A Walk In Hellas:
From Athens To Pentelicus
From Pentelicus To Parnes
From Parnes To Marathon
From Marathon To Marcopoulo
Rainy Day At Marcopoulo
From Marcopoulo To Aulis
Aulis And Chalkis
From Aulis To Thebes
Thebes And Plataea
Read More Articles About: A Walk In Hellas
Rainy Day At Marcopoulo
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
As I rose in the morning and looked out of the window, every appearance indicated that I was weather-bound. It had rained all night; though the rain had ceased falling just at that moment, the clouds looked leaden and surcharged, and flew by the window with a sullen threatening. I did not care to venture another day like the preceding ; my Greek mood might under too great stress, break down. Nor could I proceed, if I would ; the streams had doubtless risen to such a height that they were impassible. The nature of the Greek rainfall had often been told me by way of warning : a heavy shower descends ;; the brooks, previously a mere bed of dry rocks, become suddenly mountain torrents which cannot be crossed by man or beast. Nor are there any bridges worth mentioning in Greece ; indeed any ordinary bridge would be apt to be swept away in the first storm.
It is winter, but winter in this country means the rainy season. In the valleys very little snow falls, and when it does fall, it lasts usually but a portion of a day. Still there is hardly a point in Greece from which you cannot see the, snow upon the mountains, and in the course of a few hours you can reach the snow point. It is possible in a single excursion to pass through the four seasons at certain times of the year. I recollect a day's walk which I once took in the Parnassian region ; below in the Krissaean plane at the level of the sea there was a tropical vegetation in its full luxuriance; at Krissa garden vegetables grew in the open air; at Delphi, still higher in the ascent, these same vegetables would no longer grow, and the olive ceased to flourish, though it quite reached that point ; about Arachoba, and a little above it, the growth of the grape had attained its highest limit and the heat of summer is scarcely felt; at the Kaiyvia in a table land on the Parnassus the hardier grains only would thrive, and people would not remain there during the winter on account of the severity of the cold ; still higher were the pine woods, and finally the unbroken surface of the snow. Thus the Greek had the advantage of all climates at his very door, and this variety of nature was stamped upon his varied and versatile character. Somewhat of the like instinct in our own country is seen in the vast summer migrations of the people ; but to attain the variety of one Greek day, we have often to travel hundreds and thousands of miles.
On looking around the room, sundry indications of the tastes and customs of the people become manifest. Ancient heirlooms are here weapons of various kinds, garments decorated in a sort of barbaric splendor with gold tinsel and strongly contrasting colors. It was here, I think, that I saw the likenesses of King Otho and Queen Amalia in rudely colored prints suspended on the wall. You may know that these persons were the former king and queen of Greece who, having been expelled, were succeeded by the present sovereigns, George and Olga. I found still among the Greeks in the provinces a lively feeling of gratitude for their former rulers, and many persons, though having no dislike for the present dynasty, thought that the previous sovereigns had been treated with gross injustice. The change was repeatedly declared to have been a revolution brought about by the politicans and schemers at Athens, backed by the intrigues of certain European powers. Still the Greek people as a whole have sanctioned the result, and it must be confessed that King Otho with his Bavarian tendencies had succeeded in making himself very unacceptable to the more aspiring portion of the Greeks.
There are no utensils for washing in the room, nor any water, but there is plenty outside, for it has rained all night ; so there is no use of despairing of an ablution. I go down the stairs into the yard ; the little serving-girl, pretty Euphrosyne, appears with a tin cup that has several holes in the bottom, out of which the water issues in convenient jets ; she partly pours and partly holds those jets over the hands of the guest. Zacharias is also present and still keeps up his mimicry; whatever I say or do he instinctively imitates with a ludicrous twist of the mouth. The family have already breakfasted, but enough is left for me, and more for the children come again to the table and with great freedom take hold along with me. I am sure I enjoyed their presence and I shared gladly with them all that was there. At only one thing I rebelled : it was when Zacharias took the knife from my plate and began scraping the mud from his shoes. It was so muddy out of doors, he said. Three small children keep the mother busy without attending to scrupulous niceties of house-keeping. A simple economy reigns throughout the household ; a hole in the wall, besides being a window, serves as cupboard, knife box, provision chest, and for miscellaneous articles.
I would like to continue my journey, but the host tells me that it is impossible on account of the freshet, and that in particular, there is a large stream, the Asopus, which can not be forded till the waters have run out. He might be interested in detaining me, though what he said seemed very reasonable ; but Varvouillya, the Theban, who also was eager to go forward to Chalcis, confirms emphatically the statements of the host. So both of us resolved to stay till to-morrow, and then make the journey together. A day, therefore, a rainy day at Marcopoulo is our destiny, for a passing shower drives us from the yard, where we are discussing the matter, into the wineshop.
A number of Albanians entered, dressed in their coarse kilts, with bandanna closely wrapped about the head ; they look wonderingly, half suspiciously out of the corners of their eyes ; yet there they sit and say nothing, content to gaze and puff at their paper cigarettes. The traveler will seek on a rainy day to find out something about their ways, their life, their consciousness. Now one of the main tests of the character and abiding worth of a people is the interest they take in their own origin and that of their race. Do these people know whence they came ? I asked them ; they knew of Albania, and that their ancestors had emigrated thence into Greece. But when? The most ready man of the company answered, that the emigration took place about the time of the Greek Revolution, but that they or their parents knew nothing of it. But it is usually placed by historians far back in the middle ages, and not fifty years ago. I tell them the fact, whereat they are surprised ; but their comprehension of five centuries does not seem to differ much from that of half a century.
A still deeper test of the inherent worth and vitality of a people is, whether they keep alive the memory of their great men, reverencing them with their deities. This remarkable fact came to light, that the Albanians in Greece still cherish the traditions concerning Scanderbeg, their great national hero, in fact, the only man of universal fame that Albania has produced. His heroic defence of his country and of his faith against the Turks, survives in the memory of his people after more than four centuries. Scanderbeg, however, did not succeed his country was subjugated, yet his name and deeds endure, even though he was unsuccessful. The hero, the great national man, must always rank next to the Gods of a people ; he is veritably the highest embodiment of the divine principle on earth, visibly appearing to the men of his nation and race, and realizing what is deepest within them. Their yoke, too, he must bear with bitter suffering, their struggles he must endure for the sake of all ; what they are dimly and incompletely, he must be clearly and perfectly, making himself a mirror, as it were, in which they for the first time may fully behold themselves. It will be a calamitous hour, when they forget him ; one may affirm, it will be the hour of their disappearance, for their ideal, their essence is then lost. So it will delight the traveler to find that, in these rude huts, far away from the primitive home of his people, Scanderbeg is still alive in his deeds and example.
After having talked a while and at frequent intervals gone to the door to look at the weather, I took out my note-book, to beguile the tedious minutes, and began jotting down some little incidents, for it never passed out of mind that I might desire to tell them to you who are now present. My Greek host, at all times full of curiosity, looked over my shoulder, and, though he could not read the strange characters, he nevertheless knew what I was about. "I see that you are going to write a book on Mareopoulo," says he ; "come and take a glass of wine, so that you can write better ; I wish you to put down in it all my family wife, children and myself." Therewith he brought me a glass of his best recinato, which he had hitherto kept back ; I promised that I would obey his request and I have tried to do so, as you can now testify. It was not the only time that such a demand was made upon me. I sat down once by chance before a house which had a small, rude balcony, the pride of the owner ; first, two women came out and looked at me with a staring wonder ; then they called two men from within, when one of them spoke down to me : Put my balcony into your book. Even the peasant has some vague notion about the immense amount of writing to which his country has given rise, and he naturally suspects every person who passes through as intending to be guilty of a book. It is a suspicion only too often well-grounded, alack-a-day ! I did not escape it, notwithstanding the look of innocence which I tried to put on. I might as well confess the truth now I was guilty, murder will out, be it the murder of a book.
But the shower passes over and permits me to leave the wineshop ; I go out to see the ruins of a temple supposed to be that of Amphiraus. Exactly why he should be worshipped in this locality is not easy to tell. Amphiraus was a hero and prophet ; he combined the courage of the one with the foresight of the other. He stands in legend as the type of a man who foresees the fatal act of his people and tries to prevent it ; but when he cannot prevent it, he goes with them and perishes, the victim of his own prescience on the one hand, of his sense of duty on the other. He was one of the seven chiefs in the expedition against Thebes, whose unhappy termination he foretold ; but he had a power over him stronger than his prophetic power--it was that fatal neck-lace, which, coupled with his own deepest instinct, we may add, drove him to the war. The chieftains were defeated and mostly perished ; Amphiraus, beloved of Jupiter the Supreme God, with horse and chariot was swallowed up in a sudden opening of the earth, where he swayed long as a prophet, and was consulted by the people. This whole region on the borders between Attica and Beotia seems to have been one of the chief localities of his worship ; off yon-der over the hills not far from Tanagra the exact spot called Harma or the Chariot was anciently pointed out where he disappeared.
Therefore, if we take Amphiraus as some form of the Divine which the old Greek dwellers along these slopes adored, we may say that this was the idea in their souls ; an heroic individual gifted with foresight, combining in one grand endowment both courage and prevision, who, foreseeing death as the consequence of his deed, nevertheless marched bravely forward and met it. Assuredly a manifeslation of the Divine is this ; to be able to subordinate death to duty. Every human being, therefore, may with reverence tread over these stones, may have sympathy and admiration for the people who once walked up this enclosure with worship for such a principle in their hearts ; nay, he may worship here himself, if worship be to him anything else besides orthodoxy. Amphiraus, beloved of Jupiter, was not destroyed, though received into the bosom of the earth by the God ; long he existed for the people, showing heroism in his example and uttering wisdom in his oracle ; still he lives for the traveler looking only on the rubbish and ruins of his temple. His conflict is one that will exist as long as man exists ; it is based on some question of this kind : Is life then the highest, or are there other interests in this world higher than life? Very unwillingly do we pawn the precious jewel of existence ; but Amphiraus did it, did it with calm foresight ; hence in the olden time he was both a hero and a prophet, nor can I see why he is not the same still. So the Greek came in his perplexity to this spot in order to get the answer of Amphiraus concerning some important matter of conduct, of vocation, of patriotism. I cannot think that the old seer gave any other response than this : Look at my deed as thou approachest my shrine ; foresee and then die if such be thy duty.
From the temple I am driven back to the wineshop by the brewing of a new storm, whose huge brewery, cloud-wrapped in the heavens, rises up yonder over the sea. The day be-gins to grow monotonous, so do I ; my disappointment will be great if I do not succeed in vividly reflecting this monotony in my talk. I hope to be able to make you all yawn, and thus to impart to you the spirit of the occasion. I have nothing to do but to sit around the house moodily and see it rain, or, when the rain slackens a little, to look off eagerly into the clouds for clear weather. The feeling of desolation is increased by these Albanians who straggle into the sombre wineshop, draw down the head into a shaggy capote and say never a word. A Greek lawyer temporarily stopping here drops in, and we all wake up again in a lively discussion about Takos.
It is obvious that the chief incident of modern Greek hstory held in remembrance in this town is the fate of the captured lords and of their captors, whom our narrative left some time ago on the road to Marathon. Takos the brigand chieftain passed through Marcopoulo with his prisoners and is said to have met with no unfriendly reception from its people. Before me some of them now are, some of the very men who received him, and the affair is discussed with as much palpitating warmth as at the time of its occurence. The object of the chieftain seems to be clouded in no little mystery; just now the question springs up and is debated with vehemence, whether Takos wanted amnesty, or merely ransom for his prisoners; the two educated persons of our party, the lawyer and the host, take opposite sides. The constitutional question, whether the state could grant amnesty to a criminal before his condemnation, winds subtly through the discussion. It is also intimated that the whole affair was simply a political move, and that Takos was hired by the enemies of the ministry then in power to make a diversion in their favor. So the disputants continue to weave about the event many intricate conjectures till the matter itself becomes lost in its own entanglements.
Far more interesting are the manifold myths which have spun themselves around this occurrence ; the old mythologic vein has been made to pulsate with new activity, while popular poetry has seized the subject and wrought the tragic story of Takos into many a strain now sung over these hills. It is indeed a dramatic theme in its development and fatal end, exciting in the highest degree the imagination of the. people. Just before me an old but lively peasant can restrain himself no longer, but breaks into the cobwebs of the discussion and with wild gesticulations goes through all the incidents of the affair, showing what the lordies did and what Takos did in those last dire moments of death. He springs about on the floor of the wineshop, stirring its ancient dust into wreathing clouds, as he represents the various positions of the conflict and turns red in the face with loud talking and violent exertion.
Such is the drama which this rustic actor tried to play, rudely boisterous, though in deep earnestness, and of which there is everwhere the most lively recollection. The boldness of the crime, the swift punishment of most of the perpetrators, and the suffering of innocent people drawn into the fateful net of guilt, have gone deep into the very souls of the peasantry. One always thinks of a classic comparison in Greece ; I cannot help comparing the present feeling in regard to this event to the feeling which lies back of the Odyssey, and always bursts up into its calm sunny narrative whenever it mentions the crime and punishment of Aegis-thus, the murderer of Agamemnon. That wretch who in the face of all Greece had committed the bold and for a time successful act of villany against her leader and most conspicuous man, was finally punished by the son Orestes in a manner at once startling and just. The wrong and its retribution seem to have left upon the old Homeric Greeks the one lasting impression, that there is such a thing as justice in this world, and that the Gods really exist in order to administer it.
Thus the ancient poet sings of the nemesis of the guilty deed; Ulysses himself, the supreme ethical hero of Greece, as his last and greatest act will avenge the wrongs done by those profligate suitors. But we may suppose that the case of Aegisthus both expressed and awoke the consciousness as well as the terror of punishment for the guilty deed, and the old bard palpitates with that conviction whenever he mentions the murderer. And one cannot help thinking that such a conviction among the people listening in silent awe to that rapt utterance of the poet helped greately to raise Greece out of her Trojan period, to change her from being a loose group of bands of marauders into a nation with an organized system of justice. Arm a man with the settled con viction that guilt is followed by the penalty and that the Gods exist to punish the secret or the powerful criminal such a man is ready to belong to a social organism.
One may well think that the swift vengence sweeping down upon these brigands of Takos is the event which has quite cleared Greece of brigandage in recent times, and has wonderfully enlightened her peasantry, inspiring them with a just dread of the Gods. The direct blow came from the government of Greece, let the fact be duly noted to its credit ; but the indirect power behind the blow came from the public opinion of the world, expressed in journalism. A new and mighty force it is, mightier than Orestes, rather it may be called the new Orestes, the modern avenger, whose hand even the unlettered peasant in his hut far out of the path of civilization, feels in a dark mysterious way, and fears the Gods once more. I thought I saw in these rude faces terror still at the occurrence ; they seemed to manifest, at its recital, a feeling of dismay before the secret unseen agency which brings back to man his guilty deed.
The traveler will be delighted to think that the ancient Goddess who once swayed in these parts has risen from the rocks, determined to rule once more her former abodes. Look down toward the sea ; below in the valley a few miles away can be seen the site of ancient Rhamnus where are still the ruins of the splendid temple to Rhamnusian Nemesis, she who brings home to the doer his deed, she who restores the disturbed balance between right and wrong. She once enjoyed a special worship in this locality, then came the storms of the world, casting into dust her form and throwing down her structure ; but again along these heights she rises from the broken stones of her temple and asserts a new authority over this people. For it is her thought, the thought of Ne mesis, that has taken its seat deep in the hearts of the peaantry and rules them once more with becoming rigor. Yet who could blame the simple hind, if he became confused about the moral government of the world, when he saw villany go unpunished, and the honest man who sought to bring the criminal to justice, fall a victim to private revenge? A person might well say in his heart, there is no God; or, if there ever has been, he has fled from the face of the earth. But the Rhamnusian Goddess, Nemesis, has leaped up from her ruins of a thousand years, has taken possession of her primitive seats, and the prayer of the traveler is, Long may she remain and sway with her iron scepter this her ancient territory.
Listen now to a divine legend of this same spot. The old statue of the Goddess of Rhamnus was made out of a block of Parian marble which the Persians, in their haughtiness, had brought to the Marathonian battle-field, for the purpose of erecting a trophy over the vanquished Greeks. Phidias the Athenian, the great revealer of the Gods, took the block and hewed out of it the statue of the Goddess Nemesis, says Pausanias. Thus from the very triumphal stone of the enemy sprang the avenging deity ; the artist wrought of the marble a symbol of retribution against the invader who had brought it there to celebrate his insolent wrong. Thus too springs from the unjust action the scourging Nemesis, as the Goddess sprang from that block, and brings to the doer the penalty of his guilty deed.
Such then were the two temples that anciently stood in the neighborhood of Marcopoulo that of Amphiaraus and that of the Rhamnusian Goddess the latter of which lay at some distance but may be said to belong to this region. But the most interesting as well as the most beautiful of all the ruins in Greece, nay, I should say the most important remains of antiquity which have come down to our time, lie around me everywhere, and have been lying around me during the whole journey: these are the remains of the old Greek language and of old Greek customs. Here they both exist in living activity and make that ancient world a new one, born every moment into life by speech and action. One will notice old forms of words which have been manifestly preserved by tradition from ancient days, for they are not found in books, yet seem to be in consonance with certain old Greek dialects. I do not feel very sure upon this ground, for my ear is not yet accustomed to niceties of pronunciation ; but so much may be affirmed, that this is the true field for the student of Greek philology: let him spend one half of his course among the living dialects of Greece, and the other half among the dead grammarians at the University.
But of the antiquity of many of these customs there can be no doubt. You move in an ancient atmosphere, not by any means of your own creation, though you must bring some image of antiquity with you. Indeed the entire background of classical literature clears up into a mellow sunshine, and the cadaverous classical dictionary leaps forth a living body, with its dead and scattered members now jointing them-selves into a vital and beautiful organism. Far more than all the museums of Italy and of other countries, does Greece to-day contain of ancient Hellenic life ; elsewhere antiquity is a mummy, here it lives, lives in an ever-flowing fountain of speech and manners. The Greek temple is here, though in ruins, for have we not just seen it? Broken parts of column and entablature lie scattered about or must be dug up from the soil ; still from these fragments the temple can be constructed anew in its original vital unity. But to see the dry, anatomized dictionary actually sprouting with fresh buds every day, its old withered limbs covering themselves with green leaves and sproutlings, is a joy like that of the new spring-time after a dreary winter.
Yet amid so many delights I must confess to one disappointment : I have not yet seen Helen nor indeed the posibility of Helen. I do not now expect to find her in this portion of Greece. The Albanian type has had possession of these hills for some centuries, and though the Albanians have adopted and preserved much that was Greek, and may have had a common origin with the Greek in the old Pelasgic stock, they have no Helen. Onward then, still onward we must pass in the search, yet not without hope ; for where so much has survived, she too may possibly have survived, in primitive youthful beauty. Also a faint rumor we have heard with new encouragement, that off somewhere in the distant mountains she is concealed in peasant garb, accessible only to the most enthusiastic and determined suitor. Looking in restless expectancy at those mountains with summit and sides wrapped in clouds, yet thinking always of what they conceal, we shall still keep up our light-hearted journey. But it is a rainy day and we are penned in by the storm ; it offers therefore a good opportunity for retrospection and renewed purpose ; so we resolve with fresh ardor to maintain the quest.
Long we continued to sit around the table sipping the moments away with the golden recinato, while the tempest was whistling and whirling furiously outside. One begins to feel cramped up, the wineshop is already too small for the chafing spirit, Greece itself appears to be getting too small. Suddenly the lawyer began to talk about America : that is a country large enough for anybody to stretch himself out upon. He asked me if I knew some person at Boston ; I had to tell him that between my home and Boston lay an ex-tent of territory much greater than that between Greece and Rome, the two main centers of ancient civilization, a distance hardly less than that from Greece to North-Western Europe, the seat of modern civilization. With such slow and painful steps does our world seem to move in that East-ern continent be it said with all due gratitude and reverence. But on the other hand the distance between St. Louis and Boston, if we reckon by time, by ease of traveling, even by expense, is not as great as that between this little Attic town Marcopoulo and Athens. Nor did I fail to maintain to those two keen-witted Greeks before me the metaphysical subtlety that in America Space is destined to sink away, and be subsumed in Time really, that is to the very senses of men, as it already had done ideally to the mind of the old Greek philosopher.
Having thus once more felt in that little wineshop the free range and the boundless expanse of the prairies of our western world, I could not help enlarging still further, and spoke again of those space-devouring Americans with their inventions the Telegraph which extends its arms around the earth and drops its message at any point; the Telephone, which not only carries the written word, but the voice in all its tones through Space ; finally the wonderful Phonograph, invented this very year, the machine which speaks and pro-poses to carry the voice not through Space merely, but through Time itself, so that the spoken word, in all its modulation and color, shall become eternal. I added with the most mysterious air at my command : Time, too, like Space is destined there to be no longer an impassible limit within which man is kept in a prison-house, but will sink away for the senses, and be subsumed into a higher entity. Then those Greeks were lost, lost in blank amazement ; they seemed touched almost with despair at the wonderful achievements of a superior race. For the lawyer was actually brought to declare : Yes, your people are most like to our ancestors, and to us.
Giving them honest words of assent and comfort, the speaker, true to his nationality, could not so suddenly stop that flight of winged words, for he must now make a speech, and so he continued: The ancient Greeks indeed created the ideal types which we have filled, and are still filling with reality. What are all these mechanical wonders, for in-stance, but the realisation of what that gifted people, your forefathers, suggested in thought and in imagination, in their philosophy and in their poetry? In fact what are they but the fulfilment of prophetic gleamings found in one Greek man, old Homer? What is the Telegraph communicating its message to the ends of the earth but Hermes, messenger of the Gods, with winged sandals swaying over land and sea, bearing the news from Olympus down to mortals at a thought? What is the Telephone but the far-sounding Jupiter, sitting above the clouds in the pure noiseless ether, uttering his word to the people, not exactly in thunders now, but in a way even more emphatic and far-reaching? And what is the Phonograph but that wonderful voice of the Poet himself, still heard sweetly singing down through the ages in all its luscious color and modulation, and which will go on singing to all eternity? Voice too fixed now strangely in characters which the bard himself could not read, were he at present to come back to earth again.
These forms of the imagination are in our day being realized, made palpable in material shapes ; thus, however, they must descend from their height, must drop from poetry into prose. So one may well believe that the world's History is always doing ; the forms of the imagination seen by Poet or Prophet are made actual; thus the truest work that ,our latest civilization has done is to translate Homer into prose; this is indeed the best translation. Nor can we stop yet ; plenty of work has the old bard given us to do for in-definite ages to come, if we would completely fill his forms with reality. Not until every individual can be his own Hermes, put on some mysterious talaria or sandal wings, grasp some unknown strange caduceus or serpent wand, and thus equipped strike out boldly through the air to the other side of the earth to visit a neighbor or take a look at the Parthenon before breakfast not until then can we be said to have done with this question of translating Homer.
Which is the greater, he or we? one will hear it often asked. He doubtless is the creator, he created in beauty the forms which we are seeking to endow with material reality ; we are but carrying out the instructions, working after the pattern of the master ; we are simply fulfilling his prophecy, or are the offspring of his typical characters. He is the original, he is the greater. But each one of us sits on a throne, as Jupiter on Olympus, controlling a world ; we lord it infinitely like a deity, little restrained by the limits of Space and Time ; we do and are quite all that the old Greek divinities did or were. We mortals have indeed become Homer's Gods, and mightier ; we are the greater.
But hold ! I find that I have completely fallen out of my part ; I began by making this speech to the Greeks there in the wineshop, but I have gradually lapsed into addressing it wholly to you here. Such tricks the rainy day plays upon us with its driving tempest of reflections. Still some-thing of the kind was said then; there was the lawyer sitting with the host, both of whom could understand me ; there too was Varvonillya, the Theban, with a huge wart on his nose, lying back in a kind of mystified revery, yet never failing to take his portion of recinato. Most of the Albanians went away, preferring the rain outside, of which, to be just to them, they and their garments were in greater need than of my sort of drenching. Still we continued to quaff in gentle measures the golden liquid, more wonderful than the touch of Midas, which could only turn material things into shining metal. At last the sun himself came out, gold-en too, and shone upon the table before us, promising a glorious morrow.
And now about all this drinking what does it mean in you? Thus I have been repeatedly asked, particularly by young ladies. Did you really drink all that you say you did —you who have more the appearance of an apostle of total abstinence than of a jovial Greek did you drink all that wine? So they ask me, getting a riffle solicitous about my personal habits while away from home and its good influences. But on the whole I have to answer: Yes, so it Is and not otherwise. You see that Greece is not Greece with-out its wine, and I for one went to see Greece, and even to be a Greek as far as I could, while I was in that land. Nor would there be any complete Italy without its wine ; it so partakes of the life and poetry of these classic lands, that it can not be left away. If any one wishes to enter into the manners and realize the mode of living in Greece, he can not omit the wine. The poorest peasant has two green spots which he carefully cultivates with his hands and cherishes in his heart : they are his vineyard and grain field. I have often seen him going to his work to remain the whole day ; his dinner is a loaf of bread and a canteen of recinato. These two things, bread and wine, are the two elements of his existence, and the two objects for which the labor of his days is given.
Thus they constitute quite the entire circle of his simple life ; they maintain him, he maintains them. But to us they have come to stand in a new and peculiar relation. These two simple staples have been transmitted from the Orient to the Occident in the highest and most venerated of all its religious symbols, in the bread and wine of the Lord's Sup-per. The Savior took the two chief elements of the material existence before him, when he wished to typify the higher or spiritual existence ; they were the symbols most manifest to the poor and unlettered peasant as they were taken from his most intimate daily experience ; they were also the two segments which made up for him the completed circle of life, thus representing the completeness of the higher sphere. But for us the strange fact appears that one of these elements is often considered to ally us not with the spiritual, but with the bestial, and that many persons can, without any apparent inner dissonance, take it one moment as the symbol of God and the next moment reprobate it as the product of the Devil. Such a discord would utterly destroy our Greek mood ; we shall try to banish it now and forever.
Also the mighty difference between the two articles should be observed by the thoughtful seeker of nourishment. Bread alone supplies the body, but even the peasant scorns such gross living and adds the wine. Bread furnishes bone and muscle, wine enters the blood and excites the soul, the inner genius and energy of the man. The former enables him to walk, but the latter gives him wings. In other words, bread is prose, but wine is poetry. Nay, it is the only poetical drink conceivable, celebrated by poets in all ages. To sing the praises of any other beverage will not succeed, somehow or other ; the song of water is insipid, the song of beer is gross, the song of whisky is frantic. Wine alone can be sung about. Life, the dullest life, has in this Grecian land its prosaic and its poetic ingredient bread and wine, not all bread and butter. To travel through Greece and leave the poetry out, would be indeed a most melancholy journey; do not ask me to make it, still less to tell of it afterwards. Rather, I should advise, let us add a little of this Greek wine to the bread of our own daily lives.
Moreover it is a principle with the true-hearted traveler, to live as the people live wherever he goes, to throw himself into their life and consciousness, into both their physical and spiritual condition, to be one with them and to exist for the time being sympathetically along with them. To take a lofty stand-point above them, and thence with an air of superiority to look down upon their life and manners, and to criticise what you have not lived, is the way to deceive yourself, —to think you know all about them when you know nothing. One person, at least, whom I am acquainted with, does not propose to travel in that way ; he is going to drink recinato and like it, even if he did not like it which, as I happen to know, is not the case.
Thus if is, too, with the fustanella, the Greek male costume, of which much fun has been made. I do not deny that I at first thought it was the most ridiculous garment I ever beheld on a human body a man in tights and ruffles, dressed like a ballet-girl, walking the streets in open day. But I confess that the liking for the costume grows upon me as I see it in its true place on these hills; it is just fitted for this climate and for this clear atmosphere. It has, too, a poetic phase, being very different in this regard from the prosaic utilitarian dress of the Franks. That white shape, seen far up the sunny slope, thought it be following the laborious plow, has the air of an eternal holiday and seems rather some sculptured relief in marble representing the toiling husbandman than an actual ploughman. To me at least it is a sight most pleasant, surrounding the prosaic occupation of life with an ideal atmosphere of joy and beauty. Still, I am not so far advanced as to drop my present garments and don the fustanella, as Lord Byron is said to have done ; you must not expect too much at once, the journey is not half over.
Well, another shower! What a dull, rainy day! In or-der to impart to you a most lively impression of it, you must be made drowsy, which literary quality I do not despair of infusing into my words. If you have not yet yawned, I hope to succeed in making you harmonious with the occasion by the following reflections, which give a more general statement of the question just discussed. This question is, at bottom, concerning the difference between morals and manners. Morals are universal ; the whole civilized world has fundamentally the same code of morals ; concerning moral violation there is in general the same opinion. But manners are very different with different peoples. Do not judge men by the cut of their dress, by their cookery ; do not judge of the world's history by the ways of making a bow. Still further, do not condemn morally a people whose manners are different from your own ; who wear the fez and fustanella and you do not ; who drink wine and you do not ; who even go a spectacle on Sunday and you do not. Ask rather this other question, if you wish to find out the relative moral bearings : Are these people as great drunkards as I or my people ; do they steal as much as I or my people ; are they as faithful to domestic life, to patriotic duty as I or my people? Nowhere in the world is it possible to conceive of a rational being who has any doubt concerning the moral character of such actions. But when there is an important difference between peoples, you may generally assume that it is in the sphere of manners rather than in that of morals. Men do not differ about the nature of murder, they do differ about the propriety of eating with fork or finger. Travelers are too often inclined to play variations on this one jejune theme: the manners of this people are ridiculous, perchance immoral ; reason : they are not my manners or those of my people. On the contrary, no manners in the true sense of the word can be immoral they have no moral character one way or the other ; they are all equally good, let everybody take his choice. Make then most sharply the distinction between morals and manners ; change the latter with every new people you live among ; but be careful about changing the former with the change of climate, since they are a matter of universal validity.
But let the mind turn once more from this dry discussion to the liquid source, the recinato, whose throbbing beads we raise now to our lips before parting, and empty our final glass amid hearty gushes of good feeling. As I spring up from the table and look around, I notice that the sun has again come out and is throwing his declining rays aslant the door sill; it is a joyful invitation into the fresh, clear air out of that cheerless wineshop. Behold, the rain is over, the sun is descending in a blaze over the mountain top ; the last clouds, scattered and broken, are fleeing across the sky, riding with breakneck speed, like routed dragoons. It is, however, too late to do anything except to take a walk to yonder pine woods. I go down the road which leads thither, the grass has a new and deeper tinge of green after the rain, and many a little flower thrusts out its mottled head from among the rocks, filled with some secret instinct of showing its beauty.
The fragrance that rises from the pines meets the approaching guest more than half way, and pleasantly invites him forward to their shelter with repeated waftings of incense. The fresh smell of the showers mingles with the odor of the woods ; the sombre forms of the conifers are lighted with the slanting rays which glide among the small, needle-shaped leaves and transform them into millions of mellow gleams ever dancing between green and gold. Suddenly, from a covered copse just at the side of the path, the voice of an unseen person pierces loud and far through the air, now washed clean of every mote ; it is quite similar to that voice which we heard through the fog yesterday so mysteriously on the mountains. A few steps reveal the form ; it is a shepherd girl, and here is her flock browsing about her through the woods. Her call is for some distant companion, possibly for her lover, whose answer in like tones can be faintly heard from a hill-side far off to the left. That peculiar intonation she makes seems to cut through the air, buoyantly riding over the dales, creeping up the sinuous mountain slopes, and dropping faintly at last behind the farthest summits.
But we shall not yet turn back to the village ; the spend-thrift, Nature, is this evening indulging in one of her wildest debauches after so long restraint ; let us too be filled with a little of her extravagance. Behind, these woods is a distant view of a cultivated valley which breaks fitfully through between the trunks of the trees whose branches form close-woven vistas down into the rolling fields of grain. Farther on we come to the road winding over the hill-side ; we reach a turn in it, when suddenly there bursts into view the sea, calmly carrying the eye over its level expanse into the Invisible. This is the Euripus, southwards breaking into the open sea, but in front being only a narrow strait dividing the island Euboea from the mainland Attica. The waters now lie almost in repose, with just a slight tremble under the rays of the setting sun, from which a long golden wake passes over the surface of ripples to the eye of the beholder, as if the chariot of Apollo was running across the sea just there out of the sunset, and throwing off from its wheels blazing flakes of sun-fire. Over the waters is spread a very thin transparent robe of haze, tenderly blue, not hiding but rather revealing what it veils. The wake of palpitating flames extends across the channel to the other shore and lights up Eretria, village white and fair, lying on the border of the sea. The town seems just now to have crawled out of the waves, like some white-bodied ocean-nymph and to have lain down in the sun at the edge of the water. There she looks at herself in the glassy depths and smiles, beholding her own face in that calm mirror. In a happy sunlit serenity the silvery line of houses is reposing along the bank ; thus one is compelled to endow the mild marble out-lines of the spot with some Greek plastic form. A flock of pigeons whirs above the head ; high over the water they flap their wings transmuted in that sunny haze to resplendent pinions; then about half way across the channel they sweep about in a long curve and fly up the strait toward Chalkis, disappearing in golden flames.
Thus fairly on the sea rests Eretria yonder, bending like a crescent of white marble ; but now glance behind the town to the heights there for the final scene, where this day's drowsy drama is brought to an end in gorgeous spectacular pomp. Running through the island as far as the eye can reach is a line of mountains snow-mantled, along whose ridged summits the last beams of to-day are reposing with a lustre soft and soothing to the sight. There the colossal hoary shapes sit, as it were at some Olympian feast, marble Gods with heads garlanded in sunshine ; beyond this first line can be seen other heads looming up at that banqueting table. See how the white drapery of snow glistens through the deep rows of mountainous statuary ; notice too the sun's line drawn along the billowy crests, while dusk keeps shading more deeply the slants below ; nearer the tops that lustrous line is always climbing ; now it quite touches the shoulders of the tallest white-draped guests sitting there in stately order. But in the midst of them stands their king, ancient Basilicon, towering far above all the others in proud majesty, the Jupiter of this divine throng. Beside him, indeed, the rest seem to sink down to the level of the earth ; soon their heads are covered with shadows, bowed, as it were, in his presence and slightly muffled ; while Apollo, as his grand final act of the day sets on the white brow of the mountain king a golden crown, flashing to this distance with rubies and amethysts amid a fitful sparkle of snow diamonds. That regal pageant will not release the eye till the crown with all its brilliants is lifted from the summit into the sky, and there just above the peak is set in the clouds, which are gilded for a few moments and faintly studded with gems ; then the clouds too fall under a deepening shadow which converts them at once to dun dragons of the air. It is a sudden, fearful transformation ; startled I turn around to retrace my steps ; the pine woods have changed to a dark tangled mass of serpentine monsters ; above the tree tops is a faint throbbing twilight which only brings into stronger relief the black funereal conifers pointing in ghostly silence upwards to the Heavens. Do not be seared, but I had to shudder, and I hurried past the woods to the village with something following me close to my heels ; through the dark lanes I wound swiftly to my quarters, where I burst open the door in some perturbation, a demon being ready to grasp me just as I sprang across the sill.
But as I enter, behold ! there is the blazing fire in the hearth, with the children sporting around it ; the table is spread on the floor, Varvouillya is raking the clams from the hot ashes, the host is sitting, cross-legged, on the mat, with the demijohn of recinato at his side, I squat down in my place, and the symposium begins anew. But things may be repeated, words ought not to be ; good dinners can be repeated often, good descriptions of dinner sate soon one is enough. So this second festivity, though quite as merry as the first, may be forever chained down in the dark prison of the Silences. But to-morrow is a day of rich promise ; I predict that the sun will shine, the birds will sing, the high waters will run out, and the traveler, light-hearted and light-footed, will shoulder his knapsack once more, and will follow the bright image fleeing before him along the banks of beautiful blue Euripus.