In the hot-fit of life, a tip-toe on the highest point of being, he passes at a bound on to the other side. The noise of the mallet and chisel is scarcely quenched, the trumpets are hardly done blowing, when, trailing with him clouds of glory, this happy-starred, full-blooded spirit shoots into the spiritual land.
This essay, which is commonly (and justly) regarded as Stevenson's masterpiece of literary composition, was first printed in the _Cornhill Magazine_ for April 1878, Vol. XXXVII, pp. 432-437. In 1881 it was published in the volume _Virginibus Puerisque_. For the success of this volume, as well as for its author's relations with the editor of the _Cornhill_, see our note to _An Apology for Idlers_. It was this article which was selected for reprinting in separate form by the American Committee of the Robert Louis Stevenson Memorial Fund; to every subscriber of ten dollars or more, was given a copy of this essay, exquisitely printed at the De Vinne Press, 1898. Copies of this edition are now eagerly sought by book-collectors; five of them were taken by the Robert Louis Stevenson Club of Yale College, consisting of a few undergraduates of the class of 1898, who subscribed fifty dollars to the fund.
Stevenson's cheerful optimism was constantly shadowed by the thought of Death, and in _Aes Triplex_ he gives free rein to his fancies on this universal theme.
[Note 1: The title, _AEs Triplex_, is taken from Horace, _aes triplex circa pectus_, "breast enclosed by triple brass," "aes" used by Horace as a "symbol of indomitable courage."--Lewis's Latin Dictionary.]
[Note 2: _Thug_. This word, which sounds to-day so slangy, really comes from the Hindoos (Hindustani _thaaa_, deceive). It is the name of a religious order in India, ostensibly devoted to the worship of a goddess, but really given to murder for the sake of booty. The Englishmen in India called them _Thugs_, hence the name in its modern general sense.]
[Note 3: _Pyramids ... dule trees_. For pyramids, see our note 25 of chapter II above... _Dule trees_. More properly spelled "dool." A dool was a stake or post used to mark boundaries.]
[Note 4: _The trumpets might sound_. "For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?" I _Cor_. XIV, 8.]
[Note 5: _The blue-peter might-fly at the truck_. The blue-peter is a term used in the British navy and widely elsewhere; it is a blue flag with a white square employed often as a signal for sailing. The word is corrupted from _Blue Repeater_, a signal flag. _Truck_ is a very small platform at the top of a mast.]
[Note 6: _Balaclava_. A little port near Sebastopol, in the Crimea. During the Crimean War, on the 25 October 1854, occurred the cavalry charge of some six hundred Englishmen, celebrated by Tennyson's universally known poem, _The Charge of the Light Brigade_. It has recently been asserted that the number reported as actually killed in this headlong charge referred to the horses, not to the men.]
[Note 7: _Curtius_. Referring to the story of the Roman youth, Metius Curtius, who in 362 B.C. leaped into a chasm in the Forum, in order to save his country. The chasm immediately closed over him, and Rome was saved. Although the truth of the story has naturally failed to survive the investigations of historical critics, its moral inspiration has been effective in many historical instances.]
[Note 8: _Party for the Derby_. Derby Day, which is the occasion of the most famous annual running race for horses in the world, takes place in the south of England during the week preceding Whitsunday. The race was founded by the Earl of Derby in 1780. It is now one of the greatest holidays in England, and the whole city of London turns out for the event. It is a great spectacle to see the crowd going from London and returning. The most faithful description of the event, the crowds, and the interest excited, may be found in George Moore's novel, _Esther Waters_ (1894).]
[Note 9: _The deified Caligula_. Caius Caligula was Roman Emperor from 37 to 41 A.