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The Works of Edgar Allan Poe Raven Edition Volume 1
FOUR BEASTS IN ONE
-satisfying your eyes
With the memorials and the things of fame That most renown this city.-
I beg pardon; I had forgotten that Shakespeare will not flourish for seventeen hundred and fifty years to come. But does not the appearance of Epidaphne justify me in calling it grotesque?
"It is well fortified; and in this respect is as much indebted to nature as to art."
"There are a prodigious number of stately palaces."
"And the numerous temples, sumptuous and magnificent, may bear comparison with the most lauded of antiquity." All this I must acknowledge. Still there is an infinity of mud huts, and abominable hovels. We cannot help perceiving abundance of filth in every kennel, and, were it not for the over-powering fumes of idolatrous incense, I have no doubt we should find a most intolerable stench. Did you ever behold streets so insufferably narrow, or houses so miraculously tall? What gloom their shadows cast upon the ground! It is well the swinging lamps in those endless colonnades are kept burning throughout the day; we should otherwise have the darkness of Egypt in the time of her desolation.
"It is certainly a strange place! What is the meaning of yonder singular building? See! it towers above all others, and lies to the eastward of what I take to be the royal palace."
That is the new Temple of the Sun, who is adored in Syria under the title of Elah Gabalah. Hereafter a very notorious Roman Emperor will institute this worship in Rome, and thence derive a cognomen, Heliogabalus. I dare say you would like to take a peep at the divinity of the temple. You need not look up at the heavens; his Sunship is not there -- at least not the Sunship adored by the Syrians. That deity will be found in the interior of yonder building. He is worshipped under the figure of a large stone pillar terminating at the summit in a cone or pyramid, whereby is denoted Fire.
"Hark -- behold! -- who can those ridiculous beings be, half naked, with their faces painted, shouting and gesticulating to the rabble?"
Some few are mountebanks. Others more particularly belong to the race of philosophers. The greatest portion, however -- those especially who belabor the populace with clubs -- are the principal courtiers of the palace, executing as in duty bound, some laudable comicality of the king's.
"But what have we here? Heavens! the town is swarming with wild beasts! How terrible a spectacle! -- how dangerous a peculiarity!"
Terrible, if you please; but not in the least degree dangerous. Each animal if you will take the pains to observe, is following, very quietly, in the wake of its master. Some few, to be sure, are led with a rope about the neck, but these are chiefly the lesser or timid species. The lion, the tiger, and the leopard are entirely without restraint. They have been trained without difficulty to their present profession, and attend upon their respective owners in the capacity of valets-de-chambre. It is true, there are occasions when Nature asserts her violated dominions; -- but then the devouring of a man-at-arms, or the throttling of a consecrated bull, is a circumstance of too little moment to be more than hinted at in Epidaphne.
"But what extraordinary tumult do I hear? Surely this is a loud noise even for Antioch! It argues some commotion of unusual interest."
Yes -- undoubtedly. The king has ordered some novel spectacle -- some gladiatorial exhibition at the hippodrome -- or perhaps the massacre of the Scythian prisoners -- or the conflagration of his new palace -- or the tearing down of a handsome temple -- or, indeed, a bonfire of a few Jews. The uproar increases. Shouts of laughter ascend the skies. The air becomes dissonant with wind instruments, and horrible with clamor of a million throats. Let us descend, for the love of fun, and see what is going on! This way -- be careful! Here we are in the principal street, which is called the street of Timarchus. The sea of people is coming this way, and we shall find a difficulty in stemming the tide. They are pouring through the alley of Heraclides, which leads directly from the palace; -- therefore the king is most probably among the rioters. Yes; -- I hear the shouts of the herald proclaiming his approach in the pompous phraseology of the East. We shall have a glimpse of his person as he passes by the temple of Ashimah. Let us ensconce ourselves in the vestibule of the sanctuary; he will be here anon. In the meantime let us survey this image. What is it? Oh! it is the god Ashimah in proper person. You perceive, however, that he is neither a lamb, nor a goat, nor a satyr, neither has he much resemblance to the Pan of the Arcadians. Yet all these appearances have been given -- I beg pardon -- will be given -- by the learned of future ages, to the Ashimah of the Syrians. Put on your spectacles, and tell me what it is. What is it?