Virgil in Maine
I SUPPOSE that if it had been a favorable season for coasting and skating that winter the Thinkers’ Club would never have been formed. We were enjoying what is called an open winter, and this especial season had proved to be of such a wide-open variety as to provide little material for rational employments; hence it was that we were driven to the abnormal recreation of thinking.
The French class, which had always deemed itself an organization of distinction, was reciting now on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. The dark-eyed teacher came at three o’clock and was politely dispensed with an hour later, after which an hour or two remained for sitting around the big sheet-iron stove, watching the coming of the early winter twilight, and giving ourselves over to the discussion of high and improving topics.
Most of us had arrived at a period when we believed our mental horizons to be perceptibly widening. The uncouth lad, in particular, though uncouth still, was beginning to be instinct with imaginings and questionings for the formulating of which these bi-weekly gatherings afforded a necessary outlet. We had intended to call ourselves the French Club, though none of us had as yet learned to regard the French language as an acquisition of importance; but when “ the master,” as we were wont to speak of our guide, philosopher, and friend, criticising our condescension towards foreign accomplishments a little impatiently, had declared, “I wish some of you would form yourselves into a thinkers’ club! ” the French class was not too modest to accommodate him. Were we not seniors ? Who but ourselves should do the thinking for the school ? We understood — none better — the true inwardness of the master’s petulance. This was our appointed and accepted year for the study of Virgil, but the class had consistently refused to embrace its fate with enthusiasm. Perhaps some of us had more love for the great poet than we were willing to acknowledge ; but our teacher, in this matter alone forgetting his wonted tact, made so irritatingly apparent his longing that we should strew the Virgilian path with joy and exclamation points, that it became a matter of conscience with us to remain cold.
The master wished us to be filled with an unreasoning curiosity about Mantua, as Virgil’s birthplace; to trace the course of the wanderings of Æneas with unquenchable thirst for information, and, above all, to stand ready to salute every great passage with tears of joyful appreciation. To us, unfortunately, the story of Æneas was not convincing, presented as anything but a fairy tale, and when we looked at the small space occupied by the Mediterranean Sea on the map, we felt that any or all of us could easily have explored its mysteries in an open boat.
The Thinkers’ Club, sitting around the schoolroom stove on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, watching the red winter sunsets blur themselves into gray dusk, while the shadows of the big, homely room drew closer and closer about the cozy circle, had not as yet bothered itself much with discussing the Virgilian eloquence. Perhaps we should never have done so had not the class orator, who was perpetually foraging in literary corners unknown to the rest of us, chanced upon an eloquent sentence about the impossibility of comprehending any nation or any language without “first making an attempt to realize its ideals.”
When the class orator acquired a new, choice, and mouth-filling sentiment, he was in the habit of spouting it with frequency in all the intervals of conversation. He liked to bring forth sounding bits of Latin as giving an impression of deeper learning, and previous to this last acquisition had been hammering us so continually with —
Dardaniæ. Fuimus Trues, fuit Ilium, et ingens
as to impress the words indelibly on the memory of at least one of his hearers. There were tones in the class orator’s voice winch made us willing to bear with many inflictions.
On the Wednesday afternoon of which I am thinking it was the uncouth lad who began the conversation. It was often the uncouth lad. He was a youth possessing great initiative. The footsteps of the dark-eyed French teacher were no longer heard on the crisp snow outside; it was a lowering day, early darkening into twilight, and the fierce wind ravening without gave us a feeling of emphatic shelter and comfort; fresh wood had been placed on the fire, and the door of the stove opened so that the streaming firelight might fill the empty bigness of the room with wavering shadows.
There were a few moments of silence, then the uncouth lad brought forth his treasures of thought. “Say, folks,” he began abruptly, “education’s a mighty funny thing, ain’t it ? I was lookin’ round the school this forenoon when they was all here, seventy-six boys an’ girls, some doin’ sums, an’ some buzzin’ their lips studyin’ hist’ry, an’ Ammi Riggs makin’ spitballs, an’ this young female by my side a-pullin’ Pauline’s hair, an’ ’Mandy Johnson crocheting under her desk, an’ the chemistry class recitin’ about the discovery of oxygen— an’ we was all ‘ gettin* an education.’ We’ve been grindin’ at it for years now, an’ we’ve got to grind. You may be strong as a boss in your body; but if you ain’t got some strength in your head you don’t count for much. Somehow when I was thinkin’ of it this forenoon, it all struck me as bein’ awful funny.”
“I don’ know’s I call makin’ spitballs or pullin’ hair any part o’ gettin’ an education,” the slow girl objected.
“Oh, yes,” the school genius interposed quickly; “it all belongs. Doing sums an’ buzzing your lips studying hist’ry lessons is only a small part of getting educated. Everything in life is teaching you something, though a good deal of it’s what you might just as well not know.”
“What is education anyway?” the slow girl persisted. “I never knew anybody had to lie taught to make spitballs an’ pull hair. I thought they were things that come by nature.”
“Education,” the uncouth lad defined promptly, “is the trainin’ of the faculties. If a man ’lects to spend his time in spitballs an’ foolishness, mebbe that’s his way o’ trainin’ the faculties. It ain’t mine.”
The class orator was roaming about restlessly amid the remote shadows.
“Unless you have first made an attempt to realize the ideals of any nation or language, you can never fully comprehend the innermost message of either that nation or that language,” we heard him rolling forth in mellifluous undertones.
“Sometimes I wish more pains was took to make trainin’ the faculties interestin’,” the uncouth lad went on thoughtfully. “ Course we don’t any of us expect to have square root fixed with pictures tacked on to it; but them sums back further in the book where two old fellers dickered together, or John Jones brought farmin’ products to the store to trade for groceries, them helped me out wonderfully. I always used to see in my mind’s eye my uncle’s store to the Four Corners an’ ole Abe Hewett an’ Jim Perkins an’ the rest droppin’ in to talk an’ bargain. Put a picture onto things an’ you remember ’em a sight easier.”
“What picture are you going to put onto oxygen from oxus acid and genero to produce, discovered by Priestly and Scheele independently of each other in 1774?” the slow girl asked with a sigh. Chemistry was her bete noire.
“That’s easy enough. Anybody can do it.” The class orator paused in his wanderings and began to improvise magniloquently. “‘Two toiling scientists, unknown to each other, widely separated by intervening lands and seas, suddenly an’ simultaneously chance upon the same wonderful discovery, a discovery hitherto unrecognized, though familiar as the air we breathed Ain’t there a picture for you ?”
The class genius here took up the strain “ ‘’Tis mine,’ says Number One. “ ‘ You I—, I mean, you don’t tell the truth,’ says Number Two; ‘’t is my own.’
“‘What you goin’ to do about it?’ says Number One.
“ ‘ I’ll pledge you in a foamin’ beaker of H2 O,’ says Number Two.
“ ‘ The same to yourself,’ says Number One.”
The orator drew near once more. “Unless you have first made an attempt to realize the ideals of any nation or language,” he boomed out in his deepest chest-tones, “ you can never fully comprehend the innermost message of either that nation or that language.”
“Say,” exclaimed the uncouth lad, seized with an idea, “why ain’t that jest what the master wants us to do ? Why don’t we go to work realizin’ the ideals o’ the Latin language ? ”
“How you going to do it?” we inquired in unison.
“Do it? Why, jest act it out. Take some o’ these fool scenes we’ve been a-studyin’ about, an’, as he said the other day”—here the uncouth lad grinned widely, showing two rows of admirably sound teeth — “‘paint ’em upon the plastic canvas of our minds.’ ”
“’T wan’t plastic he said; ’t was virgin,” the girl who never forgot corrected.
“Never mind,” the school genius declared. “It’s a good idea anyway. Le’s do it. Each one choose his own scene. Mebbe we shall have to consult enough so we shan’t all choose the same thing; but that’s easy managed. Next Sat’day the French teacher’s going to be away, so we can have the whole afternoon solid to jest realize ideals an’ nothing else.”
The next two days were busy and mysterious ones. Although we had vowed not to confide our purposes to any outside our own favored circle, it was impossible that some suspicions should not be aroused in an atmosphere so big with portents; yet we assured ourselves gleefully that we had revealed to a curious world nothing more incriminating than the joyful fact of the possession of a secret.
My own rôle in this dramatic “realization ” was soon chosen. The class genius and myself shared one habit in common — that of reading ahead. The rest of the Latin class had no sympathy with such unnecessary toil, being firmly convinced that “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof;” but to us who toiled, the pleasure of browsing here and there in spots where the notes indicated something of unusually picturesque interest, amply repaid the labor involved.
Among the family relics, handed down from “worldly” and unrecorded gayeties in the past, existed a mysterious black domino with pointed hood, and with the remembrance of this garment in mind, how could I help feeling that the finger of destiny itself indicated my assumption of the character of the Sibyl who accompanied /Eneas in his descent to Hades. With the assistance of my Christmas paintbox and a little inventive spirit I provided myself with a golden bough quite as flaming in hue as anything the Forest of Diana could ever have furnished, and naught remained but to accomplish a sufficient amount of translation to enable me to play the part with some fragmentary degree of intelligence.
The probability that none of my comrades would be able to claim even a bowing acquaintance with the Sibyl, since for them the sixth book of Virgil was still a joy in reserve, did not trouble me in the least, — I had “a tongue in my head” and could explain, — but I did find a difficulty in acquiring time and mood for translating the story of the sibylline wanderings. There are always days in our lives whose memory stands out with special distinctness, and these two still remain vividly in mind on account of the numerous and engrossing distractions which they offered to render my descent to Avernus anything but facile.
We had, I remember, a visitor who had been an official in Washington during the war, a man who could and would tell stories, and who had organ tones in his voice. So many fascinating and tragic and heroic things he embroidered upon my researches into the ideals of the Latin language, that to this day the background of that dramatic afternoon in the old schoolhouse presents itself as a sort of judgment-day cartoon. Dido burning on her funeral pyre, the young Marcellas with gloomy night “flapping her sad pinions over his head,” and even the mystic Sibyl descending tragically from the black-draped heights of the teacher’s table to the level of the stove which, with covers removed, signified the fiery depths of Hades, seem inextricably mingled in my recollection with the vision of the first man whom our silvertongued visitor ever saw fall in battle, the marching and counter-marching of blue-coated ranks, and above all the tragic mask of Mr. Lincoln’s face haunting the White House. Thus, unconsciously. I put a girdle round the earth and incorporated American upon Latin ideals.
It was the girl who never forgot who chose the part of Dido, Helen was her baptismal name, and so fair of face was she that we thought our classmate a lineal descendant of her whose beauty - -
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium.”
The wood which, piled beside the stove, served to feed the schoolroom fire, having been shaped into necessary symmetry of form, was transformed into the love-lorn lady’s funeral pyre. She sprang, this fair Helen of ours, from a family of wealth and tradition, and from their heirloom treasures she had drawn forth a satin cloak, threadbare, it is true, and ivory white with age, but softly-gleaming still, and lending its voluminous folds to classic outlines. When she had woven her dark ringlets into a Greek knot and spread a deep-red “ double shawl ” over the rough woodpile to lend picturesque ness to the funeral pyre, we all began to enter into the seriousness of our parts and to dream that at last ideals were beginning to be realized.
“ I must say,” the slow girl commented, “’t I never had much sympathy with Dido till this minute. When I look at you, Helen, I begin to feel’s if there was more to it ’n met the eye.”
“That is to say,” the class orator suggested, “when you was recitin’ about her you drew the line at some of Dido’s didos ; but seein’ her in the flesh you begin to think’t Cupid may ha’ been some to blame.”
The class orator had chosen to appear first upon the scene. “I ’ll furnish the beginning an’ the endin’ of the dramy,” he assured us with an air of kindly promise. The orator, as the sequel showed, was not destitute of classical standards; but he had not been able to resist the temptation of incorporating his Uncle William’s army uniform into the part he had chosen. He was a well-grown lad, and brass buttons and epaulets became him. It is to be feared that the uncle, who was that awe-inspiring thing, a Bowdoin graduate, had felt an unholy joy in promoting the incongruity of his nephew’s outfit. When we emerged from the dressing-room, whither we had retired while the orator perfected the opening scene of the “dramy,” we beheld our classmate gayly bedight with trappings of war and proudly marching to and fro amid an array of stacked muskets, while swords, pistols, bows and arrows, and butcher-knives were scattered about in deadly profusion. At the moment of our appearance, thus deftly depriving us of all opportunity for question or protest, he began in his most telling manner to recite, —
And haughty Juno’s unrelenting hate,
Expelled and exiled, left the Trojan shore,”
and continued to blazon forth “the long glories of majestic Rome,” as interminably as our consciences would allow us to listen to the too-familiar tale. It is but just to say that we bore with the orator for a longer period than any other of our number could have hoped to attain. While he spoke, trumpets and bugles seemed to accompany him, such was the magic of his method.
Some comment, however, was inevitable. It was the uncouth lad who remarked thoughtfully, loath to criticise unjustly, yet “wanting to know,” —
“I don’ know’s I see jest how United States army uniforms an’ muskets fits into Latin ideals.”
“So far’s patriotism an’ courage an’ fighting qualities are concerned, the ideals of all languages have been the same,” proclaimed the orator, strutting amid his muskets.
“Who told you so?” inquired the class genius.
“Uncle Billy,” the orator replied, unabashed. “Besides, I ain’t representing Æneas or any of those fellows now. I’m jest a sort of a chorus recountin’ their deeds; an’ Uncle Billy said ’t was all right to begin with the present century an’ work back. When the rest of you get through, I come on again, an’ then you ’ll find I ’m the noblest Roman of ’em all.”
The slow girl, who came next, represented Hecuba trying to dissuade the aged Priam from warlike exploits. The slow girl was tall, slender, and angular, with blonde hair so pronounced in colorlessness as to merit the epithet “tow-head” which was, indeed, often bestowed upon her. She was suffering from a severe cold in her head which reddened her eyelids and gave a mournful thickness to her voice. She had filleted her hair and draped her tall form in a bright-hued plaid shawl arranged in classic folds. On her feet were rubber sandals, which, having no shoes under them, gave forth a gurgling sound as she walked, and in a tragic attitude and speaking mournfully through her nose she movingly admonished the venerable Priam, —
The uncouth lad, always obliging, represented Priam. As the lad “ did chores ” for his board his resources for costuming himself in royal splendor were not great; but his landlady had accommodated him with an ancient and ragged white tablecloth, which, worn toga-wise, and displaying coarse trousers hardly reaching to the tops of a pair of stout congress boots, assisted the Trojan monarch to make a most kingly appearance. A wig composed of white yarn raveled from discarded “footings ” straggled hither and yon amidst the uncouth lad’s own uneven locks and gave him a wildly venerable aspect.
“ My fit-out ain’t what I call first class,” he explained with his usual good nature, “but I done what I could.” In view of which fact, and because realizing ideals had for the moment become a serious occupation, I am glad to remember that we looked upon both Priam and Hecuba rather through the eyes of our imagination than with any critical estimate of their classic charms.
Indeed, when in the following “number ” of the programme, the uncouth lad appeared before us in his own chosen character of Iopas, the bard of Virgil, the mingled fire and dignity of diction with which he surprised us caused his ragged toga to be forgotten as he sang,—
The sun eclipsed in deadly swoon ;
Whence human kind and cattle came,
And whence the rainspout and the flame,
Areturus and the two bright bears
And Hyads weeping showery tears ;
Why winter suns so swiftly go
And why the dreary nights move slow. ”
The uncouth lad developed haltingly, but he was already beginning to show the ruggedly-persistent stuff that was in him.
The Sibyl with the golden bough next appeared upon the stage. The class genius, as the only member of the Thinkers’ Club who had ever before heard the Sibyl’s name mentioned, took the part of Æneas and assisted the black-robed prophetess to descend safely into Hades from the lofty summit of the master’s table.
“ What’d she see when she got there ? ” the orator inquired, as he beheld the flames of the inferno bursting from the uncovered schoolroom stove.
“Trojan ghosts and the spirits of the unburied dead,” the Sibyl answered, with the outward assurance of one to whom all secrets of purgatory had been revealed.
The uncouth lad looked himself over with genial impartiality. “I don”know of anybody ’t looks more as if they’d ought to be buried ’n I do,” he conceded. “Count me in as representin’ the spirits.”
The class genius next appeared upon the stage in the character of the young Marcellus, a youth
In beauty’s manly grace.”
The genius was immaculately togacd in a voluminous, white sheet; he wore white cloth-covered sandals on his feet, and a wreath of green artificial leaves filleted his brow. He had even put on white trousers to render his colorscheme uniform. The afternoon dusk was beginning to fall now, and the chalked face of the young actor gleamed from the shadows as if touched with a marble pallor. It is true that he remarked casually as he mounted the rostrum, “Of course you all understand that I ’m dead;” but even the matter-of-fact tone of this statement did not prevent us from feeling that his aspect was delightfully meaning. Whatever the tone of the young Marcellus might be, we saw that
And his fixed eyes were dropped on earth,”
and we were willing to shudder a little if we might only dream that we were at last beginning to enter into the old Grecian story.
The darkening room helped the illusion when the fair Dido mounted her funeral pile. The battered walls of the old schoolroom stretched away into a vista of classic shores. Some of us even heard the murmur of the sea, an inarticulate echo which we were too absorbed to try to interpret. We imagined Æneas looking back from the distant wave at the high-mounting flames which marked the destruction of the hapless queen, and it was with a simultaneous start of surprise that we heard the voice of the class orator breaking the silence. The orator was now attired in flowing draperies which entirely concealed the glories of Uncle Billy’s uniform. Yet, as he came forward, a sepulchral clank beneath his garments revealed the fact that he bad not been able to tear himself from the weapons of modern warfare.
“It’s gone off just great,” he declared, “an’ none o’ the rest o’ the school has so much as peeped all the afternoon. I did n’t think we’d get off so easy. I know some o’ the fellers suspected something. Now we’ll wind up with a grand finale, as the show bills say. Dido stay where she is, an’ somebody touch up the fire, an’ then each one get into position on the stage, leavin’ the centre for me to come forward in purple pomp like a Roman Senator an’ recite my piece.”
At this instant a sudden flash of the “touched-up ” fire revealed the fact that the orator was in very fact clad in purple; but the inquiry about to burst in unison from our lips as to where he had acquired such splendor was never uttered, because just then something happened.
The uncouth lad officiated as janitor of the schoolhouse, and knowing that he had fast-locked both entrances we had rested secure from fears of intrusion. As each classic hero and heroine was mounting to his appointed place on the platform, however, the two doors at the back of the schoolroom opened simultaneously, to admit on one side the dignified minister of the Old South Church and on the other “crazy Miss ’Lizy.” Miss ’Lizy was descended from one of the ruling families of the town, and was reputed to have injured her brain by over-study in her youth. She had intervals of being what we called “a little out,” but usually presented the appearance of an uncannily briglit-eyed person of precise diction.
She gazed around as she entered, at Dido serene on her funeral pile, the Sibyl uneasny perching on the teacher’s table, the young Marcellus stiffening into the proper corpse-like rigidity, and the slow girl opening her mouth in unaffected horror. The class orator hovered in the background, determined not to appear till the appointed moment, though the heavens fell; and the uncouth lad, whose presence of mind was not easily shaken, came forward as host, stalely and hospitable in his ragged tablecloth.
“We did n’t quite look for ye,” he explained cordially, “but si’ down. We’ve just got to the grand final. I,” he mentioned with pride, “am Iopas, the bard of Virgil.”
“Quite so; quite so,” the minister assented, accepting a seat at the back of the room. “Perhaps I should apologize for this intrusion; but Mr. Ammi Riggs kindly assured me of a welcome.”
“I also am indebted to Mr. Ammi Riggs for my invitation,” Miss Lizy explained, enthroning herself in one of the senior seats. “He mentioned my wellknown interest in classical studies. I find everything pertaining to that elegantly instructive period of Greece and Rome of profound significance. This exhibition seems most creditable.” Miss ’Lizy’s bright glance, even in the dusk, seemed to pierce us with intelligent criticism. The Sibyl, on her distant table, imagined the twinkle of the minister’s eyes hidden by twilight and solemn brows.
Noise of another arrival now sounded, but not before the Virgilian bard, dashing to the front, had taken time to admonish the stage company : —
“ Put a good face on it. Don’t let that blame Ammi Riggs think he’s upsot our programme! ”
The newcomers proved to be a row of maiden ladies, who had encountered the guileful Ammi on their return from afternoon prayer-meeting. Hilltown was prolific of Spinsters with literary tastes. The present installment seated themselves decorously, murmuring gently disjointed sentences regarding the unexpected pleasure of the occasion.
At the next opening of the doors whatever qualms of timidity or smoulderings of indignation might have existed in the breasts of the Thinkers’ Club were swallowed up in curiosity and interest in an absorbing pageant. At one door entered Mr. Ammi Riggs, followed, it seemed, by the entire remainder of the school. Mr. Riggs himself was clad in draperies apparently gathered from discarded mealbags. Upon his head he wore a new tin pail, burnished and shining, and his broad breast was shielded by a barrel-head bearing the legend, “First-class family flour.”
The long line of Mr. Riggs’s cohorts alternated in presenting gayly diversified attire “adapted ” from bed-blankets, bright-hued quilts, grandfather’s cloaks, and other picturesque robings, and youths and maidens clad in the more sober costumes of everyday. Kettle-cover shields, and spears shaped from scantlings, abounded. As the door opened, the gallant commander of this legion sounded forth a sonorous, “Forward! march!” followed, as the long procession broke into squads and filed down the aisles, by another pair of trumpet-toned orders, “Halt! ” and “Set! ” At the latter word the assembly did “set ” with an impact which might well have shaken the lofty walls of Troy.
It was evident, however, that Captain Ammi had not expected the entrance of “the master ” at the other door. Had it not been for this opportune arrival I have always feared that neither the Thinkers’ Club, the minister, the gentle spinsters, nor crazy Miss ’Lizy could Lave saved the situation. Possibly the class orator might have accomplished it, but one never can tell.
The master passed quietly to his accustomed place, his mien undisturbed even by the unwonted apparition of a Sibyl with a golden bough standing erect upon his desk with the air of one who dies but never surrenders. The young Marcell us remained persistently dead; but from the Virgilian bard the master rapidly gathered the facts of the occasion. He took command so effectively that nothing more wras heard from Captain Ammi except one whispered comment regarding the impropriety of “makin’ kind!in’-wood of anything so pooty as Dido.”
The cohorts, once “set,” did not dare to rise again. The master, in a rapid summary of the objects and aims of the Thinkers’ Club, gave that organization a dignity which it had never dreamed of possessing ; he transformed the collapsing grand finale into a stable function, introduced the actors to their audience, and put the ideals of a great language and a great nation behind them.
In the flaring light of the renewed fire Dido’s fair face and ivory satin cloak gleamed radiant, the young Marcellus looked like a statue by Pygmalion, the dark-robed Sibyl shone mysterious, a glamour touched the bard and the matron. The bright-hued draperies and even the gleaming kettle covers of the audience gave color and tone to the picture, and when the setting was complete the class orator came forward “in purple pomp.”
There was no way of explaining the spell of the class orator except by admitting that he possessed personal magnetism — tons of it. He also believed mightily in his own powers, which, no doubt, helped the illusion.
He stepped into the circle of the firelight, and the house was still as death except for the muffled jingle of his hidden weapons. So serious had we become that even those who recognized the absurdity of this sound did not smile. The orator liked verses with sweep and rhythm to them. No one knew by what alchemy he discovered his selections nor how much he really felt them himself. He had a supple figure which lent itself to rhetorical grace, a slow black eye, dull at first, then kindling to a brilliance like flame, and a voice, flexible, smooth, rich with expression. When those black eyes began to smpulder into brightness it was as if their owner painted a picture for us on the dusky winter twilight — a picture of the wonderful Italy he invoked. We listened, breathless, while he told the story, and to one youthful Sibyl, hearkening entranced from the master’s table, the epic of her own land seemed to keep pace with the flowing rhyme.
Sabine yonth and Volseian spearmen and Liguria’s hardy brood;
Hence have sprung our Decii, Marii, mighty names which all men bless,
Great Camillns, kinsman Scipios, sternest men in battle’s press!
Rich in crops and rich in heroes [ thus I dare to wake the tale
Of thine ancient land and honor, opening founts that slumbered long,
Rolling through our Roman towns the echoes of old Hesiod’s song.
We always expected the orator to give us all the stanzas he could accumulate when he condescended to recite for us, and he seldom disappointed his audience in that respect; but in this instance the young Marcellus hardly allowed the last silvery accent to melt upon the air before coming suddenly back from the dead to announce peremptorily, —
“The exercises of the afternoon will conclude with the singing of ‘America,’ in which the audience will please join.”
Here was a mighty outlet for emotion. The master’s deep bass, the class orator’s sweet, soaring tenor, the tremidous notes of the spinsters, Dido singing like a bird from her funeral pile, and the great wave of sound when the cohorts lifted up their voices as one man, rose in a grand chord of melody, binding Greece, Home, America, present and past, the world that has been and the world that is to be, in one realization of noble ideals. Then the fire sank low, and darkness wrote “finis” on the page.
I walked home with Dido and Marcellus.
“ Did you hurry back to life and make them sing ‘ America ’ because you were afraid the minister would close with the benediction ? ” I asked the latter.
“Yes,” he answered; “how did you know ? ”
“I knew by myself because I am a Sibyl. I was longing to have the unities preserved and a pagan day kept pagan.”
The genius pointed to one pale streak of light long-lingering in the west. “Behold,” he said, “the last of ‘the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome! ’ ”