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Child, Lydia Maria Francis, 1802-1880 [1836], Philothea (Otis, Broaders & Co., Boston) [word count] [eaf046].
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With grace divine her soul is blest,
And heavenly Pallas breathes within her breast;
In wonderous urts than woman more renowned,
And more than woman with deep wisdom crowned.”

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It was the last market hour of Athens, when Anaxagoras,
Philothea, and Eudora, accompanied by Geta,
the favorite slave of Phidias, stepped forth into the
street, on their way to Aspasia's residence.

Loud shouts of laughter came from the agoras, and
the whole air was filled with the hum of busy multitude.
Groups of citizens lingered about the porticos;
Egyptians, Medians, Sicilians, and strangers from all
the neighboring States of Greece, thronged the broad
avenue of the Piræus; women, carrying upon their
heads olive jars, baskets of grapes, and vases of water,
glided among the crowd, with that majestic motion so
peculiar to the peasantry in countries where this custom

Philothea drew the folds of her veil more closely,
and clung timidly to her venerable protector. But
neither this, nor increasing twilight, could screen the
graceful maidens from observation. Athenians looked
back as they passed, and foreigners paused to inquire
their name and parentage.

In a few moments they were under the walls of the
Acropolis, walking in the shadow of the olive groves,
among god-like statues, to which the gathering

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obscurity of evening gave an impressive distinctness—
as if the light departing from the world, stood petrified
in marble.

Thence they entered the inner Ceramicus, where
Aspasia resided. The building, like all the private
houses of Athens, had a plain exterior, strongly contrasted
by the magnificence of surrounding temples,
and porticos. At the gate, an image of Hermes looked
toward the harbor, while Phœbus, leaning on his lyre,
appeared to gaze earnestly at the dwelling.

A slave, stationed near the door, lighted the way to
the apartment where Aspasia was reclining, with a
Doric harp by her side, on which she had just been
playing. The first emotion she excited was surprise
at the radiant and lucid expression which mantled her
whole face, and made the very blood seem eloquent.
In her large dark eye the proud consciousness of intellect
was softened only by melting voluptuousness;
but something of sadness about her beautiful mouth
gave indication that the heavenly part of her nature
still struggled with earth-born passions.

A garland of golden leaves, with large drops of pearl,
was interwoven among the glossy braids of her hair,
and rested on her forehead.

She wore a robe of rich Milesian purple, the folds of
which were confined on one shoulder within a broad
ring of gold, curiously wrought; on the other they
were fastened by a beautiful cameo, representing the
head of Pericles. The crimson couch gave a soft flush
to the cheek and snowy arm that rested on it; and, for
a moment, even Philothea yielded to the enchantment
of her beauty.

Full of smiles, Aspasia rose and greeted Eudora,
with the ease and gracefulness of one long accustomed

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to homage; but when the venerable philosopher introduced
his child, she felt the simple purity emanating
from their characters, and something of embarrassment
mingled with her respectful salutation.

Her own face was uncovered, contrary to the custom
of Grecian women; and after a few of those casual
remarks which everywhere serve to fill up the pauses
in conversation, she playfully seized Eudora's veil,
and threw it back over her shoulders. She would
have done the same to Philothea; but the maiden
placed her hand on the half-transparent covering, and
said, “With your leave, lady, I remain veiled.”

“But I cannot give my leave,” rejoined Aspasia,
playfully, still keeping her hold upon the veil: “I
must see this tyrannical custom done away in the free
commonwealth of Athens. All the matrons who visit
my house agree with me in this point; all are willing
to renounce the absurd fashion.”

“But in a maiden it would be less seemly,” answered

Thus resisted, Aspasia appealed to Anaxagoras to
exert his authority; adding, in an audible whisper,

“Phidias has told me that she is as lovely as the immortals.”

With a quiet smile, the aged philosopher replied,
“My child must be guided by her own heart. The
gods have there placed an oracle, which never misleads
or perplexes those who listen to it.”

Aspasia continued, “From what I had heard of you,
Philothea, I expected to find you above the narrow
prejudices of Grecian women. In you, I was sure of
a mind strong enough to break the fetters of habit.
Tell me, my bashful maiden, why is beauty given us,
unless it be like sunlight to bless and gladden the

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“Lady,” replied the gentle recluse, “beauty is
given to remind us that the soul should be kept as fair
and perfect in its proportions as the temple in which it

“You are above ordinary women,” said Aspasia;
“for you hear me allude to your beauty without affecting
to contradict me, and apparently without pleasure.”

The sound of voices in earnest conversation announced
the approach of Pericles with visiters. “Come
to my room for a few moments,” said Aspasia, addressing
the maidens: “I have just received a magnificent
present, which I am sure Eudora will admire. As she
spoke, she led the way to an upper apartment. When
they opened the door, a soft light shone upon them
from a lamp, which a marble Psyche shaded with her
hand, as she bent over the couch of Eros.

“Now that we are quite sure of being uninterrupted,
you cannot refuse to raise your veil,” said Aspasia.

Simply and naturally, the maiden did as she was
desired; without any emotion of displeasure or exultation
at the eager curiosity of her hostess.

For an instant, Aspasia stood rebuked and silent in
the presence of that serene and holy beauty.

With deep feeling she exclaimed, “Maiden, Phidias
spoke truly. Even thus do we imagine the immortals!”

A faint blush gleamed on Philothea's face; for her
meek spirit was pained by a comparison with things
divine; but it passed rapidly; and her whole soul
became absorbed in the lovely statues before her.

Eudora's speaking glance seemed to say, “I knew
her beauty would surprise you!” and then, with the
eager gayety of a little child, she began to examine the
gorgeous decorations of the room.

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The couch rested on two sphinxes of gold and ivory,
over which the purple drapery fell in rich and massive
folds. In one corner, a pedestal of Egyptian marble
supported an alabaster vase, on the edge of which
were two doves, exquisitely carved, one just raising
his head, the other stooping to drink. On a similar
stand, at the other side, stood a peacock, glittering with
many colored gems. The head lowered upon the
breast formed the handle; while here and there, among
the brilliant tail feathers, appeared a languid flame
slowly burning away the perfumed oil, with which the
bird was filled.

Eudora clapped her hands, with an exclamation of
delight. “That is the present of which I spoke,” said
Aspasia, smiling: “It was sent by Artaphernes, the
Persian, who has lately come to Athens to buy pictures
and statues for the great king.”

As Philothea turned towards her companion, she met
Aspasia's earnest gaze. “Had you forgotten where
you were?” she asked.

“No, lady, I could not forget that,” replied the
maiden. As she spoke, she hastily withdrew her eyes
from an immodest picture, on which they had accidentally
rested; and, blushing deeply, she added, “But
there is something so life-like in that slumbering marble,
that for a moment I almost feared Eudora would
waken it.”

“You will not look upon the picture,” rejoined
Aspasia; “yet it relates a story of one of the gods you
reverence so highly. I am told you are a devout believer
in these fables?”

“When fiction is the robe of truth, I worship it for
what it covers,” replied Philothea; “but I love not
the degrading fables which poets have made concerning

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divine beings. Such were not the gods of Solon; for
such the wise and good can never be, in this world or

“Then you believe in a future existence?” said
Aspasia, with an incredulous smile.

With quiet earnestness, Philothea answered: “Lady,
the simple fact that the human soul has ever thought
of another world, is sufficient proof that there is one;
for how can an idea be formed by mortals, unless it has
first existed in the divine mind?”

“A reader of Plato, I perceive!” exclaimed Aspasia:
“They told me I should find you pure and child-like;
with a soul from which poetry sparkled, like
moonlight on the waters. I did not know that wisdom
and philosophy lay concealed in its depths.”

“Is there any other wisdom than true simplicity and
innocence?” asked the maiden.

With a look of delighted interest, Aspasia took her
arm familiarly; saying, “You and I must be friends.
I shall not grow weary of you, as I do of other women.
Not of you, dearest,” she added in an under tone,
tapping Eudora's cheek. “You must come here constantly,
Philothea. Though I am aware,” continued
she, smiling, “that it is bad policy for me to seek a
guest who will be sure to eclipse me.”

“Pardon me, lady,” said Philothea; gently disengaging
herself: “Friendship cannot be without sympathy.”

A sudden flush of anger suffused Aspasia's countenance;
and Eudora looked imploringly at her friend,
as she said, “You love me, Philothea; and I am sure
we are very different.”

“I crave pardon,” interrupted Aspasia, with haughty
impatience. “I should have remembered that the

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conversation prized by Pericles and Plato, might appear
contemptible, to this youthful Pallas, who so proudly
seeks to conceal her precious wisdom from ears profane.”

“Lady, you mistake me,” answered Philothea,
mildly: “Your intellect, your knowledge, are as far
above mine as the radiant stars are above the flowers
of the field. Besides, I never felt contempt for anything
to which the gods had given life. It is impossible
for me to despise you; but I pity you.”

“Pity!” exclaimed Aspasia, in a piercing tone,
which made both the maidens start. “Am I not the
wife of Pericles, and the friend of Plato? Has not
Phidias modelled his Aphrodite from my form? Is there
in all Greece a poet who has not sung my praises?
Is there an artist who has not paid me tribute?
Phœnicia sends me her most splendid manufactures
and her choicest slaves; Egypt brings her finest linen
and her metals of curious workmanship; while Persia
unrolls her silks, and pours out her gems at my feet.
To the remotest period of time, the world,—aye, the
world,—maiden, will hear of Aspasia the beautiful
and the gifted!”

For a moment, Philothea looked on her, silently and
meekly, as she stood with folded arms, flushed brow,
and proudly arched neck. Then, in a soft, sad voice,
she answered: “Aye, lady—hut will your spirit hear
the echo of your fame, as it rolls back from the now
silent shores of distant ages?”

“You utter nonsense!” said Aspasia, abruptly:
“There is no immortality but fame. In history, the
star of my existence will never set—but shine brilliantly
and forever in the midst of its most glorious

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After a brief pause, Philothea resumed: “But when
men talk of Aspasia the beautiful and the gifted, will
they add, Aspasia the good—the happy—the innocent?”

The last word was spoken in a low, emphatic tone.
A slight quivering about Aspasia's lips betrayed emotion
crowded back upon the heart; while Eudora bowed
her head, in silent confusion, at the bold admonition of
her friend.

With impressive kindness, the maiden continued:
“Daughter of Axiochus, do you never suspect that the
homage you receive is half made up of selfishness and
impurity? This boasted power of intellect—this giddy
triumph of beauty—what do they do for you? Do
they make you happy in the communion of your own
heart? Do they bring you nearer to the gods? Do
they make the memory of your childhood a gladness,
or a sorrow?”

Aspasia sank on the couch, and bowed her head
upon her hands. For a few moments, the tears might
be seen stealing through her fingers; while Eudora,
with the ready sympathy of a warm heart, sobbed

Aspasia soon recovered her composure. “Philothea,”
she said, “you have spoken to me as no one
ever dared to speak; but my own heart has sometimes
uttered the truth less mildly. Yesterday I
learned the same lesson from a harsher voice. A
Corinthian sailor pointed at this house, and said,
`There dwells Aspasia, the courtezan, who makes her
wealth by the corruption of Athens!' My very blood
boiled in my veins, that such an one as he could give
me pain. It is true the illustrious Pericles has made
me his wife; but there are things which even his power,

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and my own allurements fail to procure. Ambitious
women do indeed come here to learn how to be distinguished;
and the vain come to study the fashion of my
garments, and the newest braid of my hair. But the
purest and best matrons of Greece refuse to be my
guests. You, Philothea, came reluctantly—and because
Pericles would have I so. Yes,” she added,
the tears again starting to her eyes—“I know the
price at which I purchase celebrity. Poets will sing
of me at feasts, and orators describe me at the games;
but what will that be to me, when I have gone into
the silent tomb? Like the lifeless guest at Egyptian
tables, Aspasia will be all unconscious of the garlands
she wears.

Philothea, you think me vain, and heartless, and
wicked; and so I am. But there are moments when
I am willing that this tongue, so praised for its eloquence,
should be dumb forever—that this beauty,
which men worship, should be hidden in the deepest
recesses of barbarian forests—so that I might again
be as I was, when the sky was clothed in perpetual
glory, and the earth wore not so sad a smile as now.
Oh, Philothea! would to the gods, I had your purity
and goodness! But you despise me;—for you are

Soothingly, and almost tearfully, the maiden replied:
“No, lady; such were not the feelings which made
me say we could not be friends. It is because we
have chosen different paths; and paths that never approach
each other. What to you seem idle dreams,
are to me sublime realities, for which I would gladly
exchange all that you prize in existence. You live for
immortality in this world; I live for immortality in
another. The public voice is your oracle; I listen to

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the whisperings of the gods in the stillness of my own
heart; and never yet, dear lady, have those two oracles
spoken the same language.”

Then falling on her knees, and looking up earnestly,
she exclaimed, “Beautiful and gifted one! Listen to
the voice that tries to win you back to innocence and
truth! Give your heart up to it, as a little child led
by its mother's hand! Then shall the flowers again
breathe poetry, and the stars move in music.”

“It is too late,” murmured Aspasia: “The flowers
are scorched—the stars are clouded. I cannot again
be as I have been.”

“Lady, it is never too late,” replied Philothea:
“You have unbounded influence—use it nobly! No
longer seek popularity by flattering the vanity, or ministering
to the passions of the Athenians. Let young
men hear the praise of virtue from the lips of beauty.
Let them see religion married to immortal genius.
Tell them it is ignoble to barter the heart's wealth for
heaps of coin—that love weaves a simple wreath of
his own bright hopes stronger than massive chains of
gold. Urge Pericles to prize the good of Athens more
than the applause of its populace—to value the permanence
of her free institutions more than the splendor
of her edifices. Oh, lady, never, never, had any mortal
such power to do good!”

Aspasia sat gazing intently on the beautiful speaker,
whose tones grew more and more earnest as she proceeded.

“Philothea,” she replied, “you have moved me
strangely. There is about you an influence that cannot
be resisted. It is like what Pindar says of music;
if it does not give delight, it is sure to agitate and oppress
the heart. From the first moment you spoke, I

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have felt this mysterious power. It is as if some
superior being led me back, even against my will, to
the days of my childhood, when I gathered acorns from
the ancient oak that shadows the fountain of Byblis,
or ran about on the banks of my own beloved Meander,
filling my robe with flowers.”

There was silence for a moment. Eudora smiled
through her tears, as she whispered, “Now, Philothea,
sing that sweet song Anaxagoras taught you. He
too is of Ionia; and Aspasia will love to hear it.”

The maiden answered with a gentle smile, and
began to warble the first notes of a simple bird-like

“Hush!” said Aspasia, putting her hand on Philothea's
mouth, and bursting into tears—“It was the
first tune I ever learned; and I have not heard it since
my mother sung it to me.”

“Then let me sing it, lady,” rejoined Philothea:
“It is good for us to keep near our childhood. In
leaving it, we wander from the gods.”

A slight tap at the door made Aspasia start up suddenly;
and stooping over the alabaster vase of water,
she hastened to remove all traces of her tears.

As Eudora opened the door, a Byzantian slave bowed
low, and waited permission to speak.

“Your message?” said Aspasia, with queenly

“If it please you, lady, my master bids me say he
desires your presence.”

“We come directly,” she replied; and with another
low bow, the Byzantian closed the door.

Before a mirror of polished steel, supported by ivory
graces, Aspasia paused to adjust the folds of her robe,
and replace a curl that had strayed from its golden

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As she passed, she continued to look back at the
reflection of her own fair form, with a proud glance
which seemed to say, “Aspasia is herself again!”

Philothea took Eudora's arm, and folding her veil
about her, with a deep sigh followed to the room

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Child, Lydia Maria Francis, 1802-1880 [1836], Philothea (Otis, Broaders & Co., Boston) [word count] [eaf046].
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