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Marius the epicurean %E2.., p.1

Marius the Epicurean — Volume 1, page 1

 part  #1 of  Marius the Epicurean Series


Marius the Epicurean — Volume 1

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Marius the Epicurean — Volume 1

  Produced by Alfred J. Drake. HTML version by Al Haines.



  London: 1910. (The Library Edition.)


  Notes: The 1910 Library Edition employs footnotes, a style inconvenientin an electronic edition. I have therefore placed an asteriskimmediately after each of Pater's footnotes and a + sign after my ownnotes, and have listed each chapter's notes at that chapter's end.

  Pagination and Paragraphing: To avoid an unwieldy electronic copy, Ihave transferred original pagination to brackets. A bracketed numeralsuch as [22] indicates that the material immediately following thenumber marks the beginning of the relevant page. I have preservedparagraph structure except for first-line indentation.

  Hyphenation: I have not preserved original hyphenation since an e-textdoes not require line-end or page-end hyphenation.

  Greek typeface: For this full-text edition, I have transliteratedPater's Greek quotations. If there is a need for the original Greek,it can be viewed at my site,, aVictorianist archive that contains the complete works of Walter Paterand many other nineteenth-century texts, mostly in first editions.


  Cheimerinos oneiros, hote mekistai hai vyktes.+

  +"A winter's dream, when nights are longest." Lucian, The Dream, Vol. 3.



  1. "The Religion of Numa": 3-12 2. White-Nights: 13-26 3. Change of Air: 27-42 4. The Tree of Knowledge: 43-54 5. The Golden Book: 55-91 6. Euphuism: 92-110 7. A Pagan End: 111-120


  8. Animula Vagula: 123-143 9. New Cyrenaicism: 144-157 10. On the Way: 158-171 11. "The Most Religious City in the World": 172-187 12. "The Divinity that Doth Hedge a King": 188-211 13. The "Mistress and Mother" of Palaces: 212-229 14. Manly Amusement: 230-243




  [3] As, in the triumph of Christianity, the old religion lingeredlatest in the country, and died out at last as but paganism--thereligion of the villagers, before the advance of the Christian Church;so, in an earlier century, it was in places remote from town-life thatthe older and purer forms of paganism itself had survived the longest.While, in Rome, new religions had arisen with bewildering complexityaround the dying old one, the earlier and simpler patriarchal religion,"the religion of Numa," as people loved to fancy, lingered on withlittle change amid the pastoral life, out of the habits and sentimentof which so much of it had grown. Glimpses of such a survival we maycatch below the merely artificial attitudes of Latin pastoral poetry;in Tibullus especially, who has preserved for us many poetic details ofold Roman religious usage.

  At mihi contingat patrios celebrare Penates, Reddereque antiquo menstrua thura Lari:

  [4] --he prays, with unaffected seriousness. Something liturgical,with repetitions of a consecrated form of words, is traceable in one ofhis elegies, as part of the order of a birthday sacrifice. The hearth,from a spark of which, as one form of old legend related, the childRomulus had been miraculously born, was still indeed an altar; and theworthiest sacrifice to the gods the perfect physical sanity of theyoung men and women, which the scrupulous ways of that religion of thehearth had tended to maintain. A religion of usages and sentimentrather than of facts and belief, and attached to very definite thingsand places--the oak of immemorial age, the rock on the heath fashionedby weather as if by some dim human art, the shadowy grove of ilex,passing into which one exclaimed involuntarily, in consecrated phrase,Deity is in this Place! Numen Inest!--it was in natural harmony withthe temper of a quiet people amid the spectacle of rural life, likethat simpler faith between man and man, which Tibullus expresslyconnects with the period when, with an inexpensive worship, the oldwooden gods had been still pressed for room in their homely littleshrines.

  And about the time when the dying Antoninus Pius ordered his goldenimage of Fortune to be carried into the chamber of his successor (nowabout to test the truth of the old Platonic contention, that the worldwould at last find itself [5] happy, could it detach some reluctantphilosophic student from the more desirable life of celestialcontemplation, and compel him to rule it), there was a boy living in anold country-house, half farm, half villa, who, for himself, recruitedthat body of antique traditions by a spontaneous force of religiousveneration such as had originally called them into being. More than acentury and a half had past since Tibullus had written; but therestoration of religious usages, and their retention where they stillsurvived, was meantime come to be the fashion through the influence ofimperial example; and what had been in the main a matter of familypride with his father, was sustained by a native instinct of devotionin the young Marius. A sense of conscious powers external toourselves, pleased or displeased by the right or wrong conduct of everycircumstance of daily life--that conscience, of which the old Romanreligion was a formal, habitual recognition, was become in him apowerful current of feeling and observance. The old-fashioned, partlypuritanic awe, the power of which Wordsworth noted and valued so highlyin a northern peasantry, had its counterpart in the feeling of theRoman lad, as he passed the spot, "touched of heaven," where thelightning had struck dead an aged labourer in the field: an uprightstone, still with mouldering garlands about it, marked the place. Hebrought to that system of symbolic [6] usages, and they in turndeveloped in him further, a great seriousness--an impressibility to thesacredness of time, of life and its events, and the circumstances offamily fellowship; of such gifts to men as fire, water, the earth, fromlabour on which they live, really understood by him as gifts--a senseof religious responsibility in the reception of them. It was areligion for the most part of fear, of multitudinous scruples, of ayear-long burden of forms; yet rarely (on clear summer mornings, forinstance) the thought of those heavenly powers afforded a welcomechannel for the almost stifling sense of health and delight in him, andrelieved it as gratitude to the gods.

  The day of the "little" or private Ambarvalia was come, to becelebrated by a single family for the welfare of all belonging to it,as the great college of the Arval Brothers officiated at Rome in theinterest of the whole state. At the appointed time all work ceases;the instruments of labour lie untouched, hung with wreaths of flowers,while masters and servants together go in solemn procession along thedry paths of vineyard and cornfield, conducting the victims whose bloodis presently to be shed for the purification from all natural orsupernatural taint of the lands they have "gone about." The old Latinwords of the liturgy, to be said as the procession moved on its way,though their precise meaning was long [7] since become unintelligible,were recited from an ancient illuminated roll, kept in the paintedchest in the hall, together with the family records. Early on that daythe girls of the farm had been busy in the great portico, filling largebaskets with flowers plucked short from branches of apple and cherry,then in spacious bloom, to strew before the quaint images of thegods--Ceres and Bacchus and the yet more mysterious Dea Dia--as theypassed through the fields, carried in their little houses on theshoulders of white-clad youths, who were understood to proceed to thisoffice in perfect temperance, as pure in soul and body as the air theybreathed in the firm weather of that early summer-time. The cleanlustral water and the full incense-box were carried after them. Thealtars were gay with garlands of wool and the more sumptuous sort ofblossom and green herbs to be thrown into the sacrificial fire,fresh-gathered this morning from a particular plot in the old garden,set apart for the purpose. Just then the yo
ung leaves were almost asfragrant as flowers, and the scent of the bean-fields mingledpleasantly with the cloud of incense. But for the monotonousintonation of the liturgy by the priests, clad in their strange, stiff,antique vestments, and bearing ears of green corn upon their heads,secured by flowing bands of white, the procession moved in absolutestillness, all persons, even the children, abstaining from [8] speechafter the utterance of the pontifical formula, Favetelinguis!--Silence! Propitious Silence!--lest any words save thoseproper to the occasion should hinder the religious efficacy of the rite.

  With the lad Marius, who, as the head of his house, took a leading partin the ceremonies of the day, there was a devout effort to completethis impressive outward silence by that inward tacitness of mind,esteemed so important by religious Romans in the performance of thesesacred functions. To him the sustained stillness without seemed reallybut to be waiting upon that interior, mental condition of preparationor expectancy, for which he was just then intently striving. Thepersons about him, certainly, had never been challenged by thoseprayers and ceremonies to any ponderings on the divine nature: theyconceived them rather to be the appointed means of setting suchtroublesome movements at rest. By them, "the religion of Numa," sostaid, ideal and comely, the object of so much jealous conservatism,though of direct service as lending sanction to a sort of highscrupulosity, especially in the chief points of domestic conduct, wasmainly prized as being, through its hereditary character, somethinglike a personal distinction--as contributing, among the otheraccessories of an ancient house, to the production of that aristocraticatmosphere which separated them from newly-made people. But [9] in theyoung Marius, the very absence from those venerable usages of alldefinite history and dogmatic interpretation, had already awakened muchspeculative activity; and to-day, starting from the actual details ofthe divine service, some very lively surmises, though scarcely distinctenough to be thoughts, were moving backwards and forwards in his mind,as the stirring wind had done all day among the trees, and were likethe passing of some mysterious influence over all the elements of hisnature and experience. One thing only distracted him--a certain pityat the bottom of his heart, and almost on his lips, for the sacrificialvictims and their looks of terror, rising almost to disgust at thecentral act of the sacrifice itself, a piece of everyday butcher'swork, such as we decorously hide out of sight; though some then presentcertainly displayed a frank curiosity in the spectacle thus permittedthem on a religious pretext. The old sculptors of the great processionon the frieze of the Parthenon at Athens, have delineated the placidheads of the victims led in it to sacrifice, with a perfect feeling foranimals in forcible contrast with any indifference as to theirsufferings. It was this contrast that distracted Marius now in theblessing of his fields, and qualified his devout absorption upon thescrupulous fulfilment of all the details of the ceremonial, as theprocession approached the altars.

  [10] The names of that great populace of "little gods," dear to theRoman home, which the pontiffs had placed on the sacred list of theIndigitamenta, to be invoked, because they can help, on specialoccasions, were not forgotten in the long litany--Vatican who causesthe infant to utter his first cry, Fabulinus who prompts his firstword, Cuba who keeps him quiet in his cot, Domiduca especially, forwhom Marius had through life a particular memory and devotion, thegoddess who watches over one's safe coming home. The urns of the deadin the family chapel received their due service. They also were nowbecome something divine, a goodly company of friendly and protectingspirits, encamped about the place of their former abode--above allothers, the father, dead ten years before, of whom, remembering but atall, grave figure above him in early childhood, Marius habituallythought as a genius a little cold and severe.

  Candidus insuetum miratur limen Olympi, Sub pedibusque videt nubes et sidera.--

  Perhaps!--but certainly needs his altar here below, and garlands to-dayupon his urn. But the dead genii were satisfied with little--a fewviolets, a cake dipped in wine, or a morsel of honeycomb. Daily, fromthe time when his childish footsteps were still uncertain, had Mariustaken them their portion of the family meal, at the second course,amidst the silence [11] of the company. They loved those who broughtthem their sustenance; but, deprived of these services, would be heardwandering through the house, crying sorrowfully in the stillness of thenight.

  And those simple gifts, like other objects as trivial--bread, oil,wine, milk--had regained for him, by their use in such religiousservice, that poetic and as it were moral significance, which surelybelongs to all the means of daily life, could we but break through theveil of our familiarity with things by no means vulgar in themselves. Ahymn followed, while the whole assembly stood with veiled faces. Thefire rose up readily from the altars, in clean, bright flame--afavourable omen, making it a duty to render the mirth of the eveningcomplete. Old wine was poured out freely for the servants at supper inthe great kitchen, where they had worked in the imperfect light throughthe long evenings of winter. The young Marius himself took but a verysober part in the noisy feasting. A devout, regretful after-taste ofwhat had been really beautiful in the ritual he had accomplished tookhim early away, that he might the better recall in reverie all thecircumstances of the celebration of the day. As he sank into a sleep,pleasant with all the influences of long hours in the open air, heseemed still to be moving in procession through the fields, with a kindof pleasurable awe. That feeling was still upon him as he [12] awokeamid the beating of violent rain on the shutters, in the first storm ofthe season. The thunder which startled him from sleep seemed to makethe solitude of his chamber almost painfully complete, as if thenearness of those angry clouds shut him up in a close place alone inthe world. Then he thought of the sort of protection which that day'sceremonies assured. To procure an agreement with the gods--Pacemdeorum exposcere: that was the meaning of what they had all day beenbusy upon. In a faith, sincere but half-suspicious, he would fain havethose Powers at least not against him. His own nearer household godswere all around his bed. The spell of his religion as a part of thevery essence of home, its intimacy, its dignity and security, wasforcible at that moment; only, it seemed to involve certain heavydemands upon him.

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