Nathaniel Hillyer. Egleston.

The North American review (Volume 139) online

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in the domestic ties, as these existed in Greece, Socrates, Plato,
and Aristotle turned to friendship in its largest sense affinity
of soul, mutual sympathy between man and man, and found in
it the elevating force they longed for, the prime motive power
of moral life. They saw in it the germ of whatever is divine in
the heart of man, the spark that, if fostered and fed, transfigured
his whole being. When guided by self-control to the highest
good, and strengthened by communion with souls equally
attuned, it lifted a man above everything sordid, and made him
aspire toward heavenly virtues.

Affection of this kind was the highest moral power known to
the Greeks, the central purifying fire in Greek ethics. It was
the pillar of national life, a sacred institution which had mythic
founders and venerable examples. It was to the Greeks not
only an enjoyment, a pleasant ornament of life, it was a necessity
for all higher souls, an essential element in their daily life, the
antidote to selfishness and narrow-mindedness. It was the
touchstone of Hellenic virtue while their greatness lasted.
Alexander the Great felt this, and when he went forth to the
East, to make Hellenic civilization the common possession of
the world, he desired to renew in his own friendship with
Hephsestion the pattern that heroic times had bequeathed in
Achilles and Patroclus. Friendship so conceived, the most
thoughtful of the Greeks regarded, not as a mere impulse, but
as a divine inspiration, not to be rationalized or accounted for,
either by like taking to like, or by the unlike fitting into each
other. It was the real soul of ancient life, shedding a grace and
a bloom over its clear-cut outlines. It supplied at once that
tender devotion which religion has engendered, and that imag
inative romance with which Christianity and chivalry have com
bined to invest womanhood.

In three of Plato's Decalogues the Lysis, the 'Sympo
sium, and the Phsedrus there are fine thoughts and sayings
about human affection j but these struggle through such a cloud
of parable, myth, and irony, that they are hard to grasp. You
know not whether it is the personal affection of friend for friend
that he is speaking of, or a passion of the reason, a kind of
mystical contemplation of the beautiful and the good. This
much, however, he seems to mean: that man cannot live in


isolation; that he needs a reconciler for his poor, distracted
nature j that the reconciler is love, which is " a kind of divine
madness " ; and that the best love of this world is a hint and a
prophecy of an ideal union not yet realized. But there are some
things which make it difficult to dwell on Plato's views on these

There are, however, no such hindrances to the full under
standing and enjoyment of Aristotle's two famous books on
friendship, in his " Ethics." Over these two books how many
who have cared little for the technical and dry discussions of
the previous books have lingered delightedly. They found so
much in them that appealed directly to their own experience.
In these two books the great analytic philosopher, while he lays
down what has been called the physiology and the pathology of
human affection with his own inevitable good sense and direct
ness, has yet done it with such warmth, there is such an under-
glow in his words, that one is quite sure he is speaking of what
he has himself felt and seen. We see in these books the truth
of that saying of the Oxford professor of Greek, that " un
der the marble exterior of Greek literature there is con
cealed a soul thrilling with emotion. 7 ' How striking is that
opening remark of Aristotle, which is the key-note of his
whole treatise, that without friendship no one would choose to
live, though he had all other goods which the world could offer ;
that friendship is a necessity of life. And here let it be said,
once for all, that while we must use the word friendship, for
we have no other, Aristotle means by his <piXx something
much wider ; he means that oneness of soul, that genuine heart-
sympathy, which is necessary to all the finest forms of human
relationship, whether that relationship is between members of
the same family, or persons beyond the household but united by
ties of blood, or those who have no other kinship than that of
the heart. With what clear, decisive insight he discriminates
between the different forms of so-called friendship, by pointing
to the three great objects of human desire the good, the
pleasant, and the useful and making these the test of the
nature of the friendship. Friendships, so called, that are
founded on utility, the desire for mutual advantage, are, he
says, no true friendships, but disappear as soon as one friend
can be no longer useful to the other. These forms of friendship
belong only to mercenary persons. Their friendships, formed


on the desire for mutual pleasure, change as pleasures change.
Such are often the friendships of children, who are quick to
form and quick to drop them. Real friendship, he tells us, has
for its object of desire the highest good of the person loved,
and is founded on the earnest desire of this for your
friend as well as for yourself. When two friends desire each
the highest good of the other, and desire it only for the friend's
sake, with no thought for themselves or their own advantage,
this is the only stable, complete, and perfect friendship. To
such friendships pleasure and advantage are sure to be added;
but they come unsought, and are not that which is aimed at.
Friendships of this kind are rare, and take time to grow. A
friend of this kind loves his friend for his own sake j each has
perfect faith in the other, cannot conceive that one would wrong
the other under any circumstances. Some friends, Aristotle
goes on to say, live together, see each other every day, and are
continually doing mutual kind offices. Other friends are absent
from each other ; would do kind offices if they could, but are
hindered by the separation. Yet absence does not sever friend
ship, only impedes the outward manifestation of it.

It is not possible to have this perfect friendship with many,
for such friendship is a hyperbole, a sort of excess of feeling, a
throwing away of all limits, a giving up, an abandonment of the
whole self. Such friendship requires the two friends to have
much experience of each other and close intimacy, which are
hard to obtain. One is almost startled to find the cool Greek
philosopher using language like this.

Aristotle also discusses what he calls friendships of inequal
ity, as between older and younger persons, between father and
son, between persons of different ranks, and lays down with
perfect justice the conditions of such friendship. On the whole,
he concludes that the essence of friendship consists rather in
loving than in being loved, in giving rather than in receiving
affection. Yet most persons, he says, prefer to be loved rather
than to love, because to be loved, he cynically adds, flatters
their vanity. This active spirit of love is at once the essence
and the virtue of friendship ; and when two persons have this,
they are perfect friends.

On the causes that make men need, desire, and delight in
friends, Aristotle has some keen-sighted thoughts. More than
once he calls a friend our second self, just as Pythagoras had


defined a friend the half of one's soul, and as the Greek proverb
has said, " Friendship is one soul in two bodies." If this is so, a
man can hardly be deemed happy who is doomed to be solitary,
or to live only with strangers or chance people. In such circum
stances a man's heart is pent up, confined j and this is not only
a pain, but an actual lowering of life within him. But the
presence and intercourse of friends enlarges and expands our
sense of existence, and quickens that vivid energy and glow of
mind which is the highest happiness. The quick consciousness
we have of a friend's existence, by means of intercourse with
him, is an enlargement of our own consciousness, of the sense
of our own existence. Thus the love of friendship arises out of
the love of life, and is indeed another form of it. As a man
feels toward himself, so he feels toward his friend ; and as the
consciousness of his own existence is to each man a choice-worthy
thing, so is the consciousness of the existence of his friend.

The intercourse with friends gives vividness to the pursuits
of life, and intercourse with the good strengthens and increases
the good that is in each man. The same thought is expressed
by a great writer of our own time, in a more subdued and
pensive tone :

" We gain much for a time by fellowship with each other. It is a relief
to us, as fresh air to the fainting, or meat and drink to the hungry, or a flood
of tears to the heavy in mind. It is a soothing comfort to have those whom
we may make our confidants ; a comfort to have those to whom we may con
fess our faults j a comfort to have those to whom we may look for sympathy.
Love of home, and family, and friends, in these and other ways, is sufficient
to make this life tolerable to the multitude of men, which otherwise it would
not be. But," he adds characteristically, and in another vein from Aristotle,
"but still, after all, our affections exceed such exercise of them, and de
mand what is more stable."

Modern literature has nothing to show that for breadth of
view and intensity of feeling can compare with Aristotle's
treatise on Friendship, or even with Cicero's Dialogue De
Amicitia. It has been remarked how pale and cold beside
these is Bacon's essay on Friendship. The earliest legends of
Greece abound with noble companionships. Theseus and Piri-
thous, Pylades and Orestes, Damon and Pythias, were to them,
and have ever since been, famous and familiar as household
words. And yet this affection has not embodied itself in Greek
poetry so frequently as might have been expected.


The most famous example in the poetry of the Greeks is
that in which the whole story of the Iliad culminates. The
friendship of Achilles and Patroclus, begun in childhood in the
halls of Peleus, maintained through manhood and proven in
battle under the walls of Troy, is only fully realized when
Patroclus falls. I need not dwell on the well-known incidents.
The Acheeans are driven in disorder to their ships ; Patroclus
beseeches Achilles to allow him to go with the myrmidons to
their aid j three times he assails the walls of Troy in vain, and
in the fourth assault falls beneath the arm of Hector. Archi-
lochus bears the tidings to Achilles in his tent in these words.
I quote from the excellent translation of the Iliad by my friend
Mr. Cordery :

" Woe >s me, great son of Peleus, very sad
The news I bear thee, would it had not been!
Fallen lies Patroclus, round his naked corse
They battle now; and Hector hath the arms.
He spake, and a black cloud of grief enwrapped
The other, who in either palm upheaved
Ashes, and showered them o'er his head, and fouled
His comely face, and the dark embers clung
About his fragrant robe. And down he threw
Himself, outstretching all his length on earth,
And tearing with his hands defiled his hair."

Then follows the interview with his mother, Thetis, her ob
taining armor from Hephaistus for her son, the cleansing of the
dead body of Patroclus, and the swathing it in fine linen, and
laying it out ready for the funeral pyre. Then Achilles goes
forth to wreak vengeance on the Trojans for the death of his
friend, lays hands on twelve fairest youths of Troy, to make of
them an offering at the tomb of Patroclus, meets with Hector
and vanquishes him, exults over him savagely, and savagely
drops the corse at his chariot- wheels, in sight of all the city. In
pathetic contrast with the ferocity of vengeful Achilles is the
tenderness with which Priam, Hecuba, and Andromache wail
for their fallen one.

That night, when Achilles had retired to sleep beside the
sounding sea, the spirit of Patroclus prevailed in the strength
of friendship to burst the barriers of Hades, and stood by his
sleeping friend:


" Sleep'st thou, Achilles, and art thus of me
Forgetful? Whom in life thou ne'er didst fail
Him now thou faiPst in death. But hear my prayer ;
Bury me now with speed, that I may pass
The gates of Hades, where the other shades,
The ghosts and phantoms of the feeble dead,
Repel me still, nor suffer me to join
Their shadowy throng beyond the ocean-stream j
So through death's open hall I flit forlorn.
Give me thy hand, I pray thee, and farewell,
A last farewell ; for when ye have bestowed
My pyre, I may not come from Hades more.

But let one urn now hold thy bones and mine,
The golden urn thy heavenly mother gave."

To whom the fleet Achilles made reply :

" What need, mine own beloved, thus to come
And charge me, word by word ? Fear not j whatever
Thou biddest, to the utmost I fulfill.
But near, more near ! Come, let us cast our arms
Around each other for a while once more,
And satisfy our souls with wail and woe."

Then follows the burning of the body on the funeral pyre,
with all the savage rites the slaughtered sheep and oxen, the
jars of honey and wine, the nine steeds, two favorite dogs, and
above all, those twelve fair sons of Troy, slaughtered and con
sumed in the funeral fire,- and then the trailing of Hector's
body again and again round the cavin piled over the dust of
Patroclus. But amid these ferocities, still there is one tender
touch. Achilles cuts off the best locks of his own hair, and
places them in the hand of the dead Patroclus, as he lies ready
to be consumed. So true is it, as Professor Campbell well
says, that in these old heroic times " savage vindictiveness and
the most tender affectionateness are found side by side both in
heroes and heroines alike, and produce some of the most moving
contrasts. But the tenderness is not less deep and real for the
co-existence with it of untamed ferocity ."

To pass now to Pindar. In the tenth Nemean Ode, he in
this wise tells the story of Castor and Polydeuces, and of then-
love, faithful even unto death. They two,

" Now changing climes alternately, dwell one day with their father Zeus,
and the next in the secret places under the earth, within the valleys of


Therapuai, fulfilling equal fate ; because in this wise chose Polydeuces to
live his life, rather than to be altogether god, and to abide continually in
heaven, when that Castor had fallen in the fight."

Then Pindar describes the combat, and how Polydeuces slew
the two brothers who had been the slayers of Castor :

" The a quickly came back the son of Tyndareus to his great brother,
and found him not quite dead, but the death-gasp rattled in his throat. Then
Polydeuces wept hot tears and groaned, and lifted up his voice, and cried,
( Father Zeus, ah ! what shall make an end of woes ? Bid me also, O
King, to die with him. The glory is departed from a man bereaved of friend.
Few are they who, in the day of trouble, are faithful in companionship of
toil.' Thus said he, and Zeus came and stood before his face, and spake
these words : ' Thou art my son ; but thy brother was sprung from a mortal
sire. But, nevertheless, behold, I give thee choice of these two lots : if,
shunning death and hateful old age, thou desirest for thyself to dwell in
Olympus with Athene and with Ceres of the shadowing spear, this lot is
thine to take ; but if in thy brother's cause thou art so fervent, and art
resolved in all to have equal share with him, then half the time thou shalt
be alive beneath the earth, and half in the golden house of heaven.' Thus
spake his father, nor did Polydeuces doubt which counsel he should choose.
So Zeus unsealed the eye, and presently the tongue also, of Castor of the
brazen mail."

The tragedians contain no representation of friendship to
compare with the Homeric Patroelus. But there is something
of it in a play of Sophocles, and might have been more. In his
" Electra " the two friends, Orestes and Pylades, return to Argos,
after years of absence, to avenge the death of Agamemnon ; but
Pylades is a silent personage, and nothing is made of his friend
ship with Orestes. Orestes and Blectra, however, are there repre
sented, as they were in sculpture, in the attitude of friendship
rather than as brother and sister.

But the opportunity that Sophocles had missed of depicting
a famous friendship, Euripides seized and turned to good account
in his " Iphigenia in Tauris." The scene of the drama is laid
in the Tauric Chersonese, and the spot has been identified with
the now historic Balaclava. There of old stood a temple of
Artemis, and there human sacrifices were offered on her altar.
To this remote and savage region Iphigenia, rescued by Artemis
from the murderous hands of her father at Aulis, had been
miraculously conveyed through the air, and appointed by the
goddess to be the priestess of her horrid rites. One night Iphi
genia has a dream that convinces her that her brother Orestes


is dead, and she comes forth with a retinue to carry funeral
libations, and to pour forth a wail to him, as to a spirit in Hades.
At this moment news is brought to Iphigenia that two strangers
from Greece have landed on the coast, have been captured, and
will straightway be brought to the temple, that she may sacrifice
them at the altar of Artemis. The captives appear before Iphi
genia in chains, and then ensues a scene full of dramatic interest.
Iphigenia asks, "Are ye two brothers of one mother born?"
And Orestes answers, " Brothers we are in love though not in
blood." Finding them to be Greeks, Iphigenia elicits from them
the whole story of the fall of Troy, the return of Menelaus and
Helen, the murder of her father Agamemnon, and the vengeance
taken on Clytemnestra by her son Orestes, who is still alive.
The thought occurs to Iphigenia that she may employ one of
these strangers to bear a letter to Orestes at Argos, to acquaint
him with her situation. Then follows a contest between the two
friends, each desiring to resign himself to death that the other
may be spared. Orestes strongly urges Pylades to accept the
office of messenger, on the ground that he (Pylades) had already
married Electra, sister of Orestes, and would maintain the lineage
and honor of the house ; while he (Orestes), outworn with misery
and hunted by the Furies, had nothing to live for and had better
die. Pylades objects :

"'Twere "base that I should live, and thou shouldst die;
Thy comrade as I sailed, so, if need be,
Thy comrade I shall die; for I should win
A coward's name in Argos, well deserved,
And in the land of Phocis many-delled.
For many, with their evil thoughts, will deem
That I betrayed thee for my own escape,
Or even have slain thee, when thy house was weak,
To gain thy kingdom for myself, and dower
My wife, thy sister, with thy royal wealth.
These things I dread, and hold in shame and scorn;
Therefore with thee I needs must breathe my last,
With thee be slain, my body burnt with thine,
A blameless friend, and faithful to the end."

Orestes replies that it is good for him to die, but not for
Pylades, for

" Happy art thou and hast a happy home;
Mine is abhorred, impious, unblest.


Then fare thee well, for I have found thee ever
The dearest of my friends, thou who hast been
My fellow-huntsman and my constant mate,
Bearing with me the burden of my woes."'

Pylades, at length prevailed on, receives from Iphigenia first
the letter, and then its contents verbally, in case he should be ship
wrecked and lose the letter. As she communicates the contents
she discovers that it is Orestes himself who stands before her,
and whom she is on the point of sacrificing. Then an escape is
planned between the three, which, after many chances and vicis
situdes, is at last safely accomplished by the intervention of
Athene, who often for Euripides intervenes at the critical mo
ment. Only a small part of the touching scene is here given,
but it is enough to show that Euripides, like Pindar, felt that
" greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his
life for his friend."

Had not the lyric poetry of Greece all, save part of
Pindar's perished, there would, no doubt, have come down to
us frequent memorials of the love of friends. In the later idyllic
poetry there is a well-known lament, that of Moschus for the
untimely death of 'his brother-poet, Bion, who flourished about
280 B. c. It is one of the earliest instances of a strain that has
been often since repeated, wherein nature is called upon to join
in sorrow for one of the sweetest of her sons :

Ye nightingales that lament among the thick leaves of the trees,
Tell ye to the Sicilian waters of Arethusa

The tidings that Bion the herdsman is dead, and that with him
Song too has died, and perished hath the Dorian minstrelsy.
Begin, ye Sicilian muses, begin the wail.

Every famous city laments thee, Bion.

Ascra laments thee far more than her Hesiod,

And Pindar is less regretted by the forests of Bseotia*

Not so much did pleasant Lesbos mourn for Alcseus,

Nor did the Teian town so much bewail her poet ;

While for thee more than for Archilochus doth Paros yearn,

And not for Sappho, but for thee, doth Mytilene wail her musical lament.

Begin, ye Sicilian muses, begin the wail.

Ah me, when the mallous wither in the garden,

And the green parsley, and the curled tendrils of the anise,

Another day they live again, and grow in another year ;


But we men, we, the great, and mighty, or wise,

When once we have died, gone down to silence, in the hollow earth,

We sleep a very long and endless and unawakening sleep.

So we see what has been the experience of men in every time;
that only when friends are removed forever from our sight, do
we fully appreciate what they were, and what they have been to

When the light of literature first dawns upon Rome, we
find friendship as highly esteemed by her sons as ever it was
among the Greeks. Those we speak of are, of course, the
Romans of the last century of the Republic, whose minds were
steeped in the literature of Greece, and their sentiments molded
by Hellenic influence. "What part friendship played in the pre-
Hellenic ages of Rome, before Greece had changed the stern old
Roman character, it is not easy to say. But how deeply the
habit of friendship had imbued the Roman mind by the time of
Cicero, and even before it, is well illustrated both by his writ
ings and his life. His beautiful treatise, De Amicitia, has no
parallel in our literature. In it he depicts the friendship that
existed, a century before the time when he wrote, between
Laelius and Scipio Africanus the younger, the destroyer of
Carthage, B. c. 147, and of Numantia, B. c. 133. At the close of
that treatise Leelius, who was chief spokesman, says : " For my
part, of all the advantages that either nature or fortune has be
stowed upon me, there is none that can compare with that of hav
ing had Scipio for my friend." It may be noted, as a proof how far
literature and cultivation had subdued the old Roman prejudices,
that into the society of Scipio and Laelius, Tereus, born an
African slave, was admitted on equal terms as the companion
and friend of these two nobles. As for Cicero, his sentiments
in the De Amicitia are not merely fine sayings, they are the
transcript of his own experience. Statesmen, like kings, are
often without a friend ; but there is nothing in the lives of
modern politicians like the firm and lasting friendship of Cicero
and Atticus. Well may Mr. Forsyth, in his " Life of Cicero,"
remark: "In the whole history of literature I know no case
where friend has communicated with friend for a long series of
years, nay, for a whole life-time, on terms of such absolute con
fidence as these two distinguished men."

There was another historic friendship of the same age, not
less close and intimate, though no written records of it remain.


But the intimacy of Brutus and Cassius was described by Plu
tarch, and Shakspere, with his usual insight into the social life
of the time, has vividly reproduced it in his "Julius Caesar."
The strength and nobility of Brutus's friendship for Cassius is
shown by the way in which what was well-nigh a deadly quarrel
is turned to beautiful reconcilement.

There is a poet, a contemporary and friend of Cicero, who

Online LibraryNathaniel Hillyer. EglestonThe North American review (Volume 139) → online text (page 45 of 60)