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ANNO 1587

With an Introduction by


Published by DAVID NUTT


Edinburgh : T. and A. CONSTABLE, Printers to Her Majesty





ELIODORUS, Bishop of Tricca, bidden to
choose between the prelacy and his JEihi-
opica, rather suffered the deprivation of
his title than ' lose the glory of so excellent
a piece.' Such is the one poor legend
which serves Heliodorus for a biography.
Nor may it claim the honour of antiquity,
since, though in modern times it has never lacked appreciative
iteration, its invention is no older than Nicephorus Callistus
and the fourteenth century. Translated into all modern
tongues, this unsupported testimony has aroused an admira-
tion for Heliodorus in the breasts of thousands for whom
the JZthiopica is merely Greek, and who have scarce heard,
even at second-hand, of the loves of Theagenes and
Chariclia. From Montaigne 1 the fable crept into Burton's
Anatomy, and thence into every treasury of the common-
place, until, industriously repeated, it has become more true
than truth itself. And yet, like truth itself, it is manifestly

1 ' Heliodorus, ce bon evesque de Tricca,' thus runs the passage, ' ayma
' mieulx perdre la dignite", le profit, la devotion d'une prelature si venerable,
1 que de perdre sa fille, fille qui dure encore bien gentille, mais, a 1'aventure
' pourtant un peu trop curieusement et mollement goderonnee pour fille
' ecclesiastique et sacerdotale, et de trop amoureuse facon. '


in Legend


INTRO- difficult of belief. For, in Montaigne's despite, the Mihi-
DUCTION opica j s a WO rk of which the most exalted bishop might be
proud. In one aspect it is nothing less than a panegyric
of chastity a Joseph Andrews stripped of its satire. And
should not the bishop rather enjoy promotion for so con-
spicuous a service than witness the destruction of his solitary
child? Nor does Heliodorus stand in need of any false
dignity, since his style and description, devised, as an
epilogue, by himself, are far more honourable than the title
bestowed of Callistus : ' Thus endeth the ./Ethiopian historic
' of Theagenes and Cariclia,' you read on the last page,
' the authour whereof is Heliodorus of Emesos a citie in
' Phanicia, sonne of Theodosius, which fetched his petigree
4 from the Sunne/ l Who would not rather boast a descent
direct from the Sun, than sit in far-off Thessaly upon the
throne of Tricca ? But Nicephorus Callistus had thus much
support for his ingenious fiction, that one Socrates, an eccle-
siastical writer of the fifth century, gave the see of Tricca
to one Heliodorus. Nevertheless similarity of name is poor
evidence, and until you desert the author for his work you
may believe whatever legend you will.

Heliodorus The JEthiopica is the forerunner of the modern Romance,
the ancestor in a direct line of the Novel of Adventure.
The invention of Heliodorus carries the reader far away
from life and observation. Bloodthirsty pirates and armed
His Material men, caves and ambushes, dreams and visions, burnings,
poisonings, and sudden deaths, battle and rapine these

1 TOi6vSe irl/xxs tff"Xf rb crvvray/M TUV vepl Qcaytvyv KO! XapixXeiav A.l6io-
TTLKuiv' o <rwraev dvijp 3>olvii; 'E/xccrqi'ds, rdv d<f>' 'HXlov ylvos, QeoSoffLou irats



are the material of his ancient story. It has been called a INTRO-
prose epic ; yet it is more nearly related to Ivanhoe than DUCTION
to the Odyssey. There is no artifice of the * historical
' novel ' which Heliodorus does not anticipate. The chal-
lenge thrown down in his Fourth Book by 4 one of goodly
' personage, and of greate courage ' might have been devised
by Sir Walter himself, and the miraculous escapes of the hero
and heroine are still the commonplaces of popular fiction.
But the chastity of Chariclia, the more than human control
of Theagenes, are of the author's own contriving, and these
qualities most assuredly give character and consistency to
his narrative. It is in his opening scene that Heliodorus His Art
best approves his skill. He plunges at once into a very
tangle of events, and captures the attention by a fearless
contempt of prologue and explanation. * As soone as the
' day appeared, 1 to quote Underdowne's picturesquely in-
accurate version, * and the Sunne began to shine on the tops
' of the hilles, men whose custome was to live by rapine
' and violence ranne to the top of a hill that stretched

* towards the mouth of Nylus, called Heracleot: where

* standing awhile they viewed the sea underneath them, and

* when they had looked a good season a far off into the same,
' and could see nothing that might put them in hope of pray,

* they cast their eyes somewhat neare the shoare : where a
' shippe, tyed with cables to the maine land, lay at road,
' without sailers, and full fraughted, which thing, they who
' were a farre of might easily conjecture : for the burden
' caused the shippe to drawe water within the bourdes of the

* decke/ l And when a maid, * endued with excellent beauty," 1

1 AW. i. i.
b ix


INTRO- is pictured gazing upon a sorely wounded youth, the reader
DUCTION knows forthwith what is in store for him, and foresees the
happy end of a familiar embroilment. Throughout the
His Method author shows himself a master of construction. Though
his plot be involved, though his story begin anywhere else
than at the beginning, it is the surest of hands which holds
the threads. The countless misfortunes which befall the
actors of the melodrama, before ever the thieves of Egypt
carry away their prey, are set forth in a series of episodes,
which gives the book an appearance of Milesian stories
lightly held together. No fresh personage comes upon the
scene but he proceeds to divulge the adventures of the past.
Thus Cnemon relates the story of Demeneta, his jealous step-
mother, an invention worthy the genius of Boccaccio ; thus
Calasiris, that blameless old man, true descendant of the
Tragic Chorus, only begetter of unnumbered Old Adams,
recounts his own mishaps with peevish tediousness, adding
thereto the early history of Chariclia and Theagenes ; thus
you are told how Chariclia, exposed to doubtful fortune, was
committed, jewels and all, to Charicles, and how Theagenes
went forth from Thessaly to perform the funeral rites of
Pyrrhus, son of Achilles. Yet, despite this constant doubling
His Effect back to the past, the purpose of the narrative is never confused,
and you reach the appointed end with a complete conscious-
ness of the story^s shape and construction. True, the artifice
seems simple enough to-day. The personages of the romance
are known to one another by token or by recollection at the
first encounter, until the effect savours rather of modern farce
and the strawberry mark than of the pitiless self-discovery
of (Edipus. But the trick might well have showed a miracle


of ingenuity in the fourth century; nor does Heliodorus INTRO-
pretend either to Sophoclean irony or to the compact de- DUCTION
velopment of Athenian tragedy. In brief, he tells a dis-
cursive story of love and capture, and tells it to such
purpose that his very faults have served for an example to
centuries of romance.

For him the adventure was the beginning and the end of art. The Spirit of
His book contains scarce a hint of character, and he wove
his vast tapestry from the plays and epics of Greece with-
out a glance thrown on the life of his time. Wherefore his
JEthiopica belongs to no period and to no country. It is as
remote from reality as the Arcadia of which, perchance, it
was an inspiration or the other dead romances of the Eliza-
bethans. For Heliodorus Egypt and Thessaly are names
and no more ; his personages fight and love, are captured and
set free in an age which is heroic despite its complications.
The motives which persuade Theagenes and Chariclia to their
intervals of activity are of the simplest. No subtlety ever
disturbs the logical result of hate or jealousy; not one
creation submits to an individual impulse. Each has his
qualities, each acts or suffers, not as in a real world but, as
in a world of phantasy, wherein Heliodorus pulls the strings.
Now and again the novelist is surprised into a piece of observa- His Lapses
tion, the more strange for its very rarity : for instance, Arsinoe from Himself
is despised of Nausikles, 4 because that while she sang her
' cheekes swelled, and were unseemely, and her eyes stared,
' almost leaving their accustomed place. 1 1 Not a miracle of

1 The Greek is more obviously realistic than Underdowne's English.
Thus it runs : lireiSrj Kvprov^vTjv airrrj rty Trapeiav iv rott ai5\i}/cta<rt elSe, xal
irpfa rb fiiaiov r>t> <pv<njfj.(iTuv bTrpfirtarepov tirl rds fivas i.viffTO.^tvi]v t r6 re
5w/ua Trtfj.Trpdfj.evov KO.I rrjt ofcela? ?5pas tudoi>fj.fvov.



INTRO- insight, truly, but a patch of vivid colour upon a pallid
DUCTION picture. The deaf fisherman, too, whom Calasiris (in
Book v.) finds mending his nets, is a sketch fashioned
from memory or a notebook, and is free from the prevailing
taint of the heroic. * After I had gone a little way,' thus
Underdowne, * I sawe an olde man which was a fisher, that

* satte mending his broken nettes, before his doore. I came
' to him, and saide goode man God save you, and tell me I
' pray you, where a man may gette lodging ? He answeared

* me : it was rent upon a promontorie hereby : being lette
' slippe upon a rocke, which they sawe not. I aske not that,
' quoth I, but you shall shew us great courtesie, if either
' you your selfe wilbe our hoste, or else shewe us some other
c Inne. He answeared, not I, for I was not aborde with
' them.' But this cross-purpose is not characteristic : it seems
to have crept by stealth into an impersonal narrative. Again,

Landscape Heliodorus is curiously insensitive to landscape : a failing
the more noteworthy, since the author of the incomparable
Daphnis and Chloe was doubtless his near contemporary.
You journey with Chariclia from Egypt into Thessaly ;
with Cnemon you wander to the Peiraeus ; but the impres-
sion of atmosphere is faint indeed. If the long, low banks
of the Nile compel the writer's interest, if he have some
vague sense of marshland, he caught it not from life but
from Herodotus ; and Underdowne's phrase, * When all was
4 whishte in the marish,' is infinitely more expressive than
the original Greek : 0-477)5 Be TO e\o? Karaa-^ova-rj^.
Lack of Last of all, though we know not whether Heliodorus

Observation werg Bishop of i^cca or descendant of the Sun, his book
assures us more certainly than the word of all the Fathers


that he was a lettered recluse, who sought in books the INTRO-

experience life denied him. There was never a writer DUCTION

who closed his senses more resolutely to the sights and

sounds of actuality. In him the faculty of observation

was replaced by the self-consciousness of the litterateur. Not

even his vocabulary was fresh or original. Coray, the His Diction

wisest of his editors, has proved that he borrowed his

words as ingeniously as he concocted his episodes. His

prose, in fact, is elaborately composed of tags from Homer

and the Tragedians. It is as though an English novelist

should establish his diction upon a study of Chaucer and the

Elizabethan drama ! There results the style of a bookworm,

not even remotely poetical, but broken by inapposite echoes

of all the poets. To turn from Heliodorus to Longus is

to change a clever craftsman for a finished artist. For

Longus played upon language as upon a various and subtle

instrument, calling therefrom harmonies unknown before,

and it is the misfortune of Heliodorus that time and subject

compel a comparison of the JEthiopica with Daphnu and

Chloe, indisputably the greatest of Greek romances.

One other habit determines the writer of culture : a Morality and
delight in commonplaces and in ever improving the mc
occasion. He will point a moral, if he do not thereby
adorn his tale. * Such is the appearance of very nobilitie,'
you read in the English of Underdowne, ' and the force
' of comeliness, which can subdue the disposition of theeves.
' and bring under the wilde and savage.' The reflection
may be matched for triteness where you will. But when
Heliodorus calls upon Calasiris to prove that Homer was
an Egyptian, he approaches still more nearly the Barlovian



His Trans-



ideal, and when the irreproachable Calasiris replies to
Cnemon's entreaty : ' Although it be nothing neare to our
' purpose to talk of such things, yet I will briefly tell
* you :"* you expect a vision of Harry Sandford. However, if
Heliodorus wrote the prose of a bookworm, if he looked
for life rather on his bookshelves than in the market-place,
if the love of Theagenes and Chariclia be the milk-and-water
of passion, the passion, indeed, of Paul and Virginia, his
invention is beyond reproach, and an age which prefers
insight before fancy may still admire the JEthiopica as the
beginning of romance.

Until to-day the popularity of Heliodorus has never
been imperilled. His masterpiece has been translated into
many tongues. Nor has it proved a mere solace and in-
spiration : there is a legend that in the sixteenth century it
was gravely considered a handbook of tactics. In 1534 the
Editio Princeps appeared, 1 and seventeen years later an
adventurous Pole, one Stanislaus Warschewiczki, turned it
into plain and serviceable Latin. 2 The preface, which is
dated 4 Ex Warschewiczke, paterno rure, Calendas Augusti,
' 1551,' gives a human interest to a long-forgotten work.
It is strange, indeed, that Heliodorus, travelling betimes to
far-off Poland, should have amused the leisure of a terri-
torial lord. For us the ancient editions have a more than
picturesque interest, because they must needs have been in

1 ' Heliodori ^Ethiopicae Historise libri decem, nunquam antea in lucem
' editi. Basil CK, 1534.'

* Thus the book, a noble quarto, is described upon the title-page : ' Helio-
' dori ^thiopicse Historise libri decem, nunc primum e Grseco sermone in
' Latinum translati. Stanislao Warschewiczki Polono Interpret!. Basilese,



the hands of Thomas Underdowne, the first to English the INTRO-

loves of Theagenes and Chariclia. Unlike Sir Thomas DUCTION

North, Underdowne owed no debt to Amyot, whose JEthi- Amyot

opica, published in 1559, is not for an instant comparable

to his masterly versions of Plutarch and Longus. Prolix

and tasteless, it neither represents the original, nor is it

worthy on its separate merit. Amyot failed with Helio-

dorus as Angell Day failed with Longus, and as Amyot

turned Daphnis and Chloe into a phantasy, beautiful as his

original, so Thomas Underdowne converted Theagenes and Underdowne

Chariclia from the faded experiment of a studious pedant

into a fresh and open-aired romance.

But Underdowne fails as a translator, because his ignor- His Achieve-
ance of Greek and Latin was frank and magnificent. There
is no page of him that is not shamed by a childish misunder-
standing of the original. That he used the Latin more
intimately than the Greek is proved by the fact that he
follows the ingenious Warschewiczki into his every error.
Indeed, he nowhere declares his acquaintance with Greek,
though now and again the ingenuity of his fault suggests
that the true text of Heliodorus was in his hands, while he
indirectly acknowledges his debt to the Latin version by
translating into characteristic English a brief biography of
his author. 'In the stile/ writes Underdowne, after the
Polish scholar, ' is much exquisite diligence, yet doth it bring
' with it a certaine delightful oblectation, united, as is meete
' in such an Argument, with singular myrth.' But if Under-
downe had any sense of his author's style (which is hardly
credible), he kept sternly aloof from it. There is no trace in
the English version of the Greek writer's foppish pedantry.



I NTRO- The style of Underdowne is all unspoiled by inapposite quo-
DUCTION tation or ingenious allusion, and if it be more truly poetical
than the original, that is because a rhythmically cadenced
prose is nearer poetry than a bundle of conceits. But to use
Transforma- Jasper Mayne's phrase, Underdowne did not translate, he
tion not transformed. 1 He made no attempt to represent his author :
by design or accident he got as far from Heliodorus as
possible. To compare the two is to wonder that the one
has even a distant relation to the other. For so fine is
Underdowne 1 s feeling for adventure, so admirable is his local
colour, that he gives the story the period and the atmosphere
which Heliodorus perforce withheld. With the English
in your hand, you lose that uncertainty of time and place
The Version's which the Greek^s vague heroism inspires. You are in the
^ us very citadel of Romance ; and the citadel is built in Eliza-

bethan England ; and the romance is unfolded to you, not
in the tasteless phrase thought out by a man of culture
in his sombre study, but in a medley of vivid words
culled from the chap - books or heard at the street-
corner. For Underdowne was of those who would put
the gods into doublet and hose. His hero is 'Captaine
' Theagenes ' ; Calasiris addresses Charicles frankly with a
' Marry Syr Caricles "* ; while such phrases as ' Syr Prieste '
and ' Jollie Dame ' (w Oavpaa-ia) sparkle on every
page. The modern tone, as Underdowne understood it,
is so scrupulously preserved that you will not find a
dozen suggestions of a classical origin in the book. ' Tush, 1
' (quoth she), thy prating is of no effect ' : thus the old
woman Cybele to her son. And when Chariclia stands at

1 See the Dedicatory Epistle to A Part of Lttcian made English. (1664.)


the stake, unharmed by the fire, 'Arsace, not well in her INTRO-
' wits, skipte from the walles, and came out at a posterne DUCTION
* with a great company of her guarde.' (rrjv Be 'KptraKrjv
fir) Karao-^ovcrav KaOa\eo'dat re OTTO rwv rei^ajv, ical Sia
TruXtSo? e/cSpaiJ,ov<rav <rvv TTO\\^ Sopvfopta). Then, that
there may never be a retrogression into antiquity, fiovarelov
appears as 'studio,' Kiddpav as ' Virginalls,' and on one
occasion Theagenes is seen * walking about the church and
' in the cloisters ' (irepl TOV vewv ical rov 7repi/3o\ov). To re-
sume, Underdowne was a poor translator but a great writer. Underdowne's
He had neither the knowledge nor the subtlety to put
Heliodorus into an appropriate dress. He did but take
the jEthiopica for his motive, fashioning thereupon an ex-
cellent narrative, which might still be an ensample to writers
of romance; and thus he proved that the translator may
be above his original, that inaccuracy is no bar to a brilliant
' transformation.'

As it was Underdowne's supreme ambition to quicken His Diction
the Greek into the vigorous life of romantic English,
he was ever on the outlook for new and daring words.
Moi^drai he converts into 'plays the naughtipack,' a
phrase whose excellent sound and humour are ill-warranted
by the original. Thus, too, he renders the commonplace TO
fieipaKiov by so expressive a word as ' princocks,' and there
is not a sentence that his courage does not improve out of
knowledge. ' When this affection had gripped their hearts,
' they became pale,' he writes of the lovers' meeting, and
you realise how picturesque is the English when you turn to
the Greek and find no more than TOV irdOovs KCU rrjv KapSiav
7riSpa/ji6vTO<>, m^piaaav. With admirable effect, too, does

c xvii


INTRO- he throw a characteristic word into his sentence: 'And
DUCTION ' therewithall Cariclia glistered at the race ende, 1 though
4 glistered 1 finds its suggestion in ee\a/r\/rei/. When
Calasiris wraps Chariclia 1 s quiver * in a torne and naughty
' piece of leather 1 (rerpv^w/j,evoi<; /cwStot?), it is difficult to
explain your delight in the phrase, yet you know that
none but an Elizabethan could have written it. And
when Underdowne renders riva T&V ayopalwv, 'one of
' the makeshifts of the city, 1 or, having no better occasion
than elprivr)^ aurot? eyivero Trpvravt?, stumbles upon so
ingenious an expansion as ' made himself their loveday and
' peace, 1 you recognise that if he treated his Heliodorus with
scant courtesy, at least he knew how to embellish him.

His version, then, is purely English, untouched of Greek
or foreign influence. Gifted with an unerring tact of
The Cadence narrative, endowed with a rare sense of the cadences of
"rose p rosGj Underdowne was more than the most of his contem-
poraries a maker of English prose. In his pages you find an
origin of the Authorised Version. Accustomed to esteem
our own Bible a separate masterpiece, we forget that the
translators of James^ reign were but the heirs of the
Elizabethans. The style, which they handled with so fine
a bravery, they found fashioned ready to their hand. North
and Underdowne, Holland and Adlington, had come before
to establish a tradition of distinguished prose. And it is
Underdowne who most nearly approaches the august severity
of the English Bible. For example, contemplate the fol-
lowing passage : * Wherefore I with wayling beweepe my
' sorrow, like a Birde, whose nest a dragon pulleth down,
1 and devoureth her young before her face, and is afraid


6 to come nigh, neither can she flee away.' Might not INTRO-

these lines be culled from the Psalms or the Pro- DUCTION

phets? And while Underdowne preserves the dignity and

colour of his narrative at this high level, none was ever

more skilled than he in raising his note, in making his Its Strength

page blare (so to say) with a trumpet-call. Thus Thea-

genes comes before the wanton Arsace to find her habited

in splendour : ' When he came in and sawe her sittinge in

' her chaire of estate, clothed in purple and clothe of golde,

' glorious with jolly jewels, and her costly bonet, finely

' attyred and decked, with her garde about her, and the

' chiefe magistrates of the Persians by her, he was not

* abashed a whit but rather the more incouraged against
' the Persian braverie. 1 Though the passage bear not the
smallest likeness to the thinly accurate Greek, how admirable

are its qualities of sound and strength ! Or choose another And Sound

specimen at hazard, and let Underdowne prove himself a

master of the picturesque. It is a portrait of Theagenes, And Colour

drawn by Calasiris: 'Such brightnes did hys sight bring

' unto us, in as much as he was on horseback also, with

* a speare of Ashe, poynted with steele in his hande ; he
' had no helmet on, but was bare headed. His cloke was
' of Purple wrought with Golde, wherein was the battell
1 of the Centaures and Lapithes : on the button of his
' cloke was Pallas pictured, bearing a shielde before her
' breast, wherein was Gorgons head. The comelines and

* commendation of that which was done was some what
' increased by the easie blowing of the winde, which mooved
' his haire about his necke, parting it before his forhead,
' and made his cloake wave, and the nether parts thereof to



INTRO- * cover the back and buttocks of his horse. You would

DUCTION < have sayde that hys horse did knowe the beautie of his

' master, and that he beeing very faire him selfe, did beare a

4 passing seemely man, he rayned so, and with pricked up

' eares, he tossed his head, and rolled his eyes fiercelie, and

* praunced, and leapt in so fine sort. 1 That is prose of a
form and substance which could only have been understood
in the fresh childhood of literature. And it is good indeed
to contemplate the splendid barbarity of this ancient style
in an age when a hatred of affectation, a foolish deference
to an attenuated tradition, have replaced every individual
characteristic by a precise uniformity.

The Such the book upon which Thomas Underdowne has

Historic established his claim to the grateful memory of all those
who love rich, well-measured English. It is described upon
the title-page with characteristic circumstance and complete-

Online Libraryof Emesa HeliodorusAn Æthiopian history written in Greek by Heliodorus → online text (page 1 of 28)