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Medea Dost think a woman counts this a trifling injury?
Jason — So she be self-restrained; but in thy eyes all is evil.
Medea — Thy sons are dead and gone. That will stab thy heart.
Jason — They live, methinks, to bring a curse upon thy head.
Medea — The gods know, whoso of them began this troublous coil.
Jason — Indeed, they know that hateful heart of thine.
Medea — Thou art as hateful. I am aweary of thy bitter tongue.
Jason - And I likewise of thine. But parting is easy. Medea - Say how; what am I to do? for I am fain as thou
Jason — Give up to me those dead, to bury and lament.
Medea — No, never! I will bury them myself, bearing them to Hera's sacred field, who watches o'er the Cape, that none of their foes may insult them by pulling down their tombs; and in this land of Sisyphus I will ordain hereafter a solemn feast and mystic rites to atone for this impious murder. Myself will now to the land of Erechtheus, to dwell with Ægeus, Pandion's son. But thou, as well thou mayest, shalt die a caitiff's death, thy head crushed 'neath a shattered relic of Argo, when thou hast seen the bitter ending of my marriage.
Jason — The curse of our sons’avenging spirit and of Justice, that calls for blood, be on thee!
Medea - What god or power divine hears thee, breaker of oaths and every law of hospitality?
Jason - Fie upon thee! cursed witch! child murderess!
bereft of both my sons. Medea - Thy grief is yet to come ; wait till old age is with thee too.
Jason - O my dear, dear children!
Jason-One last fond kiss, ah me! I fain would on their lips imprint.
Medea - Embraces now, and fond farewells for them; but then a cold repulse!
Jason — By heaven I do adjure thee, let me touch their tender skin.
Medea — No, no! in vain this word has sped its flight.
Jason - 0 Zeus, dost hear how I am driven hence; dost mark the treatment I receive from this she-lion, fell murderess of her young? Yet so far as I may and can, I raise for them a dirge, and do adjure the gods to witness how thou hast slain my sons, and wilt not suffer me to embrace or bury their dead bodies. Would I had never begotten them to see thee slay them after all !
Chorus — Many a fate doth Zeus dispense, high on his Olympian throne; oft do the gods bring things to pass beyond man's expectation; that which we thought would be is not fulfilled, while for the unlooked-for God finds out a way; and such hath been the issue of this matter.
FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH.1
BY CHARLOTTE M. YONGE.
[CHARLOTTE M. Yonge, English novelist, was born in 1823. Her first cele brated novel, “The Heir of Redclyffe," was published in 1853, the equally well-known “Daisy Chain" in 1856, and “Dynevor Terrace" in 1857; she has written many others. Her “Book of Golden Deeds" appeared in 1864.]
The spirit of self-devotion is so beautiful and noble, that even when the act is performed in obedience to the dictates of a false religion, it is impossible not to be struck with admiration and almost reverence for the unconscious type of the one great act that has hallowed every other sacrifice. Thus it was that Codrus, the Athenian king, has ever since been honored for the tradition that he gave his own life to secure the safety of his people ; and there is a touching story, with neither name nor place, of a heathen monarch who was bidden by his priests to appease the supposed wrath of his gods by the sacrifice of the being dearest to him. His young son had been seized on as his most beloved, when his wife rushed between and declared that her son must live, and not by his death rob her of her right to fall, as her husband's dearest. The priest looked at the father; the face that had been sternly composed before was full of uncontrolled anguish as he sprang forward to save the
* By permission of the publishers, Macmillan & Co., Ltd.
wife rather than the child. That impulse was an answer, like the entreaty of the mother before Solomon; the priest struck the fatal blow ere the king's hand could withhold him, and the mother died with a last look of exceeding joy at her husband's love and her son's safety. Human sacrifices are of course accursed, and even the better sort of heathens viewed them with horror ; but the voluntary confronting of death, even at the call of a distorted presage of future atonement, required qualities that were perhaps the highest that could be exercised among those who were devoid of the light of truth.
In the year 339 there was a remarkable instance of such devotion. The Romans were at war with the Latins, a nation dwelling to the south of them, and almost exactly resembling themselves in language, habits, government, and fashions of fighting. Indeed the city of Rome itself was but an offshoot from the old Latin kingdom ; and there was not much difference between the two nations even in courage and perseverance. The two consuls of the year were Titus Manlius Torquatus and Publius Decius Mus. They were both very distinguished
Manlius was a patrician, or one of the high ancient nobles of Rome, and had in early youth fought a single combat with a gigantic Gaul, who offered himself, like Goliath, as a champion of his tribe; he had slain him and taken from him a gold torque, or collar, whence his surname Torquatus. Decius was a plebeian ; one of the free though not noble citizens who had votes, but only within a few years had been capable of being chosen to the higher offices of state, and who looked upon every election to the consulship as a victory. Three years previously, when a tribune in command of a legion, Decius had saved the consul, Cornelius Cossus, from a dangerous situation, and enabled him to gain a great victory; and this exploit was remembered, and led to the choice of this well-experienced soldier as the colleague of Manlius.
The two consuls both went out together in command of the forces, each having a separate army, and intending to act in concert. They marched to the beautiful country at the foot of Mount Vesuvius, which was then a harmless mountain clothed with chestnut woods, with spaces opening between, where farms and vineyards rejoiced in the sunshine and the fresh breezes of the lovely blue bay that lay stretched beneath. Those who climbed to the summit might indeed find beds of ashes and the jagged edge of a huge basin or gulf; the houses and walls were built of dark red and black material that once had flowed from the crater in boiling torrents : but these had long since cooled, and so long was it since a column of smoke had been seen to rise from the mountain top, that it only remained as a matter of tradition that this region was one of mysterious fire, and that the dark cool lake Avernus, near the mountain skirts, was the very entrance to the shadowy realms beneath, that were supposed to be inhabited by the spirits of the dead.
It might be that the neighborhood of this lake, with the dread imaginations connected with it by pagan fancy, influenced even the stout hearts of the consuls ; for, the night after they came in sight of the enemy, each dreamt the same dream, namely, that he beheld a mighty form of gigantic height and stature, who told him “that the victory was decreed to that army of the two whose leader should devote himself to the Dii Manes,” that is, to the deities who watched over the shades of the dead. Probably these older Romans held the old Etruscan belief, which took these “gods beneath” to be winged beings, who bore away the departing soul, weighed its merits and demerits, and placed it in a region of peace or of woe, according to its deserts. This was part of the grave and earnest faith that gave the earlier Romans such truth and resolution ; but latterly they so corrupted it with the Greek myths, that, in after times, they did not even know who the gods of Decius were.
At daybreak the two consuls sought one another out, and told their dreams ; and they agreed that they would join their armies in one, Decius leading the right and Manlius the left wing; and that whichever found his troops giving way, should at once rush into the enemy's columns and die, to secure the victory to his colleague. At the same time strict commands were given that no Roman should come out of his rank to fight in single combat with the enemy; a necessary regulation, as the Latins were so like, in every respect, to the Romans, that there would have been fatal confusion had there been any mingling together before the battle. Just as this command had been given out, young Titus Manlius, the son of the consul, met a Latin leader, who called him by name and challenged him to fight hand to hand. The youth was emulous of the honor his father had gained by his combat at the same age with the Gaul, but forgot both the present edict and that his father had scrupulously asked permission before accepting the challenge. He at once came forward, and after a brave conflict, slew his adversary, and taking his armor, presented himself at his father's tent and laid the spoils at his feet.
But old Manlius turned aside sadly, and collected his troops to hear his address to his son : “You have transgressed,” he said, “the discipline which has been the support of the Roman people, and reduced me to the hard necessity of either forgetting myself and mine, or else the regard I owe to the general safety. Rome must not suffer by one fault. We must expiate it ourselves. A sad example shall we be, but a wholesome one to the Roman youth. For me, both the natural love of a father and that specimen thou hast given of thy valor move me exceedingly ; but since either the consular authority must be established by thy death, or destroyed by thy impunity, I cannot think, if thou be a true Manlius, that thou wilt be backward to repair the breach thou hast made in military discipline by undergoing the just meed of thine offense.” He then placed the wreath of leaves, the reward of a victor, upon his son's head, and gave the command to the lictor to bind the young man to a stake, and strike off his head. The troops stood round as men stunned, no one durst utter a word; the son submitted without one complaint, since his death was for the good of Rome : and the father, trusting that the doom of the Dii Manes was about to overtake him, beheld the brave but rash young head fall, then watched the corpse covered with the trophies won from the Latin, and made no hindrance to the glorious obsequies with which the whole army honored this untimely death. Strict discipline was indeed established, and no one again durst break his rank; but the younger men greatly hated Manlius for his severity, and gave him no credit for the agony he had concealed while giving up his gallant son to the well-being of Rome.
A few days after, the expected battle took place, and after some little time the front rank of Decius' men began to fall back upon
the line in their rear. This was the token he had waited for. He called to Valerius, the chief priest of Rome, to consecrate him, and was directed to put on his chief robe of office, the beautiful purple toga prætexta, to cover his head, and standing on his javelin, call aloud to the “ nine gods ” to accept his devotion, to save the Roman legions, and strike terror into his enemies. This done, he commanded his lictors to carry