The pathos of “TOO LATE” is all conveyed in its title. The loved woman is dead. She was the wife of another man than he who mourns for her. But so long as there was life there was hope. The lover might, he feels, have learned to compromise with the obstacles to his happiness. Some shock of circumstance might have rolled them away. If the loved one spurned him once, he had of late been earning her friendship. She might in time have discovered that the so-called poet whom she had preferred to him was a mere lay-figure whom her fancy had draped. But all this is at an end. Hope and opportunity are alike gone. He remains to condemn his own quiescence in what was perhaps not inevitable; in what proved no more for her happiness than for his. The husband is probably writing her epitaph.
“Too Late” expresses an attachment as individual as it is complete. “Edith” was not considered a beauty. She was not one even in her lover’s eyes. This fact, and the manner in which he shows it, give a characteristic force to the situation.
[Footnote 32: The classification of this poem is open to the obvious objection that it is not a monologue; but a dialogue or alternation of monologues, in which the second speaker, Balaustion (who is also the narrator), is, for the time being, as real as the first. Its conception is, however, expressed in the first title; and the arguments and descriptions which Balaustion supplies only contribute to the vividness with which Aristophanes and his defence are brought before us. “Aristophanes’ Apology” is identical in spirit with the other poems of this group.]
[Footnote 33: This incident is founded on fact. It is related in Plutarch’s Lives, that after the defeat of Nicias, all those of the captives who could recite something from Euripides were kindly treated by the Syracusans.]
[Footnote 34: The name signifies celebration of the festival of the Thesmophoria. This was held by women only, in honour of Ceres and Proserpine.]
[Footnote 35: The chorus of each new play was supplied to its author by the Government, when considered worth the outlay. Sketches of this and other plays alluded to in the course of the work may be read in the first volume of Mahaffy’s “History of Classical Greek Literature.”]
[Footnote 36: The plays were performed at the lesser and greater festivals of Bacchus; this, the Lenaia, being the smaller one. Hence, the presence of priest as well as archon at the ensuing banquet]
[Footnote 37: The failure here alluded to is his Ploutos or Plutus—an inoffensive but tame comedy written when Aristophanes was advanced in years, and of which the ill-success has been imputed to this fact. Mr. Browning, however, treats it as a proof that the author’s ingrained habit of coarse fun had unfitted him for the more serious treatment of human life.]