A Walk In Hellas:
From Lebedeia To Chaeroneia
From Chaeroneia To Arachoba
New Life Of Old Parnassus
Two Worlds Of Parnassus
Rambles Over Parnassus
Read More Articles About: A Walk In Hellas
From Lebedeia To Chaeroneia
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
THE prolonged stay in Lebedeia has come to an end, and the traveler is now stepping lightly over the highway with a new view in his eye and a new hope in his heart. The stress of weather which forced such a lengthy delay was a blessing doubtless, but one of those blessings which are not appreciated at the time ; they must be past before they can be rightly valued. Irk-some hours those were often, with Parnassus in view, but unattainable. But now we have started again upon our light-hearted quest; a happy journey we pray it to be still, radiant with joyous visions, yet filled with an earnest purpose; assuredly that image, so long pursued, is still fleeing before us, not yet overtaken. Down the Great Road we pass in solitary joy; the music of Herkyna, the wild babbler, faintly sounds out of the distance, as if to entice the wayfarer back; the fair nymph excites, it must be confessed, a momentary regret at parting, but her charms must not detain us longer. The clouds have fled, the sun is keeping a festival over the hills, the air is full of wine, and man has nought to do but to be hilarious along with the Gods.
We shall now have to leave the Great Road, which has been so long in our company, and has so kindly laid itself down under our feet, as if it made itself just as we needed it; but here it gives a gentle turn, as if unwilling to quit our society, and crawls around a hill, where it disappears in a direction whither we can not follow. We run down its embankment and enter a thicket of low brushwood, through which winds the mule-path conducting us toward the plain of Kephissus. It is the old kind of narrow bush-wreathed way which led us such a devious course in the early part of journey. Clamber over the stones, push through the branches their hostility is but feigned, they will retire before you with a laugh, if you keep up your Greek mood.
Emerging from a little glen, the traveler will overtake a couple of Greek soldiers, for these roads are always kept patrolled. Quite different was the old Greek soldier who marched up this valley to famous battle-fields. The modern uniform is very like that of the American soldier; here are the blue cap, blouse and trousers, with musket and knapsack; nor can one omit to notice the broad-bottomed shoe, a very familiar object in other times. Those muskets winding around through the bushes with the blue garments vanishing among the leaves, seem a shred of our own Civil War dropped suddenly into this Hellenic landscape.
But the old is still in the new even here, and that too in the most emphatic manner. This Greek soldier is indeed a descendant of the ancient one, could we truly trace the genealogy. If he had appeared on the field of Chaeroneia with his loud-resounding death-dealing musketry fire, he would have been considered a demon armed with Jove's thunderbolts; some demon has stolen the weapons of Zeus from the forge of the Cyclops, the frightened Hoplites would say, and at once take to flight. The old mythus, the spiritual image of what is to be, has now become reality, and no longer hovers a poetic dream over the Greek fields and mountains; here it is an actual thing right at the foot of Parnassus. We moderns have indeed stolen the weapons of Zeus, and have become even mightier than the God ; thus man ever must do, must realize the divine upon earth, bringing it down from the skies; he has in the truest sense naught else to do. The old Greek soldier had in his worship, when he prayed to Zeus the Highest on that fatal day of Chaeroneia, the prophecy of this modern Greek soldier carrying gun and cartridge box. Thus the sacred arms drop from heaven and remain thenceforth terrestrial, according to holy legend itself; what is adored by one age as godlike is revealed to another age as human. In such way has our modern life realized Homer's divinities, being true divinities once because they had just this germ of reality in them. So our Greek soldier, an humble private in the ranks, trudges along in blue uniform, with rattling cartridges in his box, all unconscious that he is armed with Jove's thunderbolts, mightiest weapons of the old Gods.
But as you halt for a moment between two bushes, look up to the horizon; there you can not help seeing another transmution even more wonderful. On this side lies Helicon, yonder towers Parnassus ; both are seats of the Muses, it was said of old. There the two mountains actually rest, filling so much space in the vision, yet under our very eye they seem to change into some-thing beyond themselves, into something better, more beautiful than themselves, dissolving out of nature musically into an image. Thus they continue to do at every glance; what does it mean? repeatedly asks the astonished beholder. That must be the touch of the Muse, touching her own mountains and transforming them from rude rocks into her seats forever. Yet what does that mean? he will again ask, and you too will ask probably, being as much mystified as he.
But a few miles apart the two summits lie, easily visible, nay audible to each other, one will think. They seem to be engaged in a sort of carmen amoebaeum, or rival song, like the two shepherds of Theocritus who stand opposite and sing; thus echoes rise out of the two ranges and mingle over the valley. The umpire, too, is worthy of mention ; nothing more or less than the world which has been listening to these mountains ever since the first song which they sang to each other. When was that? Very difficult to tell ; but we still catch the echoes going back some eight or ten centuries before the Christian Era. A conflict it was clearly, a conflict for the seat of the Muses; here it arose among the people on the opposite sides of this valley; a deep, intense struggle we may well imagine it, for the possession of the true shrine of the sacred Sisters. Yet it was just the problem which those people had to settle for themselves and for all mankind; it was just their stage of development which commanded them to seat the Muses upon these summits where the latter have remained to this day. I venture to think that in that ancient rivalry, the woodland slopes resounded with never-ceasing strains, and this valley was filled with a continuous music of pipe and song; for it was the life-work of the people to do this and nothing else, to give a seat to the Muses upon our earth; and well have they done their work if we may judge of it by its durability.
But which of the two mountains won in the contest ? The judgement has been rendered, and we all know it; like the umpire in the idyl already mentioned, the world has concluded to call both mountains the seats of the Muses ; both have won the prize. Ancient Hesiod sang upon Helicon, as we have before noted; what Parnassus has in store for us in our journey, we shall wait for with no small degree of expectancy.
It is, indeed, one of the greatest wonders, this trans-mutation. How have ye, Oh hills, become eternal, not as granite, but as an image, which floats through and wings the beautiful utterance of all lands ? You seem not yourselves, but are at once transfigured into spiritual things ; rock you are, I see and feel ; the dull swain and his herds trample you daily with ignoble feet, yet you are not as other hills ; who gave to you pinions to traverse the whole earth, and fly down all time just to you and to nought beside? It is the work of the Muse, weaving thereof her garment of beauty; she transmutes the rugged bare cliff into her radiant vesture, and the very stones turn to words which are everlasting.
Such is, indeed, all Greece, and not merely this spot; such is, too, the traveler, a little exalted, I think, as if he also were trying to elevate himself to yonder peak of the Muses, and transform his own stony speech into their breathings. But if you are fair to him, you will say that therein he is only trying to do his duty in this land. Nature here is no longer an outer world merely, but suffers a rich sky-change into a Beyond, though remaining al-ways herself. For when I say Helicon, do I mean yon towering rock only ? Impossible ; I cannot utter the word, I cannot even see the thing, without feeling at the same time a transfiguration of the vision, a vanishing of the natural into the spiritual. It is the exaltation of Nature into the mythus on the spot; before you everywhere the old mythology springs up in native spontaneity; and you, yourself become a mythus must become one, if you truly travel in Greece.
Mythus I say not myth ; let us attempt to restore the word to its original birthright, by restoring its original form. Myth means falsehood; mythus means truth, or the utterance of it through the image. Originally it meant the Word, sacred, mysterious Word in which was imaged the world of spirit by the Poet or Maker. Its lost soul let us restore, which we ought to do, with Parnassus in sight.
Whither now? Yonder is the veritable Parnassus with his immense head of snow, not a cloud at present rests upon the summit ; the glistening crystals shoot their radiance into the eye, fiercely yet with some deep fascination. Thither we must go ; the direction which the people give, is to pass by a narrow path over the intervening hill into the valley of the Kephissus Boeotian, not Attic Kephissus. There is Chaeroneia, which is worthy of a view, particularly its Lion of stone. Thence we can still, today, reach Daulis at the foot of the Parnassian range. My kind host of Lebedeia has placed in my hands letters of introduction to his friends along the road, the first that I have had. Such letters are usually procured at Athens, often from the government; I started without them. The result is, that I have been allowed to wander at my own sweet will undisturbed by the attention of any official. I turn about often and look at Lebedeia; pleasant town, lying at the foot of Helicon, whose tops are sprinkled with snow town full of delightful memories. It passes out of sight ; the traveler finds himself in the Kephissian vale, a new little Greek world.
Far across its level expanse filled with a sunny repose lie villages on hilly slants, memorable in antiquity; through the plain straggles Kephissus, winding like a glistening snake among his reeds. It is Sunday morning in the literal sense a day of the Sun, who seems to be strewing his tranquil light in his sweetest mood. But this plain has been a terrific battle-field for Greek, Rom-an, Barbarian; one thinks still of the tumult of war, of desperate conflict, in contrast to the present repose. But we shall not cross over it, though we make many a little excursion out into it, among its flocks and its cultivated fields; yet, on the whole, it seems rather uncultivated. Keep along close to the foot of this low range of hills lying between Helicon and Parnassus, else we may miss our destination. Warriors surge through the sunlight darkening it, as by a faint shadow cast from their ghosts; but there is one image that will not out of the mind a peaceful, sunlit image; it is that of Plutarch, a native here, whose memory still lurks in the sunniest spots, and fills them with a new splendor.
Skirting the low hills in sunshine, one gets attuned to the happy natur which seems to be making up for having been darkened so long by the clouds. The Sun comes out as if he were atoning by his shining deeds for some misdemeanor, and were determined never to be guilty of hiding his face again. Glance up the sunny slopes, look across the level valley, behold the snowy peaks there is variety enough to occupy you with its music. For some days the traveler seemed lost in the storm, now he has found himself again. It is like an ancient dramatic festival which from dark tragic deeds, fitful strokes of fate, bursts into sudden joy and comic hilarity. What is the man thinking of while he is passing along? It can hardly be called thought, it is rather enjoyment the happy balance between his senses and soul in which both make one melody and are not seeking to cast each other out, as if one or both were devils. Many images indeed dart through the mind ; it would be a motley picture, could it be painted rather a whole pallet full of paints dashed on the canvas in some instinctive harmony. No definite picture there is, but enjoyment, a delightful mood, filled up with the sun, field, mountain mood of Greek strains to be enjoyed, possibly to be communicated, not to be portrayed.
While going along the bushy path, I fell into a curious conversation with one of the soldiers, a man of some education and who has his own ideas about this world, one of which has taken complete possession of him. It is that civilization is not a good, but an evil to man, and that it would be far better if the human race remained in primitive ignorance and innocence. The tree of knowledge has yielded him only bitter fruit so far as he has tasted of it, and he maintains that the nations which have existed in the past, particularly old Hellas, perished by refinement of intelligence. Nor is he slow in predicting the same grand cataclysm for the present order of things; the world is too wise to exist. Truly here is a man who has fallen out with the new Gods and wishes to return to the old ones to the reign of Cronus, and that primordial state of felicity which knows nothing, nothing even of itself. " Yes," says he, " Hellas must sink .again, there is too much education already here, it must sink again." So he spake with foreboding, and with extraordinary terror at his country's intellectual illumination. I looked up, behold we were in the plain of Chaeroneia, an ominous name which still startles the sympathetic traveler, most ominous name in Grecian History.
Thus one in mood now clouded, saunters along for a couple of hours over the plain till he pass around the bend of a hill when he beholds the houses of a small village. This he will recognize to be Capurna, ancient Chaeroneia. He will move to the side of the road where a tumulus which has been excavated arrests his attention; going within the enclosure, he will behold the Chaeronean Lion, prostrate on the earth, and broken to fragments. We are then on the battlefield of Chaeroneia, where the Greek world received its death-blow at the hands of Philip; we stand upon the very tomb of the Greeks who gave their lives for their faith in Hellenic worth; indeed here is the very monument of the Theban Sacred Band who are said to have fallen to the last man upon this spot and are buried beneath us.
Fate then has come at last; Fate so long prophesied in the books of Greece, so long imaged in her poetry, so long threatening from the Orient, but always valiantly repelled, has indeed arrived. Here it is, behold its dark approach to this plain from the North like a whirlwind Philip with his phalanx coming down from Macedon. Greece can not resist him, she becomes a tragedy, such as was often adumbrated by her poets, now a real tragedy. Deepest grain in Greek character is that Fate, going back in manifold forms to the mythic times; Achilles we recollect lamenting his destiny and prophesying his own death; he touched the profoundest note of his people and hinted their destiny in that of himself, their ideal hero; but Fate here becomes reality. Henceforth Fate is supreme, must be placed even above Zeus now, if not before; for the Gods of Greece are subjugated, and from now on may as well shut up Olympus. For what is a conquered God ?
From the battle of Chaeroneia, which was fought in the year 338 B. C. between Philip and the Greeks, dates the loss of Greek freedom, as the books say. True ; yet we may be assured that something else had been lost before, that this grand defeat was but the outer blow which merely put an end to that which was already dead within. Such are usually the great battles of History— the finishing stroke to a body whose spirit has really departed. Let the corpse no longer cumber my earth, says the world judge, and thereupon he sends some executioner, often a horde of barbarians with fire and sword, to bring the ghastly spectacle to a termination. Greek freedom perished on this fatal field of Chaeroneia, but all which made Greece worthy of freedom had already perished, otherwise the finality could not have been here.
That autonomy for which Greece had fought and suffered so much, now comes to an end, having fulfilled its mission. The most beautiful political flower of the World's History : such is the common shout of admiration among men. But it is now smitten by an outsider, the Macedonian Philip, who has inherited Greek intelligence and Greek organization and transferred it to Macedon, a foreign and hostile land. Moreover he is the One Man, not the Few nor the Many; an absolute ruler has arisen, determiner of Grecian destinies; two qualities he has which are the death of the old Greek political spirit, he is a foreigner and an irresponsible monarch. So the star which we saw rise at Marathon sets at Chaeroneia.
We ask on this battle-field, where is the mighty individual to meet Philip ? who commanded here, whose brain controlled ? Alas ! there is no Great Man any more. Greece has ceased to produce mighty individuals, those great men of action who were once only too abundant so many of them indeed that Athens had to get rid of some of hers by ostracism. But that was just the glory of Greece, her function in the World's History : to rear mighty individualities. Now she has become barren of them; she no longer produces that which she was called to produce; it is indeed high time that her career should close. Having ceased to bear great men, let her cease to be : such is the oracle distinctly pronounced upon this battle-field. Thebans were here, the Sacred Band of Theban youth perished to a man, and lie buried under yonder Lion of Stone; but they were here without an Epaminondas, and their desperate valor availed nought. Athenians were here, but with whom ? Not with a Miltiades wo be to them; but with Demosthenes, a great talker — indeed rather the greatest talker of all time — such greatness only can Athens now pro-duce. If Philip could be talked down, clearly Demosthenes was the man, the very best man that ever was born to do the work. He tried to do it for fourteen years with thunderous philippics, so called from this very Philip : speeches which have been the wonder of the world. But the outcome of his magnificent oratory was Chaeroneia; words, the words of even a Demosthenes, are no match for deeds, deeds of even a Philip. Yet do not underrate the value of talk, great speech is still greatness when in its true field, though it cannot take the place of great action. I would not disparage talk, if it be not too much, and too diluted; we all talk, I can-not hide the fact that I am talking now; so I would not have you underrate the value of talk, particularly of these talks upon Hellas.
Meantime, the modern Greek soldier has passed on out of sight, still uttering his doleful prophecies, believing that there is too much education and not enough ignorance in Greece. Civilization brings on always a battle of Chaeroneia, he thinks, thus the new Hellas is soon destined to end in a mighty overturn like the old one; the essence of true wisdom lies in the lack of knowledge : such is his faith. But from a far different cause ancient Greece fell; and modern Greece, disjointed and scattered as it is, excites in our hearts a hope of far different results. Turn about now and look at the Chaeroneian Lion.
Here, then, it lies on the very spot where the ancient traveler saw it and wondered at its power; it still typified with fierce energy the spirit of the men that lay beneath. Then for a thousand years it disappeared under the soil, covered up by the gentle action of the rains and frost, or it may be, buried by some tender hand, as if for a remote future time which would unearth it and possibly make it live again. No modern traveler before the present century or the Greek Revolution speaks of it, merely the tumulus lay there undisturbed. The manner in which it came to light in recent times is curious : a fragment of its marble body protruded suddenly from the ground during the late war for Hellenic freedom; an excavation was made, and a Greek chieftain is said to have broken it to pieces in the hope of finding concealed treasure in its cavity.
Thus the Lion still remains lying on his back, in fragments; head, breast and mane are yet entire, of enormous bulk; the head seems four feet through as I stand alongside of it and measure its size by my own height. Its surface yet shows signs of ancient storms during these hundreds of years that it stood guard over the tomb, grinning and growling even in death. What a symbol of that ancient day of Chaeroneia ! what a symbol still. Truly it is an utterance of Grecian despair at that time; a work of art; nor is it without significance to-day, as it lies in pieces upon the ground. The dying Lion prefiguring the dying Greek world it was then; now even the symbol is broken to fragments, thus it has become the symbol of a symbol, for the work of that old Greek world is at present but fragments, fragments of the Lion.
The effect is certainly strong in these massive features, particularly about the jaws: bitter agony there is combined with stubborn ferocity. Then, too, its present attitude makes it all the more striking; it looks as if by some violent thrust it had reeled over on its back and is now dying. Here is a monument that works like a prophecy of the fate of ancient Greece ; looking back more than 2,000 years we wonder at the power with which the sculptor has told his story, and embodied the belief of his time : it says that the Greek Lion is dying, dying on this field of Chaeroneia. It stood above the ancient tomb, erect, still defiant, for over 500 years after the battle, when it was seen by an ancient traveler; now it lies prostrate in fragments, being smitten by a new blow just as it came to light in a new world.
No patriotic inscription was engraved upon it in antiquity we are told; nor was there need of any. Even in the presence of the Macedonian victor all is told by the Lion. Look at the eye ; though much worn by the weather, it is still weeping, it still has a cry of anguish, if we note carefully the expression; mingled with its pain is the growl of wrath against barbarian conqueror. Writers have asked to have the pieces removed to Athens and set up in a Museum, after being put together again; such a procedure might tend to the preservation of the precious work, but I doubt whether it could pro-duce half the impression that it does here on the spot where the Lion was pierced, under this strong sun now beating down on the foot of the hills. Rolled over on its back, in a death struggle, smitten to fragments which still growl that is its power.
Recent chippings from the body I notice; alas ! it will not lie here much longer; the rude peasant boy and the barbarous tourist will yet continue to lacerate the Lion as he lies in agony; soon therefore his members will be dispersed to remotest quarters of the globe. Here is an immense foot with its four claws, lying several yards from the body; sympathetically one will pick it up and seek to restore it to its place as nearly as possible. A broken hind leg lies yonder, struggling to be restored it seems still; but it is too heavy to be lifted by one pair of arms however eager. A dozen large fragments can be counted, as they lie scattered about the stony carcass —what is it but dismembered Greece, which no foreigner, whatever be his love, can unite by outside piecing ?
The mound has been rudely excavated, and in the excavation lies the fragmentary body. Strange, that when the Greek Lion comes to light again in modern times, it should be merely a heap of pieces. Yet such is the case universally in regard to Greece. Greek history, Greek poetry, Greek art, the Greek world in all our modern excavations, reveal only the beautiful fragments. And the new resurrection of Greece to nationality what has it revealed as yet but fragments of the old Greek Lion? Still they are genuine Greek fragments, with their aid we can often reconstruct the Greek Lion ; for even from this claw we may obtain some image of what he was when alive in all his strength and undaunted energy.
While I sit there looking at the fragments, a man comes along, a Chaeroneian, and begins to talk to me. With curiosity he asks me why I am gazing so intently on the Lion, what I am doing here, whence I come ? His last question only I answer, when he bursts out suddenly : Why do not you Americans come and help us fight the Turks who refuse to render us our own our Thessaly, our Islands, our Epirus, our Constantinople? I proceed to give a little idea of the difficulty of such an attempt, but it hardly satisfies him; he utters a growl leaning on the Lion's head, a deep, fierce growl against the Turk, and speaks with despair of the scattered fragments of the Hellenic nation.
Such is the modern lament heard at this moment in the town of Chaeroneia in strange unison with the ancient lament heard in the voice of the Lion. Here at this passage through the valley the barbarians of the North entered, the final desperate conflict was fought unsuccessfully the Lion still growling in the throes of death; and when Barbarism came in, Greece was at an end, was shivered to fragments, and has thus remained even in its modern resurrection ; for hardly one-fifth of the Greeks belong to free Greece. So this man before me is a fragment of the old Greek, fragments of the ancient costume he wears; but above all, he speaks the old tongue, broken to pieces like this Lion, yet in its expressiveness still recalling ancient utterances. The rent trunk of the tree is then still green and sends forth new buds there is indeed hope, and his very speech shows it now. So I say to him : " Patience, oh friend ; I prophecy that you will yet put together the broken Lion; it lies here still, sending forth its fierce growls, looking up into the clear blue heaven at the promise of retribution and restoration, praying as if for help from the Highest. Where is Philip now? Where will be the Turk ? See, these fragments yet live, and call aloud for help; they have obtained even partial resurrection ; put them now together. Lofty Parnassus yonder across the valley looks down upon you eternally with sympathetic joy and what it smiles upon will live forever."
The man was probably not used to that sort of ad-dress, still he must have understood me, for he asked in astonishment : "What, do you know that ? I believe so, too, for it is said here that the Great Saint will soon come from the City (Constantinople) after having driven out the Turk; he will pass through our village, Capurna, and after service in the church, he will put together the Lion, and baptize him, when there will be a long time of peace and plenty, and no work on holydays." In some such way the legend ran, as he told it, unless he manufactured the story on the spot for the credulous stranger. At least it expresses the modern Hellenic faith in national restoration, and the fervent prayer of the traveler is : May the Chaeroneian Lion again have all its scattered members brought together, and breathe with the same vital all-conquering energy as of old.
But while we are looking at the fragments of the Lion, a joyful sound begins to rise up from the village, borne on the sunbeams which seem to mingle with it caressingly. It is a musical sound, though rude; some-what like the tones of the bagpipe, steadied with regular taps on a drum. It is a strange music; sometimes too are heard the notes of a song. What is the meaning of it? My informant tells me that there is to be a wedding today at Chaeroneia a very important event there, and that these sounds are the merry prelude of the nuptials. Thither accordingly we must go, with some haste, for all of it must be seen. Still that ancient question asked in the Odyssey by Ulysses : Is it a wedding ? may be asked this very day at Chaeroneia by the casual wayfarer as he hears the joyful notes of song and music in the village.
Following the direction of the sound, one will not be slow in arriving at a small plot of grass before the church where the dancers, youths and maidens, are winding through the figures of the chorus to the notes of the music. They are mostly dressed in white both sexes, and furnish a delightful view suddenly to the traveler; the clear-outlined sculpturesque shapes of old come to him with the force of a living reality. Is it possible that Chaeroneia still offers such a sight something similar to which ancient Plutarch himself must have looked upon at some festival ? But pass them by for the present; let us climb over the fence and go to the front of the church where the priest in the open air is going through with a peculiar ceremony, in the presence of men, women and children, idly looking on. In that crowd you will see at once all eyes turned upon yourself, as if wondering whence this sudden appearance of a man in Frankish dress, with staff and knapsack.
But be not abashed, go near to the happy couple that you may see and share a little of their joy. Both bride and bridegroom preserve the most determined cast-down look, as if they were present at their own funeral. The bride will not laugh, though I catch her eye once and try to coax a smile from her she looks down ever afterward defiantly on the ground. She is strong-browned in complexion, with profile rather tortuous evidently a simple country girl, from whom one ought not to expect too much resemblance to ancient Helen. She has a manifold, indescribable head-dress; an immense number of silver coins, said to be her complete dower, are strung in repeated strands about her neck ; her gown is short and many-colored; she has striped stockings and low morocco shoes with elegant ribbons tied in them. The bridegroom stands patient, very sober, in an elaborately wrought cap and fustanella. The priest in black stiff cap and dark stole, both of which have evidently been at many a wedding, performs the ceremony with much chanting through the nose and mysterious manipulation; I noticed that he broke off right in the middle of his service to scold with the utmost ferocity a little urchin who' was bringing a wax taper and let it fall. At last the pair are crowned, march around an altar which seems to be ancient, the relatives and other friends dropping numerous copper coins into a cup of holy water; I go up and drop one in too as my share of the entertainment. The priest offers the couple some bread, which falls out of his hand on the ground; he picks it up and rubs off the dirt, and gives it to them to eat. How much of this is essential for securing the marital knot, and how much unessential, I do not undertake to say, I give it all.
But at last the ceremony is over, the couple begin to march off toward their home, followed by the dancers and the music and the miscellaneous throng. I too fall in line and march along; a friendly Chaeroneian takes his place at my side and keeps me company. "Have you such things in your country?" was his first question. " Yes, people get married there too, but we have no such music, nor have we your white folds." Meantime we kept moving to the sound of the caramousa and drum; the long statuesque procession crossed over a classic stream which runs through the middle of the town; I begin now to feel my Frankish garments to be a discord amid these white-robed shapes.
We reach the house on the banks of the stream ; the bride and bridegroom stop before it and are greeted with a hymeneal song from within a song not easy for me to understand, but rudely celebrating domestic bliss and wedded harmony, as near as I could gather from bystanders. Then came a responsive strain by the friends outside, when the couple disappeared behind the door; they are admitted with deep obeisance on part of the bride, while the groom strides in proudly erect. Thus they celebrated in simple idyllic art their entrance into a new life that of the Family in which man and woman try to realize their love, the twain now living together as one person in a mysterious higher unity. Truly the first and most universal theme of all Art is; this, for the humblest as well as the highest, since that secret bond must insist upon some utterance, nay, a, beautiful utterance if possible; so the bridal song is still heard among the peasants of Chaeroneia, and the village gives itself up wholly to the festival.
Then follows an indiscriminate pelting of candies from the house, out of the windows, around the corners, from the roof even they shower, to the great amusement of the children who scramble for the delicacies, and of some who are older. Let the stranger beware, since his foreign dress marks him out for a special benison; let him shade his face with his hands against two or three persistent maidens who bombard him from a little knoll above. But this ceases like a passing summer shower; then the sun comes forth, namely, the golden recinato, which flows out of the house in radiant streams, and of which the entire multitude partake, including the traveler, who will empty not less than one glass to the health of the happy pair. In such way will you or any stranger be treated if you appear on a wedding day before Lent in the little town of Chaeroneia.
Again follows the chant; it would seem as if song were here inborn and had to find expression, gushing up like yonder source from the hillside; the exalted mood of the singers makes the strain throb in true response to the inner ecstacy. A rude, primitive, poetical world, the basis of all genuine poetry is here, yet with-out its development. These songs recall Pindar with his marriage odes and epithalamiums ; they were a reality upon this spot long before him even, and they still exist. But anciently he raised the germ to be flower, to be fruit; this rude material the poet coming along with sacred fire purifies into shining metal. Great need is there of him with his true eye and sense of beauty; one can imagine what the genius of Chaeroneia might still do with these uncouth yet genuine melodies, were he to appear and breathe upon them the breath of divine beauty. This poetical world could be embodied yet in rhythmical harmony; but one of its own sons must be reared to feel that harmony in it and endow the same with a voice.
The youths now adjourn to the village green and begin the dance, still called in Greece the chorus; they are soon followed by the maidens, who gracefully join in the circle. The rest of the day is to be spent in festivities; the whole village is in festal attire ; white garments are flitting by everywhere through the sunshine; it is in the true sense an idyllic life, not the false pretended one of so much pastoral verse. Old people one meets who seem to have become young again ; mothers appear to have been transformed into their daughters and join in the chorus with youthful glee; in fact the whole town appears to have got married to-day in its one wedding.
But we can not go to the choral place, we must reach Daulis today in good season. So let us turn back and recross the stream; but from its further bank we shall look around at the dancers on the distant greensward. Can I convey to you a faint picture of them as they wind about in light-stepping turns and simple, graceful movements ? A circle is formed, headed by the chief dancer, who hops and skips, often leaping into the air and giving a whirl which fills out the white folds of his fusta-nella. The rest of the dancers move more simply, going backward, forward, and keeping time to the music; then they run around in a circle, all joining hands except the first and last. Next come the maidens, forming a row together in white dress, most of them having in addition a many-colored apron and sacque; these last garments furnish the color. Nor are the children excluded from the circle, though they soon drop out. Notice too the movement of the maidens, for now they are dancing by themselves ; it seems quite the same as we may see on ancient monuments long dress, slow step, clear, plastic outlines in this transparent air. There is no wild effort, no frantic tossing of the members but staid, stately, simple motion, free of all pretense and extravagance. Grace is here, an inborn delight in movement for its own sake, with true Greek moderation. The girl who dances at the head holds in her hand merely a wreath, with which she marks the time and the changes of direction for the circle. The youths are dressed entirely in white, which color strongly predominates with the females also ; thus they move easily without struggle, with their soft, white outlines set off against the green hill-side : on the whole it is the prettiest sight I have yet seen in Greece.
But that music what shall a person say to it? Certainly it is a strange compound a drum and a caramousa a snarling instrument, somewhat resembling in form and in sound the hautboy or the flageolet. Not to our taste, say we of the Western world. Then the music has no tune, but merely rhythm such is its character. Surely this music is not to be considered as an independent art, which can be enjoyed by itself it is to give to the dancers the rhythmical movement rather and to keep the time; it hints by its notes the step to be taken, which is rendered more emphatic by the beat of the drum. Rude enough, it may justly be called ; the body, however, must move to its sway and keep in rhythm so much now we can make out of it, and perhaps more hereafter.
The old always transfuses itself on this soil into the new; the hymeneal sports of ancient Greece wind into these dances, into the dress and customs, above all into the song; one feels that he is looking at some antique festival. As one watches the chorus, it will seem to grow more beautiful, ancient things become clear, antiquity seems ready to burst into a living, spontaneous reality, the Graces show themselves, even the Muses will be imagined still to hover around this spot right under their ancient seats, Helicon and Parnassus. On a hill above the town can yet be seen the Acropolis of Chaeroneia, with its Cyclopean remains of wall ; I can not doubt that it looked down upon quite a similar chorus 1,800 years ago in the time of Plutarch, nay, 2,800 years ago in the time of Homer. The Greek political world perished in the battle upon these very meadows, but that older Greek world endures along with those adamantine walls of the Acropolis.
In fact the primitive elements out of which Greek Art and Literature arose, are here to-day; but their result is vastly different. The culture of modern Greece does not spring from its own native seed-corn, but from the importations out of the Occident; it seeks to follow European models instead of cherishing an inner self-development from its own germ. What would not a man of the highest native culture without foreign influence make out of these festivals? Think of a Pindar aranging the dance and composing the song and drilling the youths to grace of form and motion, as he anciently did; think of these customs, not as they are now, banished to the rude peasantry, but loved, studied, beautified by the highest classes, by the people of leisure and culture ! Here are the germs of ancient Greek poesy and art, one will continually repeat to himself, but the crop, the fruit is wanting. This perdurably vital seed could, it seems, sprout and flower only once.
I do not think that the women of Chaeroneia are beautiful, in spite the exalted mood which the traveler may indulge in. Nor will one admire the men very much; he will, however, find exceeding delight in viewing the people as a whole, for they are the bearers of an antique life still, which means to some of us quite as much as anything which has yet been. But in the women he will nevertheless notice many a fragment of Greek beauty. Nor must you think that this persistent search after female beauty in Greece is a mere erotic sport, of doubtful propriety in a grown-up man; it belongs to the serious duty of the traveler who may be seeking some origin of that wonderful Greek ideal which will apparently dominate the Art of the world forever. It is an expression of the Divine as well as Religion; it gives its consolation by its utterance to many a poor mortal otherwise not to be reached. Art, too, is essentially feminine, finds its highest embodiment of beauty in woman; while Religion finds its completest embodiment in a God who is supreme, rather than in a Goddess. Therefore one may reasonably look into all these female faces and mark them sharply, often exclaiming to himself: Behold, there is a Phidian or Praxitilean feature.
Unwillingly one turns away from the view ; it has indeed been a revelation a gleam into antique life, into that oldest poetical world lying back of ancient song and forming its spiritual ground-work. It is not pure, now, one feels but too well; Time has thrown into the stream of custom many a huge boulder and clump of mud; it is corrupted with foreign ingredients; like the Greek language of to-day ; still the soul of it is antique, its fragments can be put together, and its old power can be seen to be gleaming through. It is the Chaeroneian Lion over again, pieces lie scattered around, it is worn by the storms of ages, corroded by the weather, hacked and maltreated by the foreigner still it is a Lion, a Greek Lion : who can doubt it? Nor can one help crying out again : Put it together once more, and make this life live anew in song, in art, in literature; but above all make the Greek Lion leap down from the tomb upon his foes.
Again one will stop before the church and glance at it; the Papas is still there, and observing the stranger invites him to enter; in fact the stranger has received almost as much attention as the bride today the people always beginning their questions with this one, whether there be such things in his country, for they cannot believe that so many wonderful things exist anywhere but at Chaeroneia. There is no end to the curious inquiries of the people for has not a man come from infinite space unheralded, speaking in a strange accent, with pack and staff in hand, in unusual garments, dropped out of the skies into a small rural town on a bright Sunday morning during a wedding festival ? On coming to think about the matter, it seems a strange thing to myself.
The Papas a second time invites me into the quaint low church, which has a strong smell of age about it, and proceeds to show me the antiquities preserved in its walls. There is an inscription, said to be concerning the worship of Serapis, the Egyptian divinity; thus Chaeroneia went back to the Orient even in ancient times for her worship. Architectural ornaments, you will notice, in which the clear Greek form is disfigured by barbaric crudities ; Byzantine fancies have been chiseled in an ancient pillar; truly Chaeroneia shows how muddied the old clear stream has become in places. Even the religious ceremony to-day seemed a dark Byzantine symbol-ism engrafted on the bright ancient Greek life. These customs, too, have their root in the old time, with some rude barbarous impress on the outside. Thus, in this church we may read a very plain page of History.
But the Papas, reserving his greatest surprise to the last, conducted me to a marble chair, and said with a look of complete satisfaction : " This is the chair of Plutarch, who was once a magistrate of Chaeroneia; in it he sat when presiding at the festivals, and at the theatre, whose ruins you can still see yonder on the hillside." Thus spake the Priest, coupling the chair with the greatest name which Chaeroneia produced, and which causes it to be mentioned still throughout the civilized world.
Already the question had frequently suggested itself ere we carne in sight of the town, Why should a Plutarch arise at Chaeroneia? He is the man of reflection, the man who looks back on the past in calm meditation; I think he belongs here where the greatness of Hellas came to an end, and was henceforth to be one of the chief themes of contemplation. He is the retrospective Greek imbued with a mild philosophy ; he looks back at the great characters of his country with a sunny serenity, and writes about them a great book. Yet it is too a popular book, the delight of the whole world, read in all tongues, for Plutarch seems to possess this peculiarity, that he suffers little by translation. The common element to humanity is his to reveal, chiefly to utter for the humble. A world-man; yet not for the few, but for the mass he wrote with some strange fascination. His book may often be seen alongside the Bible in the cottage of the husbandman who, driven in from the fields by the shower, takes it down and reads of its great examples. Here, at Chaeroneia, he lived and wrote his Parallel Lives; in this country place and the places around, what a library for the composition of such a work ! Could we but make the earth give up those old books from their ashes mingled with this soil :—that is the next process we may expect science to discover.
Plutarch is a moralist, history with him is a study in morality; he has made of it that happy admixture of moral reflection and biographical narrative, which instructs and elevates while it keeps the attention. Such is his great lesson to the people, who rise through him to being universal in their conduct, adjusting their lives to fixed maxims and not yielding to momentary caprices. Subdue the passions, throw away ambition, avarice, in-justice, make existence equable and harmonious : in such manner he preaches with a sweet purity and with great effect upon the multitude. No one can estimate the value his book has had for the people since it was written; it is not too high for them, yet above them, drawing them always upward, by filling their minds with moral principles accompanied by grand examples. Perhaps it is the most moral of books in the best sense of the word; what morality can do for man becomes therein apparent : it makes him an harmonious being, and gives him a self-centered inner life which is proof against both bad and good fortune.
Still he does not stop with mere moral abstractions: he gives us the great examples of the past; thus his pages live with individuals. A dry record of virtues and vices would not amount to much, but here they are wrought together into vital unity in character. He still walks among these valleys and hills, and the traveler will often meet him reflecting on the mighty individualities of the past, coupling those of Greece and Rome, the twin factors of the world's history in his time. The old philosopher will ascend yonder summit on a sunny afternoon and look at the curious natural walls of stone which lie there like a citadel; in the opposite direction he will take a long walk through the grassy valley to reedy Kephissus. Of what is he thinking? Of Alexander, of Caesar, of Sulla, who fought a battle on this very spot; look into his book, we can tell just what his thoughts often were as he took his afternoon stroll through these even-topped fields of grain or up the hillside.
Great is the variety of Nature around this valley, but everywhere musical; Helicon and Parnassus lie on either hand, let him take his choice. The snowy height of Parnassus is just across this little valley; if he wish to spend a day in the cool, fresh breath of Muses, thither he can easily pass. He lives not in a great city, now yet he has lived at Rome; there politics, war, society are troublesome, there is the present. Quiet contemplation rests on these hills to-day, and they produced him anciently; along the road in which we are now walking he must have often passed, at the foot of Petrachos hill, tranquilly looking up toward its sunny tops with a serene exaltation. Lines of mountains run on both sides of the valley and seem to separate you to-day from the world, shutting you up within yourself, in sweet, calm contemplation. Thus the old man from this quiet nook could survey the past period of turmoil and write the biographies of its heroes.
But his walk would not have been altogether solitary in the olden time; people met him on the road with a jar of wine or a skin full of oil, going to the village, as they meet me now; the peasant he would find turning over the sod with a plow which has remained almost unchanged; the driver would sit on the back of his plod-ding donkey and salute in language like that of to-day. But here comes the finest sight of all: youths winding up the road to Chaeroneia, in their gala attire, maidens with gleeful look following after in groups with anticipation of the chorus, all in holiday dress. Such Plutarch would meet, such I meet now going along the way toward Daulis and viewing the old in the new.
This then is the man who proposed to unfold the history of Greece and Rome in a grand line of individuals; these were for him the essential thing of the ancient world. Not an account of the State will he give; the State dissolves into its Great Men, whom he portrays as it were for themselves ; history breaks up into biography. I hold this conception to be in a high degree the truest one of ancient history, more especially of Greek history; it is a series of grand heroic individualities, a gallery of ideal sculpturesque shapes. A Greek of the later time the writer must be, a time of regretful looking back and contemplation, rather than of action; the Greek State is lost, but there remains in the past these towering forms. Greece has been conquered by Rome, it is true, but can she not parallel the greatest Roman men? Indeed she can : so a Greek is going to write the history of Greece in the biographies of her great men and set them alongside of the mightiest Romans; this comparison will to a degree take away the pang of servitude.
Indeed such supreme characters are always the center of interest; in them the nation, especially the Greek nation, is resumed in its innermost essence; Greece is but the story of its heroic individuals, whether they be fabulous or real. Who figures in Greek poetry, who in Greek history ? Let us look at Plutarch, who opens with Theseus, a hero, a mythical character, to give the key-note to his book. These mighty souls of heroes the State does not absorb, but rather they absorb the State; as has been already remarked, their communities find it difficult to subsume them they become too great for their country. In them is concentrated all Hellenic greatness, let their lives be written and set in a gallery, like Gods in the Greek Pantheon.
Such was the glorious conception of Plutarch to do honor to his nation, to tell the story of the great Greek Individualities he himself being one of them just in such a conception. His, however, was the later form of greatness, not that of action, but of appreciating action. Greece had perished, that is, had become a fraction in a Macedonian Empire, then a still smaller fraction in the universal Roman empire. Where now is the autonomous Greek village, the wonder of Time, developing with such prolific energy its great individuals? Sunk, lost to view, absorbed into the new current of the World's History, and therewith have been absorbed its great individuals who were bred of the conflicts of disunited autonomy. Here at Chaeroneia that power of Greek individuality came to an end, here Plutarch arises and summons once more those mighty individuals before himself, when they no longer can act but have become a dim shadow of reflection, yet still speaking like the ghost of Achilles out of Hades. Even Plutarch himself writing his book lives in that world of reflection like his own great characters; therein, also, he belongs to them, being able to call up the shades of the illustrious past, and making himself as it were one of them, and moving in a subtle harmony with them.
Plutarch, therefore, sauntering around these hills in the first century after Christ, has nought to do but to look back at the great ones of the aforetime; thus he still feels the mightiest fact of his nation and hastens to utter the same. Hence he has written a world-book about his Hellas, in spite of what erudition has said or may say against it a true book of the people. For my part I like it like even what are called its weaknesses ; its gossipy frankness, its love of anecdotes, its belief in prodigies, even its little tattle, all find favor with me, for they grow out of the work and give it a distinct, perennial flavor. Still the old man can be seen, I repeat, wandering along this road, reflecting upon those mighty individuals which reach up through history like so many grand statues. From this point of view, Plutarch is an artist of genuine Greek mould perhaps the very greatest Greek artist putting these plastic forms on a new pedestal, hewing them out of material far more enduring than marble. Very different is the circumstance of life with us moderns now the individual is absorbed into institutions instead of absorbing them; heroes of colossal individuality can hardly be produced. At present, man is a fraction, he must specialize himself in our social organism and contentedly act a very small part too late by some thousands of years to be a hero. Let him go back then to old Plutarch and read there and so be one ideally; thus he will be healed, that is, made whole by viewing total men once more and not fragments of men. Such is the way the old Chaeroneian will helpfully reach out to us still. Yet do not make the mistake of thinking that our modern life is a lapse from that ancient one; the latter had its worth, which we can appropriate; it produced heroes, but we can produce greater than heroes.
If I were to whisper one slight critical word concerning the good old man, it would be this : very little knowledge he exhibits of the profounder conflicts of history, of those deep struggles of principles above States, far above individuals for the most part, principles not historical, but world-historical. Some such in-sight ought to gleam through certain of his leading characters, though but faintly, as Themistocles or Caesar; thus he might give the whole truth, yet not soar too high above the heads of the people for whom he writes. For Plutarch indeed this is a moral world merely, somewhat too fixed and abstract; as opposed to this point of view every other one has to yield. Hence he sometimes gets his great characters entangled in his moral cobwebs, from which he can not free them, though their glory is to have brushed all such hindrances manfully away on the right occasion. Still for his people he has said the true word, mankind must be moral if nought else; only by morality can the multitude participate in that universal life, with-out which a human being can scarcely be called human.
A sin less excusable is, that he was sometimes careless about his facts, was not rigidly critical according to our modern historical standard. No, he did not fully appreciate the value of the fact, I think; he did not recognize that what is, has the supremest right to be told just as it is ; aught else is a wrong done to the reality and to history as the record of the reality. Rigidly critical he is not then, still he is far better than a critical writer merely ; what modern biographer has equaled him ?
The man Plutarch we must have, though he be not a critic; his soul is in his book, and we commune with it there that transparent, antique soul, heroic of its kind too, in writing the lives of heroes.
Let us then behold once more the serene old man summoning before his tribunal the great ones of the Past who move through the mellow sunshine of his book, and are often seen in it to their very souls. Philosophy he calls his sunshine; we thus note what he means by Philosophy an unruffled movement of thought and a calm elevation of feeling, united into a happy, undisturbed harmony of character. In him ancient Philosophy has borne, one feels forced to think, its sweetest, if not its most perfect fruit. Philosophy with him is not the keen-edged dialectic of human spirit, not the mighty struggle of Titanic souls to grasp the Universe, to think the thought of God himself: all this lies far beyond the range of Plutarch; his is the honey of the world, not its wormwood ; a sweet serenity of soul looking out upon the troubled waters of the ocean and telling them how to be quiet by means of amiable reflections. Deep, tempest-tossed natures will hardly be satisfied in this manner; but his words are anchors for the people, and therein he is great, great in the very best sense of the word, giving hope and harmonious life to the Many.
In fact it is not Philosophy at all, if we speak strictly, this tendency in Plutarch ; it is rather religiosity a deep, pervading sense of religion. Reverence for the Divine, a strong religious feeling in sacred things is his profoundest trait; nor must we forget that he was officially a Priest of Apollo at Delphi, which lies not more than a good day's walk from his home here. We feel in his book that he was a Priest of the truest kind, Priest of the God of Light. I do not think that the old religion fully satisfied him, though he conformed to it; he had risen to a universal religion which attunes the soul to the one Creator, and does not distract it with horrible discordant notes of creed and sect; a pure, humane religiosity it is, giving to the possessor goodness, and being an endless source of moral elevation to the multitude who read him. In this soft light of his own spirit all his characters pass before us and are illuminated; we see them in harmony or in struggle with this light, and have left with us some abiding impression of music or of discord coming from their lives. So the traveler on this Sunday afternoon walking through the Chaeroneian vale will have a heart full of veneration for the old heathen, will feel some worship akin to his, and will speak aloud to the passing shadow: Yes, Plutarch, to-day I feel thy worth more than ever before, and I see now that among thy many good qualities, the best one is thy religiosity.