Chapter 4. THE FIERY TRIAL
And Antony sees in front of him an immense basilica. The light projects itself from the lower end with the magical effect of a many-coloured sun. It lights up the innumerable heads of the multitude which fills the nave and surges between the columns towards the side-aisles, where one can distinguish in the wooden compartments altars, beds, chainlets of little blue stones, and constellations painted on the walls.
In the midst of the crowd groups are stationed here and there; men standing on stools are discoursing with lifted fingers; others are praying with arms crossed, or lying down on the ground, or singing hymns, or drinking wine. Around a table the faithful are carrying on the love-feasts; martyrs are unswathing their limbs to show their wounds; old men, leaning on their staffs, are relating their travels.
Amongst them are people from the country of the Germans, from Thrace, Gaul, Scythia and the Indies--with snow on their beards, feathers in their hair, thorns in the fringes of their garments, sandals covered with dust, and skins burnt by the sun. All costumes are mingled--mantles of purple and robes of linen, embroidered dalmatics, woollen jackets, sailors' caps and bishops' mitres. Their eyes gleam strangely. They have the appearance of executioners or of eunuchs.
Hilarion advances among them. Antony, pressing against his shoulder, observes them. He notices a great many women. Several of them are dressed like men, with their hair cut short. He is afraid of them.
Hilarion--"These are the Christian women who have converted their husbands. Besides, the women are always for Jesus--even the idolaters--as witness Procula, the wife of Pilate, and Poppæa, the concubine of Nero. Don't tremble any more! Come on!"
There are fresh arrivals every moment.
They multiply; they separate, swift as shadows, all the time making a great uproar, or intermingling yells of rage, exclamations of love, canticles, and upbraidings.
Antony, in a low tone--"What do they want?"
Hilarion--"The Lord said, 'I may still have to speak to you about many things.' They possess those things."
And he pushes him towards a throne of gold, five paces off, where, surrounded by ninety-five disciples, all anointed with oil, pale and emaciated, sits the prophet Manes--beautiful as an archangel, motionless as a statue--wearing an Indian robe, with carbuncles in his plaited hair, a book of coloured pictures in his left hand, and a globe under his right. The pictures represent the creatures who are slumbering in chaos. Antony bends forward to see him. Then Manes makes his globe revolve, and, attuning his words to the music of a lyre, from which bursts forth crystalline sounds, he says:
"The celestial earth is at the upper extremity, the mortal earth at the lower. It is supported by two angels, the Splenditenens and the Omophorus, with six faces.
"At the summit of Heaven, the Impassible Divinity occupies the highest seat; underneath, face to face, are the Son of God and the Prince of Darkness.
"The darkness having made its way into His kingdom, God extracted from His essence a virtue which produced the first man; and He surrounded him with five elements. But the demons of darkness deprived him of one part, and that part is the soul.
"There is but one soul, spread through the universe, like the water of a stream divided into many channels. This it is that sighs in the wind, grinds in the marble which is sawn, howls in the voice of the sea; and it sheds milky tears when the leaves are torn off the fig-tree.
"The souls that leave this world emigrate towards the stars, which are animated beings."
Antony begins to laugh:
"Ah! ah! what an absurd hallucination!"
A man, beardless, and of austere aspect--"Why?"
Antony is about to reply. But Hilarion tells him in an undertone, that this man is the mighty Origen; and Manes resumes:
"At first, they stay in the moon, where they are purified. After that, they ascend to the sun."
Antony, slowly--"I know nothing to prevent us from believing it."
Manes--"The end of every creature is the liberation of the celestial ray shut up in matter. It makes its escape more easily through perfumes, spices, the aroma of old wine, the light substances that resemble thought. But the actions of daily life withhold it. The murderer will be born again in the body of a eunuch; he who slays an animal will become that animal. If you plant a vine-tree, you will be fastened in its branches. Food absorbs those who use it. Therefore, mortify yourselves! fast!"
Hilarion--"They are temperate, as you see!"
Manes--"There is a great deal of it in flesh-meats, less in herbs. Besides, the Pure, by the force of their merits, despoil vegetables of that luminous spark, and it flies towards its source. The animals, by generation, imprison it in the flesh. Therefore, avoid women!"
Hilarion--"Admire their countenance!"
Manes--"Or, rather, act so well that they may not be prolific. It is better for the soul to sink on the earth than to languish in carnal fetters."
Hilarion--"What matters the hierarchy of iniquities? The Church has done well to make marriage a sacrament!"
Saturninus, in Syrian costume--"He propagates a dismal order of things! The Father, in order to punish the rebel angels, commanded them to create the world. Christ came in order that the God of the Jews, who was one of those angels----"
Antony--"An angel? He! the Creator?"
Gerdon--"Did He not desire to kill Moses and deceive the prophets? and did He not lead the people astray, spreading lying and idolatry?"
Marcion--"Certainly, the Creator is not the true God!"
Saint Clement of Alexandria--"Matter is eternal!"
Bardesanes, as one of the Babylonian Magi--"It was formed by the seven planetary spirits."
The Hernians--"The angels have made the souls!"
The Priscillianists--"The world was made by the Devil."
Antony, falls backward--"Horror!"
Hilarion, holding him up--"You drive yourself to despair too quickly! You don't rightly comprehend their doctrine. Here is one who has received his from Theodas, the friend of Saint Paul. Hearken to him!"
And, at a signal from Hilarion, Valentinus, in a tunic of silver cloth, with a hissing voice and a pointed skull, cries:
"The world is the work of a delirious God!"
Antony, hangs down his head--"The work of a delirious God!"
After a long silence:
"How is that?"
Valentinus--"The most perfect of the Æons, the Abysm, reposed on the bosom of Profundity together with Thought. From their union sprang Intelligence, who had for his consort Truth.
"Intelligence and Truth engendered the Word and Life, which in their turn engendered Man and the Church; and this makes eight Æons."
He reckons on his fingers:
"The Word and Truth produced ten other Æons, that is to say, five couples. Man and the Church produced twelve others, amongst whom were the Paraclete and Faith, Hope and Charity, Perfection and Wisdom, Sophia.
"The entire of those thirty Æons constitutes the Pleroma, or Universality of God. Thus, like the echoes of a voice that is dying away, like the exhalations of a perfume that is evaporating, like the fires of a sun that is setting, the Powers that have emanated from the Highest Powers are always growing feeble.
"But Sophia, desirous of knowing the Father, rushed out of the Pleroma; and the Word then made another pair, Christ and the Holy Ghost, who bound together all the Æons, and all together they formed Jesus, the flower of the Pleroma. Meanwhile, the effort of Sophia to escape had left in the void an image of her, an evil substance, Acharamoth. The Saviour took pity on her, and delivered her from her passions; and from the smile of Acharamoth on being set free Light was born; her tears made the waters, and her sadness engendered gloomy Matter. From Acharamoth sprang the Demiurge, the fabricator of the worlds, the heavens, and the Devil. He dwells much lower down than the Pleroma, without even beholding it, so that he imagines he is the true God, and repeats through the mouths of his prophets: 'Besides me there is no God.' Then he made man, and cast into his soul the immaterial seed, which was the Church, the reflection of the other Church placed in the Pleroma.
"Acharamoth, one day, having reached the highest region, shall unite with the Saviour; the fire hidden in the world shall annihilate all matter, shall then consume itself, and men, having become pure spirits, shall espouse the angels!"
Origen--"Then the Demon shall be conquered, and the reign of God shall begin!"
Antony represses an exclamation, and immediately Basilides, catching him by the elbow:
"The Supreme Being, with his infinite emanations, is called Abraxas, and the Saviour with all his virtues, Kaulakau, otherwise rank-upon-rank, rectitude-upon-rectitude. The power of Kaulakau is obtained by the aid of certain words inscribed on this calcedony to facilitate memory."
And he shows on his neck a little stone on which fantastic lines are engraved.
"Then you shall be transported into the invisible; and, unfettered by law, you shall despise everything, including virtue itself. As for us, the Pure, we must avoid sorrow, after the example of Kaulakau."
Antony--"What! and the Cross?"
The Elkhesaites, in hyacinthine robes, reply to him:
"The sadness, the vileness, the condemnation, and the oppression of my fathers are effaced, thanks to the new Gospel. We may deny the inferior Christ, the man-Jesus; but we must adore the other Christ generated in his person under the wing of the Dove. Honour marriage! The Holy Spirit is feminine!"
Hilarion has disappeared; and Antony, pressed forward by the crowd, finds himself facing the Carpocratians, stretched with women upon scarlet cushions:
"Before re-entering the centre of unity, you will have to pass through a series of conditions and actions. In order to free yourself from the Powers of Darkness, do their works for the present! The husband goes to his wife and says, 'Act with charity towards your brother,' and she will kiss you."
The Nicolaites, assembled around a smoking dish:
"This is meat offered to idols; let us take it! Apostacy is permitted when the heart is pure. Glut your flesh with what it asks for. Try to destroy it by means of debaucheries. Prounikos, the mother of Heaven, wallows in iniquity."
The Marcosians, with rings of gold and dripping with balsam:
"Come to us, in order to be united with the Spirit! Come to us, in order to drink immortality!"
And one of them points out to him, behind some tapestry, the body of a man with an ass's head. This represents Sabaoth, the father of the Devil. As a mark of hatred he spits upon it.
Another discloses a very low bed strewn with flowers, saying as he does so:
"The spiritual nuptials are about to be consummated."
A third holds forth a goblet of glass while he utters an invocation. Blood appears in it:
"Ah! there it is! there it is! the blood of Christ!"
Antony turns aside; but he is splashed by the water, which leaps out of a tub.
The Helvidians cast themselves into it head foremost, muttering:
"Man regenerated by baptism is incapable of sin!"
Then he passes close to a great fire, where the Adamites are warming themselves completely naked to imitate the purity of Paradise; and he jostles up against the Messalians wallowing on the stone floor half-asleep, stupid:
"Oh! run over us, if you like; we shall not budge! Work is a sin; all occupation is evil!"
Behind those, the abject Paternians, men, women, and children, pell-mell, on a heap of filth, lift up their hideous faces, besmeared with wine:
"The inferior parts of the body, having been made by the Devil, belong to him. Let us eat, drink, and enjoy!"
Ætius--"Crimes come from the need here below of the love of God!"
But all at once a man, clad in a Carthaginian mantle, jumps among them, with a bundle of thongs in his hand; and striking at random to right and left of him violently:
"Ah! imposters, brigands, simoniacs, heretics, and demons! the vermin of the schools! the dregs of Hell! This fellow here, Marcion, is a sailor from Sinope excommunicated for incest. Carpocras has been banished as a magician; Ætius has stolen his concubine; Nicolas prostituted his own wife; and Manes, who describes himself as the Buddha, and whose name is Cubricus, was flayed with the sharp end of a cane, so that his tanned skin swings at the gates of Ctesiphon."
Antony has recognised Tertullian, and rushes forward to meet him.
"Help, master! help!"
Tertullian, continuing--"Break the images! Veil the virgins! Pray, fast, weep, mortify yourselves! No philosophy! no books! After Jesus, science is useless!"
All have fled; and Antony sees, instead of Tertullian, a woman seated on a stone bench. She sobs, her head resting against a pillar, her hair hanging down, and her body wrapped in a long brown simar.
Then they find themselves close to each other far from the crowd; and a silence, an extraordinary peacefulness, ensues, such as one feels in a wood when the wind ceases and the leaves flutter no longer. This woman is very beautiful, though faded and pale as death. They stare at each other, and their eyes mutually exchange a flood of thoughts, as it were, a thousand memories of the past, bewildering and profound. At last Priscilla begins to speak:
"I was in the lowest chamber of the baths, and I was lulled to sleep by the confused murmurs that reached me from the streets. All at once I heard loud exclamations. The people cried, 'It is a magician! it is the Devil!' And the crowd stopped in front of our house opposite to the Temple of Æsculapius. I raised myself with my wrists to the height of the air-hole. On the peristyle of the temple was a man with an iron collar around his neck. He placed lighted coals on a chafing-dish, and with them made large furrows on his breast, calling out, 'Jesus! Jesus!' The people said, 'That is not lawful! let us stone him!' But he did not desist. The things that were occurring were unheard of, astounding. Flowers, large as the sun, turned around before my eyes, and I heard a harp of gold vibrating in mid-air. The day sank to its close. My arms let go the iron bars; my strength was exhausted; and when he bore me away to his house--"
Antony--"Whom are you talking about?"
Priscilla--"Why, of Montanus!"
Antony--"But Montanus is dead."
Priscilla--"That is not true."
A voice--"No, Montanus is not dead!"
Antony comes back; and near him, on the other side upon a bench, a second woman is seated--this one being fair, and paler still, with swellings under her eyelids, as if she had been a long time weeping. Without waiting for him to question her, she says:
Maximilla--"We were returning from Tarsus by the mountains, when, at a turn of the road, we saw a man under a fig-tree. He cried from a distance, 'Stop!' and he sprang forward, pouring out abuse on us. The slaves rushed up to protect us. He burst out laughing. The horses pranced. The mastiffs all began to howl. He was standing up. The perspiration fell down his face. The wind made his cloak flap.
"While addressing us by name, he reproached us for the vanity of our actions, the impurity of our bodies; and he raised his fist towards the dromedaries on account of the silver bells which they wore under their jaws. His fury filled my very entrails with terror; nevertheless, it was a voluptuous sensation, which soothed, intoxicated me. At first, the slaves drew near. 'Master,' said they, 'our beasts are fatigued'; then there were the women: 'We are frightened'; and the slaves ran away. After that, the children began to cry, 'We are hungry.' And, as no answer was given to the women, they disappeared. And now he began to speak. I perceived that there was some one close beside me. It was my husband: I listened to the other. The first crawled between the stones, exclaiming, 'Do you abandon me?' and I replied, 'Yes! begone!' in order to accompany Montanus."
Priscilla--"Ah! coarse heart, you are astonished at this! Yet Magdalen, Jane, Martha and Susanna did not enter the couch of the Saviour. Souls can be madly embraced more easily than bodies. In order to retain Eustolia with impunity, the Bishop Leontius mutilated himself--cherishing his love more than his virility. And, then, it is not my own fault. A spirit compels me to do it; Eotas cannot cure me. Nevertheless, he is cruel. What does it matter? I am the last of the prophetesses; and, after me, the end of the world will come."
Maximilla--"He has loaded me with his gifts. None of the others loved me so much, nor is any of them better loved."
Priscilla--"You lie! I am the person he loves!"
Maximilla--"No: it is I!"
Between their shoulders appears a negro's head.
Montanus, covered with a black cloak, fastened by two dead men's bones:
"Be quiet, my doves! Incapable of terrestrial happiness, we by this union attain to spiritual plenitude. After the age of the Father, the age of the Son; and I inaugurate the third, that of the Paraclete. His light came to me during the forty nights when the heavenly Jerusalem shone in the firmament above my house at Pepuza.
"Ah! how you cry out with anguish when the thongs flagellate you! How your aching limbs offer themselves to my burning caresses! How you languish upon my breast with an inconceivable love! It is so strong that it has revealed new worlds to you, and you can now behold spirits with your mortal eyes."
Antony makes a gesture of astonishment.
Tertullian, coming up close to Montanus--"No doubt, since the soul has a body, that which has no body exists not."
Montanus--"In order to render it less material I have introduced numerous mortifications--three Lents every year, and, for each night, prayers, in saying which the mouth is kept closed, for fear the breath, in escaping, should sully the mental act. It is necessary to abstain from second marriages--or, rather, from marriage altogether! The angels sinned with women."
The Archontics, in hair-shirts:
"The Saviour said, 'I came to destroy the work of the woman.'"
The Tatianists, in hair-cloths of rushes:
"She is the tree of evil! Our bodies are the garments of skin."
And, ever advancing on the same side, Antony encounters the Valesians, stretched on the ground, with red plates below their stomachs, beneath their tunics.
They present to him a knife.
"Do like Origen and like us! Is it the pain you fear, coward? Is it the love of your flesh that restrains you, hypocrite?"
And while he watches them struggling, extended on their backs swimming in their own blood, the Cainites, with their hair fastened by vipers, pass close to him, shouting in his ears:
"Glory to Cain! Glory to Sodom! Glory to Judas!
"Cain begot the race of the strong; Sodom terrified the earth with its chastisement, and it is through Judas that God saved the world! Yes, Judas! without him no death and no Redemption!"
They pass out through the band of Circoncellions, clad in wolf-skin, crowned with thorns, and carrying iron clubs.
"Crush the fruit! Attack the fountain-head! Drown the child! Plunder the rich man who is happy, and who eats overmuch! Strike down the poor man who casts an envious glance at the ass's saddle-cloth, the dog's meal, the bird's nest, and who is grieved at not seeing others as miserable as himself.
"As for us--the Saints--in order to hasten the end of the world, we poison, burn, massacre. The only salvation is in martyrdom. We give ourselves up to martyrdom. We take off with pincers the skin of our heads; we spread our limbs under the ploughs; we cast ourselves into the mouths of furnaces. Shame on baptism! Shame on the Eucharist! Shame on marriage! Universal damnation!"
Then, throughout the basilica, there is a fresh accession of frenzy. The Audians draw arrows against the Devil; the Collyridians fling blue veils to the ceiling; the Ascitians prostrate themselves before a wineskin; the Marcionites baptise a corpse with oil. Close beside Appelles, a woman, the better to explain her idea, shows a round loaf of bread in a bottle; another, surrounded by the Sampsians, distributes like a host the dust of her sandals. On the bed of the Marcosians, strewn with roses, two lovers embrace each other. The Circoncellions cut one another's throats; the Velesians make a rattling sound; Bardesanes sings; Carpocras dances; Maximilla and Priscilla utter loud groans; and the false prophetess of Cappadocia, quite naked, resting on a lion and brandishing three torches, yells forth the Terrible Invocation.
The pillars are poised like trunks of trees; the amulets round the necks of the Heresiarchs have lines of flame crossing each other; the constellations in the chapels move to and fro, and the walls recede under the alternate motion of the crowd, in which every head is a wave which leaps and roars.
Meanwhile, from the very depths of the uproar rises a song with bursts of laughter, in which the name of Jesus recurs. These outbursts come from the common people, who all clap their hands in order to keep time with the music. In the midst of them is Arius, in the dress of a deacon:
"The fools who declaim against me pretend to explain the absurd; and, in order to destroy them entirely, I have composed little poems so comical that they are known by heart in the mills, the taverns, and the ports.
"A thousand times no! the Son is not co-eternal with the Father, nor of the same substance. Otherwise He would not have said, 'Father, remove from Me this chalice! Why do ye call Me good? God alone is good! I go to my God, to your God!' and other expressions, proving that He was a created being. It is demonstrated to us besides by all His names: lamb, shepherd, fountain, wisdom, Son of Man, prophet, good way, corner-stone."
Sabellius--"As for me, I maintain that both are identical."
Arius--"The Council of Antioch has decided the other way."
Antony--"Who, then, is the Word? Who was Jesus?"
The Valentinians--"He was the husband of Acharamoth when she had repented!"
The Sethianians--"He was Sem, son of Noah!"
The Theodotians--"He was Melchisidech!"
The Merinthians--"He was nothing but a man!"
The Apollonarists--"He assumed the appearance of one! He simulated the Passion!"
Marcellus of Ancyra--"He is a development of the Father!"
Pope Calixtus--"Father and Son are the two forms of a single God!"
Methadius--"He was first in Adam, and then in man!"
Cerinthus--"And He will come back to life again!"
Valentinus--"Impossible--His body is celestial."
Paul of Samosta--"He is God only since His baptism."
Hermogenes--"He dwells in the sun."
And all the heresiarchs form a circle around Antony, who weeps, with his head in his hands.
A Jew, with red beard, and his skin spotted with leprosy, advances close to him, and chuckling horribly:
"His soul was the soul of Esau. He suffered from the disease of Bellerophon; and his mother, the woman who sold perfumes, surrendered herself to Pantherus, a Roman soldier, under the corn-sheaves, one harvest evening."
Antony eagerly lifts up his head, and gazes at them without uttering a word; then, treading right over them:
"Doctors, magicians, bishops and deacons, men and phantoms, back! back! Ye are all lies!"
The Heresiarchs--"We have martyrs, more martyrs than yours, prayers more difficult, higher outbursts of love, and ecstasies quite as protracted."
Antony--"But no revelation. No proofs."
Then all brandish in the air rolls of papyrus, tablets of wood, pieces of leather; and strips of cloth; and pushing them one before the other:
The Corinthians--"Here is the Gospel of the Hebrews!"
The Marcionites--"The Gospel of the Lord! The Gospel of Eve!"
The Encratites--"The Gospel of Thomas!"
The Cainites--"The Gospel of Judas!"
Basilides--"The treatise of the spirit that has come!"
Manes--"The prophecy of Barcouf!"
Antony makes a struggle and escapes them, and he perceives, in a corner filled with shadows, the old Ebionites, dried up like mummies, their glances dull, their eyebrows white.
They speak in a quavering tone:
"We have known, we ourselves have known, the carpenter's son. We were of his own age; we lived in his street. He used to amuse himself by modelling little birds with mud; without being afraid of cutting the benches, he assisted his father in his work, or rolled up, for his mother, balls of dyed wool. Then he made a journey into Egypt, whence he brought back wonderful secrets. We were in Jericho when he discovered the eater of grasshoppers. They talked together in a low tone, without anyone being able to hear them. But it was since that occurrence that he made a noise in Galilee and that many stories have been circulated concerning him."
They repeat, tremulously:
"We have known, we ourselves; we have known him."
Antony--"One moment! Tell me! pray tell me, what was his face like?"
Tertullian--"Fierce and repulsive in its aspect; for he was laden with all the crimes, all the sorrows, and all the deformities of the world."
Antony--"Oh! no! no! I imagine, on the contrary, that there was about his entire person a superhuman beauty."
Eusebius of Cæsarea--"There is at Paneadæ, close to an old ruin, in the midst of a rank growth of weeds, a statue of stone, raised, as it is pretended, by the woman with the issue of blood. But time has gnawed away the face, and the rain has obliterated the inscription."
A woman comes forth from the group of Carpocratians.
Marcellina--"I was formerly a deaconess in a little church at Rome, where I used to show the faithful images, in silver, of St. Paul, Homer, Pythagoras and Jesus Christ.
"I have kept only his."
She draws aside the folds of her cloak.
"Do you wish it?"
A voice--"He reappears himself when we invoke him. It is the hour. Come!"
And Antony feels a brutal hand laid on him, which drags him along.
He ascends a staircase in complete darkness, and, after proceeding for some time, arrives in front of a door. Then his guide (is it Hilarion? he cannot tell) says in the ear of a third person, "The Lord is about to come,"--and they are introduced into an apartment with a low ceiling and no furniture. What strikes him at first is, opposite him, a long chrysalis of the colour of blood, with a man's head, from which rays escape, and the word Knouphis written in Greek all around. It rises above a shaft of a column placed in the midst of a pedestal. On the other walls of the apartment, medallions of polished brass represent heads of animals--that of an ox, of a lion, of an eagle, of a dog, and again, an ass's head! The argil lamps, suspended below these images, shed a flickering light. Antony, through a hole in the wall, perceives the moon, which shines far away on the waves, and he can even distinguish their monotonous ripple, with the dull sound of a ship's keel striking against the stones of a pier.
Men, squatting on the ground, their faces hidden beneath their cloaks, give vent at intervals to a kind of stifled barking. Women are sleeping, with their foreheads clasped by both arms, which are supported by their knees, so completely shrouded by their veils that one would say they were heaps of clothes arranged along the wall. Beside them, children, half-naked, and half devoured with vermin, watch the lamps burning, with an idiotic air;--and they are doing nothing; they are awaiting something.
They speak in low voices about their families, or communicate to one another remedies for their diseases. Many of them are going to embark at the end of the day, the persecution having become too severe. The Pagans, however, are not hard to deceive. "They believe, the fools, that we adore Knouphis!"
But one of the brethren, suddenly inspired, places himself in front of the column, where they have laid a loaf of bread, which is on the top of a basket full of fennel and hartwort.
The others have taken their places, forming, as they stand, three parallel lines.
The inspired one unrolls a paper covered with cylinders joined together, and then begins:
"Upon the darkness the ray of the Word descended, and a violent cry burst forth, which seemed like the voice of light."
All responding, while they sway their bodies to and fro:
The inspired one--"Man, then, was created by the infamous God of Israel, with the assistance of those here,"--pointing towards the medallions--"Aristophaios, Oraios, Sabaoth, Adonai, Eloi and Iaô!
"And he lay on the mud, hideous, feeble, shapeless, without the power of thought."
All, in a plaintive tone:
The inspired one--"But Sophia, taking pity on him, quickened him with a portion of her spirit. Then, seeing man so beautiful, God was seized with anger, and imprisoned him in His kingdom, interdicting him from the tree of knowledge. Still, once more, the other one came to his aid. She sent the serpent, who, with its sinuous advances, prevailed on him to disobey this law of hate. And man, when he had tasted knowledge, understood heavenly matters."
All, with energy:
The inspired one--"But Jaldalaoth, in order to be revenged, plunged man into matter, and the serpent along with him!"
All, in very low tones:
They close their mouths and then become silent.
The odours of the harbour mingle in the warm air with the smoke of the lamps. Their wicks, spluttering, are on the point of being extinguished, and long mosquitoes flutter around them. Antony gasps with anguish. He has the feeling that some monstrosity is floating around him--the horror of a crime about to be perpetrated.
But the inspired one, stamping with his feet, snapping his fingers, tossing his head, sings a psalm, with a wild refrain, to the sound of cymbals and of a shrill flute:
"Come! come! come! come forth from thy cavern!
"Swift One, that runs without feet, captor that takes without hands! Sinuous as the waves, round as the sun, darkened with spots of gold; like the firmament, strewn with stars! like the twistings of the vine-tree and the windings of entrails!
"Unbegotten! earth-devourer! ever young! perspicacious! honoured at Epidaurus! good for men! who cured King Ptolemy, the soldiers of Moses, and Glaucus, son of Minos!
"Come! come! come! come forth from thy cavern!"
"Come! come! come! come forth from thy cavern!"
However, there is no manifestation.
"Why, what is the matter with him?"
They proceed to deliberate, and to make suggestions. One old man offers a clump of grass. Then there is a rising in the basket. The green herbs are agitated; the flowers fall, and the head of a python appears.
He passes slowly over the edge of the loaf, like a circle turning round a motionless disc; then he develops, lengthens; he becomes of enormous weight. To prevent him from grazing the ground, the men support him with their breasts, the women with their heads, and the children with the tips of their fingers; and his tail, emerging through the hole in the wall, stretches out indefinitely, even to the depths of the sea. His rings unfold themselves, and fill the apartment. They wind themselves round Antony.
The Faithful, pressing their mouths against his skin, snatch the bread which he has nibbled.
"It is thou! it is thou!
"Raised at first by Moses, crushed by Ezechias, re-established by the Messiah. He drank thee in the waters of baptism; but thou didst quit him in the Garden of Olives, and then he felt all his weakness.
"Writhing on the bar of the Cross, and higher than his head, slavering above the crown of thorns, thou didst behold him dying; for thou art Jesus! yes, thou art the Word! thou art the Christ!"
Antony swoons in horror, and falls in his cell, upon the splinters of wood, where the torch, which had slipped from his hand, is burning mildly. This commotion causes him to half-open his eyes; and he perceives the Nile, undulating and clear, under the light of the moon, like a great serpent in the midst of the sands--so much so that the hallucination again takes possession of him. He has not quitted the Ophites; they surround him, address him by name, carry off baggages, and descend towards the port. He embarks along with them.
A brief period of time flows by. Then the vault of a prison encircles him. In front of him, iron bars make black lines upon a background of blue; and at its sides, in the shade, are people weeping and praying, surrounded by others who are exhorting and consoling them.
Without, one is attracted by the murmuring of a crowd, as well as by the splendour of a summer's day. Shrill voices are crying out watermelons, water, iced drinks, and cushions of grass to sit down on. From time to time, shouts of applause burst forth. He observes people walking on their heads.
Suddenly, comes a continuous roaring, strong and cavernous, like the noise of water in an aqueduct: and, opposite him, he perceives, behind the bars of another cage, a lion, who is walking up and down; then a row of sandals, of naked legs, and of purple fringes.
Overhead, groups of people, ranged symmetrically, widen out from the lowest circle, which encloses the arena, to the highest, where masts have been raised to support a veil of hyacinth hung in the air on ropes. Staircases, which radiate towards the centre, intersect, at equal distances, those great circles of stone. Their steps disappear from view, owing to the vast audience seated there--knights, senators, soldiers, common people, vestals and courtesans, in woollen hoods, in silk maniples, in tawny tunics with aigrettes of precious stones, tufts of feathers and lictors' rods; and all this assemblage, muttering, exclaiming, tumultuous and frantic, stuns him like an immense tub boiling over. In the midst of the arena, upon an altar, smokes a vessel of incense.
The people who surround him are Christians, delivered up to the wild beasts. The men wear the red cloak of the high-priests of Saturn, the women the fillets of Ceres. Their friends distribute fragments of their garments and rings. In order to gain admittance into the prison, they require, they say, a great deal of money; but what does it matter? They will remain till the end.
Amongst these consolers Antony observes a bald man in a black tunic, a portion of whose face is plainly visible. He discourses with them on the nothingness of the world, and the happiness of the Elect. Antony is filled with transports of Divine love. He longs for the opportunity of sacrificing his life for the Saviour, not knowing whether he is himself one of these martyrs. But, save a Phrygian, with long hair, who keeps his arms raised, they all have a melancholy aspect. An old man is sobbing on a bench, and a young man, who is standing, is musing with downcast eyes.
The old man has refused to pay tribute at the angle of a cross-road, before a statue of Minerva; and he regards his companions with a look which signifies:
"You ought to succour me! Communities sometimes make arrangements by which they might be left in peace. Many amongst you have even obtained letters falsely declaring that you have offered sacrifice to idols."
"Is it not Peter of Alexandria who has regulated what one ought to do when one is overcome by tortures?"
Then, to himself:
"Ah! this is very hard at my age! my infirmities render me so feeble! Perchance, I might have lived to another winter!"
The recollection of his little garden moves him to tears; and he contemplates the side of the altar.
The young man, who had disturbed by violence a feast of Apollo, murmurs:
"My only chance was to fly to the mountains!"
"The soldiers would have caught you," says one of the brethren.
"Oh! I could have done like Cyprian; I should have come back; and the second time I should have had more strength, you may be sure!"
Then he thinks of the countless days he should have lived, with all the pleasures which he will not have known;--and he, likewise, contemplates the side of the altar.
But the man in the black tunic rushes up to him:
"How scandalous! What? You a victim of election? Think of all these women who are looking at you! And then, God sometimes performs a miracle. Pionius benumbed the hands of his executioners; and the blood of Polycarp extinguished the flames of his funeral-pile."
He turns towards the old man. "Father, father! You ought to edify us by your death. By deferring it, you will, without doubt, commit some bad action which will destroy the fruit of your good deeds. Besides, the power of God is infinite. Perhaps your example will convert the entire people."
And, in the den opposite, the lions stride up and down, without stopping, rapidly, with a continuous movement. The largest of them all at once fixes his eyes on Antony and emits a roar, and a mass of vapour issues from his jaws.
The women are jammed up against the men.
The consoler goes from one to another:
"What would ye say--what would any of you say--if they burned you with plates of iron; if horses tore you asunder; if your body, coated with honey, was devoured by insects? You will have only the death of a hunter who is surprised in a wood."
Antony would much prefer all this than the horrible wild beasts; he imagines he feels their teeth and their talons, and that he hears his back cracking under their jaws.
A belluarius enters the dungeon; the martyrs tremble. One alone amongst them is unmoved--the Phrygian, who has gone into a corner to pray. He had burned three temples. He now advances with lifted arms, open mouth, and his head towards Heaven, without seeing anything, like a somnambulist.
The consoler exclaims:
"Keep back! Keep back! The Spirit of Montanus will destroy ye!"
All fall back, vociferating:
"Damnation to the Montanist!"
They insult him, spit upon him, would like to strike him. The lions, prancing, bite one another's manes. The people yell:
"To the beasts! To the beasts!"
The martyrs, bursting into sobs, catch hold of one another. A cup of narcotic wine is offered to them. They quickly pass it from hand to hand.
Near the door of the den another belluarius awaits the signal. It opens; a lion comes out.
He crosses the arena with great irregular strides. Behind him in a row appear the other lions, then a bear, three panthers, and leopards. They scatter like a flock in a prairie.
The cracking of a whip is heard. The Christians stagger, and, in order to make an end of it, their brethren push them forward.
Antony closes his eyes.
* * * * *
He opens them again. But darkness envelops him. Ere long, it grows bright once more; and he is able to trace the outlines of a plain, arid and covered with knolls, such as may be seen around a deserted quarry. Here and there a clump of shrubs lifts itself in the midst of the slabs, which are on a level with the soil, and above which white forms are bending, more undefined than clouds. Others rapidly make their appearance. Eyes shine through the openings of long veils. By their indolent gait and the perfumes which exhale from them, Antony knows they are ladies of patrician rank. There are also men, but of inferior condition, for they have visages at the same time simple and coarse.
One of the women, with a long breath:
"Ah! how pleasant is the air of the chilly night in the midst of sepulchres! I am so fatigued with the softness of couches, the noise of day, and the oppressiveness of the sun!"
A woman, panting--"Ah! at last, here I am! But how irksome to have wedded an idolater!"
Another--"The visits to the prisons, the conversations with our brethren, all excite the suspicions of our husbands! And we must even hide ourselves from them when making the sign of the Cross; they would take it for a magical conjuration."
Another--"With mine, there was nothing but quarrelling all day long. I did not like to submit to the abuses to which he subjected my person; and, for revenge, he had me persecuted as a Christian."
Another--"Recall to your memory that young man of such striking beauty who was dragged by the heels behind a chariot, like Hector, from the Esquiline Gate to the Mountains of Tibur; and his blood stained the bushes on both sides of the road. I collected the drops--here they are!"
She draws from her bosom a sponge perfectly black, covers it with kisses, and then flings herself upon the slab, crying:
"Ah! my friend! my friend!"
A man--"It is just three years to-day since Domitilla's death. She was stoned at the bottom of the Wood of Proserpine. I gathered her bones, which shone like glow-worms in the grass. The earth now covers them."
He flings himself upon a tombstone.
"O my betrothed! my betrothed!"
And all the others, scattered through the plain:
"O my sister!" "O my brother!" "O my daughter!" "O my mother!"
They are on their knees, their foreheads clasped with their hands, or their bodies lying flat with both arms extended; and the sobs which they repress make their bosoms swell almost to bursting. They gaze up at the sky, saying:
"Have pity on her soul, O my God! She is languishing in the abode of shadows. Deign to admit her into the Resurrection, so that she may rejoice in Thy light!"
Or, with eyes fixed on the flagstones, they murmur:
"Be at rest--suffer no more! I have brought thee wine and meat!"
A widow--"Here is pudding, made by me, according to his taste, with many eggs, and a double measure of flour. We are going to eat together as of yore, is not that so?"
She puts a little of it on her lips, and suddenly begins to laugh in an extravagant fashion, frantically.
The others, like her, nibble a morsel and drink a mouthful; they tell one another the history of their martyrs; their sorrow becomes vehement; their libations increase; their eyes, swimming with tears, are fixed on one another; they stammer with inebriety and desolation. Gradually their hands touch; their lips meet; their veils are torn away, and they embrace one another upon the tombs in the midst of the cups and the torches.
The sky begins to brighten. The mist soaks their garments; and, as if they were strangers to one another, they take their departure by different roads into the country.
The sun shines forth. The grass has grown taller; the plain has become transformed. Across the bamboos, Antony sees a forest of columns of a bluish-grey colour. Those are trunks of trees springing from a single trunk. From each of its branches descend other branches which penetrate into the soil; and the whole of those horizontal and perpendicular lines, indefinitely multiplied, might be compared to a gigantic framework were it not that here and there appears a little fig-tree with a dark foliage like that of a sycamore. Between the branches he distinguishes bunches of yellow flowers and violets, and ferns as large as birds' feathers. Under the lowest branches may be seen at different points the horns of a buffalo, or the glittering eyes of an antelope. Parrots sit perched, butterflies flutter, lizards crawl upon the ground, flies buzz; and one can hear, as it were, in the midst of the silence, the palpitation of an all-permeating life.
At the entrance of the wood, on a kind of pile, is a strange sight--a man coated over with cows' dung, completely naked, more dried-up than a mummy. His joints form knots at the extremities of his bones, which are like sticks. He has clusters of shells in his ears, his face is very long, and his nose is like a vulture's beak. His left arm is held erect in the air, crooked, and stiff as a stake; and he has remained there so long that birds have made a nest in his hair.
At the four corners of his pile four fires are blazing. The sun is right in his face. He gazes at it with great open eyes, and without looking at Antony.
"Brahmin of the banks of the Nile, what sayest thou?"
Flames start out on every side through the partings of the beams; and the gymnosophist resumes:
"Like a rhinoceros, I am plunged in solitude. I dwelt in the tree that was behind me."
In fact, the large fig-tree presents in its flutings a natural excavation of the shape of a man.
"And I fed myself on flowers and fruits with such an observance of precepts that not even a dog has seen me eat.
"As existence proceeds from corruption, corruption from desire, desire from sensation, and sensation from contact, I have avoided every kind of action, every kind of contact, and--without stirring any more than the pillar of a tombstone--exhaling my breath through my two nostrils, fixing my glances upon my nose; and, observing the ether in my spirit, the world in my limbs, the moon in my heart, I pondered on the essence of the great soul, whence continually escape, like sparks of fire, the principles of life. I have, at last, grasped the supreme soul in all beings, all beings in the supreme soul; and I have succeeded in making my soul penetrate the place into which my senses used to penetrate.
"I receive knowledge directly from Heaven, like the bird Tchataka, who quenches his thirst only in the droppings of the rain. From the very fact of my having knowledge of things, things no longer exist. For me now there is no hope and no anguish, no goodness, no virtue, neither day nor night, neither thou nor I--absolutely nothing.
"My frightful austerities have made me superior to the Powers. A contraction of my brain can kill a hundred kings' sons, dethrone gods, overrun the world."
He utters all this in a monotonous voice. The leaves all around him are withered. The rats fly over the ground.
He slowly lowers his eyes towards the flames, which are rising, then adds:
"I have become disgusted with form, disgusted with perception, disgusted even with knowledge itself--for thought does not outlive the transitory fact that gives rise to it; and the spirit, like the rest, is but an illusion.
"Everything that is born will perish; everything that is dead will come to life again. The beings that have actually disappeared will sojourn in wombs not yet formed, and will come back to earth to serve with sorrow other creatures. But, as I have resolved through an infinite number of existences, under the guise of gods, men, and animals, I give up travelling, and no longer wish for this fatigue. I abandon the dirty inn of my body, walled in with flesh, reddened with blood, covered with hideous skin, full of uncleanness; and, for my reward, I shall, finally, sleep in the very depths of the absolute, in annihilation."
The flames rise to his breast, then envelop him. His head stretches across as if through the hole of a wall. His eyes are perpetually fixed in a vacant stare.
Antony gets up again. The torch on the ground has set fire to the splinters of wood, and the flames have singed his beard. Bursting into an exclamation, Antony tramples on the fire; and, when only a heap of cinders is left:
"Where, then, is Hilarion? He was here just now. I saw him! Ah! no; it is impossible! I am mistaken! How is this? My cell, those stones, the sand, have not, perhaps, any more reality. I must be going mad. Stay! where was I? What was happening here?
"Ah! the gymnosophist! This death is common amongst the Indian sages. Kalanos burned himself before Alexander; another did the same in the time of Augustus. What hatred of life they must have had!--unless, indeed, pride drove them to it. No matter, it is the intrepidity of martyrs! As to the others, I now believe all that has been told me of the excesses they have occasioned.
"And before this? Yes, I recollect! the crowd of heresiarchs ... What shrieks! what eyes! But why so many outbreaks of the flesh and wanderings of the spirit?
"It is towards God they pretend to direct their thoughts in all these different ways. What right have I to curse them, I who stumble in my own path? When they have disappeared, I shall, perhaps, learn more. This one rushed away too quickly; I had not time to reply to him. Just now it is as if I had in my intellect more space and more light. I am tranquil. I feel myself capable ... But what is this now? I thought I had extinguished the fire."
A flame flutters between the rocks; and, speedily, a jerky voice makes itself heard from the mountains in the distance.
"Are those the barkings of a hyena, or the lamentations of some lost traveller?"
Antony listens. The flame draws nearer.
* * * * *
And he sees approaching a woman who is weeping, resting on the shoulder of a man with a white beard. She is covered with a purple garment all in rags. He, like her, is bare-headed, with a tunic of the same colour, and carries a bronze vase, whence arises a small blue flame.
Antony is filled with fear,--and yet he would fain know who this woman is.
The stranger (Simon)--"This is a young girl, a poor child, whom I take everywhere with me."
He raises the bronze vase. Antony inspects her by the light of this flickering flame. She has on her face marks of bites, and traces of blows along her arms. Her scattered hair is entangled in the rents of her rags; her eyes appear insensible to the light.
Simon--"Sometimes she remains thus a long time without speaking or eating, and utters marvellous things."
Simon--"Eunoia! Eunoia! relate what you have to say!"
She turns around her eyeballs, as if awakening from a dream, passes her fingers slowly across her two lids, and in a mournful voice:
Helena (Eunoia)--"I have a recollection of a distant region, of the colour of emerald. There is only a single tree there."
Antony gives a start.
"At each step of its huge branches a pair of spirits stand. The branches around them cross each other, like the veins of a body, and they watch the eternal life circulating from the roots, where it is lost in shadow up to the summit, which reaches beyond the sun. I, on the second branch, illumined with my face the summer nights."
Antony, touching his forehead--"Ah! ah! I understand! the head!"
Simon, with his finger on his lips--"Hush! Hush!"
Helena--"The vessel remained convex: her keel clave the foam. He said to me, 'What does it matter if I disturb my country, if I lose my kingdom! You will be mine, in my own house!'
"How pleasant was the upper chamber of his palace! He would lie down upon the ivory bed, and, smoothing my hair, would sing in an amorous strain. At the end of the day, I could see the two camps and the lanterns which they were lighting; Ulysses at the edge of his tent; Achilles, armed from head to foot, driving a chariot along the seashore."
Antony--"Why, she is quite mad! Wherefore? ..."
Helena--"They rubbed me with unguents, and sold me to the people to amuse them. One evening, standing with the sistrum in my hand, I was coaxing Greek sailors to dance. The rain, like a cataract, fell upon the tavern, and the cups of hot wine were smoking. A man entered without the door having been opened."
Simon--"It was I! I found you. Here she is, Antony; she who is called Sigeh, Eunoia, Barbelo, Prounikos! The Spirits who govern the world were jealous of her, and they bound her in the body of a woman. She was the Helen of the Trojans, whose memory the poet Stesichorus had rendered infamous. She has been Lucretia, the patrician lady violated by the kings. She was Delilah, who cut off the hair of Samson. She was that daughter of Israel who surrendered herself to he-goats. She has loved adultery, idolatry, lying and folly. She was prostituted by every nation. She has sung in all the cross-ways. She has kissed every face. At Tyre, she, the Syrian, was the mistress of thieves. She drank with them during the nights, and she concealed assassins amid the vermin of her tepid bed."
Antony--"Ah! what is coming over me?"
Simon, with a furious air--
"I have redeemed her, I tell you, and re-established her in all her splendour, such as Caius Cæsar Agricola became enamoured of when he desired to sleep with the Moon!"
Simon--"But she really is the Moon! Has not Pope Clement written that she was imprisoned in a tower? Three hundred persons came to surround the tower; and on each of the murderers, at the same time, the moon was seen to appear,--though there are not many moons in the world, or many Eunoias!"
Antony--"Yes! ... I think I recollect ..."
And he falls into a reverie.
Simon--"Innocent as Christ, who died for men, she has devoted herself to women. For the powerlessness of Jehovah is demonstrated by the transgression of Adam, and we must shake off the old law, opposed, as it is, to the order of things. I have preached the new Gospel in Ephraim and in Issachar, along the torrent of Bizor, behind the lake of Houleh, in the valley of Mageddo, and beyond the mountains, at Bostra and at Damas. Let those who are covered with wine-dregs, those who are covered with dirt, those who are covered with blood, come to me; and I will wash out their defilement with the Holy Spirit, called by the Greeks, Minerva. She is Minerva! She is the Holy Spirit! I am Jupiter Apollo, the Christ, the Paraclete, the great power of God incarnated in the person of Simon!"
Antony--"Ah! it is you! ... it is you! But I know your crimes! You were born at Gittha on the borders of Samaria. Dositheus, your first master, dismissed you! You execrate Saint Paul for having converted one of your women; and, vanquished by Saint Peter, in your rage and terror, you flung into the waves the bag which contained your magical instruments!"
Simon--"Do you desire them?"
Antony looks at him, and an inner voice murmurs in his breast, "Why not?"
"He who understands the powers of Nature and the substance of spirits ought to perform miracles. It is the dream of all sages--and the desire of which gnaws you; confess it!
"Amongst the Romans I flew so high in the circus that they saw me no more. Nero ordered me to be decapitated; but it was a sheep's head that fell to the ground instead of mine. Finally, they buried me alive; but I came back to life on the third day. The proof of it is that I am here!"
He gives him his hands to smell. They have the odour of a corpse. Antony recoils.
"I can make bronze serpents move, marble statues laugh, and dogs speak. I will show you an immense quantity of gold, I will set up kings, you shall see nations adoring me. I can walk on the clouds and on the waves; pass through mountains; assume the appearance of a young man, or of an old man; of a tiger, or of an ant; take your face, give you mine; and drive the thunderbolt. Do you hear?"
The thunder rolls, followed by flashes of lightning.
"It is the voice of the Most High, 'for the Eternal, thy God, is a fire,' and all creations operate by the emanations of this central fire. You are about to receive the baptism of it--that second baptism, announced by Jesus, which fell on the Apostles one stormy day when the window was open!"
And all the while stirring the flame with his hand, slowly, as if to sprinkle Antony with it:
"Mother of Mercies, thou who discoverest secrets in order that we may have rest in the eighth house ..."
"Ah! if I had holy water!"
The flame goes out, producing much smoke.
Eunoia and Simon have disappeared.
* * * * *
An extremely cold fog, opaque and f[oe]tid, fills the atmosphere.
Antony, extending his arms like a blind man--
"Where am I? ... I am afraid of falling into the abyss. And the cross, no doubt, is too far away from me. Ah! what a night! what a night!"
A sudden gust of wind cleaves the fog asunder; and he perceives two men covered with long white tunics. The first is of tall stature, with a sweet expression of countenance and grave deportment. His white hair, parted like that of Christ, descends regularly over his shoulders. He has thrown down a wand which he was carrying in his hand, and which his companion has taken up, making a respectful bow after the fashion of Orientals. The other is small, coarse-looking, flat-nosed, with a thick neck, curly hair, and an air of simplicity. Both of them are bare-footed, bare-headed, and covered with dust, like people who have come on a long journey.
Antony, with a start--"What do ye seek? Speak! Go on!"
Damis--He is the little man--
"La, la! ... worthy hermit! what do you say? I know nothing about it. Here is the Master!"
He sits down; the other remains standing. Silence.
Antony, resumes--"Ye come in this fashion? ..."
Damis--"Oh! a great distance--a very great distance!"
Antony--"And ye are going? ..."
Damis, pointing at his companion--"Wherever he wishes."
Antony--"Who, then, is he?"
Damis--"Look at him."
Antony--"He has the appearance of a saint. If I dared ..."
The fog by this time is quite gone. The atmosphere has become perfectly clear. The moon shines out.
Damis--"What are you thinking of now that you say nothing more?"
Antony--"I am thinking of----Oh! nothing."
Damis draws close to Apollonius, makes many turns round him, with his figure bent, and without moving his head.
"Master, this is a Galilean hermit who wishes to know the sources of your wisdom."
Apollonius--"Let him approach."
Apollonius, in a voice of thunder--
"Approach! You would like to know who I am, what I have done, what I am thinking of? Is that not so, child?"
Antony--" ... If at the same time those things contribute to my salvation."
Apollonius--"Rejoice! I am about to tell them to you!"
Damis, in a low tone to Antony--
"Is it possible? He must have, at the first glance, recognised your extraordinary inclinations for philosophy! I shall profit by it also myself."
Apollonius--"I will first describe to you the long road I travelled to gain doctrine; and, if you find in all my life one bad action, you will stop me--for he must scandalise by his words who has offended by his actions."
Damis to Antony:
"What a just man! eh?"
Antony--"Decidedly, I believe he is sincere."
Apollonius--"The night of my birth, my mother thought she saw herself gathering flowers on the border of a lake. A flash of lightning appeared; and she brought me into the world amid the cries of swans who were singing in her dream. Up to my fifteenth year, they plunged me three times a day into the fountain Asbadeus, whose waters render perjurers dropsical; and they rubbed my body with leaves of cnyza, to make me chaste. A princess from Palmyra sought me out, one evening, and offered me treasures, which she knew were hidden in tombs. A priest of the temple of Diana cut his throat in despair with the sacrificial knife; and the Governor of Cilicia, after repeated promises, declared before my family that he would put me to death; but it was he who died three days after, assassinated by the Romans."
Damis, to Antony, striking him on the elbow--"Eh? Just as I told you! What a man!"
Apollonius--"I have for four years in succession observed the complete silence of the Pythagoreans. The most unforeseen calamity did not draw one sigh from me; and, at the theatre, when I entered, they turned aside from me as from a phantom."
Damis--"Would you have done that--you?"
Apollonius--"The time of my ordeal ended, I undertook to instruct the priests who had lost the tradition."
Damis--"Let him continue. Be silent!"
Apollonius--"I have conversed with the Samaneans of the Ganges, with the astrologers of Chaldea, with the magi of Babylon, with the Gaulish druids, with the priests of the negroes. I have climbed the fourteen Olympi; I have sounded the Lakes of Sythia; I have measured the vastness of the desert!"
Damis--"All this is undoubtedly true. I was there myself!"
Apollonius--"At first, I went as far as the Hyrcanian Sea. I have gone all round it, and through the country of the Baraomatæ, where Bucephalus is buried. I have gone down to Nineveh. At the gates of the city a man came up to me."
Damis--"I! I! my good Master! I loved you from the very beginning. You were sweeter than a girl, and more beautiful than a god!"
Appollonius, without listening to him--"He wished to accompany me, in order to act as an interpreter for me."
Damis--"But you replied that you understood every language, and that you divined all thoughts. Then I kissed the end of your mantle, and I walked behind you."
Apollonius--"After Ctesiphon, we entered into the land of Babylon."
Damis--"And the satrap uttered an exclamation on seeing a man so pale."
Antony, to himself--"Which signifies----?"
Apollonius--"The King received me standing near a throne of silver, in a circular hall studded with stars, and from a cupola hung, from unseen threads, four great golden birds, with both wings extended."
Antony, musing--"Are there such things on the earth?"
Damis--"That is, indeed, a city--Babylon! Everyone is rich there! The houses, painted blue, have gates of bronze, with staircases that lead down to the river."
Making a sketch with his stick on the ground:
"Like that, do you see? And then there are temples, squares, baths, aqueducts! The palaces are covered with copper! and then the interior, if you only saw it!"
Apollonius--"On the northern wall rises a tower, which supports a second, a third, a fourth, a fifth; and there are three others besides! The eighth is a chapel with a bed in it. Nobody enters there but the woman chosen by the priests for the God Belus. The King of Babylon made me take up my quarters in it."
Damis--"They scarcely paid any heed to me. I was left, too, to walk about the streets by myself. I enquired into the customs of the people; I visited the workshops; I examined the huge machines which bring water into the gardens. But it annoyed me to be separated from the Master."
Apollonius--"At last, we left Babylon; and, by the light of the moon, we suddenly saw a wild mare."
Damis--"Yes, indeed! she sprang forth on her iron hoofs; she neighed like an ass; she galloped amongst the rocks. He burst into angry abuse of her; and she disappeared."
Antony, aside--"Where can they have come from?"
Apollonius--"At Taxilla, capital of five thousand fortresses, Phraortes, King of the Ganges, showed us his guard of tall black men, five cubits high, and in the gardens of his palace, under a pavilion of green brocade, an enormous elephant, whom the queens used to amuse themselves in perfuming. This was the elephant of Porus, who fled after the death of Alexander."
Damis--"And which was found again in a forest."
Antony--"They talk a great deal, like drunken people."
Apollonius--"Phraortes made us sit down at his table."
Damis--"What an odd country! The noblemen, while drinking, amuse themselves by flinging arrows under the feet of a child who is dancing. But I do not approve ..."
Apollonius--"When I was ready to depart, the King gave me a parasol, and said to me: 'I have, on the Indus, a stud of white camels. When you do not want them any longer, blow into their ears, and they will return.' We proceeded along the river, walking in the night by the gleaming of the glow-worms, who emitted their radiance through the bamboos. The slave whistled an air to keep off the serpents; and our camels bent the reins while passing under the trees, as if under doors that were too low. One day, a black child, who held in his hand a caduceus of gold, conducted us to the College of Sages. Iarchas, their chief, spoke to me of my ancestors, of all my thoughts, of all my actions, and all my existences. He had been the river Indus, and he recalled to my mind that I had conducted the boats on the Nile in the time of King Sesostris."
Damis--"As for me, they told me nothing, so that I do not know what I was."
Antony--"They have the unsubstantial air of shadows."
Apollonius--"We met on the seashore the cynocephali, glutted with milk, who were returning from their expedition in the Island of Taprobane. The tepid waves pushed white pearls before us. The amber cracked under our footsteps. Whales' skeletons were bleaching in the crevices of the cliffs. In short, the earth grew more contracted than a sandal;--and, after casting towards the sun drops from the ocean, we turned to the right to go back. We returned through the region of the Aromatæ, through the country of the Gangaridæ, the promontory of Comaria, the land of the Sachalitæ, of the Aramitæ, and the Homeritæ; then across the Cassanian mountains, the Red Sea, and the Island of Topazes, we penetrated into Ethiopia, through the kingdom of the Pygmæi."
Antony, aside--"How large the earth is!"
Damis--"And when we got home again, all those whom we had known in former days were dead."
Antony hangs his head. Silence.
Apollonius goes on:
"Then they began talking about me in the world. The plague ravaged Ephesus; I made them stone an old mendicant."
Damis--"And the plague was gone!"
Antony--"What! He banishes diseases?"
Apollonius--"At Cnidus, I cured the lover of Venus."
Damis--"Yes, a madman, who had even promised to marry her. To love a woman is bad enough; but a statue--what idiocy! The Master placed his hand on this man's heart, and immediately the love was extinguished."
Antony--"What! He drives out demons?"
Apollonius--"At Tarentum, they brought to the stake a young girl who was dead."
Damis--"The Master touched her lips; and she arose, calling on her mother."
Antony--"Can it be? He brings the dead back to life?"
Apollonius--"I foretold that Vespasian would be Emperor."
Antony--"What! He divines the future?"
Damis--"There was at Corinth----"
Apollonius--"While I was supping with him at the waters of Baia----"
Antony--"Excuse me, strangers; it is late!"
Damis--"----A young man named Menippus."
Antony--"No! no! go away!"
Apollonius--"----A dog entered, carrying in its mouth a hand that had been cut off."
Damis--"----One evening, in one of the suburbs, he met a woman."
Antony--"You do not hear me. Take yourselves off!"
Damis--"----He prowled vacantly around the couches."
Apollonius--"----They wanted to drive him away."
Damis--"----Menippus, then, surrendered himself to her; and they became lovers."
Apollonius--"----And, beating the mosaic floor with his tail, he deposited this hand on the knees of Flavius."
Damis--"----But, in the morning, at the school-lectures, Menippus was pale."
Antony, with a bound--"Still at it! Well, let them go on, since there is not ..."
Damis--"The Master said to him: 'O beautiful young man, you are caressing a serpent; and a serpent is caressing you. For how long are these nuptials?' Every one of us went to the wedding."
Antony--"I am doing wrong, surely, in listening to this!"
Damis--"Servants were busily engaged at the vestibule; the doors flew open; nevertheless, one could hear neither the noise of footsteps, nor the sound of opening doors. The Master seated himself beside Menippus. Immediately, the bride was seized with anger against the philosophers. But the vessels of gold, the cup-bearers, the cooks, the attendants, disappeared; the roof flew away; the walls fell in; and Apollonius remained alone, standing with this woman all in tears at his feet. It was a vampire, who satisfied the handsome young men in order to devour their flesh--because nothing is better for phantoms of this kind than the blood of lovers."
Apollonius--"If you wish to know the art----"
Antony--"I wish to know nothing."
Apollonius--"On the evening of our arrival at the gates of Rome----"
Antony--"Oh! yes, tell me about the City of the Popes."
Apollonius--"----A drunken man accosted us who sang with a sweet voice. It was an epithalamium of Nero; and he had the power of causing the death of anyone who heard him with indifference. He carried on his back in a box a string taken from the cithara of the Emperor. I shrugged my shoulders. He threw mud in our faces. Then I unfastened my girdle and placed it in his hands."
Damis--"In this instance you were quite wrong!"
Apollonius--"The Emperor, during the night, made me call at his residence. He played at ossicles with Sporus, leaning with his left arm on a table of agate. He turned round, and, knitting his fair brows: 'Why are you not afraid of me?' he asked. 'Because the God who made you terrible has made me intrepid,' I replied."
Antony, to himself--"Something unaccountable fills me with fear."
Damis resumes, in a shrill voice--"All Asia, moreover, could tell you ..."
Antony, starting up--"I am sick. Leave me!"
Damis--"Listen now. At Ephesus, he witnessed the death of Domitian, who was at Rome."
Antony making an effort to laugh--"Is this possible?"
Damis--"Yes, at the theatre, in broad daylight, on the fourteenth of the Kalends of October, he suddenly exclaimed: 'They are murdering Cæsar!' and he added, every now and then, 'He rolls on the ground! Oh! how he struggles! He gets up again; he attempts to fly; the gates are shut. Ah! it is finished. He is dead!' And that very day, in fact, Titus Flavius Domitianus was assassinated, as you are aware."
Antony--"Without the aid of the Devil ... No doubt ..."
Apollonius--"He wished to put me to death, this Domitian. Damis fled by my direction, and I remained alone in my prison."
Damis--"It was a terrible bit of daring, I must confess!"
Apollonius--"About the fifth hour, the soldiers led me to the tribunal. I had my speech quite ready, which I kept under my cloak."
Damis--"The rest of us were on the bank of Puzzoli! We saw you die; we wept; when, towards the sixth hour, all at once, you appeared, and said to us, 'It is I.'"
Antony, aside--"Just like Him!"
Damis, very loudly--"Absolutely!"
Antony--"Oh, no! you are lying, are you not? You are lying!"
Apollonius--"He came down from Heaven--I ascend there, thanks to my virtue, which has raised me even to the height of the Most High!"
Damis--"Tyana, his native city, has erected a temple with priests in his honour!"
Apollonius draws close to Antony, and, bending towards his ear, says:
"The truth is, I know all the gods, all the rites, all the prayers, all the oracles. I have penetrated into the cavern of Trophonius, the son of Apollo. I have moulded for the Syracusans the cakes which they use on the mountains. I have undergone the eighty tests of Mithra. I have pressed against my heart the serpent of Sabacius. I have received the scarf of the Cabiri. I have bathed Cybele in the waves of the Campanian Gulf; and I have passed three moons in the caverns of Samothrace!"
Damis, laughing stupidly--"Ah! ah! ah! at the mysteries of the Bona Dea!"
Apollonius--"And now we are renewing our pilgrimage. We are going to the North, the side of the swans and the snows. On the white plain the blind hippopodes break with the ends of their feet the ultramarine plant."
Damis--"Come! it is morning! The cock has crowed; the horse has neighed; the ship is ready."
Antony--"The cock has not crowed. I hear the cricket in the sands, and I see the moon, which remains in its place."
Apollonius--"We are going to the South, behind the mountains and the huge waves, to seek in the perfumes for the cause of love. You shall inhale the odour of myrrhodion, which makes the weak die. You shall bathe your body in the lake of pink oil of the Island of Juno. You shall see sleeping under the primroses the lizard who awakens all the centuries when at his maturity the carbuncle falls from his forehead. The stars glitter like eyes, the cascades sing like lyres, an intoxicating fragrance arises from the opening flowers. Your spirit shall expand in this atmosphere, and it will show itself in your heart as well as in your face."
Damis--"Master, it is time! The wind is about to rise; the swallows are awakening; the myrtle-leaf is shed."
Apollonius--"Yes, let us go!"
Antony--"No--not I! I remain!"
Apollonius--"Do you wish me to show you the plant Balis, which resuscitates the dead?"
Damis--"Ask him rather for the bloodstone, which attracts silver, iron and bronze!"
Antony--"Oh! how sick I feel! how sick I feel!"
Damis--"You shall understand the voices of all creatures, the roarings, the cooings!"
Apollonius--"I will make you mount the unicorns, the dragons, and the dolphins!"
Antony, weeps--"Oh! oh! oh!"
Apollonius--"You shall know the demons who dwell in the caverns, those who speak in the woods, those who move about in the waves, those who drive the clouds."
Damis--"Fasten your girdle! tie your sandals!"
Apollonius--"I will explain to you the reasons for the shapes of divinities; why it is that Apollo is upright, Jupiter sitting down, Venus black at Corinth, square at Athens, conical at Paphos."
Antony, clasping his hands--"I wish they would go away! I wish they would go away!"
Apollonius--"I will snatch off before your eyes the armour of the Gods; we shall force the sanctuaries; I will make you violate the pythoness!"
He flings himself against the cross.
Apollonius--"What is your desire? your dream? There's barely time to think of it ..."
Antony--"Jesus, Jesus, come to my aid!"
Apollonius--"Do you wish me to make Jesus appear?"
Apollonius--"It shall be He--and no other! He shall cast off His crown, and we shall speak together face to face!"
Damis, in a low tone--"Say what you wish for most! Say what you wish for most!"
Antony, at the foot of the cross, murmurs prayers. Damis continues to run around him with wheedling gestures.
"See, worthy hermit, dear Saint Antony! pure man, illustrious man! man who cannot be sufficiently praised! Do not be alarmed; this is an exaggerated style of speaking, borrowed from the Orientals. It in no way prevents--"
Apollonius--"Let him alone, Damis! He believes, like a brute, in the reality of things. The fear which he has of the gods prevents him from comprehending them; and he eats his own words, just like a jealous king! But you, my son, quit me not!"
He steps back to the verge of the cliffs, passes over it and remains there, hanging in mid-air:
"Above all forms, farther than the earth, beyond the skies, dwells the World of Ideas, entirely filled with the Word. With one bound we leap across Space, and you shall grasp in its infinity the Eternal, the Absolute Being! Come! give me your hand. Let us go!"
The pair, side by side, rise softly into the air.
Antony, embracing the cross, watches them ascending.