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Plate XXXI.


p. 62

The Flight of Aeneas.

Height, 10 inches; breadth, 12 inches.


THIS fresco was discovered at Gragnano in 1760, and represents in caricature the flight of Æneas. The ancients were fond of such grotesque representations, which they called cercopitheci (long-tailed monkeys), or cynocephali (dog-headed monkeys). 1

The Trojan hero wears round his neck that kind of garment which was called a chlamys. It is of dark red, as is also that of young Ascanius. The latter, who wears the Phrygian cap, of the same colour, gives his left hand to his father, and carries in the other a kind of reed or little stick he has picked up while playing on the road; for childhood, happy and heedless, knows no danger; the features of Anchises, on the other hand, bear the impress of a melancholy gravity. The unfortunate old man has survived the fall of those sacred walls which Hector was unable to protect; but in his flight he has not forgotten his household gods; they are safe in the casket which he holds in his hands. At the same time Æneas, the valiant protector of the family. looks behind, no doubt for his faithful spouse, of whom he is doomed to see nothing more but the plaintive shade. It may

p. 63

easily be seen that the safety of the family had necessarily to depend on him, for he seems to be of a higher organization of life than his companions: he has at least the legs of a man, whereas his father and his son have rather those of a quadruped.

In spite of their dog's heads, these three figures bear the distinctive character of the personages whom they represent. Nor should it be overlooked how carefully the painter has followed the indications of Virgil as they occur in that justly-celebrated second book of the Æneid. The young Ascanius grasps his father's right hand, according to the poet's description

     --Dextræ se parvus Iulus
Implicuit. 1

Too young and feeble to keep up with him, he follows with lagging steps:--

Sequiturque patrem non passibus æquis. 2

Indeed, in looking at the present fresco, the lines of the poet naturally recur to our memory.

The casket in the hands of Anchises undoubtedly contains the household gods of the family; for the pious Æneas had asked his sire to take care of them, since he was not allowed to touch them, stained as he was with the blood of the battle-field, until he had washed himself in the pure water of a running stream.

"Our country-gods, the relics, and the bands,
Hold you, my father, in your guiltless hands:
In me 'tis impious holy things to bear,
Red as I am with slaughter, new from war:
Till in some living stream I cleanse the guilt
Of dire debate, and blood in battle spilt."

Finally, the artist has with reason depicted restlessness and even terror

p. 64

in the features of the Trojan hero; for this brave warrior, who did not fear the redoubtable Grecian phalanx, who did not dread their pointed arrows, now takes fright at the least breath of air; the slightest noise makes him tremble, such was his anxiety for the father he carried and the son he led.

"I who so bold and dauntless just before
The Grecian darts and shock of lances bore,
Now take alarm while horrors reign around
At every breeze, and start at every sound."

The reader will see that it would be impossible to carry exactness any farther.

The caricatures of the artists of antiquity were by no means always of so harmless a nature. At Rome it was not unusual for impudent actors to appear on the stage with certain masks bearing the features of the most distinguished citizens of the empire. Such scandals called forth the laughter of the vulgar and the indignation of the well-bred.

Caricature did not therefore originate with modern art. This must be said with pride, because of the great abuse which we have made of this playful weapon, kindly even in its origin, and sometimes grave in its most burlesque features. Castigat ridendo mores.

Perhaps lovers of poetry will not be sorry to see some more of those beautiful lines which follow immediately upon the selection already quoted.

Creusa has lost her way: the pious Æneas, whose heart is sore with the bitterest grief, does not hesitate to retrace his steps in order to seek his faithful companion; he sees once more the palace of Priam and the citadel and temple of Juno

Then with ungoverned madness I proclaim
Through all the silent streets Creusa's name.
Creusa still I call: at length she hears,
And, sudden, thro' the shades of night appears. p. 65
Appears no more Creusa, nor my wife,
But a pale spectre, larger than the life.
Aghast, astonish'd, and struck dumb with fear,
I stood; like bristles rose my stiffen'd hair,
Then thus the ghost began to soothe my grief:
'Nor tears, nor cries, can give the dead relief;
Desist, my much-loved lord, to indulge your pain
You bear no more than what the gods ordain.
My fates permit me not from hence to fly;
Nor he, the great comptroller of the sky.
Long wandering ways for you the powers decree
On land hard labours and a length of sea.
Then, after many painful years are past,
On Latium's happy shore you shall be cast
Where gentle Tiber from his bed beholds
The flowery meadows and the feeding folds.
There end your toils; and there your fates provide
A quiet kingdom, and a royal bride:
There fortune shall the Trojan line restore
And you for lost Creusa weep no more.
Fear not that I shall watch with servile shame
The imperious looks of some proud Grecian dame:
Or, stooping to the victor's lust, disgrace
My goddess-mother, or my royal race.
And now farewell: the parent of the gods
Restrains my fleeting soul in her abodes:
I trust our common issue to your care,'
She said; and, gliding, pass'd unseen in air.
I strove to speak, but horror tied my tongue,
And thrice about her neck my arms I flung:
And, thrice deceived, on vain embraces hung.
Light as an empty dream at break of day,
Or as a blast of wind, she rush'd away." 1




63:1 Æn. II.

63:2 Ib. II.

65:1 ÆN. II., Dryden's translation.

Next: Plate XXXII: The Faun's Kiss