|C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the Worlds Best Literature.|
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.
|Imaginary Correspondence of Pericles and Aspasia|
|By Walter Savage Landor (17751864)|
ASPASIA TO PERICLESI APPREHEND, O Pericles, not only that I may become an object of jealousy and hatred to the Athenians by the notice you have taken of me, but that you yourselfwhich affects me greatly moremay cease to retain the whole of their respect and veneration.
| Whether, to acquire a great authority over the people, some things are not necessary to be done on which Virtue and Wisdom are at variance, it becomes not me to argue or consider; but let me suggest the inquiry to you, whether he who is desirous of supremacy should devote the larger portion of his time to one person.|| 2|
| Three affections of the soul predominate: Love, Religion, and Power. The first two are often united; the other stands widely apart from them, and neither is admitted nor seeks admittance to their society. I wonder then how you can love so truly and tenderly. Ought I not rather to say I did wonder? Was Pisistratus affectionate? Do not be angry. It is certainly the first time a friend has ever ventured to discover a resemblance, although you are habituated to it from your opponents. In these you forgive it: do you in me?|| 3|
PERICLES TO ASPASIA PISISTRATUS was affectionate; the rest of his character you know as well as I do. You know that he was eloquent, that he was humane, that he was contemplative, that he was learned; that he not only was profuse to men of genius, but cordial, and that it was only with such men he was familiar and intimate. You know that he was the greatest, the wisest, the most virtuous, excepting Solon and Lycurgus, that ever ruled any portion of the human race. Is it not happy and glorious for mortals, when instead of being led by the ears under the clumsy and violent hand of vulgar and clamorous adventurers, a Pisistratus leaves the volumes of Homer and the conversation of Solon for them?
| We may be introduced to Power by Humanity, and at first may love her less for her own sake than for Humanitys; but by degrees we become so accustomed to her as to be quite uneasy without her.|| 5|
| Religion and Power, like the Caryatides in sculpture, never face one another; they sometimes look the same way, but oftener stand back to back.|| 6|
| We will argue about them one at a time, and about the other in the triad too: let me have the choice.|| 7|
ASPASIA TO PERICLES WE must talk over again the subject of your letter; no, not talk, but write about it.
| I think, Pericles, you who are so sincere with me are never quite sincere with others. You have contracted this bad habitude from your custom of addressing the people. But among friends and philosophers, would it not be better to speak exactly as we think, whether ingeniously or not? Ingenious things, I am afraid, are never perfectly true: however, I would not exclude them, the difference being wide between perfect truth and violated truth; I would not even leave them in a minority; I would hear and say as many as may be, letting them pass current for what they are worth. Anaxagoras rightly remarked that Love always makes us better, Religion sometimes, Power never.|| 9|
ASPASIA TO PERICLES NEVER tell me, O my Pericles, that you are suddenly changed in appearance. May every change of your figure and countenance be gradual, so that I shall not perceive it; but if you really are altered to such a degree as you describe, I must transfer my affectionfrom the first Pericles to the second. Are you jealous? If you are, it is I who am to be pitied, whose heart is destined to fly from the one to the other incessantly. In the end it will rest, it shall, it must, on the nearest. I would write a longer letter; but it is a sad and wearisome thing to aim at playfulness where the hand is palsied by affliction. Be well; and all is well: be happy; and Athens rises up again, alert and blooming and vigorous, from between war and pestilence. Love me; for love cures all but love. How can we fear to die, how can we die, while we cling or are clung to by the beloved?
PERICLES TO ASPASIA THE PESTILENCE has taken from me both my sons. You, who were ever so kind and affectionate to them, will receive a tardy recompense in hearing that the least gentle and the least grateful did acknowledge it.
| I mourn for Paralos because he loved me; for Xanthippos because he loved me not.|| 12|
| Preserve with all your maternal care our little Pericles. I cannot be fonder of him than I have always been; I can only fear more for him.|| 13|
| Is he not with my Aspasia? What fears then are so irrational as mine? But oh! I am living in a widowed house, a house of desolation; I am living in a city of tombs and torches, and the last I saw before me were for my children.|| 14|
PERICLES TO ASPASIA IT is right and orderly, that he who has partaken so largely in the prosperity of the Athenians should close the procession of their calamities. The fever that has depopulated our city returned upon me last night, and Hippocrates and Acron tell me that my end is near.
| When we agreed, O Aspasia, in the beginning of our loves, to communicate our thoughts by writing, even while we were both in Athens, and when we had many reasons for it, we little foresaw the more powerful one that has rendered it necessary of late. We never can meet again: the laws forbid it, and love itself enforces them. Let wisdom be heard by you as imperturbably, and affection as authoritatively, as ever; and remember that the sorrow of Pericles can arise but from the bosom of Aspasia. There is only one word of tenderness we could say, which we have not said oftentimes before; and there is no consolation in it. The happy never say, and never hear said, farewell.|| 16|
| Reviewing the course of my life, it appears to me at one moment as if we met but yesterday; at another as if centuries had passed within it,for within it have existed the greater part of those who, since the origin of the world, have been the luminaries of the human race. Damon called me from my music to look at Aristides on his way to exile; and my father pressed the wrist by which he was leading me along, and whispered in my ear: Walk quickly by; glance cautiously; it is there Miltiades is in prison.|| 17|
| In my boyhood Pindar took me up in his arms, when he brought to our house the dirge he had composed for the funeral of my grandfather; in my adolescence I offered the rites of hospitality to Empedocles; not long afterward I embraced the neck of Æschylus, about to abandon his country. With Sophocles I have argued on eloquence; with Euripides on polity and ethics; I have discoursed, as became an inquirer, with Protagoras and Democritus, with Anaxagoras and Meton. From Herodotus I have listened to the most instructive history, conveyed in a language the most copious and the most harmonious;a man worthy to carry away the collected suffrages of universal Greece; a man worthy to throw open the temples of Egypt, and to celebrate the exploits of Cyrus. And from Thucydides, who alone can succeed to him, how recently did my Aspasia hear with me the energetic praises of his just supremacy!|| 18|
| As if the festival of life were incomplete, and wanted one great ornament to crown it, Phidias placed before us, in ivory and gold, the tutelary Deity of this land, and the Zeus of Homer and Olympus.|| 19|
| To have lived with such men, to have enjoyed their familiarity and esteem, overpays all labors and anxieties. I were unworthy of the friendships I have commemorated, were I forgetful of the latest. Sacred it ought to be, formed as it was under the portico of Death,my friendship with the most sagacious, the most scientific, the most beneficent of philosophers, Acron and Hippocrates. If mortal could war against Pestilence and Destiny, they had been victorious. I leave them in the field: unfortunate he who finds them among the fallen!|| 20|
| And now, at the close of my day, when every light is dim and every guest departed, let me own that these wane before me: remembering as I do, in the pride and fullness of my heart, that Athens confided her glory, and Aspasia her happiness, to me.|| 21|
| Have I been a faithful guardian? do I resign them to the custody of the gods undiminished and unimpaired? Welcome then, welcome, my last hour! After enjoying for so great a number of years, in my public and my private life, what I believe has never been the lot of any other, I now extend my hand to the urn, and take without reluctance or hesitation what is the lot of all.|| 22|