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sleeping child; the mind seems to have a balmy lid closing over it, like the eye;-'tis closing; 'tis more closing; 'tis closed. The mysterious spirit has gone to take its airy rounds.
It is said that sleep is best before midnight: and Nature herself, with her darkness and chilling dews, informs us so. There is another reason for going to bed betimes for it is universally acknowledged that lying late in the morning is a great shortener of life. At least, it is never found in company with longevity. It also tends to make people corpulent. But these matters belong rather to the subject of early rising, than of sleep.
Sleep at a late hour in the morning is not half so pleasant as the more timely one. It is sometimes however excusable, especially to a watchful or overworked head; neither can we deny the seducing merits of "t' other doze,"the pleasing wilfulness of nestling in a new posture, when you know you ought to be up, like the rest of the house. But then you cut up the day, and your sleep the next night.
In the course of the day, few people think of sleeping, except after dinner; and then it is often rather a hovering and nodding on the borders of sleep, than sleep itself. This is a privilege allowable, we think, to none but the old, or the sickly, or the very tired and careworn; and it should be well understood, before it is exercised in company. To escape into slumber from an argument; or to take it as an affair of course, only between you and your biliary duct; or to assent with involuntary nods to all that you have just been disputing, is not so well: much less, to sit nodding and tottering beside a lady; or to be in danger of dropping your head into the fruit-plate or your host's face; or of waking up, and saying, "Just so," to the bark of a dog; or "Yes, Madam," to the black at your elbow.
Care-worn people, however, might refresh themselves oftener with day-sleep than they do; if their bodily state is such as to dispose them to it. It is a mistake to suppose that all care is wakeful. People sometimes sleep, as well as wake, by reason of their sorrow. The difference seems to depend upon the nature of their temperament; though in the most excessive cases, sleep is perhaps Nature's neverfailing relief, as swooning is upon the rack. A person with jaundice in his blood shall lie down and go to sleep at noon-day, when another of a different complexion shall find his eyes as uncloseable as a statue's, though he has had no sleep for nights together. Without meaning to lessen the dignity of suffering, which has quite enough to do with its waking hours, it is this that may often account for the profound sleeps enjoyed the night before hazardous battles, executions, and other demands upon an over-excited spirit.
The most complete and healthy sleep that can be taken in the day, is in summer-time,
out in a field. There is perhaps no solitary sensation so exquisite as that of slumbering on the grass or hay, shaded from the hot sun by a tree, with the consciousness of a fresh but light air running through the wide atmosphere, and the sky stretching far overhead upon all sides. Earth, and heaven, and a placid humanity, seem to have the creation to themselves. There is nothing between the slumberer and the naked and glad innocence of nature.
Next to this, but at a long interval, the most relishing snatch of slumber out of bed, is the one which a tired person takes, before he retires for the night, while lingering in his sitting-room. The consciousness of being very sleepy and of having the power to go to bed immediately, gives great zest to the unwillingness to move. Sometimes he sits nodding in his chair; but the sudden and leaden jerks of the head to which a state of great sleepiness renders him liable, are generally too painful for so luxurious a moment; and he gets into a more legitimate posture, sitting sideways with his head on the chair-back, or throwing his legs up at once on another chair, and half reclining. It is curious, however, to find how long an inconvenient posture will be borne for the sake of this foretaste of repose. The worst of it is, that on going to bed, the charm sometimes vanishes; perhaps from the colder temperature of the chamber; for a fireside is a great opiate.
Speaking of the painful positions into which a sleepy lounger will get himself, it is amusing to think of the more fantastic attitudes that so often take place in bed. If we could add anything to the numberless things that have been said about sleep by the poets, it would be upon this point. Sleep never shows himself a greater leveller. A man in his waking moments may look as proud and self-possessed as he pleases. He may walk proudly, he may sit proudly, he may eat his dinner proudly; he may shave himself with an air of infinite superiority; in a word, he may show himself grand and absurd upon the most trifling occasions. But Sleep plays the petrifying magician. He arrests the proudest lord as well as the humblest clown in the most ridiculous postures: so that if you could draw a grandee from his bed without waking him, no limbtwisting fool in a pantomime should create wilder laughter. The toy with the string between its legs, is hardly a posture-master more extravagant. Imagine a despot lifted up to the gaze of his valets, with his eyes shut, his mouth open, his left hand under his right ear, his other twisted and hanging helplessly before him like an idiot's, one knee lifted up, and the other leg stretched out, or both knees huddled up together;-what a scarecrow to lodge majestic power in !
But Sleep is kindly, even in his tricks; and
the poets have treated him with proper reverence. According to the ancient mythologists, he had even one of the Graces to wife. He had a thousand sons, of whom the chief were Morpheus, or the Shaper; Icelos, or the Likely; Phantasus, the Fancy; and Phobetor, the Terror. His dwelling some writers place in a dull and darkling part of the earth; others, with greater compliment, in heaven; and others, with another kind of propriety, by the seashore. There is a good description of it in Ovid; but in these abstracted tasks of poetry, the moderns outvie the ancients; and there is nobody who has built his bower for him so finely as Spenser. Archimago in the first book of the Faerie Queene (Canto I. st. 39), sends a little spirit down to Morpheus to fetch him a Dream:
He, making speedy way through spersed ayre, And through the world of waters, wide and deepe,
To Morpheus' house doth hastily repaire. Amid the bowels of the earth full steepe And low, where dawning day doth never peepe, His dwelling is. There. Tethys his wet bed Doth ever wash; and Cynthia still doth steepe In silver dew his ever-drouping head, Whiles sad Night over him her mantle black doth spred.
And more to lull him in his slumber soft
A trickling streame from high rocke tumbling downe, And ever-drizzling rain upon the loft, Mixed with a murmuring winde, much like the soune Of swarming bees, did cast him in a swoune. No other noise, nor people's troublous cryes, As still are wont to annoy the walled towne, Might there be heard; but carelesse Quiet lyes, Wrapt in eternall silence, far from enimyes.
Chaucer has drawn the cave of the same god with greater simplicity; but nothing can have a more deep and sullen effect than his cliffs and cold running waters. It seems as real as an actual solitude, or some quaint old picture in a book of travels in Tartary. He is telling the story of Ceyx and Alcyone in the poem called his Dream. Juno tells a messenger to go to Morpheus and "bid him creep into the body" of the drowned king, to let his wife know the fatal event by his apparition.
This messenger tooke leave, and went
Where the credentials of this new son and heir Eclympasteire, are to be found, we know not; but he acts very much, it must be allowed,
like an heir presumptive, in sleeping, and doing none other work."
We dare not trust ourselves with many quotations upon sleep from the poets; they are so numerous as well as beautiful. We must content ourselves with mentioning that our two most favourite passages are one in the Philoctetes of Sophocles, admirable for its contrast to a scene of terrible agony, which it closes; and the other the following address in Beaumont and Fletcher's tragedy of Valentinian, the hero of which is also a sufferer under bodily torment. He is in a chair, slumbering; and these most exquisite lines are gently sung with music.
Care-charming Sleep, thou easer of all woes,
How earnest and prayer-like are these pauses! How lightly sprinkled, and yet how deeply settling, like rain, the fancy! How quiet, affectionate, and perfect the conclusion!
Sleep is most graceful in an infant; soundest, in one who has been tired in he open air; completest, to the seaman after a hard voyage; most welcome, to the mind haunted with one idea; most touching to look at, in the parent that has wept; lightest, in the playful child; proudest, in the bride adored.
XXII. THE FAIR REVENGE.
THE elements of this story are to be found in the old poem called Albion's England, to which we referred in the article on Charles Brandon and Mary Queen of France.
Aganippus, king of Argos, dying without heirs male, bequeathed his throne to his only daughter, the beautiful and beloved Daphles. This female succession was displeasing to a nobleman who held large possessions on the frontiers; and he came for the first time towards the court, not to pay his respects to the new queen, but to give her battle. Doracles (for that was his name) was not much known by the people. He had distinguished himself for as jealous an independence as a subject could well assume; and though he had been of use in repelling invasion during the latter years of the king, he had never made his appearance to receive his master's thanks personally. A correspondence, however, was understood to have gone on between him and several noblemen about the court; and there were those who, in spite of his inattention to popularity, suspected that it would go hard
with the young queen, when the two armies came face to face.
But neither these subtle statesmen, nor the ambitious young soldier Doracles, were aware of the effects to be produced by a strong personal attachment. The young queen, amiable as she was beautiful, had involuntarily baffled his expectations from her courtiers, by exciting in the minds of some a real disinterested regard, while others nourished a hope of sharing her throne instead. At least they speculated upon becoming each the favourite minister, and held it a better thing to reign under that title and a charming mistress, than be the servants of a master, wilful and domineering. By the people she was adored; and when she came riding out of her palace on the morning of the fight, with an unaccustomed spear standing up in its rest by her side, her diademed hair flowing a little off into the wind, her face paler than usual, but still tinted with its roses, and a look in which confidence in the love of her subjects, and tenderness for the wounds they were going to encounter, seemed to contend for the expression, the shout which they sent up would have told a stouter heart than a traitor's, that the royal charmer was secure.
The queen, during the conflict, remained in a tent upon an eminence, to which the younger leaders vied who should best spur up their smoking horses, to bring her good news from time to time. The battle was short and bloody. Doracles soon found that he had miscalculated his point; and all skill and resolution could not set the error to rights. It was allowed, that if either courage or military talent could entitle him to the throne, he would have a right to it; but the popularity of Daphles supplied her cause with all the ardour which a lax state of subjection on the part of the more powerful nobles might have denied it. When her troops charged, or made any other voluntary movement, they put all their hearts into their blows; and when they were compelled to await the enemy, they stood as inflexible as walls of iron. It was like hammering upon metal statuary; or staking the fated horses upon spears riveted in stone. Doracles was taken prisoner. The queen, re-issuing from her tent, crowned with laurel, came riding down the eminence, and remained at the foot with her generals, while the prisoners were taken by. Her pale face kept as royal a countenance of composed pity as she could manage, while the commoner rebels passed along, aching with their wounded arms fastened behind, and shaking back their bloody and blinding locks for want of a hand to part them. But the blood mounted to her cheeks, when the proud and handsome Doracles, whom she now saw for the first time, blushed deeply as he cast a glance at his female conqueror, and then stepped haughtily
along, handling his gilded chains as if they were an indifferent ornament. "I have conquered him,” thought she; "it is a heavy blow to so proud a head; and as he looks not unamiable, it might be politic, as well as courteous and kin in me, to turn his submission into a more willing one." Alas! pity was helping admiration to a kinder set of offices than the generous-hearted queen suspected. The captive went to his prison a conqueror after all, for Daphles loved him.
The second night, after having exhibited in her manners a strange mixture of joy and seriousness, and signified to her counsellors her intention of setting the prisoner free, she released him with her own hands. Many a step did she hesitate as she went down the stairs; and when she came to the door, she shed a full, but soft, and, as it seemed to her, a wilful and refreshing flood of tears, humbling herself for her approaching task. When she had entered, she blushed deeply, and then turning as pale, stood for a minute silent and without motion. She then said, "Thy queen, Doracles, has come to show thee how kindly she can treat a great and gallant subject, who did not know her ;" and with these words, and almost before she was aware, the prisoner was released, and preparing to go. He appeared surprised, but not off his guard, nor in any temper to be over grateful. "Name," said he, "O queen, the conditions on which I depart, and they will be faithfully kept." Daphles moved her lips, but they spoke not. She waved her head and hand with a deadly smile, as if freeing him from all conditions, and he was turning to go, when she fell senseless on the floor. The haughty warrior raised her with more impatience than good-will. He could guess at love in a woman; but he had but a mean opinion both of it and her sex; and the deadly struggle in the heart of Daphles did not help him to distinguish the romantic passion which had induced her to put all her past and virgin notions of love into his person, from the commonest liking that might flatter his soldierly vanity.
The queen, on awaking from her swoon, found herself compelled, in very justice to the intensity of a true passion, to explain how pity had brought it upon her. "I might ask it," said she," Doracles, in return,” and here she resumed something of her queen-like dignity; "but I feel that my modesty will be sufficiently saved by the name of your wife; and a substantial throne, with a return that shall nothing perplex or interfere with thee, I do now accordingly offer thee, not as the condition of thy freedom, but as a diversion of men's eyes and thoughts from what they will think ill in me, if they find me rejected." And in getting out that hard word, her voice faltered a little, and her eyes filled with tears.
Doracles, with the best grace his lately
defeated spirit could assume, spoke in willing terms of accepting her offer. They left the prison, and his full pardon having been proclaimed, the courtiers, with feasts and entertainments, vied who should seem best to approve their mistress's choice, for so they were quick to understand it. The late captive, who was really as graceful and accomplished as a proud spirit would let him be, received and returned all their attention in princely sort, and Daphles was beginning to hope that he might turn a glad eye upon her some day, when news was brought her that he had gone from court, nobody knew whither. The next intelligence was too certain. He had passed the frontiers, and was leaguing with her enemies for another struggle.
From that day gladness, though not kindness, went out of the face of Daphles. She wrote him a letter, without a word of reproach in it, enough to bring back the remotest heart that had the least spark of sympathy; but he only answered it in a spirit which showed that he regarded the deepest love but as a wanton trifle. That letter touched her kind wits. She had had a paper drawn up, leaving him her throne in case she should die; but some of her ministers, availing themselves of her enfeebled spirit, had summoned a meeting of the nobles, at which she wa to preside in the dress she wore on the day of victory, the sight of which, it was thought, with the arguments which they meant to use, would prevail upon the assembly to urge her to a revocation of the bequest. Her women dressed her whilst she was almost unconscious of what they were doing, for she had now begun to fade quickly, body as well as mind. They put on her the white garments edged with silver waves, in remembrance of the stream of Inachus, the founder of the Argive monarchy; the spear was brought out, to be stuck by the side of the throne, instead of the sceptre; and their hands prepared to put the same laurel on her head which bound its healthy white temples when she sat on horseback and saw the prisoner go by. But at sight of its twisted and withered green, she took it in her hand, and looking about her in her chair with an air of momentary recollection, began picking it, and letting the leaves fall upon the floor. She went on thus, leaf after leaf, looking vacantly downwards, and when she had stripped the circle half round, she leaned her cheek against the side of her sick chair, and shutting her eyes quietly, so died.
The envoys from Argos went to the court of Calydon, where Doracles then was, and bringing him the diadem upon a black cushion, informed him at once of the death of the queen, and her nomination of him to the throne. He showed little more than a ceremonious gravity at the former news; but could ill contain his joy at the latter, and set off instantly to take pos
session. Among the other nobles who feasted him, was one who, having been the companion of the late king, had become like a second father to his unhappy daughter. The new prince observing the melancholy which he scarcely affected to repress, and seeing him look up occasionally at a picture which had a veil over it, asked him what the picture was that seemed to disturb him so, and why it was veiled. "If it be the portrait of the late king," said Doracles, "pray think me worthy of doing honour to it, for he was a noble prince. Unveil it, pray. I insist upon it. What! am I not worthy to look upon my predecessors, Phorbas?" And at these words he frowned impatiently. Phorbas, with a trembling hand, but not for want of courage, withdrew the black covering; and the portrait of Daphles, in all her youth and beauty, flashed upon the eyes of Doracles. It was not a melancholy face. It was drawn before misfortune had touched it, and sparkled with a blooming beauty, in which animal spirits and good-nature contended for predominance. Doracles paused and seemed struck. "The possessor of that face," said he, inquiringly, "could never have been so sorrowful as I have heard?" "Pardon me, Sir," answered Phorbas,
I was as another father to her, and knew all.” "It cannot be," returned the prince. The old man begged his other guests to withdraw a while, and then told Doracles how many fond and despairing things the queen had said of him, both before her wits began to fail and after. "Her wits to fail!" murmured the king; "I have known what it is to feel almost a mad impatience of the will; but I knew not that these gentle creatures, women, could so feel for such a trifle." Phorbas brought out the laurel-crown, and told him how the half of it became bare. The impatient blood of Doracles mounted, but not in anger, to his face; and, breaking up the party, he requested that the picture might be removed to his own chamber, promising to return it.
A whole year, however, did he keep it; and as he had no foreign enemies to occupy his time, nor was disposed to enter into the common sports of peace, it was understood that he spent the greatest part of his time, when he was not in council, in the room where the picture hung. In truth, the image of the once smiling Daphles haunted him wherever he went; and to ease himself of the yearning of wishing her alive again and seeing her face, he was in the habit of being with it as much as possible. His self-will turned upon him, even in that gentle shape. Millions of times did he wish back the loving author of his fortunes, whom he had treated with so clownish an ingratitude; and millions of times did the sense of the impotence of his wish run up in red hurry to his cheeks, and help to pull them into a gaunt melancholy. But this is not a repaying sorrow to dwell upon. He was one
day, after being in vain expected at council, found lying madly on the floor of the room, dead. He had torn the portrait from the wall. His dagger was in his heart, and his cheek lay upon that blooming and smiling face, which had it been living, would never have looked so at being revenged.
XXIII-SPIRIT OF THE ANCIENT MYTHOLOGY.
FROM having a different creed of our own, and always encountering the heathen mythology in a poetical and fabulous shape, we are apt to have a false idea of the religious feeling of the ancients. We are in the habit of supposing, whatever we allow when we come to reason upon the point, that they regarded their fables in the same poetical light as ourselves; that they could not possibly put faith in Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto; in the sacrifice of innocent turtle-doves, the libation of wine, and the notions about Tartarus and Ixion.
Undoubtedly there were multitudes of freethinkers in the ancient world. Most of the Greek poets and philosophers appear to have differed with the literal notions of the many*. A system of refined theism is understood to have been taught to the initiated in the celebrated Mysteries. The doctrines of Epicurus were so prevalent in the most intellectual age of Rome, that Lucretius wrote a poem upon them, in which he treats their founder as a divinity; and Virgil, in a well-known passage of the Georgics: "Felix qui potuit," &c., exalts either Epicurus or Lucretius as a blessed being, who put hell and terror under his feet. A sickly temperament appears to have made him wish, rather than be able, to carry his own scepticism so far; yet he insinuates his disbelief in Tartarus, in the sixth book of his epic poem, where Æneas and the Sibyl, after the description of the lower world, go out through the ivory gate, which was the passage of false visions+. Cæsar, according to a speech of his in Sallust, derided the same notions in open senate; and Cicero, in other parts of his writings, as well as in a public pleading, speaks of them as fables and impertinence,-" ineptiis ac fabulis."
But however this plain-dealing may look on the part of the nen of letters, there is rea
It is remarkable that Eschylus and Euripides, the two dramatists whose faith in the national religion was most doubted, are said to have met with strange and
violent deaths. The latter was torn to pieces by dogs, and the former killed by a tortoise which an eagle let fall upon his bald head, in mistake for a stone. These exits from the scene look very like the retributive death-beds which the bigots of all religions are so fond of ascribing to one another.
+ Did Dante forget this, when he took Virgil for his guide through the Inferno?
to believe, that even in those times, the people, in general, were strong upon points of faith. The extension of the Greek philosophy may have insensibly rendered them familiar with latitudes of interpretation on the part of others. They would not think it impious in Cicero and Cato to have notions of the Supreme Being more consistent with the elevation of their minds. But for themselves, they adhered, from habit, to the literal creed of their ancestors, as the Greek populace had done before them. The jealous enemies of Socrates contrived to have him put to death on a charge of irreverence for the gods. A frolic of the libertine Alcibiades, which, to say the least of it, was in bad taste-the defacing the statues of Mercury-was followed with important consequences. The history of Socrates had the effect, in after times, at least in the ancient world, of saving philosophical speculators from the vindictive egotism of opinion. But even in the days of Augustus, Ovid wrote a popular work full of mythological fables; and Virgil himself, whose creed perhaps only rejected what was unkindly, gave the hero of his intended popular epic the particular appellation of pious. That Augustus should pique himself on the same attribute proves little; for he was a cold-blooded man of the world, and could play the hypocrite for the worst and most despotic purposes. Did he now and then lecture his poetical friends upon this point, respecting their own appearances with the world? There is a curious ode of Horace (Book I. Ode xxxiv.), in which he says, that he finds himself compelled to give up his sceptical notions, and to attend more to public worship, because it had thundered one day when the sky was cloudless. The critics are divided in their opinion of his object in this ode. Some think him in earnest, others in jest. It is the only thing of the sort in his works, and is, at all events, of an equivocal character, that would serve his purpose on either side of the question.
The opinions of the ancients upon religion may be divided into three general classes. The great multitude believed anything; the very few disbelieved everything; the philosophers and poets entertained a refined natural religion, which, while it pronounced upon nothing, rejected what was evidently unworthy of the spirit of the creation, and regarded the popular deities as personifications of its various workings. All these classes had their extravagances, in proportion to their ignorance, or viciousness, or metaphysical perplexity. The multitude, whose notions were founded ignorance, habit, and fear, admitted many absurd, and some cruel imaginations. The mere man of the world measured everything by his own vain and petty standard, and thought the whole goods of the universe a scramble for the cunning and hypocritical. The overrefining followers of Plato, endeavouring to