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Flourishes best among the dewy shades
Of a most youth-like faith too much of knowledge
Would mar the fine enchantment.
The Genius OF Socrates suddenly making an apparition.
God of my fathers, shield me! Who, and whence
Art thou, that on my lonely meditation
Stealest like a spirit? Ah, thy eyes are kindling
With a radiance not of the earth, and thy swift step
Is silent as the snowfall. Beautiful presence,
If thou be more or less than mortal, speak,
I do adjure thee.
Mark my answer well.
From Jove I come. I am thy guardian genius,
One of the Olympian angels who go forth
With high command to educate men's souls
For an immortal glory. Such the charge
That from the gods I did receive o'er thee.
Even from thy cradle have I dwelt within
Thy spirit like divine vitality,
And made thy echoing conscience resonant
With holy admonitions. Socrates,
Thou hast obeyed me well; and, therefore, now,
In sensible apparition I appear
Before thee, to instruct thee what thou art,
And what thou shall become.
Of love and wisdom. Then it was no dream
That some supernal watcher compassed me
With his mysterious breathings. ''Twas thy voice
That harmonized the silence with the deep
Soul-thrilling symphonies of truth;—thy words
That vibrated along the chords of thought,
Making me start and tremble.
Yes, 'twas I. Hast thou not marked a sudden flashing of light Glance o'er thee when thy weary eyelids slept On the tears they shed ? Hast thou not caught the traces Of future scenes in tranced anticipation ? And when those scenes came in reality, Felt sure that thou hast traversed them before, By past familiarity prepared To act aright through all their changes? When Thou hast hesitated on the verge of action, Hast thou not heard a voice cry-Socrates !
Do this, or do it not? Hast thou not found
A kind of conscious impotence gain on thee
While planning some misdeed of vice?
I have ;
And when long intricate subtleties have wound
My harassed soul almost to the point of madness
With jarring doubts, was it not unto thee
I've owed the dawning of some radiant star
Of truth within me, which, like Hesperus,
Smoothed the vexed waves of strife.
All this, and more, Have I wrought in thee; for I longed to make thee A blessing to thy country and thy kind : And now before this altar, which the citizens Raised to the God that stayed the plague at Athens, Come I to show thee more than is revealed To other men.
Celestial Genius, speak! My soul shall hear.
List the command of Jove ! If thou obeyest my guidance, thou shalt be Hailed as the wisest of the wise of Greece; Thou likewise shalt diffuse thy wisdom freely, Without all grudging, unto all who seek thee ; And in thy daily life's reality Be all that other sages merely boast; So shall thy name be dear to all the gods And all the godlike, and eternal bliss Shall ripen in thy heart.—Divinity Itself shall so inspire thee, that thou too, Obedient to its impulse, shall become Divine. But think not so, my Socrates, To escape the teeth of envy-nay, the more Thy merits shall develope their rich fruit, The more the false, the base, the secular Will hate thee and detest thee. Thou must dare, And bear their malice bravely. They will call Thy piety profanation, and thy patriotism Rebellion, and thy darling innocence The very vice of vices. They will bring thee Before the judges, and their unjust sentence Shall doom thee to the death. But death will give thee A life like mine, and in the spirits' world We will exult together-evermore.
Aid me, ye listening gods! that I may do
All your commands.
Kneel, Socrates, and I
Will grant the Immortal's benediction.
Swear by the Eternal One that thou wilt consecrate
Thyself to his service, and the cause of man,
Even to the death.
Before high heaven, I swear it!
Enter Sophocles and EURIPIDES.
Well met, grandson of Phoebus, son of Thesbis,
Brother of Æschylus. By the stars, I love
To hear men praise thee--that is, next to myself -
I like a generous rival, and a brave one,
From my very heart of hearts. Euripides,
You are my diamond spur-you goad the sides
Of my flagging genius into a fiery race,
Worthy of Phaeton; and if, like him,
I can but set the world in flames—why, truly,
If I be roasted in the blaze I kindle,
I'll not complain.
My heart echoes thy meaningI owe as much to you; 'tis Sophocles, Who makes me what I am. Our common father, Promethean Æschylus, has left his genius Parted betwixt us; let us be as brethren. He was our solar orb—we are to each other As planets that reflect his radiance since He stooped o'er the horizon.
Even so : Be it a brother's wager. From this time Let us so hold it. I am conscience sick, Remembering our past jealousies ;-I hate The envy of fair fame, which made me scorn All laurels but my own. . Our popular contests Were stained with this false passion; and that rogue, Arch Aristophanes, the bitter wag, Has fooled us both.
Good morning, gentlemen!
Was not my name even now upon your lips?
Pray take it not in vain ; its signification
You'll allow is superexcellent.
You are merry,
As usual, you most comical of mortals !
The town is full of you; you have beaten us both
Out of the field with your confounded mummeries.
The Athenians were once famed (so say the chronicles)
For small and dainty mouths—but, sooth to say,
Since Aristophanes appeared, they're grown
As broad as the broad grins you force upon them.
You hit me hard—you grand tragedians
Are dreadfully facetious. Nothing less
Than murdering even in jests. Achilles' steed
Dancing in ladies' slippers, were scarce more
Ineffably funny-fun, as Socrates tells us,
Consisting in an essence he calls contrast-
A jumble of pathos and bathos.
Talking of Socrates, Hast seen him lately, Aristophanes ? He is more shy, reserved, and solitary Than was his wont.
What, once more in the clouds ! Sublimed abstractions ! By the faith of comedy, I'll write a play, and give it for a name, The Clouds of Socrates.
And if thou dost,
Thou'lt damn thyself, not him. Believe me, jester,
His clouds are clouds of glory ; like the Aurora
That robes the dawning sun in midsummer-
A dewy intermission, kindly sent
To veil the instantaneous theophany
Of too much brightness. Nay, confine thy muse,
If I may call it by so fair a name,
To the Athenian cockneyism, wherein
She flaunts and flourishes : dare not to violate
The august divinity of heavenly truth
That kindles Socrates—the Olympian virtue
Of the gods is in him. Aristophanes,
'Tis not for such as thee, irreverent man,
To violate such a name. Or if thou dost,
They will compare thee to some hooting owl,
That winks his vulgar staring eyes in the day-beam
And thinks it darkness.
Thank you, good Euripides ; Lay it on thick ;-give me the best of your brogue.
'Twill marvellously improve my comic vein.
I owe you one for this. Mark, how I'll pay you ;-
I talked about these Clouds of Socrates
Only in badinage-your biting censure
Has made it earnest. Ay, fair gentleman,
By the gods above, I'll write it! and your pet
Philosopher shall cut such capers as
Will cool his friends and heat his enemies.
Euripides shall weep to see his master
Playing the fool; and in thy private ear,
Conceited, priggish moralist, I'll tell thee
A thing or two. I hate that Socrates,
Whom thou admirest—hate him with a hate
Of outraged love ;-yes, I too loved him once;
But he in his insidious quiet style
Began to jeer my fooleries, as he called them,
And painted my debaucheries in crimson.
Beware the hate of a comedian
The sweetest honey-bees have sharpest stings-
The mellowest wine makes acidest vinegar;-
Mark me-I'll make your giant Socrates
Look like a pigmy: I will write him down
From his high pedestal, till he become
The scoff of fools-perhaps, even something worse
Than this, thou little reck'st of. In the mean time
Keep a civil tongue, and for yourself take care
How you provoke my spleen; the Athenians
Have itching ears, and I've the tickling of them.
Go, do thy worst; I ever knew thee for
A poisonous anomaly of nature-
A hot head and cold heart.
You will repent Your words; and, if I'm not entirely mistaken, I'll make you eat them too.—Poisonous, forsooth!
SCENE III. Socrates (in a Temple of Jupiter). Father of gods and men ! I come to adore Thy presence in this Temple, which the vows Of our first ancestors did consecrate To thee. These tempest-worn, time-shattered walls, Circled thy altar immemorially, Ay, in the olden age, before the fanes Of Pallas or of Theseus yet were known. There is more solace here,—at least to me,In this small solitary church, than in The gorgeous ceremonials of the priesthood