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Periander's rebellious son. This, however, was not the kind of rebellion that was intelligible to that early world. Had he raised among them a fire of insurrection, and proclaimed his wrongs, and made himself the head of a faction, and wrested Corcyra from the hands of Periander, both Corinth and Corcyra would have understood Lycophron. But not even now did he form any party, or give any explanation of the gloom that had fallen upon his life. That gloom was too profound, and the severance too complete, to admit of measures of recovery. He lived on the island as he had lived in the city, separated by the horrible shadow of that crime from everything real and practical and true. It stood between him and mankind, it stood between him and all the joys of life, it paralysed all his youthful energies, and chilled his every feeling. But yet, though he had neither heart nor hope for action, the stern and thoughtful youth got friends. The Corcyræans pitied and wondered at him, so young, so cut off from all that was delightful in life; they looked at him with awe, as a being of another species, not being able to contemplate him, on the other hand, with contempt as a weakling unable to avenge terribly. Spite of this amazing self-control, which was past their comprehension, the exiled prince was not one to endure, or to permit contempt. If they could have understood him they would have loved him; but who in these early ages could understand the young man who struck no blow either for advancement or for revenge? No one; yet the islanders took his part blindly, without either wish or acceptance of his.
And the court of Corinth returned to its old ways. By turns there would be whispers of the absent heir, and heads shaken, and ominous forecasts made. More foolish than ever grew Cypselus, more clearly incapable of any sway, and Periander was virtually sonless, and the family of the Cypselides, so recently founded, so vigorous as it had seemed, on the verge of returning to the obscurity from whence it. came. All this was present to the eyes of the ruler of Corinth with far more force than was perceived by his courtiers. He was old, and sooner or later he must die-and who was to come after him? He was old, and already his hands were less strong to wield either the sceptre or the sword: and who was to aid him in these imperial cares? Not Cypselus, for he was a fool; not Labda, for she was a And Periander's heart cried out for his boy. Was it not boyish waywardness after all-perhaps a touch of madness, exaggeration, the overstrain and absolutism of youthful passion? He missed even that stern pale countenance, even the reproach of that povertystricken wanderer about the streets. While he was there, a pitiless spectator of all the contradictions of Periander's life, the sight of him had been insupportable; but now still more insupportable was the vacancy in which his father's imagination still beheld him, stern in that remorseless virtue of inexperience, making no excuses, incapable of forgetting. Neither could Periander forget. He had banished his son, he had subdued his enemy, he had cleared away all disapNo. 610 (No. CXXX, N. s.)
proval, all his accusers from his path. And, lo! his own heart became his accuser. Melissa had won over the gods and her son to her side. Long had she lain unavenged in her grave: but let not men or kings think they are safe, so long as the circling years go on. The vengeance had been tardy. It had tarried long, and been as though it would never come; but at last, and with double bitterness for all the hours of her lingering, Nemesis was here.
This was what was working in the heart of Periander, while Lycophron in Corcyra turned his eyes across the great billows when they rose in storm, or over the calm blue where it deepened into purple, and the wind blew from Corinth, which was dear to him as his native city is to every Greek. Lycophron gazed with a longing in his eyes which his heart was too sick to acknowledge. What to him was one spot of the earth more than another? Did not men kill and betray in all the quarters of the world, in Corcyra as in Corinth, and amid all the distant islands of the sea? But Periander, on the other side, had no longer the confidence of youth, to whom at its darkest Nature still whispers, There will come a day;' and as time went on, he could endure the struggle no longer. Suddenly his resolution was taken; and soon it was whispered through Corinth that the expedition which was fitting out in all haste, with special care and splendour, was to bring home Lycophron from his banishment. The people crowded to the quays to see the vessels weigh their anchors, and the oars sweep out into the deep water; but few knew with what an offer the envoy was laden-no less an offer than that of Corinth itself and all its power and wealth, the sovereignty of the city. The ambassador was bidden to make no conditions, to exact no submission, to offer everything that Periander had to give. Not pardon but the throne, not the gates of his old home thrown open, but that home itself to be his own. Did any deceit lie under so magnificent a proposal, or had sorrow and age and an evil conscience so subdued the Corinthian tyrant? There was a time of long suspense while the vessels ploughed the sea, and all Corinth held its breath. What impatience of expectation stirred in the city when the time of the return drew near, and when it was told in the furthest corners, in the most silent chamber, that the sail on the horizon was the envoy coming back! Periander hardly awaited in the sea-town to hear the first burst of the flutes, the swelling pean of the crew, bringing back so great a freight. But the ships stole into the harbour like men disappointed, bringing disappointment with them, with no sound of joyful music, no shouts of welcome. The envoys had sought the Prince in his solitude with congratulation and entreaty. They had laid before him his father's magnificent offer, his longing to see him again, and the expectation of all the people. They had told him how the hopes of the city and its wishes were set before him. Proudly they had gone, conscious of such a mission as few ambassadors have had to carry-sadly, confused and disconcerted, they had come home. Lycophron had heard them to the end, listening coldly
to all their overtures; then had turned away, not even deigning a reply.
Here the interest of the story changes, and we leave the stern youth mistrustful and remorseless on his island to enter into the wild sorrow and disappointment of the old king. Not the refusal alone, but the cause of it, struck him to the heart. His son had turned from him because of his crime, and the cause was just. He had acknowledged the sufficiency of Lycophron's reason by this very offer of reconciliation, but now he perceived how deep the wound had gone. His son could not trust him. He had treated the proposal with contempt, as an artifice to cheat him out of his stern purpose. He had not believed in it nor in his father. And it might be that Periander had not meant all he said. The offer was so great, and he himself not yet so old nor so much subdued as to contemplate with satisfaction a complete retirement from all the cherished toils of royalty. But whether the proposal was made in entire good faith, or with a reservation, the feelings of the father and of the head of a dynasty about to fail overcame the anger of rejection, and even the sharper sting with which he saw that his son did not believe him on his word. What other messenger could he send to whom Lycophron would listen? Casting about him what to do, the eye of the tyrant fell upon his young daughter Labda, still a maiden in her father's house. The expedient was strange, but the case was desperate. Lycophron had not outgrown his love for his sister, his playfellow, the companion of his childhood. And Melissa's daughter could speak when all other voices failed to Melissa's son and avenger. Once more the ships were prepared, the rowers sat at their posts, the quays crowded with eager gazers to see this unusual company set forth. The historian, with true Greek contempt for the inferior sex, gives us no hint as to the thoughts of Labda, or the mind with which she undertook her mission. She was her father's messenger, nothing more. Swiftly the white sails carried her over the sea, on white wings, the dove of peace. Nor is the meeting dwelt upon, nor the softening of the exile's heart when he saw approaching from the echoing shore and the sea-foam, no goddess ocean-born, but in the familiar aspect of old his sister with soft words and pleading looks-Nature's own advocate and persuader. The plea had been put into her mouth. Yet there is something of a loftier strain in Labda's argument, which might mark the entrance of another, more generous, exalted, enthusiast mind into the bitter controversy. Oh, brother!' she said, shall the State perish because we suffer by an irremediable crime? Shall the Cypselides sink into the dust, and Corinth pass into the hands of strangers, and all our glory be as a tale that is told, because Periander killed Melissa? Lo! all this downfall and ruin will not bring Melissa from her grave, or cleanse the hand of Periander from her blood. But thou who art pure of blood, thou who hast in thee the soul of a hero, return and reign and do glorious deeds, that Heaven may forget the stain upon our house. Oh, Lycophron, am not I as
thee, motherless, robbed by Periander of a maiden's shield and succour? Yet I bid thee return, for I too am one of the Cypselides, and the ruin of the race will be my ruin. Our father is old, our brother is naught-is it nothing to you that we perish? Shall it be by your consent that our wealth shall go to the spoiler, our name to the dust? Oh, brother, put your hand into mine and return with me. Shall Labda, the daughter of Melissa, plead with Lycophron in vain?'
Lycophron listened with his head averted, his face covered; but the pure vibration of the maiden's voice rang through and through him. If there was one object left in the world worthy a thought, was it not to redeem the race, to set honour and truth in the place of treachery and crime? Was not this more than Periander, more than revenge, a possibility still open to the disenchanted soul which scorned the vulgar uses of rebellion? He listened, he wavered; but he was still too proud to yield. While Periander lives I will never return to Corinth,' he said.
Then Labda returned sadly, silently, across the sea.
We ought to know something more of the condition of the state before we can understand the final step in this tragical conflict, but the terse historian vouchsafes no information as to whether Periander was pushed to extremity by any discontents or tumults in the city, or the pressure of counsellors upon him to fulfil his engagement and give them a more vigorous and popular ruler; or if mere feeling, worked to the heat of passion, dictated his next proposal. Again he sent an embassy to the exile, whose proceedings by this time must have kept his island in a ferment of expectation, offering briefly to change places with him-Lycophron to be tyrant in Corinth, while Periander came humbly to Corcyra an exile as his son had been. And whether it was that Labda's heroic appeal had been all this time echoing in her brother's heart notwithstanding his refusal, whether it had begun to appear to him in his solitude that Corinth was yet worth an effort, and life not wholly treacherous, cruel, and miserable; or if ambition and satisfied vengeance woke up at last in a sudden impulse to accept the humiliation of his father, and grasp at the final triumph, is not to be divined from the record. But tired of refusal, tired of importunity, or satisfied with the atonement which stripped Periander of all his honours, Lycophron suddenly roused himself and accepted this final proposal. The envoys, half alarmed at their own success, hurried back to announce with mingled sensations these sombre and strange good tidings. Lycophron had accepted this last proof of sincerity, Lycophron was to reign in his father's stead, Lycophron was coming. Was Periander satisfied too? He called out his royal barges, and furnished them with all the decorative paraphernalia that has always surrounded a king, and prepared himself for his voyage. He had got that at least for which he had been struggling. The conflict was over, and though the success was sombre, not joyful, yet it was success. With what curious and
breathless silence must Corinth have looked on, while the ships were prepared and all set in order! He had been a tyrant; but even a tyrant when familiar, when he has added glory to the city, greatness and honour and wealth, is not to be parted with like a log, like the old hulk of a stranded ship.
But in Corcyra there were other thoughts. The islanders had thrown themselves hotly into Lycophron's cause, though he asked or accepted no sympathy from them; and the sight of this exiled son, supposed victim of Periander's pride and cruelty, had increased tenfold their hatred of the tyrant who had conquered them. We may suppose, though we are not told, that they had first used all the expedients of impassioned remonstrance before, in their despair, they resorted to the last tragic resource which cut all complications. They must have entreated him to save them from the dreaded presence of the tyrant, to take upon himself the chief authority in the island, to be their king who had clung to him in his adversity. But we know that Lycophron's stern decision was not to be moved by entreaties. He stood fast, as he had stood against all the softnesses and severities of his father, impervious to all influence. Now, as ever, he stood alone against the world. No temptation would make him a traitor to the father whom he had defied, and whose self-extinction he was about to accept. His intense scorn and loathing of treachery, which had already brought him so many miseries, was to bring the end of all. While Periander was making ready his ship, and Corinth preparing for her new ruler, the Corcyræans rose in a sudden tumult and cut all these agitations short at one blow. Fit end of such a story! They killed Lycophron out of mingled love and hate, that he might stay with them for ever, and keep at a distance the tyrant whom they feared. Thus the long tragic story of Lycophron, son of Periander, came to an abrupt and hasty end.
Periander purposed and attempted a terrible vengeance on Corcyra. But his plans were successfully thwarted by the people of the island of Samos, and thus an enmity grew up between the Corinthians and Samians which, by the important changes it introduced at a critical period of Greek history, brought the fate of Lycophron into particular prominence, and preserved the details of his life and death. The reader will find the story in the early part of the third book of Herodotus.
We have called this austere and melancholy hero a Greek Hamlet. It is unnecessary to point out the remarkable resemblance between the early facts of the story and those which shape the career of Shakespeare's great creation, perhaps the most universally interesting of all poetical personages. The comparison cannot, any more than any other comparison, be carried out to the end; but if Hamlet's inaction has been the bewilderment of all modern critics, what must the still more extraordinary attitude of Lycophron have been to the mind of his contemporaries, all inexperienced in the philosophies?