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
New Life Of Old Parnassus
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
THE first and simplest natural fact concerning Arachoba, and the one which impresses itself most strongly upon the mind of the traveler who has had to climb so long and laboriously, is that the town lies near the top of Parnassus. A very insignificant observation indeed, and in the eye of science almost valueless ; but this natural fact, by some melodious transmutation, now glides over into its spiritual counterpart, and becomes suddenly endowed with a living soul; thus it is a genuine mythus, attuning the man and singing its own transformation within him; and he beholds, as he looks up with fresh vision, not merely the mountain yonder and nothing else, but the peak of the Muses, which pierces that hard outer crust of dead rock and rises beyond into the spiritual heaven. Such, as near as we can tell it now, is the key-note of the new mood inspired by the town.
A certain fame has attached to Arachoba all along our route hitherto ; this fame has made it from the first a central point in our journey. It is conceded by the Greeks themselves to possess the finest examples of female beauty to be found in Greece; such a rumor we heard at Athens before starting ; such a statement we have read in grave books which laid no claim to admiration for Helen. The town seems to deserve the resonant Homeric epithet kalligunaika, famed for beautiful women; let it have the title, with the full effect of the hexametral ending: Arachoba kalligunaika. The thought and its echoes put joy into the bosom of the traveler as he lies down to rest this first evening in the place, recollecting his ardent pursuit of the image which now burns his very heart within. Certainly the glimpse of Helen was the storm-defying impulse of you and me hitherto; all we have looked at with Greek playfulness, shaded here and there with fateful earnestness; the fair image we have pursued with the joy and hope of a lover, yet with his pain, too; truly there has been a shadow of pain in our joy at times, a longing sweet but not untroubled. So much for confession which always relieves the heart; but we can now go to sleep in greater secret delight than has yet been felt, and dream more bravely.
My good friend of Lebedeia had put into my hand a letter, the worth of which I shall never forget it was a letter introducing me to Dr. Alexandros Androgiannes, of Arachoba. I went directly to his house and was most hospitably received; there during my stay, I became acquainted with the character and aspiration of the educated Greeks who dwell in the provinces. Of this class of people the traveler will entertain a high opinion; moreover he will form many friendly attachments which he can not bear to part with forever, but will promise to return at some future time to renew them.
The lady of the house, to my astonishment, speaks English, together with several other languages of mod-ern Europe. She was educated at Mrs. Hill's school in Athens; Mrs. Hill is an American and pioneer of female education in Greece. I took pride in this new evidence of the fact that our countrywoman has scattered the seeds of culture everywhere among the women of Greece. This Greek lady is justly regarded as the most cultivated woman in the whole country around, and is considered, as I afterward found out, to be a kind of ideal for the entire Parnassian region. The house is indeed a brilliant point of light near the summit of Parnassus, and shining over all its plains and valleys.
Arachoba is a thriving place of some four thousand inhabitants, according to the estimate of one of its citizens; its chief physical peculiarity is the fact that it lies further up the mountain than any other regularly inhabited town. So high is it situated that in the summer it is always cool; in the winter the climate can not be called severe, though snow frequently falls and stays some time. It is located along a rather steep slope of the mountain, having in it many rugged knobs of rock and natural dells; indeed it appears from the distance to be sliding down the rough sides of an immense heaven-kissing wave, which has been started from the top of Parnassus. Below it runs the little stream called Pleistus, wreathed in a far-extended green band of olive orchards.
Opposite the town the view is cut off by another range of mountains called the Kirphis, with bare precipice falling straight to the Pleistus; between the two ranges, Parnassus and Kirphis, is the famous Delphic vale. Only on the one side, on the Parnassian slope, are there any olive orchards or vineyards. But in this narrow valley there is a variety of nature almost unlimited ; no physical aspect has been omitted from the scene; the four sea-sons lie alongside of one another upon the mountain slants.
You will be astonished to find that there is not a wagon road in the large town of Arachoba, nor any use for one. The Great Highway, which we left some time ago, does not come further in this direction than Lebedeia. Mule-paths and lanes run through the town in many tortuous lines; not a carriage, wagon or cart is to be seen; transportation of every kind is on beasts of burden. Many citizens are now seeking to have some wheeled communication with the rest of the world, such at least as they had in the very dawn of antiquity; witness the chariot of Laios, and the processions to and from Delphi.
The houses are built chiefly of stone which can often be quarried from the spot where the building is erected. There are several stores, coffee-houses, wine-shops in the town ; trade is active, though of the small kind, being carried on chiefly by means of copper coins which are handed to the customer for change in heavy packages of one drachma. A dollar thus becomes a serious inconvenience to free locomotion, and several dollars make too much money to be carried about. For larger sums, Greek paper money comes to the relief of the traveler, who has to transport all his stores afoot.
There is one leading street lying between two prominent wineshops; in it is the agora or assembling place of the town, where they talk over political matters inter-mingled with gossip of all kinds. Arachoba is also engaged in the election of a Demarch; the political pot is violently seething and frothing, indeed it threatens to boil over on the side of Parnassus, so much Greek fire has been placed under it. What is all this confusion about? the traveler will ask. Obscure local issues but. they will not detain him now, he need not travel to Greece to be informed of the nature of such matters.
It is the height of the olive season; pretty nearly alt the inhabitants, male and female, old and young, are be-low the town in the orchards picking the crop. Donkeys laden with bags of olives can always be seen toiling up the rocky paths of the village, attended by a child or a woman. They carry their burden to the mill where the oil is pressed out, or to huge barrels for preservation in salt. Some of the men have already began to prune their vineyards; the wine of Arachoba is excellent, and in much demand. A frugal, industrious, simple-hearted people, living in sunny idyllic quietude on the Parnassian slope; but they become strangely capable of political excitement on Sundays and in the evening when they re-turn from the olives.
Look at the mule which is yonder picking its way over a stony lane, with gear elaborately adorned in every part. You will think of those Homeric trappings for horses; it suggests that delight in tricking out animals which is manifested in more than one passage by the old bard. The mule before you has a head-band decorated with shells, and a breech-band covered with beads; metallic ornaments glitter from every part of its harness, and it moves along with a sort of a jingle. Behind it strides a palicari with haughty mien, like some ancient Jove-born king, though he be now a mule-driver. The animal is laden with some of Arachoba's best recinato for a distant town, Lamia, it is said on inquiry; and this gaudy gear seems to be in honor of the noble burden. Such is the Homeric mule, still visible in the seamy dells of Parnassian Arachoba.
Over only one roof in the entire town can I see steam puffing out it is a very unusual sight in this part of Greece; steam is still a modern stranger on the slope of Parnassus. I enter the place to greet my old acquaintance ; I find an olive mill crushing the fruit and pressing out the oil. But a still more unexpected acquaintance I met there : it was our native tongue spoken by an English woman. What are you doing here? She had married a Greek who had resided in England; now he has returned to his native town to introduce steam together with his English wife. But the steam and wife were in-deed strangers and solitary on Parnassus. She is not acquainted with the Greek language, is cut off from all society, and in fact cannot affiliate with Greek customs. Not a favorable cast of destiny, one would think; here she abides in a strange world, as if some power had picked her up from merry England and set her down on a new planet. A female Robinson Crusoe she may be called, torn from social existence and remanded back to a mere individual life, with one family at most. It is not a desirable state; for what is man without the world around him? which world he must take up into himself, if he really exist as a rational being. A person must participate in his own nation, age, race ; must absorb institutions and be their life-giving principle. But stript of all these things, what a poor forked animal he becomes, quite like the naked Lear. Robinson Crusoe on the island is man without his world, without any filling to existence.
But it was pleasant to hear the mother tongue again, off here on another planet, gushing forth in spontaneous utterance; pleasant too it was to respond once more in untrammeled speech, which travels to the soul direct and not by way of the head. Nor can I refuse to record an-other pleasure : it was the compliment which she felt herself obliged to pay me: "You speak English rather well for an American." This with a truly English mixture of simplicity, prejudice and condescension. Sympathy, however, could not be withheld; uncomplainingly she spoke of her lot, still she showed that she was Robinson Crusoe, divorced from country, social life, and, it was easy to see, from fashion. Steam and English, twin world-conquerors, thus I met upon Parnassus on their victorious way round the globe; they had indeed strayed far to one side.
Also in that same mill I found, more strangely yet, an American acquaintance whom do you think ? None other than our old friend from Pennsylvania Petroleum, in full blaze in Arachoba. This liquid has traversed the ocean and is now illuminating all Europe, possibly will set it on fire. Well soaked with Democratic America's Petroleum, Europe will burn, if it be not burning already in places, from that cause. Wonderful liquid, a Lucifer or light-bearer, yet a demon too, like the old Son of the Morning ! Far more wonderful is its stream than the fabled fount of Arethusa, having crossed the ocean backwards and risen to the surface in old Greece, once the source itself, here on the very slope of Parnassus. This same oil-mill, where they make oil from the old-world olives is illuminated with the new-world flame; for the sake of economy, they say, and better light. The peddler, too, can be seen with cup and tin can going through the alleys of every Greek village, crying out in a long drawl : " Petrayli, Petrayli !" It is our American Petroleum penetrating with his torch the darkest and most hidden corners of Europe, bearing cheap light and civilization. Another view connected therewith : See that woman carrying water from the spring in an empty oil can; never has she known such a convenience as a bucket before. Thus cordially and somewhat patriotically, perhaps, will one greet his countryman blazing up brightly in the same mill with steam and English.
The schoolmaster from abroad will soon stray into a school-house to catch some glimpses of that other kind of light raying out thence and illuminating the village. In this substantial building is the school of Kontos, my sympathetic fellow-craftsman in Arachoba, and in every way a worthy man. It is the primary school ; about one hundred and fifty Greek boys are here working away at the rudiments of the Eternal Language, quite the same as spoken in these mountains three thousand years ago. Indeed some dialectical turns have already caught my ear which can be found only in Homer; thus phases of the old primitive dialect, one begins to imagine, have been preserved here from the earliest ages. But these Greek boys, mark them : some are full blondes with blue eyes, others have dark-brown though fresh features with black hair, the most tending to the lighter complex-ion. Thus the yellow-haired urchin, zanthos Menelaos, is still here, radiant, to the surprise of the traveler, who finds such emphatic confirmation of the old poet. The little fellows are ranged in a long row against the wall; I take out pencil and note-book and try to note down for once statistics of the light and dark complexions. But it is to no purpose, these delicate shadings refuse to be expressed in figures, Nature scorns numbers, and I quit, throwing down my mathematical tables on the floor of the Parnassian school-house.
Besides this primary school there was one for more advanced pupils, called the Hellenic school, taught by my friend Loukas, student of the University of Athens. One passes through a narrow porch, comes to a room fitted up with benches, a little dark, with low ceiling. A temporary arrangement, I am told; but there is plenty of youthful ardor inside. About thirty Greek boys are here reading Xenophon and Lucian, translating from the ancient into the modern dialect, committing fragments of the Kyropaideia to memory. With these heathen authors is coupled the Old Testament in its historical portions; Greek and Hebrew culture appeared together at times in a soul-harrowing mixture. There was the striving of Abraham, with his struggles and his sacrifice, with his unfinished and unfinishable condition ; then came that clear, calm, harmonious development of soul and body in the famous Education of Cyrus, in which the citizen self-unfolded and self-contained, is formed to be a member of a free commonwealth, learns both to command and to obey, to rule and to be ruled, in fine to live beautifully and truly in an institutional, secular life and not in a divinely capricious Theocracy. Both types be-long to the history of our race and must be taken up into our culture, neither Greek nor Hebrew can be left out by us without one-sidedness; but on the slope of Parnassus there, nearest the top, what a dissonance they made in that Hellenic school !
As one looks into the bright faces, and casts his glances down the folds of their little fustanellas to the bare feet slipping freely up and down in the low sandals, one asks naturally which is the Socrates among them, and attempts to pick him out. Here I am certain is a young Aristophanes, for he is trying already to mock the manner and attitude of the stranger, simply for his own innate entertainment.
Such were the two schools and the two schoolmasters, whose acquaintance, once formed, will not be neglected. In the, afternoon, I usually went to school myself, to the Hellenic school. There at a given hour was the lesson in the Education of Cyrus, always repeated from memory by the Greek boys in the original, and then turned into the vernacular. Thus they are trained to old Attic Greek and its forms, as well as permeated with ideas of ancient education. From such training comes the present tendency, so strong and rapid, of assimilating modern to old Greek; sometimes one will hear it predicted that Attic Greek will be fully restored in another generation. I too went for the purpose of being assimilated as much as possible; great was the pleasure of hearing antique Hellenic speech gushing forth from the lips of those school-boys as a vital thing, free from the rigid fetters of the dry formal pedagogue; many a vivid hint would come flashing down from antiquity like a sudden streak of lightning through dark skies.
Sometimes on pleasant days I would not find them at the school-house, but the neighbor's wife would tell me that the whole school had adjourned to the fields. Out I go in pursuit, following the direction indicated, come to a little knoll outside of town, which overlooks the Delphic vale in front, while to the rear of it rises Parnassus, snow-peaked and dazzling. There sits Loukas, the schoolmaster, on a stone in the midst of his pupils who cower around on the grass. He takes his book, it is old Lucian, and a choice morsel is read. Near by skips a brook down the mountain with music attuned to the old Greek speech mingled now with its sounds; far above is a herd hanging white on a precipice and calmly browsing; just across one can overlook the top of Kirphis with its waterless hamlet, down the vale for many miles the olive tree-tops wave and dance and sparkle in the sun; thence too a song can be faintly heard, song of the maidens picking the olives, and at the same time uttering notes in sweetest concord with their work, the trees around them, and the skies overhead.
Thus the sojourner will spend delightful days at Araehoba, never failing of buoyant occupation. In the morning early he will hurry to the outskirts of the village and look at the people streaming down to the Olives-men, women, and groups of red-checked, white-gowned maidens. Into faces he will peer, not immodestly, but with friendly curiosity; he will be rewarded by beholding many a visage hinting of some vague ideal of which, perchance, he may have been in pursuit. He will watch the twin colors of the dress winding through distant by-paths all over the mountain side till they vanish amid the green foliage of the olive orchards. In merry squads they pass, sometimes singing; labor has the appearance of a holiday.
After going home and taking a frugal lunch of bread and wine, he begins a stroll through the Olives, which will extend for miles over the folds of the slope down to the Pleistus, stream of silvery flow amid the trees. On its bank he will lie down and rest before beginning the ascent in return. Every day he will find some fresh reward in his stroll a new brook, a new landscape, a new acquaintance, with a little adventure, perchance. He will stop under the trees, where the people are picking the dark fruit from the ground ; will himself help them pick for a while, particularly if he sees in the fair young face there before him glimmers of some antique vision.
Look far up the mountain to the vineyards ; amid the stocks a man in fustanella is working among the sunbeams ; though he be only grubbing, the white folds, together with the total figure, have some harmonious rhythm which thrills the eye to this distance. Like an ancient statue endowed with life, it moves there, shed-ding a secret delight over the wavy hillside. I dare not tell you how my heart beats when I behold that shape.
It has something more than Art; it has the spontaneity of Nature, and one feels transformed into its sunny serenity at a look. These shapes have the power of dispelling all anxiety from the breast, of banishing all dark broodings of the soul; I cease to worry about my long delay at Arachoba, here I know is the spot, where of all the broad earth I belong at present. One can feel the change going on within, like Dawn pursuing Darkness over the sea. Thus I return home with bright images, to keep, I hope, forever.
But as you go toward the village in the evening, you will behold the young shepherdess reclining on a rock, with a crook in her hand, clad in the white and red garment, resting there in the golden haze of the setting sun. With the most exquisite grace she leans against a brown-lichened rock, amid her snow-fleeced flock grazing on the slope; you will be astonished to find how sensitive your eye is growing toward color and form in this atmosphere. At some distance let her remain from you, for distance, by enlarging her surroundings, gives more material of Nature to the vision, and furnishes a deeper harmony ; you will note how that she is truly the center of the whole landscape, how that Nature simply culminates in her form reclining there against the rock, culminates by a certain gentle gradation from mountain, sunshine, herds, to the central human figure, how that she, in costume, attitude and movement has found the key-note of this Nature, and resumes harmoniously in herself all that is around her.
But she rises from the rock and begins to call to some one on the distant slope; what a trumpet in that voice !
Buoyantly it rides over the vale and strikes the opposite mountain side; voice not shrill or loud, but far-echoing, like the Homeric herald's voice marshalling the hosts, or summoning the heroes. She shot the word from her mouth like an arrow ; over the mountain it flew easily, one can hear it still whizzing past the summits or wandering among the distant peaks.
These Parnassian women are most obstinate workers -more industrious and skillful, it would seem, than the men. They pick the olives, grub the vineyards, attend to the children, and acquire a variety of household ,industries, such as weaving, dyeing, carpet-making. You will often meet the woman driving the donkey with its load of wine or olives, yet at the same time busily spinning with her distaff. In the rain I met her the other day with her charge, winding through the stony paths toward the town : still, during that steep ascent, she kept plodding behind the donkey and twirling her distaff in the rain. The Parnassian woman, in my judgment, is physically as strong as the man, if not stronger, and from several cases that came under my observation possesses the ability to handle him, in case of necessity. Some fathers, I have been told, train their daughters to the use of the gun, who hunt the wolf now, but will fight the Turk, if they can only get a distant opportunity.
As you pass by the fountain on the outskirts of the village, the washers you will see, for they are seldom absent. Life seems an eternal wash-day, always striving to get something clean and white, often with terrific struggles, muscular and otherwise. Every fountain in Arachoba has these living nymph-like ornaments scattered along its banks or standing often right in the middle of the cold stream, with their ancient sculpturesque costumes, startling to the Anglo-Saxon eye, which has been trained so carefully to all concealment of form, which connects nudity and sin, and considers drapery to be virtue. Even after one has got used to the stript marble in the galleries of Europe, this real nudity of the washers is striking, abashing at first. You have to go past them, for the road leads by the spring, otherwise you would hardly dare look that way out of respect for privacy. But you will find nought but innocence, innocence like that of Eve in Paradise, shame has not yet fully risen into consciousness; and you yourself begin to change within, to be transformed into that state of primitive innocence which is still the characteristic of the Parnassian world.
Often you will straggle into the wineshop, the social center of the town ; there the citizens gather to gossip a little and talk politics. All your male acquaintances you are sure to meet in that attractive place, and it is not too much to say that every man, woman and child in Arachoba knows you by this time. When you stroll for miles over the mountain, you are astonished to find that the lone shepherd there is aware who you are ; he saw you on a certain evening in the wine-shop, and heard your story about that strange country of yours, where machines have learned to talk, where men go to bed in one city and wake up in another hundreds of miles away.
Conversation will not fail you, nor eager listeners. I recollect one evening the talk fell upon the Odyssey ; Loukas was present, and Kontos, and other men of education. I unfolded the meaning of that book, its supreme significance, not only in the culture of Greece, but of the world ; sought to reveal the purport of those fabulous shapes, Kirke and Polyphemus ; endeavored to show forth the most universal character yet created in Literature, Ulysses. But consider the matter ! Think of my interpreting on the soil of Greece to Greeks in Greek the greatest Greek work. Beyond this I can not go, it is the last act of audacity toward the Olympians. The Odyssey is indeed the book of the West, the struggle of man toward the West the book of enterprise, of man's mastery over the forces of the natural world, the prophecy, too, of his final intellectual triumph and repose the prophecy of the Western world.
Again one evening not long before my departure, they asked me what I was going to write about them, for they were never free of the suspicion that I intended a book. I replied: I purpose to say four things about you with emphasis :
1st. That I found no brigandage in my journey, though I was afoot and alone. I have met men everywhere along the road, in the fields, amid the solitary recesses of the mountains ; they could have made away with me and left no trace, yet I have never been molested, indeed have been treated only with kindness. Nor have I found anywhere the least public sentiment sustaining disorder or brigandage. I should say that a person is quite as secure here as in any other country on the globe; certainly there is not more danger in Greece to the honest pedestrian than in America, with its swarms of reckless tramps.
2nd. I shall seek to do justice to the ideal striving which I still find in your people. Aspiration you have, and a desire for improvement, though one may some-times notice a lack of steady will ; your ideal is not dead, above all, your political ideal; for I find you as keen theorizers on government as your ancestors. Nor has your character for dishonesty and sharp practice been justified by my experience, at least here in the country. The truth is, the Greeks have obtained their bad name from the superficial tourist who, being cheated by a hackman of Corfu or Athens, has at once pro-claimed that all the Greeks are hackmen in character. Hackmen are, indeed, quite the same over the whole world.
3rd. For the study of antiquity Greece furnishes the best opportunity, better to my thinking than Rome. Here are still the two most perfect and significant re-mains of the old Greek world : the Greek language and Greek customs. Both are alive in vital activity at this moment on Parnassus. The dry grammar and lexicons become at once a living source of speech and manners. Besides these one will find many remains — ruins of temples, walls, tombs ; all of which have their true significance only when seen in their localities.
4th. There is still this Nature, quite the same as in antiquity, which hints at present of all that ever grew up here; it is the royal setting in which the past is to be placed with its splendid memories. Here you can be-hold the true background of the old picture, that which always suggests it and is in secret harmony with it; Greece to-day will thus complete and vivify the images of memory. Delphi and its character begin to be explicable when one sees this valley and listens to the whisperings of this Nature of the mountain, the glen, the sea with blue eye peering through some opening between the cliffs.
Arachoba may be truly called the modern center of ancient Hellenism. The Hellenic customs and language are still here, the Hellenic landscape is seen on this spot in all its concentration ; Europe has scarcely invaded the place. One saunters up and down the lanes, to the market-place, into houses, and may still think himself in classic times. He must take every opportunity of seeing the customs the betrothal, the marriage, the festival, chorus, music. In proportion as he sinks himself into the spirit of these, will his visit be profitable and happy. He must wait, receive things as they come; this Greek life can not be snatched up in a day and carried off in a note-book ; it must be lived, sympathized with, enjoyed. Every day one will pick up some new thing, which fills out the image of the old and sinks deep into the emotions.
There are no ancient ruins at Arachoba, what stood here in antiquity is hard to determine, probably nothing of consequence. Local antiquarians speak of the foundations of a temple near the spring just outside of town, but I could never find them. Some outpost of Delphi this spot was, a little more than four miles from that sacred city. This is, then, a modern town where old Hellenic life has throbbed up in fresh energy, apart from its ruins, freed from its withered limbs, from decayed walls and temples. An idyllic green spot, the best introduction to old Greek life such is the impression which these few days will leave ; then grows the intense desire to proceed to the ancient town with its beautiful fragment of a vanished world. Arachoba is, you may say, an invitation to antiquity, to Delphi ; it is the modern initiatory station from which you pass, when duly prepared, to the antique holy place, by a road bordered with flowers, the newest yet the oldest.
This freshness the town has for me, the freshness of a mythical, pre-civilized time which lies back of Hellenic life as we know it from books. A breathing soul it puts into what seemed long since dead; a soul into whose eye you can look deep, whose words you can hear in spontaneous utterance ; a young new soul, though so old. It is indeed strange; the Greek infant which grew to man-hood thousands of years ago, is still here and an infant; pick it up, clasp it to your heart, listen to its babblings for the sake of that which it is to become. The child is father to the man; its instructive prattle often reveals clearest living fountains which later in life are profoundly hidden from the most piercing glance; in like manner this modern town makes old Hellas live anew with a childlike openness and freshness.
Much indeed remains to be seen and studied in Arachoba; I ought to stay till this scenery, these customs, this life sinks deep within me ; but I am impatient to reach the goal of my journey. I would tarry here long, but the finger is always pointing down the road toward Delphi ; thither let us now pass with a leisurely walk, for there is plenty of time and much to be noted. Flinging his mantle over his shoulder, and grasping staff and knapsack, the eager pedestrian begins his tramp once more.
Even the Greeks Of the mountains are surprised at my persistent journeying afoot. The peasant meets me and looks at me, saying: "Why don't you take an animal?" Particularly, if he have such an animal to hire. "Why don't you ride like a gentleman?" The true answer can only be : Oh, I am no gentleman, but one who knows how to walk as well as a mule. Whereat he wonders, noting the Frankish garments. The Greek gentleman rides, and has usually an attendant on foot who follows just behind the mule for the purpose of goading it into a walk, always a difficult, sometimes an impossible task.
But the delights of freedom and the pure pleasure of going afoot, are not to be bartered for a ride over stony pathways. The pedestrian, though solitary, turns aside and explores, loiters by the margin of a brook, sits down on a stone, from which he watches the flying clouds, or looks to his heart's content at a group of maidens, in red and white, half way up the mountain. The walk is no effort in this exhilarating atmosphere, or it is an effort which is made with such supreme ease that motion is a delight, a relief of the imprisoned energy. The body seems to rejoice in its own spontaneous flight, for it becomes now a pure reminiscence of the time when it was winged.
Thus we start for. Delphi, seat of Apollo and the Muses, ancient well-head of prophecy and poesy. Can it be possible that we are so near that sacred spot, distant hardly more than an hour's sharp walk ? One may well have some presentiment that it is not so near as it seems. The host takes me to the outside of the town and puts me into the road leading thither with a slight descent, along the side cif the mountain. Above lies Parnassus, apparently not far; why not include it in the journey?
The heights are, indeed, enticing, as they lie dreaming in calm sunshine ; there is, too, more than half the day remaining for the trip ; accordingly the resolution is taken to go up to yonder first comb and see what may be revealed on Parnassus. Thence one may slowly coast along the ridge till he approach Delphi, when he can descend and enter the town. What are the difficulties, what are the precipices cutting off the way, what is the significance of leaving the straight path for the crooked one, are questions not pondered by the pilgrim now going to shrine of the God of Light and Wisdom.
Without delay I diverge from the Delphic road, and follow a pleasant path which leads up through the vine-yards. The vine-stocks are very small and low ; the stony soil gives them its delicate nourishment in little drops whereof comes the excellent wine of Arachoba. Then all cultivation ceases till the crest is reached. Here now I stand on the eaves of this immense mountain temple, intending to run around on their edge, imagining that I can get down on any side just as easily as I have come up at this point.
The view over the valley becomes more delightful, the air is more bracing, the world more conquerable ; with new buoyancy one springs over the rocks along the mountain's eaves, looking down upon the earth below triumphantly. The sun is out to-day, and may now be called the shepherd of the sky, driving his fleecy sheep in scattered groups around the heavens, striking them once in a while with his golden rod. Then they flee touched with his splendor; on a level with the eye they move up the Delphic valley smit with his sheen, while their shadows below race across the tops of the Olives or scramble up the steep sides of the opposite mountain.
Let us next pass over the crest and behold what is there. A new plain comes to view, a table-land slightly hollowed out like a shallow saucer, from which new mountains rise higher than ever. One of these mountains heaving itself upwards with enormous snow-drifts on its sides and with defiant pines thrusting their green heads through the deep white cover is Liacuri, highest peak of Parnassus, whose glancing summit has so long been beckoning us on the way to Delphi; now that summit becomes a point of intensely glistening crystal in the sun's glare. Ah, no; it is quite impossible to go up there to-day, or to-morrow, or the next day; often have I been warned against those smiling snow-drifts, not a guide can be found in Arachoba who would now intrust himself to their treacherous surface. So let us still skirt the crest around toward Delphi.
It is rough walking; there are no paths here except those made by goats, running in every direction ; the pointed rocks turn their sharp ends toward you, till the whole earth seems a fretful porcupine with stony quills bristling outward. From point to point the traveler leaps with winged joy in his heart perchance, but with rapid loss of sole leather. The low thick brambles thrust themselves across his path defiantly and must often be pushed through by main force; sometimes they pluck from his garments mementos of his visit.
This table-land has a quiet mysterious look, as if it knew some life all its own, quite distinct from the rest of the world. Yonder is a rich soil, and it is cultivated; the green crop is springing up in long rows ; there is, too, a village of empty cabins, which has a sort of weird tranquility about it; not a soul lives there, yet we see every sign of habitation and of employment. Though there be no human dwellers visible, something inhabits the spot and is now subtly active; if not human, then divine rural divinities, half way between seen and unseen, dance through the sunbeams a moment, then vanish.
Kalyvia or the Huts is the name of the place; the Arachobites come hither in summer, and lodge just under the snows of Parnassus, till the hot season has passed. Merry times are there said to be on the table-land of Parnassus. In the winter, as at present, nobody remains, not even the agriculturist who attends to the crop. In the middle of the table-land is a quiet lake, reflecting mountains ; into the lake flows a good-sized stream, but where is the outlet? Not visible, wrapped in mystery; mean-while there continues the silent whisper of spirits who people this high lonely spot abandoned to sunshine and solitude.
But it is time to begin the descent into the Delphic way below; for quite a distance I have been skirting the crest, running along the stony eaves of the mountain temple; let us, then, seek to come below again. A slant in the cliff offers an opportunity, about half-way down that steep slant I pass when a precipice of many fathoms, previously invisible, opens suddenly at my feet and cuts off the next step. I look beneath, eagles are circling be-low and around me, often hovering near as if impatiently waiting for my body. Will they get it? I look up; then turning about I catch hold vigorously of a bramble and lift myself from that edge. This is not the way to Delphi, the shrine of the God is not to be reached thus. Back then; these steps from stone to stone must all be retraced, up-hill now, Thus I grapple and climb with painfully respiration toward the crest again; far more difficult is the ascent than the descent of Avernus, as the poet remarks. With the aid of staff and of friendly bushes everywhere extending their helpful arms, I reached once more the ridge after an hour's desperate struggle, while the fierce sun from above smote me with burning torch-es, and the sharp jagged rock blistered the bottom of the foot through the shoe-soles, now worn very thin.
Still, when one arrives at the comb and overlooks the scene after taking a good rest, he is unwilling to go all the way back to Arachoba simply in order to descend this hill. Hence he still goes on, painfully seeking for a place where he can get down, no longer so buoyantly leaping over the rocks which seem to be getting more spiteful and jagged than ever. At last a glance beyond the precipice reveals Delphi, whose houses lie in sweet repose along the slope; but it cannot be reached from this point. Here I stand on the cliff of Phloumbouki, ancient Hyampeia, from which the robbers of the temple were thrown down in olden times : such, I pray, is not to be my fate at the bands of the wrathful God for that he is angry, is pretty evident from this day's experiences. The little village sits full of placid joy in the declining sun, but I cannot enter there, can only get a glimpse of it from afar. Still even the sight of it inspires fresh courage, and fills the soul with new dreams of hope. It must yet be reached to-day, if possible.
Let us then pass on, and see whether we can not in some way get down the cliff without having to go back. But here an immense gorge coming down from Parnassus cuts the comb in two, as if a straight slice had been taken out of the mountain. No longer can we skirt the brow as heretofore, turn back we must perforce, or coast along the edge of this new chasm. It is clear that the present gorge comes out near Delphi; possibly through it we may pass thither ; such is the new plan that rises in the bosom with some uncertain flutterings of hope.
But what a spot ! Desolation reigns on this cliff, nought which hints of such a being as man can be seen, nought which tells of bis destiny, though Delphi be just behind the hill. A few goat-paths you notice, leading everywhither and nowhither, truly capricious things, which give no help to the seeker for the path which leads to the Delphic goal. Needles of shivered rocks stick up; low, stubborn, spiteful brushwood grasps you by the mantle. Such is the product of this waste, not a flower, not a flock, not a solitary shepherd ; only an eagle, and some crows flapping near till their wings fan your very face, still waiting to pick your bones.
What are now the thoughts of the traveler on Parnassus, with thick mantle becoming very heavy in this sun, with knapsack irksomely dangling over the shoulders, with staff in right hand, a staff of Providence indeed, which supports his leaps, lightens his sole-destroying tread through the rough rocks, catches him even when about to fall and helps him firmly to his feet again ? He will say, as he turns around to the declining sun and wipes his brow: let this be the end of traveling; I shall return home; I wish I had never started. Delphi is unattainable, the Mount of the Muses is a cheerless barren waste, producing only thorns and whinstone. I shall put back ; would that I had stayed at home, where all was comfort and good roads, where there are no classic temples to reach and no poetic mountains to scale.
Such are the streaks of impiety which now begin to lighten through his head, without good reason I maintain. But here is a path leading down into the gorge hitherto inaccessible, a path practicable for the footman. Again hope rises out of the depths, wreathing herself in smiles; the traveler passes down into the narrow chasm with its two high perpendicular rock-walls, and at every step marks with wonder the growing twilight. He follows the Charadra or bed of the mountain torrent, now dry, but filled with great boulders, washed and ground to whiteness by the descending floods of the ages. All the channel is waterless, but a beautiful cool spring gushes up, of which he will drink with reverence to the Nymph who has chosen to appear in this spot, so far away from the look of men, welling forth in solitude, in unadmired beauty simply for the good of the lone shepherd or solitary wanderer. Arctodorema they call her, as I after-ward learned, scarcely known to the inhabitants here ; her sister Castalia is also in this same gorge further down, just at its mouth, but she is famed among men all over the world.
The wanderer will sit down on the edge and pat with his hands the waters which generously freshen him with new vigor and new hope. He would like to remain be-side her pleasant, quiet visage, but it is no time to caress the Nymph when in pursuit of Apollo. So he hopefully continues his way through the shadowy gorge ; it is a very narrow passage cut through the solid mountain of rock by the torrent during these past millions of years. High on each side rise the the walls in a straight line ; a little ragged strip of sky and cloud can be seen as one looks up, with their outlines torn to shreds by the rocky points above; a dim mysterious light, fighting with shadows, timorously flies through the chasm. No sun reaches hither; but look ahead toward the end through the tortuous channel there on a high rock a few sunbeams are lying ; they encourage, saying that Apollo is still in his abode, that golden light will be attained at the termination of the dark, twisted passage. Such is the sign, favorably interpreted ; onward, then, grapple the boulders, enormous, shaggy-sided, that lie in the white-glimmering channel; over them thou wilt climb darkly and wonder.
This is truly a Pythian defile, thus one muses, looking up at the rock-walls cut by Nature into a thousand fantastic shapes; this is the passage of initiation through which the votary must go before he can look on the face of the God. Through such dark ways he must be mysteriously led, or must grope along by himself over chaotic masses ; by these lofty walls he will be cut off from the world and inclosed in the very heart of Nature, here to feel her secretest throbbings, here to listen to her hidden utterances. Our primeval mother, Earth, was of old at work in this passage and still is ; her the old Greeks worshipped at Delphi before Apollo came with his illumined face ; one must still shudder at her wild orgiastic rites in this gorge, as he struggles through on his way to the temple of light. Dark is the passage and rudely chaotic, but ever yonder at the end of it can be seen some golden ray which bids us hope and hurry on.
But after passing down the gorge quite a distance and after many leaps and laborious clutchings, the wanderer comes to a steep descent right across the bed of the channel, a sudden pitch of twice or possibly thrice his own height. He scans it closely, this is manifestly a new problem; but by careful climbing and one long spring he calculates that he can get down the rock without much of a jolt; then he will reach that happy light now shining more golden yonder at the end of the chasm. He lays down staff and knapsack, takes off his mantle, that burdensome mantle which he proposes to throw over the steep first, thinking to leap upon the same to break his fall. Down flies the mantle and lights there below in the rift; he picks up the staff, about to fling it over, too, when, behold ! his arm is caught, still upright in air, and held, held by a God. For it is a God who now whispers in his ear I imagine it to be Pallas Athena, by her awful-gleaming eye, there in the dark abyss and thus speaks in words of sharp rebuke: Fool! wilt thou cut off thy return? Seest thou not that this leap, if thou take it, can never be undone? Beware! what if there be another precipice in the dark and tortuous channel after this one, more deep and desperate yet, which thou canst not leap down? Then to all eternity thou wilt not be able to reach the goal where the sun is shining yonder; thou knowest not what may lie between here and there; once down this rock and thou canst not repass it, nor canst thou, perhaps, go forward. There thou must re-main, not to be rescued by the hand of man, caught in the grip of destiny, for I tell thee, these high rock-walls are the shears of the Fates, now ready to close upon thee, and into them thou art placing thy body. Cut not off thy return.; back, then, while it is time; leave thy mantle to rot there in the chasm, better it than thou. A blessing thou wilt take back; thou art rid of an old hindrance; more lightly hereafter thou wilt climb thy way up the difficult steep.
At such admonition the traveler picks up staff and knapsack and turns around, hurrying up the gorge now grown darker than ever in the approach of evening. There will be no delay in his steps, though he has hence-forth to climb upwards a more difficult feat than to come down the channel. But in his heart he is glad, glad that he did not make that leap, having obeyed the voice of the Goddess. He soon comes to the sweet nymph Arctodorema, more laughing and delightful than before, as if she too was filled with some inner joy at beholding him unexpectedly once more. He leans over in a hurry and kisses her face fondly, almost tearfully, for it is not likely that he will ever see her again. Moistening his fingers and brow in her cool waters, he admires her lonely beauty sparkling cheerily there in the dim solitudes, and then turns away.
But look around once more through the chasm behind; the golden sunbeams which were shining in at the other end have departed, fantastic images of night are sporting there where the light rested, while the sides and hollows of the rock-walls begin to be alive with strange forms of monsters. Earth has let loose her imprisoned demons, and they now flit through the gorge; quick, up the slant, out of that rayless chaos; the entire way to Arachoba must be retraced with speed; long ago ought that to have been done. The sun is setting, soon it will be night on the top of Parnassus, as it now is night in the chasm. Still every step is made with joy, as the word of the Goddess comes into the mind-word spoken just as the leap was about to be made.
But do you know that the wanderer now seems to move more lightly, to be without something which previously weighed him down? It is the mantle, the oppressive mantle, which has been left behind in the dark rift; the whole day it was a heavy clog, at last it is got rid of, with the burden of its weight now, the return to Arachoba might be impossible. It has served its purpose; let it go ; henceforth its possession could only be an impediment. It may also be added that the sole of the shoe is worn off, and the walker must now leap from rock to rock on his heels in order to spare the blistered balls of his feet: all with joy however as he thinks of what the Goddess told him.
Dusk finds him still toiling over the pointed stones and through the thorny brambles; no moon holds a lamp out of the sky to illumine his way, but Liacura yonder sends from her lofty cone a milk-white snow-light, rather vague but sufficient to help him find the path down the mountain. Nor will he lose the direction, having kept that peak in his eye all day. Thus he gets back to Arachoba after scone migivings, with its serpentine streets in Stygian darkness. One light only he beholds in the town, thither he tends and finds it to be his old friend, American Petroleum, vividly illuminating the oil-mill, and furnishing one beacon at least on Parnassus. A friendly hand conducts him thence to the house of his host the Doctor, to the great surprise of the family who had seen him set out so triumphantly in the morning for Delphi, but now witness him returning in no little humiliation. Then he narrates the adventures of the day, and in proof exhibits his shoes now fit only to be suspended in the temple of the God Hermes, as a votive offering, their work being done.
Thus I wandered on Parnassus, for this traveler of whom I have been speaking is myself, whom I have sought to conceal, partially at least, behind a third person, out of shame ; thus also many others have wandered before me, and will wander hereafter, since the mountain with all its impossibilities has some secret attraction for the world. Delightful prospects I could see in the distance, fertile fields with the promise of abundant harvest, pleasant streams running down the sides of the mountain and watering the vales; cold glittering snows I could behold high up above me on the peaks. But wherever I went, whatever I touched, was the rude bramble, the sterile rock ; a rough inhospitable tract always bordered my pathway. When I sought to descend into the valley below me where were the olives and vineyards, an impassible precipice cut me off; when I attempted to reach the home of Apollo, beholding it afar in the God's own sunlight, only wings, which I had not, could have borne me thither; finally, when I sought to go down the dark gorge to Delphic Castalia, fount of the Muses, terrific barriers, even monstrous sights, threw themselves across my path, till by the warning of the Goddess I turned back from the final leap.
Thus I strayed in capricious goat-paths that led no-whither, or pushed through desolate places with only a glimpse of the sunlit goal, yet with no possible attainment. What is the result of the day's experience? Clearly this : not by such a route canst thou reach Delphi, with its musical fountain and divine temple. Back, then, unravel the day and what is in it; undo the deed entirely, and begin anew, for there is a way thither, but not thus. Impassible cliffs, lonely sterility, dark chasms lie in this path, bitterly astray thou hast gone. Still keep patience and hope, twin sisters of the present and the future ; hereafter follow thy honest and knowing guide, and wander not after thy caprices, which like goat-paths lead nowhither, running everywhither. Back, then, to the starting point once more with thy new knowledge, and do the thing over again, which has been wholly wrong from the beginning.
Such is life, or such at least is the wanderer's life, were he to make a clean confession; all has to be done over again, inwrought with the new experience. Take this day, if you wish, as the image of his eternity, and of yours, too. You shall strive to reach the goal, but you shall have to run the race again ; when you have even attained the end, then you are fairly ready to start. But enough; there is a road to Delphi, for many have traveled it; the place exists, for I saw it myself; what more need one know ? Tomorrow morning I shall begin preparation for the journey; the next day, or the day after that, or still the next, I shall start on the straight known road; then, if any one find me swerving from that, let him smite me dead upon the spot.
I was curious to find out whether it was possible to have got through the channel, if I had taken the leap. They told me that there were several descents after that which stopped me one of at least two hundred feet. So I would have been caught between the precipices and imprisoned in the dungeon of Gaia, primeval Earth. Well was it that the Goddess Athena held my arm as I raised it to fling my staff over the steep descent; she indeed saves from the dark, deathful embrace of Gaia. Behold yourself there now; you can not go forward, can not go backward; what is to be done ? Yell the weary hours away in the hope that some straggling shepherd may hear and come to the rescue; but in vain. Then sleep in feverish dreams the bodeful night away and so on till the voice weakens to faintness, to silence, and the tired body lies down on a rock to its last rest. But do not shed a tear, the Goddess held my arm, and the dark monster, instead of myself, found only my cumbersome mantle within its deep-gaping jaws of adamant. Thus with a shudder I triumph; and you with me, I could gladly believe.
It rained the night after, and the rain filled my dreams with a new deluge. I was compelled to stay in the gorge, lying in its narrow bed; the showers descend, the waters begin to rush down the channel with boiling violence. At first I perch myself on a thin strip of rock outside the stream; then, with feet in water, I resist the current in a desperate struggle; but the cloud bursts on the mountain, which suddenly becomes a vast waterfall; the tor-rent sweeps me down and tumbles me over the precipice. Still I rejoice I was saved because Athena held my arm. Such salvation comes to him whom the Goddess restrains from taking a leap into that rock-walled chasm in which there is no advance and no return.
Moreover, if I can read her divine decree aright, she refuses me as yet an entrance to the antique Delphic world; she has thrown me back even with violence upon modern Arachoba, where the life of antiquity is not a ruin but is still ruddy, being seen and felt in all the vividness of the present. Here, then, we shall stay, dutifully obeying her holy command, till she bid us start again for Delphi.