Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

her alike by the gods and by the laws. Each has an allotted share; to the man fall heat and cold, long journeys and wars; to the woman household duties. The first of all these is the care of children-to which end the gods have implanted in woman's heart an infinite need of loving little creatures. Next comes the care of the household; to point which moral Ischomachus extols the Queen Bee, though a somewhat closer knowledge of natural history would have made him select that far more intelligent housekeeper the mother-wasp. He develops the idea that marriage is a divine institution in view of the children, a social institution in view of the property. Your duty to God is to bring up your children well; your duty to the State is to foster and not waste your substance. Of course the conception of thrift as a national virtue is absolutely correct, but its practical application is foreign to English ways of thought. Frugal living and a strict look-out over expenditure suggest a tinge of meanness to the English soul. Ischomachus saw nothing mean in saving, since it enabled him to give nobly to religion, to help his friends in their need, and to contribute munificently to the embellishment of the city. It would be useless to rehearse all the items of domestic economy which Ischomachus impresses on his docile pupil. She is charged with the care not only of the provisions for the table, but also of the farm produce which is brought to be stored at home or to be employed for spinning and weaving. The counsels of prudence are summed up in the admonition: "to see that we do not spend in a month what ought to last for a year." One piece of advice touches a higher note; "There is another thing"-says Ischomachus "which, perhaps, you will not think very pleasant; it is, that when one of your slaves is ill, you ought to look after him yourself and do all you

can for his recovery." "Ah!" she cries, "there is nothing that I shall like to do more than this; they will love me for it!" An answer with which Ischomachus was justly delighted and which evoked from him the most beautiful little speech that any husband ever made to any wife: "But the sweetest reward will be when, having become more perfect than I, you have made me your servant; when as youth and beauty pass, you will not fear to lose your influence, because in growing old you will become a still better companion to me, a better helper to your children, a more honored mistress of your home."

Ischomachus tells his wife that she should take the trouble to instruct stupid or backward slaves in their tasks; they may then become in time capable and devoted servants, priceless treasures in the house. He goes more fully into the management of slaves when he deals with the farm bailiff. He says that like other animals, men are influenced by rewards and punishments. Noble souls are excited to do their utmost by the desire of praise, ignoble ones by convincing them that virtue pays. The first thing to secure is the good-will of your dependents; without this, very little can be done with them. But they soon become attached to the master and his house if he treats them kindly, and if, whenever a stroke of good fortune befalls himself, he gives some advantage to them. This is, I think, the earliest hint of "sharing profits!" For the rest, Xenophon declares (for certainly it is he who speaks), that he has known good masters with bad servants, but never a bad master with good ones. It is disappointing to remark that, elsewhere, he writes unsympathetically of the "licence" accorded to Athenian slaves, who were never allowed to be struck and who wore no distinctive class dress, so that “anyone might take

them for free citizens." Xenophon preferred the harsh practices in force at Sparta, which is only another proof that it is impossible to guess a man's public policy from his private disposition.

The dominant passion of Xenophon (if we take Ischomachus as his interpreter) was order. He grows lyrical in praise of the beautiful neatness of a man-of-war, and the passage might have been written to-day! This is the model which Ischomachus holds up to his wife for imitation. How admirable is a tidy linen-press or china-closet! Nay, how lovely are symmetrically arranged saucepans! Here the author has a suspicion that somebody will laugh, and perhaps he was laughing himself. A young wife wedded to such a martinet must have undergone various bad quarters of an hour; yet when she is really disturbed at the loss of something that was not in its right place, her mentor made haste to discover that he was himself to blame for it.

The most serious reproof that the wife of Ischomachus ever received was on quite a different score. One morning she appeared with her girlish brow whitened with Lait d'Iris, rouge upon her cheeks and a pair of high-heeled shoes on her feet. She was only following the fashion of the day; Athenian ladies, in spite of the seclusion in which they lived, had a perfect mania for cosmetics and gauds: they painted their necks and faces, darkened their eyebrows and wore a profusion of jewels. Self-adornment was even encouraged by the law which punished any woman who was observed to be carelessly dressed. It has been thought that artificial embellishments became the vogue because real beauty, so common among the men of Athens, was rare among the women. Curiously enough, in modern Athens there are far more handsome men than women,

although the most beautiful girls I ever saw were two sisters moving in Athenian Society; but their family sprang from the isle of Paros.

When Ischomachus saw his wife disguised as above described, instead of telling her that she never looked so well (which was what she expected in her poor little heart), he began to ask the most irritating Socratic questions. How would she like it if he brought her a quantity of pinchbeck silver and imitation jewelry? "Oh! do not say such dreadful things," she exclaims. "Could I love you as I do if you were to act like that?" When she sees the gist of his argument, which he pushes home with relentless logic, she takes the lesson in good part and only asks what she is to do to really become better-looking instead of only seeming so? As an alternative to cosmetics, Ischomachus proposes plenty of exercise, but alas! it is to be all indoors. Running about the house and offices to see that all is right and lending a hand at kneading the bread, hanging out the clothes and making the beds. This is the way to get a good complexion and a good appetite, and the maid-servants are encouraged when they see that their mistress is not above joining in their work. So ubiquitous a mistress would not be exactly popular below stairs in a modern house. Women, says Xenophon, are worth very little who are too fine to do anything but sit all day with crossed hands; which is true; still, it might have occurred even to him, that the routine proposed for the wife was cramped and dull compared with the vigorous outdoor life which he assigns to the husband. Ischomachus gets up early, and if he has no business to transact in the town, his groom brings round his horse and leads it before him to his farm (which, we may suppose, was about three miles out of Athens). He walks the distance on foot for the sake of a "constitution

al." When he gets to the place, he watches the sowing or reaping or whatever rural task is going on and afterwards he mounts his horse and rides away over hedges and ditches and hills and dales-the sort of country one would cover in war-time-never stopping at obstacles, but taking care not to lame the horse if he can help it. On his return, the groom rubs down the horse and then takes it back to the town, carrying with him a basket of whatever farm produce is needed for the kitchen. Ischomachus walks home at a brisk pace and dines, neither too generously nor too meagrely, so that he feels well and active for the rest of the day.

An Italian proverb bids us praise the sea and keep to the land; many poets have praised the country and lived in towns. But Xenophon was not a poet, and he meant what he said when he gave the palm to a country life. He was glad to say good-bye to towns for good and all. Athens could never have been the same to him after the death of Socrates, which was the first news that met him on his return from conducting the retreat of the Ten Thousand. Nor did he like the whole trend of Athenian policy. It is sad to feel that you have grown foreign in your own land. Later he was banished from Athens, but even when the decree of banishment was revoked and he might have gone back, he did not do so. His one desire was to live out his days on the beautiful estate which Sparta had presented to him, where he took up his abode with his wife and two little boys when he was still in the prime of life. It seems that he was once compelled by the tide of war to leave this estate, but there is reason to hope that he regained possession of it and was able to remain there till he died at the age of ninety. It was in this delightful retreat that he wrote nearly all his works: giv. ing thus a practical illustration of one ECLECTIO.

VOL. LXXVIII. 458

merit of country life not noted in his treatise: the leisure it affords for literary pursuits.

Scillas, the spot where Xenophon's property was situated, not only lay in one of the prettiest parts of Greece, but had the great advantage of being within a few miles of Olympia where every five years all the most distinguished Hellenes assembled for the celebration of the Olympian games. On one occasion, amongst the visitors was Xenophon's old friend the Warden of the temple of Artemis at Ephesus, to whom, years before, he had entrusted a certain sum of prize-money on the eve of a campaign; if he died the money was to be offered to the goddess; if he lived it was to be restored to himself. This money the Warden brought with him and with it Xenophon purchased some land, near his own estate, rich in streams, fish and game, which he consecrated to Artemis. He raised an altar and had a statue made just like that at Ephesus, only smaller, and of cypress wood instead of gold. Here, once a year, all the rich and poor men and women of the country round were invited to attend a festival, their wants being supplied "by the goddess": barley-meal bread, neat from the sacrificed animals, wine and sweetmeats forming the bill of fare, supplemented by wild boar, antelope, deer, and all sorts of game, the spoils of a great hunt organized by Xenophon's sons and his sporting neighbors some days in advance. Was there ever a happier fête, where each laid aside his sorrows, his heart-burnings, his little jealousies, his money-making to rejoice in the sweet air gladdened by the sun and in the presence of an unseen Power that hears and guards!

For Xenophon the gods controlled the events of life and had knowledge of the past and future. They could easily be made our friends: they only asked of us offerings of their own gifts, a

grateful heart, and no conscious concealment of the truth when we called upon them to witness our word. This was his religion, and it served him both in bright hours and grey. He was performing a religious sacrifice when the message was brought to him that his son Gryllus had fallen. Xenophon took The Contemporary Review.

the garland from his head, but when the messenger added "nobly" he put it on again saying, "I knew that my son was mortal." Here we see the antique spirit at its best: self-restraint in adversity; preference of noble conduct to happy fortune; recognition that the gods rule wisely. E. Martinengo Cesaresco.

PHILIP JAMES BAILEY.

At the opening of the present year there were still alive amongst us two men who survived as representatives of what poetry was in these islands before the commencement of the Victorian era. Both have left us-Mr. Aubrey de Vere, having reached his eighty-ninth year, passed away on the 20th of January; Mr. Philip James Bailey, in his eighty-seventh, on the 7th of September. So, as we sit quietly and watch, we see history unrolling, since, in the chronicle of our literature, the closure of a great and complicated system of poetic activity is, in a sense, defined by the deaths of these venerable men. Moreover-and this is curious-in each of these survivors we had, living before us, types-not quite of the first order, indeed, but yet vivid types -of the two main divisions of the English poetry of the first half of the nineteenth century. That, namely, which was devoted to a reasonable grace, and that which was uplifted on a mystical enthusiasm. So that a sermon on the verse of that time might well take as its text the opposed and yet related names of De Vere and Bailey.

Nothing so extensive is to be attempted here. But before endeavoring to define the character of the talent of the younger of these veterans, and to note the place of Festus in the history

of letters, we may linger a moment on what resemblance there was between the two aged men, so intensely opposed in their general disposition of mind and their walk in the world. They had in common an exquisite personal dignity, Mr. de Vere moving both in Ireland and in London in the genial companionship of like-minded friends, Mr. Bailey stationary in his cloister or hermitage at Nottingham. They had in common the happy fate which preserved to each in extreme old age all the faculties of the mind, the sweetest cheerfulness, the most ardent hopefulness, an optimism that nothing could assail and that disease itself avoided. Each, above all, to a very remarkable degree, preserved to the last his religious devotion to that art to which his life had been dedicated, each to the very end was full of a passionate love of verse. Song-intoxicated men they were, both of them; retaining their delight in poetry far beyond the common limits of an exhilaration in any mental matter.

When this has been said, it is the difference far more than the resemblance between them which must strike the memory. Of the imaginative opposition which the author of Festus offered to the entire school of which Mr. de Vere was a secondary ornament,

more will be said later. But the physical opposition was immense, between the slightness of figure and flexible ele gance of the Irish poet, with his mundane mobility, and the stateliness of Mr. Bailey. Mr. de Vere never seemed to be an old man, but a young man dried up; Mr. Bailey, of whose appearance my recollections go back at least five-and-twenty years, always during that time looked robustly aged, a sort of prophet or bard, with a cloud of voluminous white hair and curled silver beard. As the years went by, his head seemed merely to grow more handsome, almost absurdly, almost irritatingly so, like a picture of Connal, "first of mortal men," in some illustrated edition of Ossian. The extraordinary suspension of his gaze, his gentle, dazzling aspect of uninterrupted meditation combined with a curious downward arching of the lips, seen through the white rivers of his beard, gave a distinctly vatic impression. He had an attitude of arrested inspiration, as if waiting for the heavenly spark to fall again, as it had descended from 1836 to 1839, and as it seemed never inclined to descend again. But the beauty of Mr. Bailey's presence, which was so marked as to be an element that cannot be overlooked in a survey of what he was, had an imperfection in its very perfectness. It lacked fire. What the faces of Milton and Keats possessed, what we remember in the extraordinary features of Tennyson, this was just missing in Mr. Bailey, who, nevertheless, might have sat to any painter in Christendom as the type of a Poet.

I.

English literature in the reign of William IV. is a subject which has hitherto failed to attract a historian. It forms a small belt or streak of the most colorless, drawn across our va

riegated intellectual chronicle. The romantic movement of the end of the preceding century had gradually faded into emotional apathy by 1830, and the years which England spent under the most undignified and inefficient of her monarchs were few indeed, but highly prosaic. Most of the mental energy of the time went out in a constitutional struggle which was necessary, but was not splendid. A man is hardly at his best when his own street-door has been slammed in his face, and he stands outside stamping his feet and pulling the bell. The decade which preceded the accession of Victoria was, in literature, a period of cold reason: the best that could be said of the popular authors was that they were sensible. A curious complacency marked the age, a self-sufficiency which expressed itself in extraordinary unemotional writing. To appreciate the heavy and verbose deadness of average English prose in the thirties, we must dip into the books then popular. No volume of the essay class was so much in vogue as the Lacon of the Rev. Mr. Colton, a work the aridity of which can only be comprehended by those who at this date have the courage to attack it. Mr. Colton, although he preached the loftiest morality, was a gambling parson, and shot himself, in 1832, in the forest of Fontainebleau. But that did not affect the popularity of his chain of dusty apophthegms.

The starvation of the higher faculties of the mind in the William IV. period was something which we fail to-day to realize. No wonder Carlyle thought, in 1835, that "Providence warns me to have done with literature," and in 1837 saw nothing for it but to "buy a rifle and a spade, and withdraw to the Transatlantic wilderness." In the letters of Tennyson we may easily read what it was that, after the failure of his enchanting volumes of 1830 and 1833, kept him silent in despair for ten

« VorigeDoorgaan »