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A Piece Of Possible History
by [?]

Homer smiled gravely. “Let it be so,” said he; and, in a lower tone, to the captain, who was troubled at the breach of courtesy, he added, “Let the boy see what war and Mars are for.”

He struck another prelude and began. Then was it that Homer composed his “Hymn to Mars.” In wild measure, and impetuous, he swept along through the list of Mars’s titles and attributes; then his key changed, and his hearers listened more intently, more solemnly, as in a graver strain, with slower music, and an almost awed dignity of voice, the bard went on.–

“Helper of mortals, hear!
As thy fires give
The present boldnesses that strive
In youth for honor;
So would I likewise wish to have the power
To keep off from my head thy bitter hour,
And quench the false fire of my soul’s low kind,
By the fit ruling of my highest mind I
Control that sting of wealth
That stirs me on still to the horrid scath
Of hideous battle!

“Do thou, O ever blessed! give me still
Presence of mind to put in act my will,
Whate’er the occasion be;
And so to live, unforced by any fear,
Beneath those laws of peace, that never are
Affected with pollutions popular
Of unjust injury,
As to bear safe the burden of hard fates,
Of foes inflexive, and inhuman hates!”

The tones died away; the company was hushed for a moment; and the old chief then said gravely to his petulant follower, “That is what men fight for, boy.” But the boy did not need the counsel. Homer’s manner, his voice, the music itself, the spirit of the song, as much as the words, had overcome him; and the boasting soldier was covering his tears with his hands.

Homer felt at once (the prince of gentlemen he) that the little outbreak, and the rebuke of it, had jarred the ease of their unexpected meeting. How blessed is the presence of mind with which the musician of real genius passes from song to song, “whate’er the occasion be!” With the ease of genius he changed the tone of his melody again, and sang his own hymn, “To Earth, the Mother of all.”

The triumphant strain is one which harmonizes with every sentiment; and he commanded instantly the rapt attention of the circle. So engrossed was he, that he did not seem to observe, as he sang, an addition to their company of some soldiers from above in the valley, just as he entered on the passage:–

“Happy, then, are they
Whom thou, O great in reverence!
Are bent to honor. They shall all things find
In all abundance! All their pastures yield
Herds in all plenty. All their roofs are filled
With rich possessions.
High happiness and wealth attend them,
While, with laws well-ordered, they
Cities of happy households sway;
And their sons exult in the pleasure of youth,
And their daughters dance with the flower-decked girls,
Who play among the flowers of summer!
Such are the honors thy full hands divide;
Mother of Gods and starry Heaven’s bride!”[A]

[Footnote A: After Chapman.]

A buzz of pleasure and a smile ran round the circle, in which the new-comers joined. They were the soldiers who had been to hear and join the music at the Carmel-men’s post. The tones of Homer’s harp had tempted them to return; and they had brought with them the Hebrew minstrel, to whom they had been listening. It was the outlaw David, of Bethlehem Ephrata.

David had listened to Homer more intently than any one; and, as the pleased applause subsided, the eyes of the circle gathered upon him, and the manner of all showed that they expected him, in minstrel-fashion, to take up the same strain.