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Epicurus. I would entreat you to dismiss altogether things quite unworthy of your notice, if your observations could fall on any subject without embellishing it. You do not want these thorns to light your fire with.
Leontion. Pardon the weak arm that would have defended what none can reach.
Epicurus. I am not unmoved by the kindness of your intentions. Most people, and philosophers too among the rest, when their own conduct or opinions are questioned, are admirably prompt and dexterous in the science of defence; but when another's are assailed, they parry with as ill a grace and faltering a hand, as if they never had taken a lesson in it at home. Seldom will they see what they profess to look for; and, finding it, they pick up with it a thorn under the nail. They canter over the solid turf, and complain that there is no corn upon it: they canter over the corn, and curse the ridges and furrows. All schools of philosophy, and almost all authors, are rather to be frequented for exercise than for freight : but this exercise ought to acquire us health and strength, spirits and good-humour. There is none of them that does not supply some truth useful to every man, and some untruth equally so to the few that are able to wrestle with it. If there were no falsehood in the world, there would be no doubt; if there were no doubt, there would be no inquiry; if no inquiry, no wisdom, no knowledge, no genius; and Fancy herself would lie muffled up in her robe, inactive, pale, and bloated. I wish we could demonstrate the existence of utility in some other evils as easily as in this.
and colourless atoms, assumes the name of metaphysics. We find no longer the rich succulence of Herodotus, no longer the strong filament of Thucydides, but thoughts fit only for the slave, and language for the rustic and the robber. These writings can never reach posterity, nor serve better authors near us: for who would receive as documents the perversions of venality and party? Alexander we know was intemperate, and Philip both intemperate and perfidious: we require not a volume of dissertation on the thread of history, to demonstrate that one or other left a tailor's bill unpaid, and the immorality of doing so; nor a supplement to ascertain on the best authorities which of the two it was. History should explain to us how nations rose and fell, what nurtured them in their growth, what sustained them in their maturity; not which orator ran swiftest through the crowd from the right hand to the left, which assassin was too strong for manacles, or which felon too opulent for crucifixion.
Leontion. It is better, I own it, that such writers should amuse our idleness than excite our spleen. Ternissa. What is spleen?
Epicurus. Do not ask her; she cannot tell you. The spleen, Ternissa, is to the heart what Arimanes is to Oromazes.
Ternissa. I am little the wiser yet. Does he ever use such hard words with you?
Leontion. He means the evil Genius and the good Genius, in the theogony of the Persians; and would perhaps tell you, as he hath told me, that the heart in itself is free from evil, but very capable of receiving and too tenacious of holding it.
Epicurus. In our moral system, the spleen hangs about the heart and renders it sad and sorrowful, unless we continually keep it in exercise by kind offices, or in its proper place by serious investigation and solitary questionings. Otherwise it is apt to adhere and to accumulate, until it deadens the principles of sound action, and
Leontion. My remarks on the conduct and on the style of Theophrastus are not confined to him solely. I have taken at last a general view of our literature, and traced as far as I am able its deviation and decline. In ancient works we sometimes see the mark of the chisel; in modern we might almost suppose that no chisel was employed at all, and that everything was done by grinding and rubbing. There is an ordinariness, an indis-obscures the sight. tinctness, a generalisation, not even to be found in a flock of sheep. As most reduce what is sand into dust, the few that avoid it run to a contrary extreme, and would force us to believe that what is original must be unpolished and uncouth.
Ternissa. It must make us very ugly when we grow old.
Leontion. In youth it makes us uglier, as not appertaining to it: a little more or less ugliness in decrepitude is hardly worth considering, there being quite enough of it from other quarters: I would stop it here however.
Ternissa. O what a thing is age!
Epicurus. There have been in all ages, and in all there will be, sharp and slender heads, made purposely and peculiarly for creeping into the crevices of our nature. While we contemplate Leontion. Death without death's quiet. But the magnificence of the universe, and mensurate we will converse upon it when we know it better. the fitness and adaptation of one part to another, Epicurus. My beloved! we will converse upon the small philosopher hangs upon a hair or creeps it at the present hour, while the harshness of its within a wrinkle, and cries out shrilly from his elevation that we are blind and superficial. He discovers a wart, he pries into a pore, and he calls it knowledge of man. Poetry and criticism, and all the fine arts, have generated such living things, which not only will be co-existent with them, but will (I fear) survive them. Hence history takes alternately the form of reproval and of panegyric; and science in its pulverised state, in its shapeless
features is indiscernible, not only to you, but even to me, who am much nearer to it. Disagreeable things, like disagreeable men, are never to be spoken of when they are present. Do we think, as we may do in such a morning as this, that the air awakens the leaves around us only to fade and perish? Do we, what is certain, think that every note of music we ever heard, every voice that ever breathed into our bosoms, and played upon its
instrument the heart, only wafted us on a little nearer to the tomb? Let the idea not sadden but compose us. Let us yield to it, just as season yields to season, hour to hour, and with a bright serenity, such as Evening is invested with by the departing Sun.
Epicurus. Such grasses, like such men, may deceive us.
Ternissa. Must I begin? You both nod. Leontion, you are poetical: I can only feel poetry. I can not read it tolerably; and I am sure to forget it if I trust to memory. Beside, there is some
What are the dews falling, Ternissa? Let thing in the melody of this in particular which I them not yet, my lovely one!
Ternissa. You soothe me, but to afflict me after; you teach me, but to grieve.
Epicurus. At what just now?
Ternissa. You are many years in advance of us, and may leave us both behind.
Epicurus. Let not the fault be yours.
Epicurus. The heart, O Leontion! reflects a fuller and a fairer image of us than the eye can. Ternissa. True, true, true!
Leontion. Yes; the heart recomposes the dust within the sepulchre, and evokes it; the eye too, even when it has lost its brightness, loses not the power of reproducing the object it delighted in. It sees amid the shades of night, like the gods.
Epicurus. Sobs, too! Ah, these can only be suppressed by force.
sadly fear will render me inarticulate.
Epicurus. I will relieve you from half your labour, by representing the character of Peleus. Ternissa. Let me down.
Epicurus. The part will never permit it.
Leontion. She will be mute a long while, like the Pythoness, and speak at last.
Ternissa. Mischievous creature! as if you could possibly tell what is passing in my mind. But will not you, Epicurus, let me fall, since it must (I see) be repeated so? Shall I begin? for I am anxious to have it over.
Leontion. Why don't you? we are as anxious as you are.
Ternissa, as Thetis. "O Peleus! O thou whom the Gods conferred on me for all my portion of Leontion. By such! She will sob all day before happiness. . and it was (I thought) too great.." she is corrected.
Epicurus, as Peleus. "Goddess! to me, to thy
Ternissa. Loose me. Leontion makes me blush. Peleus, O how far more than Goddess! why then Leontion. I?
Ternissa. It was you then, false Epicurus! Why are you not discreeter? I wonder at you. If I could find my way home alone, I would go directly. Leontion. Take breath first.
this sudden silence? why these tears? The last we shed were when the Fates divided us, saying the Earth was not thine, and the brother of Zeus, he the ruler of the waters, had called thee. Those that fall between the beloved at parting, are
Ternissa. O how spiteful! Go away, torment- bitter, and ought to be: woe to him who wishes ing girl, you shall not kiss me.
Leontion. Why? did he?
Ternissa. No indeed; as you saw. What a question! Kiss me! for shame; he only held me in his arms a little. Do not make him worse than he is.
Leontion. I wonder he ventured. These little barks are very dangerous. Did you find it an easy matter to keep on your feet, Epicurus?
Epicurus. We may venture, in such parties of pleasure, on waves which the sun shines on; we may venture on affections which, if not quite tranquil, are genial to the soul. Age alone interposes its chain of icy mountains, and the star above their summit soon drops behind. Heroes and demigods have acknowledged it. Recite to me, O Ternissa! in proof of this, the scene of Peleus and Thetis.
Ternissa. You do not believe in goddesses; and I do not believe in age.
Leontion. Who fears neither, can repeat it. Epicurus. Draw, each of you, one of these blades of grass I am holding, and the drawer of the shortest shall repeat it.
Ternissa. O Epicurus! have you been quite fair?
Ternissa. Mine, I see, is the shortest. I drew out from your closed hand the blade which stood above the other.
they were not! but those that flow again at the returning light of the blessed feet, should be refreshing and divine as morn."
Ternissa, as Thetis. "Support me, support me in thy arms, once more, once only. Lower not thy shoulder from my cheek, to gaze at those features that (in times past) so pleased thee. The sky is serene; the heavens frown not on us: do they then prepare for us fresh sorrow? Prepare for us! ah me! the word of Zeus is spoken: our Achilles is discovered: he is borne away in the black hollow ships of Aulis, and would have flown faster than they sail, to Troy."
"Surely there are those among the Gods, or among the Goddesses, who might have forewarned me; and they did not! Were there no omens, no auguries, no dreams, to shake thee from thy security? no priest to prophesy? And what pastures are more beautiful than Larissa's? what victims more stately? Could the soothsayers turn aside their eyes from these?"
Epicurus, as Peleus. " Approach with me and touch the altar, O my beloved! Doth not thy finger now impress the soft embers of incense! how often hath it burned, for him, for thee! And the lowings of the herds are audible for their leaders, from the sources of Apidanus and Enipeus to the sea-beach. They may yet prevail."
Ternissa, as Thetis. "Alas! alas! Priests can
foretell but not avert the future; and all they can give us are vague promises and abiding fears."
Ternissa, as Thetis. "He must perish; and at Troy; and now."
Epicurus, as Peleus. "The now of the Gods is more than life's duration: other Gods and other worlds are formed within it. If indeed he must perish at Troy, his ashes will lie softly on hers. Thus fall our beauteous son! thus rest Achilles !"
Epicurus, as Peleus. "Despond not, my longlost Thetis! Hath not a God led thee back to me? why not hope then he will restore our son? Which of them all hath such a boy offended?" Ternissa, as Thetis. "Uncertainties.. worse than uncertainties. . overthrow and overwhelm me." Epicurus, as Peleus. "There is a comfort in the midst of every uncertainty, saving those which perplex the Gods and confound the godlike, Love's. Be comforted! not by my kisses, but by my words. Achilles may live till our old-age. Ours! Had I forgotten thy divinity? forgotten it in thy beauty? Other mortals think their beloved partake of it then mostly when they are gazing on... of those who never slept! But they feigned their charms; but thy tenderness is more than sound sleep: and joy and kindness left the godlike; and never have I known, never have I hearts of sisters. We loved too well for others to wished to know, whether aught in our inferior love us. nature may resemble it."
Ternissa, as Thetis. "Twice nine years have scarcely yet passed over his head, since 'O the youth of Emathia! O the swift, the goldenhaired Peleus!' were the only words sounded in the halls of Tethys. How many shells were broken for their hoarseness! how many reproofs were heard by the Tritons for interrupting the slumbers
"Why do I remember the day? why do I remind Ternissa, as Thetis. "A mortal so immutable, thee of it? . . . my Achilles dies! it was the day the Powers above are less." that gave me my Achilles ! Dearer he was
Epicurus, as Peleus. "Time without grief to me than the light of heaven, before he ever would not have greatly changed me."
Ternissa, as Thetis. "There is a loveliness which youth may be without, and which the Gods want. To the voice of compassion not a shell in all the occan is attuned; and no tear ever dropped upon Olympus. Thou lookest as fondly as ever, and more pensively. Have time and grief done this? and they alone? my Peleus! Tell me again, have no freshly fond anxieties?...”
Epicurus, as Peleus. "Smile thus! O smile afresh and forget thy sorrows. Ages shall fly over my tomb, while thou art flourishing in imperishable youth, the desire of Gods, the light of the depths of Ocean, the inspirer and sustainer of ever-flowing song."
Ternissa, as Thetis. "I receive thy words, I deposit them in my bosom, and bless them. Gods may desire me: I have loved Peleus. Our union had many obstacles; the envy of mortals, the jealousy of immortals, hostility and persecution from around, from below, and from above. When we were happy they parted us and again they unite us in eternal grief."
Epicurus, as Peleus. "The wish of a Divinity is powerfuller than the elements and swifter than the light. Hence thou (what to me is impossible) mayest see the sweet Achilles every day, every
Ternissa, as Thetis. "How few! alas how few! I see him in the dust, in agony, in death: I see his blood on the flints, his yellow hair flapping in its current, his hand unable to remove it from his eyes. I hear his voice; and it calls not upon me! Mothers are soon forgotten! It is weakness to love the weak! I could not save him! He would have left the caverns of Ocean, and the groves and meadows of Elysium, though resounding with the songs of love and heroism, for a field of battle."
Epicurus, as Peleus. "He may yet live many years. Troy hath been taken once already."
saw it and how much dearer now! when, bursting forth on earth like its first dayspring, all the loveliness of Nature stands back, and grows pale and faint before his. He is what thou wert when I first beheld thee. How can I bear again so great a deprivation?"
Epicurus, as Peleus. "O, thou art fallen! thou art fallen through my embrace, when I thought on him more than on thee. Look up again; look, and forgive me. No: thy forgiveness I deserve not... but did I deserve thy love? Thy solitude, thy abasement, thy parental tears, and thy fall to the earth, are from me! Why does aught of youth linger with me? why not come age and death? The monster of Calydon made (as thou knowest) his first and most violent rush against this arm; no longer fit for war, no longer a defence to the people. And is the day too come when it can no longer sustain my Thetis?"
Ternissa, as Thetis. "Protend it not to the skies! invoke not, name not, any Deity! I fear them all. Nay, lift me not thus above thy head, O Peleus reproaching the Gods with such an awful look; with a look of beauty which they will not pity, with a look of defiance which they may not brook."
Epicurus, as Peleus. "Doth not my hand enclasp that slender foot, at which the waves of Ocean cease to be tumultuous, and the children of Eolus to disturb their peace! O! if in the celestial coolness of thy cheek, now resting on my head, there be not the breath and gift of immortality; O! if Zeus hath any thunder-bolt in reserve for me; let this, my beloved Thetis, be the hour!"
Leontion. You have repeated it admirably; and you well deserve to be seated as you are, on the only bank of violets in this solitary place. Indeed you must want repose. Why do you continue to look sad? It is all over. Ah my silly comfort! That may be the reason.
Ternissa. I shall be very angry with him for the way (if you saw it) in which he made me slip down and I should have been so at the time, if it would not have hurt the representation. Yes, indeed, you may expect it, sir! Epicurus. I shall always say, at any hour but
Ternissa. Talk reasonably; and return to your discourse on age. I wish you had a little more of its prudence and propriety. Epicurus. And what else?
Ternissa. O those are quite enough. Epicurus. There we agree. And now for obedience to your wishes. Peleus, you observe, makes no complaint that age is advancing on him: death itself is not unwelcome: for he had been happier than he could ever hope to be again. They who have long been wretched wish for death: they who have long been fortunate, may with equal reason. But it is wiser in each condition to await it than to desire it.
Ternissa. I love to hear stories of heroic men, in whose bosoms there is left a place for tenderness. Leontion said that even bad writers may amuse our idle hours: alas! even good ones do not much amuse mine, unless they record an action of love or generosity. As for the graver, why can not they come among us and teach us, just as you do?
Epicurus. Would you wish it?
Ternissa. No, no; I do not want them only I was imagining how pleasant it is to converse as we are doing, and how sorry I should be to pore over a book instead of it. Books always make me sigh, and think about other things. Why do you laugh, Leontion?
Epicurus. She was mistaken in saying bad authors may amuse our idleness. Leontion knows not then how sweet and sacred idleness is.
Leontion. To render it sweet and sacred, the heart must have a little garden of its own, with its umbrage and fountains and perennial flowers; a careless company! Sleep is called sacred as well as sweet by Homer: and idleness is but a step from it. The idleness of the wise and virtuous should be both, it being the repose and refreshment necessary for past exertions and for future. It punishes the bad man, it rewards the good: the Deities enjoy it, and Epicurus praises it. I was indeed wrong in my remark: for we should never seek amusement in the foibles of another, never in coarse language, never in low thoughts. When the mind loses its feeling for elegance, it grows corrupt and groveling, and seeks in the crowd what ought to be found at home.
Epicurus. Aspasia believed so, and bequeathed to Leontion, with every other gift that Nature had bestowed upon her, the power of delivering her oracles from diviner lips.
Leontion. Fie! Epicurus! It is well you hide
my face for me with your hand. Now take it away: we can not walk in this manner.
Epicurus. No word could ever fall from you without its weight; no breath from you ought to lose itself in the common air.
Leontion. For shame! What would you have? Ternissa. He knows not what he would have nor what he would say. I must sit down again. I declare I scarcely understand a single syllable. Well, he is very good, to teaze you no longer. Epicurus has an excellent heart; he would give pain to no one; least of all to you.
Leontion. I have pained him by this foolish book, and he would only assure me that he does not for a moment bear me malice. Take the volume: take it, Epicurus! tear it in pieces.
Epicurus. No, Leontion! I shall often look with pleasure on this trophy of brave humanity: let me kiss the hand that raises it!
Ternissa. I am tired of sitting: I am quite stiff: when shall we walk homeward?
Epicurus. Take my arm, Ternissa! Ternissa. O! I had forgotten that I proposed to myself a trip as far up as the pinasters, to look at the precipice of Orithyeia. Come along! come along! how alert does the sea-air make us! I seem to feel growing at my feet and shoulders the wings of Zethes or Calaïs.
Epicurus. Leontion walks the nimblest to-day. Ternissa. To display her activity and strength, she runs before us. Sweet Leontion, how good she is! but she should have stayed for us: it would be in vain to try to overtake her.
No, Epicurus! Mind! take care! you are crushing these little oleanders. . and now the strawberry plants. . the whole heap.. Not I, indeed. What would my mother say, if she knew it! And Leontion! she will certainly look back.
Epicurus. The fairest of the Eudaimones never look back: such are the Hours and Love, Oppor tunity and Leontion.
Ternissa. How could you dare to treat me in this manner? I did not say again I hated any thing.
Epicurus. Forgive me!
Ternissa. Violent creature! Epicurus. If tenderness is violence. Forgive me; and say you love me.
Ternissa. All at once? Could you endure such boldness?
Epicurus. Pronounce it! whisper it! Ternissa. Go, go. Would it be proper? Epicurus. Is that sweet voice asking its heart or me? let the worthier give the answer.
Ternissa. O Epicurus! you are very, very dear to me.. and are the last in the world that would ever tell you were called so.
THE EMPRESS CATHARINE AND PRINCESS DASHKOF.
Catharine. Into his heart! into his heart! If itself, the success of the other in calming it, and
he escapes we perish.
Do you think, Dashkof, they can hear me through the double door? Yes; hark! they
the unenvied triumph of this exquisite ambition, and the calm gazes that it wins upon it.
Catharine. Are these, my sweet friend, your lessons from the stoic school? Are not they
heard me they have done it. What bubbling and gurgling! he groaned but rather the pale-faced reflections of some kind
Listen! his blood is busier now than it ever was before. I should not have thought it could have splashed so loud upon the floor, although our bed indeed is rather of the highest. Put your ear against the lock. Dashkof. I hear nothing.
Catharine. My ears are quicker than yours, and know these notes better. Let me come . . . . Hear nothing! You did not wait long enough, nor with coolness and patience. There!... there again! The drops are now like lead: every half-minute they penetrate the eider-down and the mattress . . How now! which of these fools has brought his dog with him? What tramping and lapping! The creature will carry the marks all about the palace with his feet and muzzle.
Dashkof. O heavens!
Dashkof. There is a horror that surpasses fear, and will have none of it. I knew not this before. Catharine. You turn pale and tremble. You should have supported me, in case I had required it.
Dashkof. I thought only of the tyrant. Neither in life nor in death could any one of these miscreants make me tremble. But the husband slain by his wife: . . I saw not into my heart: I looked not into it: and it chastises me.
Catharine. Dashkof, are you then really unwell?
Dashkof. What will Russia, what will Europe
Catharine. Russia has no more voice than a whale. She may toss about in her turbulence; but my artillery (for now indeed I can safely call it mine) shall stun and quiet her.
Dashkof. God grant.
Catharine. I can not but laugh at thee, my pretty Dashkof! God grant forsooth! He has granted all we wanted from him at present, the safe removal of this odious Peter.
epithalamiast from Livonia or Bessarabia? Come, come away. I am to know nothing at present of the deplorable occurrenee. Did not you wish his death?
Dashkof. It is not his death that shocks me. Catharine. I understand you: beside, you said as much before.
Dashkof. I fear for your renown.
Catharine. And for your own good name, ay Dashkof!
Dashkof. He was not, nor did I ever wish him to be, my friend.
Catharine. You hated him.
Dashkof. Even hatred may be plucked up too roughly.
Catharine. Europe shall be informed of my reasons, if she should ever find out that I countenanced the conspiracy. She shall be persuaded that her repose made the step necessary; that my own life was in danger: that I fell upon my knees to soften the conspirators; that, only when I had fainted, the horrible deed was done. She knows already that Peter was always ordering new exercises and uniforms: and my ministers can evince at the first audience my womanly love of peace.
Dashkof. Europe may be more easily subjugated than duped.
Catharine. She shall be both, God willing. Dashkof. The majesty of thrones will seem endangered by this open violence.
Catharine. The majesty of thrones is never in jeopardy by those who sit upon them. A sovran may cover one with blood more safely than a subject can pluck a feather out of the cushion. It is only when the people does the violence that we hear an ill report of it. Kings poison and stab one another in pure legitimacy. Do your republican ideas revolt from such a doctrine?
Dashkof. I do not question this right of theirs, and never will oppose their exercise of it. But if you prove to the people how easy a matter it is Dashkof. Yet Peter loved you and even the to extinguish an emperor, and how pleasantly and worst husband must leave surely the recollection prosperously we may live after it, is it not probaof some sweet moments. The sternest must have ble that they also will now and then try the expetrembled, both with apprehension and with hope, riment; particularly if any one in Russia should at the first alteration in the health of his consort; hereafter hear of glory and honour, and how at the first promise of true union, imperfect with- immortal are these by the consent of mankind, out progeny. Then there are thanks rendered in all countries and ages, in him who releases together to heaven, and satisfactions communi- the world, or any part of it, from a lawless and cated, and infant words interpreted; and when ungovernable despot? The chances of escape are the one has failed to pacify the sharp cries of many, and the greater if he should have no babyhood, pettish and impatient as sovranty accomplices. Of his renown there is no doubt at