Page images
PDF
EPUB

window commanded a fine view of the temple of the Olympian Jupiter, and other superb edifices, in the hollow along the banks of the Ilyssus, beyond which rose the lofty summits of mount Hymettus.

“ His conversation was sharp,—I might justly say invidious; for he had looked narrowly into the motives of mankind, and judged with severity and suspicion. His paternal fortune was considerable, and he might have lived in affluence;. but his humour, and the principles of his sect, prevented him from partaking of any luxury.

“ In the cool of the evening I sometimes went to converse with him ; for he was now exceedingly infirm with age, and could no longer take his wonted walk to the top of the Museum-hill, where, in the shadow of the monument of Philopapas, he was in the practice of dis. coursing with his friends and disciples.

“One evening when I happened to call, I found him alone, and pensively seated at the window. The air was serene, and the sun, at that moment on the point of setting, threw the shadow of the Acropolis over the city, and as far as the arch of Adrian ; but the temple of Jupiter, and the mountain beyond, were still glowing with his departing radiance.

“ Demonax did not take any notice of me when I first entered the room, but continued to contemplate the magnificent prospect from his window till the sun sunk beneath the horizon, and the twilight began to invest every object with that sober obscurity, which disposes the mind of the spectator to calm and lowly reflections.

“ I sat down unbidden, and looked at the pale and venerable old man in silence. The fading light and the failing life seemed solemnly in unison; and I was touched with a sentiment of inexpressible sadness. When I had been seated some time, Demonax turned round to me, and said, 'I am glad to see you ;-this is my last evening.'

“ How ! exclaimed I; “ do you then intend to kill yourself?'

". No,' replied he, in his usual testy manner; 'I am not so tired of life ; but the spirit, vexed with its falling house, is anxious to quit. It is four-and-twenty hours since I have tasted any food ; and, were I now to indulge the craving of that voracious monster, the stomach, I should only voluntarily incur pain; and I do not wish to go out of the world making ugly faces at those I leave in it, however much they may deserve it.'

“. But, my friend,' continued the philosopher, assum. ing a sedate and grave manner, ' I wish to ask you a question. You are a person of much experience, and I have been surprised often at the knowledge you seem to have acquired as a traveller --Can you tell me what that vain fellow Adrian meant, by erecting yonder sumptuous heap of stones to that something to which we have given the name of Jupiter ? Piety it was not ; for he as little regarded Jupiter as I do the Bull of Memphis.'

«. It was, no doubt,' said I, “to perpetuate his name, and to become famous with posterity.'

“ I thought so,' replied Demonax, with a sarcastic smile; ' I thought so ;-but, when these marbles are shaken down by time, and converted into mortar by the barbarians that will then inhabit Athens, where will be the renown of Adrian?' .

“ The works of poets and historians will commemorate his glory ; and by them the fame of his liberality and magnificence will be transmitted to future ages. In that way (said I) Adrian will be rewarded.'

“• Rewarded!' exclaimed the old man with contempt; ' poets and historians, I grant you, may speak of them to future ages; but they also are human, and their voices are circumscribed. There is a circle in the theatre of time beyond which they cannot be heard. The fate of Adrian, and all like him, is this :- the present age admires his structures; the next will do so too; in the third, the religion to which they were consecrated will be neglected; other temples will then be frequented; these will fall into decay; the priests will desert them,for the revenues will diminish. The buildings will require repair ; the weather will get in; by and by it will be dangerous to enter beneath the roof ;-a storm will then put his shoulder to the wreck, or an earthquake will kick it down. The stones will lie more ready to the next race of builders than the marble of Pentilicus. Hammers and hands will help the progress. By this time Athens will have dwindled into a village ;-her arts and genius no more ;-poets and pilgrims from far countries will come to visit her. They will come again to revive the magnificence of Adrian by their descriptions. But the language in which they write will, in its turn, grow obsolete ; and other Adrians and their edifices will arise, to engross the admiration of the world, and to share the fate of ours. Nature ever works in a circle. It is morning, noon, and night ;-and then morning comes again. It is Adrian,-renown and neglect ;and then another Adrian. It is birth, life, and death ; and then another takes our place. There is a continual beginning,-continual ending; the same thing over again, and yet still different. But the folly is in thinking, that, by any human effort, the phantom of immortality can be acquired among mankind. It is possible that an individual may spring up with such wonderful talents, as that his name may last on earth five thousand years. But, what are five thousand years, or five millions, or five hundred millions, or any number that computation can reckon, when compared with what has been and is to be ?'

In saying these words, the philosopher appeared worn out, and almost on the point of expiring. I rose hastily to bring him a little water ; but, before I had done so, he somewhat recruited, and told me that he would not belie the principles on which he had so long acted, by accepting of any assistance from another. He then rose, and, tottering towards a pallet of straw covered with a piece of hair-cloth, stretched himself down, and ordered me peevishly to go away. 'I will return in the morning, and see how you are,' said I, in taking leave.--'No, don't,' said he; do not come till the evening, by which time I shall have become a nuisance, and the neighbours will be glad to assist you to put me in a hole.' Next day he was dead.

“ It was evident (observes our author) that Demonax felt very much like other men, notwithstanding his apparent indifference ; for I noticed, on leaving the room, that he followed me with his eye, with a languid and pathetic cast, that expressed more than words could have done; but I could not disturb his last moments by any attempt to violate the principles of his philosophy."

“ But,” resumed Egeria, “ I think the Jew's account of the state of authors and publications in the third century is still better than this."

AUTHORS. “ The suppers of Toxotius are the most delightful repasts in Rome. Every man of celebrity is welcome to them; and the accomplishments of the host, though neither superior nor interesting, qualify him so well to conduct conversation agreeably, that all his guests are afforded an opportunity of appearing to advantage, by speaking on the subjects with which they are best acquainted. In other houses, men of greater talent are occasionally met with than the generality of those who frequent the table of this amiable man; but they are there either on business, or to gratify the vanity of the feast-giver.

Last night we were gratified by the publication of

w before

a new book-a short account of the Life of Maximinus, by a young man who evinced considerable ability. Toxotius gave a special banquet on the occasion, and invited a numerous assemblage of his friends; for he was desirous to obtain their patronage for the author. The best public reader in Rome was engaged, for the author himself was too diffident to do justice in that way to his work before so large a company; and, in order that nothing might be wanting to give due eclat to the publication, the manuscript had been carefully perused by the reader some time before.

“ The history was written with commendable brevity, and no one disputed the correctness of the facts, or the views which the author took of the principal incidents; but he dwelt too strongly on the transactions of Maximinus after he became emperor ; and it was generally thought that he adopted too much of the vulgar opinion respecting his strength, appetites, and ferocity.

“ The reader acquitted himself so well, that he was much applauded at the conclusion; and the friends of Toxotius expressed themselves so pleased with the book, that the author was requested to furnish them with copies ; and, that he might be able to employ the most elegant penmen, they presented him with a very liberal contribution of money.

“ During the time of the reading, the author watched the faces of the company with great anxiety, and was often apparently much distressed, by the curious and inquisitive looks which were from time to time cast towards him, when his expressions were not exactly according to the rules of approved taste, or his statements not in unison with the common opinion. It was, however, of great use to him to undergo this trial, painful as it no doubt was; for it enabled him to see where he failed in producing due effect, and to correct his text and narrative before committing the work to the penman.”

« PreviousContinue »