A Walk In Hellas:
From Thebes To Lebedeia
Stop At Lebedeia
Read More Articles About: A Walk In Hellas
From Thebes To Lebedeia
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
We must get up early if we wish to make the present trip in one day, at our customary gait. For we cannot think of hurrying through this classic landscape, as if we had on our hands a piece of pressing business. Much is there on our way to be looked at with leisure ; therefore about an hour before sunrise we slide out of the door of the wineshop into the street still dark, and grope along down the Theban hill into the Megalos Dromos, or Great Road which leads to Lebedeia. We pass by Dirke, not now radiant with the sun glancing over her waters, but wrapped in a Stygian cloak ; well it is thus, for she must not detain us today. Cotton wagons are already moving with slow rumble over the high-way; the burdened donkey trudges on through the dark, all invisible except the ears which still move backward and forward ; dogs rush out at you, but you must keep in hand the protecting stone which they have the power of seeing by night as well as by day.
But the Dawn has now come, suddenly, silently still here she is, softly throwing her cream-colored mantle over the mountains. Aurora is indeed a light stepper; nobody ever beheld her face, only her shadowy white folds trailing behind can be seen after she has already darted by you. During some wink of the eye she came and went ; I wake up of a sudden to observe her already flown far to the West. But she has left her blessing ; at her touch all forms begin to free themselves of darkness and grow distinct. The wagons roll by now visible ; ask the drivers how far to Lebedeia. The first one will say, ten hours ; the second, nine ; the third, noticing the sharp gait of the pedestrian in the morning freshness, will answer: Thus you will make it in eight hours. All of them pronounce the name of the town Lebedeia, throwing the accent forward to the last syllable, in Romaic fashion.
The twilight of the morning seems to hover longest around yonder hill off to the right; you can notice it wrapped in a fine-woven shroud of haze, while the plain about it reposes in clearest sunlight. You are continually coming nearer to it, still the dim film of Dawn refuses to reveal distinctly the summit. That is the mountain of the Sphinx, she who gave the riddle which was solved by Oedipus, being still to-day somewhat wrapped in haze. After its solution, says the legend, she cast herself down from her eminence and perished ; when her secret had been guessed, she could no longer exist. But approach the mountain and look up with sharpened vision ; you will still see the face of a woman there in the rock gazing intently upon the waters of lake Copais. Then she has not cast herself down but remains high up there, with her old riddle for you and me as well as for Oedipus which riddle we too must solve at the peril of our existence. With rude stone features she gazes into the mirror of the reedy Copaic waters, trying to behold some image of herself therein, one thinks, That seems to have been the old problem : to see her own visage, to find out what she is herself. Very difficult indeed it is, O Sphinx, for thee to behold thy face in the unsteady and often slimy surface of Copaic slough ; still on sunny, windless days thou mayst witness some dim image, which, however, vanishes with the first strong breath of air among the reeds. Gaze on thousands of years, I prophesy, must sweep over thee before thou canst fully behold thyself reflected in the transparent crystal at thy feet. Another Oedipus, many others must pass and give some answer to thy question ere thy foundations of rock will tremble, and thou wilt precipitate thyself from thy altitude to the common level of the earth. We must move on, and leave the Sphinx still gazing down into the waters with the thin veil of haze slightly drawn over the stony face ; there you too may behold it in your journey.
But on the left we glance over the ridge with a different kind of feeling. For behind there we recollect that ancient Thespia lay, from whose ruins still comes a fresh breath of Panhellenic patriotism. With Plataea it refused to give earth and water, the symbol of submission to the Persian ; its name appears in the two great muster-rolls, the legendary and historical, of Greece against the Asiatic. Nor must we fail to do our share in correcting the injustice of fame ; 700 of its citizens, though dismissed, refused to leave Leonidas at Themopylae, and perished with him there; yet those Thespians, with equal heroism and greater devotion, seem always to be forgotten in the glory of their fellow combatants, the 300 Spartans. But we shall not forget them, the brave men, as we look upon their land; nor shall we pass over those 1,800 survivors of the little town who came to the Greek camp to fight at Plataea, though their homes had been plundered and burnt by the enemy, and though they in consequence of their losses were too poor to purchase equipments ; still they came with undiminished fortitude to take part in the battle, without armor, determined to be present at any rate. Such was one vein of the golden character anciently to be found in Thespia.
But not because of its glory in war would I go there, if I were the ancient traveler, but to behold the masterpiece of Praxiteles, the statue of the God Eros set up and worshiped in Thespia. Thither in antiquity many pilgrims flocked to see the Divinity of Love in his supreme manifestation; thither many of us would go now to catch a glimpse of his true features, or perchance to conciliate him in some desperate venture. Nor should we forget upon this spot the stratagem of Thespian Phryne beloved of Praxiteles, who offered her the choice of his statues. But she wanted the best, and he refused to tell her which he thought was the best, till one day she started the shout that his house was on fire and his works perishing ; then he uttered an anxious cry for his Eros, whereupon Phryne chose that. Here she dedicated the beautiful image, in this her native town, after a life devoted to the God, deeming, in a way strange to our modern consciousness, that even her vocation was not with-out some gleams of divine influence and participation.
Today we are hardly allowed to speak of this power as a God, as the ancients did ; it is, however, a power still felt, divinely felt. Man's being is twisted together out of many strands, some dark, some bright ; but the brightest strand is that contributed by Eros. In fact life is insipid, utterly prosaic, if it be not flavored in some way by his fond presence ; from him still springs the youth, the poetry of existence. Unaccountably he winds through and colors all our actions as well as sayings ; nought is sweeter even in our worn days than a true utterance of him either in word or deed. It is no wonder, then, that in the olden time admiring crowds came to Thespia, just to behold Eros in his highest revelation; thither we too would go with joy to see such a conception looking out from the marble.
Nor should we fail to hunt up in the Thespian territory that spring which punished the fair youth Narcissus, who despised the might of Eros ; looking into the clear waters, he saw his own face, and fell so deeply in love with it that he wasted away to death. Such was the just penalty inflicted by Eros upon the youth who contemned the divine gift, for he who cannot love, is smitten with a desperate self-love, in which he pines away to some miserable end. Such, at least, would seem to be the warning of the God, transmitted in his legend ; such too is that wonderful spring mirroring some inner as well as outer visage of the person who gazes into its depths. To it you and I would now go, were we certain of finding it, and look upon its glassy waters, without danger from the image therein reflected, I am sure.
Thespia was indeed with justice a favorite resort of Love's pilgrim anciently ; three statues of marble stood there we may think of them as standing side by side which must have been the whole revelation of this theme. There was first the goddess-mother, Aphrodite herself, queen of Love and Beauty among the Immortals ; then came her son, Eros, not a babe but a youth in whom the mother shows all her might, and communicates it to mortals ; finally there was the mortal form Phryne, in whom the divine fire was most perfectly manifested she who was loved by the artist himself, and through whom he was led up into the ideal world of his Art. Such was the trilogy of Love composed by Praxiteles and possessed by the Thespians, for which he above all sculptors was best gifted, since the point wherein his style culminates is to express the honeyed languor, the dulcet pains which come from Love's early wound. Strange old town to have such a worship filling the hearts of its people, and harmoniously regulating their lives ! Yet no enervation seems to have resulted, as one might think, but the most intense energy in warlike deeds could be aroused there upon occasion. Once more call up those three sculptured shapes, all seeking to reveal Love to men and to attune their lives to its sweet concord. Nor was this worship a foreign one, introduced from abroad, but it came down from time immemorial; for the oldest statue of Eros there was simply a white stone, hardly more than a primitive fetich. The special character of Thespia must have been chiefly moulded as well as expressed by this deity.
But there was another worship in this town which ought to be mentioned. We shall not wonder when we learn that the Muses were specially honored at Thespia, for the Sisters Nine always follow in the train of Eros and never cease to sing the strain dictated by him. Love indeed is the chief inspirer of poetry and the chief theme thereof ; it first makes existence musical and then demands some musical utterance of existence ; in one or other of its manifold forms it gives the glow, the rapture, as well as the tunefu movement of the great works of literature. If we get into the heart of them, we shall find this emotional thrill of Love ; with it human speech will throb in unison, being thrown thereby into the rhythmical cadence of song. So we may rejoice in the ways of the old Thespians who did not stop with the worship Eros, but added the Muses to express him worthily, and to reveal truly his musical nature. Take him away, little work would be left for the Nine Sisters, in fact one sister could easily do all of it.
Moreover there was at Thespia a great festival sacred to the Muses, celebrated with due splendor and with a mighty outpouring of song. For it seems to have mainly consisted of a musical contest in which all the poets of Greece might take part in competing for the prize. Thus the singer came and sang in praise of the Muses, in praise of his own Art which gives the tuneful utterance, whereby all Thespia must have been filled in those days. Therefore the Thespians were the guardians of the shrine of the Muses on Mount Helicon, to which we have now come ; here is the mountain on our left. So we wonder at the life of man in ancient Thespia filled with the worship of Eros and the Muses ; a delicious existence, one imagines it to have been, overflowing with Love and Music. More than a thousand years the town lasted, we know, adoring its melodious deities, and sending up delightful strains which still to-day seem to be lingering around Helicon.
Thus one seeks to make the old Thespian character rise from its ruins, and take on some definite shape ; for even ancient writers have assured us that every town, in Greece had a character of its own, distinguishing it pointedly from all of its neighbors. The leading bad trait of each important Boeotian town is given by an old traveler, Dikaearchus ; each had its controlling vice as well as distinct virtue. As we look around ourselves and observe the distant landscape with its ranges of hills running crosswise and lengthwise, we remark again how under our very eye this plain of Boeotia divides itself into several lesser plains, each of which is centered in its own community. A self-contained life is possible here ; autonomy is printed on the face of Greece everywhere, spelled out in rude strong letters by the mountains and valleys. Whenever we cross a ridge, we may always say : this is a distinct part of Boeotia with its own character, with its own towns boiling over in fierce energy anciently ; each is seeking primarily to be itself and nought else. Yet there was too a Boeotian league, we know ; there was a common Boeotian principle in them all, which had to be adumbrated, though dimly, in some institution.
Villages appear to the right and left; some of them seem to be lying far out amid the reeds of swamp, others are placidly perched upon the hill-sides ; their different characters one may to a degree imagine from the situation. We pass by ancient Onchestus, and do not forget its distinctive mark, which was the temple and grove of earth-shaking Neptune, celebrated in many a Greek book from the Iliad down. But a touch of anxiety begins to trouble the mood within as the overcast sky darkens the landscape without; clouds are resting upon the mountains and sullenly look down at the pedestrian, threatening him with a dash of rain. Zeus, the cloud-compeller is up there, brewing another storm ; but I pray him to hold up the showers in those deep fleecy folds of his celestial drapery till I reach Lebedeia. That one rainy trip you may recollect ; it was enough for me, and for you too.
One name lingers in the mind upon this road, that of Hesiod the Poet, and you often ask yourself : what produced him here? His birthplace lies up the hill to the left, ancient Ascra, still inhabited but producing no Hesiods. I meet a peasant boy at the side of the road ploughing: " Point out Zagora to me "—such is the modern name for Ascra, manifestly corrupted from the ancient one. His reply was, What are you going to do at Zagora? Are you a didascali, a schoolmaster? Such was his view of the stranger asking for the birthplace of Hesiod.
But we have already arrived at grassy Haliartus, not now so grassy, probably as it was in Homer's time, but watered still with abundant streams running through its meadows ; one of these streams we shall cross and enter the wineshop where there is a chance for a luncheon with recinato. One half of our journey today is done, yet it is forenoon still; more leisurely we can make the rest of the trip. We may note, too, that the sun has come out amid the clouds, Zeus has heard our petition and will not be angry to-day. Pleas-ant are the meads and rills of Haliartus flowing full of ancient legend ; fresh too is the breath of Greek patriotism which wafts over its pastures ; that ancient half-burnt temple set on fire by Persian invaders, stood here, which the citizens would not rebuild, but left standing over 600 years at least, a continual reminder of the eternal struggle of Greece against the Orient.
Emerging from behind a low hill we again come to lake Copais, or swamp, as it ought to be called, full of reeds and grass ; far off toward Orchomenus the narrow stream of the river Kephissus, marked by the absence of marshy vegetation, flows sluggishly through the standing waters. Around the edge of the morass we now skirt for miles on the semi-lunar bend ; sometimes the shallow water sweeps up and touches the bed of the highway at our feet. In antiquity we must suppose a different aspect, for this whole swamp was drained, and thousands of acres of the best land in Greece was redeemed for cultivation. Still the old catabothra or underground drains can be seen, tunneled through the rock in part, but now choked up ; even this rubbish from her great ancient works modern Greece has not yet been able to remove. These drains seem to have been made in a fabulous era, though not by any means fabulous things ; for yonder they exist, an astonishing feat of engineering to-day. But these reeds we shall not wholly condemn, for of them was made the ancient flute which gave the rhythmical beat to the choruses of Pindar. Thus even in reedy Copais there is music, provided the man may be found who can extract it.
Here then we have passed a new ridge and behold a new plain ; therewith rises a new question which is, however, but the old one: who shall control the plain? In like manner we crossed the Theban ridge from Attica, and the Plataean ridge from Thebes ; now we enter the Copaic plain, with the same fierce question, anciently to be settled by desperate warfare. Thus our Greece is individualized ; this plain too will give, with its adjacent swamp, a different character to its dwellers. Look across the water, yonder is Orchomenus, the abode of the Graces ; still its white dwellings seem to rest gracefully on the hill-side above the surface of the lake. Once she was mistress of this valley, a wise one, if we may judge by her works ; but at her ascendancy every town squirmed, fell into resistance, loving its own autonomy at least, though not so intensely that of its neighbors. Such was the education of Greece each man must be a hero, and each town the mother of heroes. Every person was of importance in such a community, he was never lost in an untold Oriental multitude. To such a consciousness does his training lead to make him a complete individual.
Often one hears a sigh for the political unity of the Greek cities that the fair Hellenic flower be preserved. No, that could not be ; if she had had within her the germ of unity, far different would she have been indeed she would not have been Greece at all. The conditions of her beauty are the sources of her decay; the flower would not bloom, if it did not wither. Achilles, the heroic type, of surpassing form, fleetness, and strength, is fated to die early; so does Alexander the historical Greek hero. A strong central government for Greece ! not at all. Her glory is that she gave the free and full development to the individual, untrammeled by the fewest external restraints. Never has man upon the whole attained to such a musical existence, and made of himself such a harmonious physical and spiritual being one who in himself combined all without dissonance, reflected, we may say, the Universe. Exemplars they must furnish to the race eternally, for they were whole men, Now man has become special and a specialist, an infintesimal part of the colossal organism around him. Yet we must not forget the exception even in Greece, namely, those mighty individuals who at last become discordant with their country.
But there is no discord now ; in tuneful company the traveler marches along at the foot of the mountain, for it is Helicon. It is a mountain delightful as of old ; to-day it has the same friendly appearance which was anciently praised so much. Its soil was the most productive of any mountain in Greece, we read: wild fruits grew there in abundance and to all its products it gave the sweetest flavor ; herbs and roots which were elsewhere injurious to man, lost upon Helicon their native poison ; even noxious serpents became harmless upon its meadows. One can well believe that it has some such power to-day; it draws all care, all biting anxiety from the heart, as one looks up at its happy summits sporting through sunshine and clouds. The touch of the Muses it has still, though their voices have fled from its dells. Nature is essentially the same to-day on Helicon as of old ; that wonderful drug Nepenthe, which was the gift of Helen, she administers through the breathing of the air. Thus we wind round the Heliconian crescent having Copals at our feet, with breezes slightly rustling amid its reeds and rushes.
Nature, the gazing traveler often repeats to himself, re-mains the same to-day on Helicon that she was of old; but where are those other objects of beauty which once skirted the lake? For many temples were built here looking off over the waters ; and the ancient pedestrian always had one and perchance several of them in his view, cheering him forward to their enclosure with a mild joy. Statues, too, there were, wrought by famous masters ; for did not those old Greeks need in daily life, amid their toil, art as much as bread? Particularly Athena seems to have been honored here ; and the Goddess is reported to have appeared at one of her temples with Medusa head, and turned the priestess to stone who beheld the awful visage. There the stone woman stood and had an altar ; daily an attendant put fire on her altar and cried out : Iodamia lives and asks for fire. O Iodamia, why did the Goddess turn thee to stone? Yet thy stony statue was thought to live, and being of cold material, to cry out for fire, wherewith to warm itself. A wonderful statue indeed, not easy to be hewn out of speech-less marble, yet possible for some old Greek Artist, who could make stone speak.
Nor must we omit the fountains which gushed from the sides of Helicon ; we are continually passing their waters and shall always stop to listen for a moment to their music. These Heliconian fountains have had a strangely tuneful destiny ; they have become the types of poetic utterance for all time seemingly, still they are welling forth melodiously from the depths of the mountain. So the streams of poesy rise from their deep sources, like Aganippe from Helicon, which made musical whoever drank of its waters ; like Hippocrene, bubbling up here to-day from the track imprinted by the hoof of the flying horse, Pegasus, and overflowing the woody dells with clear melody, as the steed mounts heaven-ward ; like Tilphousa, sweet warbler, near whose stream Apollo thought of establishing his temple instead of taking Delphic Castalia. All these fountains are still on Helicon and we may reach down and drink of their waters ; but the fanes built over them have disappeared, the nymphs have fled. Nature is still here, but she no longer calls forth the deification of herself into Art. The images of marble are gone, never to be restored by mortal hand ; but that other image of Helicon, its spiritual image with all its fountains leaping forth to the sunlight, endures and will endure; human speech has chiseled out new statues of its deities made of the substance of man's very soul.
But along yon Heliconian heights was witnessed in antiquity a worship which characterizes Greece better than any thing else; there was the sanctuary of the Muses, the givers of harmonious utterance of every kind, the inspirers also of harmonious lives. The musical gift which is heard not only in human speech, but subtly orders and attunes Nature, was there the special object of adoration; the whole mountain was a sacred place ; a large grove was filled with shrines and statues, through which one passed and be-held the revelation of this fairest side of existence. There was first the holy fount Aganippe at the entrance, whose lustral waters purified the worshiper of discord as he passed in ; then were the images of the Nine Muses wrought by famous artists, filling the beholder with infinite harmonies which were to transform him into a musical being in thought, word, action. Nor was the nurse of the Muses, Eupheme the Sweet Voice, absent from the group, though they were daughters of Zeus the Highest and of Memory who brings to the present the great deed of the olden time. Not merely by poets were they addressed in prayer, as in our day, but also by the common people, by the humblest man, since he sought to make himself a tuneful note, though small, in the harmony of the Universe.
Next were the images of famous bards, those who had been breathed upon by the Muses, and whom they had gifted with musical utterance ; these bards were indeed the first teachers of the race, taming wild men to the sounds of concord by voice and instrument. Linus was there, whose name goes far back into fable, and is coupled with the earliest form of song, who is said to have been slain by Apollo when he had reached so great excellence as to equal a God in his strain. Thamyris, the blind bard, stood there touching his shattered lyre, the result of defeat in a contest with the Muses ; Arion was present, still perched upon that dolphin which he had charmed by song to bear him safely through the waves of the sea to land ; finally Orpheus was there, the greatest of all these fabulous bards, surrounded by brazen and sculptured animals under the spell of his strain amid the listening woods ; thus Nature is subdued by the poet's voice, and becomes musical, when she finds expression in him. Nor should we forget the tomb of Orpheus, upon which the Thracian nightingales built their nests and hatched their brood, for thus the young birds sang more sweetly. Similar was the case of the Thracian shepherd who at mid-day fell asleep on the grave of Orpheus and at once began to sing in so loud and sweet a strain that all the shepherds and plowmen from neighboring districts flocked to listen to the song. Of that shepherd we may think as the first pastoral poet, the first Theocritns. Thus in many a luscious bit of legend has that harmonious world come down to us, setting us too in a soft vibration to its notes. Helicon represents it still ; along her summits all nature is attuned to a hymn and subdued by some melodious spell ; trees, animals, man fall into the sweet measured rhythm sent from the Muses.
But no certain word of these ancient Heliconian bards has come down to us ; only concerning their power and excellence do we hear a few fitful strains of fable, which we may well believe in the true sense. Now we come, however, to the central image in this sanctuary, altogether the most significant figure here it is the poet Hesiod. His voice has reached us quite full and resonant ; still we may hear it echoing through the dells of Helicon. Look upon that face of his which has possibly preserved some of the features of his statue standing here of old ; Helicon culminates in him. One looks up at the summits and asks : How did ye produce a poet? In what way did ye mould his character? Thus the traveler winds around the mountains, praying Mnemosyne to call back for him some strains of the old bard, and to attune him to their key-note.
Here, then, he arose and sang his song a song of significance today. A hard, unbending, somewhat crabbed genius ; still a genius, gifted with Heliconian dower. That old poem of his, called Works and Days, is a genuine Boeotian product ; anciently on Helicon it was shown, writ-ten upon a leaden tablet. Many a harmonious pulsation it has, though at times rude enough ; still better, it has a philosophy of life and its own view of the government of the world ; thus it must have gone deep into the hearts and actions of men. It strikes at first an exceedingly discordant note, for it seems to imply that the Gods who are to be worshiped have become the enemies of their worshipers. A woeful view of the world is that, quite enough to fill any-body with harsh jangle and biting acidulous utterance. The story of Prometheus, the friend of man, who has covertly to steal fire from Zeus ; the myth of Pandora, the beautiful woman, sent as an evil upon man, express the hostility of the Supreme Ruler ; the poet might as well cry out : the Gods are our enemies. A melancholy spectacle indeed is man when he has fallen out with his Gods.
It is clear that the old poet is grappling with a tough problem, tough still for us to-day : the problem of the origin of evil. Who made evil? Who permits it? Zeus certainly, if he be the Supreme God; a thought distracting, of diabolical dissonance in the soul. To account for its beginning he has given two legends, that of Prometheus, and that of the Five Ages ; both, however, go toward the Bad, and end in the Bad. The poet has suffered evil, much evil ; he asks how it came to be, and finds that it is by the will of the Gods. Then he is unhappy ; all men are unhappy in like condition of mind ; the unhappy consciousness it may be called. Not a poetical mood is this, one thinks, not a harmonious strain ; still, if the poet have in him the gift of healing this deep disruption of soul, he can change it to one of the grandest themes of song.
A second dissonance heard in Heisod, in strange contrast to other utterances of Greek fable, is his dislike and con-tempt for women, revealed in tins legend of Pandora and in several bitter outbursts. He connects her indeed with the origin of all evil in the world, making her somewhat similar to Eve in another more authoritative book. Yet she cannot apparently be got rid of, so the old surly poet makes some scanty provision for her in the Family. Strange that he too should carry back our original sin to the sexual dual-ism which he would like to abolish, but does not see his way clearly thereto. No beautiful Helen floats before his imagination the worthy cause of Trojan wars, but homely Meg is his, she who can spin and grub. Far different is Homer who has placed in his ideal household that supreme type of womanhood Penelope, and limned many an outline of fair maidens alongside of his heroes.
However not woman alone, but man too comes in for a share of his objurgation nay, his own brother named Perses. The latter has spent his part of the paternal inheritance in riotous living, and is now seeking to get by foul dealing that of the poet; he has even corrupted the judges to decide in favor of his unjust claim; it is a most unbrotherly act. So the poet addresses advice and rebuke to the erring brother good advice, sharp rebuke ; this is the frame-work in which the whole poem is set. Also the town Ascra, where he lives having for neighbors those unrighteous judges, is smartly goarded with some passing strokes: Wretched town, near Helicon, bad in winter, miserable in summer, never genial." His age, too, is the iron age, glorious ages have preceded it, but this unhappy age is left for him, and bitterly he laments his lot : "would that I had not mingled with this race of men, but had been born before or died afterward. It is indeed the iron race, and never will they cease from toil and wretchedness." Thus our Ascrean pipe gets scrannel, grating its squeaky tune, and all Helicon hisses in shrill discord.
The sullen old grumbler, after venting his spleen, will change his note, and pass on to tell of agriculture ; what else can a man do but forget himself by labor in such a bad world? A soured, gnarled, unbending nature; who could help being thus when all the Gods have become his enemies? It is not a cheerful state ; woe be to the man who has fallen out with his Gods, believing in their power but distrusting their goodness. Such a person must be wretched unless he in some wise run away from himself ; so the crabbed but defiant Hesiod will turn and swink in the field to escape from his unamiable theology. Therewith we are on the way to get rid of the world of hateful Gods and of moral disorder, and that Hope which was left in the cask of Pandora as the last solace for poor mortal men, begins to fill the breast with her mild illumination.
It would, therefore, be a great mistake to suppose that the poet gives no solution for the present order of things. He does, and in this lies the value of his poem for men. The Gods have hidden the means of living, therefore the human being who eats must work. Such is his destiny written upon every spot of earth work, work. For, says the poet, if a man in one day could get enough for a whole year, then would the rudder be laid aside, and the labors of oxen and mules would cease from the land. "Therefore work, work ; every human being must have something to do ; if he has no work, then he has no business to be, soon will not be, by decree of the Gods. In former ages men lived a golden life, without toil and care ; the earth brought forth her fruits spontaneously, and he partook of them; there was no wrong, nothing to do wrong for; but in this age the jealous Gods have laid upon mortals the hard necessity work, work. Nor is the compensation of work absent; we through work defeat the spite of the Gods who sent upon us evil ; we bridge the terrible chasm between ourselves and the world, and even get the better of the divine decree. The Gods themselves are conquered by work; their hostility turns into a blessing by work. The necessity, nay the absolute worth of work marks the deep strong touch of the poet, who therein changes from a discordant grumbler to a true singer, and rescues men from a world of ethical confusion, elevating them into a tuneful sphere. Hence he sings of Works and their Times, first as his own solution of the great problem of evil, secondly as advice to the erring brother.
And that brother who seeks to get on in life without work ; nay worse, who seeks to possess others' work by fraud and by bribing judges what shall be done with him? Shall we work and let him riot? No ; and here this poem of Hesiod introduces the second principle which supplements work and overcomes the wrong of the world. It is the conception of Justice Dike. A deep unshaken faith in Justice is the highest attribute of the poem; though the Gods fail, still there is Justice. Here she comes, a virgin born of Jupiter, illustrious, worshipful among the Gods of Olympus ; she, clad in the viewless air, comes bringing ill to wrong-doing men who have driven her away and have made an unrighteous decision ; irresistible is her course. But whoso doth not transgress Justice, for these the city blooms and the people are prosperous ; peace reigns among them, nor is there famine or calamity, but happy festivals. The earth bears for them much substance ; on the mountain stands the oak with acorns amid its branches and bees in its trunk. Thus the Poet describes the glories of Justice, with the deepest insight into its character. For he plainly sees Justice to be that which keeps the world from falling into chaos, and he has stated in the most direct manner its fundamental principle : the return of the deed upon the doer. Listen to him : man working evil to another is working evil to him-self, and evil counsel is worse to him that hath devised it.
In such wise with rude yet mighty words he announces the supreme law of the ethical world and smites with it in Titanic energy. Well might that brother quake with secret terror after hearing such an exposition, for the intense faith is here expressed that the wicked act will be brought back to the doer, if need be by thrice ten thousand demons, guardians of mortal men, avengers of wrong, hovering in misty darkness everywhere over the earth. Oh, Perses, re-form thy ways ; if thou wouldst live as a true man in this world, work, work; then be just, recognize the work of thy brother as fully as thine own. By such conduct we shall circumvent the spiteful Gods ; toil, which they sent upon as a curse, will change through Justice to a blessing which orders and upholds the Universe.
Thus the Ascrean pipe undergoes a change and now begins to discourse most harmoniously ; the discordant notes are all swallowed up in sweet melodious utterance ; the very strength of the former dissonance adds to the depth and in-tensity of the new harmony. Helicon grows musical again, the Sisters Nine return to their abode, and we see why they handed to the poet the laurel branch, holding which he sang his strains. Still the fierce dissonance can be heard whistling through his song, like a northern blast through sun-shine. But you come to love the rugged nature with its adamantine integrity which not even the spite of the Gods could shake, and whose harsh features often kindle into a soft glow of poesy whenever he speaks of Helicon and its Muses.
Such is the purport of the poem, though its parts be often distorted and jumbled together at hazard. You obtain a strong image of the Boeotian farmer and his life ; a character is here, rude, honest, yet thoughtful, and of granitic toughness. Amid his rustic precepts are many poetical gems shining with their earliest unworn lustre. He tells you that you must never cross a stream without praying a truly Greek instinct ; nor must you defile the spring or running brook 'tis an unholy thing. Beware, too, of Fama or Report, she is a goddess, easy to excite, hard to calm Goddess is the report which many mouths utter. Most genuine, too, is the connection of the poem with nature ; it hangs from her as fruit from the branches of the tree ; the verses seem to be a product of the seasons, or a pendent of the stars, like the works of which they sing. There is no artificial time-measurer, but nature herself calls the husbandman, when the cuckoo sings in the oak foliage, when the snail climbs shunning the Pleiades, when the cry of the crane is heard overhead, when the young fig-leaf is as large as the crow's foot; the stellar sky in the night speaks down to him, from strong Orion, from Arcturus leaving the sacred stream of Ocean. The ox-track full of rain is the measure of the rain-fall, and early precurser of science. Bathe your hand in crossing a brook, otherwise you are hated of the Gods. Primitive spontaneous utterances of poesy are in this book, revealing nature as she was looked upon by the new fresh eye of the young world ; yet amid the green branches are dry twigs enough, abstract doctrines, proverbs, maxims of prudence, pointed sharply to penetrate the thick skull of the peasant, especially the Boeotian peasant. Many of the poet's views incline to the form of proverbs, some bluntly inculcating the homely virtues, others rising into a sort of esoteric vein ; particularly we catch breath at that quite trancendental one :
'Fools, they know not how much more is the half than the Whole,' and we ponder whether we may not be of the persons addressed. But it is high time to say good-bye to the old bard ; hereafter we have hopes of meeting him often and of hearing his lines, steeped in the memories of Helicon ; his book is indeed henceforth a new book.
As you saunter along, looking up to the glorious heights of Helicon, the old woman will meet you, rude-visaged, with skin wrinkled and burnt by the sun of the plain, but hardy, lang-striding for a woman. Of course you will address her ; broken fragments of Greek fall from her mouth, not easy to piece together ; some dialect, you imagine, with ancient turns perhaps. Many an old word she employs, though wholly uneducated ; still there is a delight in listening to her, for what was before inanimate, suddenly becomes living speech. She drives a donkey so did her mother 2,000 years ago. She takes a by-path down into the reeds of Copais ; I pass on, still glancing up at the summits of sunny Helicon, and wondering: Can this be you? How is it that just you have come down through Time in an eternal glory, and have traveled over the world, across the ocean, and are still winged and in flight? Other hills too have had fair dells and sunny heights why just you? Some great man made you, you never made yourselves ; some bard it was, the man who alone can attach pinions to the hills, and send them on their flight through Time.
But whatever we may think about the old woman's origin, we may affirm that the genuine descendant of the old crow is here, sweeping over the ridges in enormous flocks and lighting upon the fat meadows. And here too we pass ancient Coroneia or Crow's Town, famous for the battles which took place in its vicinity ; still the air seems laden with curses upon two men Lysander and Sulla. Both of them meet a deserved fate from the Gods for their evil doings in this plain, whose jarring note we shall at once dismiss. Further up is the fountain Libethrias, a true nymph, lying deep in the earth, now turned to solid rock ; from her stony breasts gush forth two fountains, whose water the ancient informant declares to be like milk. Yon-der too is a pretty village so cosily perched on a picturesque platform in the mountain that one cannot help imagining that it must produce a poet. About half way up the mountain it lies ; the peaks above seem to look down upon it with protection and love ; its name I cannot tell you, but simply let it pass before you as a pleasing Heliconian image.
The declivity of Helicon at this season of the year is in possession of the Wallachian shepherds a foreign race on Greek soil. Several times today I have passed through their flocks, browsing on either side of the road, or reposing on the hillside in the sun. Newborn kids you will notice lying against a bramble, while the young mother, frightened at your approach, runs off a few steps and then turns and looks at you with shy maternal anxiety. Every ewe or goat has a little one, sometimes two, running along at her side and bleating, fine-voiced ; thereto she answers by a bleat of far deeper tones ; thus thousands and thousands of notes are resounding to-day over the mountains ; such is now the music of Helicon.
In the midst of his herd, upon a rock, stands the shepherd, shaggy-mantled as one of his own sheep, with his long crooked staff in hand, gazing down at the passing stranger. He will call to his flock by name, as if they were human beings, in inquiry, in caresses, in reproof, like old Polypheme ; often a shrill whistle is the note of warning for them to keep away from the tilled field, which whistle can frequently be heard coming from the sunny slopes when no whistler can be seen, for he is screened by the rocks and brambles of the mountain. Some of these Wallachian shepherds cannot talk Greek, some can ; of one of the latter I ask : Where do you live?Twenty-five days' journey from here, on the Pindus. Will you take me with you when you return home ! Yes, but we shall not start for some months yet. That was the end of the plan. But what a life ! To spend it among sheep, by yourself, in the open air, on the mountains, calling your flock by name as familiar friends ! I cannot sleep in a house, said one of them, I get sick ; women and children live in houses, not men. Such was the pastoral view of human existence.
But not shepherds alone are found upon Helicon, there are also shepherdesses ; and it was here that I learned a new admiration for the latter. The heroine was a Wallachian woman. She was sitting amid her flock on a stone ; in her lap lay a bundle which she seemed to arrange with unusual care and tenderness. As I approached I was astonished to hear a faint cry proceed from the bundle ; at my request she threw open the folds of an old shawl covering it, and there lay a new-born infant. New-born indeed, for its eyes were not yet open ; it lay there still red with the friction of parturition, and appeared to be enjoying the luxury of its first scream in the free light of heaven. She rose from her seat and threw a stone at a ewe which was trespassing on the grainfield. " What," I cried, "are you already up and out? ". To my amazement I learned that she had been overtaken by her pains in the fields some hours before ; but stopping a few moments and wrapping the little new-comer in her garment, she went on about her business ; amid her flock, she too had given birth to her kid. Great was the sympathy of the traveler at first, but she needed no sympathy for was she not there in perfect health and without pain? Still I could help filliping a silver drachma as a beginning in life to the youngster, now growing louder with the minutes. Such was our real Heliconian shepherdess.
All day Parnassus has been looming up in front of me, growing nearer ; yet sometimes I have quite lost sight of it in the envelopment of clouds. One may well wonder what is there, what it has in store for the traveler. Repeatedly it came forth, having top and sides strown with sunshine ; but rain is still threatened, and Parnassus for the most part hides itself in cloudy drapery. Not yet has it revealed itself to the approaching guest, but he looks forward with longing glances, and in golden sheen at times beholds his goal. Mighty, but very vague and uncertain is the expectancy hovering around its summits, yet even upon the clouds there the day's radiance has a tendency to disport itself. Will the Muses strip off that vapor and come forth into clear Greek outline? Wait ; we shall see.
But we have already reached a spur of a mountain running out into Copais, it is the extreme tip of the are upon which we have been moving now for several hours ; let us turn around and look back at it. In a long amphitheatrical curve it sweeps around from the opposite tip for many miles ; Thebes is out of sight, but villages fleck the distant hill-sides ; cotton carts can be seen far across the lake slowly rounding the curve. And that immense curve walled in by the mountains is one of Nature's own, carefully drawn by her with a huge pair of compasses from a center taken somewhere far out in the swamp. Behold her, the first geometrician, now in the very act.
But up and forward ! Turning the spur and following the road a short distance, we come to Lebedeia, lying between Helicon and Parnassus. What a musical spot ought it not to be, situated between two such abodes of the Muses, who may sing to each other from top to top ! Glancing between the twain, one seeks to solve this question : Why of all the world did their worship locate just here? The two ranges confront each other like rivals ; rivals indeed they were ; the people in antiquity, one feels sure, held in the valley between a tournament of the Muses; trying to settle the dispute as to where was their true seat. Such, it would almost seem, was then the vital question through these hills and valleys a question which must be settled by trial and decision. But what people at present deems such a dispute of any significance ? The other great question has now arisen : Who shall trade with the Ashantees, who shall sell a pen-knife to the South Sea Islander? For such and similar questions much blood has been spilled, while both Helicon and Parnassus with their sweet rivalry have been quite deserted ; in mute protest they still stand here, wondering to-day at the new ways of the world.
As we approach Lebedeia and glance at its situation, we ask, What is its character? What are the secret suggestions of Nature upon this spot? For we may be sure that the old Greek felt them and wrought them into some form of utterance, legendary, oracular, divine. Most intimately he felt what surrounded him and then bodied it forth into the myth ; this myth, too, bore the impress of his spiritual existence. There the Greek mythical world beautifully hovers, between Nature and Spirit, spanning both like a rainbow, yet reflecting both in one fair image. Whoever says that Greek Mythology is of merely physical import, mistakes; whoever says that it is of merely spiritual import, mistakes. In like manner the Oracle sprang up, even the God had the same origin. On every spot of Greek ground rose that mythical rainbow from the Nature there into the heaven of Spirit above it; so we look now before us with expectancy and ask: What shall we find at Lebedeia?
Entering the outskirts of the town, we note first that it sits at the mouth of a defile ; it seems to have been born of that mountain just behind it, which is Helicon or a continuation of Helicon. Springing out of the rocky depths, the town lies there, now in the sunlight, but once hid in the dark stony womb of the mountain ; still back of the houses you will catch a glimpse of the obscure gorge which opens into the town and seems to have just spit it out. Lebedeia thus appears at first view to be a product of the cleft, yet lying outside of its jaws ; she must be a child of this mountainous Nature, resting at present in the bright gleams of Helius, but still partaking or hinting of her gloomy origin.. Some slight touch thereof will yet be felt by the sympathetic traveler.
But listen! a noise is continuously humming through the streets, but it is not of men ; some sound of Nature you will at once discern it to be. It is the song of a brook coming out of the cleft there and dancing in many a rivulet through Lebedeia. It too is born of the gorge, from that same dark mouth it spouts forth, like the town which it fills with its murmurs. Springs too gush up from sunless depths of rock and laugh in the sunbeams; their pellucid flow and babble- seem to have that primeval joy of first beholding light. Thus a perpetual undertone of musical waters attunes Lebedeia, mingling with the words of her people. Something therein is hinted; brook and town are in a secret harmony, both suggest the outgiving of Nature, yet bear a spiritual impress. Assuredly some character is here which we must further seek for ; legend must have given a voice to the spot, the God himself must have found a holy utterance for the place, which the sensitive Greek heard and in some form expressed. It is no wonder that an Oracle anciently stood here, the Oracle of Trophonius, whose cave is still in yonder mountain; we too shall consult that Oracle, and see whether it may utter any word for us, since it can never be, to the true believer, wholly dumb.