


A second edition of Em-peror and Galilean appeared in
December, 1873. In the following January Ibsen writes
to Mr. Gosse, who had expressed some regret at his aban-
donment of verse: "The illusion I wished to produce was
that of reality. I wished to leave on the reader's mind
the impression that what he had read had actually hap-
pened. By employing verse I should have counteracted
my own intention. . . . The many everyday, insignifi-
cant characters, whom I have intentionally introduced,
would have become indistinct and mixed up with each
other had I made them all speak in rhythmic measure.
We no longer live in the days of Shakespeare. . . . The
style ought to conform to the degree of ideality imparted
to the whole presentment. My play is no tragedy in the
ancient acceptation. My desire was to depict human be-
ings and tnerefore I would not make them speak the lan-
guage of the gods." A year later (January 30, 1875) he
thus answers a criticism by George Brandes: "I cannot
but find an inconsistency between your disapproval of the
doctrine of necessity contained in my book, and your ap-
proval of something very similar in Paul Heyse's Kinder
der Welt. For in my opinion it comes to much the same
thing whether, in writing of a person's character, I say
'It runs in his blood' or 'He is free — under necessity.' "

An expression in the same letter throws light on the
idea which may be called the keystone of the arch of
thought erected in this play. "Only entire nations,"
Ibsen writes, "can join in great intellectual movements.
A change of front in our conception of life and of the


world is no parochial matter; and we Scandinavians,
as compared with other European nations, have not yet
got beyond the parish-council standpoint. But nowhere
do you find a parish-council anticipating and furthering
' the third empire.' " To the like effect runs a passage in
a speech delivered at Stockholm, September 24, 1887: "I
have sometimes been called a pessimist: and indeed I am
one, inasmuch as I do not believe in the eternity of human
ideals. But I am also an optimist, inasmuch as I fully
and confidently believe in the ideal's power of propagation
and of development. Especially and definitely do I be-
lieve that the ideals of our time, as they pass away, are
tending towards that which, in my drama of Emperor and
Galilean, I have designated as 'the third empire.' Let me
therefore drain my glass to the growing, the coming time."
The latest (so far as I know) of Ibsen's references to
this play is perhaps the most significant of all. It occurs
in a letter to the Danish-German scholar, Julius Hofl'ory,
written from Munich, February 26, 1888: "Emperor and
Galilean is not the first work I wrote in Germany, but
doubtless the first that I wrote under the influence of
German spiritual life. When, in the autumn of 1868, I
came from Italy to Dresden, I brought with me the plan
of Tlie League of Youth, and wrote that play in the fol-
lowing winter. During my four years' stay in Rome, I
had merely made various historical studies, and taken
sundry notes, for Emperor and Galilean; I had not
sketched out any definite plan, much less written any of
it. My view of life was still at that time, National-
Scandinavian, wherefore I could not master the foreign
material. Then, in Germany, I lived through the great


time, the year of the war, and the development which
followed it. This brought with it for me, at many points,
an impulse of transformation. My conception of world-
history and of human life had hitherto been a national
one. It now widened into a racial conception; and then
I could write Emperor and Galilean."

The sketches and drafts of the "world-historic drama,"
published in Ibsen's Literary Remains, are so significant,
both technically and as throwing light on the process of
his thoughts, that they deserve a far more detailed study
than I can here devote to them. Some day, no doubt, we
shall see a parallel-text edition with a full commentary,
probably by a German scholar. In the meantime, all
one can do is to note some of the salient points of differ-
ence and development.

The first jottings which have come down to us are
merely some extracts from historians, and historical mem-
oranda as to the leading characters. Then comes this
curious fragment: —

The Prologue
(behind the curtain)

The scene is the firmament over the yawning abyss.
To the right, light and radiance; to the left, the dark.

(A starry night; the spirits of the dead float upwards;
the demons of darkness hold them by threads; they sink
exhausted )

(Christmas night. The Imperial City by the Bos-
phorus. All the churches are festally illuminated; psalm-
singing; thousands crowd in.)


Presumably we may take "behind the curtain" to
mean that the poet vaguely designed some sort of
poetic-spectacular overture/ like Goethe's "Prologue in
Heaven," but did not wish that any attempt should be
made to perform it. The idea of falling stars repre-
senting the return to earth of souls which try in vain
to reach heaven reappears in a speech of Julian's in
the draft of Act I, but has vanished from the final

Then come brief and somewhat disjointed narrative
outlines of the story, act by act, interspersed here and
there with references to historical authorities, chiefly
Ammian and M. Albert de Broglie. These notes evi-
dently date from different periods, and represent differ-
ent phases in the development of the idea. Most of the
outlines for the First Play {Caesar's Apostasy) are more or
less worked over and remodelled; the action of the Sec-
ond Play {The Emperor Julian) on the other hand, ap-
pears to have been conceived from the outset in practi-
cally its final form. There is not very much to be learnt
from these sketches. Perhaps the most curious point
in them occurs in the notes for Act III of Caesar s Apos-
tasy, the scene in Ephesus. After mention has been made
of the vision of ApoUinaris of Sidon concerning the pur-
ple robe, the next sentence runs: "Julian expounds [to
Gregory and Basil] how the individual has to go through
the phases of development of the race." One is rather
surprised that this idea should have been present to Ib-
sen's mind in or about 1870, and much more to find Julian
enunciating it fifteen centuries earlier. There seems to

'The word translated "Prologue," means, literally, "Foreplay."


be no trace of it in the dialogue either of the drafts or of
the finished play,

Coming now from narrative outlines to dramatised
drafts, we find the first act fully blocked out in a form not
essentially different from that which it finally assumed.
Ibsen did not, in rewriting, alter its structure, but only
expanded and polished it. Agathon appears under the
name of Theodorus, and the wrangling sectarians of the
opening scene are unnamed, figuring merely as First,
Second and Third Church-goers. The second act, in
Athens, is much more summarily indicated, and there are
large and important gaps in the dialogue; but the com-
pleted act nowhere departs substantially from the lines
indicated in the draft. In the draft of the third act, on
the other hand, there are some interesting divergences
from the finished form. For instance, we find that the
dream which forewarns Julian of the coming of Gregory
and Basil was an afterthought. In the first sketch they
arrive unheralded. The change probably indicates a
wish to strike from the outset a note of mystery and super-
naturalism. Julian's vision of the ship floating in the
void appears practically as in the final text. His fancy
that he is a new Adam, destined to mate with Basil's
sister Makrina for the propagation of a new race, is
clearly indicated in the draft, but without any reference
to Moses, Alexander or Jesus. On the other hand, he
tries to show the necessity for a new race by an argument
which has disappeared from the final text. "Oh, do you
not see," he cries, "the whole of this generation will per-
ish. Pestilence will lay waste the cities, locusts and
drought will spread famine over every land, the sea will


burst its barriers and sweep over islands and shores."
The suppression of this burst of madness was certainly
judicious. In the scene of the visions, there are two long
and regrettable gaps, the first including the whole dia-
logue with the Voice in the Light, the second the col-
loquies with Cain and Judas. The original form of
Maximus's exposition of the three empires is somewhat
different from that which it finally assumed. It runs
as follows: —

Julian. What is the empire ?

Maximus. There are three empires. . . . First came
the empire of matter, which was founded by the serpent
in the tree of knowledge. Then the empire of the spirit;
it was founded by the great prophet of Nazareth.

Julian. That empire is eternal.

Maximus. It is on the point of falling, I tell you.
The prophet's hour has struck. Those two empires shall
be swallowed up in the third, which is now at hand. In
that, spirit shall leaven matter and matter spirit — and
then the goal is reached.

Julian. What is the goal, wise master ?

Maximus. That the creature shall become one with
the creator, the creator with the creature.

The prophecy that Julian is to "establish the empire"
does not appear in the draft, for its place is in one of the
missing passages; but doubtless it was part of Ibsen's
first conception of the scene, for the phrase is duly under-
lined in the message from Constantius at the close of the
act. As this was originally to have ended the first play
of the contemplated trilogy, the final situation is, in the


draft, more emphatic than it ultimately became. Terri-
fied at the prospect of Julian's elevation to the purple,
Basil offers to give him Makrina if he will refuse it; and
(in one of the two extant versions) it is only then that the
Emperor's messenger hands Julian the letter offering him
the hand of Helena. Thus Julian has to make a decisive
choice, and, in choosing Helena, breaks away from the
influences which might have reconciled him to Chris-
tianity. But this antithesis is in reality hollow and arti-
ficial. The breach between Julian and "the prophet
of Nazareth" is already too wide to be healed by Ma-

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