Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything
- Arachne, Volume 2. - 2/9 -
than I and the rest of us, and I see that you are right. Where game flies toward us in such quantities, hunting becomes almost murder. And successes won by so slight an exertion offer little charm. The second expedition before sunset, Gras, shall be given up. The master of the hounds, with his men and the dogs, will return home on the transports this very day. I am disgusted with sport here. Birds of prey, and those only when brought down from the air, would probably be the right game in this place."
"Those are the very ones to which I would grant life," said Hermon, smiling, "because they enjoy it most."
"Then we will at least save the sea eagle," cried Daphne, and ordered the steward, who was already having the dead fowl carried off, to care for the wounded bird of prey; but when the latter struck furiously with his beak at the Biamite who attempted to remove it, Hermon again turned to the girl, saying: "I thank you in the eagle's name for your good will, you best of women; but I fear even the most careful nursing will not help this wounded creature, for the higher one seeks to soar, the more surely he goes to destruction if his power of flight is broken. Mine, too, was seriously injured."
"Here?" asked Daphne anxiously. "At this time, which is of such great importance to you and your art?"
Then she interrupted herself to ask Myrtilus's opinion, but as he had gone away coughing, she continued, in a softer tone: "How anxious you can make one, Hermon! Has anything really happened which clouds your pleasure in creating, and your hope of success?"
"Let us wait," he answered, hastily throwing back his head, with its thick, waving raven locks. "If, in leaping over the ditch, I should fall into the marsh, I must endure it, if thereby I can only reach the shore where my roses bloom!"
"Then you fear that you have failed in the Demeter?" asked Daphne.
"Failed?" repeated the other. "That seems too strong. Only the work is not proving as good as I originally expected. For the head we both used a model--you will see--whose fitness could not be surpassed. But the body! Myrtilus knows how earnestly I laboured, and, without looking to the right or the left, devoted all my powers to the task of creation. True, the models did not remain. But even had a magic spell doubled my ability, the toil would still have been futile. The error is there; yet I am repairing it. To be sure, many things must aid me in doing so, for which I now hope; who knows whether it will not again be in vain? You are acquainted with my past life. It has never yet granted me any great, complete success, and if I was occasionally permitted to pluck a flower, my hands were pricked by thorns and nettles!"
He pursed up his lips as if to hiss the unfriendly fate, and Daphne felt that he, whose career she had watched from childhood with the interest of affection, and to whom, though she did not confess it even to herself, she had clung for years with far more than sisterly love, needed a kind word.
Her heart ached, and it was difficult for her to assume the cheerful tone which she desired to use; but she succeeded, and her voice sounded gay and careless enough as she exclaimed to the by no means happy artist and Myrtilus, who was just returning: "Give up your foolish opposition, you obstinate men, and let me see what you have accomplished during this long time. You promised my father that you would show your work to no one before him, but believe my words, if he were here he would give you back the pledge and lead me himself to the last production of your study. Compassion would compel you disobliging fellows to yield, if you could only imagine how curiosity tortures us women. We can conquer it where more indifferent matters are concerned. But here!--it need not make you vainer than you already are, but except my father, you are dearest in all the world to me. And then, only listen! In my character as priestess of Demeter I hereby release you from your vow, and thus from any evil consequences of your, moreover, very trivial guilt; for a father and daughter who live together, as I do with your uncle, are just the same as one person. So come! Wearied as I am by the miserable hunting excursion which caused me such vexation, in the presence of your works--rely upon it--I shall instantly be gay again, and all my life will thank you for your noble indulgence."
While speaking, she walked toward the white house, beckoning to the young men with a winning, encouraging smile.
It seemed to produce the effect intended, for the artists looked at each other irresolutely, and Hermon was already asking himself whether Daphne's arguments had convinced Myrtilus also, when the latter, in great excitement, called after her: "How gladly we would do it, but we must not fulfil your wish, for it was no light promise--no, your father exacted an oath. He alone can absolve us from the obligation of showing him, before any one else, what we finish here. It is not to be submitted to the judges until after he has seen it."
"Listen to me!" Daphne interrupted with urgent warmth, and began to assail the artists with fresh entreaties.
For the second time black-bearded Hermon seemed inclined to give up his resistance, but Myrtilus cried in zealous refusal: "For Hermon's sake, I insist upon my denial. The judges must not talk about the work until both tasks are completed, for then each of us will be as good as certain of a prize. I myself believe that the one for Demeter will fall to me."
"But Hermon will succeed better with the Arachne?" asked Daphne eagerly.
Myrtilus warmly assented, but Hermon exclaimed: "If I could only rely upon the good will of the judges!"
"Why not?" the girl interrupted. "My father is just, the king is an incorruptible connoisseur, and certainly yesterday evening you, too, believed the others to be honest men; as for your fellow-candidate Myrtilus, he will no more grudge a prize to you than to himself."
"Why should he?" asked Hermon, as if he, too, was perfectly sure of his friend. "We have shared many a bit of bread together. When we determined upon this competition each knew the other's ability. Your father commissioned us to create peaceful Demeter, the patroness of agriculture, peace, marriage, and Arachne, the mortal who was the most skilful of spinners; for he is both a grain dealer and owner of spinning factories. The best Demeter is to be placed in the Alexandrian temple of the goddess, to whose priestesses you belong; the less successful one in your own house in the city, but whose Demeter is destined for the sanctuary, I repeat, is now virtually decided. Myrtilus will add this prize to the others, and grant me with all his heart the one for the Arachne. The subject, at any rate, is better adapted to my art than to his, and so I should be tolerably certain of my cause. Yet my anxiety about the verdict of the judges remains, for surely you know how much the majority are opposed to my tendency. I, and the few Alexandrians who, following me, sacrifice beauty to truth, swim against the stream which bears you, Myrtilus, and those who are on your side, smoothly along. I know that you do it from thorough conviction, but with other acknowledged great artists and our judges, you, too, demand beauty--always beauty. Am I right, or wrong? Is not any one who refuses to follow in the footsteps left by the ancients of Athens as certain of condemnation as the convicted thief or murderer? But I will not follow the lead of the Athenians, inimitably great though they are in their own way, because I would fain be more than the ancients of Ilissus: a disciple and an Alexandrian."
"The never-ending dispute," Myrtilus answered his fellow-artist, with a cordiality in which, nevertheless, there was a slight accent of pity.
"Surely you know it, Daphne. To me the ideal and its embodiment within the limits of the natural, according to the models of Phidias, Polycletus, and Myron is the highest goal, but he and his co-workers seek objects nearer at hand."
"Or rather we found them," cried Hermon, interrupting his companion with angry positiveness. "The city of Alexandria, which is growing with unprecedented vigour, is their home. There, the place to which every race on earth sends a representative, the pulse of the whole world is throbbing. There, whoever does not run with the rest is run over; there, but one thing is important--actual life. Science has undertaken to fathom it, and the results which it gains with measures and numbers is of a different value and more lasting than that which the idle sport of the intellects of the older philosophers obtained. But art, her nobler sister, must pursue the same paths. To copy life as it is, to reproduce the real as it presents itself, not as it might or must be, is the task which I set myself. If you would have me carve gods, whom man can not represent to himself except in his own form, allow me also to represent them as reality shows me mortals. I will form them after the models of the greatest, highest, and best, and also, when the subject permits, in powerful action in accordance with my own power, but always as real men from head to foot. We must also cling to the old symbols which those who order demand, because they serve as signs of recognition, and my Demeter, too, received the bundle of wheat."
As the excited artist uttered this challenge a defiant glance rested upon his comrade and Daphne. But Myrtilus, with a soothing gesture of the hand, answered: "What is the cause of this heat? I at least watch your work with interest, and do not dispute your art so long as it does not cross the boundaries of the beautiful, which to me are those of art."
Here the conversation was interrupted; the steward Gras brought a letter which a courier from Pelusium had just delivered.
Thyone, the wife of Philippus, the commander of the strong border fortress of Pelusium, near Tennis, had written it. She and her husband had been intimate friends of Hermon's father, who had served under the old general as hipparch, and through him had become well acquainted with his wealthy brother Archias and his relatives.
The Alexandrian merchant had informed Philippus--whom, like all the world, he held in the highest honour as one of the former companions of Alexander the Great--of his daughter's journey, and his wife now announced her visit to Daphne. She expected to reach Tennis that evening with her husband and several friends, and mentioned especially her anticipation of meeting Hermon, the son of her beloved Erigone and her husband's brave companion in arms.
Daphne and Myrtilus received the announcement with pleasure; but Hermon, who only the day before had spoken of the old couple with great affection, seemed disturbed by the arrival of the unexpected guests. To avoid them entirely appeared impossible even to him, but he declared in an embarrassed tone, and without giving any reason, that he should scarcely be able to devote the entire evening to Daphne and the Pelusinians.
Then he turned quickly toward the house, to which a signal from his slave Bias summoned him.
Previous Page Next Page
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 9
Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything