AFTER lingering some days at Delphi, the traveler will feel a strong desire to wander over the mountain back of the town, and see with his own eyes what may be there, and not hear it merely from others. Already certain strolls have been taken in that direction, but now a whole Delphic day must be given to the task. The high plain lies above in sunshine, and the summits in snow; a struggle, too, is going on between the sea-sons with alternating line of victory marked on the slopes. What then lies behind Delphi ? is the question to be answered by this day’s walk.
In the ascent one will first pass through the ancient Stadion, and will fill its seats with an ever-rising sea of faces; in company with that multitude he will listen to a chant of lyric measures in praise of the victor, or in praise of the Hero or God. That song speaks of the aforetime when man and deity dwelt together; still it seeks to bring back some image of the Divine to the eager throng. The hill-side overflows with the music; it is Delphi seeking to sing its own origin to itself, to explain the miracle of its own harmonious existence. The hymn goes far back of the town and throbs in unison with the rise of its temples into musical utterance. But having viewed the happy festal procession, and having caught the soul of the hymn, we turn our look up the steep.
There is an ancient pathway cut into the solid rock, winding through these huge stony splinters; little landing places you will observe in this path overlooking town and vale; here too are marks of an old foundation chiseled upon the mountain side. The house which stood on this spot commands a particularly fine view; the bright ribbon of Pleistus is quivering far below through the valley ; over the long waves of olive tree tops we behold the blue Corinthian waters bending gracefully behind a hill out of sight; in the foreground lay anciently white colonnaded Delphi. The view was a poem; it was an image of the Greek world, with its setting of nature and its Delphic soul in the center. From this center the landscape vibrates melodiously today; Pindar was the man who put this melodious vibration into his lines; here then we may place his house when he sojourned at Delphi.
It is still early in the morning, and the sun has just risen to a horizontal line with the summits above Delphi; the God is hurling his golden fires against the top of the crag, shooting them as if from the muzzles of mil-lions of unseen muskets. One turns about and looks, after mounting to the crest; a cataract of sunbeams now pours over the heights of Phloumbouki into the lap of the little village, which rests strangely transfigured in the blaze. View it again, though often seen before; then face about and enter this high plain.
Not a human being is visible, nor does this seem a place for a human being ; still the wayfarer appears not to be altogether without company. There is a kind of intoxication in the air, and some little sprite hovers about that is handing him the beverage. Who is it? I cannot tell, but I know that I am not alone. The path winds along to a mountain lake, silent, imaging quiet peaks; the little lake gathers the springs of Parnassus, and melting snows ; through the dark earth it seeks an outlet, and breaks forth at last into that grot of beauty below Delphi, where we beheld Nymph Zalisca sitting on her throne; from her hand the stream dashes down into the plain, watering many an olive tree in its course, till it finally passes into the azure serenity of the sea; thence some drop of the mirroring Parnassian lakelet washes every shore of the earth, even to our own.
One will skirt its banks a short distance, throwing in-to its waters now and then a pebble which it swallows with an audible gulp; thus it too is a sort of being endowed with a voice and furnishes company. The town of empty huts is next reached, Kalyvia it is called, and used for summer residence. There is still a noise in its deserted streets, the silent hum of absent villagers; the air is yet vibrating low with the voices left here last summer, and will continue the vibration to eternity, for how can that sound, once set agoing cease ? Words left to wander, never wholly vanish ; let us beware of the wrong word ; to the new spiritual ear of the speaker it will be coming back to his Last Judgment. Still one hears the faint speech of men swinging in infinitesimal wavelets on the air with many a strange commingling of antique voices. What they say cannot easily be told ; they leave, however, some strong impression, which attunes like a prelude.
The path forks ; which road now is to be taken ? There is no voice to tell; there is no form of flesh and blood to give body to these uncertain sounds of solitude. One will look through the huts for some guiding word; he will be disappointed, and must fall back up-on himself. Shall we turn round? This side of Del-phi has become familiar; bright it is and very noble; we have seen it spring from the mountain in beautiful forms ; but can we not catch a glimpse of the obverse side? Many hints we bave had already of some new hidden world upon these heights and amid these lofty woods; without delay, then, let us continue the search.
So the traveler selects a way for himself, allured by a pleasant glen of pines which promise good company; up through the fragrant conifers he winds slowly, giving full control to the unseen guide. The path is hardly visible, footsteps have at times passed this way, rarely the track of the donkey can be noticed. Once in a while there is a trace of the woodman who has left his chips and lopped branches as a friendly salutation to the lonely wanderer. Deep silence, overglowed with weird sunlight holds all the trees in a dumb, yet attentive posture ; look at this muffled pine, he is listening, but to what? The wayfarer will stop and listen too: not without a slight shudder lest he hear some-thing which is permitted only to the trees to hear.
The sunlight falls pleasantly among the green treetops, and comes dangling in patches to the ground underneath ; these ragged golden patches are favorite resting places for the eye, possibly too for the nimble spirits of the woods, which seem to flit out of them at the intrusion of a human glance. One looks up the whole slant of the mountain against which the sun is shining; what sport is there ! Sunbeams and needle-leaves are wrestling with changeful victory for the possession of the entire slope; nor can one help seeing that other beings are there who dance for joy through the lights and shadows of the combat a chorus of Hamadryads living in secret sympathy with the trees, and forming the people of that city called a forest.
Not a living person is met, scarcely a trace of humanity is seen, still the persistent fact is, that the wayfarer is not without some society. At first he is unconscious of any presence, but after walking a little while through the woods he wakes up to the knowledge that he is not alone, and he wonders who it can be that is following. A slight terror is felt at that unseen companion who skips away behind the trees as soon as one tries to look at him; the voice, too, vanishes when one stops to listen to what it may be saying. A small panic is experienced in the breast throbbing audibly between two held breaths, as one hearkens again; this panic is sent by the God Pan, who dwells in the forest, and punishes in such manner those who intrude upon his sylvan solemnities. The old Greek, passing through this glen to-day, would have seen the deity with his whole train of nymphs celebrating their rites, and would have heard and re-membered their song, would have sung it himself at their next festival.
Several miles we thus pass up a gentle slope, pine-clad; the forenoon sun is always getting higher, till at last he pours down his beams quite parallel to the trees, and smites the traveler straight upon the head. The latter comes to the ridge which divides the range and begins to descend gradually ; here is the turning point to the other side of the Delphic slope. This is the snow-line too, now driven by the sun higher up the mountain, like a re-treating foe. Just here is the battle-field ; many a little patch of melting snow, as if mortally wounded and bleeding to death, is seen in covert places and lying under protecting rocks and bushes. The pedestrian, somewhat thirsty, will snatch up dripping handfuls of it as he passes, and hold it to his parched lips, whose thirst, however, refuses to be slaked by such a draught. So we pass on.
Nor can we omit to notice the vast quantity of loose stones that are strewn everywhere along our path, as if some Titanic sower had scattered them like seeds of wheat over the grain-field. Here upon Parnassus, says the legend, Deucalion and Pyrrha were left the sole survivors after the flood; here upon this very spot, perhaps, that curious casting of rocks took place, where-by Mother Pyrrha, throwing these stones behind her, begot the destroyed human race anew in -a great hurry, for each stone sprang up a full-grown man. Such a feat is indeed possible only upon Parnassus to change the rock to a living man; but the touch of Pyrrha is no longer to be found among the Parnassian women. Still the consoling reflection can be made that there are enough stones left here to re-establish the race a second time in case of flood or other calamity.
We now enter a small cultivated plain; very small, but a few hundred yards in length and less in breadth; this is wheat growing upon it in little green blades, and yonder are three huts. A mysterious tract; abrupt mountainous cliffs snow-capped hem it in with a sort of fond look down into it ; shut off wholly from the world it lies in the lofty bosom, veritably snow-white, of Parnassus, not far from the top. Not an inhabitant can be seen, not a child at play before the door of the hut; it, too, is completely deserted, and over it hovers that audible silence sending through the new comer its panicky shudders. There is no doubt that one has a feeling of intrusion, he has come upon some band of dwellers unexpectedly, though he behold nought ; he has interrupted some ceremony by his human presence. Look up at the mountains now ; they threaten, filled with shapes whose chorus below was scattered by the stranger’s sudden advent. Let us go past those huts, perhaps they contain somebody of our kin; the road leads a little distance in front of them; one door stands slightly ajar, but there is no human appearance or apparition. With a still greater panic, which will be taken as the warning of the God Pan, one will hurry by without stopping to investigate those huts or their contents; he will not defy the divine admonition, nor does he care to meet face to face that strange-speaking companion who still flits at his side. As he emerges from the plain he looks back; the dissonance caused by his presence is vanishing, the harmony of that little world seems restored as he departs, and the nymphs with rude satyrs begin again the dance; this is the home of their revels.
Thus we continue the unusual journey behind Delphi; it has brought us into contact with a new set of beings, with glimpses into a new world : What can it be ? Never mind; we are going on. Here we enter a deep dark cleft where mid-day turns to twilight; above the head the mountain overhangs and threatens to cast itself down upon the puny wayfarer, as he looks up at the lofty ledges swinging in the skies. What is a man here? The might of the mountain overwhelms this petty individuality; a person is naught, and may be thankful if the giant will only let him pass. What if the old deity would loosen his hold upon one overhanging rock ? Here, too, is a voice that speaks and takes on a shape corresponding with the utterance; it is not that joyous mysterious voice which comes from sunshine playing amid the pines ; not that deeper voice of interrupted solitude over the plain; this is the secret mutter of the mountain holding back convulsion and fierce outbreak. A hoarser, more terrible voice; listen to it rumbling amid these rocky bowels, and form an image of the monster, then pass on.
I have, however, repeatedly thought of turning back, having seen enough of the other side of Parnassus. But there is some demonic power which entices forward these new and changing utterances furnish alluring company to the hesitating tourist. Yet they have a strange law; they are loudest when you do not hear them; if you listen, they vanish upon the air. It is a ghostly company indeed ; they stay at your side if you do not try to think who they are ; you can see them skipping through the sunny landscape and fragrant pines, if you do not attempt to look at them ; you seem to know them best when you do not know them at all. Such is the riddle with its enticement everywhere; the dark glen, the light wood, the sudden precipice start it into being ; even the panic with its shudder allures.. Fine views break from the distance at intervals, like harmonious swells of music from beyond; that other world behind the visible one is the strong abiding fact, and leads you irresistibly into its unseen domain. I had better turn back, but the truth is, I am infatuated, and so go on, not being really in possession of myself.
As I come out of a little patch of trees and reach a far-extending mountain slope, I hear a noise quite faint. It is a new tone in a new locality; a few steps further and I hear it again; I listen, it can be heard continuously, and not vanishingly. This is, then, a real sound, belonging clearly to this sensible world, and permits itself to be caught and held by the outer ear. It creeps around the mountain side, growing clearer and more definite as I advance ; what can it be ? I conclude that the sound comes from running or falling water, though I cannot see anything of the kind. A moment more and I am standing on the brink of a brook hid among the grass and stones, flowing down the side of the mountain, which is not steep enough to make a cascade, but sufficiently slanting to produce a strong rapid rush of the current. Moreover, the slant is even and very long so that the stream darts down in a straight crystalline band almost from the top to the very foot of the mountain, making a wild melody with the pebbles in its course. Clear, sparkling, beautiful, springs the rivulet; a silvery ribbon, which one might think of picking up from the slope where it lies. I lean down and put my hands into it; but it will not suffer itself to be lifted except by palmfuls to the hot temples and thirsty lips, which are now freshened with a new life.
Its music, too, you will hear after sitting beside it for a while; there is a rise and fall of sound, notes higher and lower, form a kind of tune which gives a certain melody to the solitude. A natural harmony, though rude ; still it is a harmony and brings all the surroundings into unison, so that you may well say, this is a musical spot, where Nature breaks forth into melodious expression. Another fact you will mark, as you sit and listen; the stream has a key-note, around which its other notes move, and to which it is attuned : Niagara, too, has such a note, and the ocean itself. So we hear the primitive musical instrument of Nature played upon by the unseen hand whose shall we call it? Little difference does it make, so we catch the music and cause it to play within us.
Thus the weary wayfarer greets the brook as a friend; its babble will soon banish all panic from his breast, and its look, as it joyously dances down the side of the mountain in the sunshine, will refresh him quite as much as a draught of its waters. After sporting with it a while and enjoying its melodious ripple, he will feel like turning up the slope to the fountain head of so much music and mirthfulness. A pleasant saunter along its edge will bring him to a piece of ground spreading out like a fan, on which hundreds of little sources gush up, and soon unite their streamlets into the brook. Here is an ancient trough, hewn out of stone and covered with moss and rust; other dressed stones lie about, which the imagination at once builds into a shrine of the spring-nymphs. It is a sacred spot, joyous, useful too, singing an eternal hymn; not without reverence may one still regard it.
In the midst of the gurgling well-heads is a smooth seat, a single stone upon which one may sit down with the little company around him. There is solitude yet, but no shudder comes; the sunlight, the pines, and the brook are in complete harmony and attune the soul peacefully to their strain. But hark ! what is that new sound? Amid the notes of the purling waters was suddenly mingled a human voice, or what seemed such. Then it vanished into the sound of the brook and was forgot-ten. But soon it returns and speaks more plainly than before; what does it say? That I cannot tell; but so much is manifest : these are words, not mere unbroken sound ; they are articulated, wrought into the chain of human speech; they seem the words of children talking near by, so real that I look up to see them. I try to hear them again, but they refuse to come back at my bidding, and gradually I get to thinking about other matters. But presently the talking is heard once more -a conversation as of question and answer; yet when I am fully awake to it, at once it stops. This startles me, the panic slightly returns; there is no human shape present, yet there is articulate speech upon this ground. Moreover it balks my will, it cannot be heard by effort, only in the unconscious world does it speak to me ; it selects the moment of utterance, not I. Clearly it belongs not to my self-conscious life; a strange unaccountable thing in the brook, which fascinates possibly a divinity. Can it be the nymphs of the stream who are thus chatting together, and are they realities ?
This is the voice that the shepherd hears, that the old Greek heard when he fabled of Naiads speaking in the fountain and enticing men; it is a veritable voice. I would like to hear it again, but it will not speak, how-ever much I listen. Gradually the mind drifts away into the distant mountain haze, and is lost there, forgetting the nymphs. Suddenly the voice speaks once more, now just at my feet ; I have it, I catch a little of it, and drag it into my conscious state. One small ripple tells the secret, it continued to prattle when it ought to have kept silent. It is the water which articulates at certain intervals ; these thousand little cascades leaping over the pebbles form the chain of successive sounds at certain moments, and then break off ; moreover these sounds may be loud or low, like the rise and fall of the human voice, with manifold modulation.
The peculiarity of the noise rising from the flowing water, is this articulation or linking together of sounds like the speech of man. Then it ceases after babbling its meaningless words upon the air. The brook being very shallow and wide at this point rushes over innumerable little obstructions, and forms these short watery vocables in succession; thus it seems to talk, to utter for a moment syllabled speech. In a higher or lower key, in the tone of children and grown people, in question and response, quite all the phases of language are to be heard ; then the new tongue loses itself in the continuous gurgle of the brook. It is a brave struggle; the waters try to speak, and sometimes do articulate, but they soon drop back into their indiscriminate babble, and the new words are drowned in the rushing current. The brook certainly attempts to talk, and you cannot help listening.
Such is the language of the nymphs, not put down in the works of erudition, and being without grammar and dictionary. In the welling sources, in the long glide of the crystalline stream down the mountain is hidden a voice; the old mythus speaks that voice, and it can be heard today. I now recollect that this is no new experience, that I have heard this sound before along the brink of stony brooks, that in former days I have turned at some word of the rill to see who was talking. But never till now has the matter risen out of the Lethe of unconsciousness; for one must be unconscious at first in order to hear the voice ; when I sought to catch it ever so slightly, it was already gone; through that dark world alone will it come to daylight.
But what do the nymphs say? you ask. It is simply an articulate sound, the word laden with spiritual meaning it is not. Yet it speaks to the soul in subtle harmonious suggestion; it has many a curious modulation, there is a certain character in its sound too ; it has a note of persuasion, as if it sought to entice the listener into its watery bosom, and sport with him down into the valley, were not his body in the way. It can have the sound of anger, then breaks into laughter; but its chief note is the low sweet note of love. It is no won-der that so many of the ancient worthies were enamored of nymphs; these assume a positive shape to the imagination with their caressing tones; the unconscious world bursts into expression, and the old Mythology becomes a vital thing once more. Thus one loiters the time away in golden idleness; he is entranced by the new world, and would fain drop away into a dream of the brook; it is a spell which changes the man into a stream, which transformation has been hinted in many an ancient fable.
Such is the natural word, aspiring, struggling to fill itself with a soul and thus attain unto speech; but it cannot cross the unseen barrier, it always falls back into the brook after leaping for a moment above the surface. The heroic struggle of nature to rise into a higher being we may consider it; some aid it seems to pray for; is there no one who can catch that helpless floundering word, hold it, and make it eternal ? Yes, there is; his name is the Poet; he seizes the dim suggestions of Nature and flings them out of the brook, he wins them from the trees, he captures them from the mountain ; a strange magical sort of man dealing with invisible spirits whom he makes visible. His words are still the words of the brook, the tree, or the mountain ; they have the sound of the waters, the fragrance of the flowers, the sport of the leaflets; but they are on his lips transfigured, and receive a soul which holds them up from falling, and which is the fulfillment of their former aspiration. The word of Nature which the Poet hears and utters can never drop back into the undistinguishable elements, but it becomes winged and soars into etherial spaces, imaging the things of Heaven.
But it is time for the wayfarer to depart; too long al-ready has he dallied with the nymphs, listening to their revelations. He turns away with many delightful calls in his hearing, for the whole stream has now become vocal, and has admitted him into its inner sanctuary. A gentle farewell has to be given; with a final draught and gentle plash of the hand he takes his leave of the musical company, though the receding voices sound -long in his ear and try to persuade him back.
Ile returns to the small peak-girt plain where the huts stand empty with one door slightly open ; but now the door is shut, shut tight, there cannot be a doubt of it. No living object is visible, though the former influences are felt; guess me this riddle? Indeed the door is fast; hands have done it what hands? There is some power at work in this deserted spot; we felt it when we were here before ; at present it is even more perceptible. Let us hurry forward ; Pan touches again, sending stronger shudders than the previous ones ; we shall not tarry in his domain for fear of some further punishment. It was he who closed the door to hide his revels from mortal eye ; the shaggy deity has refused to reveal himself, being so unlike the fair nymph of the spring ; the panic is the sole reminder of his presence. But he belongs to that unconscious world also, into which the mythus strikes its roots and draws its nourishment ; we must form, too, his image, as he vanishes amid the trees.
A new path shows itself into which one enters without further thought. The woods still appear overlaid with patches of sunshine, and the unseen company is never absent in fact, I am now getting used to their presence, and they no longer flee from me as they did at first. I feel myself becoming a denizen of their world. My glance does not seem to drive them out of the sunny spots as it once did ; the shudder, too, has quite left me. Moreover, the feet seem lighter, the side of the mountain is no longer so hard to climb ; I verily believe that I am partaking of their nature. It is certain that a transformation has taken place since morning, a new relationship has been established with a strange or-der of friends. Imagine me walking along through the forest alone, yet in cheerful companionship, sealing the high rock with ease, unburdened by a single thought, dwelling wholly in a free unconscious world with its own inhabitants.
A new side in human nature wakes, unsuspected be-fore, or regarded as a dream or delusion ; stranger still, a new side in external nature comes to view, in perfect correspondence with this human phase. The chasm between man and the world outside of him seems filled ; a new bond has arisen, indeed a new being who joins the two into a harmonious whole. The senses are open to the keenest delight and possess the sharpest intensity; thought, however, sinks into their ocean and disappears ; existence seems but a dream. Such you will become, if you wander through the Greek woods over Parnassus on a sunny day; you sink away into a new kinship, which suspected and shunned at first, changes to a secret confiding intimacy.
But this is not all. We have found a new life, and it is to be embodied into a form ; if we possess the Greek instinct, we shall discover the image for our conception ; indeed, the image is its true expression. This new life must find utterance now, must have found utterance long ago ; of its own accord the shape rises up and walks into being at my side. It is no effort of mine, I do not make it, it appears when I have the ability to see it. Not at the time did I identify it, or try to identify it; I could not then reflect it was the pain of Hell to think ; but now I can look back at the appearance, and tell you my judgment concerning it : it was the Faun.
But wake up and behold this real thing : a large hole in the mountain not far from the top. Hither our path has led us deviously but with certainty all day ; it is the famous Korykian cave. The disturbed eagles fly angrily a few feet above my head; another bird, unknown to me, mingles with them, gifted with a scolding voice, of which I now get the full benefit. I reach for my tapers, which I brought along, suspecting that I might have to conduct you through dark places. In spite of the sunshine, the journey has been somewhat nebulous at times, but now we shall have to take our little lights and grope about in the secrets of the cavern.
As I turn around a short angle, I come suddenly upon a person who is lying on a rock, propped up with bis elbows and finding some hidden entertainment in the objects of Nature enclosing him around. A glance reveals that it is Demitri, with whom I had a very slight acquaintance at Delphi ; today he is taking a short stroll over Parnassus all alone, for the mere delight of the solitude. He pretends to have a little errand, he is going to catch some rare beetles for a professor of entomology at Athens ; he knows the very spot, and the only spot where they are to be found. He has a crook in his hand which he employs like a lengthened arm; his whole satisfaction is to lie on grassy banks along the brooks, to roam the forests, or to dream the hours away reclining on a stone in the sun. He avoids the vineyard where there is work in trimming the vines; he shuns the olives where he has to stoop so often in picking up the fruit; but he runs off from Delphi and wanders alone here on Parnassus, where he seems to find his true kindred.
Demitri is indeed a strange character. At Delphi he is in ill repute on account of laziness; but judging by his agility at times, by his readiness to clamber up the steepest rock for a trifle, by the unnecessary steps or rather skips that he takes in a day, I cannot call him lazy, though it is manifest that he will not work in the harness of the Delphic world. Look at his clothes ; they are the garments of civilization, but they do not sit well on him, his body seems in a sort of protest against them; at every movement it cries out to be left alone or to be girt with a simple goat’s fell. His cap falls over his eyes and blinds him, till he takes it off and goes bareheaded; then he can see, and I believe smell, with the keenness of a wild deer. He carries no mark of age in his looks; his face never loses its dreamy smile when he is among the mountains; he can laugh the moments away lying on his sunlit rock and never think of the lapse of Time. The Faun has now become a reality in him; I do not deny his close relationship to this locality, to this day, and to myself at this moment; but chiefly, my unseen companion follows me no longer, he now leaves me to the seen presence of Demitri.
He offers to conduct me through the Korykian Cave, which with such a guide must reveal all its secrets. This cave was well known in antiquity, and was celebrated by poets as the home of their poetical beings; it was visited by our traveler Pausanias, who has compared it with other famous caves that he knew of, and has pronounced this the most wonderful of all. He tells us, too, that it was sacred to Pan and the Nymphs; an inscription found upon the spot in recent times commemorates the same fact. Thus we have arrived at the very house of those strange existences which have been flitting through the forest and over the mountain du-ring the entire day.
We enter the door and walk down into the first chamber, a large presence-chamber. The ceiling is arched above, and is said to be forty feet high in its highest part; it has an imperial magnificence; one looks up at the clusters hanging there as if it might be a fairy pal-ace. On the ground lie small circles of stones heaped up and blackened with fire ; they date from the time of the Revolution, when this cave formed a retreat for the neighboring villagers from the Turk, as it did for the ancient Delphians in the time of the Gallic invasion. Still the walls are begrimed with the smoke of those fires, and of the torches of visitors. One marches into the unknown darkness carefully; again there is felt a touch of the panic as one enters deeper into the obscure cavern. But behold Demitri; he needs none of my tapers; he seems at home, at one moment he is at my side, at another he springs away into some unseen corner as if to give a caress to a nymph, or to greet an old acquaintance.
As soon as the eyes get used to their new duty, a striking series of objects emerge from the darkness on every side: the statuary of Nature formed of stalagmites. There are several groups along the wall arranged as if in a gallery ; then there is a large group that stands entirely free, to the rear of the chamber. The most remarkable is the Mother and Children, suggesting Medea clasping her infants. But the tendency is to masks, to faces of wild caricature, which pass gradually into the rock. Mocking satyrs may be distinguished, and one of them the visitor will be inclined to call Pan, who now appears fashioned by Nature herself and dwelling in his own mountain temple. Such is the primitive gallery of sculpture, suggesting all which Art is hereafter to reveal of this unseen world.
Nor must we forget that in antiquity there were, be-sides these natural shapes, the statues of Pan and the Nymphs set up in this cave, genuine works of the Artist. Thus we attain the completed Greek conception, and we behold the direct transformation of Nature into Art, seeking to express the invisible powers of this region. Pan still runs over these summits and through these glens he, that magnetic link connecting man with the secret energies of Nature One feels him and his influence in the solitudes, and forms his image such is the first stage; then he bursts into visibility in these rude shapes of rock, which however fall back into impotent formlessness, till the hand of the Artist reaches out and helps them rise into complete being in the statue, in which the suggestion of Nature is realized and transcended. This, we recollect, is quite what the Poet did for the natural words of the brook.
But accident now shows the culmination of the series in a living being. There he stands alongside one of those rude figures of stone, gazing at it with a far-off wonderment my companion Demitri, the living Faun, beside the rocky Faun. The resemblance is astonishing, almost appalling; you ask, which indeed could have been the model? The broad nose, the hairy forehead, the look of jolly animality are common to both; even the drapery is similar: as Demitri’s body seems to disappear in his formless garments, so the outlines of the figure vanish in the formless rock of the cavern; both, too, appear equally besmirched by the smoke and dust of Time. He looked at the stony image with a strange fascination, he had evidently selected it of all others in the cave from some secret affinity. I glanced at each imaging the other, and said : “Why, Demitri, that is you.” He gave a wild snort of angry terror, and darted with his taper into the next chamber, whither I groped dubiously after him.
Between the two chambers is a kind of curtain, partly suspended from the ceiling a wonderful piece of tapestry which hints of Nature as the primitive weaver. On all fours one has to climb now, through moist dark passages; in the rock, up which one crawls, is a little spring which freshens lips and temples. A little eye of a fountain beaming in the dim light of the taper it seems to have life, even love in its glance. This room is gorgeously furnished, with fine incrustations over head, where hangs many a sparkling drop of translucent stone. A large conical column in the center is inscribed with the names of visitors all nationalities, all languages, all periods seem to be represented a grand column of fame, upon which, after some trial, I totally failed to grave my name.
My guide, the living Faun, now conducts me to the small chambers in the rear bedrooms of the Nymphs one may call them without fear of being successfully confuted. These apartments are not easy of access; it would seem that their fair occupants did not wish to have their privacy disturbed in this last refuge. To enter the first room, Demitri flings himself down on the floor and crawls through a narrow aperture, taper in hand; he seems to shrink in the act, like a witch going through a key-hole. I follow his example, but the stone above fits so close into the small of my back that I am caught, and can neither get in nor out. Demitri laughed ; Pan, the satyrs, and all the dwellers of the cave, seemed to be laughing in a universal echo with him at the poor mortal caught in trying to enter the Nymphs’ bed-chamber. But there is Faun enough in me to shrink also and wriggle through; this day’s experience has not been for nought. It is a gentle chamber, somewhat dark, fit for the obscure mysteries of its inhabitants. More interesting than ever Demitri is getting to be; he now seems at home as he squats down in one corner; he is in bond with the hidden influences of the place, and he has an air of familiarity, begotten not of knowledge but of fellow-feeling, indeed of kinship, one must say. After showing the secrets of the spot, more by his actions than by his words, he suddenly sprawls and glides through the aperture, as if it was the only door he ever knew. “You lizard,” I cried, and crawled after him. But ah, that close-fitting stone ! It seized me again with a tight span around the waist, so that all the india-rubber in me was required in order to squeeze through. ” Demitri, no more holes of that sort, I tell thee ; I have seen enough of the Nymphs to-day, at any rate.”
But he insists with unusual urgency upon conducting me to one chamber more, which lies high, in a sort of upper story; he scrambles up and pulls me after him over the slimy rock. More delighted than ever he looks; he turns to me and says : ” This would be a fine room to which to lead home a bride. Nymphe, in mod-ern Greek, means a bride, and the word at once connects him with the invisible occupant of the chamber, the Nymph. He throws himself down and rests a moment, looking up at the stalactites with a rapt eye which sees spirits. I look, too, at the ceiling; a little mask laughs out of the stone above, then slides into indistinguishable rock with the rest of its body. The moment I see it, it turns to crystal, but I am quite sure that Demitri saw it alive, and that it recognized him with that little titter still visible in the stone. Again glance at the pretty face above, it is Demitri’s bride. I nudge him, waking him up from his revery ; unwillingly he turns away, and giving a kind of salute slips down the side of the cavern.
It is time to pass out; we go by the conical column with its roll of names ; we come to the little spring, gathered drop by drop till it amount to a shellful, by some busy unseen benefactress; it offers now its last draught. We reach the royal antechamber again, with its statuary and spangled ceiling. But there is a change; I felt the unpleasant shudder when I came into the dark place; now the masks are familiar, even merry, they have become reconciled to the presence of the stranger, and salute him. Darkness also seems to have changed to light; the stealthy tread toward dim uncertainty has been transformed into the sure, easy walk of familiarity. I now feel at home in the cave, and in accord with its inmates; several times I pace through the accessible chambers, and give myself freely to their suggestions. Demitri, too, has changed toward me; at first he was shy, and did not let himself out, but now he treats me with strong affection, almost with fawning at times.
Here one beholds the influences which are at work in these mountains formed into shapes, and placed in a temple by Nature herself. What lay previously in the vague unconscious realm, now seems to find a symbol, a sensuous representation and an abode. After such a long wandering walk with its many new experiences in the forest and upon the mountain, one feels that he has found in this cave an utterance, dark and uncertain, still an utterance, which by main force springs into fantastic shapes in the attempt to reveal itself. Nature’s Fancy may be seen in its thousandfold workings which call up a corresponding activity in man ; still it is but Fancy, the Fancy of Nature sporting capriciously with its own shapes.
However this may be, the Korykian cavern has one prominent ground of interest: it is the best place to observe how Greek Art is hinted even in its minutest shadings by Nature These are still the works of Nature, but it is Nature struggling to be Art, needing just a touch of the hand of man to preserve the persistency of her forms and carry them out to completeness. Alone, she is unable to bear forward her shapes to a full representation of spirit; they swoon back into rock, half made, with perhaps an arm only, or a face looking out from the stony wall. The suggestion is certainly given by Nature, but she is impotent to attain to the spiritual; we wonder how near she comes to it, but still falls short; with an eager shining face she looks and points to her supreme end, but cannot reach it.
Here is Architecture in all its germs; behold its decorated enclosure, its richly hung ceilings with hint of column and structural proportion, as well as of ornamentation. The cave has a striking resemblance to the Greek house; it suggests the very plan upon which the buildings of Pompeii are erected. Indeed, Pompeii with its Hellenized architecture is seldom absent from the mind as one passes through the various parts of the cavern. This is the typical form of the Greek house; such is the thought which one carries away. In a still higher degree have we the hint of sculpture; the single figure, the group, the gallery, have already been noticed. These were the first models, let the artist now appear, and set the encumbered form free from the rock.
And the Artist does appear, and set the form free; the statues of Pan and the Nymphs stood anciently alongside of the half-revealed shapes in the rock. The old worshiper came here and saw the transition with his own eyes ; he beheld the complete figure of the sculptor rise out of the stony swaddling-clothes of Nature, and become the bearer of a spiritual purpose. Therein he saw, too, his own supreme end ; it was to make this material existence of his an image of the soul; he, too, was to undergo transformation like the stone before him. This, then, was a temple of worship where-in man could behold some phase of his transfiguration ; even Pan, goat-footed though he be, has a true utterance; his sculptured form is a spiritual presence, revealing that spirit which is felt everywhere throughout the forest and mountain.
Numerous modern legends are connected with the Pave. The Arachobite mother thinks that it is the home of the Nereids who kill and carry off her infants. The puzzling etymology of its name has given rise to the following legend, taken from the mouths of the people. A number of maidens resolved to retire from the world and devote themselves wholly to the service of the Virgin. They took this cave for their cloister, whence it is called Korykion antron, that is, maids without men, korai dicha andron. It also bears the name of Sarantavli, the Forty Halls or Rooms, from the belief that forty monks once took up their abode in the cave, and closed the rooms behind them, where they have remained ever since, and are still expected by the peasantry to come and free the orthodox church from the hateful sway of the Mohammedan. In the midst of the mountain they remain at prayer, monks in their deep monastery of stone. Hence, to-day, there are so few chambers, some half dozen only, the rest being closed till the great day of restoration. Thus the cave still is a religious abode, but of a very different kind from the ancient one. A monastic character is now given to it by legend, whereas anciently it was full of the fresh breath of Nature, of the joyous worship of Pan and the Nymphs. In such manner the ancient and modern worlds have left their image even upon the Korykian Cave ; but Demitri is the true central figure of it today, being the living presence of the Old in the New.
In going out of the cave, we pass by that strange statue of the Faun; Demitri will not now look at it. I called his attention to it; still again he turned away with a shudder. But previously he preferred that shape to any other in the cavern, it had a deep fascination for bim, which is now changed to abhorrence. He has seen his own image, he has cast a glance into his own spiritual being, he has become self-conscious to a degree. It is but a glimmer of the world within, still it is torture, it is horror. Never before has he had a reflection, one may think; never has he looked upon himself and asked the question : ” What, then, am I ?” Like an animal, which turns away from its own image in a mirror, or snarls or snaps at it when seen in the clear brook, he is terrified as well as angry at his own appearance.
” Demitri, be not afraid,” I cried ; ” dare to face thine own ghost and become a man; that image is thyself, look upon it, and thou art already above it.” I grasped his arm, and led him to the figure, feeling him tremble; I was now his guide, he was no longer mine. He looked at it with unsteady, blinking eye, as if trying to gaze into some intense light which vision could not endure. We turned away, he skipped no more, his joy was lost, he had come to a dim knowledge of himself; he was transformed, the Faun began to disappear.
We passed slowly down the hill-side over the table-land toward Delphi. Demitri has certainly lost a portion of his buoyancy. Sometimes the Faun in him re-turns, he frisks over the fields, bounding out of the path, and reclining a moment against a stone. Then he would walk slowly in the beaten way, sunk in thought, considering apparently that strange image of himself. But he would wake out of reflection at another moment, would run and fetch a curious pebble, flower or insect, and watch with a puzzled gaze how they affected the stranger. We reach the summit over Delphi and be-hold the level rays of the setting sun shot straight against Phloumbouki ; into that round ball of fire the Faun looks with delight and wonder, his face shows a kind of worship ; the luminary sinks in blaze, Demitri turns to Delphi with a saddened aspect, as if it was the last time that he, the Faun, was to look at the setting sun; to-morrow he must behold it with other eyes. Without a word he slid off into a by-path of the village ; it was probably his unhappiest day, and he owed it to me, who had brought him to look upon himself.
Imagine now with me the future career of Demitri. There has been a conversion in him; he has been revealed unto himself, and thus rises out of his former condition. I predict that he will lose his friskiness, that he will begin to go to the olives and vineyard, that he will adjust anew his drapery, that he will no longer spring alone over the mountains, but weighted with his cares and thoughts, he will pass heavy-paced to his day’s labor. He begins to realize the Delphic oracle: Know Thyself; he starts to-morrow with the burden of a new world upon his shoulders. To the unconscious race of beings he belongs no more ; he renounces the company of Pan and Nymphs he is now Delphic. But how great the difference between me and thee, oh Demitri ! I seek to fall back into that instinctive soul of pure Nature, which is my Paradise, whilst thou must strive to get out of it, since it is thy Hades. I would fain live there days of thoughtless existence, drinking of the first fountains whose melodious waters heal the worn and dusty heart; but thou must rise from faunhood to manhood, taking upon thee the burden of thine own image, a seeming shadow indeed, but heaviest of sublunary things.