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THE STATUE OF THESE U S,* THE SCULPTURE-ROOM OF PHIDIAS.
A REVERIE. MUTILATED and disfigured as it is, I never approach this majestic statue without feeling an indescribable awe leading me, almost unconsciously, to take off my hat, and look up to it with silent reverence, as if I stood in the presence of some superior being. Whatever be the elements of this sensation, never did I feel it so intensely as yesterday, when I pored upon every limb and muscle of this masterpiece of antiquity, until I fell into a reverie, or waking dream, wherein, with all the inconsistency of those mental delusions, I imagined myself to be at Athens, under the administration of the celebrated Pericles. In vain did I endeavour to account for that contemporaneous burst of human genius, under his patronage, which enabled Athens to leap suddenly to the very pinnacle of renown, producing those miracles of art and science, to which, whether emerging from barbarism, or attempting improvement in the most refined state of civilization, the world has been invariably compelled to turn back, as to the sole, immutable, and eternal standards of purity and perfection. Fancy transported me to the period when the Parthenon was not yet completed; and methought that a ticket, presented to me by Pananus, the kinsman of Phidias, gave me admittance to the sculpture-room of that immortal artist, where all the glorious statues, for the two pediments of the building, were to be exhibited to some of the most distinguished citizens, previously to the indiscriminate admission of the people.
Never, did so awful, so majestic a vision overwhelm my faculties. My spirit felt rebuked-my heart sank within mo- I seemed endeavouring to shrink into myself, as if
* One of the figures of the Elgin Collection. No. 16-17.
I had intruded upon Olympus, and sacrilegiously thrust myself into the presence of the immortal gods. Some time elapsed before I was sufficiently recovered to lift up my eyes and fix them on the prodigies by which I was surrounded, when I observed that all the figures were arranged in the exact positions which they were to occupy in the respective pediments. Those intended for the front, which faces the Propylæa, and the long walls to the Piræus, represented the presentation of Minerva, by Jupiter, to the goddesses of Olympus. The sublime countenance and stupendous symmetry of the thunderer, who occupied the centre of the group, contrasted admirably with the milder majesty of the virgin Minerva, who, seated in her car, appeared to be slowly ascending Olympus. The figures for the posterior pediment exhibited the dispute between Neptune and Minerva, to determine which of them should give a name to Attica; but before I could distinctly examine the blaze and glory of art which they displayed, I heard footsteps approaching, and retiring to the extremity of the group, I seated myself, in speechless admiration, behind the recumbent statue of Theseus.
I had not sat long thus, however, before my attention was aroused by the opening of a door, and the entrance of a mixed party, ushered in by Alcamenes and Coletes, pupils of Phidias, among whom I distinguished a short, thick-set man, remarkable for his slovenly dress, bald head, high forehead, and turned-up nose. That is so crates, said I, in a whisper ;-I know him by his ugliness. What sort of mental halucination possessed me, I know not, but certainly I expressed neither surprise nor alarm, when the statue of Theseus, in another whisper, thus replied to my observation :-“ That which indicates intellect is always admired among the Greeks. It is a maxim with them, that the lower the eyes are placed, the more does the human recede from the animal character ;-those of Socrates, (a solitary instance,) occupy nearly the middle of his head: to this they attribute his superior wisdom; and by the wisdom of his head they measure their admira. tion of its form.” The statue was silent, and I felt some what surprised at the minute and technical manner in which Socrates proceeded to criticise and examine the sculptures, until I recollected that he himself had been educated as a statuary, and attained such proficiency, that the Three Graces, executed by his chisel, were long preserved in the citadel.
But I was soon to contemplate the most perfect union of intellectual and personal beauty that the world, perhaps, ever produced; for a female stood before me, whose dignified yet bewitching demeanour entirely rivetted my attention. Though no longer in the first bloom of youth, and with a complexion enriched by the fervour of an Ionian sun, her countenance, when its features were not called into action, exhibited the majesty, beauty, and ina telligence of the virgin Minerva ; but no sooner did she smile, or even speak, than her dark hazel eyes shot forth a thousand fascinations. Who is that lovely creature? I exclaimed. “ Aspasia!” replied the statue.
Aspasia !—what a world of recollections does the name involve! Aspasia! the riddle and paradox of antiquity; the courtezan and the female philosopher; the mistress of Lysicles, the grazier, and the instructor of Socrates; the cause of the Samian war, and the writer of the celebrated funeral oration pronounced by Pericles in honour of its victims, of which the eloquence was so touching, that the very mothers who had been rendered childless followed him home with blessings, and showered garlands upon his head. Such was the celebrity of Aspasia, that Cyrus, the rival of Artaxerxes, bestowed her name upon his favourite mistress ;-such was the ridicule and disrespect with which she was treated at Athens, that, in the comedies, she was publicly denominated" the new Omphale,” “ Dejanira,” and “ Juno;” nay, “ the Prostitute!” Such was the infatuation of Pericles for this woman, that he was never known to depart on business, or return, without saluting her, until at last he married her.
And who is that grave personage, said I, upon whose arm she is leaning; whose dress, without any appearance of undue attention, is yet arranged with such scrupulous propriety, and whose head appears as much too long as that of Socrates is too round? “ That is Pericles, whose head, on account of its disproportionate length, is generally represented covered with a helmet, and who, for the same reason, has received from the comic poets, the name of the onion-headed. The youth beside him is his eldest son, Xanthippus; Paralus, the second of his sons, is led behind him, by Euryptolemus, his nephew; and yonder grey-headed old man is his tutor, Anaxagoras, the Clazomenian, from his superior wisdom surnamed “Nous,' or the intelligence. In the multiplicity of his public duties, Pericles forgot to make the necessary provision for his tutor's support; the philosopher had covered up his head, and was going to starve himself, when his pupil, hearing of his situation, ran instantly to his relief, expostulated, entreated forgiveness for his neglect, and implored him not to deprive his administration of so valuable a counsellor. Uncovering his face, Anaxagoras exclaimed, 'Ah, Pericles ! those that have need of a lamp take care to supply it with oil !'”
At this moment, Aspasia, approaching the spot where I sat, disengaged her arm from that of Pericles: “ Go," said she, playfully," and examine those glorious works: why do you bestow all your attentions upon me, and none upon those goddesses ?” “Because,” replied Pericles, “ you are my only goddess.” “ Which of them ?” resumed Aspasia, with an arch look. “ Take care; take care;” said Socrates, smiling; “every one of those deities has been enamoured of more than one mortal, and if Pericles talks of exclusive devotion, even to a daughter of earth, he may have cause to rue their jealousy.” An obsequious smile and ready laugh, followed each of these
observations from a listener behind, who instantly turned round to two companions, prepared with tablets to note down what he communicated in a whisper.
“ That,” said my marble colloquist, “is Cleon, the factious demagogue, repeating what he has heard to Anytus and Melitus, and begging them to write it down, that it may be added to the materials of their intended prosecution against Socrates for impiety.”
A loud and angry babbling of tongues, in one corner of the room, attracted my attention, and, casting my eyes in that direction, I perceived a knot of sophists wrangling fiercely about some new refutation of the well-known syllogistic puzzle-Epimenides said all Cretans were liars; but Epimenides was himself a Cretan—therefore Epimenides was a liar—therefore the Cretans were not liars
- therefore Epimenides was not a liar. Not one of them cast a glance at the surpassing marbles, or the distinguished living characters by whom they were surrounded, and I soon found that all the realities of existence were hidden from their eyes by a dense cloud of pedantry. To them the glories of nature and art were absolutely extinct; they lived in an atmosphere of quibbles; and while, in their perpetual and childish warfare, they were chopping at each other's heads with logic, and pelting one another with words, they would have been simply contemptible and ridiculous, had they not at the same time endeavoured, with a pestilent subtlety, to jumble right and wrong, yirtue and vice, and thus confound all the elements of the moral world in one undistinguishable chaos.
What a volume of wit sparkles in the countenance of that young man, who is listening to their jargon with a sneering smile! Jibes and jeers, jokes, ridicule, and burlesque, seem to be flickering in every corner of his mouth: angry sarcasm, and indignant rebuke, glimmer through the flashes of his eyes, tempered only by those gentler emanations from the muse within, which would have