CHORUS Lo! e'en now our prince is being carried on a bier from Delphi's land unto his home. Woe for him and his sad fate, and woe for thee, old sire! for this is not the welcome thou wouldst give Achilles' son, the lion's whelp; thyself too by this sad mischance dost share his evil lot. PELEUS Ah! woe is me! here is a sad sight for me to see and take unto my halls! Ah me! ah me! I am undone, thou city of Thessaly! My line now ends; I have no children left me in my home. Oh! the sorrows seem born to endure! What friend can I look to for relief? Ah, dear lips, and cheeks, and hands! Would thy destiny had slain the 'neath Ilium's walls beside the banks of Simois! CHORUS Had he so died, my aged lord, he had won him honour thereby, and thine had been the happier lot. PELEUS O marriage, marriage, woe to thee! thou bane of my home, thou destroyer of my city! Ah my child, my boy, would that the honour of wedding thee, fraught with evil as it was to my children and house, had not thrown o'er thee, my son, Hermione's deadly net! that the thunderbolt had slain her sooner! and that thou, rash mortal, hadst never charged the great god Phoebus with aiming that murderous shaft that spilt thy hero-father's blood! CHORUS Woe! woe! alas! With due observance of funeral rites will I begin the mourning for my dead master. PELEUS Alack and well-a-day! I take up the tearful dirge, ah me! old and wretched as I am. CHORUS 'Tis Heaven's decree; God willed this heavy stroke. PELEUS O darling child, thou hast left me all alone in my halls, old and childless by thy loss. CHORUS Thou shouldst have died, old sire, before thy children. PELEUS Shall I not tear my hair, and smite upon my head with grievous blows? O city! of both my children hath Phoebus robbed me. CHORUS What evils thou hast suffered, what sorrows thou hast seen, thou poor old man! what shall be thy life hereafter? PELEUS Childless, desolate, with no limit to my grief, I must drain the cup of woe, until I die. CHORUS 'Twas all in vain the gods wished thee joy on thy wedding day. PELEUS All my hopes have flown away, fallen short of my high boasts. CHORUS A lonely dweller in a lonely home art thou. PELEUS I have no city any longer; there! on the ground my sceptre do cast; and thou, daughter of Nereus, 'neath thy dim grotto, shalt see me grovelling in the dust, a ruined king. CHORUS Look, look! (A dim form of divine appearance is seen hovering mid air.) What is that moving? what influence divine am I conscious of? Look, maidens, mark it well; see, yonder is some deity, wafted through the lustrous air and alighting on the plains of Phthia, home of steeds. THETIS (from above) O Peleus! because of my wedded days with thee now long agone, I Thetis am come from the halls of Nereus. And first I counsel thee not to grieve to excess in thy present distress, for I too who need ne'er have borne children to my sorrow, have lost the child of our love, Achilles swift of foot, foremost of the sons of Hellas. Next will I declare why I am come, and do thou give ear. Carry yonder corpse, Achilles' son, to the Pythian altar and there bury it, a reproach to Delphi, that his tomb may proclaim the violent death he met at the hand of Orestes. And for his captive wife Andromache,-she must dwell in the Molossian land, united in honourable wedlock with Helenus, and with her this babe, the sole survivor as he is of all the line of Aeacus, for from him a succession of prosperous kings of Molossia is to go on unbroken; for the race that springs from thee and me, my aged lord, must not thus be brought to naught; no! nor Troy's line either; for her fate too is cared for by the gods, albeit her fall was due to the eager wish of Pallas. Thee too, that thou mayst know the saving grace of wedding me, will I, a goddess born and daughter of a god, release from all the ills that flesh is heir to and make a deity to know not death nor decay. From henceforth in the halls of Nereus shalt thou dwell with me, god and goddess together; thence shalt thou rise dry-shod from out the main and see Achilles, our dear son, settled in his island-home by the strand of Leuce, that is girdled by the Euxine sea. But get thee to Delphi's god-built town, carrying this corpse with thee, and, after thou hast buried him, return and settle in the cave which time hath hollowed in the Sepian rock and there abide, till from the sea I come with choir of fifty Nereids to be thy escort thence; for fate's decree thou must fulfil; such is the pleasure of Zeus. Cease then to mourn the dead; this is the lot which heaven assigns to all, and all must pay their debt to death. PELEUS Great queen, my honoured wife, from Nereus sprung, all hail! thou art acting herein as befits thyself and thy children. So I will stay my grief at thy bidding, goddess, and, when I have buried the dead, will seek the glens of Pelion, even the place where I took thy beauteous form to my embrace. Surely after this every prudent man will seek to marry a wife of noble stock and give his daughter to a husband good and true, never setting his heart on a worthless woman, not even though she bring a sumptuous dowry to his house. So would men ne'er suffer ill at heaven's hand. (THETIS vanishes.) CHORUS (chanting) Many are the shapes of Heaven's denizens, and many a thing they bring to pass contrary to our expectation; that which we thought would be is not accomplished, while for the unexpected God finds out a way. E'en such hath been the issue of this matter.
Anecdotes of the late Samuel Johnson
Mrs. Piozzi, by her second marriage, was by her first marriage the Mrs. Thrale in whose house at Streatham Doctor Johnson was, after the year of his first introduction, 1765, in days of infirmity, an honoured and a cherished friend. The year of the beginning of the friendship was the year in which Johnson, fifty-six years old, obtained his degree of LL.D. from Dublin, and--though he never called himself Doctor--was thenceforth called Doctor by all his friends.
Before her marriage Mrs. Piozzi had been Miss Hesther Lynch Salusbury, a young lady of a good Welsh family. She was born in the year 174O, and she lived until the year 1821. She celebrated her eightieth birthday on the 27th of January, 182O, by a concert, ball, and supper to six or seven hundred people, and led off the dancing at the ball with an adopted son for partner. When Johnson was first introduced to her, as Mrs. Thrale, she was a lively, plump little lady, twenty-five years old, short of stature, broad of build, with an animated face, touched, according to the fashion of life in her early years, with rouge, which she continued to use when she found that it had spoilt her complexion. Her hands were rather coarse, but her handwriting was delicate.
Henry Thrale, whom she married, was the head of the great brewery house now known as that of Barclay and Perkins. Henry Thrale's father had succeeded Edmund Halsey, who began life by running away from his father, a miller at St. Albans. Halsey was taken in as a clerk-of-all-work at the Anchor Brewhouse in Southwark, became a house-clerk, able enough to please Child, his master, and handsome enough to please his master's daughter. He married the daughter and succeeded to Child's Brewery, made much money, and had himself an only daughter, whom he married to a lord. Henry Thrale's father was a nephew of Halseys, who had worked in the brewery for twenty years, when, after Halsey's death, he gave security for thirty thousand pounds as the price of the business, to which a noble lord could not succeed. In eleven years he had paid the purchase-money, and was making a large fortune. To this business his son, who was Johnson's friend, Henry Thrale, succeeded; and upon Thrale's death it was bought for 15O,OOO pounds by a member of the Quaker family of Barclay, who took Thrale's old manager, Perkins, into partnership.
Johnson became, after 1765, familiar in the house of the Thrales at Streatham. There was much company. Mrs. Thrale had a taste for literary guests and literary guests had, on their part, a taste for her good dinners. Johnson was the lion-in-chief. There was Dr. Johnson's room always at his disposal; and a tidy wig kept for his special use, because his own was apt to be singed up the middle by close contact with the candle, which he put, being short-sighted, between his eyes and a book. Mrs. Thrale had skill in languages, read Latin, French, Italian, and Spanish. She read literature, could quote aptly, and put knowledge as well as playful life into her conversation. Johnson's regard for the Thrales was very real, and it was heartily returned, though Mrs. Thrale had, like her friend, some weaknesses, in common with most people who feed lions and wish to pass for wits among the witty.
About fourteen years after Johnson's first acquaintance with the Thrales-- when Johnson was seventy years old and Mrs. Thrale near forty--the little lady, who had also lost several children, was unhappy in the thought that she had ceased to be appreciated by her husband. Her husband's temper became affected by the commercial troubles of 1762, and Mrs. Thrale became jealous of the regard between him and Sophy Streatfield, a rich widow's daughter. Under January, 1779, she wrote in her "Thraliana," "Mr. Thrale has fallen in love, really and seriously, with Sophy Streatfield; but there is no wonder in that; she is very pretty, very gentle, soft, and insinuating; hangs about him, dances round him, cries when she parts from him, squeezes his hand slily, and with her sweet eyes full of tears looks so fondly in his face--and all for love of me, as she pretends, that I can hardly sometimes help laughing in her face. A man must not be a MAN but an IT to resist such artillery." Mrs. Thrale goes on to record conquests made by this irresistible Sophy in other directions, showing the same temper of jealousy. Thrale died on the 4th of April, 1781.
Mrs. Thrale had entered in her "Thraliana" under July, 178O, being then at Brighton, "I have picked up Piozzi here, the great Italian singer. He is amazingly like my father. He shall teach Hesther." On the 25th of July, 1784, being at Bath, her entry was, "I am returned from church the happy wife of my lovely, faithful Piozzi. . . . subject of my prayers, object of my wishes, my sighs, my reverence, my esteem." Her age then was forty-four, and on the 13th of December in the same year Johnson died. The newspapers of the day dealt hardly with her. They called her an amorous widow, and Piozzi a fortune-hunter. Her eldest daughter (afterwards Viscountess Keith) refused to recognise the new father, and shut herself up in a house at Brighton with a nurse, Tib, where she lived upon two hundred a year. Two younger sisters, who were at school, lived afterwards with the eldest. Only the fourth daughter, the youngest, went with her mother and her mother's new husband to Italy. Johnson, too, was grieved by the marriage, and had shown it, but had written afterwards most kindly. Mrs. Piozzi in Florence was playing at literature with the poetasters of "The Florence Miscellany" and "The British Album" when she was working at these "Anecdotes of the Late Samuel Johnson." Her book of anecdotes was planned at Florence in 1785, the year after her friend's death, finished at Florence in October, 1785, and published in the year 1786. There is a touch of bitterness in the book which she thought of softening, but her "lovely, faithful Piozzi" wished it to remain. H. M.