Page images
PDF
EPUB

ber to have heard, that even Simonides | advantages, he had got me for his own wrote a song upon me, for love's sake only ; / property. And as the others knew nothough my father did not fail to reward | thing of me but through his report, he had him handsomely for every verse.”

misled them with a false account of my “My father was in dread lest my beauty person, representing that as by no means should bring some mischief upon him during the prodigy he had at first conceived it. the voyage, and bade me keep a veil | “This last confession nettled me not a over my face ; but one day when there | little, and through all my sorrows I perwas a great calm, (we were just then onceived an uneasiness of a very different the Rhodian shore,) I laid aside my veil kind. For the first time in my life, my for the sake of coolness, and commanded personal advantages had been underrated. the female slave who attended me, to draw This leaven worked so powerfully, I rethe curtain that concealed us from the solved at last to right myself by a public rowers. They lay asleep on the benches-- disclosure ; and one morning as we were all but one, a young Athenian, who ob- coming by the western mouth of the Nile, served the movement of the curtain, and where the Greeks are accustomed to enter fixed his eyes upon my face. I resumed | Egypt, I let my veil drop as if by accimy veil, not without some apprehensions of dent, while standing upon the stern in the consequences of this imprudence, which sight of my husband's companions. I were justified by the event; for, on the perceived that they were astonished at second day after, the crew rose upon my my beauty, and that very night my husfather and thrust him into the sea. The band was killed and thrown overboard. young Athenian, after this feat, came My horror and remorse may be conceived somewhat rudely into my recess, and in- when I discovered the consequences of my formed me that he was master of the gal- weakness; but there was nothing left me ley, that my father had fallen overboard but to bear it in silence. I was sold soon in the night, but that I need not suffer after to a rich Egyptian, who took me to any apprehension on that account, as he his house, and finding my person agreemeant to be my protector. Imagine my able, gave me every advantage and comgrief and consternation. I threw myself fort that could be desired. The houses of at his feet, and begged he would not injure | Egypt resemble those of Athens, but are my bonor, or sell me into slavery, but far more elegant and convenient. Indeed, would rather make me his wife, for that the manners of the Egyptians surpass ours now I should have no other protector. in most particulars, and I must regard The young man's soul was filled with com them as a people far in advance of us in passion. He raised me from the ground, everything appertaining to luxury. We and with a tender embrace swore that he are their superiors in war, and might be would be my friend and husband, and that their governors, did we but know it; and he would die in my defence. I accordingly for the arts, nothing can be worse than became his wife, and suffered no incon- their taste in these; but they know better venience but sorrow for the death of my than any other people the way to enjoy father, which afflicted me dreadfully for a and make life comfortable. long time.

“I soon became familiar with the lan“I soon began to have confidence in my guage and manners of my master, and my husband, and even loved him a little. He proficiency was such he made a point of very soon explained that he had designed, conversing with me himself, displaying a with others of the crew, of whom three or vast deal of learning, and singular notions four were free Athenians, and the rest in regard to religion ; for I soon found slaves, to sell me for a slave in Egypt, ex- that his opinions of the gods were not like pecting a great price by reason of my those of my father, but much more mystibeauty ; that in consideration of his ser- cal and refined. Manes (for that was my vice as inventor and chief executor of the master's name) had been a priest of Amplot, the ship, with its slaves and cargo, mon, in the desert, and had there learned was to be his; but that he presently ef- the greater mysteries. The Pharao refected an exchange, and partly by threats, spected his learning and abilities so much and partly by promises of I know not what | as to grant him a pension with an office of trust about the court ; but because he too | in study and the rites of the Sun. My much favored the Greeks, the council de- husband instructed me in all the mysteries, nied him a judgeship, for which he had I read secretly the books of thrice great solicited, as it would have given him too Hermes, which treat of polity, medicine, frequent opportunities (of showing Lis re- and indeed of all that appertains to this gard for our nation. Nevertheless my life; I composed poems in the sacred good master was a man of virtue above the character, and soon had the reputation of Egyptian standard, and was faithful not the most learned, as well as of the handonly to his religion, but to the moral inti somest woman in Egypt. My evening mations of his own breast.

parties, suppers and festivals, were attend“After two years' residence with him, ed by all the nobility and their wives. when I had perfectly acquired the lan- | Young nobles drove in their chariots every guage, and might, but for my beauty, have morning to my doors. Ambitious mothers passed for an Egyptain, he procured me sent their daughters to hear my conversaat vast cost an initiation as priestess. The tions, and great wits were not ashamed to wife of a priest in Egypt, is priestess her- learn my verses, and repeat my good self, by virtue of her family and marriage; sayings. but if an Egyptian takes a woman of “Let me describe to you one of my Greece to be his wife, he must procure parties, that you may know how much her this privilege by enormous bribes, better the women fare in Egypt, than with because of a law which forbids any but a you Greeks. Wishing to make a young man or woman of the pure land to be enthusiast, the daughter of a priest, acinitiated. But in Egypt money will do quainted with the wonderful Pythagoras, everything.

I sent him an invitation by a slave, on a "At this time Pythagoras was in Egypt, scroll of gilt papyrus. At evening he and had become a priest through favor came in a little bronze chariot, drawn by a of my husband and others of the Greek spirited horse which he drove with his faction, who meant to break down the old own hand. Alighting at the door of the prejudices. Seeing the military spirit of court, he gave the reins to a servant, and their nation extinct, and the Pharaos de- | passing through the court under a canopy pendant on foreigners for the defence of of cloth, spangled to represent the heavens, his territory, they wished to mingle the under a shower of perfumes, he advanced two nations, declaring that as they were to the great staircase, which is opposite of Egyptian origin, the Greeks should be the street door. Here my husband met admitted of the military order, and treat- him, clad in a dress of the purest linen of ed as the brothers of the Egyptians. But Egypt, and they two came together into these projects and opinions came all to the chamber where my friends were nought.

assembled. “Pythagoras came often to our house “Need I describe the formal grace, the in Heliopolis to converse with my husband. | learned courtesy of the reception, when I remember well his tall, spare figure, and my husband, with a serene gravity, condelicate complexion. His appearance and ducted his famous guest to a chair not expression were unlike anything I have inferior to Pharao's, and placing himself ever seen, for they combined the expres-on his right hand, commanded me to sit sion of an enthusiast with the manners of upon the left? Then how the women and an aristocrat.

young nobles, who had risen at his entrance, “ We lived splendidly at Heliopolis. came forward singly and were introduced, My husband's palace adjoined the great the women by myself, and the men by my temple, where the worship of Ammon and husband ; and how gracefully and soberly of the Sun is daily solemnized. From the Pythagoras received them, rising and windows of the balcony and from the roof, doing courtesy to each with a polite incliwe overlooked the great avenue leading to nation of the head?the temple, along which processions moved “I beseech you, fair Diotima," said on each one of the many feast days of the Cymon, interrupting her, “relate to us Egyptians. One half the time we spent in all the particulars of this reception, and banqueting and celebrations, the remainder the conversation of Pythagoras with your

• young friend, if happily she accomplished | tion of yours might continue to entertain a her desire of hearing him converse. For company of young people, though you I have a suspicion of something extraor went on with it until morning. But I am dinary in such a dialogue, though it prodigiously stupid at the hearing of all happened on so courtly an occasion.” kinds of histories, unless some demon

* Please, good friend,” said Lysis, turns them all into jests for me. But this “ Diotima shall tell us what she pleases. story of yours is far too dull for jesting, Thou art very impertinent to make such a and I therefore weary of it. Pray, say request."

nothing more about these garlands and “ He thinks there is some love matter in courtesies—let us have a little of the talk

[ocr errors]

a kind of lustre in his eyes."

rare ass of himself.” “It is the wine, good Meton," observed “Hear the fellow !” exclaimed Cymon. the young man, blushing. “And now, “But if you are to suffer by him, good dear Diotima, I will not again interrupt Diotima, I am content to suffer with you.

Nevertheless, I long to hear something of “ The room of reception," said the this conversation. Pray, what was the prophetess, continuing her story, “was of topic of it ?” vast size, supported by rows of columns of As Cymon said this, he took up a vase white marble, stained with emblematic of wine very suddenly, and put it to his figures. The floor was covered with a face to hide his confusion, for he was territhick cloth of wool, worked in figures of bly in love with a fair niece of Diotima's who sphinxes and water lilies, in blue and gold. was in the house, and whom he hoped to The roof had many openings, between the catch a sight of that night. Nothing beams of gilt cedar, which rested on the would serve him but to talk of love, for he columns; through which came a light sub-watched an opportunity to let Diotima into dued by passing through colored slabs of his secret, and at the same time to discover transparent stone. The columns were gar- the generosity of his sentiments. But Diolanded with water-lilies, which gave a tima had detected and approved his pasrich perfume, and from opposite openings sion for her niece. But on this occasion in the pictured walls, might be heard at he became subject to a certain proverb; intervals the voice of sweet singers, and for, tipping the vase too far, he poured the the soft music of harps and flutes, echoing wine over his bosom and over the pillow and accompanying each other. When the of the couch, on which he leaned with his guests were seated, a collation was served left elbow. Thereat the others laughed by a band of black slaves, clothed each in again, and he, covered with confusion, white tunic, to heighten the darkness of would have run from the room, had not their skin.”

Lysis laid hands upon him. “Pray tell me," said Mycon, “ whether “ Come,” said he, “ young sir, you shall these were Ethiopians.”

share the couch with me, since your own “ No," said the prophetess, “ they were is taken by Bacchus." ! from a country of forests beyond the great Ay," said the jester, “his courage, desert. The Ethiopians resemble the that I gave him, he lost to the Graces, and Egyptians. But these blacks hardly re- now, that his couch is taken by Bacchus, semble men, so uncouth are they. When he has nothing left but his youth and his the black slaves had taken away the innocence." collation, which we ate from little plates Cymon, greatly nettled at this speech, of glass, the blacks entertained us with which was spoken in a ridiculously sad songs and dances after their manner, voice, began to conceive a suspicion of with which the guests, and especially Meton, and would have violently hurled the Pythagoras, were wonderfully delighted, vase at his head, had he not been staid by and evinced their pleasure by repeated a look from Diotima, who, when he had bursts of merriment."

taken his place upon the couch with LyHere the jester Meton made a motion sis, continued her story as follows:with his hand, and said :

“I shall not hesitate, my friends, to reI confess, good Diotima, this descrip- late a part of the conversation of Pythago

ras with myself, my husband, and the standing or pushing their seats as near as young priestess of Eros; because, not only civility would let them. I took care that of Cymon's desire, and yours, good Meton, a soft strain of music should continue while but because of my first promise to Lysis, we talked, which rolled tenderly through that I would relate the history of my life. I the alcoves and took off the harshness of From the date of this interview I began to our voices." live differently, turning all my thoughts “Gods,” exclaimed Meton, “I shall upon spiritual matters, that I might attain begin presently to shed tears, good Diotithat prophetic power which it is conceded ma, to think I was not there." that I now possess. But before this, even | But the others bid him be silent, and to the thirtieth year of my life, my thoughts Diotima continued : had been limited to my pleasures and repu- | “Pythagoras would not direct his contation. Until then I loved glory for the versation to the young priestess of Eros, pleasure it brings ; now, I loved it no less, more than to the others, for fear of putbut began worthily to pursue it. For I ting her to shame; but shaped all he said would have you know that the passion of with wonderful ingenuity to her thoughts, glory, like love, differs in the pure and the while he seemed to be answering the impure, not as to the end, but as to the mode question of another, or relating some anec. of attaining it. For as an honorable lorer dote to please the whole. I cannot pregains his end by generous and unreserved tend to any recollection of his words, and affection, and the dishonorable by the con- must repeat his sentiments in my own. trary, thinking only of his own pleasure,” He related to us the fable of Eros, and of Here Diotima glanced at Cymon, who his birth out of the darkness, and then crimsoned with delight and shame—“so, said that this fable signified the birth of the true lover of glory seeks the universal love in the soul; for that the first darkness love of men, by cultivating in himself true meant only the selfish instinct of man, out and loveable qualities, while the falsely of which love for the parent who cherishes ambitious entices men with a show, and him, springs like a smiling infant full of feasts upon stolen praises.”

light and warmth." “ Let us compare him," said Lysis, “ to “ There is hope in this infant,” said the a cunning fisherman, who with a bit of jester: “I perceive it will grow a great glittering metal draws the fish to his baby.”

1 At this, Lysis could not help laugh“And the other,” rejoined Cymon, “is ing, but Cymon showed signs of violent like a good shepherd whom the sheep love anger. for the good food he gives them.”

“He spoke of Typho," continued the “I will compare him," said the jester, prophetess, “as one with darkness and “ to a jar of sweetened vinegar, which a selfish isolation. That there is a continual rascally slave brings you for wine of Cos, war between this evil principle and the when you are so drunk you know no differ- first love, the Eros or Horus ; for that ence of tastes."

Typho, dark and cruel, draws all things « Good,” responded Mycon; " and half down to death and isolation ; but that mankind are drunk all their lives, and love expands and unites, producing a wonknow not the taste of true honor.”

derful music or harmony for souls, which “Pythagoras,” continued the prophet- is the language, or song, of the gods. ess, “after many kind words and pleasant ' “ Love appears first in matter warring compliments, drew us gradually to the with the evil Principle, or with darkness topic, as I had forewarned him to do, and and the fixed. It perpetuates the affinipresently engaged us all in a delightful ties of all things, and is the cause of the manner; hearing the word of each, and oneness of the world. The planets revolve giving the stupidest remark an elegant turn about the sun according to its law; for as to the advantage of the person who made the love of the child causes it to revolve it. We were soon quite intoxicated with in a manner about the parent, and the the beauty of his discourse. The young love of the wife causes her to move harnobles forgot themselves and their fairmoniously in the sphere of her superior, companions, and all crowded about us, / so move the heavenly lovers, the planets

[ocr errors]

with their sun. Hence the people of the “Then, as his custom was, he began to East call the sun the husband of the relate a fable in the eastern manner." planets, because they move about him, “Let us hear this fable,” said Lysis ; bound by his love. If the power of the “I like an apologue above all things." love of two heavenly bodies is equal in Then, when the jester and the young each, then are they sun and planets, each man had signified the same desire, the to the other, and move in one circle about prophetess spake as follows: their common centre ; and this is the most “In Mandara, before Amun had created beautiful of all heavenly motions. But it men, there lived a nation of apes who had usually happens that an inferior is bound speech. The bodies of these apes were to a superior ; and then she moves about inhabited by certain demons, who used him as inferior, receiving from him both them for their own purpose. Barata, light and warmth. But all love is mutual a wise spirit, who inhabited the body of a even among the stars, and the lover orig- crow, conceived a hatred against the apes inates it in her he loves, and she in him in because they mocked his chattering, and her turn. But he is moved according to ridiculed his grave and cunning ways. her power; if equal, equally ; if unequal, He determined to destroy them, and set unequally.

about it in the following manner: Assum“ Then the young priestess, Dione, the ing the figure of a very aged ape, he came daughter of Polias, addressing herself to and stood by a spring where the females me, spoke as follows:

came to drink. He stood leaning on his "Pythagoras tells us a new thing, that staff, looking into the water, and retaining the most beautiful of all the heavenly mo- this position, without change, for a year, . tions, is that of an equal about an equal ; acquired the reputation of extreme sancand I am persuaded the women of Egypt tity; for it is necessary that the fickle will not agree with him in this ; for the oath should venerate the fixed. At the end of of marriage makes them superior to their a year, the females began to bring offerhusbands in domestic affairs, nor are they | ings; and the water of the spring was backward in asserting a superiority in all esteemed holy. At the end of a second other things. But it seems more beautiful year, Barata keeping his position, great to me, that the husband should be the multitudes flocked to worship him, and superior in all important matters, as is the throw offerings of fruit into the water, custom among the barbarians and the which floated away and were eaten by the Greeks.' How,' said I, hastily, do you crows and other birds friendly to Barata, see the better kind of women asserting a and who knew his design. At the end of superiority, or even an equality ? or is it the third year, Barata moved bis head as only a few discontented weaver's wives who though to speak, and the multitude of do this, of the kind that are forward to females fied away in terror or dropped speak at the sacrifices, and in the market ? down in a swoon, so astonished were they I have seen one of these lead home her to see a motion in him. When they were infant in one hand and her husband in the a little recovered, Barata waved his hand other, as the greater infant of the two." and addressed them as follows : Listen

Then began a great contest among the to me, ye females who desire sacred knowlwomen, as to which was the better con- edge.' When he had said this, a number dition, that the wife should rule the hus- came forward and approached near him, band, or the husband the wife, as our law and some would have embraced his feet. has it. But Dione, with Pythagoras, Then he continued, Listen to me, ye who Manes and myself, remained silent until 1. desire the prosperity of the just.' When there should be room for a reasonable Barata had said this, one only came word. After the uproar had a little sub- forward of the multitude that covered, sided, Manes spoke.

as it stood, a plain broader than Shinar. “'I begin to see,' said he, my wise But when, for the third time, he addfriends, that you will never decide this ed, Listen to me, you who would question in theory, but that each of reap honor where you have sown idleyou must discover what is true in prac- ness,' the whole demoniacal body rushed tice.'

eagerly to be near him, and in their VOL. I. NO. II. NEW SERIES. 14

« PreviousContinue »