Benjamin Disraeli.

Alroy. Ixion in heaven. The infernal marriage. Popanilla online

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Produced by David Widger





IXION IN HEAVEN

By Benjamin Disraeli




_ADVERTISEMENT_

_'IXION, King of Thessaly, famous for its horses, married
Dia, daughter of Deioneus, who, in consequence of his son-
in-law's non-fulfilment of his engagements, stole away some
of the monarch's steeds. Ixion concealed his resentment
under the mask of friendship. He invited his father-in-law
to a feast at Larissa, the capital of his kingdom; and when
Deioneus arrived according to his appointment, he threw him
into a pit which he had previously filled with burning
coals. This treachery so irritated the neighbouring princes,
that all of them refused to perform the usual ceremony, by
which a man was then purified of murder, and Ixion was
shunned and despised by all mankind. Jupiter had compassion
upon him, carried him to Heaven, and introduced him to the
Father of the Gods. Such a favour, which ought to have
awakened gratitude in Ixion, only served to inflame his bad
passions; he became enamoured of Juno, and attempted to
seduce her. Juno was willing to gratify the passion of
Ixion, though, according to others,' &c. - Classical
Dictionary, art. 'Ixion.'_




IXION IN HEAVEN




PART I.

_An Errant King_

THE thunder groaned, the wind howled, the rain fell in hissing torrents,
impenetrable darkness covered the earth. A blue and forky flash darted a
momentary light over the landscape. A Doric temple rose in the centre of
a small and verdant plain, surrounded on all sides by green and hanging
woods.

'Jove is my only friend,' exclaimed a wanderer, as he muffled himself up
in his mantle; 'and were it not for the porch of his temple, this night,
methinks, would complete the work of my loving wife and my dutiful
subjects.'

The thunder died away, the wind sank into silence, the rain ceased, and
the parting clouds exhibited the glittering crescent of the young moon.
A sonorous and majestic voice sounded from the skies: -

'Who art thou that hast no other friend than Jove?' 'One whom all
mankind unite in calling a wretch.' 'Art thou a philosopher?'

'If philosophy be endurance. But for the rest, I was sometime a king,
and am now a scatterling.' 'How do they call thee? 'Ixion of Thessaly.'

'Ixion of Thessaly! I thought he was a happy man. I heard that he was
just married.'

'Father of Gods and men! for I deem thee such, Thessaly is not Olympus.
Conjugal felicity is only the portion of the immortals!'

'Hem! What! was Dia jealous, which is common; or false, which is
commoner; or both, which is commonest?'

'It may be neither. We quarrelled about nothing. Where there is little
sympathy, or too much, the splitting of a straw is plot enough for a
domestic tragedy. I was careless, her friends stigmatised me as callous;
she cold, her friends styled her magnanimous. Public opinion was all
on her side, merely because I did not choose that the world should
interfere between me and my wife. Dia took the world's advice upon every
point, and the world decided that she always acted rightly. However,
life is life, either in a palace or a cave. I am glad you ordered it to
leave off thundering.'

'A cool dog this. And Dia left thee? 'No; I left her.' 'What, craven?'

'Not exactly. The truth is - - -'tis a long story.

I was over head and ears in debt.'

'Ah! that accounts for everything. Nothing so harassing as a want of
money! But what lucky fellows you mortals are with your _post-obits!_
We Immortals are deprived of this resource. I was obliged to get up a
rebellion against my father, because he kept me so short, and could not
die.'

'You could have married for money. I did.' 'I had no opportunity, there
was so little female society in those days. When I came out, there were
no heiresses except the Parcae, confirmed old maids; and no very rich
dowager, except my grandmother, old Terra.'

'Just the thing; the older the better. However, I married Dia, the
daughter of Deioneus, with a prodigious portion; but after the ceremony
the old gentleman would not fulfil his part of the contract without
my giving up my stud. Can you conceive anything more unreasonable? I
smothered my resentment at the time; for the truth is, my tradesmen all
renewed my credit on the strength of the match, and so we went on
very well for a year; but at last they began to smell a rat, and grew
importunate. I entreated Dia to interfere; but she was a paragon of
daughters, and always took the side of her father. If she had only been
dutiful to her husband, she would have been a perfect woman. At last
I invited Deioneus to the Larissa races, with the intention of
conciliating him. The unprincipled old man bought the horse that I
had backed, and by which I intended to have redeemed my fortunes, and
withdrew it. My book was ruined. I dissembled my rage. I dug a pit in
our garden, and filled it with burning coals. As my father-in-law and
myself were taking a stroll after dinner, the worthy Deioneus fell in,
merely by accident. Dia proclaimed me the murderer of her father, and,
as a satisfaction to her wounded feelings, earnestly requested her
subjects to decapitate her husband. She certainly was the best of
daughters. There was no withstanding public opinion, an infuriated
rabble, and a magnanimous wife at the same time. They surrounded my
palace: I cut my way through the greasy-capped multitude, sword in hand,
and gained a neighbouring Court, where I solicited my brother princes
to purify me from the supposed murder. If I had only murdered a subject,
they would have supported me against the people; but Deioneus being a
crowned head, like themselves, they declared they would not countenance
so immoral a being as his son-in-law. And so, at length, after much
wandering, and shunned by all my species, I am here, Jove, in much
higher society than I ever expected to mingle.'

'Well, thou art a frank dog, and in a sufficiently severe scrape. The
Gods must have pity on those for whom men have none. It is evident that
Earth is too hot for thee at present, so I think thou hadst better come
and stay a few weeks with us in Heaven.' 'Take my thanks for hecatombs,
great Jove. Thou art, indeed, a God!'

'I hardly know whether our life will suit you. We dine at sunset; for
Apollo is so much engaged that he cannot join us sooner, and no dinner
goes off well without him. In the morning you are your own master, and
must find amusement where you can. Diana will show you some tolerable
sport. Do you shoot?'

'No arrow surer. Fear not for me, Ægiochus: I am always at home. But
how am I to get to you?' 'I will send Mercury; he is the best travelling
companion in the world. What ho! my Eagle!'

The clouds joined, and darkness again fell over the earth.

'So! tread softly. Don't be nervous. Are you sick?'

'A little nausea; 'tis nothing.'

'The novelty of the motion. The best thing is a beefsteak. We will stop
at Taurus and take one.'

'You have been a great traveller, Mercury?'

'I have seen the world.'

'Ah! a wondrous spectacle. I long to travel.'

'The same thing over and over again. Little novelty and much change. I
am wearied with exertion, and if I could get a pension would retire.'

'And yet travel brings wisdom.'

'It cures us of care. Seeing much we feel little, and learn how very
petty are all those great affairs which cost us such anxiety.'

'I feel that already myself. Floating in this blue aether, what the
devil is my wife to me, and her dirty Earth! My persecuting enemies seem
so many pismires; and as for my debts, which have occasioned me so many
brooding moments, honour and infamy, credit and beggary, seem to me
alike ridiculous.'

'Your mind is opening, Ixion. You will soon be a man of the world. To
the left, and keep clear of that star.'

'Who lives there?'

'The Fates know, not I. Some low people who are trying to shine into
notice. 'Tis a parvenu planet, and only sprung into space within this
century. We do not visit them.'

'Poor devils! I feel hungry.'

'All right. We shall get into Heaven by the first dinner bolt. You
cannot arrive at a strange house at a better moment. We shall just have
time to dress. I would not spoil my appetite by luncheon. Jupiter keeps
a capital cook.'

'I have heard of Nectar and Ambrosia.' 'Poh! nobody touches them.
They are regular old-fashioned celestial food, and merely put upon the
side-table. Nothing goes down in Heaven now but infernal cookery. We
took our chef from Proserpine.'

'Were you ever in Hell?'

'Several times. 'Tis the fashion now among the Olympians to pass the
winter there.' 'Is this the season in Heaven?' 'Yes; you are lucky.
Olympus is quite full.' 'It was kind of Jupiter to invite me.' 'Ay! he
has his good points. And, no doubt, he has taken a liking to you, which
is all very well. But be upon your guard. He has no heart, and is as
capricious as he is tyrannical.'

'Gods cannot be more unkind to me than men have been.'

'All those who have suffered think they have seen the worst. A great
mistake. However, you are now in the high road to preferment, so we will
not be dull. There are some good fellows enough amongst us. You will
like old Neptune.' 'Is he there now?'

'Yes, he generally passes his summer with us. There is little stirring
in the ocean at that season.' 'I am anxious to see Mars.'

'Oh! a brute, more a bully than a hero. Not at all in the best set.
These mustachioed gentry are by no means the rage at present in Olympus.
The women are all literary now, and Minerva has quite eclipsed Venus.
Apollo is our hero. You must read his last work.'

'I hate reading.'

'So do I. I have no time, and seldom do anything in that way but glance
at a newspaper. Study and action will not combine.'

'I suppose I shall find the Goddesses very proud?'

'You will find them as you find women below, of different dispositions
with the same object. Venus is a flirt; Minerva a prude, who fancies she
has a correct taste and a strong mind; and Juno a politician. As for the
rest, faint heart never won fair lady; take a friendly hint, and do not
be alarmed.'

'I fear nothing. My mind mounts with my fortunes. We are above the
clouds. They form beneath us a vast and snowy region, dim and irregular,
as I have sometimes seen them clustering upon the horizon's ridge at
sunset, like a raging sea stilled by some sudden supernatural frost
and frozen into form! How bright the air above us, and how delicate
its fragrant breath! I scarcely breathe, and yet my pulses beat like
my first youth. I hardly feel my being. A splendour falls upon your
presence. You seem, indeed, a God! Am I so glorious? This, this is
Heaven!'

The travellers landed on a vast flight of sparkling steps of
lapis-lazuli. Ascending, they entered beautiful gardens; winding
walks that yielded to the feet, and accelerated your passage by their
rebounding pressure; fragrant shrubs covered with dazzling flowers, the
fleeting tints of which changed every moment; groups of tall trees, with
strange birds of brilliant and variegated plumage, singing and reposing
in their sheeny foliage, and fountains of perfumes.

Before them rose an illimitable and golden palace, with high spreading
domes of pearl, and long windows of crystal. Around the huge portal of
ruby was ranged a company of winged genii, who smiled on Mercury as he
passed them with his charge.

'The Father of Gods and men is dressing,' said the son of Maia. 'I shall
attend his toilet and inform him of your arrival. These are your rooms.
Dinner will be ready in half an hour. I will call for you as I go down.
You can be formally presented in the evening. At that time, inspired by
liqueurs and his matchless band of wind instruments, you will agree with
the world that Ægiochus is the most finished God in existence.'

'Now, Ixion, are you ready?' 'Even so. What says Jove?' 'He smiled, but
said nothing. He was trying on a new robe. By this time he is seated.
Hark! the thunder. Come on!'

They entered a cupolaed hall. Seats of ivory and gold were ranged round
a circular table of cedar, inlaid with the campaigns against the Titans,
in silver exquisitely worked, a nuptial present of Vulcan. The service
of gold plate threw all the ideas of the King of Thessaly as to royal
magnificence into the darkest shade. The enormous plateau represented
the constellations. Ixion viewed the Father of Gods and men with great
interest, who, however, did not notice him. He acknowledged the majesty
of that countenance whose nod shook Olympus. Majestically robust and
luxuriantly lusty, his tapering waist was evidently immortal, for it
defied Time, and his splendid auburn curls, parted on his forehead
with celestial precision, descended over cheeks glowing with the purple
radiancy of perpetual manhood.

The haughty Juno was seated on his left hand and Ceres on his right. For
the rest of the company there was Neptune, Latona, Minerva, and Apollo,
and when Mercury and Ixion had taken their places, one seat was still
vacant.

'Where is Diana?' inquired Jupiter, with a frown.

'My sister is hunting,' said Apollo.

'She is always too late for dinner,' said Jupiter. 'No habit is less
Goddess-like.'

'Godlike pursuits cannot be expected to induce Goddess-like manners,'
said Juno, with a sneer.

'I have no doubt Diana will be here directly,' said Latona, mildly.

Jupiter seemed pacified, and at that instant the absent guest returned.

'Good sport, Di?' inquired Neptune.

'Very fair, uncle. Mamma,' continued the sister of Apollo, addressing
herself to Juno, whom she ever thus styled when she wished to conciliate
her, 'I have brought you a new peacock.'

Juno was fond of pets, and was conciliated by the present.

'Bacchus made a great noise about this wine, Mercury,' said Jupiter,'
but I think with little cause. What think you?'

'It pleases me, but I am fatigued, and then all wine is agreeable.'

'You have had a long journey,' replied the Thunderer. 'Ixion, I am glad
to see you in Heaven.'

'Your Majesty arrived to-day?' inquired Minerva, to whom the King of
Thessaly sat next.

'Within this hour.'

'You must leave off talking of Time now,' said Minerva, with a severe
smile. 'Pray is there anything new in Greece?'

'I have not been at all in society lately.'

'No new edition of Homer? I admire him exceedingly.'

'All about Greece interests me,' said Apollo, who, although handsome,
was a somewhat melancholy lack-a-daisical looking personage, with his
shirt collar thrown open, and his long curls theatrically arranged.
'All about Greece interests me. I always consider Greece my peculiar
property. My best poems were written at Delphi. I travelled in Greece
when I was young. I envy mankind.'

'Indeed!' said Ixion.

'Yes: they at least can look forward to a termination of the ennui of
existence, but for us Celestials there is no prospect. Say what they
like, immortality is a bore.'

'You eat nothing, Apollo,' said Ceres.

'Nor drink,' said Neptune.

'To eat, to drink, what is it but to live; and what is life but death,
if death be that which all men deem it, a thing insufferable, and to
be shunned. I refresh myself now only with soda-water and biscuits.
Ganymede, bring some.'

Now, although the _cuisine_ of Olympus was considered perfect, the
forlorn poet had unfortunately fixed upon the only two articles which
were not comprised in its cellar or larder. In Heaven, there was neither
soda-water nor biscuits. A great confusion consequently ensued; but at
length the bard, whose love of fame was only equalled by his horror of
getting fat, consoled himself with a swan stuffed with truffles, and a
bottle of strong Tenedos wine.

'What do you think of Homer?' inquired Minerva of Apollo. 'Is he not
delightful?'

'If you think so.'

'Nay, I am desirous of your opinion.'

'Then you should not have given me yours, for your taste is too fine for
me to dare to differ with it.'

'I have suspected, for some time, that you are rather a heretic'

'Why, the truth is,' replied Apollo, playing with his rings, 'I do not
think much of Homer. Homer was not esteemed in his own age, and our
contemporaries are generally our best judges. The fact is, there are
very few people who are qualified to decide upon matters of taste. A
certain set, for certain reasons, resolve to cry up a certain writer,
and the great mass soon join in. All is cant. And the present admiration
of Homer is not less so. They say I have borrowed a great deal from him.
The truth is, I never read Homer since I was a child, and I thought of
him then what I think of him now, a writer of some wild irregular power,
totally deficient in taste. Depend upon it, our contemporaries are our
best judges, and his contemporaries decided that Homer was nothing.
A great poet cannot be kept down. Look at my case. Marsyas said of my
first volume that it was pretty good poetry for a God, and in answer I
wrote a satire, and flayed Marsyas alive. But what is poetry, and what
is criticism, and what is life? Air. And what is air? Do you know? I
don't. All is mystery, and all is gloom, and ever and anon from out the
clouds a star breaks forth, and glitters, and that star is Poetry.'

'Splendid!' exclaimed Minerva.

'I do not exactly understand you,' said Neptune.

'Have you heard from Proserpine, lately?' inquired Jupiter of Ceres.

'Yesterday,' said the domestic mother. 'They talk of soon joining us.
But Pluto is at present so busy, owing to the amazing quantity of
wars going on now, that I am almost afraid he will scarcely be able to
accompany her.'

Juno exchanged a telegraphic nod with Ceres. The Goddesses rose, and
retired.

'Come, old boy,' said Jupiter to Ixion, instantly throwing off all his
chivalric majesty, 'I drink your welcome in a magnum of Maraschino.
Damn your poetry, Apollo, and, Mercury, give us one of your good
stories.'

'Well! what do you think of him?' asked Juno.

'He appears to have a fine mind,' said Minerva.

'Poh! he has very fine eyes,' said Juno.

'He seems a very nice, quiet young gentleman,' said Ceres.

'I have no doubt he is very amiable,' said Latona.

'He must have felt very strange,' said Diana.

Hercules arrived with his bride Hebe; soon after the Graces dropped in,
the most delightful personages in the world for a _soiree_, so useful
and ready for anything. Afterwards came a few of the Muses, Thalia,
Melpomene, and Terpsichore, famous for a charade or a proverb. Jupiter
liked to be amused in the evening. Bacchus also came, but finding that
the Gods had not yet left their wine, retired to pay them a visit.

Ganymede announced coffee in the saloon of Juno. Jupiter was in superb
good humour. He was amused by his mortal guest. He had condescended
to tell one of his best stories in his best style, about Leda, not too
scandalous, but gay.

'Those were bright days,' said Neptune.

'We can remember,' said the Thunderer, with a twinkling eye. 'These
youths have fallen upon duller times. There are no fine women now.
Ixion, I drink to the health of your wife.'

'With all my heart, and may we never be nearer than we are at present.'

'Good! i'faith; Apollo, your arm. Now for the ladies. La, la, la, la!
la, la, la, la!'

The Thunderer entered the saloon of Juno with that bow which no God
could rival; all rose, and the King of Heaven seated himself between
Ceres and Latona. The melancholy Apollo stood apart, and was soon
carried off by Minerva to an assembly at the house of Mnemosyne.
Mercury chatted with the Graces, and Bacchus with Diana. The three Muses
favoured the company with singing, and the Queen of Heaven approached
Ixion.

'Does your Majesty dance?' she haughtily inquired.

'On earth; I have few accomplishments even there, and none in Heaven.'

'You have led a strange life! I have heard of your adventures.'

'A king who has lost his crown may generally gain at least experience.'

'Your courage is firm.'

'I have felt too much to care for much. Yesterday I was a vagabond
exposed to every pitiless storm, and now I am the guest of Jove. While
there is life there is hope, and he who laughs at Destiny will gain
Fortune. I would go through the past again to enjoy the present, and
feel that, after all, I am my wife's debtor, since, through her conduct,
I can gaze upon you.'

'No great spectacle. If that be all. I wish you better fortune.'

'I desire no greater.'

'You are moderate.'

'I am perhaps more unreasonable than you imagine.'

'Indeed!'

Their eyes met; the dark orbs of the Thessalian did not quail before the
flashing vision of the Goddess. Juno grew pale. Juno turned away.




PART II.

_'Others say it was only a cloud.'_

_A Mortal Among the Gods._

MERCURY and Ganymede were each lolling on an opposite couch in the
antechamber of Olympus.

'It is wonderful,' said the son of Maia, yawning. 'It is incredible,'
rejoined the cupbearer of Jove, stretching his legs.

'A miserable mortal!' exclaimed the God, elevating his eyebrows.

'A vile Thessalian!' said the beautiful Phrygian, shrugging his
shoulders.

'Not three days back an outcast among his own wretched species!'

'And now commanding everybody in Heaven.' 'He shall not command me,
though,' said Mercury.

'Will he not?' replied Ganymede. 'Why, what do you think? only last
night; hark! here he comes.'

The companions jumped up from their couches; a light laugh was heard.
The cedar portal was flung open, and Ixion lounged in, habited in a
loose morning robe, and kicking before him one of his slippers. 'Ah!'
exclaimed the King of Thessaly, 'the very fellows I wanted to see!
Ganymede, bring me some nectar; and, Mercury, run and tell Jove that I
shall not dine at home to-day.'

The messenger and the page exchanged looks of indignant consternation.

'Well! what are you waiting for?' continued Ixion, looking round from
the mirror in which he was arranging his locks. The messenger and the
page disappeared.

'So! this is Heaven,' exclaimed the husband of Dia, flinging himself
upon one of the couches; 'and a very pleasant place too. These worthy
Immortals required their minds to be opened, and I trust I have
effectually performed the necessary operation. They wanted to keep me
down with their dull old-fashioned celestial airs, but I fancy I have
given them change for their talent. To make your way in Heaven you
must command. These exclusives sink under the audacious invention of
an aspiring mind. Jove himself is really a fine old fellow, with some
notions too. I am a prime favourite, and no one is greater authority
with Ægiochus on all subjects, from the character of the fair sex or
the pedigree of a courser, down to the cut of a robe or the flavour of a
dish. Thanks, Ganymede,' continued the Thessalian, as he took the goblet
from his returning attendant.

'I drink to your _bonnes fortunes_. Splendid! This nectar makes me feel
quite immortal. By-the-bye, I hear sweet sounds. Who is in the Hall of
Music?'

'The Goddesses, royal sir, practise a new air of Euterpe, the words by
Apollo. 'Tis pretty, and will doubtless be very popular, for it is all
about moonlight and the misery of existence.'

'I warrant it.'

'You have a taste for poetry yourself?' inquired Ganymede.

'Not the least,' replied Ixion.

'Apollo,' continued the heavenly page, 'is a great genius, though
Marsyas said that he never would be a poet because he was a God, and had
no heart. But do you think, sir, that a poet does indeed need a heart?'

'I really cannot say. I know my wife always said I had a bad heart
and worse head; but what she meant, upon my honour I never could
understand.'

'Minerva will ask you to write in her album.'

'Will she indeed! I am sorry to hear it, for I can scarcely scrawl my
signature. I should think that Jove himself cared little for all this
nonsense.'

'Jove loves an epigram. He does not esteem Apollo's works at all. Jove
is of the classical school, and admires satire, provided there be no
allusions to Gods and kings.'

'Of course; I quite agree with him. I remember we had a confounded poet
at Larissa who proved my family lived before the deluge, and asked me
for a pension. I refused him, and then he wrote an epigram asserting
that I sprang from the veritable stones thrown by Deucalion and Pyrrha
at the re-peopling of the earth, and retained all the properties of my
ancestors.'

'Ha, ha! Hark! there's a thunderbolt! I must run to Jove.'

'And I will look in on the musicians. This way, I think?'

'Up the ruby staircase, turn to your right, down the amethyst gallery.


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Online LibraryBenjamin DisraeliAlroy. Ixion in heaven. The infernal marriage. Popanilla → online text (page 1 of 3)