Produced by Michael Pullen and David Widger
THE MARBLE FAUN
or The Romance of Monte Beni
By Nathaniel Hawthorne
In Two Volumes
This is Volume One
I MIRIAM, HILDA, KENYON, DONATELLO
II THE FAUN
III SUBTERRANEAN REMINISCENCES
IV THE SPECTRE OF THE CATACOMB
V MIRIAM'S STUDIO
VI THE VIRGIN'S SHRINE
VIII THE SUBURBAN VILLA
IX THE FAUN AND NYMPH
X THE SYLVAN DANCE
XI FRAGMENTARY SENTENCES
XII A STROLL ON THE PINCIAN
XIII A SCULPTOR'S STUDIO
XV AN AESTHETIC COMPANY
XVI A MOONLIGHT RAMBLE
XVII MIRIAM'S TROUBLE
XVIII ON THE EDGE OF A PRECIPICE
XIX THE FAUN'S TRANSFORMATION
XX THE BURIAL CHANT
XXI THE DEAD CAPUCHIN
XXII THE MEDICI GARDENS
XXIII MIRIAM AND HILDA
XXIV THE TOWER AMONG THE APENNINES
XXVI THE PEDIGREE OF MONTE BENI
XXVIII THE OWL TOWER
XXIX ON THE BATTLEMENTS
XXX DONATELLO'S BUST
XXXI THE MARBLE SALOON
XXXII SCENES BY THE WAY
XXXIII PICTURED WINDOWS
XXXIV MARKET-DAY IN PERUGIA
XXXV THE BRONZE PONTIFF'S BENEDICTION
XXXVI HILDA'S TOWER
XXXVII THE EMPTINESS OF PICTURE GALLERIES
XXXVIII ALTARS AND INCENSE
XXXIX THE WORLD'S CATHEDRAL
XL HILDA AND A FRIEND
XLI SNOWDROPS AND MAIDENLY DELIGHTS
XLII REMINISCENCES OF MIRIAM
XLIII THE EXTINCTION OF A LAMP
XLIV THE DESERTED SHRINE
XLV THE FLIGHT OF HILDA'S DOVES
XLVI A WALK ON THE CAMPAGNA
XLVII THE PEASANT AND CONTADINA
XLVIII A SCENE IN THE CORSO
XLIX A FROLIC OF THE CARNIVAL
L MIRIAM, HILDA, KENYON, DONATELLO
THE MARBLE FAUN
MIRIAM, HILDA, KENYON, DONATELLO
Four individuals, in whose fortunes we should be glad to interest
the reader, happened to be standing in one of the saloons of the
sculpture-gallery in the Capitol at Rome. It was that room (the first,
after ascending the staircase) in the centre of which reclines the noble
and most pathetic figure of the Dying Gladiator, just sinking into his
death-swoon. Around the walls stand the Antinous, the Amazon, the Lycian
Apollo, the Juno; all famous productions of antique sculpture, and still
shining in the undiminished majesty and beauty of their ideal life,
although the marble that embodies them is yellow with time, and perhaps
corroded by the damp earth in which they lay buried for centuries. Here,
likewise, is seen a symbol (as apt at this moment as it was two thousand
years ago) of the Human Soul, with its choice of Innocence or Evil close
at hand, in the pretty figure of a child, clasping a dove to her bosom,
but assaulted by a snake.
From one of the windows of this saloon, we may see a flight of broad
stone steps, descending alongside the antique and massive foundation of
the Capitol, towards the battered triumphal arch of Septimius Severus,
right below. Farther on, the eye skirts along the edge of the desolate
Forum (where Roman washerwomen hang out their linen to the sun), passing
over a shapeless confusion of modern edifices, piled rudely up with
ancient brick and stone, and over the domes of Christian churches,
built on the old pavements of heathen temples, and supported by the very
pillars that once upheld them. At a distance beyond - yet but a little
way, considering how much history is heaped into the intervening
space - rises the great sweep of the Coliseum, with the blue sky
brightening through its upper tier of arches. Far off, the view is shut
in by the Alban Mountains, looking just the same, amid all this decay
and change, as when Romulus gazed thitherward over his half finished
We glance hastily at these things, - at this bright sky, and those
blue distant mountains, and at the ruins, Etruscan, Roman, Christian,
venerable with a threefold antiquity, and at the company of world-famous
statues in the saloon, - in the hope of putting the reader into that
state of feeling which is experienced oftenest at Rome. It is a vague
sense of ponderous remembrances; a perception of such weight and density
in a bygone life, of which this spot was the centre, that the present
moment is pressed down or crowded out, and our individual affairs and
interests are but half as real here as elsewhere. Viewed through this
medium, our narrative - into which are woven some airy and unsubstantial
threads, intermixed with others, twisted out of the commonest stuff of
human existence - may seem not widely different from the texture of all
Side by side with the massiveness of the Roman Past, all matters that we
handle or dream of nowadays look evanescent and visionary alike.
It might be that the four persons whom we are seeking to introduce were
conscious of this dreamy character of the present, as compared with the
square blocks of granite wherewith the Romans built their lives. Perhaps
it even contributed to the fanciful merriment which was just now their
mood. When we find ourselves fading into shadows and unrealities, it
seems hardly worth while to be sad, but rather to laugh as gayly as we
may, and ask little reason wherefore.
Of these four friends of ours, three were artists, or connected with
art; and, at this moment, they had been simultaneously struck by a
resemblance between one of the antique statues, a well-known masterpiece
of Grecian sculpture, and a young Italian, the fourth member of their
"You must needs confess, Kenyon," said a dark-eyed young woman, whom
her friends called Miriam, "that you never chiselled out of marble, nor
wrought in clay, a more vivid likeness than this, cunning a bust-maker
as you think yourself. The portraiture is perfect in character,
sentiment, and feature. If it were a picture, the resemblance might be
half illusive and imaginary; but here, in this Pentelic marble, it is a
substantial fact, and may be tested by absolute touch and measurement.
Our friend Donatello is the very Faun of Praxiteles. Is it not true,
"Not quite - almost - yes, I really think so," replied Hilda, a slender,
brown-haired, New England girl, whose perceptions of form and expression
were wonderfully clear and delicate. "If there is any difference between
the two faces, the reason may be, I suppose, that the Faun dwelt in
woods and fields, and consorted with his like; whereas Donatello has
known cities a little, and such people as ourselves. But the resemblance
is very close, and very strange."
"Not so strange," whispered Miriam mischievously; "for no Faun in
Arcadia was ever a greater simpleton than Donatello. He has hardly a
man's share of wit, small as that may be. It is a pity there are no
longer any of this congenial race of rustic creatures for our friend to
"Hush, naughty one!" returned Hilda. "You are very ungrateful, for you
well know he has wit enough to worship you, at all events."
"Then the greater fool he!" said Miriam so bitterly that Hilda's quiet
eyes were somewhat startled.
"Donatello, my dear friend," said Kenyon, in Italian, "pray gratify us
all by taking the exact attitude of this statue."
The young man laughed, and threw himself into the position in which
the statue has been standing for two or three thousand years. In truth,
allowing for the difference of costume, and if a lion's skin could have
been substituted for his modern talma, and a rustic pipe for his stick,
Donatello might have figured perfectly as the marble Faun, miraculously
softened into flesh and blood.
"Yes; the resemblance is wonderful," observed Kenyon, after examining
the marble and the man with the accuracy of a sculptor's eye. "There
is one point, however, or, rather, two points, in respect to which our
friend Donatello's abundant curls will not permit us to say whether the
likeness is carried into minute detail."
And the sculptor directed the attention of the party to the ears of the
beautiful statue which they were contemplating.
But we must do more than merely refer to this exquisite work of art; it
must be described, however inadequate may be the effort to express its
magic peculiarity in words.
The Faun is the marble image of a young man, leaning his right arm on
the trunk or stump of a tree; one hand hangs carelessly by his side;
in the other he holds the fragment of a pipe, or some such sylvan
instrument of music. His only garment - a lion's skin, with the claws
upon his shoulder - falls halfway down his back, leaving the limbs
and entire front of the figure nude. The form, thus displayed, is
marvellously graceful, but has a fuller and more rounded outline, more
flesh, and less of heroic muscle, than the old sculptors were wont to
assign to their types of masculine beauty. The character of the face
corresponds with the figure; it is most agreeable in outline and
feature, but rounded and somewhat voluptuously developed, especially
about the throat and chin; the nose is almost straight, but very
slightly curves inward, thereby acquiring an indescribable charm of
geniality and humor. The mouth, with its full yet delicate lips, seems
so nearly to smile outright, that it calls forth a responsive smile. The
whole statue - unlike anything else that ever was wrought in that severe
material of marble - conveys the idea of an amiable and sensual creature,
easy, mirthful, apt for jollity, yet not incapable of being touched
by pathos. It is impossible to gaze long at this stone image without
conceiving a kindly sentiment towards it, as if its substance were warm
to the touch, and imbued with actual life. It comes very close to some
of our pleasantest sympathies.
Perhaps it is the very lack of moral severity, of any high and heroic
ingredient in the character of the Faun, that makes it so delightful an
object to the human eye and to the frailty of the human heart. The being
here represented is endowed with no principle of virtue, and would be
incapable of comprehending such; but he would be true and honest by dint
of his simplicity. We should expect from him no sacrifice or effort for
an abstract cause; there is not an atom of martyr's stuff in all that
softened marble; but he has a capacity for strong and warm attachment,
and might act devotedly through its impulse, and even die for it at
need. It is possible, too, that the Faun might be educated through the
medium of his emotions, so that the coarser animal portion of his nature
might eventually be thrown into the background, though never utterly
The animal nature, indeed, is a most essential part of the Faun's
composition; for the characteristics of the brute creation meet and
combine with those of humanity in this strange yet true and natural
conception of antique poetry and art. Praxiteles has subtly diffused
throughout his work that mute mystery, which so hopelessly perplexes us
whenever we attempt to gain an intellectual or sympathetic knowledge of
the lower orders of creation. The riddle is indicated, however, only by
two definite signs: these are the two ears of the Faun, which are leaf
shaped, terminating in little peaks, like those of some species of
animals. Though not so seen in the marble, they are probably to be
considered as clothed in fine, downy fur. In the coarser representations
of this class of mythological creatures, there is another token of brute
kindred, - a certain caudal appendage; which, if the Faun of Praxiteles
must be supposed to possess it at all, is hidden by the lion's skin that
forms his garment. The pointed and furry ears, therefore, are the sole
indications of his wild, forest nature.
Only a sculptor of the finest imagination, the most delicate taste, the
sweetest feeling, and the rarest artistic skill - in a word, a sculptor
and a poet too - could have first dreamed of a Faun in this guise, and
then have succeeded in imprisoning the sportive and frisky thing in
marble. Neither man nor animal, and yet no monster, but a being in whom
both races meet on friendly ground. The idea grows coarse as we handle
it, and hardens in our grasp. But, if the spectator broods long over
the statue, he will be conscious of its spell; all the pleasantness of
sylvan life, all the genial and happy characteristics of creatures that
dwell in woods and fields, will seem to be mingled and kneaded into one
substance, along with the kindred qualities in the human soul. Trees,
grass, flowers, woodland streamlets, cattle, deer, and unsophisticated
man. The essence of all these was compressed long ago, and still exists,
within that discolored marble surface of the Faun of Praxiteles.
And, after all, the idea may have been no dream, but rather a poet's
reminiscence of a period when man's affinity with nature was more
strict, and his fellowship with every living thing more intimate and
"Donatello," playfully cried Miriam, "do not leave us in this perplexity!
Shake aside those brown curls, my friend, and let us see whether this
marvellous resemblance extends to the very tips of the ears. If so, we
shall like you all the better!"
"No, no, dearest signorina," answered Donatello, laughing, but with
a certain earnestness. "I entreat you to take the tips of my ears for
granted." As he spoke, the young Italian made a skip and jump, light
enough for a veritable faun; so as to place himself quite beyond the
reach of the fair hand that was outstretched, as if to settle the matter
by actual examination. "I shall be like a wolf of the Apennines," he
continued, taking his stand on the other side of the Dying Gladiator,
"if you touch my ears ever so softly. None of my race could endure it.
It has always been a tender point with my forefathers and me."
He spoke in Italian, with the Tuscan rusticity of accent, and an
unshaped sort of utterance, betokening that he must heretofore have been
chiefly conversant with rural people.
"Well, well," said Miriam, "your tender point - your two tender points,
if you have them - shall be safe, so far as I am concerned. But how
strange this likeness is, after all! and how delightful, if it really
includes the pointed ears! O, it is impossible, of course," she
continued, in English, "with a real and commonplace young man like
Donatello; but you see how this peculiarity defines the position of
the Faun; and, while putting him where he cannot exactly assert his
brotherhood, still disposes us kindly towards the kindred creature. He
is not supernatural, but just on the verge of nature, and yet within
it. What is the nameless charm of this idea, Hilda? You can feel it more
delicately than I."
"It perplexes me," said Hilda thoughtfully, and shrinking a little;
"neither do I quite like to think about it."
"But, surely," said Kenyon, "you agree with Miriam and me that there is
something very touching and impressive in this statue of the Faun. In
some long-past age, he must really have existed. Nature needed, and
still needs, this beautiful creature; standing betwixt man and animal,
sympathizing with each, comprehending the speech of either race, and
interpreting the whole existence of one to the other. What a pity that
he has forever vanished from the hard and dusty paths of life, - unless,"
added the sculptor, in a sportive whisper, "Donatello be actually he!"
"You cannot conceive how this fantasy takes hold of me," responded
Miriam, between jest and earnest. "Imagine, now, a real being, similar
to this mythic Faun; how happy, how genial, how satisfactory would be
his life, enjoying the warm, sensuous, earthy side of nature; revelling
in the merriment of woods and streams; living as our four-footed kindred
do, - as mankind did in its innocent childhood; before sin, sorrow or
morality itself had ever been thought of! Ah! Kenyon, if Hilda and you
and I - if I, at least - had pointed ears! For I suppose the Faun had
no conscience, no remorse, no burden on the heart, no troublesome
recollections of any sort; no dark future either."
"What a tragic tone was that last, Miriam!" said the sculptor;
and, looking into her face, he was startled to behold it pale and
tear-stained. "How suddenly this mood has come over you!"
"Let it go as it came," said Miriam, "like a thunder-shower in this
Roman sky. All is sunshine again, you see!"
Donatello's refractoriness as regarded his ears had evidently cost him
something, and he now came close to Miriam's side, gazing at her with an
appealing air, as if to solicit forgiveness. His mute, helpless gesture
of entreaty had something pathetic in it, and yet might well enough
excite a laugh, so like it was to what you may see in the aspect of a
hound when he thinks himself in fault or disgrace. It was difficult to
make out the character of this young man. So full of animal life as
he was, so joyous in his deportment, so handsome, so physically
well-developed, he made no impression of incompleteness, of maimed or
stinted nature. And yet, in social intercourse, these familiar friends
of his habitually and instinctively allowed for him, as for a child or
some other lawless thing, exacting no strict obedience to conventional
rules, and hardly noticing his eccentricities enough to pardon them.
There was an indefinable characteristic about Donatello that set him
outside of rules.
He caught Miriam's hand, kissed it, and gazed into her eyes without
saying a word. She smiled, and bestowed on him a little careless caress,
singularly like what one would give to a pet dog when he puts himself in
the way to receive it. Not that it was so decided a caress either, but
only the merest touch, somewhere between a pat and a tap of the finger;
it might be a mark of fondness, or perhaps a playful pretence of
punishment. At all events, it appeared to afford Donatello exquisite
pleasure; insomuch that he danced quite round the wooden railing that
fences in the Dying Gladiator.
"It is the very step of the Dancing Faun," said Miriam, apart, to Hilda.
"What a child, or what a simpleton, he is! I continually find myself
treating Donatello as if he were the merest unfledged chicken; and yet
he can claim no such privileges in the right of his tender age, for he
is at least - how old should you think him, Hilda?"
"Twenty years, perhaps," replied Hilda, glancing at Donatello; "but,
indeed, I cannot tell; hardly so old, on second thoughts, or possibly
older. He has nothing to do with time, but has a look of eternal youth
in his face."
"All underwitted people have that look," said Miriam scornfully.
"Donatello has certainly the gift of eternal youth, as Hilda suggests,"
observed Kenyon, laughing; "for, judging by the date of this statue,
which, I am more and more convinced, Praxiteles carved on purpose for
him, he must be at least twenty-five centuries old, and he still looks
as young as ever."
"What age have you, Donatello?" asked Miriam.
"Signorina, I do not know," he answered; "no great age, however; for I
have only lived since I met you."
"Now, what old man of society could have turned a silly compliment more
smartly than that!" exclaimed Miriam. "Nature and art are just at one
sometimes. But what a happy ignorance is this of our friend Donatello!
Not to know his own age! It is equivalent to being immortal on earth. If
I could only forget mine!"
"It is too soon to wish that," observed the sculptor; "you are scarcely
older than Donatello looks."
"I shall be content, then," rejoined Miriam, "if I could only forget
one day of all my life." Then she seemed to repent of this allusion, and
hastily added, "A woman's days are so tedious that it is a boon to leave
even one of them out of the account."
The foregoing conversation had been carried on in a mood in which all
imaginative people, whether artists or poets, love to indulge. In this
frame of mind, they sometimes find their profoundest truths side by side
with the idlest jest, and utter one or the other, apparently without
distinguishing which is the most valuable, or assigning any considerable
value to either. The resemblance between the marble Faun and their
living companion had made a deep, half-serious, half-mirthful impression
on these three friends, and had taken them into a certain airy region,
lifting up, as it is so pleasant to feel them lifted, their heavy
earthly feet from the actual soil of life. The world had been set
afloat, as it were, for a moment, and relieved them, for just so long,
of all customary responsibility for what they thought and said.
It might be under this influence - or, perhaps, because sculptors always
abuse one another's works - that Kenyon threw in a criticism upon the
"I used to admire this statue exceedingly," he remarked, "but, latterly,
I find myself getting weary and annoyed that the man should be such a
length of time leaning on his arm in the very act of death. If he is so
terribly hurt, why does he not sink down and die without further ado?
Flitting moments, imminent emergencies, imperceptible intervals between
two breaths, ought not to be incrusted with the eternal repose of
marble; in any sculptural subject, there should be a moral standstill,
since there must of necessity be a physical one. Otherwise, it is
like flinging a block of marble up into the air, and, by some trick of
enchantment, causing it to stick there. You feel that it ought to come
down, and are dissatisfied that it does not obey the natural law."
"I see," said Miriam mischievously, "you think that sculpture should
be a sort of fossilizing process. But, in truth, your frozen art has
nothing like the scope and freedom of Hilda's and mine. In painting
there is no similar objection to the representation of brief snatches
of time, - perhaps because a story can be so much more fully told in
picture, and buttressed about with circumstances that give it an epoch.
For instance, a painter never would have sent down yonder Faun out of
his far antiquity, lonely and desolate, with no companion to keep his
simple heart warm."
"Ah, the Faun!" cried Hilda, with a little gesture of impatience; "I
have been looking at him too long; and now, instead of a beautiful
statue, immortally young, I see only a corroded and discolored stone.
This change is very apt to occur in statues."
"And a similar one in pictures, surely," retorted the sculptor. "It is
the spectator's mood that transfigures the Transfiguration itself.
I defy any painter to move and elevate me without my own consent and
"Then you are deficient of a sense," said Miriam.
The party now strayed onward from hall to hall of that rich gallery,
pausing here and there, to look at the multitude of noble and lovely
shapes, which have been dug up out of the deep grave in which old Rome
lies buried. And still, the realization of the antique Faun, in the
person of Donatello, gave a more vivid character to all these marble
ghosts. Why should not each statue grow warm with life! Antinous might
lift his brow, and tell us why he is forever sad. The Lycian Apollo
might strike his lyre; and, at the first vibration, that other Faun in
red marble, who keeps up a motionless dance, should frisk gayly forth,
leading yonder Satyrs, with shaggy goat-shanks, to clatter their little
hoofs upon the floor, and all join hands with Donatello! Bacchus, too,
a rosy flush diffusing itself over his time-stained surface, could
come down from his pedestal, and offer a cluster of purple grapes to
Donatello's lips; because the god recognizes him as the woodland elf
who so often shared his revels. And here, in this sarcophagus, the
exquisitely carved figures might assume life, and chase one another
round its verge with that wild merriment which is so strangely
represented on those old burial coffers: though still with some subtile
allusion to death, carefully veiled, but forever peeping forth amid
emblems of mirth and riot.
As the four friends descended the stairs, however, their play of fancy
subsided into a much more sombre mood; a result apt to follow upon such
exhilaration as that which had so recently taken possession of them.
"Do you know," said Miriam confidentially to Hilda, "I doubt the reality
of this likeness of Donatello to the Faun, which we have been talking so
much about? To say the truth, it never struck me so forcibly as it did
Kenyon and yourself, though I gave in to whatever you were pleased to
fancy, for the sake of a moment's mirth and wonder." "I was certainly