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THE ADVENTURES OF ACHILLES,
A Hyde Park Komance.
A FEW evenings ago I strolled for a solitary ramble into Hyde Park. I had been dining with a friend, and flushed with an unusual allowance of wine, was desirous of inhaling the refreshing coolness of the air. The night was well suited to my purpose; it was mild and pleasant, with a gentle gale that just sufficed to wake into whispers the yellow foliage of the beech trees. A fine harvest-moon lent additional interest to the scene, now lighting up with faint reflection the distant hills of Surrey, and now chequering the broad tranquil surface of the Serpentine. Occasionally a passing cloud would throw into transient shadow the silvery bosom of the water, but the breeze soon dispelled its unwelcome gloom, and left the queen
of night to pursue her uninterrupted course through the blue serene of ether.
Insensibly as I rambled on, my mind took the calm meditative hue of the hour, and I found myself musing beside the statue of Achilles, which our economical countrywomen (laudably apprehensive of a tailor's bill) have erected without breeches in the Park. As I gazed on its majestic lineaments, my imagination ardently excited recalled. each circumstance connected with it. What! I said, if it could be restored to life, and were to relate its past transmigrations? It must have witnessed many strange events. As artillery it has figured at Salamanca, Vittoria, Thoulouse and Waterloo, and "could a tale unfold," that might well challenge attention. It has beheld the rise and fall of dynasties, has seen the hot blood smoke, the dying drop around it, and discharged its thunders at the command of hundreds over whom the daisy blossoms. As a statue, it is now the wonder of the metropolis, and if it were only for the edification of future historians, should be endowed with some principle of animation.
Impressed with this idea I continued with a fixed eye to gaze on it, until absorbed in reverie I seated myself beside a solitary stump that stands like a fugleman before its regiment of wooden
rails. The night was tranquil, and the only sound that broke its general stillness was the sullen call of the watchman, or the tramp of some solitary pedestrian along the stoney pavement of Piccadilly. Even this at last subsided, the watchman's voice came fainter and fainter on the ear, and I was alone in the silence of the hour. Gradually overpowered by the drowsy effect of the chill breeze upon a heated brain, I fell into a feverish slumber. Unconnected visions, in each of which Achilles was predominant, passed in review before my mind, until my imagination after many strange wanderings arranged itself into the following phantasm. I fancied that the statue addressed me, that he' revealed the circumstances of his birth, parentage, and education, which were of so old a date as to introduce me to the age of the classics, and that his communication, if such it can be called, was tendered in these words.
I was originally, he began, the brass out of which the famous Colossus of Rhodes was constructed. Stationed upon two islands with the billowy ocean rolling, and ships sailing between my legs, I appeared the sculptured Titan of the world. Veiled as a god in clouds I stood on my wavewashed eminence, the landmark of the shipwrecked mariner. All mankind vied with each other in the
warmth of their encomiums. The sculptor welcomed me as an emanation of divinest genius, and the homeward bound seaman, when at night he caught the first glance of the lanthorn that glimmered in my hand, would implore a benediction on my head. But statues like men are mortal, and on an evil hour I was hurled from my lofty position by the officious interference of an earthquake.
You may have heard that my massy trunk and huge fragments lay scattered on the ground for eight centuries, and that they were at last collected and sold by those Iconoclasts the Saracens, to a Jewish merchant of Edessa. This, however, is a mere school-boy's legend; for a few years subsequent to my fall, I was carried by a bronze merchant to Athens, which city I adorned in the shape of a war-horse. In this novel disguise I beheld Demosthenes when he went to deliver his famous oration pro Corona, and caught the last glance of Eschines as he looked back upon the home he was quitting for ever. Often beneath the calm still moonlight have I listened to the young Greek girls, as with mellow voice they chaunted the fragments of Sappho and Simonides. Often have I watched them wandering to and fro on the Piræus, with their graceful figures but half shrouded
in the glowing shadows of a Grecian twilight, and heard them whisper the accents of love in the sweet dialects of Athens and Ionia.
When Rome vanquished Greece, I remained among the number of those who sustained its disfiguring embraces. Stationed as Jupiter, in the forum, I was deeper in the politics of the senate than any, except the geese who had cackled its deliverance. I heard Anthony pronounce his funeral oration over the corpse of Cæsar, and was the god whom Catiline pledged in blood, when he threatened the subversion of the government. I beheld the yellow Tiber lit up with the blazing city, while to the music of his own lyre the matricide Nero celebrated its conflagration, and was crowned with laurel when his death announced that Rome was free.
After a long residence in the forum, during which I had witnessed the acmé of its celebrity, I was taken down to make way for a more elegant pilaster. Herculaneum was the place of my retreat, where I figured as the demi-deity Alcides, until the lava-flood of Vesuvius coffined both the city and myself, in one wide undistinguishable sepulchre. Never can I forget the hour. The day had been still, but gloomy, and a dull heavy cloud hung over the devoted city like its funeral pall.