Library of the World's Best Literature, Ancient and Modern — Volume 1 online

. (page 26 of 46)
Online LibraryUnknownLibrary of the World's Best Literature, Ancient and Modern — Volume 1 → online text (page 26 of 46)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

his protector was the priest, the sacristan observed him standing before
a beautiful image of the "Child of the Ball," and heard him saying in
melancholy accents: -

"Child Jesus, why do you not speak either?"

Manuel was saved. The drowning boy had raised his head above the
engulfing waters of his grief. His life was no longer in danger. So at
least it was believed in the parish.

Toward strangers - from whom, whenever they came in contact with him, he
always received demonstrations of pity and kindness - the orphan
continued to maintain the same glacial reserve as before, rebuffing them
with the phrase, stereotyped on his disdainful lips, "Let me alone,
now;" having said which, in tones of moving entreaty, he would go on his
way, not without awakening superstitious feelings in the minds of the
persons whom he thus shunned.

Still less did he lay aside, at this saving crisis, the profound sadness
and precocious austerity of his character, or the obstinate persistence
with which he clung to certain habits. These were limited, thus far, to
accompanying the priest to the church; gathering flowers or aromatic
herbs to adorn the image of the "Child of the Ball," before which he
would spend hour after hour, plunged in a species of ecstasy; and
climbing the neighboring mountain in search of those herbs and flowers,
when, owing to the severity of the heat or cold, they were not to be
found in the fields.

This adoration, while in consonance with the religious principles
instilled into him from the cradle by his father, greatly exceeded what
is usual even in the most devout. It was a fraternal and submissive
love, like that which he had entertained for his father; it was a
confused mixture of familiarity, protection, and idolatry, very similar
to the feeling which the mothers of men of genius entertain for their
illustrious sons; it was the respectful and protecting tenderness which
the strong warrior bestows on the youthful prince; it was an
identification of himself with the image; it was pride; it was elation
as for a personal good. It seemed as if this image symbolized for him
his tragic fate, his noble origin, his early orphanhood, his poverty,
his cares, the injustice of men, his solitary state in the world, and
perhaps too some presentiment of his future sufferings.

Probably nothing of all this was clear at the time to the mind of the
hapless boy, but something resembling it must have been the tumult of
confused thoughts that palpitated in the depths of that childlike,
unwavering, absolute, and exclusive devotion. For him there was neither
God nor the Virgin, neither saints nor angels; there was only the "Child
of the Ball," not with relation to any profound mystery, but in himself,
in his present form, with his artistic figure, his dress of gold tissue,
his crown of false stones, his blonde head, his charming countenance,
and the blue-painted globe which he held in his hand, and which was
surmounted by a little silver-gilt cross, in sign of the redemption of
the world.

And this was the cause and reason why the acolytes of Santa María de la
Cabéza first, all the boys of the town afterward, and finally the more
respectable and sedate persons, bestowed on Manuel the extraordinary
name of "The Child of the Ball": we know not whether by way of applause
of such vehement idolatry, and to commit him, as it were, to the
protection of the Christ-Child himself; or as a sarcastic
antiphrasis, - seeing that this appellation is sometimes used in the
place as a term of comparison for the happiness of the very fortunate;
or as a prophecy of the valor for which the son of Venegas was to be one
day celebrated, and the terror he was to inspire, - since the most
hyperbolical expression that can be employed in that district, to extol
the bravery and power of any one, is to say that "she does not fear even
the 'Child of the Ball.'"

Selections used by permission of Cassell Publishing Company


(Sixth Century B.C.)

Alcaeus, a contemporary of the more famous poet whom he addressed as
"violet-crowned, pure, sweetly-smiling Sappho," was a native of Mitylene
in Lesbos. His period of work fell probably between 610 and 580 B.C. At
this time his native town was disturbed by an unceasing contention for
power between the aristocracy and the people; and Alcaeus, through the
vehemence of his zeal and his ambition, was among the leaders of the
warring faction. By the accidents of birth and education he was an
aristocrat, and in politics he was what is now called a High Tory. With
his brothers, Cicis and Antimenidas, two influential young nobles as
arrogant and haughty as himself, he resented and opposed the slightest
concession to democracy. He was a stout soldier, but he threw away his
arms at Ligetum when he saw that his side was beaten, and afterward
wrote a poem on this performance, apparently not in the least mortified
by the recollection. Horace speaks of the matter, and laughingly
confesses his own like misadventure.

[Illustration: Alcaeus]

When the kindly Pittacus was chosen dictator, he was compelled to banish
the swashbuckling brothers for their abuse of him. But when Alcaeus
chanced to be taken prisoner, Pittacus set him free, remarking that
"forgiveness is better than revenge." The irreconcilable poet spent his
exile in Egypt, and there he may have seen the Greek oligarch who lent
his sword to Nebuchadnezzar, and whom he greeted in a poem, a surviving
fragment of which is thus paraphrased by John Addington Symonds: -

From the ends of the earth thou art come,
Back to thy home;
The ivory hilt of thy blade
With gold is embossed and inlaid;
Since for Babylon's host a great deed
Thou didst work in their need,
Slaying a warrior, an athlete of might,
Royal, whose height
Lacked of five cubits one span -
A terrible man.

Alcaeus is reputed to have been in love with Sappho, the glorious, but
only a line or two survives to confirm the tale. Most of his lyrics,
like those of his fellow-poets, seem to have been drinking songs,
combined, says Symonds, with reflections upon life, and appropriate
descriptions of the different seasons. "No time was amiss for drinking,
to his mind: the heat of summer, the cold of winter, the blazing
dog-star and the driving tempest, twilight with its cheerful gleam of
lamps, mid-day with its sunshine - all suggest reasons for indulging in
the cup. Not that we are justified in fancying Alcaeus a mere vulgar
toper: he retained Aeolian sumptuousness in his pleasures, and raised
the art of drinking to an aesthetic attitude."

Alcaeus composed in the Aeolic dialect; for the reason, it is said, that
it was more familiar to his hearers. After his death his poems were
collected and divided into ten books. Bergk has included the
fragments - and one of his compositions has come down to us entire - his
'Poetae Lyrici Graeci.'

His love of political strife and military glory led him to the
composition of a class of poems which the ancients called 'Stasiotica'
(Songs of Sedition). To this class belong his descriptions of the
furnishing of his palace, and many of the fragments preserved to us.
Besides those martial poems, he composed hymns to the gods, and love and
convivial songs.

His verses are subjective and impassioned. They are outbursts of the
poet's own feeling, his own peculiar expression toward the world in
which he lived; and it is this quality that gave them their strength and
their celebrity. His metres were lively, and the care which he expended
upon his strophes has led to the naming of one metre the 'Alcaic.'
Horace testifies (Odes ii. 13, ii. 26, etc.), to the power of
his master.

The first selection following is a fragment from his 'Stasiotica.' It is
a description of the splendor of his palace before "the work of
war began."


From roof to roof the spacious palace halls
Glitter with war's array;
With burnished metal clad, the lofty walls
Beam like the bright noonday.
There white-plumed helmets hang from many a nail,
Above, in threatening row;
Steel-garnished tunics and broad coats of mail
Spread o'er the space below.
Chalcidian blades enow, and belts are here,
Greaves and emblazoned shields;
Well-tried protectors from the hostile spear,
On other battlefields.
With these good helps our work of war's begun,
With these our victory must be won.

Translation of Colonel Mure.


The rain of Zeus descends, and from high heaven
A storm is driven:
And on the running water-brooks the cold
Lays icy hold;
Then up: beat down the winter; make the fire
Blaze high and higher;
Mix wine as sweet as honey of the bee
Then drink with comfortable wool around
Your temples bound.
We must not yield our hearts to woe, or wear
With wasting care;
For grief will profit us no whit, my friend,
Nor nothing mend;
But this is our best medicine, with wine fraught
To cast out thought.

Translation of J. A. Symonds.


Why wait we for the torches' lights?
Now let us drink while day invites.
In mighty flagons hither bring
The deep-red blood of many a vine,
That we may largely quaff, and sing
The praises of the god of wine,
The son of Jove and Semele,
Who gave the jocund grape to be
A sweet oblivion to our woes.
Fill, fill the goblet - one and two:
Let every brimmer, as it flows,
In sportive chase, the last pursue.

Translation of Sir William Jones.


Now here, now there, the wild waves sweep,
Whilst we, betwixt them o'er the deep,
In shatter'd tempest-beaten bark,
With laboring ropes are onward driven,
The billows dashing o'er our dark
Upheavèd deck - in tatters riven
Our sails - whose yawning rents between
The raging sea and sky are seen.

. . . . .

Loose from their hold our anchors burst,
And then the third, the fatal wave
Comes rolling onward like the first,
And doubles all our toil to save.

Translation of Sir William Jones.


The fisher Diotimus had, at sea
And shore, the same abode of poverty -
His trusty boat; - and when his days were spent,
Therein self-rowed to ruthless Dis he went;
For that, which did through life his woes beguile,
Supplied the old man with a funeral pile.

Translation of Sir William Jones.


What constitutes a State?
Not high-raised battlement, or labored mound,
Thick wall or moated gate;
Not cities fair, with spires and turrets crown'd;
No: - Men, high-minded men,
With powers as far above dull brutes endued
In forest, brake or den,
As beasts excel cold rocks and brambles rude: -
Men who their duties know,
But know their rights, and knowing, dare maintain;
Prevent the long-aimed blow,
And crush the tyrant, while they rend the chain.

Translation of Sir William Jones.


The worst of ills, and hardest to endure,
Past hope, past cure,
Is Penury, who, with her sister-mate
Disorder, soon brings down the loftiest state,
And makes it desolate.
This truth the sage of Sparta told,
Aristodemus old, -
"Wealth makes the man." On him that's poor,
Proud worth looks down, and honor shuts the door.

Translation of Sir William Jones.



Although little may be realized now of Alcázar's shadowy personality,
there is no doubt that in his own century he was widely read. Born of a
very respectable family in Seville, either in 1530 or 1531, he first
appears as entering the Spanish navy, and participating in several
battles on the war galleys of the Marquis of Santa Cruz. It is known
that for about twenty years he was alcalde or mayor at the Molares on
the outskirts of Utrera, - an important local functionary, a practical
man interested in public affairs.

But, on the whole, his seems to have been a strongly artistic nature;
for he was a musician of repute, skillful too at painting, and above all
a poet. As master and model in metrical composition he chose Martial,
and in his epigrammatic turn he is akin to the great Latin poet. He was
fond of experimenting in Latin lyrical forms, and wrote many madrigals
and sonnets. They are full of vigorous thought and bright satire, of
playful malice and epicurean joy in life, and have always won the
admiration of his fellow-poets. As has been said, they show a fine
taste, quite in advance of the age. Cervantes, his greater contemporary,
acknowledged his power with cordial praise in the Canto de Caliope.

The "witty Andalusian" did not write voluminously. Some of his poems
still remain in manuscript only. Of the rest, comprised in one small
volume, perhaps the best known are 'The Jovial Supper,' 'The Echo,' and
the 'Counsel to a Widow.'


Sleep is no servant of the will,
It has caprices of its own:
When most pursued, - 'tis swiftly gone;
When courted least, it lingers still.
With its vagaries long perplext,
I turned and turned my restless sconce,
Till one bright night, I thought at once
I'd master it; so hear my text!

When sleep will tarry, I begin
My long and my accustomed prayer;
And in a twinkling sleep is there,
Through my bed-curtains peeping in.
When sleep hangs heavy on my eyes,
I think of debts I fain would pay;
And then, as flies night's shade from day,
Sleep from my heavy eyelids flies.

And thus controlled the winged one bends
Ev'n his fantastic will to me;
And, strange, yet true, both I and he
Are friends, - the very best of friends.
We are a happy wedded pair,
And I the lord and she the dame;
Our bed - our board - our hours the same,
And we're united everywhere.

I'll tell you where I learnt to school
This wayward sleep: - a whispered word
From a church-going hag I heard,
And tried it - for I was no fool.
So from that very hour I knew
That having ready prayers to pray,
And having many debts to pay,
Will serve for sleep and waking too.

From Longfellow's 'Poets of Europe': by permission of Houghton, Mifflin
and Company.


In Jaen, where I reside,
Lives Don Lopez de Sosa;
And I will tell thee, Isabel, a thing
The most daring that thou hast heard of him.
This gentleman had
A Portuguese serving man . . .
However, if it appears well to you, Isabel,
Let us first take supper.
We have the table ready laid,
As we have to sup together;
The wine-cups at their stations
Are only wanting to begin the feast.
Let us commence with new, light wine,
And cast upon it benediction;
I consider it a matter of devotion
To sign with cross that which I drink.

* * * * *

Be it or not a modern invention,
By the living God I do not know;
But most exquisite was
The invention of the tavern.
Because, I arrive thirsty there,
I ask for new-made wine,
They mix it, give it to me, I drink,
I pay for it, and depart contented.
That, Isabel, is praise of itself,
It is not necessary to laud it.
I have only one fault to find with it,
That is - it is finished with too much haste.

* * * * *

But say, dost thou not adore and prize
The illustrious and rich black pudding?
How the rogue tickles!
It must contain spices.
How it is stuffed with pine nuts!

* * * * *

But listen to a subtle hint.
You did not put a lamp there?
How is it that I appear to see two?
But these are foolish questions,
Already know I what it must be:
It is by this black draught
That the number of lamps accumulates.

[The several courses are ended, and the jovial diner resolves to finish
his story.]

And now, Isabel, as we have supped
So well, and with so much enjoyment,
It appears to be but right
To return to the promised tale.
But thou must know, Sister Isabel,
That the Portuguese fell sick . . .
Eleven o'clock strikes, I go to sleep.
Wait for the morrow.


(Second Century A.D.)


In the history of Greek prose fiction the possibilities of the
epistolary form were first developed by the Athenian teacher of
rhetoric, Alciphron, of whose life and personality nothing is known
except that he lived in the second century A.D., - a contemporary of the
great satirical genius Lucian. Of his writings we now possess only a
collection of imaginary letters, one hundred and eighteen in number,
arranged in three books. Their value depends partly upon the curious and
interesting pictures given in them of the life of the post-Alexandrine
period, especially of the low life, and partly upon the fact that they
are the first successful attempts at character-drawing to be found in
the history of Greek prose fiction. They form a connecting link between
the novel of pure incident and adventure, and the more fully developed
novel which combines incident and adventure with the delineation of
character and the study of motive. The use of the epistolary form in
fictitious composition did not, to be sure, originate with Alciphron;
for we find earlier instances in the imaginary love-letters composed in
verse by the Roman poet, Ovid, under the names of famous women of early
legend, such as those of Oenone to Paris (which suggested a beautiful
poem of Tennyson's), Medea to Jason, and many others. In these one finds
keen insight into character, especially feminine character, together
with much that is exquisite in fancy and tender in expression. But it is
to Alciphron that we owe the adaptation of this form of composition to
prose fiction, and its employment in a far wider range of psychological
and social observation.

The life whose details are given us by Alciphron is the life of
contemporary Athens in the persons of its easy-going population. The
writers whose letters we are supposed to read in reading Alciphron are
peasants, fishermen, parasites, men-about-town, and courtesans. The
language of the letters is neat, pointed, and appropriate to the person
who in each case is supposed to be the writer; and the details are
managed with considerable art. Alciphron effaces all impression of his
own personality, and is lost in the characters who for the time being
occupy his pages. One reads the letters as he would read a genuine
correspondence. The illusion is perfect, and we feel that we are for the
moment in the Athens of the third century before Christ; that we are
strolling in its streets, visiting its shops, its courts, and its
temples, and that we are getting a whiff of the Aegean, mingled with the
less savory odors of the markets and of the wine-shops. We stroll about
the city elbowing our way through the throng of boatmen, merchants, and
hucksters. Here a barber stands outside his shop and solicits custom;
there an old usurer with pimply face sits bending over his accounts in a
dingy little office; at the corner of the street a crowd encircles some
Cheap Jack who is showing off his juggling tricks at a small
three-legged table, making sea-shells vanish out of sight and then
taking them from his mouth. Drunken soldiers pass and repass, talking
boisterously of their bouts and brawls, of their drills and punishments,
and the latest news of their barracks, and forming a striking contrast
to the philosopher, who, in coarse robes, moves with supercilious look
and an affectation of deep thought, in silence amid the crowd that
jostles him. The scene is vivid, striking, realistic.

Many of the letters are from women; and in these, especially, Alciphron
reveals the daily life of the Athenians. We see the demimonde at their
toilet, with their mirrors, their powders, their enamels and rouge-pots,
their brushes and pincers, and all the thousand and one accessories.
Acquaintances come in to make a morning call, and we hear their
chatter, - Thaïs and Megara and Bacchis, Hermione and Myrrha. They nibble
cakes, drink sweet wine, gossip about their respective lovers, hum the
latest songs, and enjoy themselves with perfect abandon. Again we see
them at their evening rendezvous, at the banquets where philosophers,
poets, sophists, painters, artists of every sort, - in fact, the whole
Bohemia of Athens, - gather round them. We get hints of all the stages of
the revel, from the sparkling wit and the jolly good-fellowship of the
early evening, to the sodden disgust that comes with daybreak when the
lamps are poisoning the fetid air and the remnants of the feast
are stale.

We are not to look upon the letters of Alciphron as embodying a literary
unity. He did not attempt to write one single symmetrical epistolary
romance; but the individual letters are usually slight sketches of
character carelessly gathered together, and deriving their greatest
charm from their apparent spontaneity and artlessness. Many of them
are, to be sure, unpleasantly cynical, and depict the baser side of
human nature; others, in their realism, are essentially commonplace; but
some are very prettily expressed, and show a brighter side to the
picture of contemporary life. Those especially which are supposed to
pass between Menander, the famous comic poet, and his mistress Glycera,
form a pleasing contrast to the greed and cynicism of much that one
finds in the first book of the epistles; they are true love-letters, and
are untainted by the slightest suggestion of the mercenary spirit or the
veiled coarseness that makes so many of the others unpleasant reading.
One letter (i. 6) is interesting as containing the first allusion found
in literature to the familiar story of Phryne before the judges, which
is more fully told in Athenaeus.

The imaginary letter was destined to play an important part in the
subsequent history of literature. Alciphron was copied by Aristaenetus,
who lived in the fifth century of our era, and whose letters have been
often imitated in modern times, and by Theophylactus, who lived in the
seventh century. In modern English fiction the epistolary form has been
most successfully employed by Richardson, Fanny Burney, and, in another
_genre_, by Wilkie Collins.

The standard editions of Alciphron are those of Seiler (Leipzig, 1856)
and of Hercher (Paris, 1873), the latter containing the Greek text with
a parallel version in Latin. The letters have not yet been translated
into English. The reader may refer to the chapter on Alciphron in the
recently published work of Salverte, 'Le Roman dans la Grèce Ancienne'
(The Novel in Ancient Greece: Paris, 1893). The following selections are
translated by the present writer.

H.T. Peck



Well, if a girl could live on tears, what a wealthy girl I should be;
for you are generous enough with _them_, any-how! Unfortunately,
however, that isn't quite enough for me. I need money; I must have
jewels, clothes, servants, and all that sort of thing. Nobody has left
me a fortune, I should like you to know, or any mining stock; and so I
am obliged to depend on the little presents that gentlemen happen to
make me. Now that I've known you a year, how much better off am I for
it, I should like to ask? My head looks like a fright because I haven't
had anything to rig it out with, all that time; and as to clothes, - why,
the only dress I've got in the world is in rags that make me ashamed to
be seen with my friends: and yet you imagine that I can go on in this
way without having any other means of living! Oh, yes, of course, you
cry; but you'll stop presently. I'm really surprised at the number of
your tears; but really, unless somebody gives me something pretty soon I
shall die of starvation. Of course, you pretend you're just crazy for

Online LibraryUnknownLibrary of the World's Best Literature, Ancient and Modern — Volume 1 → online text (page 26 of 46)