Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

He is a man,-a man of men,-a man-
Not only in the school but in the court,
The mart of commerce, and the hall of pleasure-
A man all over-every inch a man.
When the grim plague with blistering curses traversed
The streets of Athens, and its hellish fingers
Dotted the fair skins of the shuddering citizens
With death-spots, Socrates walked cheerily
Betwixt the living and the dead, as if
Himself a god invulnerable, immortal,
Like Him he ever worships.

Xenophon.

So he did;
And in the field of battle, who, like Socrates,
Acted the hero-even to the Homeric pitch
Of gallant daring and enduring? He
Personified the Odyssey and Iliad
In his romantic and transcendent excellence;
By night alone reclining on some crag
of the rocky mountain, poring on the stars,
And invocating their empyreal genii
Into his heart, as silently they rained
Their love-beams from the azure : And by day
Reeking with bloody sweat of enterprise,
And smiling in the agonies of toil
All conquering : Ay, the common soldiers caught
The electric fire of courage from his eye,
And dashed exultingly through the bristling phalanx
Of the enemy, as if celestial Mars
Cheered them to the carnage. And when they expired,
'Twas with the laugh of triumph on their lips
Death sealed, but could not quench.

ALCIBIADES.

There's a speech for you! By the great gods! my Xenophon, my ear Tingles to hear thee.-How wouldst thou report him, If thou, as I, had seen him when the crash Of armies rattled to the clouds ? To him I owe my life. Ay, to the resolute daring Of Socrates will Alcibiades Record unfading gratitude. He saved me At the very crisis of my destiny. On the red battle plain of Potidæa I lay covered with wounds, (witness these scars,) Life was a dream within me, and weird death A coming certainty, palpably real; Socrates saw me-like Jove's thunderbolt He burst the opposing squadrons, rescued me From the very focus of peril ;-bore me off On his broad shoulders like a helpless child,

And in his tent nursed me till I regained
The exhausted perve of heroism. Ye powers
That rule the destinies of war, but grant me
Another battle-field with Socrates
By my side-and with my heart's blood will I pay
The courtesy back. If he shall need my aid
I'd save him, though the very Titans heaped
Mountains to crush me.

XENOPHON.

And so would I, And so would all who know our Socrates; You, Alcibiades, stand not alone On the indelible page of gratitude. And if my mind is not quite destitute Of the presaging gift, methinks, before Old time is a year older, we shall be In the battle-field again with Socrates. Those rascally Baotians—of all men The most unphilosophical-never leave Our wits of Athens long without a taste Of their physical prowess. And to speak it fairly, With this same bull-dog hardihood Beotia Is richly stored. It is her patrimony, And still she hands it down from sire to son With her gross fogs. But I've no time to spare From a pleasant task. Euripides demands us To hear his last new tragedy: Let's criticise it.

SCENE II.

Socrates (alone). So, then, the Oracle has just pronounced me The very wisest of the men of Greece. Alas, dear Oracle ! if thou art right, In this thy flattering sentence-if it be true, That I, poor, simple, erring, Socrates, Excel all men in wisdom—then all men Must be profounder fools than ever I Did take them for. Oh Athens, Greece of Greece! If Greece, even in her most philosophic days, In all her shores could couni no more than seven Wise men, why then, the multitude of fools Must be infinite indeed. My heart is glad To find that there's one oracle at least That has discovered, wisdom's mystery Lies in humility,—that the height of knowledge Is to feel conscious ignorance-to know How little can be known to know that we Know nothing as we ought- to know there is In God a knowledge divine and universal,

Whose scattered fragments striving mortals catch.
Oh how capriciously-how partially!-
My heart is glad, and yet 'tis melancholy !
I see that this same Oracle will rouse
Even bitterer enmity and jealousy
Among my many foes. Wherefore my foes,
I scarcely can imagine. I have laboured
To speak them kindly, and to do them good,
And yet they cannot, will not understand me.
The more benevolence I feel the more
Beneficence I work, the inore the spleen
Of their ill-boding sophistry boils over.
"Tis the old spite of vice and folly leagued
'Gainst philosophic virtue. Let it rage !
It ever has been so-ere Socrates
Inhaled this Attic air—and will be so
When Socrates is dead.-Socrates dead !-
Ah-that word echoed strangely: it did seein -
Reverberated by a spirit round me :
Is it not one of the innumerable
Monitions of my guardian genius ?-I
Will deem it so. With bright ethereal wings
It circles me both when I wake and sleep,
And when it speaks, silence itself becomes
Resonant to its conscience-thrilling voice,
And my hushed listening instinct starts to hear.
Socrates dead !Ah, my prophetical soul !
This is no dream :- Already am I shrouded
In the shadows of what will be. But what then?
Shall Socrates prove craven to his fate?-
No, by the immortal gods! what must be, must;
"Tis naught to me; my future course is clear
Before me as the past : I will urge on
My glorious destiny, through peace and war,
Amid life's stirring scenes, with as much energy
As if my death were as impossible
As it is certain': I will play my part
Well as I can, and let the gods play theirs-
So be it, I am Socrates again !
Vigour, like lightning, flashes through my nerves
And fires my worn and broken heart. I'll be
True to myself; and while I live, I'll live,
lo spite of my foes; and when I die, I'll die
A death worth dying. Let them do their worst;
Meantime I give my soul to search for truth,
Concerning God and immortality,
Among the Eleusinians : 'Tis as well
To be initiated before my death,
Come when it will. I'll see with my own eyes
The initiative mysteries; I shall learn
Some useful lessons; for all things to me

Teem with instruction; and as little question,
I shall perceive as much of sophistry
And sensuous passion, veiled in holy forms,
As in the outward world. Here comes the priest
Of these same rites : I'll treat him warily;
They are sly fellows all.

HIEROPHANT (entering).

Did Socrates
Send for the Eleusinian hierophant ?

SOCRATES.
I did, grave senior : I, whose sum of life
Is nothing better than the search of truth
Makes it, would fain be a new candidate
Of your initiations, and become
Familiar with the mysteries esoteric
And exoteric—both the major and minor.

HIEROPHANT.
And never was the Eleusinian lodge
Of Athens honoured more than when the wisest
Of all the Grecians seeks an entrance there.

SOCRATES.
Nay, nay, no flattering compliments ; they neither
Become the giver nor the taker.

HIEROPHANT.

Well,
When will you pass the three solemnities
And the seven spheres of sacred doctrine which
Our learned theosophists make necessary
To all whose courage penetrates the shades
Of immemorial mythology ?

SOCRATES.

Now.

SCENE III.
A dark Cavern of Initiation near Athens.

Enter Two PRIESTS.

First Priest.
Prepare the secret rites ! Such was the order
The hierophant hath left us; he will bring
Socrates back with him.

Second PRIEST.

I doubt it much ;
The wisest man is certainly too wise
To need to ask instruction from the lodge.

First PRIEST.
But as his wisdom lies in proving all things,
Be sure he will prove us; he will not fail

To visit us, if he believes that we
Have but a single particle of light
Which he has not.

Second Priest.

Then let our light be his ;
"Twill much surprise this most oracular sage,
When, from the blackness of this mystic cave,
The All-seeing Eye looks flashing forth, and all
The white-robed gods nod their tiara'd heads
To welcome him.

First Priest.
Softly, I hear their steps.

SECOND PRIEST.

(Three knocks being heard.)
I know that signal. Enter, in the name
Of all the gods, and may their liberty
Be yours—such as befit not the profane.

Enter HIEROPHANT and SOCRATES.

HIEROPHANT. Darkness is round thee.

SOCRATES.

That I do discern, And nothing else.

HIEROPHANT.

Then art thou well prepared
To learn, for all true knowledge doth emerge
From the profound abyss of conscious ignorance,
Even as the sun from the ocean.

SOCRATES.

Thus, my soul,
Wouldst thou likewise ascend and never set
But to enlighten other spheres of being ?
Oh! thou whose oracle o'erwhelmed my heart
By its most dazzling eulogy! like thee
I wish to live like thee to die. I ask
But this no more.

HIEROPHANT.

Thy prayer is heard and granted ; But what dost thou require ?

SOCRATES.

Even now, From this most Stygian depth of the weird darkness, To see the light.

OPHANT.

First, thou must take the oath
Of strictest secrecy, that thou wilt never
Reveal our occult rites to the profane
Inquisitive cowans of the vulgar world,
On pain of death.

« AnteriorContinua »