The first of these classes, or groups, which we may distinguish as SPECIAL PLEADINGS, contains poems very different in length, and in literary character; and to avoid the appearance of confusion, I shall reverse the order of their publication, and place the most important first:—
“Aristophanes’ Apology; or The Last Adventure of Balaustion.” (1875.)
“Fifine at the Fair.” (1872.)
“Prince Hohenstiel-Schwangau, Saviour of Society.” (1871.)
“Bishop Blougram’s Apology” (Men and Women). (1855.)
“Mr. Sludge, the Medium.” (Dramatis Personae.) (1864.)
“ARISTOPHANES’ APOLOGY” is, as its second title shows, a sequel to “Balaustion’s Adventure” (1871). Both turn on the historical fact that Euripides was reverenced far more by the non-Athenian Greeks than by the Athenians; and both contain a transcript from him. But the interest of “Aristophanes’ Apology” is independent of its “Herakles,” while that of “Balaustion’s Adventure” is altogether bound up with its Alkestis; and in so far as the “adventure” places Balaustion herself before us, it will be best treated as an introduction to her appearance in the later and more important work.
Balaustion is a Rhodian girl, brought up in a worship for Euripides, which does not, however, exclude the appreciation of other great Greek poets. The Peloponnesian War has entered on its second stage. The Athenian fleet has been defeated at Syracuse. And Rhodes, resenting this disgrace, has determined to take part against Athens, and join the Peloponnesian league. But Balaustion will not forsake the mother-city, the life and light of her whole known world; and she persuades her kinsmen to migrate with her to it, and, with her, to share its fate. They accordingly take ship at Kaunus, a Carian sea-port belonging to Rhodes. But the wind turns them from their course, and when it abates, they find themselves in strange waters, pursued by a pirate bark. They fly before it towards what they hope will prove a friendly shore—Balaustion heartening the rowers by a song from AEschylus, which was sung at the battle of Salamis—and run straight into the hostile harbour of Syracuse, where shelter is denied them.
The captain pleads in vain that they are Kaunians, subjects of Rhodes, and that Rhodes is henceforward on Sparta’s side. “Kaunian the ship may be: but Athenians are on board. All Athens echoed in that song from AEschylus which has been ringing across the sea. The voyagers may retire unhurt. But if ten pirate ships were pursuing them, they should not bring those memories of Salamis to the Athenian captives whom the defeat of Nicias has left in Syracusan hands.” The case is desperate. The Rhodians turn to go.