A STORY IN THREE SCENES
(Plin. Nat. Hist., xxxv. ii)
Outside the gate of Sicyon--Morning. Glycera weaving garlands, Pausias stands admiring.
"YE Gods, I thought myself the Prince of Art,
By Phoebus, and the Muses set apart,
To smite the critic with his own complaint,
And teach the world the proper way to paint.
But lo, a young maid trips out of a wood,
And what becomes of all I understood?
I stand and stare; I could not draw a line,
If ninety Muses came, instead of nine.
Thy name, fair maiden, is a debt to me;
Teach him to speak, whom thou hast taught to see.
Myself already some repute have won,
For I am Pausias, Brietes' son.
To boast behoves me not, nor do I need,
But often wish my friends to win the meed.
So shall they now; no more will I pursue
The beaten track, but try what thou hast shown,
New forms, new curves, new harmonies of tone,
New dreams of heaven, and how to make them true."
"Fair Sir, 'tis only what I plucked this morn,
Kind nature's gift, ere you and I were born.
Through mossy woods, and watered vales, I roam,
While day is young, and bring my treasure home;
Each lovely bell so tenderly I bear,
It knoweth not my fingers from the air,
Lo now, they scarce acknowledge their surprise,
And how the dewdrops sparkle in their eyes!"
"Because the sun shines out of thine. But hush,
To praise a face praiseworthy, makes it blush.
I am not of the youths who find delight,
In every pretty thing that meets their sight
My father is the sage of Sicyon;
And I--well, he is proud of such a son."
"And proud am I, my mother's child to be,
And earn for her the life she gave to me,
Her name is Myrto of the silver hair,
Not famed for wisdom, but loved everywhere."
"Then whence thine art? Hath Phoebus given thee boon
Of wreath and posy, fillet and festoon?
Of tint and grouping, balance, depth, and tone--
Lo, I could cast my palette down, and groan!"
"No art, fair sir, hath ever crossed my thought,
The lesson I delight in comes untaught.
The flowers around me take their own sweet way,
They tell me what they wish--and I obey.
Unlike poor us, they feel no spleen or spite
But earn their joy, oy ministering delight.
So loved and cherished, each may well suppose
Itself at home again just where it grows.
No dread have they of what the Fates may bring,
But trust their Gods, and breathe perpetual Spring."
"Fair child of Myrto, simple-hearted maid,
Thy innocence doth arrogance upbraid.
Ye Gods, I pray you make a flower of me;
That I may dwell with nature, and with thee."
"I see the brave sun leap the city wall!
The gates swing wide; I hear the herald's call.
The Archon ham proclaimed the market-day;
And mother will shed tears at my delay.
The priest of Zeus hath ordered garlands three;
And while I tarry, who will wait for me?"
"No picture have I sold for many a moon,
But fortune must improve her habits soon;
Then will I purchase all thy stock-in-trade,
And thou shalt lead me to thy bower of green,
There will I paint the flowers, and thee their Queen--
The Queen of dowers, that nevermore shall fade."
"I know a wood-nymph, who her dwelling hath
Among the leaves, and far beyond the path,
With myrtle and with jasmin roofed across,
Enlaced with vine, and carpeted with moss,
Whose only threshold is a plaited brook,
Whereby the primrose at herself may look;
While birds of song melodious make the air--
But oh! I must not take a stranger there."
"Nay, but a friend No stranger now am I.
Good art is pledge of perfect modesty.
From chastened heights the painter glanceth down;
No maid can fear a youth who loves renown."
"Thy words are trim, If mother deems them true,
Thou shalt come with me. But till then, adieu!" [Exit.
"O! where am I? The mind is all for art--
But one warm breath transforms it into heart."
A wood near Sicyon. Pausias with his easel, &c. Glycera carrying flowers.
"Confounded tangle! Who could paint all this?
A bear might hug him, or a serpent hiss!
For love of nature justly am I famed;
But when she goes so far as this, she ought to be ashamed."
"Nay, be not frightened by a small affray,
Pure love of nature cannot pave its way.
But lo, where yonder coney-tracks begin,
My nymph hath made her favourite bower within.
Yon oak hath reared its rugged antlers thus,
Before Deucalion lived, or Daedalus.
Inside her woodland Majesty doth keep
A world of wonders--if one dared to peep--
Of things that burrow, elide, spin webs, or creep;
Strange creatures, which before they live must die,
And plants that hunt for prey, and flowers that fly!"
"My love of nature freezes in a trice;
I loathe all earwigs, beetles, and wood-lice.
Outside her bower the lady must remain,
If she doth wish to have her portrait taen."
"Tis not the lady thou must paint--but me."
"Aha, that will I, with a glow of glee.
But when I offered, somebody was vexed,
And blushed, and frowned, and longed to say,
"A painter's tongue hath learnt to paint, I trow.
But oh that order--I remember now--
For twenty chaplets, from the priest of Zeus!
Ah, what a grand majestic Hiereus!"
So pleased he was that morning with those three,
And such a customer he means to be!
"The priest of Dis!a scoundrel with three wives!
I'll pull his triple beard, if he arrives."
"High words and threats profane this hallowed place,
Where Time rebukes the fuss of human race.
And gentle sir, what harm hath he done thee?
It is my mother whom he comes to see.
Lo, how the Gods our puny wrath deride,
With peace and beauty spread on every side!
This earth with pleasure of the Spring complete,
Too bright to dwell on, were it not so sweet.
No theft of man it's affluence impairs,
A thousand flowers, without a loss, it spares;
Whose bashful elegance no brush can trace,
Heartfelt delight, and plenitude of grace;
No palettes match their brilliance, although
Pandora filled her box from Iris' bow."
"Her want of faith sweet Glycera will rue,
When she hath seen what Pausias can do."
"Forgive me, sir; In truth it was no taunt.
A great man can do anything--but vaunt."
"E'en that he can do, if he sees the need.
But out on words, when time hath come for deed!
Up leaps the sun, to paint thee with his plume,
And every blossom seems to be thy bloom."
"Why stand we here, so early of the morn,
In love with things that treat our love with scorn--
Grey crags, where Time with folded pinion broods,
Ana ever young antiquity of woods;
The brooks that babble, and the flowers that blush,
Ere woman was a reed, or man a rush?
And he for ever, as the Gods ordain,
Would fain revive with art what he hath slain;
Shall nature fail to laugh, while man doth yearn
To teach the canvas what he ne'er can learn?"
"Sweet Muse, while thus through heaven's too distant vault,
Thy great mind roves--how shall we earn our salt?
Though art is not encouraged as of old,
She is worth a score of nature; I design
To manufacture, from these flowers of thine,
A silver * talent--or perhaps of gold!"
* Lucullus is said to have given two talents for a mere copy of this picture.
"Good heavens, how precious is your Worship's time!
Some minds are lowly, others too sublime.
Before thee all my simple flowers I spread;
Long may they live, when Glycera is dead!"
"The Gods forefend!
Fair omen from fair maid--
Bright tongue, recall the dark thing thou hast said!"
"Then long live they, with Glycera to aid!"
"And Pausias crowned by Critics, to non-plus
Euphranor, Cydias, and Antidotus.
But what are they? Below my feet they lie;
Poor sons of pelf. The son of art am I.
Now rest thee, maiden, on this pillowy bed,
With fragrance canopied, with beauty spread;
Above thee hovers eglantine's caress,
Around thee glows entangled loveliness;
Shy primrose smiles, thy gentle smile to woo,
And violets take thy glances for the dew."
"Then will they pluck themselves, to see me laugh;
Good flowers bring cash; but who will pay for chaff?
But haply thus the true poet intervenes,
To make us wonder what on earth he means."
"A poet! We do things in a superior way;
A painter is a poet, who makes it pay.
A poet, though deep and mystic as the Sphinx,
Will ne'er earn half of what he eats and drinks,
He dreams of Gods, but of himself he thinks."
A western slope near Sicyon. Pausias has his easel set, Glycera is dressed in white.
"Seven times the moon hath filled her silver horn,
And twice a hundred suns awoke the morn,
Since thou and I--for half the praise is thine--
Began this study of the flowers divine."
"Alas! how swiftly have the months gone by!"
"Not swift alone, but passing sweet for me."
"The world, that was so large, is you and I."
"And shall be larger still, when it is 'We.'"
(Aside) "Sweet dual! Alas, that this shall never be!"
"A tear, bright Glycera in those eyes of thine,
Those tender eyes, that should with triumph shine!
When I, the owner of that precious heart,
Am shouting Iö Pæan of high art;
The noblest picture underneath the sun--
A few more strokes, and victory is won!"
"Nay, heed me not. True pleasure is not dry;
The sunrise of the heart bedews the eye."
"If that were all--but lately there hath been
A listless air beneath thy livery mien;
Thyself art all fair petal, and sweet perfume,
And smiles that light the damask of thy bloom;
Yet some, pale distance seems to chill the whole."
"Forgive me, love, forgive a timorous soul.
Through brightest hours untimely vapours rise--
But while I prate, the lucky moment flies.
The work, the weather, and the world are fair;
A few more strokes--and fame flies everywhere."
"Who cares for fame, except with love to share?"
"To share! Nay every breath of it is mine,
Whene'er it breathes on thee; for I am thine.
But pardon now--if I have seemed sometime
Impatient, glib, too pert for things sublime,
Remember that I meant not so to sink;
Forgive your Glycera, when you come to think."
"I'll not forgive my Glycera--until
She hath discovered how to do some ill.
Now don once more this coronet of bloom,
While lilies sweet thy sweeter breast illume."
(Aside) "Ah me, what brightness wasted upon gloom!
(Aloud) Oh fling thy sponge across this wretched face,
A patch uncouth amid a world of grace."
"Sweet love, thy beauty far outshineth them;
The tinsel they are, thou the living gem.
Great gift of Gods! Shall flowers of earth despise
Those flowers of heaven--thy tresses, and thine eyes?
Away with gloom I let no ill-boding make
My heart to falter, or my hand to shake.
One hour is all I crave. If that be long,
Sweet lips beguile it with my favourite song."
"A song like mine, a childish lullaby,
Will close--when needed wide-awake--thine eye.
But since thou so demandest, let me try.
"In the fresh woods have I been,
Sprinkled with the morning dew;
And of all that I have seen,
Lo, the fairest are for you!
Take your choice of many a flower,
Lily, rose, and melilot,
Lilac, myrtle, virgin's bower,
Pansy, and forget-me-not.
Ladies'-tresses, and harebell,
Jasmin, daphne, violet,
Meadow-sweet, and pimpernel,
Maidenhair, and mignonette.
What is gold, that doth allure
Foolish hearts from field and flower?
If you plant them in it pure,
Will they keep alive an hour?
What is fame, compared with these,
Fame of wisdom, sword, or pen?
Who would quit the meadow breeze,
For the sultry breath of men?
These have been my childhood's love,
These my maiden visions were;
When I meet their gaze above,
These will tell me, God is there."
"'Tis done! No more the palsied doubt molests;
The crown of glory on my labour rests.
Thy clear voice hath my flagging thoughts supplied,
My model thou, my teacher, and my bride!
Now stand, beloved one, where the soft glow lies,
Yet judge not rashly, ere the colour dries.
Find every fault, pick every flaw thou canst;
I'll not be vexed; true art is thus advanced.
So meek is art, that (when it comprehends)
It loves the carping of its dearest friends.
If my own bride condemns my efforts--let her.
A poor daub? Well let some one do it better."
"My love, my lord, my monarch of high art,
Forgive a tongue held fast and bound by heart.
Not Orpheus, Linus, or great Hermes could
Find words to make their rapture understood.
No Muse, no Phoebus, hath this work inspired,
But Jove himself, with heaven's own splendour fired.
I see the nursing fingers of the day,
And night as well, upon their offspring play--
The silent glide of moon, that hushed their sleep,
(As mother at her infant steals a peep)
Anon, with pearly glances half withdrawn,
The gentle hesitation of the dawn;
I see the sun his golden target raise,
And drive in tremulous ranks the woodland haze;
Awakened by whose call the flowers arise,
With tears of joy and blushes of surprise;
From bulb and bush, from leaf and blade, spring up
Bell, disk, or star, plume, sceptre, fan, or cup;
A thousand forms, a thousand hues of bloom
Fill earth and heaven with beauty and perfume.
All this, by thine enchantment, liveth here;
Oh wondrous power, that chills my pride with fear!"
"Thy praise, sweet critic, makes thee doubly dear.
But what of thy fair self--thy form, thy face,
The flower of flowers, the gracefulness of grace?"
"I see why thou hast placed me among these;
I serve a purpose--'tis to scare the bees.
Sweet love hath right to place me anywhere;
And yet I mourn, to find myself so fair."
"A maid lament her beauty! Thou hast shown,
A thousand times, a wit beyond mine own;
Yet is it kind to such a love as mine,
To grudge it refuge in a lovely shrine?"
"No shrine, no throne, of earth or heaven above,
Can be too fair a dwelling-place for love.
But that which makes me grieve, myself to see,
Is memory of the bitter loss to thee;
That earthly charms--as men such things esteem--
Should tantalize thee, in a weeping dream!"
"My own, my only love, what wouldst thou say?
My heart hath borne a heavy bode, all day."
"I durst not tell thee, till thy work was done;
But now I must, before the setting sun.
Last night, when life was lapsed in quietude,
Beside my couch a stately figure stood--
A virgin form, in garb of chace arrayed,
With bow and quiver, baldric, and steel blade;
Majestic as a palm that scorns the wind,
And taller than the daughters of mankind
Twas Artemis, close-girt in silver sheen,
The Goddess of the woods, the Maiden-queen.
Cold terror seized me, and mute awe, the while
She oped her proud lips, with an icy smile--
'Whose votary art thou? Shall I resign
'To wanton Cypris this sworn nymph of mine?
'Have I enfeoffed thee of my holiest glen?
'To have thee tainted by the lips of men?
'Shall urchin Eros laugh at my decree?
'No Hymen torch, no loosened zone for thee I
'To-morrow, when my crescent tops yon oak,
'Thou shalt return unto thy proper yoke.'
She closed her lips, and like the barb of frost,
Her fingers on my bounding heart outspread:
My breast is ice, mv soul is of the dead:
The sod, the cold clay, are my marriage-bed;
Sweet sun, sweet flowers, sweet Love, forever lost!"
"I'll not endure it; it shall ne'er be true;
If that cold tyrant comes--I'll run her through."
"What can'st thou do against the Goddess trine,
Selene, Artemis, and Proserpine?
Oh love, thou hast before thee life and fame,
And some new Glycera with a loftier name.
So tender is my heart, that it would break,
To think that thou wert suffering for my sake.
Be angry with me; doubt my faith--or try;
And count it for a crime of mine to die:
Or tell thyself--if still a pain there be--
That wealth and grandeur were not meant for me.
Yet think sometimes, when thou art well consoled,
That no one loves thee, like some one of old."
"My life, my soul, my heart of hearts, my all,
Together let us cling, till death befall."
"The sun is gone; the crescent waxeth bright;
I fly to darkness, or eternal light.
Great are the Gods; but greater yet is love;
Here thou art mine, and I am thine above."
* * * * *
"Oh fame, and conquest, pomp, and power, and state,
What are ye, when the heart is desolate?
A few more years of labour, and slow breath--
Till death benign hath overtaken death."