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DEATH OF ANACREON.
REMOTE from the intrigues of the court, and unruffled by the din of contention, our days were joyful and serene, like those which nurture the beautiful Halcyon. Enjoying the uninterrupted society of a friend whom I esteemed, and a wife whom I loved, the gods had left me nothing to wish. When I reflected upon the happiness which this intercourse produced, I could not but acknowledge the source of it. “ How sweet to the soul of man,” would I exclaim, “is the society of a beloved wife! when, wearied and broken down by the labours of the day, her endearments soothe, her tender cares restore him. The solicitudes and anxieties, and heavier misfortunes of life, are hardly to be borne by him who has the weight of business and domestic vexations to contend with. But how much lighter do they seem, when, after his necessary avocations are over, he returns to his home and finds there a partner of all his griefs and troubles, who takes, for his sake, her share of domestic labour upon her, and soothes the anguish of his soul by her comfort and participation. By the immortal gods! a wife is not, as she is falsely represented by some, a burthen or a sorrow to man. No, she shares his burthens and alleviates his sorrows. For there is no toil nor difficulty so insupportable in life, but it may be surmounted by the mutual efforts and the affectionate concord of that holy partnership.”
After we had been settled a short time in our new abode, Anacreon resolved to send an invitation to Lesbos for Sappho. Among others the following ode, in which he described the simplicity of our fare and the warmth of his affection, was composed upon this occasion :
But it was not reserved for him again to enjoy the society of this lovely woman, whose genius was only equalled by her misfortunes. Before the courier had departed, I received information from one of my friends at Mytilene, that Sappho had terminated her life and her sufferings by precipitating herself into the sea from the summit of a mountain in Leucadia. The following fragment of an ode was found on the shore :
From dread Leucadia's frowning steep,
The mournful intelligence was unfortunately communicated to Anacreon, while he was engaged at a banquet with a few of his former friends. The sudden dismay which this unexpected information occasioned was such that he did not observe a grape-stone which was floating in his wine. He was choked by the contents of the cup, and the melancholy consequences were soon too visible in his countenance. I ran to succour him ; but with a
smile that bespoke the feeble exertions of nature, he signified that it was too late. I
him of wine in hopes of relieving him. He took it from me, and, as he held it in his hand, he gave me this ode, in which he announced his departure from us in a strain of prophetic inspiration which resembles the plaintive notes of the expiring swan :
GOLDEN hues of youth are fled ;
He then poured out a libation to the Eumenides, the inexorable ministers of the vengeance of Pluto, and having thus endeavoured to appease their fury, he sunk upon his couch. It was in vain that we prayed to Apollo, to whom sudden deaths are imputed. Anacreon likewise would have prayed to Mercury, to whom is confided the mournful office of conducting ghosts to the shades below; but the pangs of death were upon him and the power of utterance was denied. We sounded brazen kettles, to expel those furies which are ever on the alert to carry
the unfortunate to places of torment.
We crowded around his couch, that we might hear his dying words; we kissed him and endeavoured to imbibe his latest breath into our mouths.
I had heard for the last time the sounds of a voice which had never addressed me but in the language of kindness -the lustre of those eyes which had ever beamed with mirth and joy became dim, and after a faint struggle, he sought the shades of Elysium !
He retained his senses so as to be able to depart in a decent posture. As soon as we found that he had expired, his eyes and mouth were closed, and before the body was cold it was stretched; and soon afterwards it was washed by the females of the household. After it had been rubbed with fragrant oil and other costly ointments, it was clad in a splendid white robe, by which was indicated the pure spirit of the deceased. It was then covered with green boughs and flowers, the liveliness and brilliancy of whose hues denoted the felicity which was to be enjoyed after this life. Being placed upon a bier, it was carried to the entrance of the door. Here it was exposed to public view in order to prevent any suspicion of his death having been occasioned by a wound. The feet were turned to the door, to signify that he would never return; and the corpse was constantly watched, to prevent the pollution of flies or the violence of rude curiosity. The mouth was filled with cake composed of flour, honey, and water, to appease the fury of Cerberus, and a piece of money was placed upon it, as a bribe to the surly ferryman of the Styx.
The hair of Anacreon was cut off and hung upon the door, to indicate the house of sorrow ; and while the corpse remained there, a vessel of water stood nigh, that those who touched it might purify themselves. After it had been preserved seventeen days and nights, we prepared for the solemn ceremony of interment.
But it was supposed, that the spirit of our departed friend would be better satisfied if his ashes were deposit
ed in his natal soil, and we therefore determined to burn the body. In the dead of the night, when the silence of nature accorded with the sadness of our souls, and the awfulness of the ceremony, we lighted our torches, to preserve us from the evil spirits which then ventured abroad. As soon as the sun arose, we took our last farewell, and conveyed the body from the house. As we moved along with a slow pace, our uncovered heads, bent down and supported by our hands, attested our respect, and the serious notes of the Carian and Phrygian flutes, bewailed the loss of our friend. Some persons sprinkled their heads with ashes, and muttered the funeral interjection, t, f, f, while others rolled their bodies in the dust. When we arrived at the pile, the body was placed in the middle of it, with a quantity of precious ointments and perfumes, and also the fat of beasts, to increase the force of the flames. The garments of the deceased being thrown in, the sad office of communicating fire to the pile devolved upon me, as none of the relations of Anacreon were present. Having prayed and offered vows to Æolus to assist the flames, I applied the torch. His immediate friends stood nigh to the pile, cutting off their hair and casting it into the flames, and also pouring out libations of wine. The pile being burnt down, the embers were extinguished by wine. We collected the ashes and enclosed them in a silver urn, which was soon after sent to his relations at Athens.
Grecians ! his hallowed ashes are covered by a monument which is erected by the altar of the Muses on the margin of Ilyssus. When the mellow tints of the declining sun shall sleep on the waters, and ye assemble on its banks, tread lightly on the sod that covers the silent urn. Violets shall bloom around the sacred spot; there the lotus shall spread its embowering branches, and the roses of