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Rome - Some Sculptures In The Capitol

( Originally Published 1920 )



IN the centre of the room is the statue of the wounded Gaul, generally, though erroneously known as "The Dying Gladiator." It belonged to a group from Pergamos, in which was probably celebrated the victory of Attalus over the Celtic invaders of his realm (B.C. 240).

"I see before me the gladiator lie; He leans upon his hand-his manly brow Consents to death, but conquers agony, And his drooped head- sinks gradually low,-And through his side, the last drops, ebbing slow From the red gash, fall heavy, one by one, Like the first of a thunder-shower; and now The arena swims around him-he is gone, Ere ceased the inhuman shout which hailed the wretch who won.

"He heard it, but he heeded not-his eyes Were with his heart, and that was far away; He reck'd not of the life he lost, nor prize, But where his rude hut by the Danube lay, There were his young barbarians all at play, There was their Dacian mother,-he, their sire, Butchered to make a Roman holiday. All this rushed with his blood-shall he expire, And unavenged? Arise, ye Goths, and glut your ire!" -Byron, "Childe Harold."

It is delightful to read in this room the description in "Transformation":-

"It was that room, in the centre of which reclines the noble and most pathetic figure of the dying gladiator, just sinking into his death-swoon. Around the walls stand 'The Antinous,' 'The Amazon,' 'The Lycian Apollo, 'The Juno,' all famous productions of antique sculpture, and still shining in the undiminished majesty and beauty of their ideal life, although the marble that embodies them is yellow with time, and perhaps corroded by the damp earth in which they lay buried for centuries. Here, likewise, is seen a symbol, as apt at this moment as it was two thousand years ago, of the 'Human Soul,' with its choice of Innocence or Evil close at hand, in the pretty figure of a child, clasping a dove to her bosom, but assaulted by a snake.

"From one of the windows in this saloon we may see a broad flight of stone steps, descending alongside the unique and massive foundation of the Capitol, towards the battered triumphal arch of Septimius Severus, right below. Farther on the eye skirts along the edge of the desolate Forum (where Roman washerwomen hang out their linen to the sun), passing over a shapeless confusion of modern edifices, piled rudely up with ancient brick and stone, and over the domes of Christian churches, built on the old pavements of heathen temples, and supported by the very pillars that once upheld them, At a distance beyond-yet but a little away, considering how much history is heaped into the intervening space-rises the great sweep of the Coliseum, with the blue sky brightening through its upper tier of arches. Far off, the view is shut in by the Alban mountains, looking just the same, amid all this decay and change, as when Romulus gazed thitherward over his half-finished wall.

"In this chamber is 'The Faun of Praxiteles.' It is the marble image of a young man, leaning his right arm on the trunk or stump of a tree: one hangs carelessly by his side, in the other he holds a fragment of a pipe, or some such sylvan instrument of music. His only garment, a lion's skin with the claws upon the shoulder, falls half-way down his back, leaving his limbs and the centre front of the figure nude. The form, thus displayed, is marvellously graceful, but has a fuller and more rounded outline, more flesh and less of heroic muscle, than the old sculptors were wont to assign to their types of masculine beauty. The character of the face corresponds with the figure; it is most agreeable in outline and feature, but rounded and .somewhat voluptuously developed, especially about the throat and chin; the nose is almost straight, but very slightly curves inward, thereby acquiring an indescribable charm of geniality and humor. The mouth, with its full yet delicate lips, seems so really to smile outright, that it calls forth a responsive smile. The whole statue-unlike anything else that ever was wrought in the severe material of marble-conveys the idea of an amiable and sensual creature, easy, mirthful, apt for jollity, yet not incapable of being touched by pathos. It is impossible to gaze long at this stone image without conceiving a kindly sentiment towards it, as if its sub-stance were warm to the touch and imbued with actual life. It comes very near to some of our pleasantest sympathies."-Hawthorne.

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