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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPausanias, The Spartan: An Unfinished Historical Romance - Book 3 - Chapter 1
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Pausanias, The Spartan: An Unfinished Historical Romance - Book 3 - Chapter 1 Post by :cashgalore Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :1581

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Pausanias, The Spartan: An Unfinished Historical Romance - Book 3 - Chapter 1


The fountain sparkled to the noonday, the sward around it was sheltered from the sun by vines formed into shadowy arcades, with interlaced leaves for roof. Afar through the vistas thus formed gleamed the blue of a sleeping sea.

Under the hills, or close by the margin of the fountain, Cleonice was seated upon a grassy knoll, covered with wild flowers. Behind her, at a little distance, grouped her handmaids, engaged in their womanly work, and occasionally conversing in whispers. At her feet reposed the grand form of Pausanias. Alcman stood not far behind him, his hand, resting on his lyre, his gaze fixed upon the upward jet of the fountain.

"Behold," said Cleonice, "how the water soars up to the level of its source!"

"As my soul would soar to thy love," said the Spartan, amorously.

"As thy soul should soar to the stars. O son of Hercules, when I hear thee burst into thy wild nights of ambition, I see not thy way to the stars."

"Why dost thou ever thus chide the ambition which may give me thee?"

"No, for thou mightest then be as much below me as thou art now above. Too humble to mate with the Heracleid, I am too proud to stoop to the Tributary of the Mede."

"Tributary for a sprinkling of water and a handful of earth. Well, my pride may revolt, too, from that tribute. But, alas! what is the tribute Sparta exacts from me now?--personal liberty--freedom of soul itself. The Mede's Tributary may be a king over millions; the Spartan Regent is a slave to the few."

"Cease--cease--cease. I will not hear thee," cried Cleonice, placing her hands on her ears.

Pausanias gently drew them away; and holding them both captive in the large clasp of his own right hand, gazed eagerly into her pure, unshrinking eyes.

"Tell me," he said, "for in much thou art wiser than I am, unjust though thou art. Tell me this. Look onward to the future with a gaze as steadfast as now meets mine, and say if thou canst discover any path, except that which it pleases thee to condemn, which may lead thee and me to the marriage altar!"

Down sank those candid eyes, and the virgin's cheek grew first rosy red, and then pale, as if every drop of blood had receded to the heart.

"Speak!" insisted Pausanias, softening his haughty voice to its meekest tone.

"I cannot see the path to the altar," murmured Cleonice, and the tears rolled down her cheeks.

"And if thou seest it not," returned Pausanias, "art thou brave enough to say--Be we lost to each other for life? I, though man and Spartan, am not brave enough to say that!"

He released her hands as he spoke, and clasped his own over his face. Both were long silent.

Alcman had for some moments watched the lovers with deep interest, and had caught into his listening ears the purport of their words. He now raised his lyre, and swept his hand over the chords. The touch was that of a master, and the musical sounds produced their effect on all. The handmaids paused from their work. Cleonice turned her eyes wistfully towards the Mothon. Pausanias drew his hands from his face, and cried joyously, "I accept the omen. Foster-brother, I have heard that measure to a Hymeneal Song. Sing us the words that go with the melody."

"Nay," said Alcman, gently, "the words are not those which are sung before youth and maiden when they walk over perishing flowers to bridal altars. They are the words which embody a legend of the land in which the heroes of old dwell, removed from earth, yet preserved from Hades."

"Ah," said Cleonice--and a strange expression, calmly mournful, settled on her features--"then the words may haply utter my own thoughts. Sing them to us, I pray thee."

The Mothon bowed his head, and thus began:--


Many wonders on the ocean
By the moonlight may be seen;
Under moonlight on the Euxine
Rose the blessed silver isle,

As Leostratus of Croton,
At the Pythian God's behest,
Steer'd along the troubled waters
To the tranquil spirit-land.

In the earthquake of the battle,
When the Locrians reel'd before
Croton's shock of marching iron,
Strode a Phantom to their van:

Strode the shade of Locrian Ajax,
Guarding still the native soil,
And Leostratus, confronting,
Wounded fell before the spear.

Leech and herb the wound could heal not
Said the Pythian God, "Depart,
Voyage o'er the troubled Euxine
To the tranquil spirit-land.

"There abides the Locrian Ajax,
He who gave the wound shall heal;
Godlike souls are in their mercy
Stronger yet than in their wrath."

While at ease on lulled waters
Rose the blessed silver isle,
Purple vines in lengthening vistas
Knit the hill-top to the beach.

And the beach had sparry caverns,
And a floor of golden sands,
And wherever soared the cypress,
Underneath it bloomed the rose.

Glimmered there amid the vine trees,
Thoro' cavern, over beach,
Lifelike shadows of a beauty
Which the living know no more,

Towering statures of great heroes,
They who fought at Thebes and Troy;
And with looks that poets dream of
Beam'd the women heroes loved.

Kingly, forth before their comrades,
As the vessel touch'd the shore,
Came the stateliest Two, by Hymen
Ever hallowed into One.

As He strode, the forests trembled
To the awe that crowned his brow:
As She stepp'd, the ocean dimpled
To the ray that left her smile.

"Welcome hither, fearless warrior!"
Said a voice in which there slept
Thunder-sounds to scatter armies,
As a north-wind scatters leaves.

"Welcome hither, wounded sufferer,"
Said a voice of music low
As the coo of doves that nestle
Under summer boughs at noon.

"Who are ye, O shapes of glory?"
Ask'd the wondering living man:
Quoth the Man-ghost, "This is Helen,
And the Fair is for the Brave.

"Fairest prize to bravest victor;
Whom doth Greece her bravest deem?"
Said Leostratus, "Achilles:"
"Bride and bridegroom then are we."

"Low I kneel to thee, Pelides,
But, O marvel, she thy bride,
She whose guilt unpeopled Hellas,
She whose marriage lights fired Troy?"

Frown'd the large front of Achilles,
Overshadowing sea and sky,
Even as when between Olympus
And Oceanus hangs storm.

"Know, thou dullard," said Pelides,
"That on the funereal pyre
Earthly sins are purged from glory,
And the Soul is as the Name."

If to her in life--a Paris,
If to me in life--a slave,
Helen's mate is _here Achilles,
Mine--the sister of the stars.

Nought of her survives but beauty,
Nought of me survives but fame;
Here the Beautiful and Famous
Intermingle evermore."

Then throughout the Blessed Island
Sang aloud the Race of Light,
"Know, the Beautiful and Famous
Marry here for evermore!"

"Thy song bears a meaning deeper than its words," said Pausanias; "but if that meaning be consolation, I comprehend it not."

"I do," said Cleonice. "Singer, I pray thee draw near. Let us talk of what my lost mother said was the favourite theme of the grander sages of Miletus. Let us talk of what lies afar and undiscovered amid waters more troubled than the Euxine. Let us speak of the Land of Souls."

"Who ever returned from that land to tell us of it?" said Pausanias. "Voyagers that never voyaged thither save in song."

"Son of Cleombrotus," said Alcman, "hast thou not heard that in one of the cities founded by thine ancestor, Hercules, and named after his own name, there yet dwells a Priesthood that can summon to living eyes the Phantoms of the Dead?"

"No," answered Pausanias, with the credulous wonder common to eager natures which Philosophy has not withdrawn from the realm of superstition.

"But," asked Cleonice, "does it need the Necromancer to convince us that the soul does not perish when the breath leaves the lips? If I judge the burthen of thy song aright, thou art not, O singer, uninitiated in the divine and consoling doctrines which, emanating, it is said, from the schools of Miletus, establish the immortality of the soul, not for Demigods and Heroes only, but for us all; which imply the soul's purification from earthly sins, in some regions less chilling and stationary than the sunless and melancholy Hades."

Alcman looked at the girl surprised.

"Art thou not, maiden," said he, "one of the many female disciples whom the successors of Pythagoras the Samian have enrolled?"

"Nay," said Cleonice, modestly; "but my mother had listened to great teachers of wisdom, and I speak imperfectly the thoughts I have heard her utter when she told me she had no terror of the grave."

"Fair Byzantine," returned the Mothon, while Pausanias, leaning his upraised face on his hand, listened mutely to themes new to his mind and foreign to his Spartan culture. "Fair Byzantine, we in Lacedaemon, whether free or enslaved, are not educated to the subtle learning which distinguishes the intellect of Ionian Sages. But I, born and licensed to be a poet, converse eagerly with all who swell the stores which enrich the treasure-house of song. And thus, since we have left the land of Sparta, and more especially in yon city, the centre of many tribes and of many minds, I have picked up, as it were, desultory and scattered notions, which, for want of a fitting teacher, I bind and arrange for myself as well as I may. And since the ideas that now float through the atmosphere of Hellas are not confined to the great, nay, perhaps are less visible to them, than to those whose eyes are not riveted on the absorbing substances of ambition and power, so I have learned something, I know not how, save that I have listened and reflected. And here, where I have heard what sages conjecture of a world which seems so far off, but to which we are so near that we may reach it in a moment, my interest might indeed be intense. For what is this world to him who came into it a slave!"

"Alcman," exclaimed Pausanias, "the foster-brother of the Heracleid is no more a slave."

The Mothon bowed his head gratefully, but the expression on his face retained the same calm and sombre resignation.

"Alas," said Cleonice, with the delicacy of female consolation, "who in this life is really free? Have citizens no thraldom in custom and law? Are we not all slaves?"

"True. All slaves!" murmured the royal victor. "Envy none, O Alcman. Yet," he continued gloomily, "what is the life beyond the grave which sacred tradition and ancient song holds out to us? Not thy silver island, vain singer, unless it be only for an early race more immediately akin to the Gods. Shadows in the shade are the dead; at the best reviving only their habits when on earth, in phantom-like delusions; aiming spectral darts like Orion at spectral lions; things bloodless and pulseless; existences followed to no purpose through eternity, as dreams are through a night. Who cares so to live again? Not I."

"The sages that now rise around, and speak oracles different from those heard at Delphi," said Alcman, "treat not thus the Soul's immortality. They begin by inquiring how creation rose; they seek to find the primitive element; what that may be they dispute; some say the fiery, some the airy, some the ethereal element. Their language here is obscure. But it is a something which forms, harmonizes, works, and lives on for ever. And of that something is the Soul; creative, harmonious, active, an element in itself. Out of its development here, that soul comes on to a new development elsewhere. If here the beginning lead to that new development in what we call virtue, it moves to light and joy:--if it can only roll on through the grooves it has here made for itself, in what we call vice and crime, its path is darkness and wretchedness."

"In what we call virtue--what we call vice and crime? Ah," said Pausanias, with a stern sneer, "Spartan virtue, O Alcman, is what a Helot may call crime. And if ever the Helot rose and shouted freedom, would he not say, This is virtue? Would the Spartan call it virtue, too, my foster-brother?"

"Son of Cleombrotus," answered Alcman, "it is not for me to vindicate the acts of the master; nor to blame the slave who is of my race. Yet the sage definers of virtue distinguish between the Conscience of a Polity and that of the Individual Man. Self-preservation is the instinct of every community, and all the ordinances ascribed to Lycurgus are designed to preserve the Spartan existence. For what are the pure Spartan race? a handful of men established as lords in the midst of a hostile population. Close by the eyrie thine eagle fathers built in the rocks, hung the silent Amyclae, a city of foes that cost the Spartans many generations to subdue. Hence thy State was a camp, its citizens sentinels; its children were brought up from the cradle to support the stern life to which necessity devoted the men. Hardship and privation were second nature. Not enough to be brave; vigilance was equally essential. Every Spartan life was precious; therefore came the cunning which characterises the Spartan; therefore the boy is permitted to steal, but punished if detected; therefore the whole Commonwealth strives to keep aloof from the wars of Greece unless itself be threatened. A single battle in a common cause might suffice to depopulate the Spartan race, and leave it at the mercy of the thousands that so reluctantly own its dominion, Hence the ruthless determination to crush the spirit, to degrade the class of the enslaved Helots; hence its dread lest the slumbering brute force of the Servile find in its own masses a head to teach the consciousness, and a hand to guide the movements, of its power. These are the necessities of the Polity, its vices are the outgrowth of its necessities; and the life that so galls thee, and which has sometimes rendered mad those who return to it from having known another, and the danger that evermore surrounds the lords of a sullen multitude, are the punishments of these vices. Comprehendest thou?"

"I comprehend."

"But individuals have a conscience apart from that of the Community. Every community has its errors in its laws. No human laws, how skilfully soever framed, but give to a national character defects as well as merits, merits as well as defects. Craft, selfishness, cruelty to the subdued, inhospitable frigidity to neighbours, make the defects of the Spartan character. But," added Alcman, with a kind of reluctant anguish in his voice, "the character has its grand virtues, too, or would the Helots not be the masters? Valour indomitable; grand scorn of death; passionate ardour for the State which is so severe a mother to them; antique faith in the sacred altars; sublime devotion to what is held to be duty. Are these not found in the Spartan beyond all the Greeks, as thou seest them in thy friend Lysander; in that soul, stately, pure, compact in its own firm substance as a statue within a temple is in its Parian stone? But what the Gods ask from man is virtue in himself, according as he comprehends it. And, therefore, here all societies are equal; for the Gods pardon in the man the faults he shares with his Community, and ask from him but the good and the beautiful, such as the nature of his Community will permit him to conceive and to accomplish. Thou knowest that there are many kinds of music--for instance, the Doric, the Aeolian, the Ionian--in Hellas. The Lydians have their music, the Phrygians theirs too. The Scyth and the Mede doubtless have their own. Each race prefers the music it cultivates, and finds fault with the music of other races. And yet a man who has learned melody and measure, will recognize a music in them all. So it is with virtue, the music of the human soul. It differs in differing races. But he who has learned to know what virtue is can recognize its harmonies, wherever they be heard. And thus the soul that fulfils its own notions of music, and carries them up to its idea of excellence, is the master soul; and in the regions to which it goes, when the breath leaves the lips, it pursues the same are set free from the trammels that confined, and the false judgments that marred it here. For then the soul is no longer Spartan, or Ionian, Lydian, Median, or Scythian. Escaped into the upper air, it is the citizen of universal freedom and universal light. And hence it does not live as a ghost in gloomy shades, being merely a pale memory of things that have passed away; but in its primitive being as an emanation from the one divine principle which penetrates everywhere, vivifies all things, and enjoys in all. This is what I weave together from the doctrines of varying schools; schools that collect from the fields of thought flowers of different kinds which conceal, by adorning it, the ligament that unites them all: this, I say, O Pausanias, is my conception of the soul."

Cleonice rose softly, and taking from her bosom a rose, kissed it fervently, and laid it at the feet of the singer.

"Were this my soul," cried she, "I would ask thee to bind it in the wreath."

Vague and troubled thoughts passed meanwhile through the mind of the Heracleid; old ideas being disturbed and dislodged, the new ones did not find easy settlement in a brain occupied with ambitious schemes and a heart agitated by stormy passions. In much superstitious, in much sceptical, as education had made him the one, and experience but of worldly things was calculated to make him the other, he followed not the wing of the philosophy which passed through heights not occupied by Olympus, and dived into depths where no Tartarus echoed to the wail of Cocytus.

After a pause he said in his perplexity,

"Well mayst thou own that no Delphian oracle tells thee all this. And when thou speakest of the Divine Principle as One, dost thou not, O presumptuous man, depopulate the Halls of Ida? Nay, is it not Zeus himself whom thou dethronest; is not thy Divine Principle the Fate which Zeus himself must obey?"

"There is a young man of Clazomenae," answered the singer, "named Anaxagoras, who avoiding all active life, though of birth the noblest, gives himself up to contemplation, and whom I have listened to in the city as he passed through it, on his way into Egypt. And I heard him say, 'Fate is an empty name.'(28) Fate is blind, the Divine is All-seeing."

"How!" cried Cleonice. "An empty name--she! Necessity the All-compelling."

The musician drew from the harp one of the most artful of Sappho's exquisite melodies.

"What drew forth that music?" he asked, smiling. "My hand and my will from a genius not present, not visible. Was that genius a blind fate? no, it was a grand intelligence. Nature is to the Deity what my hand and will are to the unseen genius of the musician. They obey an intelligence and they form a music. If creation proceed from an intelligence, what we call fate is but the consequence of its laws. And Nature operates not in the external world alone, but in the core of all life; therefore in the mind of man obeying only what some supreme intelligence has placed there: therefore in man's mind producing music or discord, according as he has learned the principles of harmony, that is, of good. And there be sages who declare that Intelligence and Love are the same. Yet," added the Mothon, with an aspect solemnly compassionate, "not the love thou mockest by the name of Aphrodite. No mortal eye hath ever seen that love within the known sphere, yet all insensibly feel its reign. What keeps the world together but affection? What makes the earth bring forth its fruits, but the kindness which beams in the sunlight and descends in the dews? What makes the lioness watch over her cubs, and the bird, with all air for its wanderings, come back to the fledglings in its nest? Strike love, the conjoiner, from creation, and creation returns to a void. Destroy love the parental, and life is born but to perish. Where stop the influence of love or how limit its multiform degrees? Love guards the fatherland; crowns with turrets the walls of the freeman. What but love binds the citizens of States together, and frames and heeds the laws that submit individual liberty to the rule of the common good? Love creates, love cements, love enters and harmonises all things. And as like attracts like, so love attracts in the hereafter the loving souls that conceived it here. From the region where it summons them, its opposites are excluded. There ceases war; there ceases pain. There indeed intermingle the beautiful and glorious, but beauty purified from earthly sin, the glorious resting from earthly toil. Ask ye how to know on earth where love is really presiding? Not in Paphos, not in Amathus. Wherever thou seest beauty and good; wherever thou seest life, and that life pervaded with faculties of joy, there thou seest love; there thou shouldst recognize the Divinity."

"And where I see misery and hate," said the Spartan, "what should I recognize there?"

"Master," returned the singer, "can the good come without a struggle? Is the beautiful accomplished without strife? Recall the tales of primeval chaos, when, as sang the Ascraean singer, love first darted into the midst; imagine the heave and throe of joining elements; conjure up the first living shapes, born of the fluctuating slime and vapour. Surely they were things incomplete, deformed ghastly fragments of being, as are the dreams of a maniac. Had creative Love stopped there, and then, standing on the height of some fair completed world, had viewed the warring portents, wouldst thou not have said--But these are the works of Evil and Hate? Love did not stop there, it worked on; and out of the chaos once ensouled, this glorious world swung itself into ether, the completed sister of the stars. Again, O my listeners, contemplate the sculptor, when the block from the granite shaft first stands rude and shapeless before him. See him in his earlier strife with the obstinate matter--how uncouth the first outline of limb and feature; unlovelier often in the rugged commencements of shape, than when the dumb mass stood shapeless. If the sculptor had stopped there, the thing might serve as an image for the savage of an abominable creed, engaged in the sacrifice of human flesh. But he pauses not, he works on. Stroke by stroke comes from the stone a shape of more beauty than man himself is endowed with, and in a human temple stands a celestial image.

"Thus is it with the soul in the mundane sphere; it works its way on through the adverse matter. We see its work half completed; we cry, Lo, this is misery, this is hate--because the chaos is not yet a perfected world, and the stone block is not yet a statue of Apollo. But for that reason must we pause?--no, we must work on, till the victory brings the repose.

"All things come into order from the war of contraries--the elements fight and wrestle to produce the wild flower at our feet; from a wild flower man hath striven and toiled to perfect the marvellous rose of the hundred leaves. Hate is necessary for the energies of love, evil for the activity of good; until, I say, the victory is won, until Hate and Evil are subdued, as the sculptor subdues the stone; and then rises the divine image serene for ever, and rests on its pedestal in the Uranian Temple. Lift thine eyes; that temple is yonder. O Pausanias, the sculptor's work-room is the earth."

Alcman paused, and sweeping his hand once more over his lyre, chanted as follows:

"Dewdrop that weepest on the sharp-barbèd thorn,
Why didst thou fall from Day's golden chalices?
'My tears bathe the thorn,' said the Dewdrop,
'To nourish the bloom of the rose.'

"Soul of the Infant, why to calamity
Comest thou wailing from the calm spirit-source?
'Ask of the Dew,' said the Infant,
'Why it descends on the thorn!'

"Dewdrop from storm, and soul from calamity
Vanish soon--whither? let the Dew answer thee;
'Have not my tears been my glory?
Tears drew me up to the sun.'

"What were thine uses, that thou art glorified?
What did thy tears give, profiting earth or sky?
'There, to the thorn-stem a blossom,
Here, to the Iris a tint.'"

Alcman had modulated the tones of his voice into a sweetness so plaintive and touching, that, when he paused, the hand-maidens had involuntarily risen and gathered round, hushed and noiseless. Cleonice had lowered her veil over her face and bosom; but the heaving of its tissue betrayed her half-suppressed, gentle sob; and the proud mournfulness on the Spartan's swarthy countenance had given way to a soft composure, melancholy still--but melancholy as a lulled, though dark water, over which starlight steals through disparted cloud.

Cleonice was the first to break the spell which bound them all.

"I would go within," she murmured faintly.

"The sun, now slanting, strikes through the vine-leaves, and blinds me with its glare."

Pausanias approached timidly, and taking her by the hand, drew her aside, along one of the grassy alleys that stretched onwards to the sea.

The handmaidens tarried behind to cluster nearer round the singer. They forgot he was a slave.


(28) Anaxagoras was then between 20 and 30 years of age.--See Ritter, vol. ii., for the sentiment here ascribed to him, and a general view of his tenets.

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