Front Page Titles (by Subject) OF BEAUTIES WHICH RESULT FROM AN EMBARRASSMENT OF THE SOUL. - Complete Works, vol. 4 Familiar Letters; Miscellaneous Pieces; The Temple of Gnidus; A Defence of the Spirit of Laws
Return to Title Page for Complete Works, vol. 4 Familiar Letters; Miscellaneous Pieces; The Temple of Gnidus; A Defence of the Spirit of Laws
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
OF BEAUTIES WHICH RESULT FROM AN EMBARRASSMENT OF THE SOUL. - Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu, Complete Works, vol. 4 Familiar Letters; Miscellaneous Pieces; The Temple of Gnidus; A Defence of the Spirit of Laws 
The Complete Works of M. de Montesquieu (London: T. Evans, 1777), 4 vols. Vol. 4.
About Liberty Fund:
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
OF BEAUTIES WHICH RESULT FROM AN EMBARRASSMENT OF THE SOUL.
The mind is often surprised, because it cannot reconcile what it sees with what it has seen. There is in Italy a great lake which they call the Greater Lake; it is a little sea, the banks of which shew nothing but what is wild. Fifteen miles in the lake there are two islands, a quarter of a mile in circumference, which they call the Borromees, which is, in my opinion, the most enchanting abode in the world. The mind is astonished at the romantic contrast, and recalls with pleasure the wonders of romance, where, after having passed over rocks and barren countries, you find yourself in fairy land.
All contrasts strike us, because the opposite objects heighten each other. Thus, when a little man is near a tall one, the little one makes the other appear taller, and the great one makes the other seem less.
These kinds of surprizes constitute the pleasure which we find in all beauties of opposition, in antitheses, and such figures. When Florus says, “Sora and Algidum, who would believe it! were formidable to us; Satricum and Corniculum were provinces; we undervalue the Boritians, the Verulians, yet we gloried in triumphing over them; Præneste, where our pleasure-houses now are, was the subject of vows which we went to make at the capitol:” this author, I say, points out to us, at the same time, the grandeur of the Romans and the smallness of their beginnings, and our astonishment is raised by both these.
We may remark here how great a difference there is between antitheses of ideas and antitheses of expression. The antithesis of expression is not concealed; that of ideas is so: the one always assumes the same appearance; the other changes it as it pleases; the one is varied; the other not.
The same Florus, speaking of the Samnites, says, “That their cities were destroyed in such a way that it was difficult to find out at present what could have been the subject of so many triumphs;” Ut non facile appareat materia quatuor & viginti triumphorum: and by the same words which point out to us the destruction of this people, he makes us perceive the greatness and obstinacy of their courage.
When we want to hinder ourselves from laughing, our laughter increases, on account of that Contrast which is between the situation in which we find ourselves, and that in which we ought to be: in the same way as when we perceive in a face a very great fault, as, for example, a very large nose, we laugh because we see a contrast with the other features of the face, which ought not to be. Thus contrasts are the cause of faults, as well as beauties. When we perceive that they are without any reason, that they heighten or discover another fault, they are the great causes of ugliness, which, when it strikes us suddenly, can excite a certain joy in our soul, and make us laugh. If our mind views it as a misfortune in the person who possesses it, it can excite pity: if it views it with the idea of what may hurt us, and with an idea of comparison with what used to move us and excite our desires, it views it with a sentiment of aversion.
In the same way, our thoughts, when they contain an opposition contrary to good sense, when this opposition is common and easily found out, do not please us, and are faults, because they occasion no surprise; and if, on the contrary, they are too much studied, they do not please us neither. In a work, we ought to be struck with them because they are there, and not because the writer has laboured to shew them; for then we are only surprised at the folly of the author.
One of the things which pleases us most is the simple; but it is also the most difficult style to acquire; the reason of which is, because it is precisely betwixt the noble and the low, and it is very difficult to be always going by it without falling into it.
Musicians have acknowledged, that the music, which is easiest sung, is most difficult to compose; a certain proof that our pleasures, and that art which supplies us with them, have certain limits.
To read the pompous verses of Corneille, and the easy natural ones of Racine, who would imagine that Corneille composed with ease, and Racine with a great deal of trouble.
What is low, is the sublime of the vulgar, who are pleased to see a thing made for them, and adapted to their capacity.
The ideas which occur to those who are well educated, and have great minds, are either simple, or noble, or sublime.
When a thing is pointed out to us with circumstances which add to its grandeur, this appears noble to us: this is especially perceived in comparisons, where the mind ought always to gain, and never to lose: for they ought always to add somewhat to make the thing appear greater, or, if grandeur be not the object, finer and more delicate; but particular care must be taken not to point out any connection it may have with what is low; for the mind would have concealed this if it had discovered it.
As the aim is to represent things in a delicate way, the mind likes better to compare a manner to a manner, an action to an action, than a thing to a thing, as a hero to a lion, a woman to a star, a swift man to a stag.
Michael Angelo is the greatest master for giving a nobleness to all his subjects. In his famous Bacchus he does not do like the Flemish painters, who represents to us a figure almost falling, and, so to speak, in the air. This would be unworthy of the majesty of a God. He paints him firm upon his legs, but he so happily gives him the gay air of one who is drunk, and such a pleasure in viewing the liquor, which he pours into his cup, that there is nothing so admirable.
In that picture of the Passion which is in the gallery of Florence, he has painted the Virgin standing, who beholds her crucified son, without grief, without pity, without regret, without tears. He supposes her instructed in this great mystery, and by that makes her bear with grandeur the view of his death.
There are none of Michael Angelo’s works in which he has not put something noble. We find even the Great in his sketches, as in those verses which Virgil has not finished.
Julio Romano, in the chamber of Giants at Mantua, where he has represented Jupiter thundring, makes all the Gods appear terrified; but Juno is near Jupiter, she points out to him, with an undaunted air, a giant at whom he should dart his thunder: by this he gives her an air of grandeur which the other deities have not: the nearer they are to Jove, the bolder they are, and this is very natural; for in a battle, fear ceases near him who has the advantage * * * * * * * *
THE TEMPLE OF GNIDUS.
—Non murmura vestra, columbæ,
Brachia non bederæ, non vincant oscula conchæ.
Fragment of an Epithalamium of the EmperorGallienus.
AN ambassador of France at the Ottoman Porte, known by his taste for literature, having purchased many Greek manuscripts, brought them to France; and, some of them falling into my hands, I found among them the work of which I here give a translation.
Few of the Greek authors have been handed down to us: they have either perished in the ruin of libraries, or by the negligence of the families who have had them in their possession.
We, however, receive from time to time some pieces of these treasures. We have found works even in the tombs of their authors; and, what is much the same, this was discovered among the books of a Greek Bishop.
We know neither the name of the author, nor the time in which he lived. All that we can say of him is, that he was not anterior to Sappho, since he quotes her in his work.
As to my translation, it is a faithful one. The beauties that were not in my author, I supposed, did not deserve the name of beauties; and I have often chosen a less lively manner of expression, in order the better to express his thought.
I have been encouraged to undertake this translation by the success which has attended that of Tasso. He who performed it will not be offended at my having followed his example. He has there distinguished himself in such a manner, as to be under no apprehensions from those whom he has inspired with the warmest spirit of emulation.
This little romance is a kind of picture in which are selected the most agreeable objects. The public will here find smiling images, magnificent descriptions, and ingenuous sentiments.
It has the marks of an original; which has made the critics demand, after what model it was formed. This must greatly inhance its merit, especially as the work is, in other respects, far from being despicable.
Some of the learned have not discovered in it what they term art; and they alledge, that it is not written according to the rules: but if the work has pleased, it is a proof that the heart has not communicated to them all its rules.
A man who attempts a translation, cannot patiently bear that others should not esteem his author as much as he does himself; and I confess that these gentlemen have often filled me with a furious resentment: but I desire them to leave the young men to judge of a book, which, in whatsoever language it was written, was certainly wrote for their use. I intreat them, therefore, not to trouble themselves with their decisions; for none but the heads that are well curled and powdered, can know all the merit of the Temple of Gnidus.
With respect to the fair sex, to whom I owe the few happy moments I can reckon in my life, I heartily wish that this work may please them. I admire them still; and their not being more the subject of my assiduities is a source of regret.
If men of gravity should desire from me a less trifling work, I am able to satisfy them. These thirty years have I laboured at a book of no more than twelve pages, which is to contain all we know of metaphysics, politics, and morality, and all that very great authors have forgotten in the volumes they have published on those sciences.
VENUS chuses to reside at Gnidus, rather than at Paphos and Amathus, and never descends from Olympus without visiting the Gnidians. So much has she accustomed these happy people to her sight, that they no longer feel that sacred horror inspired by the presence of the Gods. Sometimes she covers herself with a cloud, and is known by the divine odour that flows from her hair perfumed with ambrosia.
The city is in the midst of a country on which the Gods have lavished their favours with a liberal hand. The inhabitants enjoy an eternal spring; the earth, happily fertile, prevents all their wishes; their flocks feed without number; the birds incessantly sing, so that you would think the woods were vocal: rivulets murmur in the plains; a gentle heat renders every thing blooming; and the air the people breathe inspires only pleasure.
Near the city is the palace of Venus, the foundations of which were laid by Vulcan; who laboured for his faithless spouse while he strove to make her forget the cruel affront he had given her before the Gods.
It would be impossible for me to give an idea of the beauties of this palace; for none but the Graces can describe what they have performed. Gold, azure, rubies, diamonds, shine on all sides; but here I paint only riches, and not beauty.
The gardens are inchanting; they are under the care of Flora and Pomona, and are cultivated by the nymphs. Fruits spring up under the hand that plucks them; and blossoms succeed the fruit. When Venus walks in them surrounded by her Gnidians, you would think that in their wanton sports they would destroy these delightful gardens; but by a secret virtue every thing is instantly repaired.
Venus loves to see the sprightly dances of the girls of Gnidus. Her nymphs mingle with them; the Goddess herself bears a part in their sports; she strips herself of her majesty, sits in the midst of them, and sees joy and innocence reign in their hearts.
At a distance is discovered a spacious meadow enamelled with flowers. The shepherd comes to gather them, with his shepherdess; but that which she finds is always the most beautiful, and it is believed that this happens by the express design of Flora.
The Cephisus waters this meadow, and runs through it with a thousand turnings. The River God stops the fugitive shepherdesses, and will oblige them to give him the tender kiss they had promised him.
When the nymphs approach his banks, he stops, and the waves which fly find those that are incapable of flying. But when one of them bathes, he is still more amorous; his waters wind about her limbs; he sometimes rises, the better to give her his embraces; he lifts her up; he flies; he takes her with him. Her timid companions begin to weep: but he supports her upon his waves, and charmed with the precious burden, leads her over his liquid plain: at length loth to part with her, he conducts her slowly to the bank, and restores comfort to her companions.
On the side of the meadow is a myrtle grove, where the paths make a variety of turnings. The lovers there come to recount their pains; and Love, who amuses them, always conducts them through the most secret paths.
Not far from thence is an antient and sacred wood, thro’ which the light can with difficulty enter. Oaks, that seem immortal, bear up their heads to the heavens, which conceal them from our view. We there feel a religious fear; you would say that this was the abode of the Gods, ere man had sprung from the earth.
On coming to an opening where the day breaks in, the people ascend a little hill, on which is the temple of Venus, than which the universe has nothing more sacred.
In this temple Venus first saw her Adonis, and the poison thrilled through the heart of the Goddess. What! said she, do I then love a mortal? Alas! I find I adore him. Let them no more address their vows to me; Adonis is the only deity at Gnidus.
It was in this place that she assembled the Loves, when piqued with a rash distrust, she consulted them. She was in doubt whether she should expose herself naked to the view of the Trojan shepherd. She concealed her girdle under her hair; her nymphs sprinkled her with perfumes; she mounted her chariot drawn by swans, and arrived in Phrygia. The shepherd hesitated between Juno and Pallas; he saw her, and his looks were fixed and dying: the golden apple fell at the feet of the Goddess; he attempted to speak, and his disorder decided the dispute.
It was to this temple that the young Psyche came with her mother, when Cupid, who flew about the golden ceiling, was himself surprised by one of her glances, and felt the pain he made others suffer. Thus do I wound, said he; I can neither support my bow nor my arrows. He then sunk down on the breast of Psyche, and cried, Oh! I now begin to feel that I am the God of pleasure.
When the people enter this temple, they perceive their hearts possessed by a secret charm: the soul is filled with that ravishing delight, which the Gods themselves never feel, but when they are in their celestial abodes.
Whatever is most smiling in nature, is joined to every thing that art can invent as most noble, and most worthy of the Gods.
A hand, which was doubtless immortal, has every where adorned the place with paintings that seem to breathe. We there see the birth of Venus; the rapture of the Gods who saw her; her embarassment at appearing naked, and that modesty which is the first of the Graces.
We there see the amours of Mars and that Goddess. The painter has represented the God of War in his chariot, in which he appears fierce, and even terrible: Fame flies before him; Fear and Death march, followed by his horses covered with foam; he enters the throng, and a thick dust begins to hide him from our view. In another place we see him laid languishingly on a bed of roses, smiling on Venus; and you would not know him, were it not for some traces of the divinity which still remain. The Pleasures are employed in making wreaths and garlands, with which they bind the two lovers; their eyes melt in softness; they sigh, and, only attentive to each other, are regardless of the little Cupids that play about them.
There is a separate apartment, where the painter has represented the marriage of Vulcan and Venus: all the celestial court are there assembled: the God appears less gloomy, but as pensive as usual. The Goddess looks with an air of coldness on the common joy; she negligently gives him a hand which she seems unwilling to resign: she casts another way looks expressive of pain, and turns towards the Graces.
In another picture we see Juno performing the marriage-ceremony. Venus takes the cup to swear an eternal fidelity to Vulcan: the Gods smile, and Vulcan hears her with pleasure.
On the other side we see the impatient God drawing along his divine Spouse, who makes such resistance, that one would imagine her to be the daughter of Ceres, whom Pluto is going to ravish, if the eye that had seen Venus could ever be deceived.
At some distance, we see her carried away towards the nuptial bed. The Gods follow in crowds; the Goddess disputes, and endeavours to escape from the arms of those who hold her. Her robe flies from her knees; the linen flutters: but Vulcan repairs this beautiful disorder, and is more attentive to conceal than ardent to seize.
In short, we see her just laid on the bed prepared by Hymen; Vulcan draws the curtains, and thinks of keeping her there for ever. The importunate throng retire; and he rejoices at seeing them go. The Goddesses play together: but the Gods appear dejected; and Mars’s melancholy has something gloomy, like the pangs of jealousy.
Charmed with the magnificence of her temple, the Goddess herself has established the worship performed there: she has regulated its ceremonies, instituted festivals, and is at the same time the delty and the priestess.
The worship paid her almost over the whole earth, is rather a profanation than a religion. She has temples, in which all the maids in other cities prostitute themselves to her honour, and acquire a portion from the profits of prostitution. She has others where every married woman goes once in her life to give up herself to him who has singled her out, and where she throws into the sanctuary the money she has received. There are others again, where the courtezans of all countries, more honoured than the matrons, go to make their offerings. There is, in short, another, where the men render themselves eunuchs, and dress themselves like women, in order to serve in the sanctuary, consecrating themselves to the Goddess, and those of her sex.
But she resolved, that the people of Gnidus should have a purer worship, and render her honours more worthy her acceptance. Her sacrifices there are sighs, and her offerings a tender heart. Every lover addresses his vows to his mistress, and Venus receives them for her.
Wherever beauty is found, they pay it the same adoration as to Venus; for beauty, like her, is divine.
With hearts inflamed with love they enter the Temple, and embrace at the altars of Fidelity and Constancy.
Those who are treated with cruelty come there to vent their sighs: they feel their torments diminish, and find their hearts filled with flattering hope.
Jealousy is a passion that may be felt, though it ought to be concealed. A man there adores in secret the caprices of his mistress, as they adore the decrees of the Gods, which become more just when we presume to utter our complaints.
Among the divine favours are reckoned the fire, the transports of love, and even all its fury: for the less a person is master of his own heart, the more is he devoted to the Goddess.
Those who have not lost their hearts are the profane, who are not admitted into her Temple. They at a distance address their vows to the Goddess, and beg to be delivered from that liberty which is nothing more than the incapacity of forming desires.
The Goddess inspires the girls with modesty; and that virtue has such charms as to set an additional value on all the treasures they conceal.
But never in these fortunate places do they blush at a sincere passion, an ingenuous sentiment, a tender acknowledgment.
The heart becomes fixed from the moment it has surrendered: but it is a profanation to surrender without love.
Cupid is at entive to the felicity of the Gnidians; he chuses the arrows with which he wounds them. When he sees an afflicted lover, whose passion meets with an unkind return, he takes an arrow dipped in the water of forgetfulness. When he sees two lovers who begin to feel the tender passion, he incessantly lets fly against them fresh arrows: and on seeing one whose love has declined, he makes it suddenly revive or expire; for he shortens the duration of a languishing passion, and will not suffer them to feel disgust before they cease to love. Thus enraptured by the sweets of a greater felicity, they forget the less.
Cupid took from his quiver the cruel arrows with which he wounded Phedra and Ariadne; they were mixed with love and hatred, and served to shew his power, as thunder makes known the empire of Jupiter.
In proportion as the God gives the pleasure of loving, Venus adds the happiness of pleasing.
The girls every day enter the sanctuary to offer their prayers to Venus. They there express the genuine sentiments of their hearts. Queen of Amathus, said one of them, my flame for Thyrsis is extinguished; I do not intreat to have my love revived, but only that Ixiphiles may love me.
Another softly says, Powerful Goddess! give me the power to conceal for some time my love to my shepherd, in order to inhance the value of the confession I intend to make to him.
Goddess of Cythera! says another, I seek solitude; the sports of my companions no longer please me: perhaps I love. But if I am indeed in love, let it be with none but Daphnis.
At their festivals the young men and maids go to repeat hymns in honour of Venus: and often do they celebrate her praisein singing their own amours.
A young Gnidian taking his mistress by the hand, sung thus: Cupid, when first Psyche appeared to thy view, thou doubtless woundedst her with the same arrow as that with which thou hast wounded my heart. Thy happiness was not different from mine; for thou feltest my flames, and I feel thy pleasures.
For my part, I have seen what I describe. I have been at Gnidus: I have seen Themira, and I have loved: I saw her again, and I loved her still more. With her I will spend my life at Gnidus, and I shall be the most happy of all mortals.
We will visit the Temple; and never shall a more faithful lover enter its walls. We will go to the palace of Venus, and I will imagine it to be the palace of my Themira. I will walk to the meadow, and gather flowers, which I will place in her bosom. Perhaps I may conduct her to the grove where so many paths meet, and when she shall have strayed—But Cupid, by whom I am inspired, forbids my revealing his mysteries.
THERE is at Gnidus another sacred grove inhabited by the nymphs, where the Goddess delivers her oracles. The earth sends forth no hollow sound under your feet; the hair is not raised erect upon the head; and there is no priestess as at Delphos, where Apollo fills with convulsive agitations the trembling Pythia: but Venus herself lends an ear to the requests of mortals, without sporting with their hopes or fears.
A coquette of the isle of Crete came to Gnidus; she was surrounded by all the young Gnidians; she smiled at one, whispered to another, threw her arm upon a third, and called to two others to follow her. She was beautiful, and adorned with art, and the sound of her voice was as deceitful as her eyes. O heavens! how were the faithful, the tender lovers, among the fair, alarmed! She presented herself before the Oracle with as much confidence as a Goddess: but suddenly we heard a voice proceed from the sanctuary: Perfidious wretch! how darest thou carry thy artifices even into the places where I reign with candour and sincerity? Severely shalt thou be punished: I will take away thy charms; but leave thy heart as it is: thou shalt call about thee all the men thou seest; but they shall fly from thee as from a plaintive ghost, and thou shalt die rejected, and loaded with contempt.
At length came a courtezan of Nocretis, shining with the spoils of her lovers. Go, said the Goddess, thou deceivest thyself in believing that thou hast added to the glory of my empire. Thy beauty proclaims that thou hast pleasure to bestow; but none does it give: thy heart is like iron, and though thou shouldest see my son himself, thou couldest not love him. Go, bestow thy favours on the base men who demand them, and whom they fill with disgust: go, shew them charms which shall suddenly vanish, and be lost for ever. Thou art only fit to render my power despised.
Some time after came a rich man, who collected tribute for the king of Lydia. Thou askest, said the Goddess, one thing which I cannot perform, though I am the Goddess of Love. Thou askest for beauties, that if thou mayest taste the raptures of love; but thou lovest them not because thou hast bought them: thy treasures are not useless; they serve to fill thee with disgust against every thing most charming in nature.
A young man of Doris, named Aristeus, at length presented himself. He had seen at Gnidus the charming Camilla, and was fallen desperately in love with her. He perceived the excess of his passion, and came to ask Venus that he might love her still more.
I know thine heart, said the goddess; thou art sensible of the power of love. I have found Camilla worthy of thee. I could have given her to the greatest king upon earth; but kings have less merit than shepherds.
I at last appeared with Themira; when the goddess said: There is not in all my empire a mortal who knows how to submit himself to my power better than thee; but what wouldest thou have me do for thee? I cannot render thee more in love, nor Themira more charming. O great goddess, said I, I have a thousand favours to ask: May Themira think only of me; may she see none but me; may she awake dreaming of me: may she fear to lose me when I am present; hope for me in my absence; and always charmed with seeing me, still regret every moment she passes without me.
AT Gnidus there are sacred games which are renewed every year, and there women come from all parts to dispute the prize of beauty; when shepherdesses are confounded with the daughters of kings, for there beauty alone is the mark of empire. Venus herself presides over them; she decides without hesitation, and knows well the happy mortal whom she has most favoured.
Helen several times gained the prize: she triumphed when she was stolen by Theseus; she triumphed when she was carried away by the son of Priam; in fine, she triumphed when the gods restored her to Menelaus, after his hopes had been kept alive for ten years: that prince therefore, in the opinion of Venus herself, found as much happiness in being her husband, as Theseus and Paris in being her lovers.
There came thirty girls of Corinth, whose hair fell in large ringlets on their shoulders. There came ten from Salamis who had not yet seen thirteen times the annual course of the sun. There came fifteen from the isle of Lesbos, who said to each other, I am quite charmed, I never saw any thing so beautiful as you; if Venus saw you with the same eyes as I do, she would crown you amidst all the beauties of the universe.
There came fifty women of Miletus, who excelled in the whiteness of their complexion, and the regularity of their features; every thing shewed, or gave room to imagine, that their persons were lovely, and that the gods, who had formed them, would have made nothing so beautiful as they, had they sought to obtain valuable perfections rather than external graces.
An hundred women came from the island of Cyprus. We have passed our youth, said they, in the temple of Venus; to her we have consecrated our virginity, and our modesty itself. We do not blush at our charms; our manners, sometimes bold, and always free, ought to give us the advantage over a modesty that is continually creating fresh alarms.
I saw the daughters of proud Sparta: their robes were open at the sides from the girdle, in the most indecent manner: and yet they behaved like prudes, and maintained, that they would never violate the laws of modesty, except for the love of their country.
O sea, famous for so many shipwrecks, thou preservest the treasures committed to thy care. Thou becamest calm, when the ship Argo, laden with the golden fleece, sailed on thy liquid plain; and when fifty beauties departed from Colchis, and trusted themselves on thy waves, thou didst bow under them.
I also saw Oriana, like a goddess: all the beauties of Lydia surrounded their queen. She had sent before her an hundred girls, who had presented to Venus an offering of two hundred talents. Candaules came himself, and was more distinguished by his love, than by the royal purple. He passed his days and nights in devouring with his looks the charms of Oriana; his eyes wandered over her beautiful form, and were never weary. I am happy, said he; but alas! this is known only to Venus and myself; my felicity would be much heightened, did it but inspire envy! Lovely queen, quit these vain ornaments; drop that troublesome vail, and shew thyself to the universe; leave the prize of beauty, and demand altars raised to thine honour.
Afterwards came twenty Babylonians, dressed in purple robes embroidered with gold: they imagined, that the richness of their apparel inhanced their value. Some carried, as a proof of their beauty, the riches it had enabled them to acquire.
Then came an hundred Egyptian women whose eyes and whose hair were black: their husbands were with them, and said, The laws render us subject to you in honour of Isis; but your beauty has a more powerful empire over us, than that of the laws: we obey you with the same pleasure as we obey the gods, and are the most happy slaves in the universe. Duty secures our fidelity to you; but only love can render you faithful to us. Be less sensible of the glory you acquire at Gnidus, than of the homage you may find in your own house from a tranquil husband; who, while you are employed in affairs abroad, ought to wait in the family for the heart you bring him.
There came women from that powerful city which sends vessels to the ends of the universe: their heads were loaden with superfluous ornaments, and all the parts of the earth seemed to have contributed to form their dress.
Ten beauties came from the place where the day begins to dawn; they were the daughters of Aurora, and in order to see her, rose daily before that goddess. They complained of the sun, that he made their mother disappear; and they complained of their mother, that she did not shew herself to them, as she did to other mortals.
I saw under a tent a queen of India surrounded by her virgins, who already gave hopes of their having the charms of their mothers: she was served by eunuchs, whose eyes were fixed on the earth; for since their breathing the air of Gnidus, they had felt the gloom of melancholy redoubled.
The women of Cadiz, which is at the extremity of the earth, likewise disputed for the prize. There is no country upon earth where beauty does not receive homage; but nothing less than the highest homage can satisfy the ambition of the fair.
The girls of Gnidus at length appeared: beautiful without ornament, they had graces instead of pearls and rubies. Nothing was seen on their heads but the presents of Flora; which were there more worthy of the embraces of Zephyrus. Their robes had no other merit besides that of exhibiting the fineness of their shape, and of being spun with their own fingers.
Among all these beauties one could not see the young Camilla; who had said, I will not dispute the prize of beauty, it is sufficient that my dear Aristeus thinks me fair.
Diana rendered these games celebrated by her presence. She did not come to dispute the prize; for the Goddesses do not compare themselves to mortals. I saw her alone, and she seemed as beautiful as Venus: I saw her with Venus, and she was only Diana.
There never was so great a concourse: nations were separated from nations; the eye wandered from country to country, from the setting of the sun to the rising of Aurora. It seemed as if Gnidus comprehended the whole universe.
The Gods have divided beauty among the nations, as nature has divided it among the goddesses. There we see the proud beauty of Pallas; here the grandeur and majesty of Juno; farther still, the simplicity of Diana, the delicacy of Thetis, the charms of the Graces, and sometimes the smile of Venus.
It seemed as if each nation had a particular manner of expressing modesty, and yet that every woman was resolved to attract every eye. Some discovered the neck, and concealed the shoulders; others shewed their shoulders, and concealed their necks; those who concealed the foot paid you with other charms; and here they blushed at what was there called decency.
The Gods are so charmed with Themira, that they never look at her without smiling at their work. Of all the Goddesses, there is none but Venus who sees her with pleasure, and whom the Gods do not rally with having a little jealousy.
As we observe a rose in the midst of the flowers that spring in the grass, Themira was distinguished among so many beauties. They had not time to become her rivals; they were vanquished before they feared her. She no sooner appeared, than the eyes of Venus were fixed on her; and calling the Graces, Go, said she, and crown her, for of all the beauties I see, she alone resembles you.
WHILE Themira was employed with her companions in the worship of the goddess, I entered a solitary wood, and there I found the tender Aristeus. We had seen each other on the day when we went to consult the oracle; and our meeting was sufficient to engage us to enter into conversation: for Venus places in the heart, on our seeing an inhabitant of Gnidus, the secret charm felt by two friends, when, after a long absence, they press in their arms the dear object of their inquietudes.
Transported with each other, we found that we had resigned our hearts: if appeared as if a tender friendship had descended from heaven in order to unite us. We related a thousand passages of our lives, and this is, nearly, what I said to him.
I was born at Sybaris, where Antilochus, my father, was the priest of Venus. In that city they make no difference between luxuries and necessities; all the arts are banished that are capable of disturbing a tranquil sleep: prizes are given at the public expence to those who discover new sources of voluptuousness: and the citizens remember only the buffoons that have afforded them diversion, while they lose all remembrance of the magistrates who have governed them with wisdom.
The people there take advantage of the fertility of the soil, which produces an eternal plenty; and the favours bestowed by the Gods on Sybaris serve only to encourage softness and luxury.
To such a degree are the men sunk in offeminacy, that their dress is so like that of the women, they take such care of their complexions, they curl their hair with such art, and employ so much time in adorning themselves at the glass, that there seems to be only one sex in all the city.
The women abandon themselves, instead of surrendering, and the desires and hopes of the day are finished at its conclusion. They know not what it is to love, and to taste the pleasure of being beloved, and are solely employed about what is falsely called enjoyment.
What with us are termed favours are there nothing less than their proper realities; and all those circumstances which so happily accompany them; all those nothings that are of such great value; all those trifles that are of such worth; every thing that prepares the way for the happy moment; so many conquests instead of one; so many enjoyments before the last; are all unknown at Sybaris.
Yet, had they the least modesty, a small appearance of that virtue would please: but they have it not; their eyes are accustomed to see, and their ears to hear every thing.
So far is the multiplicity of pleasures from giving the Sybarites more delicacy, that they cannot distinguish one sentiment from another.
They pass life in a joy merely exterior; quitting one pleasure that displeases them, for another that is still more displeasing; while every change affords a new subject of disgust.
Their souls, incapable of relishing pleasure, seem to have no delicacy but for pain. Thus, a citizen was fatigued a whole night by the leaf of a role folded in his bed.
Ease and softness have so weakened their bodies, that they cannot remove the least burden, and can soarce support themselves on their feet. They faint away in the most easy carriages; and when at a feast their stomachs continually fail them.
They pass their lives reclined on sophas, on which they are obliged to repose the whole day, without any relief from their fatigue; they are bruised if they attempt to languish out life in any other manner.
Incapable of bearing the weight of arms; timorous before their fellow citizens, and dastardly in the presence of strangers, they are slaves ready to submit to the first master.
I was no sooner capable of thinking, than I was filled with contempt for the unhappy Sybarites. I love virtue, and have always feared the immortal Gods. I will no longer, said I, breathe this infectious air; all these slaves of softness and indolence are made to live in their native country, and I to leave it.
I then went for the last time to the temple; and approaching the altars, where my father had so often sacrificed; Great Goddess! said I with a loud voice, I abandon thy temple, but not thy worship; in what part of the earth soever I am, I will offer incense to thee; but it shall be purer than that offered at Sybaris.
I departed, and arrived in Crete, an island filled with monuments of the extravagance of love. There were seen the brazen cow, the work of Dædalus, to deceive, or to gratify the lust of Pasiphæ; the labyrinths, whose intricacies love only could elude; the tomb of Phædra, which astonished the Sun, as it had done his mother; and the temple of Ariadne; who, deserted in the desarts, and abandoned by an ungrateful wretch, did not repent of her having followed him.
I there saw the palace of Idomeneus, whose return from the siege of Troy was not more happy than that of the other Greek captains: for those who escaped the dangers of a resentful element, found in their own houses those that were still more fatal. Venus, exasperated against them, gave them to the embraces of their perfidious wives, and they died by the hand they held most dear.
I quitted that isle, so odious to a goddess who was one day to give felicity to my life.
I re-embarked; and a tempest cast me on shore at Lesbos, an island but little beloved by Venus, who has taken modesty from the countenances of the women, weakness from their bodies, and timidity from their souls. Great Venus! suffer the women of Lesbos to burn with a lawful flame; and may human nature no longer suffer such disgrace.
At Mytelene, the capital of Lesbos, resided the tender Sappho, who, immortal as the Muses, burnt with a fire which she could not extinguish. Odious to herself, and disgusted with her charms, she hated, and yet courted her own sex. How, said she, can a flame so vain become so cruel! Cupid, how much more formidable art thou when in sport, than when enraged!
At length I quitted Lesbos, and my fate led me to an island still more profane; and that was Lemnos. Venus has there no temple: never do the Lemnians address their vows to her. We reject, say they, a worship that softens the heart. The goddess has often punished them; but they bear the punishment, without making an expiation for their crime, and are always more impious in proportion as they are afflicted.
I again put to sea in search of a country beloved by the gods; and the winds conducted me to Delos. I staid some time in that sacred isle. But, whether the gods sometimes previously inform us of what is to happen; or whether the soul retains from the emanations of the divinity, with which it is enlightened, some knowledge of futurity; I perceived that my destiny, and that my happiness itself, called me to another country.
One night when I was in that state of tranquility, in which the soul, being more itself, seems delivered from that chain wherewith it is bound; there appeared before me a female form, and I was at first at a loss to know whether she was a mortal or a goddess. A secret charm was spread over her whole person: she was not so beautiful as Venus, but was as ravishing as that Goddess: all her features were not regular; but, together, they were full of charms: her hair fell negligently on her shoulders; but that negligence had a happy effect: her shape and stature were charming: she had that air which nature alone bestows, and which she hides from the painters. She saw my astonishment: she smiled. Ye gods! what a smile! I am, said she, one of the Graces: Venus, who sent me, would render thee happy; but thou must go, and adore her in the Temple of Gnidus. She vanished: I stretched out my arms to hold her; my sleep fled with her: and there only remained a sweet regret at my no longer seeing her, mixed with the pleasure of having beheld her.
I then quitted the isle of Delos, and arrived at Gnidus. I may say, that I instantly breathed love. I felt—I cannot express what I felt. I was not yet in love, but sought to love. My heart was inflamed, as if I had been in the presence of some celestial beauty. I advanced, and saw at a distance several young girls playing in a meadow. I was immediately drawn towards them. Senseless as I am, said I, I feel without love, all the disturbances of the lover: my heart slies already towards objects unknown, and those objects fill it with inquietude, I approached; I saw the charming Themira. We were doubtless made for each other. I looked at none but her, and believe that I should have died with grief, had she not turned her eyes, and cast some looks at me. Great Venus, cried I, since thou art to render me happy, may it be with this shepherdess: I renounce all other beauties; she alone can fulfil thy promises, and all the vows I shall for ever make.
I CONTINUED talking to the young Aristeus of my tender passion, which made him sigh for his own, when I endeavoured to ease his heart by intreating him to disburden it to me: and this is what he said. I shall forget nothing; for I am inspired by the same God that made him speak.
In all my story you will find nothing but what is extremely simple: my adventures are only the sentiments of a tender heart: these are my pleasures, and these my pains; for as my love for Camilla forms the happiness, it also forms the history, of my life.
Camilla is the daughter of one of the principal inhabitants of Gnidus; she is beautiful, and has a countenance that makes an impression on all hearts. The women who form desires demand of the Gods the graces of Camilla: the men who see her would see her always, or fear longer to see her.
She is of a graceful stature; and has a noble, but modest air; her eyes are lively, and susceptible of tenderness; her features are expressly made for each other, and have charms adapted to give her a conquest over the heart.
Camilla does not seek to adorn herself: but she is better adorned than other women.
She has that wit which nature almost constantly refuses to the fair, and is equally capable of seriousness and gaiety. If you chuse it, she will join in a sensible conversation; or she will jest like the Graces.
The more wit a person has, the more will he find in Camilla. Her thoughts are so natural, that she seems to speak the language of the heart. Every thing she says, every thing she does, has the charm of simplicity; and you always find her a native shepherdess. Graces so easy, so refined, so delicate, are always observed; but are better felt than described.
With all these advantages, Camilla loves me; she is transported at seeing me; she is sorry when I leave her; and, as if I could live without her, makes me promise to return. I continually tell her that I love her, she believes me: I tell her that I adore her, she knows it; but is as delighted as if she knew it not. When I tell her that she constitutes the felicity of my life, she tells me that I am the happiness of hers. In short, she loves me so much, that she almost makes me believe that I am worchy of her love.
For a month did I see Camilla, without daring to tell her that I loved, and almost without daring to tell it myself. The more amiable I found her, the less were my hopes of meeting with a return. O Camilla! thought I, thy charms captivate my soul; but they let me know, that I am unworthy of thee. I sought to forget her; I would have effaced her image from my heart. How happy was I that I could not succeed! That image has remained there, and will never be obliterated.
I said to Camilla: I once loved the bustle and noise of life: but now I seek solitude: I had views of ambition; but I desire nothing but thy presence: I was desirous of visiting distant climates; but my heart is now only a citizen of the places where thou breathest. Every thing but thee has vanished from before my eyes.
When Camilla speaks of her tenderness, she has always something to say to me, and she fancies she has forgot what she has protested a thousand times. I am so charmed at hearing her, that I sometimes pretend not to believe her, in order to hear her still flatter my heart. Sometimes we both preserve that sweet silence, which is the most tender language of lovers.
When I have been absent from Camilla, I have endeavoured to give her an account of what I have heard or seen. With what dost thou entertain me, says she? talk to me of our love; or if thou hast not thought of it, if thou hast nothing to say to me, O cruel Aristeus, suffer me to speak.
Sometimes, embracing me, she says, Thou art melancholy. ’Tis true, I reply; but the melancholy of lovers is delightful: I feel my tears flow, and know not for why; for thou lovest me: I have no cause of complaint; and yet I complain. Deliver me not from the languor of my mind; suffer me to sigh out at the same time my pains and my pleasures.
In the transports of love my soul is too strongly agitated; it is drawn towards its happiness without enjoying it: but now I relish even melancholy itself. Dry not up my tears: what signifies my shedding them, while I am happy.
Sometimes Camilla says: Dost thou love me? Yes, I love thee. But how dost thou love me? I love, I reply, as I have loved: for I can only compare the affection I have for thee, by that which I have felt for the same transporting object.
I hear Camilla praised by all who know her: these praises affect me as if they were made to myself, and I am more delighted with them, than she.
When we have company, she talks with such wit, that I am charmed with her least words: but I am still better pleased, when she is silent.
When she contracts a friendship, I would be that friend; and suddenly I reflect that I shall not be beloved.
O Camilla, take care of the deceits of lovers. They tell thee that they love; and they speak truth: they tell thee, that they love thee more than I; but I swear by the Gods, that I love thee still more.
When I perceive her at a distance, my soul flies to her; she approaches, and my heart is agitated; I come up to her, and my soul seems as if it would leave me to enter Camilla’s breast, and that hers is going to animate mine.
Sometimes, when I would steal from her one favour, she refuses me, and instantly grants me another. This is not artifice. Divided between modesty and love, she would refuse me every thing; and yet she wishes that she might deny me nothing.
She says, is it not sufficient that I love you? What can you desire more, after having had my heart? I desire, say I, that thou wouldst for me commit a fault that is in the power of love, and which the greatness of love can justify.
If I ever cease to love thee, my Camilla, may the destinies be mistaken, and take that for the last of my days! May they cut off the remainder of a life, which I should find deplorable when I recollected the pleasure I had found in loving.
Aristeus sighed, and was silent; and I plainly saw, that he only ceased to talk of Camilla, in order to enjoy the pleasure of thinking of her charms.
WHILE we were talking of our amours, we rambled out of our way; and having strayed for a long time, entered a large meadow, where we were conducted by a flowery path to the foot of a frightful rock. We there saw an obscure den, which we entered, thinking it the abode of some mortal. Ye Gods! who could have imagined that this place was so fatal! Scarce had I set my foot in it, when my whole body trembled, and my hair stood erect on my head! An invisible hand drew me into this fatal abode, and in proportion as my heart was agitated, its agitations increased. Friend, cried I, let us enter farther still, let us see if we shall increase our pain. I advanced to the place where the sun had never entered, and where the winds had never breathed. There I saw Jealousy, whose aspect appeared more gloomy than terrible: Paleness, Melancholy, and Silence surrounded her; and about her flew Sorrow and Disquietude. She breathed upon us; she placed her hand upon our hearts; she struck us upon the head; and our sight and imagination could perceive nothing but monsters.
Enter still further, unhappy mortals, said she; go, find a Goddess more powerful than I. We obeyed; and soon saw a frightful Deity, by the light of the inflamed tongues of the serpents that hissed about her head. This was Rage. She loosened one of her serpents, and threw it at me. I strove to catch it, and in an instant it imperceptibly slid into my heart. I stood for a moment stupid; but the poison had no sooner diffused itself into my veins, than I imagined myself in the midst of hell. My soul was set on fire. I could scarce contain myself; and was in such agitations, that I seemed tormented by the whips of the Furies. We abandoned ourselves to our transports, and an hundred times encompassed this dreadful cavern: we went from Jealousy to Rage, and from Rage to Jealousy. We called upon Themira; we called upon Camilla: but if Themira and Camilla had been there, we should have torn them in pieces with our own hands.
At length we returned to the light of day, which then appeared troublesome, and we almost regretted our having quitted the frightful cavern: we sunk down with lassitude, and even this repose appeared insupportable. Our eyes refused to shed tears, and our hearts could no longer form a sigh.
I however enjoyed a moment’s tranquillity: Sleep began to shed on me her sweet poppies. But, ye Gods! this sleep itself became cruel. I saw images that appeared more terrible to me, than the pale shades I had seen when awake. I every instant awoke at the infidelity of Themira. I saw her—I dare not yet express what I saw. What I before beheld only in imagination, I found realized in the horrors of this frightful sleep.
I must then, said I rising, fly equally darkness and light. Themira, the cruel Themira, torments me like the Furies! Who could have imagined, that in order to be happy I must forget her for ever?
Seized by a fit of madness, I cried, Friend, arise, let us destroy the flocks that feed in this meadow; let us pursue the shepherds who enjoy their loves in peace. No, I see at a distance a temple; it is, perhaps, that of Cupid: let us go and destroy it; let us break his statue, and render our rage formidable. We ran, and it seemed as if our ardour for committing a crime gave us new strength. We crossed the woods, the meadows, and the fields, and did not stop for a moment: a hill arose in vain; we ascended it, and entered the temple, which was consecrated to Bacchus.—How great is the power of the Gods! Our rage was immediately calmed. We looked at each other, and saw with surprize the extravagance of our conduct.
Great God! I cried, I return thee my thanks, not so much for having appeased my fury, as for having saved me from guilt. Then approaching the priestess; We are beloved by the God whom you serve, said I; he has just calmed the agitations of our minds; scarce did we enter this sacred place, than we were sensible of his favourable presence; we would therefore offer a sacrifice to him. Condescend, divine priestess, to offer it for us. I will go and seek a victim, and bring it to your feet.
While the priestess was preparing to give the mortal blow, Aristeus pronounced these words: Divine Bacchus, thou lovest to see joy diffused over the countenance of man; our pleasure is a worship paid to thee; and thou wilt be adored by none but the most happy of mortals.
Sometimes thou givest a sweet disorder to our reason: but when some cruel Deity has taken it from us, thou alone canst restore it.
Black Jealousy holds Love in bondage: but thou takest away the empire she assumes over our hearts, and sendest her back to her dismal abode.
After the sacrifice was ended, all the people assembled about us: and I related to the priestess, how we had been tormented in the habitation of Jealousy. Suddenly we heard a great noise, and a confused mixture of voices and musical instruments: upon which leaving the temple, we saw a troop of Bacchanals, who striking the earth with their thyrses, cried with a loud voice, Evoboe. Old Silenus followed, mounted on an ass: his head seemed to seek the ground, and whenever it seemed ready to fall from his shoulders, he balanced himself up with his body. The troop had their faces smeared with the lees of wine. Pan at length appeared with his pipe; and the Satyrs surrounded their King. Joy reigned in the midst of disorder; an amiable folly was mixed with their sports, their raillery, their dances, and their songs. At length came Bacchus in a chariot drawn by tygers; such as was seen at the river Ganges, at the end of the universe, bearing joy and victory.
By his side was the beautiful Ariadne. Lovely Princess, you still wept for the infidelity of Theseus, when the God took your crown, and placed it in the heavens. Had you not dried up your tears, you would have rendered a God more unhappy than yourself, who are a mortal. Love me, said he, Theseus is fled; bear no remembrance of his love; and even forget his perfidy: I will render you immortal, that I may love you for ever.
I saw Bacchus descend from his chariot; and I saw Ariadne also descend: when entering the temple, Amiable God, cried she, let us stay in this place, and here sigh our loves. Let eternal joy dwell in this delightful climate. Near this place the queen of hearts has fixed her empire: may the God of Joy reign near her, and increase the happiness of these people already so fortunate.
As for me, great God, I already perceive that my love is increased; and it is possible that thou mayst one day appear even more amiable! None but the immortals can love to excess, and with a constant growing affection; none but they can obtain more than they hope for; they alone are more limited when they desire, than when they enjoy. Here we will perform our eternal loves: for in the heavens the Gods are filled with their glory; and it is only on the earth, and in rural retreats, that they give way to love. While this troop therefore abandon themselves to extravagant transports, my joy, and my sighs shall incessantly proclaim my affection.
Bacchus smiled at Ariadne, and instantly led her into the sanctuary. Mean while joy took possession of our hearts; we felt a divine emotion: when being seized with the extravagance of old Silenus, and by the transports of the Bacchanals, we each took a thyrses, and mingled in the dances and concerts.
ON our quitting the places consecrated to Bacchus, we soon felt that our evils had been only suspended. ’Tis true, we had not the madness with which we had before been agitated; but a gloomy melancholy had seized our souls, and we were racked by suspicions and inquietudes.
It seemed to us, that the cruel Goddesses had tormented us, in order to give us a foresight of the misfortunes to which we were destined.
Sometimes we regretted our having left the temple of Bacchus; and soon after we were induced to approach that of Gnidus: we were desirous of seeing Themira and Camilla, the powerful objects of our love and jealousy.
But we had none of that sweetness people are accustomed to feel, when on the point of seeing those they love, when the soul is already ravished, and tastes beforehand the promised happiness.
Perhaps, said Aristeus, I shall find Lycas the shepherd with Camilla. How do I know that he is not talking to her this very moment? Ye Gods! the traitress takes pleasure in hearing him.
It was said the other day, cried I, that Thyrsis, who has been so in love with Themira, was to arrive at Gnidus. He has loved her, and doubtless loves her still; I must dispute with him a heart I believed intirely my own.
I remember that one day Lycas sung to my Camilla. Insensible wretch that I was, I was delighted at hearing him praise her.
I remember that Thyrsis brought my Themira some fresh-blown flowers. Unhappy that I am, she placed them in her bosom, saying, It is a present from Thyrsis. Oh! I should have snatched them, and have trampled them under my feet.
Not long since I went with Camilla to make an offering to Venus of two young turtles; but they escaped from me, and flew away.
I had inscribed my name with that of Themira on the trees; I had written also the story of our love: I read them, and read them again without ceasing; but one morning I found them effaced.
Camilla, drive not to despair an unhappy wretch who loves thee; for love, when provoked, has all the effects of hatred.
The first Gnidian that shall look at my Themira, I will pursue even into the Temple, and punish him, though at the feet of Venus.
While we were holding these discourses, we arrived within sight of the sacred grove where the Goddess delivers her oracles. The people were in crowds that moved like the waves of the sea agitated by the wind. Some came to hear, and others to receive an answer.
We entered the crowd, and I lost the happy Aristeus. Already had he embraced his Camilla; and I was still in search of my Themira.
I at length found her. I felt my jealousy redoubled at her sight, and began to resume my former madness. But she looked at me, and I was filled with tranquillity. Thus do the Gods send back the Furies, when they escape out of hell.
Oh! what tears, cried she, hast thou cost me! Three times has the sun run his course, and I feared that I had lost thee for ever. I have been to consult the Oracle. I did not ask whether thou lovedst me. I only desired to know if thou wast still alive. But Venus has just answered, that thou wilt love me for ever.
Excuse, said I, an unfortunate wretch, who would have hated thee had he been capable of it. The Gods, in whose hands I am, may take away my reason; but they cannot, Themira, deprive me of my love.
I have been agitated by the most dreadful jealousy, and have endured the tortures inflicted in Tartarus on the ghosts of criminals. But this advantage have I drawn from it, I am more sensible of the happiness of being beloved by thee, after the dreadful situation of fearing to lose thee.
Come then with me; retire into this solitary grove. We ought by love to expiate the crimes I have committed. It is a great crime, Themira, to believe thee unfaithful.
Never were the Elysian bowers, made by the Gods for the tranquillity of the souls they love; never were the forests of Dodona, where the trees spoke, and revealed to man his future felicity; never were the gardens of the Hesperides, whose boughs bent under the weight of their golden fruit, more charming than this grove adorned with the inchanting presence of Themira.
I remember, a Satyr who pursued a nymph, that fled from him all in tears, saw us; and stopping, cried, Happy lovers! your eyes know how to answer and reply to your passion; and your sighs are repaid by sighs! But I spend my life in following a cruel shepherdess; unhappy while I pursue; but more unhappy still when I have caught her.
A young nymph, who was wandering alone thro’ the grove, perceived us; and sighing cried, It is only to augment my torments, that cruel Cupid brings before me so tender a lover.
We found Apollo seated near a fountain. That God had followed Diana, whom a timorous deer had led into these woods. I knew him again by his fair hair, and the immortal troop that surrounded him. He struck his lyre; it drew the woods, the trees moved, and the lions remained immoveable. But we entered farther into the forest, and were in vain invited by that divine harmony.
Where do you imagine that I found the God of Love. I found him on the lips of Themira. I afterwards discovered him on her bosom: he saved himself at her feet; I found him still: he then hid himself under her knees; I followed him, and should have continued to follow him, if the weeping, the angry Themira had not stopped me. He was at his last retreat, and she was so charming, that he could not leave her. Thus, a tender linnet, detained by fear and love, covers her little ones with her wings, and remains immoveable under the hand that approaches her, and cannot consent to abandon them.
Unhappy as I am, Themira heard my complaints, and was not foftened: she listened to my intreaties, and became more severe. In short, I grew rash: she was enraged, and I trembled: she appeared sorry; and I shed tears: she repulsed me; and I fell at her feet. I then perceived, that the sighs I uttered would have been my last, had not Themira laid her hand on my heart, and recalled me to life.
I am not so cruel as thou, said she, for I have never thought of killing thee; and yet thou wouldest draw me into the darkness of the grave. Open those dying eyes, if thou wouldst not have mine shut for ever.
She embraced me, and I received my pardon; but alas! it was without the hope of again becoming guilty.
As the following piece appears to be written by the same author, I have also translated it from the Greek, and placed it here.
ONE day being in the Idalian grove with the young Cephisa, I found Cupid asleep hid under the flowers, and sheltered by some branches of myrtle, which gently yielded to the breath of the Zephyrs. The Sports and Laughter, who always follow him, were playing at some distance, and he was alone. Cupid was then in my power: his bow and quiver lay by his side; and, if I had pleased, I could have stole the arms of the God of Love.
Cephisa however took the bow, drew an arrow, and, without my perceiving her, let it fly at me. On which I smiling said, Take a second, give me another wound, for this is too sweet. She resolved to let fly another arrow, but it fell at her feet; and she softly cried, This was the heaviest arrow in the quiver of Love. She then taking it up, shot; and striking me, I bowed, crying, O Cephisa, wouldst thou then bring me to my grave?
She then approached nearer to Cupid. He is in a profound sleep, said she; he is fatigued with shooting his arrows; let us gather some flowers, in order to bind his hands and feet. Oh! I can never consent to it, I returned; for he has always favoured us. I will go, then, said she, take his arms, and let fly an arrow at him with all my strength. But he will awake, said I. Well, let him, said she; what can he do but wound us more? No, no, I returned, do not disturb his repose; we will remain near him, and shall by that means be more inflamed.
Cephisa then took the leaves of myrtle and roses, and cried, I am resolved to cover Cupid with them. The Sports and Laughter sought him, but could not find them, when she threw them upon him, and laughed to see the little God almost buried. But what am I amusing myself about, said she? I must cut his wings, that there may be no more inconstant men upon earth; for this God flies from heart to heart, carrying inconstancy with him. She then took her scissars, sat down, and held in her hand the ends of his golden pinions. I felt my heart struck with fear, and cried, Stop, Cephisa! But she heard me not, and having cut the tip of his wings, left her sciffars, and fled.
When Cupid awoke, he endeavoured to fly; but felt an unaccustomed weight; on seeing the clippings of the feathers scattered among the flowers, he began to weep. But Jupiter perceiving him from high Olympus, sent him a cloud that carried him to the Temple of Gnidus, and laid him on the bosom of Venus. Mother, said he, I beat upon your breast with my wings; they are cut, and what will become of me? Son, said the lovely Cypria, do not weep; stay in my bosom, and do not stir; the warmth you will find there will make them grow again. Do you not see that they are already larger? Embrace me; they grow; you will soon find them as before; I already see the tips of the golden feathers; in another moment—’tis enough, fly, fly, my son. Yes, said he, I am going to venture. He flew; he rested himself near the Goddess; and instantly returned to her bosom. He thence took a second flight; rested at a greater distance; and again returned to the bosom of Venus. He kissed it, she smiled; he kissed it again, and played with her: and at length arose into the air, where he reigns over all nature.
Cupid, to be revenged on Cephisa, has rendered her the most volatile of all the fair; and has caused her to burn every day with a fresh flame. She has loved me; she has loved Daphnis; and she still loves Cleon. Cruel Cupid! it is me whom you punish. I would gladly bear the pain inflicted for her crime: but hast thou not other torments for me to suffer?
WHEN Alexander had destroyed the Persian Empire, heresolved to raise a belief, that he was the son of Jupiter. The Macedonians were vexed at seeing that Prince blush at having Philip for his father: their discontent encreased, when they beheld him assume the manners, the customs, and the dress of the Persians; and they reproached themselves for having done so much for a man who began to despise them. But the murmurs of the army did not break out into words.
A philosopher, named Callisthenes, had followed the king in his expedition. One day he saluted him after the manner of the Greeks: on which Alexander cried, “Whence comes it that thou dost not adore me?” “My Lord, said Callisthenes, thou art the chief of two nations: the one were slaves before they had submitted to thee, and are not less so since thou hast conquered them; the other free before they assisted thee in gaining so many victories, and are so still since thou hast obtained them. I am a Greek, my Lord; and that name thou hast raised so high, that we cannot degrade it without injuring thee.”
The vices of Alexander were as extraordinary as his virtues. He was terrible in his anger; it rendered him cruel. He caused the feet, nose, and ears of Callisthenes to be cut off; ordered that he should be shut up in an iron cage, and this carried in the train of his army.
I loved Callisthenes; and whenever business would allow me some hours of leisure, I was used to employ them in listening to him: and if I have any love for virtue, I owe it to the impressions I have received from his discourses. I went to visit him. “I salute thee, said I, illustrious but unhappy Callisthenes, whom I see, like a wild beast, kept in a cage of iron, for having been the only man in the army.”
“Lysimachus, said he, when I see myself in a situation that demands courage and fortitude, I seem to be almost in my proper situation. Indeed, had the Gods placed me upon earth, only to lead here a life of pleasure, I believe they would have given me in vain a great and immortal soul. To enjoy the pleasures of sense, is a thing of which all men are easily capable; and if the Gods have made us only for that, they have made a work more perfect than they intended, and have executed more than they designed. Not, added he, that I am insensible. Thou let’st me too plainly see that I am not. When I saw thee coming, I felt a sudden pleasure at seeing thee perform so courageous an action. But I conjure thee, in the name of the Gods, to let this be the last time. Leave me to support my misfortunes; and be not so cruel as to add to them the weight of thine.”
“Callisthenes, said I, I will visit thee every day. If the king sees thee abandoned by virtuous men, he will no longer feel the least remorse; he will begin to believe that thou art guilty. I hope he will never enjoy the pleasure of seeing, that his chastisements have made me abandon a friend.”
One day Callisthenes said to me, “The immortal Gods have given me consolation; and ever since I feel within me something divine, that has taken away the sensibility of my pains. I have seen in a dream the great Jupiter. Thou wast near him; thou hadst a sceptre in thine hand, and a royal circlet on thy forehead. He shewed thee to me, and said, He will render thee more happy. The emotions I felt awaked me from sleep. I found my hands lifted up towards heaven, and was making an effort to say, Great Jupiter, if Lysimachus is to reign, grant that he may reign with justice. Lysimachus, thou shalt reign: believe a man who must be pleasing to the Gods, since he suffers in the cause of virtue.”
In the mean while Alexander being informed, that I shewed respect to the misery of Callisthenes, that I went to visit him, and even presumed to complain of his treatment, was filled with a fresh transport of rage. “Go, said he, and fight with lions, unhappy wretch, that takest delight in living with wild beasts.” My punishment was, however, deferred, that it might serve as a spectacle to a great number of men.
The day which preceded it I wrote these words to Callisthenes: “I am going to die. All the ideas thou hast given me of my future grandeur are vanished from my mind. I could have wished to alleviate the sufferings of a man like thee.”
Prexapes, in whom I confided, brought this answer: “Lysimachus, if the Gods have resolved that thou shalt reign, Alexander cannot take away thy life; for men have it not in their power to oppose the will of the Gods.”
From this letter I received encouragement: and reflecting, that the happiest and most unhappy of mankind are equal surrounded by the divine hand, I resolved to conduct myself, not by my hopes, but by my courage, and to defend to the last a life on which depended such great promises.
They led me to the circus, where I was surrounded by an immense number of people, who came to be witness of my courage or my fear. A lion was let loose upon me. I wrapped my cloak about my arm: I presented it to him: he would have devoured it: I thrust it far into his mouth, seized his tongue by the roots, tore it out, and threw it at my feet.
Alexander was naturally fond of courageous actions. He admired my resolution; and at that moment the greatness of his soul returned.
He gave orders for my being called to him; and holding out his hand to me, “Lysimachus, said he, I return thee my friendship, return me thine: my anger has only served to make thee perform an action that was wanting in the life of Alexander.”
I received the king’s favour, adored the decrees of the Gods, and waited for their promises, without seeking or flying from them. Alexander died; and all the nations were without a master. The king’s sons were in their infancy: his brother Arideus had not yet come into Persia: Olympias had only the boldness of weak minds, and cruelty was to her courage. Roxana, Eurydice, Statyra, were lost in grief. Every body in the palace gave vent to their groans, and nobody thought of reigning. Alexander’s captains then raised their eyes up to the throne; but the ambition of each was checked by the ambition of all. We divided the empire; and each of us believed that he had shared the price of his fatigues.
It was my lot to be made King of Asia; and now, when I can do whatever I please, I am more in need than ever of the lessons of Callisthenes. His joy informs me that I have done a good action, and his sighs tell me that I have some evil to repair. I find him between my people and me.
I am King of a people who love me. The fathers of families hope for the length of my life, as for that of their children. The young fear to lose me, as they fear to lose a father. My subjects are happy, and I am so too.
THE ANALYSIS OF THE SPIRIT OF LAWS.