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
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Apollo, says the legend, stopped at Delphi in his wanderings over the Earth, and set up his temple. He found here the miracle of Nature which sought expression through him, and which he was to fill with his own soul. Erecting his shrine, he began to form these hills and with them to transform man; thus the spot became a radiating center of light, a spiritual sun, and prophetic therein of all that Greece was to be. Like Apollo of old the pilgrim passes to Delphi; he may lightly run over the rest of the Greek territory, but at this point he is stopped by Nature, who is still full of spiritual suggestion, and dumbly prays for a voice. If he goes on, he will be drawn back ; he must think, here is yet some utterance of the God, here is some service to be per-formed by one who wishes to transfuse himself into harmony with the old divinity. So the pilgrim will seek to do over again at Delphi in image what the God did in reality.
The rocks, the bushes, the mosses you behold growing on the side of the mountain ; but if you turn your eye beneath, you see them reflected in the waters of Castalia; indeed you will take in both image and reality with one penetrating glance. You will also be-hold your own face among the green shrubbery mirrored in the translucent depths; nay, you may observe your own eyes beholding all this varied imagery in the fountain. One must always be able to see double at Delphi, see not only this glorious Nature, but its reflection in Castalia round the image of the beholder : wherefore the Muses' fount is it, if not for that?
The harmonies of Delphi mainly flow from the happy union of Nature and Soul. Whatever we see suggests some strain, strikes the chords within; still more, whatever we feel and think, drops at once into vibration with the outer world and therein finds expression. Can you wonder that a person becomes deeply attuned amid such surroundings, and is absorbed into their musical mood? It is a necessity of air and sky, of mountain and valley, of the vineyards and olives. Then back of the Present lies the Past which fills it and sets it throbbing; every object is laden with the old transfigured into the new; the antique world welling up into the modern life and scenery gives the rhythm, in whose sweep all is embraced and harmonized. But it is not the jingling of words, of like sounds, not a merely external tintinnabulation; it is rhythm, harmonious modulations of the whole world revealed here, resembling those of the sea with its ever-recurring sweep of long waves, that come on like Fate, yet with many a little capricious water curl playing over the surface.
There is something which one seeks to live with intimately in the artistic instinct of the Greek. His eye must have been a wonder, broadened into touch, deepened to soul. It lay on the way between the inner and outer worlds, both of which dwelt in that hostelry, imaging each other in a transparent happy harmony. The Greek did not turn wholly within and brood over his own formless, fathomless depths, nor did he abide without, sunk in a mere life of the senses. Whatever from the outer world passed into that true eye of his, was filled with the inner world; and the inner world in brotherly harmony took some kindred outer shape in in ,which it revealed itself and became beautiful. A small poem in the Anthology, often about the humblest daily matter, is filled with an eye which seems to have quite gone blind in modern life; an eye clear-seeing, clear-imaging, an eye in whose translucent depths Nature and soul meet, embrace and wed with eternal marriage-song.
The sojourner will often long to go to the white summits of Parnassus, which every morning rises enticingly before him, but he will be warned against snow drifts, and the danger of getting lost, even of being overtaken by wolves. Still on some fair day he will set out and traverse the cliffs to the table-land ; there among the deserted huts he will sit down at the foot of lofty Liakuri, and look up at the snow-line and the pine woods beyond it; he will be unable to restrain himself from the ascent; he must go up and see what is going on there. He passes the border and sports in the snow, smells the fragrance of the wetted pines and rouses the hare from her cover. But spring has set in, the frozen sides are melting, every rill is full and hurries off to the olives and vineyards, where the fruits of autumn are to be nourished to bloom and maturity. Flowers spring up in the wake of the retreating snow-line, driving it further up the mountain; the bees follow and the butterflies, often flitting gaily over the frost as an enemy conquered; then comes the shepherd with pipe and song, bringing his herds to the freshest herbs of the season; all are in hostile pursuit of the snow, and will soon push it into its inaccessible fastness on the summit of Liakuri. Thus icy Parnassus seems to loosen in the spring and thaw itself into rills, into flowers, into song, making a vernal harmony which will be al-ways humming in the ear of the wanderer as he rambles through the mountains.
Many are the flowers that grow on Parnassus but there is one which you will select, a small blue flower, and feel to be the fairest of all in her tender beauty. The slope is now full of her mild eyelets ; the whole mountain rather is one flower, a maiden you will say, whose every glance changes to a flower, and remains fixed in its blue tenderness looking up at you, at times with a dewy tear on its lid. So Zeus transformed Kalokaira into an Oread, whose glances were held fast on the mountain side and preserved in a pretty flower. Indeed, we all have seen blue eyes in which each look was a sudden flower, and whose life was a flowery dream flitting away with the moments. This modest wee flower, slightly hanging the head as if to shun the stranger's gaze, springs up in the stoniest spots amid the hardest rock, sometimes peers out of the surrounding snow; tenderness, then, is strength. I pluck one carefully out by the roots with the earth clinging to them, and think of transplanting the same to my home, if it be possible that delicate Parnassian flower, yet so stout-hearted that neither coldness nor sterility can subdue its smile of tenderness.
Through a distant opening between two peaks one beholds an arm of the sea running out into the blue Corinthian waters which in placid repose lie amid the dreamy hills, whose outlines express a calm symmetry. Still further in the background are the Arcadian summits, swimming in the horizon, which closes the aperture through which we are looking. Over all is spread the haze which still further subdues the ruggedness, the striving of the peaks; Nature has seemingly put it into her picture for the purpose of tranquility, and then added to it the mild golden light of Apollo. Happy serenity, not even the struggle of contemplation it suggests, a glorious reconciliation of the beautiful world before us softly throbbing in silent harmonies.
From the hill-side one looks at the veil of haze suspended above from the blue welkin, dropping down upon the mountains, resting gently over the valleys looks long and wonders what it means. A bond of union it is, first of all, uniting sea, summit and skies, transfusing them, you may say, into one melodious concert of Nature. A divine thing, therefore being that which unites, not that which separates, bringing into harmony the disjointed and jarring members of the rugged landscape. A visible outward sign of their union it appears, corresponding to their inner oneness, yet in its transparency revealing their distinctness. Then, too, peace it means, peace scattered over hill and valley, peace attuned in the soul of man. Reclining under the trees of the orchard we glance up at the mountains in light blue veil; it is the suggestion of serene sweet repose for the highest heights ; wherever it lies, there is tranquility; even the rough restless features of the hills are softened in the breath of its quiet. Not a tone of tumult we hear now, hardly of activity ; repose has settled up-on the summits, and they cease to struggle upwards, content to rest in their new divine harmony. The traveler, too, becomes one with the landscape, whose music sweeps through him ; he is himself transmuted into haze as he lies under an olive, and gazes up toward the blue heights, feeling within himself the oneness of the Delphic world.
As the sojourner descends from Delphi, at the head of the village he will enter the olive orchards. The trees will attract his notice by their subtle sparkle set in green, by their loads of fruit, by their old hollow twisted trunks, by their fresh sproutlings. The olive is truly the holy tree of the Greeks still, one may well call it the favorite of Pallas Athena. Meat grows upon its branches, it furnishes vegetable and animal food together-the most universal of fruit-bearing trees. Now is the season for picking the olives, and this is the main occupation of the village. The young folks are here maidens full of mirth and love, singing throughout the orchards. When the stranger comes near, they attune their voices, for they see him and instinctively try to lure him with their most enticing gift. And he is lured, since he will go up to the group, or perchance stand still at some distance, hesitating to expose himself to their gay mockery. But when he sees one of them alone with the parent, thither he will pass and help gather the berries, for this is his harvest too.
Often he will wander for miles through the orchards, loitering along streams of clear running water, through deep clefts, past mills turned by mountain streams. Often he will sit down under a tree, take out his note-book and try to put in words the view and its mood somehow or other those words will fall into a sort of a rhythm as if playing at verse 'mid the olives. The maidens in the distance empty their baskets of fruit, the slow donkey toils up the rocky winding pathway through the trees, the mountain opposite rises steep and bare, perforated, with curious caverns, homes' of the nymphs. He will go through the chasm darkling, be will come upon ancient foundations of eut stone, he will see the beautiful shrine or temple arise once more to the sunlight, and perchance in an unguarded moment he may catch a glimpse of fantastic Pan and his rout dissappearing in the distance among the trunks of the trees. This Lower World will not persist in his view, but transfigures itself into another and Upper World, which is the enduring fact of Delphi; all Nature seems on the point of turning mythical and becoming a poem.
Only every third year, it is said, is a good year for olives; two years they must rest ere they again bear fruit. From the great earth they draw up but slowly their juices after the fatigue of the season of bearing. Still, in these vacant years, they are not idle : new wood they deposit, the old trunk they inlay with many a fresh fibre from which comes the youthful life which produces the fruit. The body of the tree, nay, its vegetable soul, must be renewed to reproduce itself; it is the new life which begets the new life. Note these little channels running everywhere through the orchards; they bear water to the olives through many a rill, forming crystalline nets stretched out on the hill-side under the trees whose trunks they entwine in thousandfold meshes. They carry the fresh streams of Parnassus to the exhausted rootlets, renewing the old stem and nursing the sproutling; for it is the new tree only which yields the new olive, the aged stock has to become young again. Whence come those streams ? From the depths of Parnassus they rise, welling up from unseen sources within the mountain, and watering the olives.
Every three years only the olives produce, then they repose to gather anew their youth. Thus too the Poet or Maker : after exertion he must rest for a season till he become young again, with new tissue, whence he may draw adolescent freshness and beauty. Born over again must he be after the work of creation; the throes of utterance waste the youth of his spirit, the dew of the soul is dried up in the fire of conception. A new life, then, he must have a life softly stored away in his brain by the years, that he may be veritably young what-ever his age. Many a rivulet from Parnassus, too, must water his fruitful orchard, till youth's sap rise into the ancient fibres in place of weariness and decay. Many a day of sunshine must be taken into each tree till it be stored full of happy gleams ; many a breath of air from Parnassian heights must be inhaled, till the new trans-formation take place, with all of which the Muse must mingle her melodious strain. Each thought is a birth, each line of the Poet must sing itself into being. Age is impotent, the new word springs from the new life, throbbing after reposeful periods into utterance like the triennial yield of the olive.
The olive tree was very old, hundreds of years possibly had fled past it, often with fire and sword ; still it stood. Its limbs were everywhere filled with berries, but the corrosion of age had touched the last fibre, though no one knew it. I looked into the top of that tree, it laughed with a youthful delight, wide-spreading was its crown, richer than ever was its yield of fruit. An en-raptured vision it seemed; standing there in the sun it dreamed of eternal duration. A light wind came down from the mountain, the last thin fibre snapped ; still the prostrate monarch had the joy that he never grew old, that his last was his richest burden.
Here, take in your hand this olive, the rind is a dark rich brown with shades of red ; graceful is its form, and there is lusciousness in its look. It is full of meat holding little sacs of oil ; the globules will exude if you only brush the surface. But at the heart it is red, red around the stone, with decided warmth and richness in the color a genuine hue of the heart's passion, you will say. Press it, there follows a gush of oil ; the heart at once gives forth all its essence, and seems glad to yield up its secret wealth to this gentle pressure of a sympathetic hand Even bruised and broken, it reveals more generously the rich stores of its heart.
In the paths that lead through the orchard are shown many of these berries; they fall helpless from the limbs above into the road underneath where they are trampled upon by the men passing that way. There they lie in the dirt, crushed, disregarded; the rich oil is trodden out into the dust, a dark greasy spot is all that remains of them. Stirred by some storm or possibly by a light wind only, they fell from the paternal branch; now they are lost forever, nobody will pick them up, nobody will touch them, men will simply tread on them again, heedlessly, till they be buried out of sight, trampled into their grave. I do not deny that I avoid stepping on them, pity them as I see them lying there with all their oil spilled. Such are the crushed olives which one will see on his pathway even in Delphic mood.
One will curiously think of an ancient crushed olive, noted at Delphi, for her gift of five hundred spits to the God. It is a puzzling donation; why spits for such a purpose why so many why just she, fair Rhodope?
But leave the matter to the antiquarian, and listen for a moment to the scoffer. Les pretres paiens ne se montraient pas plus difficiles que les pretres chretiens pour ces sortes d'offrandes; ne sont ce pas les grands coupables qui ont toujours enrichi Ies Eglises? (Larousse, Enc. Art. Delphi.) Wicked Paris ! That view of the Delphic world we shall not take, whatever be the solution of Rhodope's problem. Was it a wild piece of mockery, or a genuine act of piety? We say the latter; in deep sincerity the crushed olive gave up its offering for restoration ; I can see a longing of that sort in those trampled most deeply into the dust at my feet.
When the olives are done, then the busy hands pass to the vineyard in order that Bacchus may rejoice in their work. They loosen the earth round the roots of the grape vine, that it may distil the bright drops, drawing them up into their vats in the fruit. A soft bed for the God we prepare in the ground, and by our caresses we shall entice him to rest with us. Thus we change the kind of our labor; our thoughts, too, change; our songs change. These are filled with the glories of Bacchus and the hopes of the autumn. I, too, change with the others, a touch of the madness of the wine-god I feel, as I think of the rootlets sipping at a perpetual banquet or dipping up the dew from the soil for us and storing it away in the grape. They are all little Hebes-cup-bearers of the God; note how each one carries his little tear-drop and lays it away in a small cell for me the coming autumn. All are working for my behoof, I see. Not unrewarded shall ye be, my little gnomes; to your glory shall I drink, and even may make a song, if the coy Muses be not frightened from the revel.
Notice the old stock of the grape vine, it is a character. Dozens of years has it stood, bearing its annual crop; crook-backed with its burden of labor, it still puts forth young sprouts which are hung with grapes. Twisted and squirming with the struggle of life, it is yet green, and rejoices in youth and the sun. Often it has been cut by the pruning knife ; wounds it has received all over its body in the hard battle of existence upon this hill-side; still from its scars it sends forth new blossoms which yield the richest and most plentiful fruit. Age cannot wither it, seasons cannot quench the gay works of its rejuvenescence. Truly the plant of Bacchus, the beloved stripling divine, thou springest from the earth; no wonder thou makest us young when we partake of thy stores; it is but thyself which thou impartest to us, and even to the old man thou restorest the days of his youth. Thou wreathest the brow of the God with thy leaves, elevating thyself to a divine participation ; for whatever cuts off Time from his dominion, confers immortality, and is to us mortals a deity.
Look at old Yankos at work in the vineyard ; how he lops each vine with a quick turn of the head, making his iron-gray curls spring round his brow in chorus ! Do you not like to see his white folds dance about his body? Speak to him and hear his answer; his is a mountain voice, attuned to this lofty air, and made for talking from peak to peak. Thus his words are few and far-echoing ; filled too with a sort of natural music. He never stops his work while conversing ; his very life is to prune his vineyard. It seems at first a pity to cut the green twigs, but only by trimming, Yankos says, will the vines be prevented from becoming mere leaves and branches, and be made to bear grapes. Foliage, Yankos does not wish, but fruit. On the stock he leaves two small buds, which will produce all the wine for the next vintage ; the sprouts on which grew last year's clusters are cut away, they have now grown old and fit only for the flame. The young shoots alone can produce the true nectar, young shoots from the old body. Then the juice makes young whoever sips of its drops ; but the vine must be trimmed, trimmed by the careful pruner into perpetual youth. Look at Yankos again, he is no longer old, he is so sunk in his work that he grows young with his vineyard, trans-formed by his art into one of its products, or rather into sudden gleams of youthful Bacchus.
One of the chief Delphic delights is to trace the ancient foundations of dwelling-houses, still marked by grooves in the rock where it was cut for the base of a wall. Steps hewed out of the stone lead in many a winding passage over the steep hill-side ; you will mark the place of each house. Here was a location chosen anciently for a dwelling by some skilled Greek eye for the sake of the glance down into the landscape below. I try to look from the spot with that eye, examine the scenery; I seek to become what the Greek owner was, to feel what he felt, as his look swept through the valley to the sea, then turned about and rested upon the snowy peak of Parnassus. From each of these sites you behold new combinations of landscape always something new is seen though the separate objects be familiar. Thus one may still enjoy the old Greek's view, build his house, sit with him, and look at Delphi with its temples, listen to him reading Homer, fill the court of his house with flowers and colonnades. But the conversation is hushed as the white-robed daughter glides past through the columns on her way to her apartment. Not a word she says, her face is almost hid, still from behind the cover the dark eye sends a single gleam, and one glimpse of that perfect line joining face and forehead is left as a precious boon to the stranger, the most delightful memento of Delphi.
The old temples, too, the traveler will build up again and place in their locality. The pediment will be filled with marble myths, friezes will be drawn around it, showing some conflict of heroes, or some noble festival of mortals. In the evening when twilight grey falls upon the modern hamlet, he will hardly see the hovels yonder, but the whole site of semilunar Delphi will become white with colonnaded rows, with groves of lofty statuary, with sculptured fables writ in stone better than in words. Lines of pilgrims arrive from the sea, march in procession to the shrine of the God, bearing rich offerings; the world is beauty, life is an eternal holiday, joy ascends into worship.
Extensive excavations have been made at Delphi, it is the design to make still more extensive ones, for much is supposed to be buried under the village. But why should we dig here? Why do we of this day dig everywhere in classic lands dig for dear life to get possession of a few fragments? This is truly the age of excavations; a strange impulse it seems; we must find out what our ancestors were, even if they be monkeys. So we dig into the past, into old soil, seeking for aught which we have not. Ah, something has left us, and we feel the void ; the old Greek world had what we have no longer and are searching for. We seek it, and 'tis well that we seek it; we long to complete our life with theirs, so our salvation cries out : dig, dig ; restore that culture, that beautiful existence in its best phases, though it be but a fragment. Man is not entire till he be all that his race has been; therefore let us mount to the sources or dig down to the remains of our former selves. The heroes of the day are excavators.
But is it not strange that what man broke in pious zeal, he now piously restores, patching together the smallest chips, more precious than gold, of heathen idols? Aye, the conflict is over, let the enemy rise, help him to his feet. Yet the sensible traveler would not wish to reverse the wheels of Time; just what Delphi is now lay in her own deed and character, she has received nought but what had to be, namely her own action in its consequences. Delphi foretold her own fate ; when the seeress predicts the destiny of her own nation, she must have that prophecy turned back upon herself. So, too, O Delphi, one reads in these ruins thy greatest oracle, be-holds it therein fulfilled. Nay, this excavation one can see in thy wisdom, this rejuvenation lies, too, in thy foresight. Men cannot do without Delphi even its ruins are prophetic; today still thou givest responses, nor is thy oracle yet dumb, nor will it be while these fragments lie in thy soil.
Yet even at Delphi there are marks of a time before the Delphic era of a primeval time which breaks through the Greek aeons and reduces them to children of yesterday. We look at the immense chasm worn by the Castalian brook out of the solid rock; in antiquity there were steps cut into that rock right where the torrent abrades the channel. Two thousand years old or more are those steps, yet unworn almost : millions of years then must have fled over Delphi before the advent of Apollo or the slaughter of the Python upon this spot. What an epoch is counted out to you by this gorge worn by water which in two thousand years scarcely rubs off the mark of the chisel ! Greek Delphi is old, at its antiquity we sometimes wonder; but what is it compared to Nature ? The reign of Mother Gaia is that primeval epoch not forgotten in Delphic legend; she was sovereign of the rude chaotic world before the rule of Apollo. But even he with his city is now a shadow on the hill-side; yet behind his shadow is another of numberless centuries resting upon this chasm the shadow of old Mother Gaia.
Thus one lives back at Delphi, or just as well lives forward. Time, the final God of limitation, who seeks to put his fetters upon the soul to the last, is dispossessed of his sovereignty in the Delphic world. I am above time, I live thousands of ages in a moment; all the past lies in me, I am the germ of all the future. All centuries move through me when I know myself; I have no limit in Time, the soul is not bounded by it; small as I am, yet I hold the All ; I make Time and refuse to be made by it. Strange that man should surrender his soul, immortality's dower should imagine it to be a creature of Time and hunt for his origin in Time; thus indeed he reduces himself to the thrall of Time. So at Delphi I am what it was, before it was, and will live on after it through the ages. Know Thy-self was the Delphic maxim; not without truth was the answer of the satirical rogue.: "What, know myself! You ask me to undertake too big a subject." A big subject indeed, quite All, Time included, if understood aright.
Yet Time has his trophies at Delphi the tombs which lie on both sides of the village, east and west; these are not to be neglected. One sees a large opening hewn out of the solid rock of the hill and enters ; places are there for the ancient urn and the sarcophagus; possibly, too, these were seats for the living, who still tried to retain the bond after death. What does this untold labor mean? Some name of importance we may read, for the tomb cut in this rock is made to last forever. A struggle for immortality mingled with sighs it is; pain-fully hewing it out day after day smites the laborer with his pick millions of strokes merely for a tomb. Why make the fortress of death so strong? Can mortal arm ever take it? Here, too, lies a sculptured shape a likeness, we may suppose. Chiseled in the rock, most lasting of materials, it seeks to be eternal, but will that preserve the fair body? Such are the immortal longings cut in the Delphic rocks, enduring some thousands of years. No, Apollo says, immortality comes not thus ; seek it rather in that other Delphic monument: Know Thyself.
There is, however, stout denial here as everywhere; an enemy to Apollo has shown himself, still shows himself in the heart of Delphi ; it is a God, Seismos, the Earthquake. Pass along the shining cliffs, you will see the convulsions of the Titan fixed in the stare of the sun. Layers of rock overlap, wrench, struggle, edge against edge ; it is indeed a mighty protest. A huge wedge is driven into the mountain aslant by the God's maul; chips and pebbles lie in the seams. A great Titanic arm has tumbled the earth into confusion; a voice says that discord shall reign. But when we come down to the town, we see the conquest of Apollo and his people, for they have hewn and shaped into harmony even the rocks of Seismos, and all Delphi is the perpetual song of triumph over the dark God. Still Seismos is angry and threatens in these overhanging cliffs; Phloumbouki leans over fair Castalia with savage glance, ready again to precipitate himself into her bossom, as he did anciently and yesterday, and hide in dark caverns her gladsome waters.
Still another protest, very different from that of barbarous Seismos, can be heard upon Parnassus; it is the voice of the new Prometheus who has again risen, and is in conflict with Zeus. The old Greek life is still here in the new, but it has fallen into a struggle with the newest with the modern culture flowing from the West. Thus the world-conquering Titan is bringing his new fire from heaven to the Greek, and great is the upheaval which is threatened. Dim notes of the conflict can be heard at Delphi to-day, coming out of the distance like the doom of Fate; but we shall shut our ears to the discordant sounds and listen only to the Delphic harmonies.
Even on rainy days Delphi is not without some divine guest fire appearing in its primitive home on the hearth. It is strange how we all sit around it, and look into it steadily, as if bound by some demonic spell. Only once in a while is the silence broken by a fitful word, but the gaze is not broken; the white Palicaris sit there with rough bearded faces flared upon by the light. Behold the thousand forms that the blaze takes, yet one form underneath a varied utterance, yet one thing uttered; it is a God there forming, playing with forms which appear and disappear in breathings of flame. Vulcan is in the fire, and is at work with heavy respiration; it is his element, but these fleeting shapes he, the God, will make permanent, fixing eternally what is divine, in his Olympian smithy. Mind and light fraternize, in them the inner and outer become a mysterious one, speech too calls them one. The soul is fire, said an old philosopher; certainly their kinship is near, and they fondly embrace through the eye; they form the first bond of friendship between the inner and outer world.
That of which the stranger will not grow weary, is the ever-changing play of the sun, clouds and mountains. Such variety within such a limited space, yet in most magnificent proportion, he has not seen elsewhere; he will gaze till his very soul seems to have taken its abode in the eye. The blue dome is striped across with many a white fleecy band, the sun shifts over the summits, shadow and sunshine race in sport down the hill-sides. Then a hole in the clouds allows the eye of Apollo to peer through, whence he illumes for a time the tops of the mountains, setting them in burning splendor; over the leaves of the olives full of silvery sparkle stretching afar down the slope he passes, with a gold-den shower often lighting up a group of maidens who are singing among the trees. So I saw him to-day hold through an aperture in the clouds a long gleaming tube of solid sheen, fixing it for many minutes upon a group of white and red forms, as if he too delighted in them like a common mortal.
The Parnassian maiden refuses the European dress, with its variegated dullness and parti-colored patches. Only a peasant girl she is, but the white garment falling in immaculate folds is still her favorite drapery. Not always immaculate though ; she has to work in the fields; but such is her inborn instinct. In-discriminate formless play of colors is not her poetry. Two simple colors she has, white and red; in happy contrast, yet in complete harmony; white nuocence blushed through with the red dawn of love Hardly dare we call it the symbolism of colors it is he simplest nature, the purest instinct the freshest, most unalloyed utterance upon these hills, uttering the complete music of passion and of chastity in the human heart.
Often the people of Delphi spoke of Zalisca as a wonder worthy of being seen. After some directions given by Basili, I set out for the abode of the nymph, who was represented to be always sitting in her grot somewhere in the deep gorge of Pappadeia. Alone I pass through the olives down the mountain to the mouth of the chasm, and begin slowly to creep up the channel through which is flowing a strong bright brook of water. The walls of rock get steeper and higher, the gorge grows darker, the stream leaps wilder. Still, here not far from the entrance is an ancient foundation, a small fane, one may conjecture it; it is the introduction to the wondrous ceremony. Still further up in the chasm were other stones of a second structure. Some ancient passage, we imagine, full of solemn beauty; the little chapel was here with white column and statue. But look above, there is Nature's enormous temple carved with many a fantastic frieze and walled up to the clouds. In this spot, too, the old Greek sought to make Nature transform her-self into Art, and placed here his beautiful work, which thus became divine, the habitation of his Gods.
Clambering over the second fane, now overgrown with weeds and briars, though flowers spring there, we come to the grot of Zalisca. Leaping across the wild cataract of the brook, we reach the open door and look in; there is indeed the home of the nymph, singing in a still sweet voice like Calypso. A clear basin of water lies in the cave, into the bottom of which jets gush up whirling the sand; the ceiling is decked with thousands of gems and figures; heavy fret-work hangs down wrought of stone ; while outside many a vine trails over the doorway and embraces the mossy rocks. But the special glory of the day was the illumination made for me personally, I am fain to think, by Apollo, who passed over the gorge to the south just at mid-day and shone for a few moments. Just as I came to the door he threw his torch inside the grot, when it was lit suddenly with a thousand lamps, the ceiling was filled with rich drops of color like a new starry heaven, the waters became transparent at a gleam, revealing the fair form of the nymph, as she lay there in natural beauty. I confess to have felt the shudder which comes from the presence of divinity.
Several times afterwards I went to the grot of Zalisca, always with some awe and with a secret feeling of ceremony. I felt myself being ushered through certain rites into the abode of the nymph, there to look upon her face. Thus at Delphi does one go back into the dim symbolism of Nature from the beautiful outer world of Art, of statues and temples; into the dark mystery of religion he must grope from the clear sunshine, seeking to bear the light of Apollo with him. Zalisca's stream is said to be supplied from the lake on the Parnassian table-land, conducted hither by a channel underground, whose waters gush up into the lap of the nymph. For it has been noticed that when the Parnassian source has been dried up by drouths of summer, Zalisca is widowed of her buoyant stream, and no longer sings in her grot with the gushing waters. But when Parnassus again sends forth his thousand rivulets, Zalisca receives the fresh bequest and begins to pipe her songs once more in her grot with new-born joys.
The traveler, in his solitary walks, will excite wonder through the village; at last some inhabitant will address him : Often I see thee walking alone through the town, often wandering through the olives as if to shun the glance of the world. Thy head is bowed toward the ground, and thy lips keep moving; always with some shape thou seemst to be talking, which I can not see. Ever alone and alone; at times, too, thou makest a gesture in some earnest dispute and speakest aloud to an invisible thing what ails thee, O friend ?Where to the traveler replies in a questionable way : When I talk to the nymphs, I love to be alone; they are shy and refuse to speak in the presence of another man or woman; only to one will they sometimes give a word sometimes not even to him. They are nude, too, and modestly shrink from showing their fair white forms to vulgar gaze; but for me solitary they disrobe. Hence I in my walk seek no companions ; the undraped Muse flees from the view of the stranger. I would not come to Delphi to see thee and talk with thee; plenty like thee I could have at home; the inhabitants of another world than thine have lured me hither with hopes of fellowship; when I can be with them, I must abandon thee, though thou, I well know, art my good friend.
You will notice new beauties in Castalia with every visit ; some ancient trace you will see which at once springs forth into the perfect beautiful thing it once was. Thus to-day the old spouts ranged in a row played for me suddenly, where before I had seen only some meaningless holes in the stone. But the chief suggestion for one who stands and gazes long at the fountain, is the mild upwhirl of the sand ; as if it were the source of all poetry, he eagerly asks, whence come the bright waters ? From dark formless depths; many gloomy cavernous passages the stream traverses, where the old Gods, Night and Chaos sit enthroned; deep in the bowels of the mountain it winds, receiving a drop of coolness here and of flavor there. Who will track it, who can dig it out of the entrails of Parnassus ? No analytic pickax and spade will do it successfully; leave it alone, let it gurgle through its dark channel ; when the appointed time comes, it will leap forth to the sun in transparent beauty, and quench our thirst with its refreshing waters.
Scum lies now on the surface of Castalia, which the pious traveler will skim off by means of a branch with a bushy top. Unseemly weeds, too, draggle the translucent ripples; these, also, he will pluck out, in part at least. Mosses gently waving under the surface along the bottom of the basin he will leave standing, for they yield calmly to the soft pulsations of the welling streams. Innumerable small jets throb from the bottom and lightly whirl the sand, not enough to disturb the clearness of the water, but sufficient to show its incessant activity under the crystalline surface. They come up like the bubblings of inspiration ; underneath, from deep unseen well-heads they send forth fair cooling drops, yet the fount never grows turbid in its tireless endeavor. Some message the waters bring to the sun-light from obscure depths, but the moment they are touched by the rays of Apollo they drop back into trans-parent repose, so that the surface is never troubled. But mark, beneath the calm waters the eternal activity can ever be seen in the thousand little cones of bubbling sand, and this real fountain is transformed under the very eye to an image of the Muse.
Even the donkey is a poetical beast at Delphi and drinks from the Castalian rill as he enters the village. He marches up and sips unconsciously, backward and forward move his ears in a kind of chorus, loud resounds the music of his bray over Parnassus. More serene, too, becomes his obstinacy, often he refuses to budge from the sweet song of the rivulet, in whose waters he is fain to lie down, trying to mediate the Muse in her native source. He buries his broad nose in the stream, moves his long ears longer here than elsewhere on the face of the globe I think and he brays his prolonged hexametrical modulation : the traveler may well wonder whether he, too, hears the nymph.
I tried, in one of my moods, to dress Castalia in rhymes, but the nymph spurned the jingling garments. Some musical longing, an inner melody, one always feels at Delphi; indeed it gives the mind no peace till there is found for it some adequate utterance. For the soul frees itself in the voiced wavelets of air, and there-in finds happiness; it must be rocked upon them and soothed by them, moving in deep correspondence with them; it is an instrument struck by this Delphic Nature, whereby it vibrates and rings in perpetual pulsations. But Castalia refuses the modern crinkle-crankle, the superficial jingle of sweet sound. She said : Give me the old drapery, or something like it, for that reveals the fair form even under its cover; beneath its delicate folds movement will show itself in a thousand echoes. Give me the old music which harmonizes the body into its cadence, and does not dissolve the mind into dulcet, formless sound. Rhythm is my being spurn the jingle.
Too well I know, continued the nymph, my white folds do not please you moderns. They are white and impassive, to you they seem without color and without feeling. Nor can you gaze at my step with delight, for I seek the quiet graces of mere movement ; your wild dance stifles the ease-breathing chorus. Nor does my music please you, controlling simply the motions of my body; hexameters you banish with their long free stride. Travelers come and see me, then go home and traduce me ; even the Greek of to-day, though he praise and be proud of me, casts off my folds and follows your fashion.
The true-hearted visitor answered: Truly hast thou spoken, oh nymph, but I shall drink of thy waters with a new joy, and all day wander along the stream, as it flows through the olives. I shall dance too in thy chorus, taking delight in thy measures, though I, a stranger, move awkwardly, and cannot acquire the full grace of thy step and motion. Even thy garments I shall dress me in, and attune my gait to thy rhythm, though all Parnassus should laugh at the strange figure. Nay, though I be alone in my devotion, and though men mock thee and me, still at thy shrine I shall worship.
Last night I paid a visit to the fair Flower of Delphi, Louloutha, having been invited by the father. We ascended the outside stair to an upper story, where an ancient balcony hung over the street. When the company sat down by the fire, the wine was brought, she filled the glasses, I never saw anything more winningly done. She is truly a Delphic appearance; with blushing smile she withdrew to the window, when she noticed that she had attracted attention. Her eye curious, yet modest, would casually look up, then drop down, meeting the glance of the stranger. A Greek maiden, and just at the Greek period of the maiden's life, she lives in that happy golden world which hovers between what she knows and what she does not know. The woman is within her, yet she is not aware of it ; in thought she is a child, hut her actions speak innocently of something deeper than thought. What art thou, oh Louloutha? Childhood is past; concious womanhood is not yet present; truly the Delphic period of thy sex. There is the conflict seen in her which forever makes the maiden interesting to man, makes her more than herself, raises her into a type almost worshipful. She is not, yet is ; she will not, yet will—the opening rose which more enticingly reveals the redness within by half a disclosure. We behold in her the happy musical oneness between the inner and outer world which is the soul of Greece, of all Greek work. She indeed stands for much.
She is called out of her retreat by her mother, and resigns herself tremblingly to be looked upon by a man's eye with favor; innocence it is, yet a gazing out upon an immeasurable sea; a presentiment she becomes of all that she is to be. She seems to look down Time and transmit herself as an image to the future; she will be again, often again. At another glance she remounts to the past, she appears the transmitted image of the ancient Delphic world; she has been before, often before. Of her own accord she brings a quince and pares thin wafers of it into the wine, which thereby receives a new delicious. flavor from her hand, indeed from her soul. I sip the beverage slowly, and seek to engage her words or at least her looks; not a syllable she uttered, yet she gave all she had; it was the old Delphic heart which still throbbed in her young life. Long I talked to the father while she listened, but really I was talking to her —the lovely image of Delphi, to me the fairest freshest appearance of the Old in the New.
Nor shall I forget the last time I went to see Castalia, most generous nymph, who for so many weeks had met me with a smile every morning, and had refreshed me with a cooling draught every mid-day; who had thrown back to me so joyously innumerable Delphic images from her transparent depths, to remain mine for-ever. I reached down and trailed my fingers in the water; therein I could not help seeing my own visage more clearly reflected than ever befare, as I thought of departure, asking : Shall I behold her again ? The question at first caused the tears to start; but soon I was at peace with myself, for an assurance came from a voice within: I know I shall behold thee again; there can be henceforth no permanent separation; often I shall visit thee and drink; during my entire life thy image shall not go from me and thy mirroring depths shall abide with me. As I went toward the fountain, I was full of the melancholy of parting ; but as I left it, bearing the last reflection of itself within me, I was buoyed with the presentiment of return, indeed of many returns.