In a palace where a curious conception of the love of Atalanta and Meleager was said to figure on the walls, there was a door on which was a sign, imitated from one that overhung the Theban library of Osymandias—Pharmacy of the Soul. It was there Tiberius dreamed.
On the ivory shelves were the philtres of Parthenius, labelled De Amatoriis Affectionibus, the Sybaris of Clitonymus, the Erotopaegnia of Laevius, the maxims and instructions of Elephantis, the nine books of Sappho. There also were the pathetic adventures of Odatis and Zariadres, which Chares of Mitylene had given to the world; the astonishing tales of that early Cinderella, Rhodopis; and with them those romances of Ionian nights by Aristides of Milet, which Crassus took with him when he set out to subdue the Parthians, and which; found in the booty, were read aloud to the people that they might judge the morals of a nation that pretended to rule the world.
Whether such medicaments are serviceable to the soul is problematic. Tiberius had other drugs on the ivory shelves—magic preparations that transported him to fabulous fields. There was a work by Hecataesus, with which he could visit Hyperborea, that land where happiness was a birthright, inalienable at that; yet a happiness so sweet that it must have been cloying; for the people who enjoyed it, and with it the appanage of limitless life, killed themselves from sheer ennui. Theopompus disclosed to him a stranger vista—a continent beyond the ocean—one where there were immense cities, and where two rivers flowed—the River of Pleasure and the River of Pain. With Iambulus he discovered the Fortunate Isles, where there were men with elastic bones, bifurcated tongues; men who never married, who worshipped the sun, whose life was an uninterrupted delight, and who, when overtaken by age, lay on a perfumed grass that produced a voluptuous death. Evhemerus, a terrible atheist, whose Sacred History the early bishops wielded against polytheism until they discovered it was double-edged, took him to Panchaia, an island where incense grew; where property was held in common; where there was but one law—Justice, yet a justice different from our own, one which Hugo must have intercepted when he made an entrancing yet enigmatical apparition exclaim:
“Tu me crois la Justice, je suis la Pitie.”
And in this paradise there was a temple, and before it a column, about which, in Panchaian characters, ran a history of ancient kings, who, to the astonishment of the tourist, were found to be none other than the gods whom the universe worshipped, and who in earlier days had announced themselves divinities, the better to rule the hearts and minds of man.