to contemplate the forms of the men; while those who were, or who imagined themselves to be, skilled in the business of the arena, were fixing, in their own minds, on such as they thought most likely to be victorious, and laying wagers concerning their chances of success, with as much unconcern as if they had been contemplating so many irrational animals, or rather, indeed, I should say, so many senseless pieces of ingenious mechanism. The wide diversity of complexion and feature exhibited among these devoted athletes, afforded at once a majestic idea of the extent of the Roman empire, and a terrible one of the purposes to which that wide sway had too often been made subservient. The beautiful Greek, with a countenance of noble serenity, and limbs after which the sculptors of his country might have modelled their godlike symbols of graceful power, walked side by side with the yellowbearded savage, whose gigantic muscles had been nerved in the freezing waves of the Elbe or the Danube, or whose thick strong hair was congealed and shagged on his brow, with the breath of Scythian or Scandinavian winters. Many fierce Moors and Arabs, and curled Ethiopians, were there, with the beams of the southern sun burnt in every various shade of swarthiness upon their skins. Nor did our own remote island want her representatives in the deadly procession, for I saw among the armed multitude-and that not altogether without some feelings of more peculiar interest-two or three gaunt barbarians, whose breasts and shoulders bore uncouth marks of blue and purple, so vivid in the tints, that I thought many months could not have elapsed since they must have been wandering in wild freedom along the native ridges of some Silurian or Caledonian forest. As they moved around the arena, some of these men were saluted by the whole multitude with noisy acclamations, in token, I supposed, of the approbation wherewith the feats of some former festival had deserved to be remembered. On the appearance of others, groans and hisses were heard from some parts of the amphitheatre, mixed with contending cheers and huzzas from others of the spectators. But by far the greater part were suffered to pass on in silence this being in all likelihood the first-alas! who could tell whether it might not also be the last day of their sharing in that fearful exhibition !

Their masters paired them shortly, and in succession they began to make proof of their fatal skill. At first, Scythian was matched against Scythian-Greek against Greek-Ethiopian against Ethiopian-Spaniard against Spaniard ; and I saw the sand dyed beneath their feet with blood streaming from the wounds of kindred hands. But these combats, although abundantly bloody and terrible, were regarded only as preludes to the serious business of the day, which consisted of duels between Europeans on the one side, and Africans on the other; wherein it was the wellnigh intransgressible law of the amphitheatre, that at least one out of every pair of combatants should die on the arena before the eyes of the multitude. Instead of shrinking from the more desperate brutalities of these latter conflicts, the almost certainty of their fatal termination, seemed only to make the assembly gaze on them with more intense curiosity, and a more inhuman measure of delight. Methinks I feel as if it were but of yesterday, when,-sickened with the protracted terrors of a con

flict, that seemed as if it were never to have an end, although both the combatants were already covered all over with hideous gashes,-I at last bowed down my head, and clasped my hands upon my eyes to save them from the torture of gazing thereon farther: And I had scarce done so, when Rubellia laid her hand upon my elbow, whispering, "Look, look, now look !" in a voice of low steady impatience. I did look, but not to the arena : No; it was upon the beautiful features of that woman's face that I looked; and truly it seemed to me as if they presented a spectacle almost as fearful as that from which I had just averted mine eyes. I saw those rich lips parted asunder, and those dark eyes extended in their sockets, and those smooth cheeks suffused with a steadfast blush, and that lovely bosom swelled and glowing; and I hated Rubellia as I gazed, for I knew not before how utterly beauty can be brutalized by the throbbings of a cruel heart. But I looked round to escape from the sight of her; and then the hundreds of females that I saw with their eyes fixed, with equal earnestness, on the same spot of horrors, taught me, even at the moment, to think with more charity of that pitiless gaze of one.

At that instant all were silent, in the contemplation of the breathless strife; insomuch, that a groan, the first that had escaped from either of the combatants, although low and reluctant, and half-suppressed, sounded quite distinctly amidst the deep hush of the assembly; and being constrained thereby to turn mine eyes once more downwards, I beheld that, at length, one of the two had received the sword of his adversary quite through his body, and had sunk before him upon the sand. A beautiful young man was he that had received this harm. with fair hair, clustered in glossy ringlets upon his neck and brows; but the sickness of his wound was already visible on his drooping eyelids, and his lips were pale, as if the blood had rushed from them to the untimely outlet. Nevertheless, the Moorish gladiator who had fought with him, had drawn forth again his weapon, and stood there awaiting in silence the decision of the multitude, whether at once to slay the defenceless youth, or to assist in removing him from the arena, if perchance the blood might be stopped from flowing, and some hope of recovery even yet extended to him. Hereupon there arose, on the instant, a loud voice of contention; and it seemed to me as if the wounded man regarded the multitude with a proud, and withal contemptuous glance, being aware, without question, that he had executed all things so as to deserve their compassion, but aware moreover, that even had that been freely vouchsafed to him, it was too late for any hope of safety. But the cruelty of their faces, it may be, and the loudness of their cries, were a sorrow to him, and filled his dying breast with loathing. Whether or not the haughtiness of his countenance had been observed by them with displeasure, I cannot say but so it was, that those who had cried out to give him a chance of recovery, were speedily silent, and the Emperor looking round, and seeing all the thumbs turned downwards, (for that is, you know, the signal of death,) was constrained to give the sign, and forthwith the young man receiving again without a struggle the sword of the Moor into his gashed bosom, breathed forth his life, and lay stretched out in his blood upon the place of guilt.


"Quand l'homme commence a raisonner, il cesse de sentir."

'TWAS in the summer-time so sweet,

When hearts and flowers are both in season,
That who, of all the world should meet,
One early dawn, but Love and Reason!

Love told his dream of yester-night,

While Reason talk'd about the weather; The morn, in sooth, was fair and bright, And on they took their way together.

The boy in many a gambol flew,

While Reason, like a Juno stalk'd, And from her portly figure threw

A lengthened shadow, as she walk'd.

No wonder Love, as on they past,

Should find that sunny morning chill, For still the shadow Reason cast

Fell on the boy, and cool'd him still.

In vain he tried his wings to warm,
Or find a path-way not so dim,
For still the maid's gigantic form

Would pass between the sun and him!

"This must not be," said litle Love

"The sun was made for more than you." So, turning through a myrtle grove,

He bade the portly nymph adieu !

Now gaily roves the laughing boy

O'er many a mead, by many a stream; In every breeze inhaling joy,

And drinking bliss in every beam.

From all the gardens, all the bowers,

He cull'd the many sweets they shaded, And ate the fruits and smelt the flowers, Till taste was gone and odour faded !

[blocks in formation]

From Bergerac's "Satyrical Characters." 1658.

AT the doore of the house, you meet [with a walk with five avenues in figure like a starre ;] the oakes that compose it make one with extasie admire the excessive height of their tops, raising one's eyes from the root to the culmen; then precipitating them down againe. One doubts whether the earth beares them, and whether or no they carry not the earth at their roots; you would think that their proud heads are forced to bend under the weight of the heavenly globes, which burthen they with groaning support; their armes, stretcht toward heaven, embracing it, seeme to beg of the starrs their influence altogether pure, and to receive them before they have at all lost of their innocence in the bed of the elements. There on every side the flowers, having had no other gardener but nature, vent a sharp breath that quickens and satisfies the smell. The sweet innocence of a rose on the eglantine, and the glorious azure of a violet under the sweet briars, leaving us not the liberty of choice, make us judge that they are both one fairer than the other. The spring there composes all the seasons,

there no venomous plant buds, but her birth soon betrayes her safety; there the brooks relate their travells to the peebles; there a thousand feather'd voyces make the forest ring with the sweet musick of their songs; and the sprightfull assembling of these melodious throats is so generall, that every leafe in the wood seemes to have taken the shape and the tongue of a nightingale : sometimes you shall hear 'em merrily tickle a consort, another while thay'le drag, and make their musick languish; by and by thaile passionate an elegie by interrupted sobbs ; and then againe soften the violence of their voyces, more tenderly to excite pitty, and at last raise their harmony: and what with their crotchets and warbling, send forth their lives and their voyces together. Echo is so delighted with it, that she seemes to repeat their aires onely that she may learne them; and the rivulets jealous of their musique, as they fly away, grumble, much troubled, that they cannot equall them. On the side of the castle, two walkes discover themselves, whose continued green frames an emerald too big for the sight; the confused mixture of colours that the Spring fastens to a million of flowers, scatters the changes of one another; and their tincture is so pure, that one may well judge, that they get so close one to another, onely to escape the amorous kisses of the wind that courts them. One would now take this meddow for a very calme sea: but when the least Zephyrus comes to wanton there, 'tis then a proud ocean full of waves, whose face, furrowed with frownes, threatens to swallow up those little fooles but because this sea discovers no shoare, the eye as afrighted to have run so long without finding any coast, quickly dispatches the thought, and the thought being doubtfull too, that that which is the end of his sight, is the end of the world, doth almost perswade himselfe that this place is so full of charmes, that it hath forced the heavens to unite themselves to the earth. In the midst of this so vast and yet so perfect carpet, runnes in with silver bubbles and streams a rustick fountaine, who sees the pillowes of his head, enameled with jessemines, orange trees, and mirtles, and the little flowers that throng round about, would make one believe they dispute who shall view himselfe in the streame first; seeing her face so young and smooth as 'tis, which discovers not the least wrinckle, 'tis easie to judge she is yet in her mother's breast, and those great circles with which she binds and twines her selfe by reverting so often upon her selfe, witnesse that 'tis to her griefe and against her will, that she finds her selfe obliged to go from her native home: but above all things I admire her modesty, when I see her (as ashamed to be courted so neere her mother) murmure and thruste back the bold hand that touches her. The traveller that comes hither to refresh himselfe, hanging his head over the water, wonders 'tis broad day in his horison when he sees the sunne in the antipodes, and never hangs over the bank but hee's afraied to fall into the firmament.


[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »