A FEW REMAINING MOMENTS
In the days of the earlier sixties, we youth who wished to be thought elect did not feel ourselves so unless we were deeply read in Hawthorne's romance of The Marble Faun. We made that our aesthetic handbook in Rome, and we devoutly looked up all the places mentioned in it, which were important for being mentioned; though such places as the Tarpeian Rock, the Forum, the Capitoline Museum, and the Villa Bor-ghese might secondarily have their historical or artistic interest. In like manner Story's statue of Cleopatra was to be seen, because it was the "original" of the imaginary sculptor Kenyon's Cleopatra, and a certain mediaeval tower was sacred because it was universally identified as the tower where the heroine Hilda lived dreaming and drawing, and fed the doves that circled around its top. We used to show the new arrivals where Hilda's tower was, and then stand with them watching the pigeons which made it unmistakable. I should then have thought I could never forget it, but I must have passed it several times unnoting in my latest Roman sojourn, when one afternoon in a pilgrimage to the Via del Gambero a contemporary of that earlier day glanced around the narrow piazza through which we were passing and, seeing a cloud of doves wheeling aloft, joyfully shouted, "Look! There is Hilda's tower!" and if Hilda herself had waved to us from its battlements we could not have been surer of it. The present vanished, and we were restored to our citizenship in that Rome of the imagination which is greater than any material Rome, and which it needs no archaeologist to discover in its indestructible integrity.
No one to-day, probably, visits the Capitoline Museum for the Faun of Praxiteles because it gave the romance its name; but at my latest sight of it I remembered it with a thrill of the young piety which first drew me to it, and involuntarily I looked again for the pointed, furry ears, as I had done of old, to make sure that it was really the Marble Faun of Hawthorne. I was now, however, for no merit of mine, in official and scientific company with which it would have been idle to share my satisfaction in the verification of the Faun's ears. Instead of boasting it, I listened to very interesting talk of the deathless Dying Gladiator, who is held to have been originally looked at more from below than he has been seen in modern times, and who is presently to be lifted to something like his antique level. He, in fact, requires this from the spectator who would feel all his pathos, as we realized in sitting down and looking a little upward at him.
In his room and in the succession of the rooms filled with his immortal bronze and marble companions I was as if with ghosts of people I had known in some anterior life. They were so familiar that I felt no need to go about asking their names, even if the archaeologists had in several cases given them new names. I should have known certain of them by traits which remain in the memory long after names have dropped out of it. Julius Caesar, with his long Celtic upper-lip, still looked like the finer sort of Irish-American politician; Tiberius again surprised me with the sort of racial sanity and beauty surviving in his atrocious personality from his mother's blood; but the too Ne-ronian head of Nero, which seems to have been studied from the wild young miscreant when trying to look the part, had an unremembered effect of chubby idiocy. A thing that freshly struck me in the busts of those imperialities, which of course must have been done in their lifetimes, was not merely that the subjects were mostly so ugly and evil but that the artists were apparently safe in showing them so. The men might not have minded that, but how had the sculptors managed to portray the women as they did and live? Perhaps they did not live, or live long; they are a forgotten tribe, and no one can say what became of any given artist after executing the bust of an empress; his own execution may have immediately followed. But what is certain is that those ladies are no lovelier in their looks than they were in their lives; to be sure, in their rank they had not so great need of personal charm as women of the lower class. The most touching face as well as the most dignified and beautiful face among them is that of the seated figure which used to be known as that of Agrippina but which, known now as that of a Roman matron, does not relieve the imperial average of plainness. The rest could rival the average American society woman only in the prevailing modernity of their expression; imperial Rome was very modern, as we all know, and nothing in our own time could be more up to date than the lives and looks of its smart people.