Walter Pater.

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London: 1910. (The Library Edition.)


Notes: The 1910 Library Edition employs footnotes, a style inconvenient
in an electronic edition. I have therefore placed an asterisk
immediately after each of Pater's footnotes and a + sign after my own
notes, and have listed each chapter's notes at that chapter's end.

Pagination and Paragraphing: To avoid an unwieldy electronic copy, I
have transferred original pagination to brackets. A bracketed numeral
such as [22] indicates that the material immediately following the
number marks the beginning of the relevant page. I have preserved
paragraph structure except for first-line indentation.

Hyphenation: I have not preserved original hyphenation since an e-text
does not require line-end or page-end hyphenation.

Greek typeface: For this full-text edition, I have transliterated
Pater's Greek quotations. If there is a need for the original Greek,
it can be viewed at my site,, a
Victorianist archive that contains the complete works of Walter Pater
and many other nineteenth-century texts, mostly in first editions.


Cheimerinos oneiros, hote mêkistai hai vyktes.+

+"A winter's dream, when nights are longest."
Lucian, The Dream, Vol. 3.



1. "The Religion of Numa": 3-12
2. White-Nights: 13-26
3. Change of Air: 27-42
4. The Tree of Knowledge: 43-54
5. The Golden Book: 55-91
6. Euphuism: 92-110
7. A Pagan End: 111-120


8. Animula Vagula: 123-143
9. New Cyrenaicism: 144-157
10. On the Way: 158-171
11. "The Most Religious City in the World": 172-187
12. "The Divinity that Doth Hedge a King": 188-211
13. The "Mistress and Mother" of Palaces: 212-229
14. Manly Amusement: 230-243




[3] As, in the triumph of Christianity, the old religion lingered
latest in the country, and died out at last as but paganism - the
religion of the villagers, before the advance of the Christian Church;
so, in an earlier century, it was in places remote from town-life that
the older and purer forms of paganism itself had survived the longest.
While, in Rome, new religions had arisen with bewildering complexity
around the dying old one, the earlier and simpler patriarchal religion,
"the religion of Numa," as people loved to fancy, lingered on with
little change amid the pastoral life, out of the habits and sentiment
of which so much of it had grown. Glimpses of such a survival we may
catch below the merely artificial attitudes of Latin pastoral poetry;
in Tibullus especially, who has preserved for us many poetic details of
old Roman religious usage.

At mihi contingat patrios celebrare Penates,
Reddereque antiquo menstrua thura Lari:

[4] - he prays, with unaffected seriousness. Something liturgical,
with repetitions of a consecrated form of words, is traceable in one of
his elegies, as part of the order of a birthday sacrifice. The hearth,
from a spark of which, as one form of old legend related, the child
Romulus had been miraculously born, was still indeed an altar; and the
worthiest sacrifice to the gods the perfect physical sanity of the
young men and women, which the scrupulous ways of that religion of the
hearth had tended to maintain. A religion of usages and sentiment
rather than of facts and belief, and attached to very definite things
and places - the oak of immemorial age, the rock on the heath fashioned
by weather as if by some dim human art, the shadowy grove of ilex,
passing into which one exclaimed involuntarily, in consecrated phrase,
Deity is in this Place! Numen Inest! - it was in natural harmony with
the temper of a quiet people amid the spectacle of rural life, like
that simpler faith between man and man, which Tibullus expressly
connects with the period when, with an inexpensive worship, the old
wooden gods had been still pressed for room in their homely little

And about the time when the dying Antoninus Pius ordered his golden
image of Fortune to be carried into the chamber of his successor (now
about to test the truth of the old Platonic contention, that the world
would at last find itself [5] happy, could it detach some reluctant
philosophic student from the more desirable life of celestial
contemplation, and compel him to rule it), there was a boy living in an
old country-house, half farm, half villa, who, for himself, recruited
that body of antique traditions by a spontaneous force of religious
veneration such as had originally called them into being. More than a
century and a half had past since Tibullus had written; but the
restoration of religious usages, and their retention where they still
survived, was meantime come to be the fashion through the influence of
imperial example; and what had been in the main a matter of family
pride with his father, was sustained by a native instinct of devotion
in the young Marius. A sense of conscious powers external to
ourselves, pleased or displeased by the right or wrong conduct of every
circumstance of daily life - that conscience, of which the old Roman
religion was a formal, habitual recognition, was become in him a
powerful current of feeling and observance. The old-fashioned, partly
puritanic awe, the power of which Wordsworth noted and valued so highly
in a northern peasantry, had its counterpart in the feeling of the
Roman lad, as he passed the spot, "touched of heaven," where the
lightning had struck dead an aged labourer in the field: an upright
stone, still with mouldering garlands about it, marked the place. He
brought to that system of symbolic [6] usages, and they in turn
developed in him further, a great seriousness - an impressibility to the
sacredness of time, of life and its events, and the circumstances of
family fellowship; of such gifts to men as fire, water, the earth, from
labour on which they live, really understood by him as gifts - a sense
of religious responsibility in the reception of them. It was a
religion for the most part of fear, of multitudinous scruples, of a
year-long burden of forms; yet rarely (on clear summer mornings, for
instance) the thought of those heavenly powers afforded a welcome
channel for the almost stifling sense of health and delight in him, and
relieved it as gratitude to the gods.

The day of the "little" or private Ambarvalia was come, to be
celebrated by a single family for the welfare of all belonging to it,
as the great college of the Arval Brothers officiated at Rome in the
interest of the whole state. At the appointed time all work ceases;
the instruments of labour lie untouched, hung with wreaths of flowers,
while masters and servants together go in solemn procession along the
dry paths of vineyard and cornfield, conducting the victims whose blood
is presently to be shed for the purification from all natural or
supernatural taint of the lands they have "gone about." The old Latin
words of the liturgy, to be said as the procession moved on its way,
though their precise meaning was long [7] since become unintelligible,
were recited from an ancient illuminated roll, kept in the painted
chest in the hall, together with the family records. Early on that day
the girls of the farm had been busy in the great portico, filling large
baskets with flowers plucked short from branches of apple and cherry,
then in spacious bloom, to strew before the quaint images of the
gods - Ceres and Bacchus and the yet more mysterious Dea Dia - as they
passed through the fields, carried in their little houses on the
shoulders of white-clad youths, who were understood to proceed to this
office in perfect temperance, as pure in soul and body as the air they
breathed in the firm weather of that early summer-time. The clean
lustral water and the full incense-box were carried after them. The
altars were gay with garlands of wool and the more sumptuous sort of
blossom and green herbs to be thrown into the sacrificial fire,
fresh-gathered this morning from a particular plot in the old garden,
set apart for the purpose. Just then the young leaves were almost as
fragrant as flowers, and the scent of the bean-fields mingled
pleasantly with the cloud of incense. But for the monotonous
intonation of the liturgy by the priests, clad in their strange, stiff,
antique vestments, and bearing ears of green corn upon their heads,
secured by flowing bands of white, the procession moved in absolute
stillness, all persons, even the children, abstaining from [8] speech
after the utterance of the pontifical formula, Favete
linguis! - Silence! Propitious Silence! - lest any words save those
proper to the occasion should hinder the religious efficacy of the rite.

With the lad Marius, who, as the head of his house, took a leading part
in the ceremonies of the day, there was a devout effort to complete
this impressive outward silence by that inward tacitness of mind,
esteemed so important by religious Romans in the performance of these
sacred functions. To him the sustained stillness without seemed really
but to be waiting upon that interior, mental condition of preparation
or expectancy, for which he was just then intently striving. The
persons about him, certainly, had never been challenged by those
prayers and ceremonies to any ponderings on the divine nature: they
conceived them rather to be the appointed means of setting such
troublesome movements at rest. By them, "the religion of Numa," so
staid, ideal and comely, the object of so much jealous conservatism,
though of direct service as lending sanction to a sort of high
scrupulosity, especially in the chief points of domestic conduct, was
mainly prized as being, through its hereditary character, something
like a personal distinction - as contributing, among the other
accessories of an ancient house, to the production of that aristocratic
atmosphere which separated them from newly-made people. But [9] in the
young Marius, the very absence from those venerable usages of all
definite history and dogmatic interpretation, had already awakened much
speculative activity; and to-day, starting from the actual details of
the divine service, some very lively surmises, though scarcely distinct
enough to be thoughts, were moving backwards and forwards in his mind,
as the stirring wind had done all day among the trees, and were like
the passing of some mysterious influence over all the elements of his
nature and experience. One thing only distracted him - a certain pity
at the bottom of his heart, and almost on his lips, for the sacrificial
victims and their looks of terror, rising almost to disgust at the
central act of the sacrifice itself, a piece of everyday butcher's
work, such as we decorously hide out of sight; though some then present
certainly displayed a frank curiosity in the spectacle thus permitted
them on a religious pretext. The old sculptors of the great procession
on the frieze of the Parthenon at Athens, have delineated the placid
heads of the victims led in it to sacrifice, with a perfect feeling for
animals in forcible contrast with any indifference as to their
sufferings. It was this contrast that distracted Marius now in the
blessing of his fields, and qualified his devout absorption upon the
scrupulous fulfilment of all the details of the ceremonial, as the
procession approached the altars.

[10] The names of that great populace of "little gods," dear to the
Roman home, which the pontiffs had placed on the sacred list of the
Indigitamenta, to be invoked, because they can help, on special
occasions, were not forgotten in the long litany - Vatican who causes
the infant to utter his first cry, Fabulinus who prompts his first
word, Cuba who keeps him quiet in his cot, Domiduca especially, for
whom Marius had through life a particular memory and devotion, the
goddess who watches over one's safe coming home. The urns of the dead
in the family chapel received their due service. They also were now
become something divine, a goodly company of friendly and protecting
spirits, encamped about the place of their former abode - above all
others, the father, dead ten years before, of whom, remembering but a
tall, grave figure above him in early childhood, Marius habitually
thought as a genius a little cold and severe.

Candidus insuetum miratur limen Olympi,
Sub pedibusque videt nubes et sidera. -

Perhaps! - but certainly needs his altar here below, and garlands to-day
upon his urn. But the dead genii were satisfied with little - a few
violets, a cake dipped in wine, or a morsel of honeycomb. Daily, from
the time when his childish footsteps were still uncertain, had Marius
taken them their portion of the family meal, at the second course,
amidst the silence [11] of the company. They loved those who brought
them their sustenance; but, deprived of these services, would be heard
wandering through the house, crying sorrowfully in the stillness of the

And those simple gifts, like other objects as trivial - bread, oil,
wine, milk - had regained for him, by their use in such religious
service, that poetic and as it were moral significance, which surely
belongs to all the means of daily life, could we but break through the
veil of our familiarity with things by no means vulgar in themselves. A
hymn followed, while the whole assembly stood with veiled faces. The
fire rose up readily from the altars, in clean, bright flame - a
favourable omen, making it a duty to render the mirth of the evening
complete. Old wine was poured out freely for the servants at supper in
the great kitchen, where they had worked in the imperfect light through
the long evenings of winter. The young Marius himself took but a very
sober part in the noisy feasting. A devout, regretful after-taste of
what had been really beautiful in the ritual he had accomplished took
him early away, that he might the better recall in reverie all the
circumstances of the celebration of the day. As he sank into a sleep,
pleasant with all the influences of long hours in the open air, he
seemed still to be moving in procession through the fields, with a kind
of pleasurable awe. That feeling was still upon him as he [12] awoke
amid the beating of violent rain on the shutters, in the first storm of
the season. The thunder which startled him from sleep seemed to make
the solitude of his chamber almost painfully complete, as if the
nearness of those angry clouds shut him up in a close place alone in
the world. Then he thought of the sort of protection which that day's
ceremonies assured. To procure an agreement with the gods - Pacem
deorum exposcere: that was the meaning of what they had all day been
busy upon. In a faith, sincere but half-suspicious, he would fain have
those Powers at least not against him. His own nearer household gods
were all around his bed. The spell of his religion as a part of the
very essence of home, its intimacy, its dignity and security, was
forcible at that moment; only, it seemed to involve certain heavy
demands upon him.


[13] To an instinctive seriousness, the material abode in which the
childhood of Marius was passed had largely added. Nothing, you felt,
as you first caught sight of that coy, retired place, - surely nothing
could happen there, without its full accompaniment of thought or
reverie. White-nights! so you might interpret its old Latin name.*
"The red rose came first," says a quaint German mystic, speaking of
"the mystery of so-called white things," as being "ever an
after-thought - the doubles, or seconds, of real things, and themselves
but half-real, half-material - the white queen, the white witch, the
white mass, which, as the black mass is a travesty of the true mass
turned to evil by horrible old witches, is celebrated by young
candidates for the priesthood with an unconsecrated host, by way of
rehearsal." So, white-nights, I suppose, after something like the same
analogy, should be [14] nights not of quite blank forgetfulness, but
passed in continuous dreaming, only half veiled by sleep. Certainly
the place was, in such case, true to its fanciful name in this, that
you might very well conceive, in face of it, that dreaming even in the
daytime might come to much there.

The young Marius represented an ancient family whose estate had come
down to him much curtailed through the extravagance of a certain
Marcellus two generations before, a favourite in his day of the
fashionable world at Rome, where he had at least spent his substance
with a correctness of taste Marius might seem to have inherited from
him; as he was believed also to resemble him in a singularly pleasant
smile, consistent however, in the younger face, with some degree of
sombre expression when the mind within was but slightly moved.

As the means of life decreased, the farm had crept nearer and nearer to
the dwelling-house, about which there was therefore a trace of workday
negligence or homeliness, not without its picturesque charm for some,
for the young master himself among them. The more observant passer-by
would note, curious as to the inmates, a certain amount of dainty care
amid that neglect, as if it came in part, perhaps, from a reluctance to
disturb old associations. It was significant of the national
character, that a sort of elegant gentleman farming, as we say, had
been much affected by some of the most cultivated [15] Romans. But it
became something more than an elegant diversion, something of a serious
business, with the household of Marius; and his actual interest in the
cultivation of the earth and the care of flocks had brought him, at
least, intimately near to those elementary conditions of life, a
reverence for which, the great Roman poet, as he has shown by his own
half-mystic pre-occupation with them, held to be the ground of
primitive Roman religion, as of primitive morals. But then, farm-life
in Italy, including the culture of the olive and the vine, has a grace
of its own, and might well contribute to the production of an ideal
dignity of character, like that of nature itself in this gifted region.
Vulgarity seemed impossible. The place, though impoverished, was still
deservedly dear, full of venerable memories, and with a living
sweetness of its own for to-day.

To hold by such ceremonial traditions had been a part of the struggling
family pride of the lad's father, to which the example of the head of
the state, old Antoninus Pius - an example to be still further enforced
by his successor - had given a fresh though perhaps somewhat artificial
popularity. It had been consistent with many another homely and
old-fashioned trait in him, not to undervalue the charm of
exclusiveness and immemorial authority, which membership in a local
priestly college, hereditary in his house, conferred upon him. To set
a real value on [16] these things was but one element in that pious
concern for his home and all that belonged to it, which, as Marius
afterwards discovered, had been a strong motive with his father. The
ancient hymn - Fana Novella! - was still sung by his people, as the new
moon grew bright in the west, and even their wild custom of leaping
through heaps of blazing straw on a certain night in summer was not
discouraged. The privilege of augury itself, according to tradition,
had at one time belonged to his race; and if you can imagine how, once
in a way, an impressible boy might have an inkling, an inward mystic
intimation, of the meaning and consequences of all that, what was
implied in it becoming explicit for him, you conceive aright the mind
of Marius, in whose house the auspices were still carefully consulted
before every undertaking of moment.

The devotion of the father then had handed on loyally - and that is all
many not unimportant persons ever find to do - a certain tradition of
life, which came to mean much for the young Marius. The feeling with
which he thought of his dead father was almost exclusively that of awe;
though crossed at times by a not unpleasant sense of liberty, as he
could but confess to himself, pondering, in the actual absence of so
weighty and continual a restraint, upon the arbitrary power which Roman
religion and Roman law gave to the parent over the son. [17] On the
part of his mother, on the other hand, entertaining the husband's
memory, there was a sustained freshness of regret, together with the
recognition, as Marius fancied, of some costly self-sacrifice to be
credited to the dead. The life of the widow, languid and shadowy
enough but for the poignancy of that regret, was like one long service
to the departed soul; its many annual observances centering about the
funeral urn - a tiny, delicately carved marble house, still white and
fair, in the family-chapel, wreathed always with the richest flowers
from the garden. To the dead, in fact, was conceded in such places a
somewhat closer neighbourhood to the old homes they were thought still
to protect, than is usual with us, or was usual in Rome itself - a
closeness which the living welcomed, so diverse are the ways of our
human sentiment, and in which the more wealthy, at least in the
country, might indulge themselves. All this Marius followed with a
devout interest, sincerely touched and awed by his mother's sorrow.
After the deification of the emperors, we are told, it was considered
impious so much as to use any coarse expression in the presence of
their images. To Marius the whole of life seemed full of sacred
presences, demanding of him a similar collectedness. The severe and
archaic religion of the villa, as he conceived it, begot in him a sort
of devout circumspection lest he should fall short at any point of the
demand upon him of anything [18] in which deity was concerned. He must
satisfy with a kind of sacred equity, he must be very cautious lest he
be found wanting to, the claims of others, in their joys and
calamities - the happiness which deity sanctioned, or the blows in which
it made itself felt. And from habit, this feeling of a responsibility
towards the world of men and things, towards a claim for due sentiment
concerning them on his side, came to be a part of his nature not to be
put off. It kept him serious and dignified amid the Epicurean
speculations which in after years much engrossed him, and when he had
learned to think of all religions as indifferent, serious amid many
fopperies and through many languid days, and made him anticipate all
his life long as a thing towards which he must carefully train himself,
some great occasion of self-devotion, such as really came, that should
consecrate his life, and, it might be, its memory with others, as the
early Christian looked forward to martyrdom at the end of his course,
as a seal of worth upon it.

The traveller, descending from the slopes of Luna, even as he got his
first view of the Port-of-Venus, would pause by the way, to read the
face, as it were, of so beautiful a dwelling-place, lying away from the
white road, at the point where it began to decline somewhat steeply to
the marsh-land below. The building of pale red and yellow marble,
mellowed by age, which he saw beyond the gates, was indeed but the
exquisite [19] fragment of a once large and sumptuous villa. Two
centuries of the play of the sea-wind were in the velvet of the mosses
which lay along its inaccessible ledges and angles. Here and there the
marble plates had slipped from their places, where the delicate weeds
had forced their way. The graceful wildness which prevailed in garden
and farm gave place to a singular nicety about the actual habitation,
and a still more scrupulous sweetness and order reigned within. The
old Roman architects seem to have well understood the decorative value
of the floor - the real economy there was, in the production of rich
interior effect, of a somewhat lavish expenditure upon the surface they
trod on. The pavement of the hall had lost something of its evenness;
but, though a little rough to the foot, polished and cared for like a
piece of silver, looked, as mosaic-work is apt to do, its best in old
age. Most noticeable among the ancestral masks, each in its little
cedarn chest below the cornice, was that of the wasteful but elegant
Marcellus, with the quaint resemblance in its yellow waxen features to

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