Edward Bulwer-Lytton: The Last Days of Pompeii

4. Chapter IV (continued)

She was peculiarly formed, then, to command and fascinate the less ordinary and the bolder natures of men; to love her was to unite two passions, that of love and of ambition--you aspired when you adored her. It was no wonder that she had completely chained and subdued the mysterious but burning soul of the Egyptian, a man in whom dwelt the fiercest passions. Her beauty and her soul alike enthralled him.

Set apart himself from the common world, he loved that daringness of character which also made itself, among common things, aloof and alone. He did not, or he would not see, that that very isolation put her yet more from him than from the vulgar. Far as the poles--far as the night from day, his solitude was divided from hers. He was solitary from his dark and solemn vices--she from her beautiful fancies and her purity of virtue.

If it was not strange that Ione thus enthralled the Egyptian, far less strange was it that she had captured, as suddenly as irrevocably, the bright and sunny heart of the Athenian. The gladness of a temperament which seemed woven from the beams of light had led Glaucus into pleasure. He obeyed no more vicious dictates when he wandered into the dissipations of his time, than the exhilarating voices of youth and health. He threw the brightness of his nature over every abyss and cavern through which he strayed. His imagination dazzled him, but his heart never was corrupted. Of far more penetration than his companions deemed, he saw that they sought to prey upon his riches and his youth: but he despised wealth save as the means of enjoyment, and youth was the great sympathy that united him to them. He felt, it is true, the impulse of nobler thoughts and higher aims than in pleasure could be indulged: but the world was one vast prison, to which the Sovereign of Rome was the Imperial gaoler; and the very virtues, which in the free days of Athens would have made him ambitious, in the slavery of earth made him inactive and supine. For in that unnatural and bloated civilization, all that was noble in emulation was forbidden. Ambition in the regions of a despotic and luxurious court was but the contest of flattery and craft. Avarice had become the sole ambition--men desired praetorships and provinces only as the license to pillage, and government was but the excuse of rapine. It is in small states that glory is most active and pure--the more confined the limits of the circle, the more ardent the patriotism. In small states, opinion is concentrated and strong--every eye reads your actions--your public motives are blended with your private ties--every spot in your narrow sphere is crowded with forms familiar since your childhood--the applause of your citizens is like the caresses of your friends. But in large states, the city is but the court: the provinces--unknown to you, unfamiliar in customs, perhaps in language--have no claim on your patriotism, the ancestry of their inhabitants is not yours. In the court you desire favor instead of glory; at a distance from the court, public opinion has vanished from you, and self-interest has no counterpoise.

This is page 106 of 436. [Mark this Page]
Mark any page to add this title to Your Bookshelf. (0 / 10 books on shelf)
Customize text appearance:
Color: A A A A A   Font: Aa Aa   Size: 1 2 3 4 5   Defaults
(c) 2003-2012 LiteraturePage.com and Michael Moncur. All rights reserved.
For information about public domain texts appearing here, read the copyright information and disclaimer.