You, my friends, as citizens of a free commonwealth have an interest in politics; I am certain you would like to hear how the election resulted. It seems that the opposition reinforced by vast promises and by disappointed place-hunters, carried the day against our friend Pappayohannes; but the paved roads have not been made, nor has the market-place been even swept. Though there has been a complete change of administration, there has been no change in the condition of the streets, but for the worse; in fact Arachoba is said to be almost impassible at this moment on account of the mud in the thoroughfares.
It is also stated that the number of applicants for the offices has just doubled ; and Pappakosta, the new Demarch, is still wrestling with this problem how to devide twenty places among two hundred and forty persons, and to give each a place. But the saddest lot befel the applicant for the position of town-crier, whom you will recollect to have changed sides so patriotically; in spite of the written promise given him by the new Demarch, in spite of all his political work, he did not get the place. Unhappy man ! Now he is reported to have changed again, having returned to the fold of Pappayohannes, ready for a new election, with a still sharper eye for the evils of the present administration. My letter from an Arachobite friend recounting these matters, concludes with an animated apostrophe: ” Oh ye office-seeking Greeks ! why work so hard for a dishonest penny when an honest one can be gained for a tithe of the effort ! Why so true to falsehood, so faithful to treachery ! they can never reward you even in money for your labor, not to speak of your lost manhood, lost in such filthy work! Yet if you merely prostituted yourselves, it were endurable, though bad enough ; but you are poisoning the life-blood of the nation; you pervert the State, which is man’s chief instrument in raising him-self to a universal ethical life, to your own individual purposes of gain and ambition, making it as selfish as yourselves. Oh ye office-seeking Greeks, you will yet, ruin our beloved Hellas.”
But we have quite forgotten the embassadors whom we left sometime ago right in the middle of the street, unprovided with food and shelter. A serious breach of etiquette toward those high dignitaries; clearly ceremony is not the strong point of our traveler. But let us hasten back to them, still standing amid the applause of the people, who cheer the Demarch’s speech, till the sound seems to crawl up the sides of snowy Parnassus to the very peak. The large company, piloted by the De march, soon started to make the tour of the town afoot in order to see the few curiosities and to enjoy the picturesque views from the heights. After the strangers, who marched at the head, stretched a long straggling crowd of white fustanellas, like the tail to a comet. I followed, too, somewhere in the tail, a spectator; but again friends caught my arm and said : ” Go forward.” ” Why should I go forward?” ” To talk to the embassadors.” “But they have an interpreter who speaks Greek better than I.” “Never mind, we wish you to tell them about us and about Greece.” Such was the urgent demand coming from the people there, I may say; I took it as a call to represent them to the foreigners, and at once I obeyed. But why they wanted me to be their interpreter, they did not say, nor can I tell, unless it was the very strong interest which I had shown for their life and manners during my stay of several weeks. They must have felt that I would not treat them unsympathetically, nor misrepresent them, nor be put down with a sneer. Accordingly I went forward, worked into the conversation, and told the embassadorial party what I knew of Arachoba somewhat as you hear me tell it now.
” What do you find here to keep you so long, here where there are no antiquities ?” asked the German ambassador. I replied: The two most splendid and perfect monuments of the ancient world the Greek language and Greek customs. Both are fragments almost complete, of the old stock, yet both are alive still and green; neither can be adequately obtained from books, but only by living contact. Ruins they may be called, but Italy and Europe cannot match them; nor can they be carried away from this soil and set up in museums. The truth is I am engaged in a sort of excavation, not of death and ruins, but of life and manners.
The origin of the modern Greek, too, came up for discussion in which I maintained the Greek origin of the Greeks, at least of those of Arachoba. The honest dealing of these sturdy people I praised ; their sincere yet poetic life I tried to describe. I recollect that the embassadors never took sides, neither affirmed nor denied what I said, never changed their impassive color; every one of them seemed to be waiting for orders from the home government. I sought to point out certain Homeric customs still common in Arachoba; the blank faces appeared to answer me: upon that point we have no instructions from our ministry. One thing I did admire in them, it was the stoical perfection with which they could endure being bored. World-destroying dullness, star-sparkling vivacity were, I should judge, quite the same to the embassadorial mind; and why should they not be to men who get their souls sent by mail from the home government? Their indifference did not disturb me much ; the thought darted through my head to touch them with a political theme, which was very near to me and to my Arachobite constituency: namely, the attitude of the European powers toward Hellenic unity. I was saved from this last impropriety by the Demarch who came in, announcing : Dinner is ready. At once the stark ambassadorial countenance changed, lighting up with the rise of new suns, and saying with great brilliancy: Upon this point we have instructions from the home government. They disappeared through the door of the diningroom, at a run, that was the last I saw of the ambassadors; and the chief thing about them still remaining in the memory is, the embassadorial cut of the coat-tail.
It was one of the curious episodes of my European journey I reflected after I went home that evening that just here in the rural town of Arachoba I should meet the first ambassador, and be brought into personal relation with diplomatic gentlemen. I had passed through capitols full of such people, but I had avoided all courts and all ceremonies for witnessing which some diplomatic intervention is necessary. No minister of my own country had I seen, not even a consul. Now at a town out of the way and inaccessible to a vehicle, where few strangers are ever seen, these diplomatic dignitaries had come to me, and I was present for the first time at a kind of reception. Thus what one studiously avoids comes upon him in places where least expected as if chance loved once in a while to indulge in an ironical jest. The modern History of Europe leaves an odious impression of diplomats and diplomacy upon the mind of the reader, who will be inclined to shun the thing in all of its manifestations.
Nor can I avoid interweaving some discordant reflecions upon the American Diplomatic Service in Europe. The whole system ought to be abolished, and the business of the Legation, like any other business, be put in-to the hands of a competent agent. Anybody can now travel from one end of Europe to the other without re-course to an American official ; I never found any use for my passport even. The minister at present serves chiefly for the introduction of American women at court, for which there seems to be as yet no urgent international necessity. Still the pressure must be something awful, if we may judge by certain cases known to travelers, in which the American colony of a European city is turned upside down to get the girl of the period, daughter of the haberdasher almighty, a presentation to royalty. Let us abolish the whole business; it is an old-world bauble with which we have nothing to do.
Diplomacy does not belong to America nor is it an American need; it is a child of European necessities. For Europe is an intimate family of nations with contiguous territory ; each of these nations may find it worth while to have a representative always present at the capitols of the other nations, in order to promote domestic harmony and prevent domestic quarrels; thus it is a domestic arrangement purely. Just as it was necessary for Europe at one time and may be still, just so unnecessary it is for us. Did America have anything to say at the Berlin conference ? Nothing and justly so, she does not belong to the family, and had no business with the quarrel. Nor does the minister attend to any really important transaction at present, he can not be entrusted with it. Witness the Geneva negotiation; we sent a special agent to look after that affair, as we must do in all such cases, if the work is to be properly done. Doubtless the minister is given something to do abroad, but often it had better be left undone, and always the special agent will do it better. The truth is, in our system confederation of states has taken the place of diplomacy ; and in any system the unity and brotherhood of nations ought to be elevated into law, and not subjected to the caprices of the diplomatic weather-cock.
But if the effect abroad be nothing or positively bad, the effect at home is much worse, it corrupts the whole elective system. Foreign appointments have fallen to the nature of political bribes, with which the successful president rewards his supporters. Politicians, having become intolerable in their own community are sent off for a time, to be forgotten at home, but to disgrace their country abroad. Recently distinguished literary merit has been rewarded with diplomatic appointments just the thing to which it has never been trained, and for which it is specially disqualified. A good poet is not likely to be a good diplomat; but he is not a disgrace, and that is a gain. Recall the ministers resident, give us competent consular agents to do the business, the best legal talent for the international questions, and abolish the Diplomatic Service with its senseless aping after things European. Much has Europe to give us, but this thing belongs to her exclusively.
Yet Diplomacy is clearly doomed in Europe too. It is a very unsatisfactory way of securing the unity which belongs to the European Powers. A faint recognition of the oneness of Europe lies in the fact of Diplomacy, but altogether too faint for the spirit of the age. Its heartlessness, its treachery, its infernal system of lying, its injustice have made it hateful to honest men at all times, but now its inadequacy is the most serious ground for complaint. This international life must be raised out of the realm of caprice, and secretion and deception, in-to the clear open day of law with its universality; in other words it must be made institutional in the highest sense of the term. For an international spirit has arisen and demands full recognition and an organization distinct from, yet not hostile to, but complementary of the national life. In that spirit man lives with his age and not alone with his nationality, he leads a univeral life.
Diplomacy is thus superannuated, it hangs together with standing armies, national jealousies, war. There must be an organized Europe, a United Nations of Europe as there is a United States of America, with supreme authority, and an independent existence outside and above its several members. This is not to destroy nationality but to preserve it, to assert the primary principle of the nation to be the right to its own individual life. This should be the first article of that higher European Constitution: no nation shall be destroyed. Such a consciousness once universal in the people, and realized adequately in institutions, dispenses with armies, with wars, with diplomacy it solves the European Problem of the present. But think of old Blood and Iron taking my advice or any advice: so lie on and fight on till the time be ripe.
Upon Parnassus one may have the privilege of dreaming of such a European confederacy, and of Greece being a member of the same. Then’ there might be some fair adjustment of her claims based upon a recognition of the Hellenic people, as a member of the European family. Recognition is the divinest attribute of the soul recognition that thy neighbor is what thou art. It is the foundation of all that is true in man, of all that is right in the world, of all that is holy in heaven, for God is the supreme recognizer. If a people could see that a wrong done to another people is a wrong to itself, if an individual could see that an unjust act to the neighbor is the worst injustice to himself, this would indeed be a new-created world. The only true life for the State as well as for the man is the universal one, springing from recognition, from that insight which banishes all selfish limitation, and by which one beholds true self-hood not in himself alone but also in his neighbor. Such re-cognition, realized in an institution, will yet give the Federation of Europe.
I am well aware that the practical statesman, as he de-lights to call himself, has far other standards of conduct. Thus he will speak, always laying the emphasis upon his practicality : ” You pedagogues, professors, pedants, a-vaunt with your dreams of old Greece! Go stick your noses into your Homer and Plato, there indulge your fancies ; don’t come around us practical men with your visionary sentimentality begotten of your reading in the ancient classics. Are we to abandon our interests in the levant on account of your admiration for Sophocles? Statesmanship is a practical science, it has nothing to do with your fine theories concerning national rights; as to your rhapsody about recognition, I don’t understand it, I don’t believe there is such a thing.” Let the man alone, he is building his own hell-fire, only through it can he and his class be purified, and prepared for the better world.
But we shall now take our leave of diplomats and diplomacy; on the whole it is a discordant theme in this region, but it forced itself upon our attention, sending its dissonant thrill through Parnassus. Arachoba settles down to its customary life, resuming its songs and its task; an industrious town, one will say, yet not feverish with over-work, not always desperately clutching for gain. Politics arouse the people at times, but the atmosphere is one of golden tranquility, a repose even in effort, a happy moderation both in toil and in rest. Here reigns that harmony between the inner and outer world called joy.
My friend, the schoolmaster, has often invited me to cross over Parnassus to the towns on the northern side of the mountain ; something worthy of being seen is there, he affirms. Accordingly with gun on his shoulders he starts out taking me along; he hopes to fetch home a hare or pheasant, though his choice of all game would be a Turk. Yet he is one of the gentlest of men, a believer in universal peace, after the next war with Turkey is done. For several hours we toil over ridges and through defiles; strong mountainous scenery shuts us in on every side, yet utterly desolate. Some feeling of terror there is here, nature speaks with the voice of a Titan, that voice is certainly felt, if not heard. The mythus will seek to give expression to this feeling; the need of such an utterance can still be strongly experienced by a walk among these towering shapes; no scientific knowledge of geological formations and causes can possibly take the place of that primitive voice of the mountains.
The schoolmaster tells me of the supernatural powers which are still thought by the people to dwell here. He called them Nereids, who, however, no longer stay in the sea, but haunt the mountains, with a particular fondness for caves. The Korykian Cave near one of the summits which we passed is their favorite resort, whence they strike the children in the village. One will see the Arachobite mother dressing her baby, and throwing on its little shirt some powder which will keep these wicked sprites at a distance ; cases have been known in which, according to popular legend, infants have been snatched up by them and carried off to the mountains. Thus the modern Nereid has made a wonderful change of position having risen from the depths of the sea, she has perched herself on the top of Parnassus.
We begin to descend the other side of the range, and reach a small town which still lies high up in the mountains; this my friend tells me, is his summer residence during vacation ; while the hot season lasts many people come from the plain below and reside in this cool little nest among the rocks. It is a pleasant spot, with fountains, fruit trees, mills, cascades : but it doubtless possesses the capacity to become wearisome. We visited several citizens, among others the schoolmaster of the place, who is in luck, having just brought a young bride into his house. Fortunate schoolmaster! Could he but teach his own success in such matters, what a school would he not soon bring together in that lofty Parnassian village from the ends of the earth ! We went to another notability of the place, the wife of a shepherd. A strange husband she has ; if he comes home and stays in a house, he gets sick; so he sleeps under the stars among his sheep, leaving his wife and children to live under a roof in the village. In such manner we pass from house to house, everywhere enjoying hospitable welcome, with bread, cheese, and roast lamb, floated by rivulets of recinato gurgling on all sides.
Today is again a festival; caramousa and drum have already begun to send up their notes from the choral place, whereat everybody shows some uneasiness in the feet. Thither, accordingly, we all adjourn; on our way we come upon dances led by the song, and composed wholly of women, both the young and the grey-haired. Years seem not to make people old here, and life is a continued festival, with some work-days thrown in for the sake of variety. A new set of songs one will notice, too, yet with the old theme which remains ever new Love ; then other elements of Greek life play in the brigand, the papas, the Turkish dog which they all would like to eat alive. Strange to say, I heard the love affair of Margherita sung by Parnassian maids, who accompanied their song with a dance, which must have stirred up the ghost of Father Goethe.
The chorus is quite the same here as at Arachoba, and need not be again described. But the traveler must make honorable mention of a youth, the king of dancers, who performed a great many new variations to the de-light of the assembled multitude. How he leaped and whirled and plunged and shook himself! The most surprising movements he went through, extemporaneously it was evident; the folds of fustanella surged around his body like troubled waves crested with sea-foam. At a certain crisis he kicked off his red moccasins and danced in his bare feet. He sat down exhausted finally, with a look of disappointment in his face, probably because he had not succeeded in leaping out of his own skin.
The costumes produce no such effect as at Arachoba; nor are the women so handsome. The acquaintance at my elbow gives the reason : the women in these parts have to work in the plain during the summer, when they become tanned by the sun, and often diseased with malaria; while the Arachobite women labor out of doors during the winter only, and when summer comes, are occupied with in-door work, particularly with weaving. Still the speaker thought with the same opportunity, his townswomen would be more beautiful than the Arachobitzas, wherein he revealed a slight touch of jealousy. Thus that Greek resident sought to claim beauty as native to his town; though he probably would not make an expedition for it, as his ancestors did, across the sea to Troy.
As I stood looking at the chorus, a man touched my arm, and thrust into my face, when I turned towards him, an enormous wolf-skin stretched on a pole, crying, Pentari, pentari. The skin came from an animal which he had killed somewhere on Parnassus; this mountain is still infested with wolves which often in cold weather descend upon the flocks. When any one kills a beast of that kind, he fetches the skin to the village, and exhibits it fastened upon a pole like a banner; with it he goes around at the time of some festival when the people are assembled, and is entitled to a small contribution from the inhabitants on account of the general benefit confer-red by killing the monster. The pedestrian will not feel himself exempt from this small tax, for that same wolf, running at. large might have fed on him during his solitary rambles over the mountains. Wild boars are still reported to be on Parnassus, lineal descendants of that one which wounded Ulysses, and produced the most famous of all scars known in legend or history, the scar of re-cognition.
Yet another scene. Suddenly a man darts through the crowd having a drawn knife, and brandishing it with angry shouts; the chorus breaks up, all the men rush to a common centre, women huddle to one side affrighted. It is manifest that this is no part of the dance what, then, is the matter? It turned out to be an old grudge between two shepherds on account of a she-goat. The young fellow, a hot-head, flamed up seeing his adversary dance with so much joy at the festival; he drew his knife and rushed forward, but friends stepped between, and held him, though he tugged stoutly to be released. Still I cannot think that the youth’s thoughts were very bloody ; there was too much display in his attempt, he too plainly sought to be stopped. If you wish to kill your man, step up quietly to him and run your knife in-to him; if you wish to be stopped, make a terrible ado. So I give to the young shepherd the credit of consider-able theatrical talent; the dramatic muse of Parnassus still imparts her gift to the humblest dwellers on her mountain.
The chorus commences anew, but we start for ancient Lilaea, or rather for the modern town built near it and situated at the foot of the mountain. Scenery is varied and at times approaches grandeur ; there are deep gorges and high precipices ; a few vineyards hang on the slopes, wherever they can find a little soil; herds one will pass through, the shepherdess carries her household slung across her back, in a kind of bag, with a little head peeping out, sometimes two. Most beautiful is the atmosphere, perfectly transparent, yet with a golden haze resting on the distant hills. Every look at them becomes a tender poem ; but the passage over the road, horrent with sharp-pointed rocks thrusting themselves out of the mountain at you, is the dreadfulest prose. The mule winds about through them as if they were a nest of vipers rearing their heads from the earth and hissing; a straight path through them is impossible. Such is the horrible discord under our feet, but distance reduces it to the sweetest harmony, for yonder soft blue hill-top is said to be as prickly as our present way.
The Greeks, with me, seem to have little appreciation of this landscape, yet it would be a great mistake to think that it produces no influence upon them. It is a kind of education; its result comes out in the way of poetic temperament, in the way of costume and of manners. Direct admiration of scenery you will not notice, but this Nature certainly attunes the heart to a musical idyllic existence. The expression of it, therefore, is is not in words, but in life-altogether the best expression. For the love of scenery is to a certain extent artificial, or at least the product of an artificial society seeking with effort to get a fresh breath of Nature ; that effort is too often perceptible, and causes a jar in certain glowing descriptions.
Still the modern love of scenery is genuine ; what is the ground of it ? It is a reaction against Law; everywhere in civilized life Nature is chained down by Law, and made subservient to the uses of men. Let us see her free again in her own spontaneous outpourings ;so we go to the country, to the hills. Civilization makes Nature a slave, Natural Science forges the chain. The Great Mother loses her volition in cities; we wish to see her acting of her own accord; this has given rise to a literature Which undertakes to describe Nature in her freedom. It is a true field for the writer, but there is the danger of a florid extravagance, and the still greater danger of sentimentality. Science has disenchanted Nature of her poetry; we seek to recover this poetry by sentiment, which is a true thing, but is liable to gush into the sentimental, which is an untrue thing.
To us Nature is not alive as it was to the old Greeks; it is now a sort of stage; we call it appearance, scenery, that is, stagery, some pageant gotten up by a mechanical contrivance for the amusement of the spectators. Such are too often the descriptions of Nature in the Novel, in the book of Travels ; artificiality, often affectation, makes them anything but refreshing. The forms of Mythology which represented Nature to the Greek, have also become stagery; Pan and the Nymphs are often as affected as Nature herself. Now what is the matter? It is clear that these forms must, in all true Art, represent the spiritual; if they are filled with that. they remain eternally fresh and young; if they lose it, they become a kind of theatrical machinery introduced externally for mere effect, they become stagery. Nature has a soul in all her manifestations ; he who can catch that faint efflorescence of the spiritual in a landscape, and transmit it in words or by color, is the Artist. But he who can give her merely outward forms without at the same time imaging what is within, may be a good mechanic in words and colors, but his work is and must remain soulless ; Artist we cannot name him.
Two new classes of Artists we moderns have called into being, and in whom we have a right to rejoice : landscape-painters and landscape-poets. Far otherwise is the attitude of the simple-hearted pastoral man to-ward Nature; he cannot say to himself: “Come, let us admire this scene, then let us give a description of it.” He elevates the natural appearance into the mythus; the tree even becomes a divine object with a God in it, still more the mountain and the running stream. Every physical object changes into the expression of the spiritual, indeed of the divine ; thus all Nature is transfigured under his vision, and he himself is no longer this natural man simply, but becomes a mythopoeic being, filled with the whispers of the Muse, who is singing perpetually of these wonders around him ; he becomes a mythus himself.
But we have already reached the town at the foot of the mountain ; here, too, rises the sound of music and song it is another chorus. Four or five villages appear in view; also from these in different directions the same sound of festivity can be heard, marked by the low dull thud of the drum. Truly all Parnassus has become vocal today with melody, rude but genuine; we can scarcely utter the literal fact that the mountain is the seat of song without rising into the mythus. In some such way that old designation of Parnassus arose, which, once the simple expression of truth, has now become a fable.
From the inhabited village we pass to the ruins; here lies the old Homeric town which contributed its contingent to the Trojan War, as duly noted by Poet; it, too, could throb with fierce ardor for the recovery of Helen; the traveler will tingle with delight as he looks on the walls which held such a people, will be kindled anew by their example. Is there not a common bond between him and them the old dwellers of this spot three thousand years ago ? So he feels, so you may feel ; a brotherhood of aspiration it is, very different in its outer manifestation, but one in soul. Not much is recorded of the town in Greek history; it lay off here in its quiet nook, enjoying its songs and its tranquil existence; but that single fact is enough to preserve it forever; many a city far richer, far more active and populous, will vanish into nameless dust, but this little spot, marked by the headwaters of Kephissus, will never lose its name; all because it marched forth valiantly for the recovery of Helen. Something eternal there seems to be in that action.
Two sets of walls will be noticed at a superficial glance. The one, enclosing a small conical hill, is the wall of the acropolis massive, cyclopean, piled up to endure for-ever. This was, doubtless, the Homeric town, girded with those heavy stone blocks; the sacred part, which must be most strongly built on account of its divine duty hence it is preserved almost complete to-day. For these huge stones were brought together with untold labor, not to protect the man, but the God, guardian of the people. Something adamantine in these Homeric towns; their fame and their stones endure together, indeed, the cyclopean wall has many a touch of a line of Homer; strong, simple, most sincerely built, and of a primitive grandeur.
But the other wall, which is of considerable extent, and includes a part of a high hill is of later date, doubt-less of various later dates, if we may judge by the difference in the masonry. It speaks of a large, prosperous city; of manifold calamities; even of a decaying false civilization; for portions of this wall indicate pretentious flimsiness, tell a falsehood quite like a human tongue.
Let us then turn away from it and notice this hillside, where the ancient theater doubtless was; seats are still visible in the undulations of the ground, though they are covered with earth. Fragments of stone, wrought parts of some column still lie in the soil, quite in the same spot where the pitiless barbarian left them after toppling them down, one imagines. People, too, one will put here in his mind’s eye ; if stone suffered such ruin, what must flesh have endured? Read it in the pieces, in the broken pillar, in the fallen temple. Flesh indeed is the bearer of the same spirit as stone; both are smitten by the same blow, quite in the same fashion, when the thing they represent must be gotten out of the world.
Passing beyond the two walls of ancient Lilaea, one of which we see to be adamantine truth, the other of which we feel to be something less than truth, shading itself down into absolute falsehood, we strike into another strong and true thing, namely, an old road paved with large thick stones, evidently once used for wheeled vehicles. It is a strange appearance; no such road is to be found now in all this region ; even the macadamized Great Road which we left long ago, contrasts unfavorably with this stout enduring way, still marked with creases from ancient usage. Let us follow such a road, for we have faith that it will conduct us to some spot worth visiting.
The way leads to a little temple which overlooks the golden grain-fields of the valley; mark its delightful position; build it up anew from its ruins, then walk among its columns, glancing across to the sunny hills opposite : such a view is an act of worship. A few steps further will bring you to an immense spring which gush-es up from the earth and is at once a river, roaring at mid-day like a bull, said the old traveler. Here is an-other small temple or chapel, built over the fountain, or very near it, sacred to the nymph, we may suppose. A piece of a marble pillar lies in the bed of the stream, with end jutting out of the ooze above the surface of the waters which gurgle around it caressingly as if rejoicing that it is still their own. In the fountain, indeed, is an utterance of ancient faith, a worship of the blessing which leaps forth to sunlight out of the dark earth; this faith has built the temple. On a slight elevation beyond the fountain is another ruin, more extensive and better preserved; it is claimed by some to have been the temple of Demeter, Goddess of the harvest, she who smiled specially upon this plain. To her the Lilaens reaping their grain gave thanks; it did not come of itself, there was a divine power in it worthy of adoration.
Thus at some distance from the town must have stood a group of temples sending gleams from white column and pediment far over the valley in a joyous serenity; Greek temples clustered together with a sort of mutual delight, recognizing each other’s beauty, all reposing on the hillside in the sun. To-day we seek to restore them to their ancient completeness, and to find out what they spake over this valley to all its dwellers ; we also try to call back the worshipers, in festal procession moving up the paved Sacred Way to this consecrated spot, asking them: With what in your hearts do ye come hither to these shrines, oh people? An answer is given, but hard to render again in words; somehow in this manner it runs : “Look across this sun-filled vale, and blend in thy soul its two qualities, a calm repose, yet a joyful exaltation; turn about and glance up to Parnassus; lofty he towers above, yet amid all his elevation, he shows a restful supremacy, like a deity above the struggles of the world.” Such is the hint felt to-day in the situation, by the stranger; felt so deeply by the old Greek that he embodied it into a God, and gave to the same his ad-oration ; and the image of the divinity wrought piously by the hand of the ancient artist, sought to reveal just this ideal culmination, and raise to the same height the soul of the worshiper, blending repose and exaltation.
Such are the ruins of Lilaea which must have been once a large, wealthy city, with abundance derived from this plain, very fertile and well-watered, said to be ten miles across, on the average. Now it is malarious, not drained to any extent, and but partially cultivated. People have to flee from this spot in summer, and go up the mountain; a very different appearance it must have presented in antiquity. These ruins give the image of everything here, of agriculture, of culture of all kinds. Yet there is struggle toward the better; behold these excavations which are an attempt to get back something of the old and combine it with the new; thus there is heard a low whisper of hope even among ruins.
If you listen carefully, you will hear another sound, the tramp of armed men coming down the mountain from the direction of Delphi. Stern is their tread, stern their look; one will think that they have some strong purpose in their hearts, into which their whole being is sunk. They file along the paved way and enter the sacred enclosure where the temples stand ; quickly they pile arms and take their evening meal. Spartans you at once discern them to be, about the most pronounced type of men that have stamped their figures upon History. Iron-souled men in every way ; but behold their leader who embodies in triple intensity his people’s character. To-day they have marched from Delphi over Parnassus ; it is altogether the most notable body of men that ever marched in these mountains, that ever marched in the world. Who are they? Whither are they going?
Across the valley from these temples is a hilly ridge, not high; it has a gentle slope along which lie sunny villages; the summit reposes peacefully in a soft curve* against the blue sky, then turns down out of sight on the other side. Behind that ridge is the Pass of Thermopylae, thither these Spartans are going with their leader Leonidas ; work they have there which they are plainly resolved to perform. The Pass is a marshy tract at present, yet with the old springs still gushing up, from which it derives its name. The ancient description of the locality by Herodotus is quite minute; streams and sea-coast have changed, but the main points of the topography can be identified to-day.
Most famous of the world’s heroic deeds of sufferance in battle was enacted here; it has become the symbol of all patriotic sacrifice, and an inspiration to the same in men. Yet not this alone; these people had in their action a deeper purpose than nationality; unconscious it was, doubtless, still it was felt from afar and strengthened them; it was the whole Occident, our Western civilization. The heritage of the world’s development they fought for, like those at Marathon; they gave their lives for it, and this is the meaning of their fame; for you and I must honor the blood poured out thousands of years ago for what is truest and worthiest in our-selves. Often has the deed of Thermopylae been told us; but its repetition cannot weary, indeed furnishes a light perpetually renewed; it rises into the heaven of History like the sun which returns every day with the same radiance, and causes no weariness, but gives needful illumination. Such are all great deeds, furnishing a yearly, monthly, or daily light, according to their luminous value.
Rock the men were who stood there, like the mountain under which they fought; an utterance as of granite they have, indestructible; their deed is this first most emphatic expression of freedom : it is better to die than to be enslaved. That alternative, now the most common of the world’s commonplaces, was then the world’s new problem: Freedom or Death. It was settled at Thermopylae, settled in its most terrible phase Death, quite to the last man. The people who can truly make this choice have already won ; whatever becomes of them, it is clear, that they will not be the slaves of a conquerer. Thermopylae, on account of its tragic termination, has wrought more impressively upon men than Marathon, with its victory; the sacrifice strikes deeper into the heart than the triumph.
So much we may grant to Thermopylae ; but was it a wise act? To stubbornly die rather than to retreat when it is wisdom to retreat; such is the question which even heroism cannot put down. There is no doubt that if the policy of Leonidas had been carried out during the whole Persian war, it would have been gloriously unsuccessful for the Greeks. The Spartan’s died bravely, it was a good example; but if the example had been followed, there would have been no Greek world, no Europe, probably no record of Thermopylae, their greatest action. But there was a far better example, Marathon, which showed equal courage and devotion, stamped with success, the radiant child of wise endeavor. A glorious death is well, and at times must be; far better, however, is a glorious life.
The deed of Thermopylae, therefore, lacks intelligence ; such a judgment can hardly be avoided. The epigram says, that in obedience to their country’s laws the Spartans perished ; but like all epigrams its point is more striking than its truth. It is impossible to think that a Spartan law forbad the general to make a retrograde movement in face of the enemy. Dozens of cases in this war contradict the very notion of such a law ; witness the movements of both Eurybiades and Pausanias. But if there could have been a law of that kind, Thermopylae was the very narrowest interpretation of it, the hide-bound Spartan interpretation. The deed of Leonidas is, therefore, tainted with unwisdom, with an unwisdom which would have destroyed Greece. Heroic sacrifice it was, but not filled and burning with reason, which makes the great sacrifices of the world examples of action, even objects of worship. Still Thermopylae is the great Spartan deed, the type of Sparta, showing in one burning point her character, both in its highest worth and in its narrowest limitation.
It was well that a man very different from Leonidas and a city very different from Sparta arose to control the destinies of Greece: these were Themistocles the man of Intelligence, and Athens the city of Intelligence. Mighty is the transition from Thermopylae to Salamis, the two battles are two distinct epochs of the World’s History, two diverse stages of human development, the two typical deeds of man. The Prometheus rises with his new idea, seen both in the individual and in the city; the thinking Titan, in authority under the ruling divinities, in thought over them; but he must control in the end by his intelligence, if the Gods themselves are to endure. Mark the man and his deed; in that scene be-fore the battle of Salamis it is brought out how his intellect over-arches all, both Greeks and Persians, friend and enemy; how he forces the Greeks to remain, and the Persians to fight when and where he wishes ; thus he easily spans both sides, though he is but a subordi nate on his own side ; veritably an Olympian deed. It is true that he is not held by any formal law, as Spartan Leonidas, nor indeed by any moral law, as Athenian Aristides; he is above law, he changes it and makes it for his own purpose ; he is the law-giver now, uttering it from his world-historical judgement-seat. Thus he is the saviour of Greece, because the man of Intelligence, and not merely of heroism, or of moral devotion; above the religion of his time, too, he clearly places himself, for it was he who interpreted the doubtful oracle of the God into clear daylight, and bade the Athenians betake themselves to their wooden walls. An unparalleled, heaven-scaling man-look at him !
In such manner we run along in the groove made for all time by the Father of History. Read the Seventh Book of his work; it is a Spartan Book, culminating in the battle of Thermopylae, with the death of Leonidas and the Three Hundred. A tragic book, with a profound sorrow like that of a world passing away ; with a terror, too, as if the Gods were quitting the earth. But the Eighth Book is an Athenian book, and recounts the doings of Athens and Themistocles at the battle of Salamis. What a change in the spirit of Time ! Amid all the calamities of invasion and of flight, amid even the crackling fires of burning Athens, there is the continuous undertone of victory, the certainty given by intelligence. The Spartan Book shows valor in a supreme degree, but coupled with spiritual blindness, or at most a stern adherence to formal law. It shows what the outcome of Spartan leadership must be, and Sparta is now leader of Greece; the whole struggle promises to be a Thermopylae death. It is therefore a fearful, fateful Book, of dark forboding; Greece is a tragedy. But a new spirit enters the following Book; it is no longer the old law or custom or religion which crushes like destiny ; there is asserted the supreme validity of the new principle, Intelligence. Athena, Wisdom, is the Goddess ; no wonder that the Athenians after this war erected to her a new temple which, in its ruins, still smiles over Attica the smile of that ancient triumph.
The transition from Thermopylae to Salamis means, however, something more than the defeat of the Persian; it means also that the Spartan is no longer to have the guidance of the Grecian future. He has shown that in his hands Greece will perish; the Spartan ideal, Leonidas, is dead and cannot come to life again, being slain at Thermopylae. If the Persian was defeated at Salamis in the victory of Athens, so was Sparta; she had to be outwitted and conquered by Athens, as well as the Orient, if Greece was to fulfill her destiny. Mighty is the task to conquer the enemy, still mightier to conquer the friend.
Another transition, quite parallel, was taking place, though more gradually. As the political supremacy was transferred from. Sparta to Athens, so the spiritual supremacy was leaving Delphi and passing to Athens; Delphic utterance was soon to become Athenian; where-by as Literature and Philosophy it will be eternal. The Oracle itself is to declare that Socrates the Athenian Philosopher is the wisest of men, wiser than itself. A prediction of its own end; instinctive wisdom is to pass over into self-conscious thought. But in the Persian War it still asserted itself as the great spiritual center of the Hellenic race.
But our Father of History is still Delphic at heart; the oracles run through his work and can in no wise be separated from its texture without destroying its spirit; they are an organic part of it, indeed they are its very soul. I would not have it without the oracles; they show the consciousness of the time better than anything else ; they are the spiritual groundwork of the people, as they are of the Historian’s book, and of himself too. It was a Delphic time, and we must throw ourselves in-to it, and be it, giving ourselves up to it, just as that old Greek world did when it came to Delphi to consult.
Still the spiritual scission was taking place, the break in the Greek consciousness was widening into total separation, when the oracle could no longer keep in its sway the intelligence of the age. This dualism, too, is found in the Historian, strangely ; he laughs at the ambiguous oracles, yet he trusts them; he seems in many places to have lost his implicit faith in the old myths, yet he cites them at other times with credence; then he rationalizes, interprets, distinguishes them, separating the true from the false. Such is our Historian, truest image of the Time, himself as well as his book. Partially a child of the new light, for a period resident of Athens, an admirer of her deeds and character : yet fundamentally be remains Delphic; his Athenian culture, though genuine, does not pierce to the core of his life and transform him; in his heart he is Delphic and be-longs to the whole Greek world, rather than to Athens specially. This is the best reason for loving his book today; it is true in a much deeper sense than being merely veracious it images the soul of the Time. Watch the struggle of the profoundly honest man ; behold him fall back upon the Oracle, after trying to rise out of it ; see him relapse into the mythus after seeking to elevate himself above it by some reflective process. But after wandering discontentedly for a time, he always returns to the true Hellas of his Age, to the unconsciously poetic world of Mythus and Oracle. Thither we, too, shall seek to return with him.
Such was the old struggle narrated by the Father of History, fought between Greece and the Orient under these hills at Thermopylae ; a desperate struggle, re-sounding from sea and mountain still, and which will resound forever. Yet what is now the struggle ? What do I hear on every side of me this moment? It is the echo of the same conflict; the Oriental man still threat-ens Greece, holds in bondage Greek brothers : the talk, the cry, the song is to-day : We must free him, let us march ! A local election is taking place with dissonance enough; but beneath all the discordant sounds can be heard the one voice of Greece in unison. From these villages rises a note in perfect harmony with that rising from ancient Thermopylae ; it is still the note of conflict between East and West deepest, most abiding conflict in the World’s History, celebrated in mythus by Homer, narrated in history by Herodotus, sung now in barbaric measure by rude voices in every Parnassian wineshop. Thus the old and the new blend in a fierce martial strain to-day over the ridge of Thermopylae.
But it is time to rid our thoughts of this never-ending struggle of peoples, and return to our old Historian whom we love so well because he is Delphic; we wish to fall back with him into the instinctive utterance of the human soul, into the oracle, into poetry. He has made a path to Delphi upon which the pilgrim can travel back to the ancient shrine; he leads to the deep Greek fountain heads, which spring up to sunlight on the side of Parnassus. Long have we been hovering in prospect of the holy town, serving an apprenticeship of preparation; but the command now is to go, and on the morrow we shall pass thither out of this modern life, seeking the sacred spot for some word of musical, possibly of divine import : this is, in fact, just your worthiest pursuit and mine. There, too, is the spring of the Muses, welling forth from unseen depths its unconscious music; some record of the visit it may command. The final order is given; to-morrow we shall certainly go to Delphi by the straightest road.