Chapter The Last
Wherein all things cease letter from Glaucus to sallust, ten years after the destruction of Pompeii.
Glaucus to his beloved Sallust—greeting and health!—You request me to visit you at Rome—no, Sallust, come rather to me at Athens! I have forsworn the Imperial City, its mighty tumult and hollow joys. In my own land henceforth I dwell for ever. The ghost of our departed greatness is dearer to me than the gaudy life of your loud prosperity. There is a charm to me which no other spot can supply, in the porticoes hallowed still by holy and venerable shades. In the olive-groves of Ilyssus I still hear the voice of poetry—on the heights of Phyle, the clouds of twilight seem yet the shrouds of departed freedom—the heralds—the heralds—of the morrow that shall come! You smile at my enthusiasm, Sallust!—better be hopeful in chains than resigned to their glitter. You tell me you are sure that I cannot enjoy life in these melancholy haunts of a fallen majesty. You dwell with rapture on the Roman splendors, and the luxuries of the imperial court. My Sallust—“non sum qualis eram”—I am not what I was! The events of my life have sobered the bounding blood of my youth. My health has never quite recovered its wonted elasticity ere it felt the pangs of disease, and languished in the damps of a criminal’s dungeon. My mind has never shaken off the dark shadow of the Last Day of Pompeii—the horror and the desolation of that awful ruin!—Our beloved, our remembered Nydia! I have reared a tomb to her shade, and I see it every day from the window of my study. It keeps alive in me a tender recollection—a not unpleasing sadness—which are but a fitting homage to her fidelity, and the mysteriousness of her early death. Ione gathers the flowers, but my own hand wreathes them daily around the tomb. She was worthy of a tomb in Athens!
’You speak of the growing sect of the Christians in Rome. Sallust, to you I may confide my secret; I have pondered much over that faith—I have adopted it. After the destruction of Pompeii, I met once more with Olinthus—saved, alas! only for a day, and falling afterwards a martyr to the indomitable energy of his zeal. In my preservation from the lion and the earthquake he taught me to behold the hand of the unknown God! I listened—believed—adored! My own, my more than ever beloved Ione, has also embraced the creed!—a creed, Sallust, which, shedding light over this world, gathers its concentrated glory, like a sunset, over the next! We know that we are united in the soul, as in the flesh, for ever and for ever! Ages may roll on, our very dust be dissolved, the earth shrivelled like a scroll; but round and round the circle of eternity rolls the wheel of life—imperishable—unceasing! And as the earth from the sun, so immortality drinks happiness from virtue, which is the smile upon the face of God! Visit me, then, Sallust; bring with you the learned scrolls of Epicurus, Pythagoras, Diogenes; arm yourself for defeat; and let us, amidst the groves of Academus, dispute, under a surer guide than any granted to our fathers, on the mighty problem of the true ends of life and the nature of the soul.