It is many years ago that in the Bodleian at Oxford I was shown into
the beautiful room where John Selden’s noble library is placed. It is a
lofty, well-proportioned room, and on the walls are arrayed the silent
legions of the great scholar’s books.
At that time I was still fonder of books than of realities, and with
breathless haste I ran over the title-pages and contents of the grand
folios in over fifteen languages, written by scholars of all the
Western nations and of many an Oriental people.
Then I paused before the fine oil-painting near the entrance of the
room representing the face and upper body of the scholar-patriot. The
face is singularly, touchingly beautiful. The delicately swung lines of
the lips tell at once, more especially in their discreet corners, of
the deep reticence and subtle tact of the man. No wonder my Lady Kent
loved him. The combination of political power, boundless erudition, and
charming male beauty could not but be pleasing to a knowing woman of
the world. His eyes, big and lustrous, yet veil more than they reveal.
He evidently was a man who saw more than he expressed, and felt more
than he cared to show. Living in the troublous times of James the First
and Charles the First, he worked strenuously for the liberties of
his country, while all the time pouring forth works of the heaviest
erudition on matters of ancient law, religions, and antiquities.
His printed works are, in keeping with the custom of his day, like
comets: a small kernel of substance, appended to a vast tail of
quotations from thousands of authors. Like the unripe man I was,
I liked the tail more than the kernel. Yet I had been in various
countries and had acquired a little knowledge of substance.
And as I gazed with loving looks at the mild beauty of the scholar,
I fell slowly into a reverie. I had read him and about him with such
zeal that it seemed to me I knew the man personally. Then also I had
walked over the very streets and in the very halls where he had walked
and talked to Camden, Cotton, Archbishop Ussher, Sir Mathew Hale, Lord
Ellesmere, Coke, Cromwell. It was the period that we, in Hungary, had
been taught to admire most in all English history.
And there was more particularly one maxim of Selden’s, which he
carefully wrote on every one of the books of his library, which had
always impressed me most.
It ran: “Liberty above everything”; or as he wrote it, in Greek: περἱ
παντὁς τἡν ἑλευθερἱαν.
Yes, liberty–that is, political liberty–above everything else. I had,
like all people born in the fifties of the last century, believed in
that one idea as one believes in the goodness and necessity of bread
and wine. I could not doubt it; I thought, to doubt it was almost
absurd. And so I had long made up my mind to go one day to Oxford and
to make my reverent bow to the scholar who had adorned the shallowest
book of his vast collection by writing on it the Greek words in praise
However, before I could carry out my pilgrimage to the Bodleian, I had
been five years in the States. There indeed was plenty of political
liberty, but after a year or so I could not but see that the sacrifices
which the Americans had to make for their political liberty were heavy,
very heavy, not to say crushing.
And I began to doubt.
I conceived that it was perhaps not impossible to assume that in
Selden’s maxim there were certain “ifs” and certain drawbacks. My soul
darkened; and when finally I arrived at the Bodleian, I went into
Selden’s room, and to his portrait, prompted by an unarticulated hope
that in some way or other I might get a solution of the problem from
the man whose maxim I had held in so great esteem for many a long year.
So I gazed at him, and waited. The room became darker; the evening
shadows began spreading about the shelves. The portrait alone was still
in a frame of strangely white light. It was as if Apollo could not tear
himself away from the face of one who had been his ardent devotee.
After a while I observed, or thought I did, with a sensation of mingled
horror and delight, that the eyes of the portrait were moving towards
me. I took courage and uttered my wish, and asked Selden outright
whether now, after he had spent centuries in the Elysian fields with
Pericles and Plato, whether he still was of opinion that liberty,
political liberty, is the chief aim of a nation, an aim to be secured
at all prices.
Thereupon I clearly saw how his eyes deepened, and how the surface of
their silent reserve began to ripple, as it were, and finally a mild
smile went over them like a cloud over a Highland lake.
That smile sent a shiver through my soul. Selden, too, doubts his
maxim? Can political liberty be bought at too great a price? Are there
goods more valuable than political liberty?
After I recovered from my first shock, I boldly approached the smiling
portrait, and implored Selden to help me.
And then, in the silence of the deserted room, I saw how his lips
moved, and I heard English sounds pronounced in a manner considerably
different from what they are to-day. They sounded like the bass notes
of a clarionet, and there was much more rhythm and cadence in them than
one can hear to-day. They were also of exquisite politeness, and the
words were, one imagined, like so many courtiers, hat in hand, bowing
to one another, yet with a ready sword at the side.
To my request he replied: “If it should fall out to be your fervent
desire to know the clandestine truth of a matter so great and weighty,
I shall, for the love of your devotion, be much pleased to be your
suitor and help. Do not hesitate to follow me.”
With that he stepped out from the frame and stood before me in the
costume of the time of the Cavaliers. He took me by the hand, and in
a way that seemed both natural and supernatural, so strangely did I
feel at that moment, we left unseen and unnoticed the lofty room, and
arrived almost immediately after that at a place in the country that
reminded me of Kenilworth, or some other part of lovely Warwickshire.
It was night, and a full moon shed her mysteries over trees, valleys,
and mountains. On a lawn, in the midst of a fine wood of alders, Selden
There were several persons present. They struck me as being Greeks;
their costume was that of Athenians in the time of Alcibiades. I soon
saw that I was right, for they talked ancient Greek. Selden explained
to me that they had left Elysium for a time, in order to see how the
world beneath was going on. In their travels they had come to England,
and were anxious to meet men of the past as well as men of the present,
and to inquire into the nature and lot of the nation of which they had
heard, by rumour, that it had something of the nature of the Athenians,
much of the character of the Spartans, a good deal of the people of
Syracuse and Tarentum, and also a trait or two of the Romans.
Of those Greeks I at once recognised Pericles, the son of Xanthippus;
Alcibiades, the son of Clinias; Plato, the son of Ariston; Euripides,
the son of Mnesarchos; moreover, a man evidently an _archon_ or
high official of the oracle of Delphi; and in the retinue I saw
sculpturesque maidens of Sparta and charming women of Argos, set off by
incomparably formed beauties of Thebes, and girls of Tanagra smiling
sweetly with stately daintiness.
Selden was received by them with hearty friendliness, and conversation
was soon at its best, just as if it had been proceeding in the cool
groves of the Academy at Athens.
The first to speak was Pericles. He expressed to Selden his great
amazement at the things he had seen in England.
“Had I not governed the city of holy Athena for thirty years,” he
said, “I should be perhaps pleased with what I see in this strange
country. But having been at the head of affairs of a State which in my
time was the foremost of the world; and having always availed myself
of the advice and wisdom of men like Damon, the musician-philosopher,
Anaxagoras, the thinker, Protagoras, the sophist, and last, not least,
Aspasia, my tactful wife and friend, I am at a loss to understand the
polity that you call England.
“What has struck me most in this country is the sway allowed to what we
used to call Orphic Associations. In Athens we had, in my time, a great
number of private societies the members of which devoted themselves to
the cult of extreme, unnatural, and un-Greek ideas and superstitions.
Thus we had _thiasoi_, as we called them, the members of which were
fanatic vegetarians; others, again, who would not allow their adherents
to partake of a single drop of Chian or any other wine; others, again,
who would under no circumstances put on any woollen shirt or garment.
“But if any of these Orphic mystagogues had arrogated to themselves the
right of proposing laws in the Public Assembly, or what this nation
calls the Parliament, with a view of converting the whole State of
Athens into an Association of Orphic rites and mysteries, then, I am
sure, my most resolute antagonists would have joined hands with me to
counteract such unholy and scurrilous attempts.
“I can well understand that the Spartans, who are quite unwilling to
vest any real power whatever in either their kings, their assembly,
their senate, or their minor officials, are consequently compelled
to vest inordinate power in their few Ephors, and in the constantly
practised extreme self-control of each individual Spartan. In a
commonwealth like Sparta, where the commune is allowed very little,
or no, power; where there are neither generals, directors of police,
powerful priests or princes, nor any other incumbents of great coercive
powers; in such a community the individual himself must needs be his
own policeman, his own priest, prince, general, and coercive power.
This he does by being a vegetarian, a strict Puritan, teetotaller,
melancholist, and universal killer of joy.”
Here Pericles was interrupted by the suave voice of Selden, who, in
pure Attic, corroborated the foregoing statements by a reference to the
people called Hebrews in Palestine. “These men,” Selden said, “were
practically at all times so fond of liberty that they could not brook
any sort of government in the form of officials, policemen, soldiers,
princes, priests, or lords whatever. In consequence of which they
introduced a system of individual self-control called ritualism, by
means of which each Hebrew tied himself down with a thousand filigree
ties as to eating, drinking, sleeping, merrymaking, and, in short, as
to every act of ordinary life. So that, O Pericles, the Hebrews are
one big Orphic Association of extremists, less formidable than the
Spartans, but essentially similar to them.”
Selden had scarcely finished his remarks, when Alcibiades, encouraged
by a smile from Plato, joined the discussion, and, looking at
“My revered relative, I have listened to your observations with close
attention; and I have also, in my rambles through this country, met a
great number of men and women. It seems to me that but for their Orphic
Associations, which here some people call Societies of Cranks and
Faddists, the population of this realm would have one civil war after
“Surely you all remember how, in my youth, misunderstanding as I did
the Orphic and mystery-craving nature of man, I made fun of it, and
was terribly punished for it at the hands of Hermes, a god far from
being as great as Zeus, Apollo, or Dionysus. Little did I know at that
time that the exuberance of vitality, which I, owing to my wealth and
station in life, could gratify by gorgeous chariot races at Olympia
under the eyes of all the Hellenes, was equally strong, but yet
unsatisfied, in the average and less dowered citizens of my State.
“My chequered experience has taught me that no sort of people can quite
do without Orphic mysteries, and when I sojourned among the Thracians,
I saw that those barbarians, fully aware of the necessity of Mysteries
and Orphic Trances, had long ago introduced festivals at which their
men and women could give free vent to their subconscious, vague, yet
powerful chthonic craving for impassioned daydreaming and revelry. They
indulge in wild dances on the mountains, at night, invoking the gods
of the nether world, indulging freely in the wildest form of boundless
hilarity, and rivalling in their exuberance the mad sprouting of trees
and herbs in spring.
“You Laconian maidens, usually so proud and cold and Amazonian, I call
upon you to say whether in your strictly regulated polity of Sparta
you do not, at times, rove in the wildest fashion over the paths,
ravines, and clefts of awful Mount Taygetus, in reckless search of the
joy of frantic vitality which your State ordinarily does not allow
you to indulge in? And you women of Argos, are you too not given to
wild rioting at stated times? Have I not watched you in your religious
revivals of fierce joy?”
Both the Laconian and Argive women admitted the fact, and one of them
asked: “Do the women of this country not observe similar festivals? I
pity them if they don’t.”
And a Theban girl added: “The other day we passed over Snowdon and
other mounts in a beauteous land which they call Wales. It is much
like our own holy Mount Kithæron. Why, then, do the women of this
country not rove, in honour of the god, over the Welsh mountains,
free and unobserved, as we do annually over wild Kithæron? They would
do it gracefully, for I have noticed that they run much better than
they walk, and they would swing the _thyrsus_ in their hand with more
elegance than the sticks they use in their games.”
At that moment there arose from the haze and clouded mystery of the
neighbouring woods a rocket of sounds, sung by female voices and soon
joined in the distance by a chorus of men. The company on the lawn
suddenly stopped talking, and at the bidding of the Delphic archon,
whom they called Trichas, they all went in search of ivy, and, having
found it, wreathed themselves with it. The music, more and more
passionate, came nearer and nearer.
From my place I could slightly distinguish, in mid-air, a fast
travelling host of women in light dresses, swinging the _thyrsus_,
dancing with utter freedom of beautiful movement, and singing all the
time songs in praise of Dionysus, the god of life and joy.
Trichas solemnly called upon us to close our eyes, and he intoned a
_pæan_ of strange impressiveness, imploring the god to pardon our
presence and to countenance us hereafter as before.
But the Laconian, Theban, and Argive maidens left us, and soaring into
air, as it were, joined the host of revelling women.
After a time the music subsided far away, and nothing could be heard
but the melodious soughing of the wind through the lank alder-trees.
* * * * *
Then, at a sign of Trichas, Plato took the word and said:
“You are aware, my friends, that whatever I have taught in my Athenian
days regarding the punishment of our faults at the hands of the Powers
of the Netherworld, all that has been amply visited upon me in the
shape of commentaries written on my works by learned teachers, after
the fashion of savages who tattoo the beautiful body of a human being.
“I may therefore say that I have at last come to a state of
purification and castigation which allows one to see things in their
right proportion. Thus, with regard to this curious country in which we
are just at present, I cannot but think that while there is much truth
in what all of you have remarked, yet you do not seem to grasp quite
clearly the essence, or, as we used to say, the οὑσἱα of the whole
“This nation, like all of us Hellenes, has many centuries ago made up
its mind to keep its political liberty intact and undiminished. For
that purpose it always tried to limit, and in the last three hundred
years actually succeeded in limiting, or even destroying, most of the
coercive powers of the State, the Church, the nobility, the army.
Selden not improperly compared them to the Jews. And as in the case
of the Jews, so in the case of the English, the lack of the coercive
powers of State, Church, nobility, and army inevitably engendered
coercive powers of an individual or private character.
“This is called, in a general word, Puritanism. Our Spartans, who
would not tolerate public coercive corporate powers any more than
do the English, were likewise driven into an individual Puritanism,
called their ἁγωγἡ, which likewise consisted of fanatic teetotalism,
_mutisme_, anti-intellectualism, and other common features.
“This inevitable Puritanism in England assumed formerly what they call
a Biblical form; now it feeds on teetotalism–that is, it has become
liquid Puritanism. I have it on the most unquestionable authority, that
the contemporary Britons are, in point of consumption of spirits and
wine, the most moderate consumers of all the European nations; and the
average French person, for example, drinks 152 times more wine per
annum than the average Englishman. Even in point of beer, the average
Belgian, for instance, drinks twice as much as the average Englishman;
while the average Dane drinks close on five times more spirits than the
“Yet all these facts will convert no one. For, since the Puritan wants
Puritanism and not facts, he can be impressed only by inducing him to
adopt another sort of Puritanism, but never by facts.
“Accordingly, they have introduced Christian Science, or one of
the oldest Orphic fallacies, which the Mediæval Germans used to
call ‘to pray oneself sound.’ They have likewise inaugurated
anti-vivisectionism, vegetarianism, anti-tobacconism, Sabbatarianism,
and a social class system generally, which combines all the features of
all the kinds of Puritanism.
“We in Athens divided men only on lines of the greater or lesser
political rights we gave them; but we never drew such lines in matters
social and purely human. The freest Athenian readily shook hands with
a _metic_ or denizen; and we ate all that was eatable and good. In
England the higher class looks upon the next lower as the teetotaller
looks upon beer, the vegetarian upon beef, or the Sabbatarian upon what
they call the Continental Sunday.
“Moreover, there is in England, in addition to the science of zoology
or botany, such as my hearer Aristotle founded it, a social zoology and
botany, treating of such animals and plants as cannot, according to
English class Puritanism, be offered to one’s friends at meals. Thus,
mussels and cockles are socially ostracised, except in unrecognisable
form; bread is offered in homoeopathic doses; beer at a banquet is
simply impossible; black radishes, a personal insult.
“In the same way, streets, squares, halls, theatres,
watering-places–in short, everything in the material universe is
or is not ‘class’; that is, it is subject or not subject to social
Puritanism. All this, as in the case of the Hebrews, who have an
infinitely developed ritualism of eatables and drinkables, of things
‘pure’ or ‘impure’; all this, I say, is the inevitable consequence of
the unwillingness of the English to grant any considerable coercive
power to the State, the Church, the nobility, the army, or any other
organised corporate institution.
“They hate the idea of conscription, because they hate to give power to
the army, and prefer to fall into the snares of faddists.
“The coercive power which they will not grant in one form, they must
necessarily admit in another form. They destroy Puritanism as wielded
by State or Church, and must therefore, since coercive powers are
always indispensable, accept it as Puritanism of fads.
“What are the Jews other than a nation of extreme faddists? Being
quite apolitical, as we call it, they must necessarily be extremely
Orphic–that is, extreme Puritans.
“Political liberty is bought at the expense of social freedom. Nobody
dares to give himself freely and naively; he must needs watch with
sickly self-consciousness over every word or act of his, as a policeman
watches over the traffic of streets. And lest he betray his real
sentiments, he suppresses all gestures, because gestures give one away
at once. One cannot make a gesture of astonishment without being really
astonished at all, and _vice versâ_.
“And so slowly, by degrees, the whole of the human capital is
repressed, disguised, unhumanised, and, in a word, sacrificed at the
altar of political liberty.
“The Romans, much wiser than the Spartans, gave immense coercive power
both to corporate bodies, such as the Roman Senate, and to single
officials, such as a Consul, a Censor, a Tribune, or a Prætor. They
therefore did not need any grotesque private coercive institutions or
“The English, on the other hand, want to wield such an empire as the
Roman, and yet build up their polity upon the narrow plane of a Spartan
ἁγωγἡ. In this there is an inherent contradiction. They hamper their
best intentions, and must at all times, and against their better
convictions, legislate for faddists, because they lack the courage of
their Imperial mission.
“Empires want Imperial institutions, that is, such as are richly
endowed in point of political power. Offices ought to be given by
appointment, and not by competitive examinations, if only for five or
ten years. The police ought to have a very much more comprehensive
power, and the schools ought to be subject to a national committee.
Parliament must be Imperial, and not only British. Very much more might
be said about the necessity of rendering this Realm more _apotelestic_,
as we have called it, but I see that Euripides is burning to make his
remarks, and I am sure that he is able to give us the final expression
of the whole difficulty in a manner that none of us can rival.”
“For many, many a year I have observed and studied the most
life-endowed commonwealth that the world has ever seen, Athens. I
watched the Athenians in their homes, in the market-place, in the law
courts, in peace and war, in the theatre and in the temple, at the holy
places of Eleusis and Delphi, their men as well as their women.
“Personally I long inclined towards a view of the world almost
exclusively influenced by Apollo. I thought that as the sun is
evidently the great life-giver of all existence, so light, reason,
system, liberty, and consummately devised measures constitute the
highest wisdom of the community.
“In all I wrote or said I worked for the great god of Light, and
Reason, and Progress. I could not find words and phrases trenchant
enough to express my disdain for sentiments and ideas discountenanced
by Apollo. I persecuted and fiercely attacked all those dark, chthonic,
and mysterious passions of which man is replete to overflowing. I hated
Imperialism, I adored Liberty; I extolled Philosophy, and execrated
“But at last, when I had gone through the fearful experiences of the
Peloponnesian War, with all its supreme glories and its unrelieved
shames, I learned to think otherwise. I learned to see that as man
has two souls in his breast, one celestial or Apollinic, the other
terrestrial or Dionysiac, so there are two gods, and not one, that
govern this sub-lunar world.
“The two are Apollo and Dionysus.
“One rules the world of light, of political power, of scientific
reason, and of harmonious muses. The other is the god of unreason, of
passion, and wild enthusiasm, of that unwieldy Heart of ours which is
fuller of monsters, and also of precious pearls, than is the wide ocean.
“Unless in a given commonwealth the legislator wisely provides for the
cult of both gods, in an orderly and public fashion, Dionysus or Apollo
will take fearful revenge for the neglect they suffer at the hands of
short-sighted statesmen and impudent unbelievers.
“In the course of our Great War we have come into contact and
conflict with many a non-Greek nation, or people whom we rightly term
Barbarians. For while some of them sedulously, perhaps over-zealously,
worship Dionysus, they all ignore or scorn Apollo. The consequence is
that the great god blinds them to their own advantages, robs them of
light and moderation, and they prosper enduringly neither as builders
of States nor as private citizens in their towns.
“For Apollo, like all the gods, is a severe god, and his bow he uses as
unerringly as his lyre.
“It is even so with Dionysus.
“The nation that affects to despise him, speedily falls a wretched
victim to his awful revenge. Instead of worshipping him openly and
in public fashion, such a nation falls into grotesque and absurd
eccentricities, that readily degenerate into poisonous vices,
infesting every organ of the body politic and depriving social
intercourse of all its charms. The Spartans, although they allowed
their women a temporary cult of the god Dionysus, yet did not pay
sufficient attention to him, worshipping mainly Apollo. They had, in
consequence, to do much that tends to de-humanisation, and, while many
admired them, no one loved them.
“It was this, my late and hard-won insight into the nature of man,
which I wanted to articulate in the strongest fashion imaginable in
my drama called the _Bacchæ_. I see with bitterness how little my
commentators grasped the real mystery of my work. If Dionysus was to me
only the symbol of wine and merrymaking, why should I have indulged in
the gratuitous cruelty of punishing the neglect of Bacchus by the awful
murder of a son-king at the hands of his own frenzied mother-queen?
All my Hellenic sentiment of moderation shudders at such a ghastly
“Neither the myth nor my drama refers to wanton, barbarous bloodshed;
and such scholars as assume archaic human sacrifices in honour of
Dionysus, and ‘survivals’ thereof in Dionysiac rites, ought to be taken
in hand by the god’s own Mænads and suffer for their impudence.
“Human sacrifices indeed, but not such as are made by stabbing people
with knives and bleeding them to physical death. Human sacrifices in
the sense of a terrible loss of human capital, of a de-humanisation
caused by the browbeating of the Heart–this and nothing else was the
meaning of my drama.
“And what country is a fuller commentary on the truth of my _Bacchæ_
“Here is a country that, had Dionysus been properly worshipped by its
people, might be the happiest, brightest of all nations, a model for
all others, and living like the gods in perpetual bliss–that is,
in perfect equilibrium of thought and action, reason and sentiment,
beauty and moderation. They have done much and successfully for Pythian
Apollo; they have established a solid fabric of Liberty and Imperial
Power; various intellectual pursuits they have cultivated with glory;
and in their pæans to Apollo they have shown exquisite beauties of
expression and feeling.
“But Dionysus they persistently want to neglect, to discredit, to oust.
“Instead of bowing humbly and openly to the god of enthusiasm, of
unreasoned lilt of sentiment and passion, and of the intense delight
in all that lives and throbs and vibrates with pleasure and joy; they
affect to suppress sentiments, to rein in all pleasures, and to cast a
slur on joy.
“And then the god, seeing the scorn with which they treat him, avenges
himself, and blinds and maddens them, as he did King Pentheus of
Thebes, King Perseus of Argos, the daughters of Minyas of Orchomenos,
Proitos of Tiryns, and so many others. The god Dionysus puts into their
hearts absurd thoughts and fantastic prejudices, and some of them spend
millions of money a year to stop the use of the Bacchic gifts in a
country which has long been the least drinking country in the white
world, and as a matter of fact drinks far too little good and noble
“Others again are made by angry Dionysus to μαἱνεσθαι or rage by adding
to the 250 unofficial yearly fogs of the country, fifty-two official
ones, which they call Sundays.
“Again others, instigated by the enraged god Dionysus, drive people
to furor by their intolerable declamations against alleged cruelties
to animals, while they are themselves full of cruel boredom to human
“There is, I note with satisfaction, one among them who seems to have
an inkling of the anger of the god, and who has tried to restore, in a
fashion, the cult of Dionysiac festivals.
“He calls his Orphic Association the Salvation Army.
“They imitate not quite unsuccessfully the doings of the legs and feet
of the true worshippers of Dionysus; but the spirit of the true cult is
very far off from them.
“And so Dionysus, ignored and looked down upon by the people of this
country, avenges himself in a manner the upshot and sum of which is not
inadequately represented in my _Bacchæ_.
“And yet the example of the Hellas of Hellas, or of the town of Athens,
which all of them study in their schools, might have taught them better
“When, by about the eighth or seventh century B.C. (as they say), the
cult of Dionysus began to spread in Greece, the various States opposed
it at first with all their power. All these States were Apollinic
contrivances. They were ordered by reasoned constitutions, generally by
one man. In them everything was deliberately arranged for light, order,
good rhythm, clearness, and system. It was all in honour of Apollo,
the city-builder. Naturally the leaders of those States hated Dionysus.
“However, they were soon convinced of the might of the new god, and,
instead of scorning, defying or neglecting him, the wise men at the
head of affairs resolved to adopt him officially. In this they followed
(O Trichas, did they not?) the example of Delphi, which, although
formerly purely Apollinic, now readily opened its holy halls to the new
god Dionysus, so that ever after Delphi was as much Dionysiac as it was
“At Athens they honoured the new god so deeply and fully that, not
content with the ordinary rural sports and processions given in his
honour, the Athenians created the great Tragedy and Comedy as a fit
cult of the mighty god. The Athenians were paid to go to those wondrous
plays, where their Dionysiac soul could and did find ample food,
and was thereby purged and purified, or, in other words, prevented
from falling into the snares of silly faddists of religious or other
impostures. But for those Dionysiac festivals in addition to the cult
of Apollo, the Greeks would have become the Chinese of Europe.
“Why, then, do not the English do likewise? Why do they not build a
mighty, State-kept theatre, or several of them? Why does their State
try to pension decrepit persons, and not rather help to balance young
minds? Why have they no public _agones_ or competitions in singing,
reciting, and dancing? They do officially, next to nothing for music;
and if one of their _strategi_ or ministers was known to be a good
pianist or violinist, as they call their instruments, they would scorn
him as unworthy of his post. Yet few of such _strategi_ are the equals
of Epaminondas, who excelled both in dancing and playing our harp.
“But while they ignore music–that is, Dionysus’ chief gift–they
crouch before the unharmonious clamour of any wretched Orphic
teetotaller, vegetarian, or Sabbatarian.
“This is how Dionysus avenges himself.
“I see how uneasy they are with regard to the great might of the
Germans. Why, then, do they not learn to respect Dionysus, who was the
chief help to the powerful consolidation of the German Empire? German
music kept North and South Germans intimately together; it saved them
from wasting untold sums of money, of time, of force, on arid fads; it
paved the way to political intimacy.
“Had the English not neglected Dionysus, had they sung in his honour
those soul-attaching songs which once learned in youth can never be
forgotten, they might have retained the millions of Irishmen, who have
left their shores, by the heart-melting charm of a common music. From
the lack of such a delicate but enduring tie, the Irish had to be held
by sterile political measures only.
“In music there is infinitely more than a mere tinkling of rhythm;
there is Dionysus in it. Their teachers of politics sneer at Aristotle
because he treats solemnly of music in his ‘Politics.’ But Aristotle
told me himself that he sneers at them, seeing what absurd socialistic
schemes they discuss because they do not want to steady the souls of
their people by a proper cult of Dionysus.
“Socialism is doomed to the fate of Pentheus at the terrible hands of
Dionysus. Socialism despises Dionysus; the god will speedily drive it
“See, friends, we must leave–yonder Apollo is rising; he wants to join
Dionysus, who passed us a little while ago. Should both stay in this
country, and should they both be properly worshipped, we might from
time to time come back again. At present I propose to leave forthwith
for the Castalian springs.”