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CHAPTER FIVE The Hard, Gemlike Flame in Aurelian Rome To him the sustained stillness without seemed really but to be waiting upon that interior, mental condition of preparation or expectancy, for which he was just then intently striving. Pater, Marius the Epicurean This page intentionally left blank Lnrn 'THE RENAISSANCE,' Marius the Epicurean may be described as circular. The Renaissance begins in medieval France with a Christianity of pagan inclinations and ends in Rome with a German critic who has made his pilgrimage to the capital of Christendom to see the pagan artifacts there. Marius begins with a pagan childhood full of Christian overtones and ends with an almost-Christian death of which the principal celebrated virtues are pagan. The two books have other similarities. Both depend on an intensity of visual imagination for their most effective realizations of their subjects. For all his bows to the tactile values of sculpture and for all his use of the metaphor of music, truth remains for Pater consistently a visual quality. Equally important, Pater's evocation of Aurelian Rome shows it to be as much a synthesis of varying modes of thought and expression as the Renaissance itself. But Pater uses a more intricate structure in Marius than in The Renaiassnce. The synthesis is given a presiding genius, Marcus Aurelius, whose most striking and paradoxical characteristic is his lack of interest in the spectacles going on around him. (Even Marcus Aurelius, however, must be drawn into Pater's favorite kind of dramatic incident, the confrontation with death as it strikes a beloved person, in this case Aurelius's son.) And the adventurous spirit, Marius, is given a guide. As critic Pater is very much present in The Renaissance; in Marius the omnipresence of the author as a philosopher of culture is less obvious. Marius (the personification of the reader of The Renaissance) among other things) has a companion who directs his thoughts. 133 Walter Pater The companion constantly shifts his physical form and his philosophical allegiance with the passing of time; the young physician at the temple of Aesculapius, Flavian, Cornelius, and even the young soldier who befriends Marius in the last chapter may be considered different embodiments of the "divine companion" Pater speaks about. Companionship, indeed, familiarity with others, gifted in this way or that, or at least pleasant to him, had been, through one or another long span of it, the chief delight of the journey. And was it only the resultant general sense of such familiarity, diffused through his memory, that in a while suggested the question whether there had not beenbesides Flavian, besides Cornelius even, and amid the solitude which in spite of ardent friendship he had loved best of all things-some other unfailing companion, ever at his side throughout; doubling his pleasure in the roses by the way, patient of his peevishness or depression, sympathetic above all with his grateful recognition, onward from his earliest days, of the fact that he was there at all?1 Further on we learn more about the "divine companion '': That divine companion figured no longer as but an occasional wayfarer beside him; but rather as the unfailing "assistant," without whose inspiration and concurrence he could not breathe or see, instrumenting his bodily senses, rounding, supporting his imperfect thoughts.2 There is certainly the suggestion that the companion partakes of each "real" companion Marius has known, partly through the powers of Marius's memory which 134 The Hard) Gemlike Flame are to be so vividly sharpened at the end of the book. Granting the theological importance of the "divine companion"-and Pater's desire to give some theological backing to his purpose of public apologia-the concept has a central esthetic function.3 It unites the various strains in Marius's experience and gives moral sanction to his choices, accomplishing both of these things while seeming to be Christian. Marius's ever-so-slightly shifting philosophical allegiances are closely tied to the tutelary spirit of the moment. For Pater a tutelary spirit can exist only in bodily form. Marius beholds and believes, always tying himself to the visual impression . One of the features of Marius's consistency throughout the book is that he depends very much on his eyes for the nourishment of his mind. His Cyrenaicism acknowledges varying philosophical possibilities, but each possibility must be one that Marius can behold. To some extent, of course, Pater's fictional method represents an evasion of commitments which his contemporaries were apt to...


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