Roads from Rome
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Title: Roads from Rome
Author: Anne C. E. Allinson
Release Date: April 1, 2006 [eBook #18100]
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK ROADS FROM ROME***
E-text prepared by Ron Swanson
ROADS FROM ROME
ANNE C. E. ALLINSON
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
Three of the papers in this volume have already appeared in TheAtlantic Monthly: "A Poet's Toll," "The Phrase-Maker," and "A RomanCitizen." The author is indebted to the Editors for permission torepublish them. The illustration on the title page is reproduced fromthe poster of the Roman Exposition of 1911, drawn by DuilioCambeliotti, printed by Dr. E. Chappuis.
LUCILIO A. EMERY
JUSTITIAE DISCIPULO, LEGIS MAGISTRO,
LITTERARUM HUMANARUM AMICO
The main purpose of these Roman sketches is to show that the men andwomen of ancient Rome were like ourselves.
"Born into life!—'tis we,
And not the world, are new;
Our cry for bliss, our plea,
Others have urged it too—
Our wants have all been felt, our errors made before."
It is only when we perceive in "classical antiquity" a human naturesimilar to our own in its mingling of weakness and strength, viceand virtue, sorrow and joy, defeats and victories that we shall findin its noblest literature an intimate rather than a formalinspiration, and in its history either comfort or warning.
A secondary purpose is to suggest Roman conditions as they may haveaffected or appeared to men of letters in successive epochs, fromthe last years of the Republic to the Antonine period. Three of thesix sketches are concerned with the long and brilliant "Age ofAugustus." One is laid in the years immediately preceding the deathof Julius Caesar, and one in the time of Trajan and Pliny. The lastsketch deals with the period when Hadrian attempted a renaissanceof Greek art in Athens and creative Roman literature had come to anend. Its renaissance was to be Italian in a new world.
In all the sketches the essential facts are drawn directly from thewritings of the men who appear in them. These facts have been merelycast into an imaginative form which, it is hoped, may help ratherto reveal than cloak their significance for those who believe thatthe roads from Rome lead into the highway of human life.
In choosing between ancient and modern proper names I have thoughtit best in each case to decide which would give the keener impressionof verisimilitude. Consistency has, therefore, been abandoned.Horace, Virgil and Ovid exist side by side with such original Latinnames as Julius Paulus. While Como has been preferred to Comum, the"Larian Lake" has been retained. Perugia (instead of Perusia) andAssisi (instead of Assisium) have been used in one sketch andLaurentum, Tusculum and Tibur in another. The modern name that leastsuggests its original is that of the river Adige. The Latin Atesiawould destroy the reader's sense of familiarity with Verona.
My thanks are due to Professor M. S. Slaughter, of the Universityof Wisconsin, who has had the great kindness to read this book inmanuscript. My husband, Francis G. Allinson, has assisted me at everyturn in its preparation. With one exception, acknowledged in itsplace, all the translations are his.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ROADS FROM ROME
In the effort to dull the edge of his mental anguish by physicalexhaustion Catullus had walked far out from the town, throughvineyards and fruit-orchards displaying their autumnal stores andclamorous with eager companies of pickers and vintagers. On comingback to the eastern gate he found himself reluctant to pass from theheedless activities of the fields to the bustle of the town streetsand the formal observances of his father's house. Seeking a quietinterlude, he turned northward and climbed the hill which rose highabove the tumultuous Adige. The shadows of the September afternoonhad begun to lengthen when he reached the top and threw himself uponthe ground near a green ash tree.
The bodily exercise had at least done him this service, that theformless misery of the past weeks, the monstrous, wordless sense ofdesolation, now resolved itself into a grief for which inner words,however comfortless, sprang into being. Below him Verona, proudsentinel between the North and Rome, offered herself to the embraceof the wild, tawny river, as if seeking to retard its ominous journeyfrom Rhaetia's barbarous mountains to Italy's sea by Venice. Far tothe northeast ghostly Alpine peaks awaited their coronal of sunsetrose. Southward stretched the plain of Lombardy. Within easy reachof his eye shimmered the lagoon that lay about Mantua. The hour veiledhills and plain in a luminous blue from which the sun's radiance wasexcluded. Through the thick leaves of the ash tree soughed theevening wind, giving a voice to the dying day. In its moan Catullusseemed to find his own words: "He is dead, he is dead." His brotherwas dead. This fact became at last clear in his consciousness andhe began to take it up and handle it.
The news had come two weeks ago, just as he was on the point of flyingfrom Rome and the autumn fevers to the gaieties of Naples and Baiæ.That was an easy escape for a youth whose only taskmasters were theMuses and who worked or played at the behest of his own mood. Buthis brother, Valerius, had obeyed the will of Rome, serving her,according to her need, at all seasons and in all places. Stationedthis year in Asia Minor he had fallen a victim to one of the disastrouseastern fevers. And now Troy held his ashes, and never again wouldhe offer thanks to Jupiter Capitolinus for a safe return to Rome.
As soon as the letter from Valerius's comrade reached him, Catullushad started for Verona. For nearly ten years he had spoken of himselfas living in Rome, his house and his work, his friendships and hislove knitting him closely, he had supposed, into the city's life.But in this naked moment she had shown him her alien and indifferentface and he knew that he must go home or die. It was not until hesaw his father's stricken eyes that he realised that, for once,impulse had led him into the path of filial duty. In the days thatfollowed, however, except by mere presence, neither mourner couldhelp the other. His father's inner life had always been inaccessibleto Catullus and now in a common need it seemed more than everimpossible to penetrate beyond the outposts of his noble stoicism.With Catullus, on the other hand, a moved or troubled mind couldusually find an outlet in swift, hot words, and, in the unnaturalrestraint put upon him by his father's speechlessness, his despair,like a splinter of steel, had only encysted itself more deeply.To-day he welcomed the relief of being articulate.
The tie between his brother and himself was formed on the day of hisown birth, when the two year old Valerius—how often their old nursehad told the story!—had been led in to see him, his little feetstumbling over each other in happy and unjealous haste. Through theyears of tutelage they had maintained an offensive and defensivealliance against father, nurses and teachers; and their playmates,even including Cælius, who was admitted into a happy triumvirate,knew that no intimacy could exact concessions from their fraternalloyalty. Their days were spent in the same tasks and the same play,and the nights, isolating them from the rest of their little world,nurtured confidence and candour. Memories began to gather and totorture him: smiling memories of childish nights in connectingbedrooms, when, left by their nurse to sleep, each boy would slipdown into the middle of his bed, just catching sight of the otherthrough the open door in the dim glow of the nightlamp, and defyMorpheus with lively tongue; poignant memories of youthful nights,when elaborate apartments and separate servants had not checked theemergence into wholesome speech of vague ambitions, lusty hopes andshy emotions. It was in one of these nights that Valerius had firsthit upon his favourite nickname for his brother. Pretty Aufilena hadbroken a promise and Catullus had vehemently maintained that she wasless honest than a loose woman who kept her part of a bargain. Itwas surprising that a conversation so trifling should recur in thishour, but he could see again before him his brother's smiling faceand hear him saying: "My Diogenes, never let your lantern go out.It will light your own feet even if you never find a truthful woman."
All this exquisite identity of daily life had ended eight years ago.Catullus felt the weight of his twenty-six years when he realisedthat ever since he and Valerius had ceased to be boys they had livedapart, save for the occasional weeks of a soldier's furloughs. Theiroutward paths had certainly diverged very widely. He had chosenliterature and Valerius the army. In politics they had fallen equallyfar apart, Catullus following Cicero in allegiance to theconstitution and the senate, Valerius continuing his father'sfriendship for Cæsar and faith in the new democratic ideal.Different friendships followed upon different pursuits, anddivergent mental characteristics became intensified. Catullus grewmore untamed in the pursuit of an untrammelled individual life,subversive of accepted standards, rich in emotional incident andsensuous perception. His adherence to the old political order wasat bottom due to an æsthetic conviction that democracy was vulgar.To Valerius, on the contrary, the Republic was the chief concern andCæsar its saviour from fraud and greed. As the years passed he becamemore and more absorbed in his country's service at the cost of hisown inclinations. Gravity and reserve grew upon him and the sacrificeof inherited moral standards to the claims of intellectual freedomwould to him have been abhorrent.
And yet there had not been even one day in these eight years whenCatullus had felt that he and his brother were not as close to eachother as in the old Verona days. He had lived constantly with hisfriends and rarely with his brother, but below even such friendshipsas those with Cælius and Calvus, Nepos and Cornificius lay the bondof brotherhood. In view of their lives this bond had seemed toCatullus as incomprehensible as it was unbreakable. And he had oftenwondered—he wondered now as he lay under the ash tree and listenedto the wind—whether it had had its origin in some urgentdetermination of his mother who had brooded over them both.
She had died before he was six years old, but he had one vivid memoryof her, belonging to his fifth birthday, the beginning, indeed, ofall conscious memory. The day fell in June and could be celebratedat Sirmio, their summer home on Lake Benacus. In the morning, holdinghis silent father's hand, he had received the congratulations of theservants, and at luncheon he had been handed about among the largecompany of June guests to be kissed and toasted. But the high festivalbegan when all these noisy people had gone off for the siesta. Then,according to a deep-laid plan, his mother and Valerius and he hadslipped unnoticed out of the great marble doorway and run hand inhand down the olive-silvery hill to the shore of the lake. She hadpromised to spend the whole afternoon with them. Never had he feltso happy. The deep blue water, ruffled by a summer breeze, sparkledwith a million points of crystal light. Valerius became absorbed intrying to launch a tiny red-sailed boat, but Catullus rushed backto his mother, exclaiming, "Mother, mother, the waves are laughingtoo!" And she had caught him in her arms and smiled into his eyesand said: "Child, a great poet said that long ago. Are you going tobe a poet some day? Is that all my bad dreams mean?"
Then she had called Valerius and asked if they wanted a story of thesea, and they had curled up in the hollows of her arms and she hadtold them about the