Read CORFU AND THE IONIAN SEA of Mentone‚ Cairo‚ and Corfu, free online book, by Constance Fenimore Woolson, on

Sad eyes! the blue sea laughs, as heretofore.
Ah, singing birds, your happy music pour;
Ah, poets, leave the sordid earth awhile;
Flit to these ancient gods we still adore:
“It may be we shall touch the happy isle!”

Translated by Andrew Lang.

Not long before Christmas, last year, I found myself travelling from Ancona down the Adriatic coast of Italy by the fast train called the Indian Mail. There was excitement in the very name, and more in the conversation of the people who sat beside me at the table of a queer little eating-house on the shore, before whose portal the Indian Mail stopped late in the evening. We all descended and went in. A dusky apartment was our discovery, and a table illuminated by guttering candles that flared in the strong currents of air. Roast chickens were stacked on this table in a high pile, and loaves of dark-colored bread were placed here and there, with portly straw-covered flasks of the wine of the country. No one came to serve us; we were expected to serve ourselves. A landlord who looked like an obese Don Juan was established behind a bench in a distant corner, where he made coffee with amiability and enthusiasm for those who desired it. It was supposed that we were to go to him, before we returned to the train, and pay for what we had consumed; and I hope that his trust in us was not misplaced, for with his objection to exercise, and his dim little lamp which illuminated only his smiles, there was nothing for him but trust. The Indian Mail carries passengers who are outward-bound for Constantinople, Egypt, and India; his confidence rested perhaps in the belief that persons about to embark on such dangerous seas would hardly begin the enterprise by crime. To other minds, however, it might have seemed the very moment to perpetrate enormities. As we attacked the chickens, I perceived in the flickering glare that all my companions were English. Everybody talked, and the thrill of the one American increased as the names of the steamers waiting at Brindisi were mentioned the Hydaspes, the Coromandel, the Cathay, the Mirzapore: towards what lands of sandal-wood, what pleasure-domes of Kubla-Khan, might not one sail on ships bearing those titles! The present voyagers, however, were all old travellers; they took a purely practical view of the Orient. Nevertheless, their careless “Cairo,” “Port Said,” “Bombay,” “Ceylon,” “Java,” were as fascinating as the shining balls of a juggler when a dozen are in the air at the same moment. My right-hand neighbor, upon learning that my destination was Corfu, good-naturedly offered the information that the voyage was an easy one. “Corfu, however, is not what it has been!”

“But, Polly, it is looking up a little, now that the Empress of Austria is building a villa there,” suggested a sister correctively.

After this outburst of talk, we all climbed back into the waiting train, and went flying on towards the south, following the lonely, wild-looking coast, with the wind from the Adriatic crying over our heads like a banshee. It was midnight when we reached Brindisi. At present this, the ancient Brundusium, is the jumping-off place for the traveller on his way to the East; here he must leave the land and trust himself to an enigmatical deep. But if he wishes to have the sensation in full force, he must not delay his journey; for, presently, the Indian Mail will rush through Greece and meet the steamers at Cape Colonna; and then, before long, there will be another spurt, and Pullman trains will go through to Calcutta, with a ferry over the Bosporus.

At Brindisi I became the prey of five barelegged boatmen, who, owing to the noise of the wind and the water, communicated with each other by yells. The Austrian-Lloyd steamer from Trieste, outward-bound for Constantinople, which carried the friends I was expecting to meet, was said to be lying out in the stream, and I enjoyed the adventure of setting forth alone on the dark sea in search of her, in a small boat rowed by my Otranto crew. During the transit there was not much time to think of Brundusium, with its memories of Horace and Virgil. But there was another opportunity to reflect upon the question, perplexing to the unskilled mind namely, Why it is that an American abroad is constantly called upon to praise the wharves, piers, and landing-stages, and with the same breath to condemn as disgraces to civilization the like nautical platforms of his own country, when he is so often obliged, on foreign shores, to embark and disembark by means of a tossing small boat or a crowded tender, whereas at home, with the aid of those same makeshift constructions for whose short-comings he is supposed to blush, he walks on board of his steamship with no trouble whatever?

Early the next morning, awakening on a shelf in a red velvet cupboard, I was explaining to myself vaguely that the cupboard was a dream, when there appeared through the port-hole a picture of such fairy-tale beauty that the dream became lyrical it began to sing:

“Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live!”

At last those famous lines were actualities, for surely this was the sea of the Jumblies, and those heights without doubt were “the hills of Chankly Bore.” (There are people, I believe, who do not care for the Jumblies. There are persons who do not care for Alice in Wonderland, nor for Brer Rabbit, when he played on his triangle down by the brook.)

The sea which I saw was of a miraculously blue tint; in the distance the cliffs of a mountainous island rose boldly from the water, their color that of a violet pansy; a fishing-boat with red sails was crossing the foreground; over all glittered an atmosphere so golden that it was like that of sunset in other lands, though the sky, at the same time, had unmistakably the purity of early morning. Later, on the deck, during the broadly practical time of after breakfast, this view, instead of diminishing in attraction, grew constantly more fair. The French novelist of to-day, Paul Bourget, describes Corfu as “so lovely that one wants to take it in one’s arms!” Another Frenchman, who was not given to the making of phrases, no less a personage than Napoleon Bonaparte, has left upon record his belief that Corfu has “the most beautiful situation in the world.” What, then, is this beauty? What is this situation?

First, there is the long and charming approach, with the snow-capped mountains of Albania, in European Turkey, looming up against the sky at the end; then comes the landlocked harbor; then the picturesque old town, its high stone houses, all of creamy hue, crowded together on the hill-side above the sea-wall, with here and there a bell-tower shooting into the blue. Below is the busy, many-colored port. Above towers the dark double fortress on its rock. And, finally, the dense, grove-like vegetation of the island encircles all, and its own mountain-peaks rise behind, one of them attaining a height of three thousand feet. There are other islands of which all this, or almost all, can be said Capri, for instance. But at Corfu there are two attributes peculiar to the region; these are: first, the color; second, the transparency. Although the voyage from Brindisi hardly occupies twelve hours, the atmosphere is utterly unlike that of Italy; there is no haze; all is clear. Some of us love the Italian haze (which is not in the least a mist), that soft veil which makes the mountains look as if they were covered with velvet. But a love of this softness need not, I hope, make us hate everything that is different. Greece (and Corfu is a Greek island) seemed to me all light the lightest country in the world. In other lands, if we climb a high mountain and stand on its bald summit at noon, we feel as if we were taking a bath in light; in Greece we have this feeling everywhere, even in the valleys. Euripides described his countrymen as “forever delicately tripping through the pellucid air,” and so their modern descendants trip to this day. This dry atmosphere has an exciting effect upon the nervous energy, and the faces of the people show it. It has also, I believe, the defect of this good quality namely, an over-stimulation, which sometimes produces neuralgia. In some respects Americans recognize this clearness of the atmosphere, and its influence, good and bad; the air of northern New England in the summer, and of California at the same season, is not unlike it. But in America the transparency is more white, more blank; we have little of the coloring that exists in Greece, tints whose intensity must be seen to be believed. The mountains, the hills, the fields, are sometimes bathed in lilac. Then comes violet for the plains, while the mountains are rose that deepens into crimson. At other times salmon, pink, and purple tinges are seen, and ochre, saffron, and cinnamon brown. This description applies to the whole of Greece, but among the Ionian Islands the effect of the color is doubled by the wonderful tint of the surrounding sea. I promise not to mention this hue again; hereafter it can be taken for granted, for it is always present; but for this once I must say that you may imagine the bluest blue you know the sky, lapis lazuli, sapphires, the eyes of some children, the Bay of Naples and the Ionian Sea is bluer than any of these. And nowhere else have I seen such dear, queer little foam sprays. They are so small and so very white on the blue, and they curl over the surface of the water even when the sea is perfectly calm, which makes me call them queer. You meet them miles from land. And all the shores are whitened with their never-ceasing play. It is a pygmy surf.

It was eleven o’clock in the morning when our steamer reached her anchorage before the island town. Immediately she was surrounded by small boats, whose crews were perfectly lawless, demanding from strangers whatever they thought they could get, and obtaining their demands, because there was no way to escape them except by building a raft. Upon reaching land one forgets the extortion, for the windows of the hotel overlook the esplanade, and this open space amiably offers to persons who are interested in first impressions a panoramic history of two thousand five hundred years in a series of striking mementos. Let me premise that as regards any solid knowledge of these islands, only a contemptible smattering can be obtained in a stay so short as mine. Corfu and her sisters have borne a conspicuous part in what we used to call ancient history. Through the Roman days they appear and reappear. In the times of the Crusaders their position made them extremely important. Years of study could not exhaust their records, nor months of research their antiquities. To comprehend them rightfully one must indeed be an historian, an archaeologist, and a painter at one and the same time, and one must also be good-natured. Few of us can hope to unite all these. The next best thing, therefore, is to go and see them with whatever eyes and mind we happen to possess. Good-nature will perhaps return after the opening encounter with the boatmen is over.

From our windows, then, we could note, first, the Citadel, high on its rock, three hundred feet above the town. The oldest part of the present fortress was erected in 1550; but the site has always been the stronghold. Corinthians, Athenians, Spartans, Macedonians, and Romans have in turn held the island, and this rock is the obvious keep. Later came four hundred years of Venetian control, and I am ashamed to add that the tokens of this last-named period were to me more delightful than any of the other memorials. I say “ashamed,” for why should one be haunted by Venice in Greece? With the Parthenon to look forward to, why should the lion of St. Mark, sculptured on Corfu façades, be a thing to greet with joy? Many of us are familiar with the disconsolate figures of some of our fellow-countrymen and countrywomen in the galleries of Europe, tired and dejected tourists wandering from picture to picture, but finding nothing half so interesting as the memory of N Columbus Avenue at home. I am afraid it is equally narrow to be scanning Corfu, Athens, Cairo, and the sands of the desert itself for something that reminds one of another place, even though that place be the enchanting pageant of a town at the head of the Adriatic. History, however, as related by the esplanade, pays no attention to these aberrations of the looker-on; its story goes steadily forward. The lions of St. Mark on the façades, and another memento of the Doges namely, the statue of Count von der Schulenburg, who commanded the Venetian forces in the great defence of Corfu in 1716 these memorials have as companions various tokens of the English occupation, which, following that of Venice, continued through forty-nine years that is, from 1815 to 1863. Before this there had been a short period of French dominion; but the esplanade, so far as I could discover, contains no memorial of it, unless Napoleon’s phrase can stand for one and I think it can. The souvenirs of the British rule are conspicuous. The first is the palace built for the English Governor, a functionary who bore the sonorous official name of Lord High Commissioner, a title which was soon shortened to the odd abbreviation “the Lord High.” This palace is an uninteresting construction stretching stiffly across the water-side of the esplanade, and cutting off the view of the harbor. It is now the property of the King of Greece, but at present it is seldom occupied. While we were at Corfu its ghostliness was enlivened for a while; Prince Henry of Prussia was there with his wife. They had left their yacht (if so large a vessel as the Irene can be called a yacht), and were spending a week at the palace. An hour after their departure entrance was again permitted, and an old man, still trembling from the excitement of the royal sojourn, conducted us from room to room. All was ugly. Fading flowers in the vases showed that an attempt had been made to brighten the place; but the visitors must have been endowed with a strong natural cheerfulness to withstand with success such a mixture of the commonplace and the dreary as the palace presents. They had the magnificent view to look at, and there was always the graceful silhouette of the Irene out on the water. She could come up at any time and take them away; it was this, probably, that kept them alive.

If the palace is ordinary, what shall be said of another memento which adorns the esplanade? This is a high, narrow building, so uncouth that it causes a smile. It looks raw, bare, and so primitive that if it had a pulley at the top it might be taken for a warehouse erected on the bank of a canal in one of our Western towns; one sees in imagination canal-boats lying beneath, and bulging sacks going up or down. Yet this is nothing less than that University of the Ionian Islands which was founded by the Earl of Guildford early in this century, the epoch of English enthusiasm for Greece, the days of the Philhellenes. Lord Guildford, who was one of the distinguished North family, gave largely of his fortune and of his time to establish this university. Contemporary records speak of him as “an amiable nobleman.” But after seeing his touchingly ugly academy and his bust (which is not ugly) in the hall of the extinct Ionian Senate at the palace, one feels sure that he was more than amiable he must have been original also. The English are called cold; but as individuals they are capable sometimes of extraordinary enthusiasms for distant causes and distant people. Adventurous travellers as they are, does the charm lie in the word “distant”? The defunct academy now shelters a school where vigorous young Greeks sit on benches, opposite each other, in narrow, doorless compartments which resemble the interior of a large omnibus; this, at least, was the arrangement of the ground-floor on the day of our visit. Although it was December, the boys looked heated. The teachers, who walked up and down, had a relentless aspect. Even the porter, white-haired and bent, had a will untouched by the least decay; he would not show us the remains of the university library, nor the Roman antiquities which are said to be stored somewhere in a lumber-room, among them “fifty-nine frames of mosaic representing a bustard in various attitudes.” He had not the power, apparently, to exhibit these treasures while the school exercises were going on, and as soon as they were ended instantly, that very minute he intended to eat his dinner, and nothing could alter this determination; his face grew ferocious at the mere suggestion. So we were obliged to depart without seeing the souvenirs of Lord Guildford’s enthusiasm; and owing to the glamour which always hangs over the place one has failed to see, I have been sure ever since that we should have found them the most fascinating objects in Corfu.

At the present school the teaching is done, no doubt, in a tongue which would have made the old university shudder. In a letter written by Sir George Bowen in 1856, from one of the Ionian Islands, there is the following anecdote: “Bishop Wilberforce told me that he recently had, as a candidate at one of his ordinations, Mr. M., the son of an English merchant settled in Greece. ‘I examined him myself,’ said the bishop, ‘when he gave what was to me an unknown pronunciation.’ ‘Oh, Mr. M.,’ I said, ‘where did you learn Greek?’ ‘In Athens, my lord,’ replied the trembling man.” Classical scholars who visit Greece to-day are not able to ask the simplest questions; or, rather, they may ask, but no one will understand them. Several of these gentlemen have announced to the world that the modern speech of Athens is a barbarous decadence. It is not for an American, I suppose, to pass judgment upon matters of this sort. But when these authorities continue as follows: “And even in pronunciation modern Greek is hopelessly fallen; the ancients never pronounced in this way,” may we not ask how they can be so sure? They are not, I take it, inspired, and the phonograph is a modern invention. The voice of Robert Browning is stored for coming generations; the people A.D. 3000 may hear him recite “How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix.” Possibly the tones of Lord Salisbury and of Mr. Balfour are already garnered and arranged in cylinders for the future orators of the South Seas. But we cannot know how Pindar spoke any more than we can know the song the Sirens sang; the most learned scholar cannot, alas! summon from the past the articulation of Plato.

In the esplanade the period of English rule is further kept in mind by monuments to the memory of three of the Lords High a statue, an obelisk, and (of all things in the world) an imitation of a Greek temple. This temple it is so small that they might call it a templette was erected in honor of Sir Thomas Maitland, a Governor whose arbitrary rule gained for him the title of King Tom. The three memorials are officially protected, an agreement to that effect having been made between the governments of Great Britain and Greece. They were never in danger, probably, as the English protection was a friendly one. In spite of its friendliness, the Corfiotes voted as follows with enthusiasm when an opportunity was offered to them: “The single and unanimous will of the Ionian people has been and is for their reunion with the Kingdom of Greece.” England yielded to this wish and withdrew a disinterested act which ought to have gained for her universal applause. Since 1864 Corfu and her sister islands, happily freed at last from foreign control, have filled with patriotic pride and contentment their proper place as part of the Hellenic kingdom.

The esplanade also contains the one modern monument erected by the Corfiotes themselves a statue of Capo d’Istria. John Capo d’Istria, a native of Corfu, was the political leader of Greece when she succeeded in freeing herself from the Turkish yoke. The story of his life is a part of the exciting tale of the Greek revolution. His measures, after he had attained supreme power, were thought to be high-handed, and he was accused also of looking too often towards that great empire in the North whose boundaries are stretching slowly towards Constantinople; he was resisted, disliked; finally he was assassinated. Time has softened the remembrance of his faults, whatever they were, and brought his services to the nation into the proper relief; hence this statue, erected in 1887, fifty-six years after his death, by young Greece. It is a sufficiently imposing figure of white marble, the face turned towards the bay with a musing expression. Capo d’Istria a name which might have been invented for a Greek patriot! The Eastern question is a complicated one, and I have no knowledge of its intricacies. But a personal observation of the hatred of Turkey which exists in every Greek heart, and a glance at the map of Europe, lead an American mind towards one general idea or fancy namely, that Capo d’Istria was merely in advance of his time, and that an alliance between Russia and Greece is now one of the probabilities of the near future. It is unexpected at least, to the non-political observer that Hellas should be left to turn for help and comfort to the Muscovites, a race to whom, probably, her ancient art and literature appeal less strongly than they do to any other European people. But she has so turned. “Wait till Russia comes down here!” she appears to be saying, with deferred menace, to Turkey to-day.

These various monuments of the esplanade do not, however, make Corfu in the least modern. They are unimportant, they are inconspicuous, when compared with the old streets which meander over the slopes behind them, fringed with a net-work of stone lanes that lead down to the water’s edge. It has been said that the general aspect of the place is Italian. It is true that there are arcades like those of Bologna and Padua; that some of the byways have the look of a Venetian calle, without its canal; and that the neighborhood of the gay little port resembles, on a small scale, the streets which border the harbor of Genoa. In spite of this, we have only to look up and see the sky, we have only to breathe and note the quality of the air, to perceive that we are not in Italy. Corfu is Greek, with a coating of Italian manners. And it has also caught a strong tinge from Asia. Many of the houses have the low door and masked entrance which are so characteristic of the East; at the top of the neglected stairway, as far as possible from public view, there may be handsome, richly furnished apartments; but if such rooms exist, the jealous love of privacy keeps them hidden. This inconspicuous entrance is as universal in the Orient as the high wall, shutting off all view of the garden or park, is universal in England.

The town of Corfu has 26,000 inhabitants. Among the population are Dalmatians, Maltese, Levantines, and others; but the Greeks are the dominant race. There is a Jews’ quarter, and Jews abound, or did abound at the time of my visit. Since then fanaticism has raised its head again, and there have been wild scenes at Corfu. Face to face with the revival of persecution for religious opinions which is now visible in Russia, and not in Russia alone, are we forced to acknowledge that our century is not so enlightened as we have hoped that it was. I remember when I believed that in no civilized country to-day could there be found, among the educated, a single person who would wish to persecute or coerce his fellow-beings solely on account of their religious opinions; but I am obliged to confess that, without going to Russia or Corfu, I have encountered within the last dozen years individuals not a few whose flashing eyes and crimson cheeks, when they spoke of a mental attitude in such matters which differed from their own, made me realize with a thrill that if it were still the day of the stake and the torch they would come bringing fagots to the pile with their own hands.

In spite of these survivals, ceremonial martyrdom for so-called religion’s sake is, we may hope, at an end among the civilized nations; we have only its relics left. Corfu has one of these relics, a martyr who is sincerely honored St. Spiridion, or, as he is called in loving diminutive, Spiro. Spiro, who died fifteen hundred years ago, was bishop of a see in Cyprus, I believe. He was tortured during the persecution of the Christians under Diocletian. His embalmed body was taken to Constantinople, and afterwards, in 1489, it was brought to Corfu by a man named George Colochieretry. Some authorities say that Colochieretry was a monk; in any case, what is certain is that the heirs of this man still own the saint surely a strange piece of property and derive large revenues from him. St. Spiro reposes in a small dim chapel of the church which is called by his name; his superb silver coffin is lighted by the rays from a hanging lamp which is suspended above it. When we paid our visit, people in an unbroken stream were pressing into this chapel, and kissing the sarcophagus repeatedly with passionate fervor. The nave, too, was thronged; families were seated on the pavement in groups, with an air of having been there all day: probably Christmas is one of the seasons set apart for an especial pilgrimage to the martyr. Three times a year the body is taken from its coffin and borne round the esplanade, followed by a long train of Greek clergy, and by the public officers of the town; upon these occasions the sick are brought forth and laid where the shadow of the saint can pass over them. “Yes, he’s out to-day, I believe,” said a resident, to whom we had mentioned this procession. He spoke in a matter-of-fact tone. After seeing it three times a year for twenty years, the issuing forth of the old bishop into the brilliant sunshine to make a solemn circuit round the esplanade did not, I suppose, seem so remarkable to him as it seemed to us. There is another saint, a woman (her name I have forgotten), who also reposes in a silver coffin in one of the Corfu churches. At first we supposed that this was Spiro. But the absence of worshippers showed us our mistake. This lonely witness to the faith was also a martyr; she suffered decapitation. “They don’t think much of her,” said the same resident. Then, explanatorily, “You see she has no head.” This practically minded critic, however, was not a native of Corfu. The true Corfiotes are very reverent, and no doubt they honor their second martyr upon her appointed day. But Spiro is the one they love. The country people believe that he visits their fields once a year to bless their olives and grain, and the Corfu sailors are sure that he comes to them, walking on the water in the darkness, when a storm is approaching. Mr. Tuckerman, in his delightful volume, The Greeks of To-Day, says, in connection with this last legend, that it is believed by the devout that seaweed is often found about the legs of the good bishop in his silver coffin, after his return from these marine promenades. There is something charming in this story, and I shall have to hold back my hand to keep myself from alluding (and yet I do allude) to a shrine I know at Venice; it is far out on the lagoon, and its name is Our Lady of the Seaweed. The last time my gondola passed it I saw that by a happy chance the high tide had left seaweed twined about it in long, floating wreaths, like an offering.

The name of the national religion of Greece is the Orthodox Church of the East, or, more briefly, the Orthodox Church. Western nations call it the Greek Church, but they have invented that name themselves. The Orthodox Church has rites and ceremonies which are striking and sometimes magnificent. I have many memories of the churches of Corfu. The temples are so numerous that they seem innumerable; one was always coming upon a fresh one; sometimes there is only a façade visible, and occasionally nothing but a door, the church being behind, masked by other buildings. My impressions are of a series of magnified jewel-boxes. There was not much daylight; no matter how radiant the sunshine outside, within all was richly dim, owing to the dark tints of the stained glass. The ornamentation was never paltry or tawdry. The soft light from the wax candles drew dull gleams from the singular metal-incrusted pictures. These pictures, or icons, are placed in large numbers along the walls and upon the screen which divides the nave from the apse. They are generally representations of the Madonna and Child in repousse-work of silver, silvered copper, or gilt. Often the face and hands of the Madonna are painted on panel; in that case the portrait rises from metal shoulders, and the head is surrounded by metal hair. The painting is always of the stiff Byzantine school, following an ancient model, for any other style would be considered irreverent, and nothing can exceed the strange effect produced by these long-eyed, small-mouthed, rigid, sourly sweet virgin faces coming out from their silver-gilt necks, while below, painted taper fingers of unearthly length encircle a silver Child, who in His turn has a countenance of panel, often all out of drawing, but hauntingly sweet. These curious pictures have great dignity. The churches have no seats. I generally took my stand in one of the pew-like stalls which project from the wall, and here, unobserved, I could watch the people coming in and kissing the icons. This adoration, commemoration, reverence, or whatever the proper word for it may be, is much more conspicuous in the Greek places of worship than it is in Roman Catholic churches. Those who come in make the round of the walls, kissing every picture, and they do it fervently, not formally. The service is chanted by the priests very rapidly in a peculiar kind of intoning. The Corfu priests did not look as if they were learned men, but their faces have a natural and humane expression which is agreeable. In the street, with their flowing robes, long hair and beards, and high black caps, they are striking figures. The parish priest must be a married man, and he does not live apart from his people, but closely mingles with them upon all occasions. He is the papas, or pope, as it is translated, and a lover of Tourguenieff who meets a pope for the first time at Corfu is haunted anew by those masterpieces of the great Russian the village tales across whose pages the pope and the popess come and go, and seem, to American readers, such strange figures.

In the suburb of Castrades is the oldest church of the island. It is dedicated to St. Jason, the kinsman of St. Paul. St. Jason’s appeared to be deserted. Here, as elsewhere, it is not the church most interesting from the historical point of view which is the favorite of the people, or which they find, apparently, the most friendly. But when I paid my visit, there were so many vines and flowers outside, and such a blue sky above, that the little Byzantine temple had a cheerful, irresponsible air, as if it were saying: “It’s not my fault that people won’t come here. But if they won’t, I’m not unhappy about it; the sunshine, the vines, and I we do very well together.” The interior was bare, flooded also with white daylight so white that one blinked. And in this whiteness my mind suddenly returned to Hellas. For Hellas had been forgotten for the moment, owing to the haunting icons in the dark churches of the town. Those silver-incrusted images had brought up a vision of the uncounted millions to-day in Turkey, Greece, and Russia who bow before them, the Christians of whom we know and think comparatively so little. But now all these Eastern people vanished as silently as they had come, and the past returned the past, whose spell summons us to Greece. For conspicuous in the white daylight of St. Jason’s were three antique columns, which, with other sculptured fragments set in the walls, had been taken from an earlier pagan temple to build this later church. And the spell does not break again in this part of the island. Not far from St. Jason’s is the tomb of Menekrates. This monument was discovered in 1843, when one of the Venetian forts was demolished. Beneath the foundations the workmen came upon funeral vases, and upon digging deeper an ancient Greek cemetery was uncovered, with many graves, various relics, and this tomb. It is circular, formed of large blocks of stone closely joined without cement, and at present one stands and looks down upon it, as though it were in a roofless cellar. It bears round its low dome a metrical inscription in Greek, to the effect that Menekrates, who was the representative at Corcyra (the old name for Corfu) of his native town Eanthus, lost his life accidentally by drowning; that this was a great sorrow to the community, for he was a friend of the people; that his brother came from Eanthus, and, with the aid of the Corcyreans, erected the monument. There is something impressive to us in this simple memorial of grief set up before the days of AEschylus, before the battle of Marathon the commemoration of a family sorrow in Corfu two thousand five hundred years ago. The following is a Latin translation of the inscription:

“Tlasiadis memor ecce Menecrates hoc monumentum,
Ortum OEantheus, populus statuebat at illi,
Quippe benignus erat populo patronus, in alto
Sed periit ponto, totam et dolor obruit urbem.
Praximenes autem patriis huc venit ab oris
Cum populo et fratris monumentum hoc struxit adempti.”

Two thousand five hundred years ago! That is far back. But it is not the oldest date “in the world.” Americans are accused of cherishing an inordinate love for the superlative the longest river, the highest mountain, the deepest mine in the world, the largest diamond in the world; there must always be that tag “in the world” to interest us. When ancient objects are in question we are said to rush from one to the next, applying our sole test; and we drop at any time a tomb or a temple, no matter how beautiful, if there comes a rumor that another has been discovered a little farther on which is thought to be a trifle more venerable. Thus they chaff us pilgrims from a land where Nature herself works in superlatives, and where there is no antiquity at all. In Italy our mania, exercising itself upon smaller objects than temples, brings us nearer the comprehension (or non-comprehension) of the contemptuous natives. “What hideous” (she called it hee-dee us) “things you do buy!” I heard an Italian lady exclaim with conviction some years ago, as she happened to meet three of her American acquaintances returning from a hunt through the antiquity-shops of Naples, loaded with a battered lamp, a square of moth-eaten tapestry with an indecipherable inscription, and a nondescript broken animal in bronze, without head, tail, or legs, who might have been intended for a dragon, or possibly for a cow. After a while we pass this stage of antiquity-shops. But we never pass the Etruscans, or, rather, I should speak for myself, and say that I never passed them; I was perpetually haunted by them. There was one road in particular, a lonely track which led from Bellosguardo (at Florence) up a steep hill, and I was forever climbing this stony ascent because, forsooth, it was set down on an Italian map as “the old Etruscan way between Fiesole and Volterra,” two strongholds of this mysterious people. I was sure that there were tombs with strangely painted walls close at hand, and when there was no one in sight I made furtive archaeological pokes with my parasol. In Italy an Etruscan tomb seems the oldest thing “in the world.” And at Corfu the unearthed Greek cemetery became doubly interesting when I learned that among the relics discovered there was a lioness couchant, concerning which the highest authorities have said, “After the lions of the gates of Mycenae, there is no Greek sculpture older than this.” (The lioness is now in the vestibule of the palace in the esplanade.) This was exciting, for Mycenae is a name to conjure with still, in spite of the refusal of the learned to accept, in all their extent, Dr. Schliemann’s splendidly romantic theories and dreams. But when one goes on to Egypt, to have searched at all for that enticing “oldest” in Greece appears to have been a mistake. For what is B.C. 1000, which the German authorities say is an approximate date for the Mycenae relics what is that compared with King Menes of the Nile, with his B.C. 4400 according to Brugsch-Bey, and B.C. 5000 according to Mariette? And there are rumors of civilized times far older. But if we can bring ourselves to cease our chase after age and turn to beauty, then it is not in the sands of Egypt that we must dig. For beauty we must come to the clear light country of the gods.

But leaving history, some of us suffer greatly nowadays from mental dislocations of another sort. The Mycenae lions and the grim lioness of Corfu are ascribed with a calmness which seems brutal to “pre-Homeric times.” Surely there were no pre-Homeric times except chaos. Surely those were the first days of the world when all the men were sure-footed, and all the women white-armed; when the sea was hollow (it has remained that to this day), and when the heavenly powers interested themselves in human affairs upon the slightest occasion. Leave us our faith in them. It can be preserved, if you like, in the purely poetical compartment of the mind. For there are all sorts of compartments: I have met a learned geologist who turned pale when a mirror was broken by accident in his house; I know a disciple of Darwin who always deprecates instantly any reference to his good health, lest in some mysterious way it should attract ill-luck. It seems to me, therefore, that the dear belief that Homer’s heroes began the world may coexist even with the bicycle. (Not that I myself have much knowledge of this excellent vehicle. But, its tandem wheels, swift and business-like, personify the spirit of the age.)

At Corfu one is over one’s head in the Odyssey. “The island is not what it has been,” said the English lady of the Indian Mail. It is not, indeed! She referred to the days of the Lords High. But the rest of us refer to Nausicaa; for Corfu is the Scheria of the Odyssey, the home of King Alcinous. Not far beyond the tomb of Menekrates, at the point called Canone, we have a view of a deep bay. On the opposite shore of this bay enters the stream upon whose bank Ulysses first met the delightful little maiden “the beautiful stream of the river, where were the pools unfailing, and clear and abundant water.” And also (but this is a work of supererogation, like feminine testimony in a court of justice) we have a view of the Phaeacian ship which was turned into stone by Neptune: “Neptune s’en approcha, et, frappant du plat de la main, changea en un rocher qu’il enracina dans sol,” as my copy of the Odyssey, which happens rather absurdly to be a French one, translates the passage. The ship, therefore, is now an island; its deck is a chapel; its masts are trees. Of late the belief that Corfu is the Scheria of the Odyssey has been attacked. Appended to the musical translation of the episode of Nausicaa, which was published in 1890, there is the following note: “It will be seen that the writer declines to accept the identification of Corcyra, the modern Corfu, with Scheria. In this skepticism he is emboldened by the protecting shield of the Ajax among English-speaking Hellenists. See Jebb’s Homer.” It is not possible to contest a point with Ajax. But any one who has seen the gardens and groves of this lovely isle, who has watched the crystalline water dash against the rocks at Palaeokastrizza, who has strolled down the hill-side at Pelleka, or floated in a skiff off the coast at Ipso any such person will say that Corfu is at least an ideal home for the charming girl who played ball and washed the clothes on the shore, king’s daughter though she was. To quote the translation:

“Father dear, would you make ready for me a wagon, a high one,
Strong in the wheels, that I may carry our beautiful garments
... to be washed in the river?”

One wishes that this primitive princess could have had another name. Nausicaa; no matter how one pronounces the syllables, they are not melodious. Why could she not have been Aglaia, Daphne, or Artemidora? Standing at Canone and looking across at her shore, one is vexed anew that she should have given her heart, or even her fancy, to Ulysses a man who was always eating. Instead of Ulysses, we should say Odysseus, no doubt. That may pass. But the sentimental, inaccurate persons who read Homer in English (or French) will not so easily consent to Alkinoos. No; Alcinous (which reminds them vaguely of halcyon) will remain in their minds as the name of the king who lived “far removed from the trafficking nations,” among his blossoming gardens in the billowy sea; and to this faith will they cling. The clinging evidently exists at Corfu. One of the most comical sights there is a modern “detached villa,” of course English, which might have come from Cheltenham; it is planted close to the glaring road, and over its dusty gate is inscribed imperturbably, “Alcinous Lodge.”

One wonders whether the princesses of to-day (who no longer dry clothes upon the shore) amuse their leisure hours with Homer’s recitals concerning their predecessors? One of them, at any rate, has chosen Corfu as a place of sojourn; the Empress of Austria, after paying many visits to the island, has now built for herself a country residence, or villino, at a distance from the town, not far from Nausicaa’s stream. The house is surrounded by gardens, and from the terrace there is a magnificent view in all directions; here she enjoys the solitude which she is said to love, and the Corfiotes see only the coming and going of her yacht. I don’t know why there should be something so delightful, to one mind at least, in the selection of this distant Greek island as the resting-place of a queen, who takes the long journey down the Adriatic year after year to reach her retreat. The preference is perhaps due simply to fondness for a sea-voyage, and to the fact that a yacht lying at Trieste lies practically at Vienna’s door. Lovers of Corfu, however, will not be turned aside by any of these reasons; they will continue to believe that the choice is made for beauty’s sake; they will extol this perfect appreciation; they will praise this modern Nausicaa; they will purchase her portrait in photographed copies. When they have one of these representations, they can note with satisfaction the accordance between its outlines and a taste in islands which is surely the best in the world.

The casino of the Empress is not the only royal residence at Corfu. About a mile from the town is the country-house called “Mon Repos,” the property of the King of Greece. King George and Queen Olga, with their children, have frequently spent summers here. The mansion is ordinary as regards its architecture it was built by one of the Lords High. The situation is altogether admirable, with a view of the harbor and town. But the especial loveliness of Mon Repos is to be found in its gardens; their foliage is tropical, with superb magnolias, palms, bananas, aloes, and orange and lemon trees. There are flowers of all kinds, with roses clambering everywhere, and blossoming vines. The royal family who rule, or rather preside over, the kingdom of the Hellenes are much respected and beloved at Corfu. The King, who was Prince William of Denmark the brother of the Czarina of Russia and of the Princess of Wales took the name of George when he ascended the throne in 1863. He was elected by the National Assembly. Now that he has been reigning nearly thirty years, and has a grandson as well as a son to succeed him, it is amusing to turn back to the original candidates and the votes; for it was an election (within certain limits) by the people, and all sorts of tastes were represented. Prince Alfred of England, the Duke of Edinburgh, was at the head of the list; but as it had been stipulated that no member of the reigning families of England, France, or Russia should have the crown, his name was struck off. There were votes for Prince Jerome Napoleon. There were votes for the Prince Imperial. There were even votes for “A Republic.” But Greece, as she stands, is as near a republic as a country with a sovereign can be. Suffrage is universal; there is no aristocracy; there are no hereditary titles, no entailed estates; the liberty of the press is untrammelled; education is free. Everywhere the people are ardently patriotic; they are actively, and one may say almost dangerously, interested in everything that pertains to the political condition of their country. This interest is quickened by their acute intellects. I have never seen faces more sharply intelligent than those of the Greek men of to-day. I speak of men who have had some advantages in the way of education. But as all are intensely eager to obtain these advantages, and as schools are now numerous, education to a certain extent is widely diffused. The men are, as a general rule, handsome. But they are not in the least after the model of the Greek god, as he exists in art and fiction. This model has an ideal height and strength, massive shoulders, a statuesque head with closely curling hair, and an unruffled repose. The actual Greek possesses a meagre frame, thin face, with high cheek-bones, a dry, dark complexion, straight hair, small eyes, and as for repose, he has never heard of it; he is overwhelmingly, never-endingly restless. With this enumeration my statement that he is handsome may not appear to accord. Nevertheless, he is a good-looking fellow; his spare form is often tall, the quickly turning eyes are wonderfully brilliant, the dark face is lighted by the gleam of white teeth, the gait is very graceful, the step light. The Albanian costume, which was adopted after the revolution as the national dress for the whole country, is amazing. We have all seen it in paintings and photographs, where it is merely picturesque. But when you meet it in the streets every day, when you see the wearer of it engaged in cooking his dinner, in cleaning fish, in driving a cart, in carrying a hod, or hanging out clothes on a line, then it becomes perfectly fantastic. The climax of my own impressions about it was reached, I think, a little later, at Athens, when I beheld the guards walking their beats before the King’s palace, and before the simple house of the Crown Prince opposite; they are soldiers of the regular army, and they held their muskets with military precision as they marched to and fro, attired in ordinary overcoats (it happened to be a rainy day) over the puffed-out white skirts of a ballet-dancer. Robert Louis Stevenson, in one of his recent letters from the South Seas, writes that “the mind of the female missionary” (British) “tends to be constantly busied about dress; she can be taught with extreme difficulty to think any costume decent but that to which she grew accustomed on Clapham Common, and, to gratify this prejudice, the native is put to useless expense.” And here it occurs to me that it is high time to explore this Clapham Common. We go as worshippers to Shakespeare’s Avon; we go to the land of Scott and Burns; we know the “stripling Thames at Bablockhithe,” where “the punt’s rope chops round”; but to Clapham Common we make, I think, no pilgrimages, although it has as clearly marked a place in English literature as the Land of Beulah or the Slough of Despond. I fancy that Americans are not so closely tied to a fixed standard in dress as are the missionaries who excite Mr. Stevenson’s wrath. A half of our population seeks its ideal in Paris, but as a whole we are easy-going. We accept the Chinese attire in our streets without demur; the lack of attire of the Sioux does not disconcert us; when abroad we admire impartially the Egyptian gown and the Cossack uniform, and we adorn ourselves liberally with the fez. But the Greek costume makes us pause; it seems a bravado in whimsicality. One can describe it in detail: one can say that it consists of a cap with a long tassel, a full white shirt, an embroidered jacket with open sleeves, a tight girdle, the white kilt or fustanella, long leggings with bright-colored garters, and, usually, shoes with turned-up toes. The enumeration, however, does not do away with the one general impression of men striding about in short white ballet petticoats.

In spite of their skirts, the Greeks have as martial an air as possible; an old Greek who is vain, and they are all vain, is even a fierce-looking figure. All the men have small waists, and are proud of them; their belts are drawn as tightly as those of young girls in other countries. From this girdle, or from the embroidered pouch below it, comes a gleam which means probably a pistol, though sometimes it is only the long, narrow inkhorn of brass or silver. Besides the Albanian, there are other costumes. One, which is frequently seen, is partly Turkish, with baggy trousers. The Greek men are vain, and with cause; if the women are vain, it must be without it; we did not see a single handsome face among them. It was not merely that we failed to find the beautiful low forehead, full temple, straight nose, and small head of classic days; we could not discover any marked type, good or bad; the features were those that pass unnoticed everywhere. I speak, of course, generally, and from a superficial observation, for I saw only the people one meets in the streets, in the churches, in the fields, olive groves, and vineyards, on the steamers, and at the house doors. But after noting this population for two weeks and more, the result remained the same the men who came under our notice were handsome, and the women were not. The dress of the women varies greatly. The Albanian costume, which ranks with the fustanellas or petticoats of the men, is as flat, narrow, and elongated as the latter are short and protruding. It consists of a sheath-like skirt of a woollen material, and over this a long, narrow white coat, which sometimes has black sleeves; the head is wrapped in loose folds of white. This was the attire worn by the girls who were at work in the fields. On Christmas Day I met a number of Corfiote women walking about the esplanade arrayed in light-colored dresses, with large aprons of white lace or white muslin, and upon their heads white veils with bunches of artificial flowers; in addition, they wore so many necklaces, pins, clasps, buckles, rings, lockets, bracelets, pendants, and other adornments of silver and silver-gilt that they clanked as they walked. This was a gala costume of some sort. We did not see it again.

The island of Corfu is about forty miles long. Its breadth in the widest part is twenty miles. The English, who have a genius for road-making which is almost equal to that of the Romans, have left excellent highways behind them; it is easy, therefore, to cross the island from end to end. In arranging such an expedition, that exhaustive dialogue about buying a carriage, which (to one’s bewilderment) occupies by far the most important place in all the Manuals of Conversation for the Traveller, might at last be of some service.

“Have you a carriage?” it begins (in six languages).

“Yes; I have berlins, vis-a-vis, gigs, calashes, and cabriolets.” (What vehicles are these?)

“Are the axle-trees, the nave, the spokes, the tires, the felloes, and the splinter-bars in good condition?” it goes on in its painstaking polyglot. Possibly one might be called upon to purchase splinter-bars in a remote island of the Ionian Sea.

Seated, then, in a berlin, or perhaps in a calash, one goes out at least to visit the olive groves, if not to cross the island. These groves are not the ranks of severely pruned, almost maimed, trees which greet the traveller in parts of southern Europe groves without shade, without luxuriance; viewed from a distance, their gray-green foliage forms a characteristic part of the landscape, but at close quarters they have but one expression namely, how many coins are to be squeezed out of each poor tree, whose every bud appears to have been counted. At Corfu one strolls through miles of wood whose foliage is magnificent; it is possible to lounge in the shade, for there is shade, and to draw a free breath. No doubt the Corfiotes keep guard over their leafy domain; but the occasional visitor, at least, is not harassed by warnings to trespassers set up everywhere, by children following him with suspicious eyes, by patrols, dogs, stone walls, and sometimes by stones of another kind which do not stay in the walls, but come flying through the air to teach him to keep his distance. It is difficult, probably, for people from the New World to look upon a forest as something sacred, guarded, private; we have taken our pleasure “in the woods” all our lives whenever we have felt so inclined; we do not intend to do any harm there, but we do wish to be free. In the olive groves of Corfu the wish can be gratified. Their aisles are wonderful in every respect: in the size of the trees (some of them are sixty feet high), in the picturesque shapes of the gnarled trunks, in the extent of the long vistas where the light has the color which some of us know at home that silvery green under the great live-oaks at the South, when their branches are veiled in the long moss.

But Athens was before us; we must leave the groves; we must leave Nausicaa’s shore. We did so at last in the wake of a departing storm. For several days the wind had been tempestuous. The signal, which is displayed from the Citadel, had become a riddle; it is an arrangement of flags by day and of lanterns by night, and no two of us ever deciphered it alike. If the order was thus and so, it meant that something belonging to the Austrian-Lloyd company was in sight; if so and thus, it meant the Florio line; if neither of these, then it might possibly be our boat that is, the Greek coasting steamer which we had decided to take because we had been told that it was the best. I have never fathomed the mystery as to why our informant told us this. If he had been a Greek, it would have been at least a patriotic misrepresentation. We were dismayed when we reached the rough tub. But, after all, in one sense she was the best, for she dawdled in and out among the islands, never in the least hurry, and stopping to gossip with them all; this gave us a good chance to see them, if it gave us nothing else. I have said “when we reached her,” for there were several false starts. We rose in the morning in a mood of regretful good-bye, expecting to be far away at night. And at night, with our good-bye on our hands, we were still in our hotel. But it is only fair to add that with its garlands of flowers and myrtle for the Christmas season; with its queer assemblage of Levantines in the dining-room; with its bath-room in the depths of the earth, to which one descended by stairway leading down underground; with its group of petticoated Greeks in the hall, and, in its rooms of honor above, a young Austrian princess of historic name and extraordinary beauty with all this, and its cheerful lies, its smiling, gay-hearted irresponsibility, the Corfu inn was an entertaining place. The Greek steamer came at last. She had been driven out of her course by the gale, so said the pirate, ostensibly retired from business, who superintended the embarkations from the hotel. This lithe freebooter had presented himself at frequent intervals during the baffling days when we watched the signal, and he always entered without knocking. He could not grasp the idea, probably, that ceremonies would be required by persons who intended to sail by the coaster. When we reached this bark ourselves, later, we forgave him a little. Her deck was the most democratic place I have ever seen. We think that we approve of equality in the United States. But the Greeks carry their approval further than we do. On this deck there were no reserved portions, no prohibitions; the persons who had paid for a first-class ticket had the same rights as those which were accorded to the steerage travellers, and no more; and as the latter were numerous, they obtained by far the larger share, eating the provisions which they had brought with them, sleeping on their coverlids, playing games, and smoking in the best places. There was no system, and little discipline; the sailors came up and washed the deck (a process which was very necessary) whenever and however they pleased, and we had to jump for our lives and mount a bench to escape the stream from the hose, as it suddenly appeared without warning from an unlooked-for quarter. The passengers, who came on board at various points during a cruise of several days, brought with them light personal luggage, which consisted of hens tied together by the legs, a live sheep, kitchen utensils, and bedding, all of which they placed everywhere and anywhere, according to their pleasure. A Greek dressed in the full national costume accompanied us all the way to Missolonghi so closely that he was closer than a brother; save when we were locked in our small sleeping-cabins below (the one extra possession which a first-class ticket bestows), we were literally elbow to elbow with him. And his elbows were a weapon, like the closed umbrella held under the arm in a crowded street that pleasant habit of persons who are not Greeks. The Greek elbow was clothed in a handsome sleeve covered with gold embroidery, for our friend was a dandy of dandies. His petticoats and his shirt were of fine linen, snowy in its whiteness; his small waist was encircled by a magnificent Syrian scarf; his cream-colored leggings were spotless; and his conspicuous garters new and brilliantly scarlet. He was an athletic young man of thirty, his good looks marred only by his over-eager eyes and his restlessness. It was his back which he presented to us, for his attention was given entirely to a party of his own friends, men and women. He talked to them; he read aloud to them from a small newspaper (they all had newspapers, and read them often); he stood up and argued; he grew excited and harangued; then he sat down, his inflated skirts puffing out over his chair, and went on with his argument, if argument it was, until, worn out by the hours of his eloquence, some of his companions fell asleep where they sat. His meals were astonishingly small. As everything went on under our eyes, we saw what they all ate, and it was unmistakable testimony to the Greek frugality. Our companion had brought with him from Corfu, by way of provisions for several days, a loaf of bread about as large as three muffins in one, a vial containing capers, a grapeleaf folded into a cornucopia and filled with olives, and a pint bottle of the light wine of the country. The only addition which he made to this store was a salted fish about four inches long, which he purchased daily from the steward. There was always a discussion before he went in search of this morsel, which represented, I suppose, the roast meat of his dinner, and when he returned after a long absence, bearing it triumphantly on the palm of his hand, it was passed from one to the next, turned over, inspected, and measured by each member of the group, amid the most animated, eager discussion. When comment was at last exhausted, the superb orator seated himself (always with his chair against our knees), and placed before him, on a newspaper spread over the bench, his precious fishlette divided into small slices, with a few capers and olives arranged in as many wee heaps as there were portions of fish, so that all should come out even. Then, with the diminutive loaf of bread by his side and the bottle of wine at his feet, he began his repast, using the point of his pocketknife as a fork, eating slowly and meditatively, and intently watched by all his friends, who sat in silence, following with their eyes each mouthful on its way from the newspaper to his lips. They had previously made their own repasts in the same meagre fashion, but perhaps they derived some small additional nourishment from watching the mastication of their friend. When his fish had disappeared, accompanied by one slender little slice of bread, our neighbor lifted the wine-bottle, and gave himself a swallow of wine; then, after a pause of a minute or two, another. This was all. The bottle was recorked, and with the remaining provisions put carefully away. All foreign residents in Greece, whether they like the people or dislike them, agree in pronouncing them extraordinarily abstemious. Drunkenness hardly exists among them.

At one of the islands a prisoner was brought on board by two policemen. He was a slender youth an apprentice to a mason, probably, for his poor clothes were stained with mortar and lime. He held himself stiffly erect, making a determined effort to present a brave countenance to the world. He was led to a place in the centre of the deck, and then one of his guardians departed, leaving the second in charge. The steamer lay in the harbor for an hour or more, and four times skiffs put out from the shore, each bringing two or three young men or, rather, boys who came up the ladder furtively. Reaching the deck, they edged their way along, first to the right, then to the left, until they perceived their comrade. Even then they did not approach him directly; they assumed an air of indifference, and walked about a little among the other passengers. But after a while, one by one, they came to him, and, taking bread from under their jackets, they put it hastily and silently into his pockets, the policeman watching them, but not interfering. Then, moving off quickly, they disappeared down the ladder in the same stealthy way, and returned to the shore. Through all their manoeuvres the prisoner did not once look at them; he kept his eyes fixed upon a distant point in the bay, as though there was something out there which he was obliged to watch without an instant’s cessation. All his pockets meanwhile, and the space under his jacket, grew so full that he was swathed in bread. Finally came the whistle, and the steamer started. Then, as the island began to recede, the set young face quivered, and the arm in its ragged sleeve went up to cover the eyes a touching gesture, because it is the child’s when in trouble, the instinctive movement of the grief-stricken little boy.

Ten miles south of Corfu one meets the second of the Ionian Islands, Paxo, with the tiny, severe Anti-Paxo lying off its southern point, like a summary period set to any romantic legend which the larger isle may wish to tell. As it happens, the legend is a striking one, and we all know it without going to Paxo. But it is impossible to pass the actual scene without relating it once more, and, for the telling, no modern words can possibly approach those of the old annotator. “Here at the coast of Paxo, about the time that our Lord suffered His most bitter Passion, certain persons sailing from Italy at night heard a voice calling aloud: ‘Thamus?’ ‘Thamus?’ Who, giving ear to the cry (for he was the pilot of the ship), was bidden when he came near to Portus Pelodes” (the Bay of Butrinto) “to tell that the great god Pan was dead. Which he, doubting to do, yet when he came to Portus Pelodes there was such a calm of wind that the ship stood still in the sea, unmoored, and he was forced to cry aloud that Pan was dead. Whereupon there were such piteous outcries and dreadful shrieking as hath not been the like. By the which Pan, of some is understood the great Sathanas, whose kingdom was at that time by Christ conquered; for at that moment all oracles surceased, and enchanted spirits, that were wont to delude the people, henceforth held their peace.”

Those of us who read Milton’s Ode on Christmas Eve will recall his allusion to this Paxo legend:

“The lonely mountains o’er,
And the enchanted shore,
A voice of weeping heard, and loud lament;
From haunted spring and dale,
Edged with poplar pale,
The parting Genius is with sighing sent.”

Anti-Paxo is one of the oddest spots I have seen. It is a small, bare, stone plain, elevated but slightly above the surface of the water. The rock is of a tawny hue, and there is a queer odor of asphaltum. At certain seasons of the year it is covered so thickly with quail that “you could not put a paper-cutter between them.” There were no quail when we passed the rock. The sun shone on the flat surface, bringing out its rich tint against the azure of the sea, and in its strange desolation it looked like a picture which might have been painted by a man of genius who had gone mad in his passion for color. Though I mention the Ionian group only, it must not be supposed that there were no other islands. Those of us who like to turn over maps, to search out routes though we may never follow them except on paper innocent stay-at-home geographers of this sort have supposed that it was a simple matter to learn the names of the islands which one meets in any well-known track across well-known seas. This is a mistake. From Corfu to Patras, and, later, on the way to Egypt and Syria, and back through the Strait of Messina to Genoa, I saw many islands it seemed to me that they could have been counted by hundreds which are not indicated in the ordinary guide-books, and whose names no one on the steamers appeared to know, not even the captains. The captains, the pilots, and all the officers were of course aware of the exact position in the sea of each one; that was part of their business. But as to names, these mariners, whether Englishmen, Germans, Italians, Turks, or Greeks (and we sailed with all), appeared to share the common opinion that they had none; their manner was that they deserved none. But I have never met a steamer captain who felt anything but profound contempt for small islands; he appears to regard them simply as interruptions as some Ohio farmers of my acquaintance regard the occasional single tree in their broad, level fields.

Abreast of Paxo, on the mainland, is the small village of Parga. The place has its own tragic history connected with its cession to the Turks in 1815. But I am afraid that its principal association in my mind is the frivolous one of a roaring chorus, “Robbers all at Parga!” This song may be as much of a libel as that bold ballad concerning the beautiful town at the eastern end of Lake Erie; the ladies of that place are not in the habit of “coming out to-night, to dance by the light of the moon,” and in the same way there may never have been any robbers worth speaking of at Parga. It is Hobhouse who tells the story. “In the evening preparations were made for feeding our Albanians. After eating, they began to dance round the fire to their own singing with an astonishing energy. One of their songs begins, ’When we set out from Parga, there were sixty of us.’ Then comes the chorus: ’Robbers all at Parga! Robbers all at Parga!’ As they roared out this stave, they whirled round the fire, dropped to and rebounded from their knees, and again whirled round in a wild circle, repeating it at the top of their voices:

“’Robbers all at Parga!
Robbers all at Parga!’”

At Parga we met the Byronic legend, which from this point hangs over the whole Ionian Sea. Parga is not far from the castle of Suli, and with the word “Suliote” we are launched aloft into the resplendent realm of Byron’s poetry, which seems as beautiful and apparition-like as the Oberland peaks viewed from Berne shining cliffs, so celestially and impossibly fair, far up in the sky. (We may note, however, in passing, that these lofty limits are, after all, as real as a barn-yard, or as an afternoon sewing society.) The country near Parga is described at length in the second canto of “Childe Harold.”

The third island of the Ionian group is Santa Maura, the Leucadia of the ancients. It looks like a chain of mountains set in the sea. Here there are earthquakes, as Lady Mary Wortley Montagu would have expressed it. The story is that at Santa Maura and at Zante there is a severe shock once in twenty years, and a “small roll” twice in every three months. It is at least true that slight earthquakes are not uncommon, and that the houses are built to resist them, with strong beams crossing from side to side to hold the walls together, so that the interiors look like the cabins of a ship. The rolling motion, when it comes, must make this resemblance very vivid. The impression of Santa Maura which remains in my own mind, however, does not concern itself with earthquakes, unless, indeed, one means moral ones. I see a long, lofty promontory ending in a silvery headland. I see it flushed with the rose-tints of sunset, high above a violet sea. Of course I was looking for it; every one looks for the rock from which dark Sappho flung herself in her despair. But even without Sappho it is a striking cliff; it rises perpendicularly from deep water, and it is so white that one fancies that it must be visible even upon the darkest night. All day its towering opaline crest serves as a beacon from afar. The temple of Apollo which once crowned its summit can still be traced in sculptured fragments, though there are no marble columns like those that gleam across the waves from Sunium. “Leucadia’s far-projecting rock of woe,” Byron calls it. But it does not look woful. One fancies that exaltation must flood the soul of the human creature who springs to meet Death from such a place. The memory of the Greek poetess has nothing to do with these reflections, unless one refers to the ladies who are announced to the public from time to time as “the modern Sappho,” in which case one might suggest to them the excellent facilities the rock affords. As to the greatest of women of letters, I do not know that there is anything more to say about her in the language of the United States. If she had flourished and perished last year, M. Jules Lemaitre (her name would have been Leocadie, probably) would doubtless have written an article about her: “The career, literary and other, of Mademoiselle Leocadie, a été des plus distinguees, bien qu’un peu tapageuse.”

As the steamer crossed from Santa Maura to Cephalonia we had a clear view of little Ithaca, the Ithaca which Ulysses loved, “not because it was broad, but because it was his own.” Except Paxo, Ithaca is the smallest of the sister islands. The guide-book declares “No steamer touches at Ithaca, but there is frequent communication by caïque.” This announcement, like others from the same authority, is false, though it may have been true thirty years ago. The very steamer that carried us stopped regularly at the suitors’ island upon her return voyage to Corfu. We could not take this voyage; therefore we were free to wish (selfishly) that this particular one, among the many deceptive statements which we had read, might have been veracious. For “communication by caïque” is surely a phrase of delight. It brings up not only the Ionian, but the AEgean Sea; it carries the imagination onward to the Bosporus itself.

Sir William Gell and Dr. Schliemann between them have discovered at Ithaca all the sites of the Odyssey, even to the stone looms of the nymphs. Other explorers, with colder minds, have decided that at least the author of the poem must have had a close acquaintance with the island, for many of his descriptions are very accurate. We need no guide for Penelope; we can materialize her, as the spiritualists say, for ourselves. Hers is a very modern character. One knows without the telling that she had much to say, day by day, about her sufferings, her feelings, her duty, and her conscience above all things, her conscience. Her confidantes in that upper room were probably extremely familiar with her point of view, which was that if she should choose any one of her suitors, or if she should cruelly drive the whole throng away, suicide on an overwhelming scale would inevitably be the result. It would amount to a depopulation of the entire archipelago! Would any woman be justified in causing such widespread despair as that?

The next island, Cephalonia, is the largest of the Ionian group. There is much to say about it. But I must not say it here. The truth is that one sails past these sisters as slippery Ulysses sailed past the sirens; they are so beautiful that one must tie one’s hands to the mast (or the bench) to keep them from writing a volume on the subject. But I must permit myself a word about Sir Charles Napier. Sir Charles was Governor of Cephalonia during the period of the British Protectorate, and officially he was a subordinate of the Lord High at Corfu. One of these temporary kings appears to have felt some jealousy regarding the vigorous administration of his Cephalonian lieutenant. It was not possible to censure his acts; they were all admirable. It was permissible, however, to censure a mustache, which at that time was considered a wayward appendage, not strictly in accordance with the regulations. Ludicrous as it may appear, it is nevertheless true that this sapient Lord High actually issued an order saying that the offending ornament must be shaved off. The witty lieutenant’s answer was conveyed in four words: “Obeyed to a hair.” Napier constructed good roads throughout his rough, mountainous domain. “I wish I could be buried at the little chapel on the top of the mountain,” he said to one of his friends. “At the last day many a poor mule’s soul will say a good word for me, I know, when they remember what the old road was.” One regrets that this wish was not carried out. But as for the souls of the poor mules, I for one am sure that they will remember him.

At Zante, for some unexplained cause, the classic associations suddenly vanished: Homer faded, Theocritus followed him; Pliny and Strabo disappeared. The later memories, too: Lord Guildford and his university, Byron and his Suliotes, Napier and his mules all these left us. We were back in the present; we must have some Zante flowers and Zante trinkets; we thought of nothing but going ashore. By pushing a bench, with semi-unconscious violence, against the Greek, we succeeded in making him move a little, so that we could rise. Then we landed (but not in a caïque), and went roaming through the yellow town. Zante is the most cheerful-looking place I have ever seen. The bay ripples and smirks; it is so pretty that it knows it is pretty, and it smirks accordingly. The town, stretching, with its gayly tinted houses, round a level semicircle at the edge of the water, smiles, as one may say, from ear to ear. And this joyful expression is carried up the hill, by charming gardens, orange groves, and vineyards, to the Venetian fort at the top, which, as we saw it in the brilliant sunshine, with the birds flying about it, seemed to be throwing its cap into the sky with a huzza.

“O hyacinthine isle! O purple Zante!
Isola d’oro! Fior di Levante!”

sang Poe, borrowing his chimes this time, however, from an Italian song “Zante, Zante, fior di Levante!” This flower of the Levant exports not flowers, but fruit. The currants, which had vaguely presented themselves at Santa Maura and Cephalonia, came now decisively to the front. One does not think of these little berrylettes (I am certainly hunted by “ette”) as ponderous. But when one beholds tons of them, cargoes for ships, one regards them with a new respect. It was probably the brisk commercial aspect of the currants which made the port look so modern. All the Ionian Islands except Corfu export currants, but Zante throws them out to the world with both hands. I must confess that I have always blindly supposed (when I thought of it at all) that the currant of the plum-pudding was the same fruit as the currant of our gardens that slightly acrid red berry which grows on bushes that follow the lines of back fences bushes that have patches of weedy ground under them where hens congregate. I fancied that by some process unknown to me, at the hands of persons equally unknown (perhaps those who bring flattened raisins from grapes), these berries were dried, and that they then became the well-known ornament of the Christmas-cake. It was at Zante that my shameful ignorance was made clear to me. Here I learned that the dried fruit of commerce is a dwarf grape, which has nothing in common with currant jelly. Its English name, currant, is taken from the French “raisin de Corinthe,” or Corinth grape, a title bestowed because the fruit was first brought into notice at Corinth. We have stolen this name in the most unreasonable way for our red berry. Then, to make the confusion worse, as soon as we have put the genuine currants into our puddings and cakes, we turn round and call them “plums”! The real currant, the dwarf grape of Corinth, is about as large as a gooseberry when ripe, and its color is a deep violet-black; the vintage takes place in August. It is not a hardy vine. It attains luxuriance, I was told, only in Greece; and even there it is restricted to the northern Peloponnesus, the shores of the Gulf of Corinth, and the Ionian Islands. M. About, confronted with the 195,000,000 pounds of currants which were exported in 1876, dipped his French pen afresh, and wrote: “Plum-pudding and plum-cake are typical pleasures of the English nation, pleasures whose charms the Gaul cannot appreciate.” He adds that if other countries should in time be converted to “these two pure delights,” Greece would not need to cultivate anything else; she would become rich “énormément.”

Zante is the sixth of the islands, and as the steamer leaves her, still smiling gayly over her dimpling bay, it seems proper to cast at least one thought in the direction of the seventh sister, upon whom we are now turning our backs. For “We are seven” the islands declare as persistently as the little cottage girl, though the seventh has gone away, if not to heaven, at least to the very end of the Peloponnesus. Why Cerigo should have been included in the Ionian group I do not know; it lies off the southernmost point of Greece, near Cape Malea, and might more reasonably be classed with the Cyclades, or with Crete. Birthplace of Aphrodite, Cythera of the ancients, though it is, I have never met any one who has landed there in actual fact (I do not include dreams). People going by sea to Athens from Naples, or from Brindisi, pass it in their course, and if they read their Murray or their Baedeker, to say nothing of other literature, no doubt their thoughts dwell upon the goddess of love for a moment as they pass her favorite shore. A photograph of the minds of travellers, as their eyes rest upon this celebrated isle, would be interesting. To mention (with due respect) typical names only, what would be the vision of Mr. Herbert Spencer, or of Prince Bismarck? of the Archbishop of Canterbury, or of Ibsen? of General Booth, Tolstoi, or Miss Yonge? We can each of us think of a list which would rouse our curiosity in an acute degree. To come down to an unexciting level, I know what the apparition in my own mind would be that picture in the Uffizi Gallery at Florence: Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus.” I should inevitably behold the fifteenth-century goddess coming over the waves in her very small shell; I should see her high cheek-bones, her sad eyes, her discontented mouth, her lank form with the lovely slender feet, and her long, thick hair; and at last I should know (what I do not know now) whether she is beautiful or ugly. On the shore, too, would appear that galloping woman, who, clothed in copiously gathered garments which are caught up and tied in the wrong places, brings in haste a flowered robe to cover her melancholy mistress. Such are the idle fancies that come as one watches the track of churned water, like a broad ribbon, stretching from the steamer’s stern water forever fleeing backward as the boat advances. Scallops of foam sweep out on each side; their cool fringe dips under a little as the wavelet which comes from the opposite direction lifts its miniature crest and curls over in a graceful sweep.

The voyage northward to Missolonghi is beautiful. The sea was dotted with white wings. The Greeks are bold sailors; one never observes here the timidity, the haste to seek refuge anywhere and everywhere, which is so conspicuous along the Riviera and the western coast of Italy. Throughout the Ionian archipelago, and it was the same later among the islands of the AEgean, it was inspiring to note the smallest craft, far from land, dashing along under full sail, leaning far over as they flew.

Missolonghi is a small abortive Venice, without the gondolas; it is situated on a lagoon, and a causeway nearly two miles long leads to it, across the shallow water. Vague and unimportant as it is upon its muddy shore, it was the soul of the Greek revolution. It has been through terrible sieges. During one of these Marco Botzaris was in command, and his grave is outside the western gate. A few years ago all the school-boys in America could chant his requiem; perhaps they chant it still. After the death of Botzaris, Byron took five hundred of the chieftain’s needy Suliotes, and formed them into a body-guard, giving them generous pay. This is but one of many instances. It is the fashion of the day to paint Byron in the darkest colors. But when you stand in the squalid, unhealthy little street where he drew his last breath you realize that he came here voluntarily; that he offered his life if need be, and, in the end, gave it, to the cause which appealed to him; he did not stay safely at home and write about it. He died nearly seventy years ago, but at Missolonghi he is very real and very present still with his red coat, and his bravery and penetration. Napier said that, of all the Englishmen who came to assist the Greek revolution, Byron was the one who comprehended best the character of the modern Greek “all the rest expected to find Plutarch’s men.” It is another fashion of the moment to put aside as of small account the glittering cantos which stirred the English-speaking world in the early days of this century. But it is not while the wild, beautiful Albanian mountains are rising above your head that you think meanly of them. “Remember all the splendid things he said of Greece,” says some one. When you are in Greece, you do remember.

The only brigands we saw we met at Patras. Missolonghi is on the northern shore of the bay; to reach Patras the steamer crosses to the Peloponnesus side. It was a dark night, and I don’t know where we stopped, but it must have been far out from land. The barges which came to meet us were rough craft, with loose boards for seats and water in the bottom. We obtained places in one of them, and after twenty minutes of pitching up and down, shouting, tumbling about, and splashing, the crew bent to their big oars, and we started. Swaying lights glimmered through the darkness here and there; they came from vessels at anchor in the roadstead. We plunged and rolled, apparently making no progress; but at last a long, wet breakwater, dimly seen, appeared on the right, and finally we perceived the lights of the landing-place, which is the water-side of one of the squares of the town. Our crew jumped out in the surf, and drew the heavy boat up to the steps of the embankment. Here were assembled the brigands. There were a hundred of them at least, all yelling. Probably they were astonished to see ladies landing from the Greek coaster. This was part of our original misconception in the selection of that steamer (a mistake, however, which had turned out to be such a picturesque success); but it was part also of a general error which came from our nationality. For we were natives of the one land on earth where to women is always accorded, without question, a first place. It had never occurred to us that we could be jostled. After Patras we were more careful (and more proud of our country than ever). But at the moment, as we were pulled first to the right by men who wished to carry us and our travelling-bags in that direction, and then to the left by others who had attacked the first party, felled them, and captured their prey at the moment when we were closely pressed by a throng of wild-looking, dancing, shrieking figures, dressed in strange attire, and carrying pistols, it was not a little alarming. The fray had lasted six or seven minutes, and there were no signs of cessation, when there appeared on the edge of the throng a neatly dressed little man in spectacles. He made his way within, and rescued us by the simple process of repeating something that sounded like “La, la, la, la! La, la, la, la!” Breathless, freed, we stood, saved, in the square, while our preserver went back and captured our bags, bringing them out and depositing them gently, one after the other, on the ground by our side. We then waited until a handcart, trundled by a petticoated porter, appeared, when the little man led us quietly to the custom-house near by, where, after some delay, we obtained our luggage, which was piled upon the cart. Followed by this cart, we walked across the square to the hotel. Throughout the whole of this process, which lasted twenty minutes, the brigands surrounded us in a close, scowling circle that moved as we moved. When its line drew too near us the little man walked round the ring “La, la, la, la! La, la, la, la!” and it widened slightly, but only slightly. We reached refuge at last, and escaped into a lighted hall. It was a real escape, and the hotel seemed a paradise. It was not until the next day that we recognized it as a mortal inn, with the appearance of the well-known tepid soup in the dining-room; but the coffee was excellent. And this showed that there was a German influence somewhere in the house; it proved to emanate from our preserver, who was also the landlord, and an exile from the Rhine. I think he was homesick. But at least he had learned the dialect of his temporary abode, and also the way to treat the last remnants of the pirate and brigand days, as its spirit reappears now and then, though faintly, among the hangers-on of a Greek port town.

Though I have talked of brigands, for Greece as a whole, for the young nation, I have but one feeling namely, admiration. The country, escaping at last from its bondage to Turkey, after a long and exhausting war, had everything to do and nothing to do it with. There was no agriculture, no commerce, no money, and only a small population; there were no roads, no schools, no industries or trades, and few men of education. (I quote the words of Mr. Shaw-Lefevre, written in 1891.) The Greeks have done much, and under the most unfavorable conditions. They will do more. The struggle upward of an intelligent and ambitious people is deeply interesting, and the effort in Greece appeals especially to Americans, because the country, in spite of its form of government, is a democracy.

When we left Patras we left the Ionian Sea, and I ought therefore to bring these slight records to a close. But it was the same blue water, after all, that was washing the shores of the long, lake-like gulf beyond, and the impression produced by its pure, early-world tint, lasts as far as Corinth; here one turns inland, and the next crested waves which one meets are AEgean. They rouse other sensations.

There is now a railroad from Patras to Athens. On the morning when we made the transit there was given to us for our sole use a saloon on wheels, which was much larger than the compartments of an English railway carriage, and smaller than an American parlor car. In its centre was a long table, and a cushioned bench ran round its four sides; broad windows gave us a wide view of the landscape as we rolled (rather slowly) along. The track follows the gulf all the way to Corinth, and we passed through miles of vineyards. But I did not think of currants here; they had been left behind at Zante. There is, indeed, only one thing to think of, and the heart beats quickly as Parnassus lifts its head above the other snow-clad summits. “The prophetess of Delphi was hypnotized, of course.” This sudden incursion of modernity was due no doubt to the mode of our progress through this sacred country. We ought to have been crossing the gulf in a Phaeacian boat, which needs no pilot, or, at the very least, in a bark with an azure prow. But even upon an iron track, through utilitarian currant fields, the spell descends again when the second peak becomes visible at the eastern end of the bay.

“Not here, O Apollo!
Are haunts meet for thee,
But where Helicon breaks down
In cliff to the sea

How many times, in lands far from here, had I read these lines for their mere beauty, without hope of more!

And now before my eyes was Helicon itself.