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"Then I know thee not.
Fla. I beg of you to know me, good my lord,
Tim. Had I a steward
No more, I pray,--and he's a steward." Surely here we see a glimmering hope of Timon's recovery, for he begins to distinguish. Formerly, in his mania of universal benevolence and love, he deemed such men as Lucullus and Sempronius equally worthy of his affection as this true and trusty soul; and afterwards, in his misanthropic frenzy, this same faithful fellow appeared equally worthy of his hatred as Sempronius, Lucullus, and all humanity. But now a sudden ray of light shoots through the darkness of his mind, and he makes the immense discovery that all men are not the same, and that there is one, at all events, who deserves to be singled out from the rest. If the wellsprings of life were not attacked, so important a change would justify the hopes of his complete return to sanity and reason. But, unhappily, Flavius has arrived too late to save his master, whom misery and madness have marked for death. When the Athenian senators offer to make the most brilliant reparation for their former ingratitude, and to load him with honours and power, he only answers. with bitter mockeries, giving as his final charge :
“Come not to me again: but say to Athens,
Timon hath made his everlasting mansion
Whether behind these words of his, and also when he says :
“Why, I was writing of my epitaph;
there lurks an intention of suicide, or whether they are merely the expression of a presentiment of his fastapproaching end, is of little import, for in either case his death is equally his own doing. His noble but weak nature was utterly wanting in the practical common sense which enables men to discern and follow the right path, and also in the energy so indispensably necessary if we hope to bear up against the reverses of fortune, and to guide, rather than to be drifted along by, the current of events.
In the mean time, Alcibiades marches against Athens, which he enters as a conqueror. One of his soldiers has discovered Timon's grave on the sea-beach, and gives the general the epitaph, of which he took the impression in wax: “Here lies a wretched corse, of wretched soul bereft: Seek not my name: a plague consume you wicked caitiffs left! Here lie I Timon; who, alive, all living men did hate: Pass by, and curse thy fill; but pass, and stay not here thy gait.”
Having read this epitaph, Alcibiades pronounces a funeral oration on the misanthrope :
“These well express in thee thy latter spirits,
TIMON OF ATHENS. SOURCES FROM WHICH THE
PLAY WAS DERIVED.
PLUTARCH, in his life of Antonius, says :
“ Antonius, he forsook the city and company of his friends, and built him a house in the sea, by the Isle of Pharos, upon certain forced mounts which he caused to be cast into the sea, and dwelt there as a man that banished himself from all men's company: saying that he would lead Timon's life, because he had the like wrong offered him that was before offered unto Timon, and that, for the unthankfulness of those he had done good unto, and whom he took to be his friends, he was angry with all men and would trust no man. This Timon was a citizen of Athens, that lived about the war of Peloponnesus, as appeareth by Plato and Aristophanes' comedies: in the which they mocked him, calling him a viper and malicious man unto mankind, to shun all other men's companies but the company of young Alcibiades, a bold and insolent youth, whom he would greatly feast and make much of, and kissed him very gladly. Apemantus, wondering at it, asked him the cause. Timon answered him, 'I do it because I know that one day he shall do great mischief unto the Athenians.' This Timon sometimes would have Apemantus in his company, because he was much like of his nature and conditions, and also followed him in manner of life. On a time when they solemnly celebrated the feasts of the dead, and that they two then feasted together by themselves, Apemantus said unto the other : 'O here is a trim banquet, Timon !' Timon answered again : ‘Yea, so thou wert not here. It is reported of him, also, that this Timon on a time (the people being assembled in the market-place about despatch of some affairs) got up into the pulpit for orations; and silence being made, every man listening to hear what he would say, because it was a wonder to see him in that place. At length, he began to speak in this manner : ‘My lords of Athens, I have a little yard at my house, where there groweth a fig-tree, on the which many citizens have hanged themselves; and because I mean to make some building on the place, I thought good to let you all understand it, that before the fig-tree be cut down, if any of you be desperate, you may there in time go hang yourselves.'
“He died in the city of Halæ, and was buried upon the sea-side. Now, it chanced so, that the sea getting in, it compassed his tomb round about, that no man could come to it; and upon the same was written this epitaph: • Here lies a wretched corse, of wretched soul bereft:
Seek not my name; a plague consume you wicked wretches left.' It is reported that Timon himself, when he lived, made this epitaph ; for that which is commonly rehearsed was not his, but made by the poet Callimachus:"Here lie I Timon, who alive all living men did hate : Pass by and curse thy fill, but pass and stay not here thy gait.””
This account is not the only one given of Timon by classical writers ; Lucian has a dialogue entitled
Timon, or the Misanthrope.” At the opening of the dialogue, the misanthrope calls upon Jupiter from his cave, and reproaches him, in language of more than Aristophanic irreverence, for letting his thunders sleep.
“Any scoundrel going to perjure himself, would now as soon dread the snuff of a last-night's candle as thy all-consuming flashes. In short, you seem to fling at them, instead of the tremendous thunderbolt, a burnt-out torch, of which no one fears either the fire or the smoke; the worst that can befall them, if it hits, is to get a smutty face. . . . What else can we think of it but that you are grown purblind and hard of hearing with age?”
As a consequence of this inaction on the part of master of gods and men, crime flourishes upon the earth.
But,” pursues Timon, “to dwell no longer at present on the common cause, and come directly to my ownhow have I been served ?" He had been rich in former days, and had made a generous use of his wealth in trying to make men happy ; but after having squan
dered immense treasures upon his friends, he became poor, and was no longer recognized by the ungrateful recipients of his bounty.
“If by chance I meet them in the street, they pass by me as we pass by the dilapidated monument of a man long since dead and forgot; without so much as stopping to read the inscription. Nay, several, if they spy me at a distance, take a different way.” Thus he has been driven by necessity into the desert, where he at least gains the one advantage of not being forced to see“those scoundrels who are battening in the prosperity they so ill deserve. Come, then, O son of Chronos and Rhea! and at length shake off this long and heavy slumber; blow your extinguished thunderbolt again into flame, or light it afresh at Etna; and, by a tremendous flash of indignation, show yourself once more that lusty and vigorous Jupiter you were when young,-unless you are minded to have the fictions of the Cretans believed, who even show strangers your tomb.” “Mercury !” cries out Jupiter, “who is that dirty fellow below, at the foot of Hymettus, with a goatskin about his loins, bawling up to us? Some talkative, saucy clown! Probably a philosopher, or he would never have dared to blurt out such blasphemies hgainst us." Mercury wonders that Jupiter does not recognize Timon, who so often formerly regaled him with festive offerings, and sacrificed whole hecatombs to him. Jupiter exclaims :
“Things are strangely altered with him! What has happened to reduce him to such a miserable condition ? " "I might say," answers Mercury, wisely, “his good nature and general philanthropy, his commiseration for all who were in want, have brought the poor man to ruin ; the plain truth, however, is, that it is his folly, his excessive complaisance, and his imprudent choice of friends, that has done it. The simple man never perceived that he was lavishing his favours on crows and wolves, and mistook all the vultures that were preying upon his liver for friends who kept him company merely from kindness and goodwill, while in reality they only came to gormandize. When they had completely gnawed all the flesh from his bones, and carefully sucked out all the marrow, they flew away and left him a dry skeleton, unknown and disregarded."