Edward Bulwer-Lytton: The Last Days of Pompeii

11. Chapter the Last (continued)

'Ione--at that name my heart yet beats!--Ione is by my side as I write: I lift my eyes, and meet her smile. The sunlight quivers over Hymettus: and along my garden I hear the hum of the summer bees. Am I happy, ask you? Oh, what can Rome give me equal to what I possess at Athens? Here, everything awakens the soul and inspires the affections--the trees, the waters, the hills, the skies, are those of Athens!--fair, though mourning-mother of the Poetry and the Wisdom of the World. In my hall I see the marble faces of my ancestors. In the Ceramicus, I survey their tombs! In the streets, I behold the hand of Phidias and the soul of Pericles. Harmodius, Aristogiton--they are everywhere--but in our hearts!--in mine, at least, they shall not perish! If anything can make me forget that I am an Athenian and not free, it is partly the soothing--the love--watchful, vivid, sleepless--of Ione--a love that has taken a new sentiment in our new creed--a love which none of our poets, beautiful though they be, had shadowed forth in description; for mingled with religion, it partakes of religion; it is blended with pure and unworldly thoughts; it is that which we may hope to carry through eternity, and keep, therefore, white and unsullied, that we may not blush to confess it to our God! This is the true type of the dark fable of our Grecian Eros and Psyche--it is, in truth, the soul asleep in the arms of love. And if this, our love, support me partly against the fever of the desire for freedom, my religion supports me more; for whenever I would grasp the sword and sound the shell, and rush to a new Marathon (but Marathon without victory), I feel my despair at the chilling thought of my country's impotence--the crushing weight of the Roman yoke, comforted, at least, by the thought that earth is but the beginning of life--that the glory of a few years matters little in the vast space of eternity--that there is no perfect freedom till the chains of clay fall from the soul, and all space, all time, become its heritage and domain. Yet, Sallust, some mixture of the soft Greek blood still mingles with my faith. I can share not the zeal of those who see crime and eternal wrath in men who cannot believe as they. I shudder not at the creed of others. I dare not curse them--I pray the Great Father to convert. This lukewarmness exposes me to some suspicion amongst the Christians: but I forgive it; and, not offending openly the prejudices of the crowd, I am thus enabled to protect my brethren from the danger of the law, and the consequences of their own zeal. If moderation seem to me the natural creature of benevolence, it gives, also, the greatest scope to beneficence.

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