"There Are No Fields Of Amaranth On This Side Of The Grave"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The ninety years of Landor's life span three eras of English literature. He was born in Wordsworth's period and was still young in the age of Romanticism. In his later years he saw the Victorians come into greatness. Though he experimented along all these lines, at heart he was a classicist, but with the violent emotions of romanticism. His fierce temper got him expelled from Cambridge University and caused a break with his father, on which account he retired to Wales, where he remained until his father's death in 1805. While there, Landor published poetry in Latin and English and wrote Gebir, a tale of the Moorish invasion of Spain which explains why he volunteered in the Spanish uprising of 1808 against Napoleon. Back in England afterward, he made an unhappy marriage from which he fled to Italy for a sojourn of twenty years. A return visit to England involved this man, so fond of law suits against others, in a libel suit against himself, so back he went to the peace of Italy, this time for the rest of his life. Landor's fascination with the ancient classical world and his wide reading combined in his most unusual composition, five volumes of Imaginary Conversations of Literary Men and Statesmen and Imaginary Conversations of Greeks and Latins, some 150 prose dialogues between such people as Achilles and Helen, Boccaccio and Petrarch, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, and Aesop and Rhodopè. The speakers serve more as spokesmen for the author than as individuals of the past, though in a sense they anticipate the dramatic monologues in verse by Landor's Italian neighbor, Browning. Aesop and Rhodopè are both slaves of Xanthus, a Samanian. Aesop wonders why the girl is friendly to one as ugly as he, when she is the loveliest of the slaves. He predicts that she will become famous in Egypt for her wealth and beauty. They discuss his fables, and he tells her one about the earth that called on Jupiter to make rain. Then they speak of truth. Aesop comments that man does not utter truth until he is ready to die. She declares that she must die early, and he discourses upon death. "Amaranth" is a flower which, according to mythology, never fades.

Laodameia died; Helen died; Leda, the beloved of Jupiter, went before. It is better to repose in the earth betimes than to sit up late; better than to cling pertinaciously to what we feel crumbling under us, and to protract an inevitable fall. We may enjoy the present while we are insensible of infirmity and decay; but the present, like a note in music, is nothing but as it appertains to what is past and what is to come. There are no fields of amaranth on this side of the grave; there are no voices, O Rhodopè, that are not soon mute, however tuneful; there is no name, with whatever emphasis of passionate love repeated, of which the echo is not faint at last.