It was getting late in the afternoon when I reached the khan, to which a mule-driver of a very friendly and talkative turn, conducted me. The house is unpretentious, the chief decoration being a porch to the second story ; in the rear is a large yard, filled at this moment with carts and donkeys, among which wind tight-trowsered red-moccasined men in fustanellas, rudely hurling fair fragments of old classic speech at their dumb beasts and at one another. The traveler will speedily engage a room for the night, and will ask to see it ; on being led thither, he will find it absolutely empty bare walls, bare floors, chairless, bedless. But let him not get out of humor ; whenever he wishes to retire, the youth in attendance will bring an armful of mats and blankets which will be spread upon the floor, and he will be spared the labor of climbing into his bed.
There is still time for a short stroll through the town; that undertone of rushing waters is always heard and excites curiosity concerning what it may be saying. Upon a bridge I stop and look down at the current ; I feel a twitch at my coat and turn around ; before me stands an officer of the Greek army. He had observed my foreign dress and manner and concluded to enquire where I was lodged ; when I informed him, he pressingly invited me to share his quarters with him, but I thought I must try the khan for one night at least. It was only one of several offers of hospitality ex-tended to me in Lebedeia, though I was an utter stranger and without letters of any kind. With a very pleasant impression of the town, I go back to my room, and lie down to rest with that curious sound of rushing waters leading me along sunny banks into happy regions of slumber.
Such was dreamland, but in our real world there had been pitchy darkness filled with driving rain storms during the entire night. In the morning the weather looked unsettled ; the streams had overflowed their banks, the roads were muddy, for the Great Road had now been left, and only mule-paths led forward to Parnassus. So we shall lay over a day at Lebedeia, not without some hope of entertainment.
When you wake you will again hear the sound of rushing waters, now much louder than on the previous evening ; the stream which flows through the middle of the town, is full. After an early lunch you will hasten to this stream and begin to follow it up to its source, for surely it has some very near relation to the place. Thus you will be led to the mountains back of the town, toward the gorge. At many points can be noticed springs, small caves, precipices beetling over the dash of the furious torrent. The mountain shoots up into a number of peaks which look like the pipes of an immense organ, upon which, you may think, Heliconian music might still be played. Nor will you pass unnoticed some plane-trees which hang around and over the stream in a sort of fond caress. Arched bridges, too, you will observe, spanning the stream in romantic spots through the town, joining together in happy embrace what had been separated.
Large fountains gush up at the foot of the hill near the mouth of the gorge, and flow in swift clear streams, walled off into artificial channels which wind around among the houses. Here must have been those two famous springs, Memory and Oblivion, of which the ancient traveler drank when he consulted the Oracle ; we, too, shall taste of them now, and seek to get its response. Notice the wild current boiling out of the gorge ; it is Herkyna, the dashing Nymph who still makes music through the town ; anciently she had temple here and was worshiped by the people ; her voice it is which we hear humming the undertone of Lebedeia. A legend was told of the origin of this stream : Proserpine was playing with a goose in the grove of Trophonius not far off, when the goose escaped and hid under a rock ; Proserpine ran after it and removed the rock, when behold ! up rose the stream and flew down the channel on its white wings, continuing its flight ever afterwards and being called Herkyna ; in the temple on the bank was the statue of Herkyna holding in her hands the goose ready to fly, we may suppose.
Up this stream into the gorge whence it issues we shall continue our walk, in search of the goose, perchance ; on either side lofty walls of stone rise toward heaven and form a darkened passage which gives a feeling of initiation into some sacred mystery. Cavities you will observe, natural and artificial ; places are cut into the rock above, in which you will locate ancient shrines. Here, too, is a pedestal built against the steep cliff just at the edge of the torrent; above it are half a dozen small cavities, hollowed out for images, you will conjecture. Immense boulders which have fallen from the top lie in the middle of the stream, around which the waters roar and surge through the chasm. Thus you will pick your way up the gorge, at times with difficulty avoiding the splashing swift current, which roars around you, filling the hollow passage with its echoes. At one point you will try to climb up the sides to the top, but you will be cut off by an overhanging rock. Descend again into the gorge and listen to the genius of the place, for the God will not yet suffer you to come up into sunlight, but you must first catch his dim whisper.
What, then, does it all say? Can any one blame the ancient dweller if he came into these secret hollows and asked them to speak? It would seem that they have some utterance for man, though vague and mysterious. Still the people of to-day place in these shrines images of the Virgin and Child, and name them after the Saints, as if there were yet some divine influence in the spot. The whole expression of the locality was anciently collected into one voice the voice of old Trophonius, the Prophet, who was the most ancient dweller amid these rocks. Upon the hill overhanging the town was his sanctuary, whence he uttered his oracles ; long they maintained their credit, till it is said every other Boeotian oracle had ceased.
The rite is given by our ancient guide Pausanias who consulted the Oracle in person. Preparation was insisted upon purification and sacrifice, bathing in Herkyna. After much cleansing, by night the consulter descended into the cave of Trophonius, which was a large subterranean chamber, when he had drank of the two springs of Oblivion, that he might forget his worldly life, and of Memory, that he might remember what the Prophet told him. Into the cave was an opening wherein he placed his feet; suddenly he was drawn into a still deeper cave in which he saw things otherwise invisible. When he came out, he was placed on the throne of Memory, and his vision was recorded Yet the process was without danger for the pure in heart only one death from the consultation is recorded, that of the soldier of Demetrius who descended into the cave with the hope of getting money there. But the indignant Prophet cast his dead body out of the earth, not even by the .ordinary passage.
Such was the Oracle of Trophonius, whose proceedings seem not without a touch of priestcraft, but on the whole they seek, at times with the strictness of an allegory, to figure the descent of man into himself, into his own soul. To purify that by many days’ discipline till it becomes trans-parent and reflects clearly somewhat of the Divine, has been always one of the rites of religion. So old Trophonius commanded, and was a true prophet for his people ; so Nature commands here to-day in this gorge, very dimly to be sure, still it is a command. Her obscure voice was gathered into the Oracle which has now grown almost speechless in a much clearer light.
Upon this spot, then, arises the necessity of the religion of Nature who was consulted in her Oracle, for here she has revealed herself in a wonderful way. If now we can only gather her voice, that voice may mean something that voice is, I hold, Trophonius. Such is our oracular country with scenery somewhat resembling Delphi, particularly this gorge. But Delphi is far more colossal, and has many other things wanting at Lebedeia whereof we may hereafter have somewhat to tell. Lebedeia with its Trophonius forms the transition out of Boeotia with its Helicon and Muses on the mountain tops, to Delphi which has both Oracle and Muses, in the abode of divine Apollo. Trophonius is only an Oracle, not a God ; Nature here takes on a more earnest, darker phase we may say, for Delphic Apollo is the union of poesy and prophecy in their supreme manifestation. Trophonius is still the dark symbolism in which the unclear struggling soul finds expression, and which has not yet been fully unfolded into sunlight.
Thus we have here some faint anticipation of Delphi. An Oriental symbolism of obscure characters and rites belongs to Greece also, is in fact its primordial unripe stage of development. But the Greek mind will unfold out of this dim condition ; Greek Art will abandon vague forms and leap forth into the clearest outline. In the meantime the traveler also will have come out of the dark gorge and reached the transparent fountain of Memory who will treasure what the Oracle has told him here. With the utterance of Trophonius deeply impressed upon his heart, he will descend into the town and mingle among its-people.
There as you cast glances into the passing faces, you will consider another transition to be manifestly taking place the transition to a new type of people. I think that every attentive observer would notice the change ; finer, more regular features begin to appear; besides, there seems to be something of a mental wakening up more quickness of apprehension, more vivacity. You will imagine, as you scan the faces and the manners, that here is a truer Hellenic type, that some drops of old blood have percolated through so many generations. Women, too, be-gin to appear, though shy still ; their faces are getting to be more free from Oriental wrappage ; one I have seen, which I shall remember dark, fine-featured, with lively looks. Children, too, show improvement in beauty, sometimes they have blue eyes and the appearance of blondes. The traveler will saunter through the lanes and alleys to catch some glances ; he comes to the conclusion that now there is hope of Helen. That which he has hitherto almost despaired of seems to be growing possible, here is the dividing line per-chance, with a mixed race. But off in the mountains yonder she must be hidden, probably undeveloped, in the garb of a peasant maiden, still the germ of the Argive queen.
Also one will not fail to notice, if he be faithful to his main task, many instances of the Old in the New ; those two youths passing down the street, locked in each other’s arms, call up the ancient conception of friendship and even of love between the same sex. Young fellows embrace each other and kiss with a sort of rapture a little touch of Platonic Eros, innocent enough, I imagine. They will sing a song together with much exaltation a possible consequence of an overdraught of recinato which mellows the heart wonderfully in this Greek climate. Friendship let it be called, with a strange interplay, perchance, of sexual feeling, somewhat remote from the Western consciousness.
I turn into a wineshop ; here enters a woman with perfect Greek outlines in her face, but with a bold stare in it which will not turn aside at the glance of a stranger. She is the first Greek female that I have seen in such a place ; she mingles freely among the boys, smoking her paper cigarette ; she talks with volubility and badgers them jestingly, in words which I do not understand, and it is probably just as well that I do not, But her remarks excite their laughter ; I ask my neighbor : What, is that the custom here for women to come to the wineshops ? Oh, no; she is the only one in town that does so ; it is Maria, do you not know Maria? I cannot say that I do; but it is Maria, is it? Very manifestly it is Maria, Maria Magdalena, but as yet without the repentance. With sorrow one turns away, seeing this phase of the antique still in the modern, yet casting glances at those perfect lines in her face which was anciently a Phidian model.
In the afternoon the rain begins again, and the sauntering comes to an end. I take refuge in the lonesome khan, go up to my naked room and look out of the window, seeing it rain, with a slight shiver. To-morrow threatens to be an ill day again ; the thought is distracting. The place is gloomy, the hours grow unendurably tedious, the two or three books have been read to death. Now the traveler begins to repent again ; the God of Light has fled with the sunshine, the classical mood departs when you see nought but clouds and rain through the window of a Greek khan. It is the reverse side of the picture, more ugly because you have been spoiled by the previous glorious days ; your wings refuse to fold themselves in rest. But so it was once before on a rainy day at Marcopoulo ; then followed a happy journey so it may be again tomorrow. Hope then ; yonder is Parnassus, visible often through the clouds; one day’s journey will bring thee thither. Put the sun-god within thee ; have him rise there in all his majesty, scattering his beams ; then thou wilt be independent of him in the outer world, and canst let it rain in peace.
Yet one will be glad when the shower ceases for a time, and will seize the opportunity to hurry into the street. The roar of the waters is now louder than ever ; the gentle nymph Herkyna is changed to a wrathful torrent. But she is always a delight, for she always shows in some way her love for her own dear town of Lebedeia. For the town is truly married to the stream ; its waters are borne everywhere through many a conduit and rivulet, which turn an indefinite number of mills. They pour over dams, forming cascades of various sizes, the sounds of which are always heard through the town. This is the well-known undertone of Lebedeia, the voice which is always speaking, not unpleasantly; it is the most important member of the community, the one who has most to say with genuine Greek garrulity and sprightliness. So Herkyna with her many runnels spreads out in manifold ways, now darting under bridges, then drawn into mill-wheels, often washing the stone walls of some house that has a portico extending over the stream. Therefore we may call Herkyna a blessing, a divine thing for Lebedeia, to whom the ancients might well erect a temple. What can be compared with her beneficence ! The entire prosperity of the town is connected with her movement, her many winding channels are its arteries, through which pulses its life-blood ;Purifier, too, she is, bearing away disease and discomfort; truly we may call her useful in the best sense of the word.
But that for which she chiefly deserves divine honors is that she is beautiful, with her clear full gush from the caverns of darkness rippling into daylight and rejoicing therein. One will notice from the khan a sort of horse-shoe falls which dashes over and pours down like a little Niagara, then the watery arm twines in a loving, mysterious manner around among the houses. Never did I see a town so intimate with a stream ; Verona with its Adige leaves some such impression, but not so strong and unreserved ; it is a marriage, not of convenience, one will affirm, but of love, in such mutual joyous embrace do they lie. Not too large is the stream, not an uncontrollable giant ; in many places it can be easily stepped over on the friendly rocks which it offers in the middle of the current. But, to-day, till the flood runs out, which it will in a few hours, the Nymph is somewhat untameable, even wrathful.
Yet another shower, extinguishing the kindled hope ! Assuredly the Naiads possess the town; even the sky has become a fountain this afternoon, spouting down innumberable jets of water ; the happy Gods above seem to have been changed into water-nymphs. Behold the descending streams of rain ; Lebedeia with all her runnels has gone up into the clouds, filling the air with perennial springs which now fall down into her earthy lap. The unwilling brooks refuse to be separated from their dear town, but are dropping back entire into her embrace from the skies, quite as they once rose out of the earth to greet her.
Thus we may connect Lebedeia with her stream and springs, with her gorge and mountains ; we think of her as born of this Nature, and reflecting its visage in her to a degree ; this rise out of the physical world must have been also the spiritual principle in her worship. So the Nymphs were born, so even the Gods were born, like Herkyna, like Trophonius, like Lebedeia herself. Where is the Poet that he may express this fact? For it must have been sung, being a true theme of song, of deep musical significance ; certainly it must have attuned some Greek voice. Out of Heliconian mist a face begins to peer, a familiar face ; it is that same Hesiod whom we have already met with upon Helicon. But now he has a new book which bears this title : Birth of the Gods; a very different book, you will observe, from the last one, which we spoke of, yet with many sisterly traces of relationship. Some old Boeotians denied its authenticity ; we shall not do so, but place it somewhere here, as having its origin upon the Heliconian range. Without violence we may think of it in connection with Lebedeia, with its dark beginning in Chaos and bright outcome in the reign of Zeus.
The poet has called his work a Theogony, in which he propounds a problem of sacred import : The Birth of the Gods. Think of him dealing with such a theme ; he and through him his nation have then arrived at that stage of spiritual inquiry, in which they ask and seek to answer this question: How did the Gods above us come to be? It is the search for origin, origin in Time ; where will it end, having all duration back of it? At bottom it is one with our modern question : What is the origin of Man? Thus we at present state it, having no longer any Gods to account for. But ancient Hesiod, not yet having lost his faith, puts the inquiry in this shape : W hat is the origin of the Gods ! Which being found, it is easy to discover whence Man came.
This is indeed one of the strangest phantasms that worries the human intellect, this question of the Beginning ; it asks for the origin in Time of that which lies out of Time. Time itself being one of the products of Creation. It is a ghost with a mirror eternally reproducing its own shadows, yet each shadow holds the same reproducing mirror infinitely multiplicative. Most obstinately the phantasm lurks in the human mind, haunting the thoughts of the little child ; for at Sunday-school it will ask its discomfitted teacher : If God made me, tell me who made God?
The Poet as the Teacher of his age sets about answering the question, and thereby converting empty phantasms into images of truth, even though they be dim and remote. We see, however, that his scheme embraces a grand transition from the old to the new Gods; just that is its essence, the transition from the old to the new Gods. Thus it is plain that he believes in development, there is progress even among the Gods, in them the Greek therefore may worship advancement, and theology with him becomes a progressive science. Not at all is there here the lapse from the perfect to the less perfect, a fall from the Divine to the Bad ; the beginning is with the rude and formless among Gods, thence they rise into a higher order.
But what does this transition from the old to the new Gods signify? Fundamentally the greatest of all transitions, the one in which the culture of the race moves it is the transition from Nature to Spirit. Such is indeed the true birth of the Gods to be born out of Nature into Spirit. The Theogony begins with Chaos and rises to Zeus, passing from dark disorder to sunlit order, from the rude primeval forces of Nature to a spiritual authority. Zeus is the central principle of the world ; before him was chaotic struggle of turbulent Powers, after him the beautiful Gods appear, his sons and daughters ; with them, too, Greece is born, and from them takes her character. The Heroes also are born, coming forth like sculptured forms into a serene light, and the dark poem clears up into sunshine playing amid statues. This is the new-born Hellas.
The transition from the old to the new Gods is then the important thing in the poem. But it takes place through terrific conflicts ; Zeus has first to put down his father, Cronus, whose leading trait is the unfatherly habit of swallowing his own offspring. Therein Time is hinted, which consumes its own progeny ; but it has begotten a son greater than itself, greater than Time. This merely destructive might of Time must be brought to an end by a universal or spiritual power ; so Zeus arises and accomplishes the first great act of culture. Nay, he makes his father vomit up the swallowed offspring to light again a strange yet true image of the manner in which Spirit treats the temporal ; what has disappeared in the ages, suddenly springs up from its resting-place. So we are now making Time give up its ancient cities, long since swallowed and even forgotten ; vanished Troy, lost Pompeii have been vomited from the capacious maw of Cronus. Indeed every spiritual son of Time must do as Zeus did, must make the pitiless parent reveal the swallowed world of the past. Such is truly the greatest conflict of Zeus, greater than the one with the Titans, rude primeval forces of Nature which must also be put down, subjugated to the reign of the new Gods, ere a well-ordered existence be possible for Man.
But will there not be a new development of Spirit out-stripping even this last will there not arise still again new Gods, newer than Zeus, with whom he will collide? It would seem necessary by the theory of development which the Poet holds. Yes, here he appears, Prometheus, the Titan heaven-defying, with his protest against Zeus. On the whole this myth of Prometheus may be called the myth of all civilization. A figure of stupendous proportions ; he is the thinking Titan who thinks in advance of Zeus himself, and has to suffer for it, for his forethought. So do all thinking Titans ; they must conflict with Zeus, with the established Gods, working for the benefit of the human race ; yet bitter is the draught they drink. It has justly made the strongest impression upon men, this myth of Prometheus, for it is their myth in the deepest sense. Poets have seized it and wrought it over in the spirit of their own time from Aeschylus to Goethe. It is only too vast, the mind may well be paralyzed at trying to fill the myth with its full import ; it would seem to be able to hold the whole human race and have plenty of room left for somebody else.
The myth of Pandora occurs again in this book and connects it intimately with the Works and Days already mentioned. Here, too, man is punished by having the woman sent upon him. She is the attractive being, decked out by all the Goddesses; irresistible is her power, for man, her victim, has in him that intense love of beauty, cause of all his ills. Yes, man must love her ; that is, he is not adequate in himself, is not self-producing ; his own individuality suffices not, he will perish unless he has that other individuality called woman. Such is his limitation, a hard lot truly, a curse of the Gods in the language of the poet, yet not without its compensation. Pandora is manifestly the Hesiodic copy of Helen whose beauty caused the Trojan War and its grievous calamities ; now she is the disaster of the whole human race. Prometheus, however, did not win in his conflict with Zeus, and man is still to this day afflicted from that scourge of his evils, Pandora.
But another Prometheus rises dimly in the background, the true one now, Zeus’ own son by Metis, who, it is prophesied, will overthrow his father and establish the newest Gods. So the Nemesis continues, father is punished by son, receives in turn just what he has done to his own father. A fresh problem is this for Zeus, and solved by him in a novel way : the new germ he swallows with its mother, makes it his own, then reproduces it as Pallas, Goddess of Wisdom. Thus he masters the new principle by taking it into himself ; in such manner it is not another’s and an enemy’s, but his own. By this act he becomes the true Zeus. and his rule must remain perpetual, for he has taken up his last foe into himself. Such is the image of all true authority ; that threatening Prometheus with his new principle must some-how or other be swallowed, else he will swallow Zeus in his turn. Thus, too, the long line of dark retributions, between father and son among the Gods is brought to an end ; Zeus has absorbed their principle, and the circle terminates in him. Thereafter he begets the bright Gods the Graces, the Muses, the Hours, Diana, Apollo ; the beautiful Greek world seems to spring at once into sunlight. The heroes, too, are born, even the heroes of Homer Achilles and Ulysses ; the Hesiodic Theogony, therefore, ends with bringing forth the Homeric poems.
Such is, then, the course of the work, it unfolds the transition from the old to the new Gods, the rise from Nature into Spirit. It is on the whole a dark chaotic production, though it ends, like night, with a sunrise, and has lights gleaming through it at intervals, like stars. The story of Uranus is an enormous extravaganza, with a certain dim symbolism underneath, quite foreign to the Greek mind of the Homeric stamp. It is the rudest, most fantastic piece of Humor extant, for I cannot help thinking it humorous to a degree. The battle of Zeus with the Titans is pushed to the very verge of the Burlesque, and the whole work has a tendency to pitch over into the Burlesque, in attempting to portray as persons the colossal powers of Nature. Still we feel it to be an honest attempt to construe the world ; its dark utterance has a certain consistency with the dark matters whereof it sings ; and the bright forms of the new Gods exhibit a significant contrast to the obscure convulsions of the primeval Gods.
Sometimes it is plainly allegorical, and runs along with a transparent meaning ; then of a sudden it dives into unseen regions where no eye can follow. The total poem is not an allegory, one big key will not unlock the whole at once ; it requires many different little keys, and at times no key at all, but something quite distinct from an allegorical key to reveal the hidden purport. Nor can it be tortured by etymology or other learned jack-screws into a self-consistent allegory. A phantasmagory one would better call it, with myth, parable, hymn, even gleams of history intermingled. Yet meaning will be found in it as a Whole ; that meaning is the origin of the Gods, the rise from the Natural to the Spiritual, more particularly, the birth of the Greek World. To the old Greek, therefore, it was a true book ; we may still look at it with his eyes.
Modern critics have mercilessly cut to pieces the Hesiodic poems, applying the analytic knife at every joint; an unpleasant and in the main an unprofitable business, unless the work be put together again. Far more satisfactory is it to contemplate these poems as Wholes ; it fact this is the true way ; we must behold them springing from one thought, or at least from one general consciousness belonging to the age in which they were written, and of which they are the expression. But after cutting up the old Poet, the critics, like the daughters of Pelias, have been totally unable to re-store him to life, let alone to rejuvenate him. We, how-ever, in our Greek journey wish to see him alive and throbbing with musical utterance, therefore we must look up to the heights and listen to his ” voice divine, singing a beautiful song of both the future and the past, while he feeds his lambs under sacred Helicon.”
But we must turn away from ancient Hesiod and take a glance at this modern weather, also a dark theme of contemplation. At six o’clock in the evening it is still raining ; but between two successive showers, veritable sheets of water hanging down from the clouds, I succeed in slipping out of the khan in search of a little diversion. The fierce roar of the stream floats through the darkness; Herkyna seems to have become more wrathful than ever at the muddy torrent poured into her bosom. I dropped into an eating-house ; there a Greek gentleman came up and began to talk with me in such a friendly manner that all moodiness of the day took wings and flew off into the darkness. After some pleasant conversation he insisted upon my going home with him and staying there for the night. His invitation was joyfully accepted.
The wife and children received the stranger in hearty friendliness ; it was a Greek family of the better class.
One of the daughters was lying on a couch near the fire a young lady rather beautiful, but in still more beautiful neglect ; she had flowered into womanhood, but her body still showed the weariness of the effort ; she seemed to droop in maidenly languor on the couch, where the fresh outlines of her form were revealed in a modest though bewitching fullness. She rose at our entrance with evident effort ; but after a few moments she wilted back, as it were, into her former posture. The mother is an exceedingly bright and energetic woman, with a hospitable grace which at once puts the guest at ease ; no such woman have I yet seen in rural Greece. A roasted pig’s head serves as the chief article of the evening repast ; lively talk rises all around the table ; the merry children could not restrain their laughter at the odd accent and ways of the stranger. Of course I could not help letting out what was in me, for I asked after the beauties of Lebedeia, in a sort of furtive inquiry; then I wanted to know about those of Arachoba, of whom I had heard along the route. The mother gently inclined to the opinion that the young ladies of Lebedeia were the handsomer.
At the hour for retiring I was conducted to a bed, the first real bed that I had seen since the second morning of my trip ; I hailed it as an old friend met after long separation. Also here is an actual bedstead, now become quite a curiosity ; I grasp the posts to see if they be not some phantom floating through my Greek dreams. I drop into slumber to the music of Herkyna, which surges heavily through the lighter notes of the falling showers, not far distent from the bedroom window.
In the morning preserved citron with a glass of water is offered me, instead of the cup of coffee, which the rest of the family drink, but I do not. As I had often inquired after the beautiful faces of Arachoba, and seemed interested in those of Lebedeia, the young lady appeared this morning in full toilet, which, vanity persisted in whispering, was just for my benefit. Bright colors danced through her dress, which had also a long trail ; then, too, the Parisian coiffure was not wanting. She certainly succeeded in surprising me with her array, which was set off by red cheeks, dark eyes and fairly proportioned features. She conducted me to the loom which was standing in a small chamber with a half-woven garment ; at my request she played upon the instrument with much skill, I thought. The music of the shuttle and beam made me think of the piano ; I tried to describe the instrument upon which our American young ladies played; but she had never seen any thing of the sort, and she affirmed that there was no such instrument in Lebedeia. ” Boorish place,” she cried. Nor was there any teacher of song or music in the town. After she had shown her accomplishments at the loom she took me to a large trunk which contained all the stores of her past labor quite a display of multitudinous finery, which, to be honest about the matter, I very imperfectly understood. Still I paid her some awkward compliments, which she modestly received, and I promised her in return, when I reached home, some specimen of my handiwork in a different line.
Then there was the little girl, eight or nine years old, who from innocent blue eyes gazed at the stranger ; pretty little thing, to me the chief delight of the household. Reclining at her mother’s knees she looks in childish wonder, with two braids down her back. How could I help thinking of one of the same age, now separated from me by the continent and ocean! She goes to school, she says, and is ready to spell out for me her reading exercise, somewhat like the last lesson I heard before leaving home. Sweet little Corallion with her two braids ! This morning, as I came out of my sleeping room, she ran up and put into my hands two flowers which she had just plucked for me; with full eyes I leaned over and gave her my best reward a kiss. Ah, little Corallion, you do not know how home-sick you made me that whole day !
But it is not possible to leave Lebedeia in this weather, for there is still the threatening rain as well as the swollen streams. Upon the hearty invitation of the host and hostess, I promised to remain with them another day. There is nothing to do but to go down town in search of some amusement. Here is a spacious coffee-house which no citizen seems able to pass without entering ; a peep into it reveals a large assemblage of men sitting at tables and wreathing their heads in tobacco smoke. Let us enter, too, for nobody is excluded here the people, high and low, are amusing themselves. Drinks of various kinds besides coffee can be obtained ; cards, backgammon, dominoes add a pleasant condiment to the heavy hours of a rainy day. There is heard the buzz of many voices speaking at once, not always harmonious ; for have we not to discuss, with Greek vivacity and volubility, that immense theme, the treaty of Berlin, and the annexation of Thessaly and Epirus? Thus the disputation grows hot while the coffee gets cold ; mouths even foam while the beverage long since has lost its last bubble. Town politics are not wanting, for an important election is approaching ; several candidates wind around through the tables with their happiest smiles for the dear people.
No distinction of rank is observed in the coffee-house, nor indeed in Greece ; the peasant and the laborer sit beside the officer and the merchant; as for aristocracy, there is none. The red fez is almost universal, European costume is the exception. There is a tradition here that Lord Byron walked the streets of Lebedeia in fez and fustanella. The buzz continues loud and long from full tables ; but the emphatic undertone of the town can also be heard the rushing and dashing of waters, for Herkyna plunges furiously alongside the coffee-house, washing its very walls ; over the stream a portico extends on which one will sit and watch the whirling current fall and rise with the passing showers. So the nymph mingles her angry voice with the Greeks, as if adding volume and determination, then madly dashes away under a bridge and hides from the eye, still tossing her waters.
The traveler will seek to form an acquaintance with the man at his elbow ; it is not difficult, for all are ready to talk, sometimes in a variety of tongues. The head waiter is said to speak six or seven languages, and is the marvel of the town ; an officer of the Greek Army sought to practice with me his little English, now somewhat rusty. He is an old hunter of brigands on the Turkish border, and hopes soon to cross the frontier in search of a Turkish army. The Surgeon also joins our company, a man of the strongest aspiration and enthusiasm ; he is still young and would go to Paris with me in order to perfect himself in his profession, were there not work for him at home in the near future. Says he: Greece is the only civilizer in the East; we cannot take our Greek provinces by arms, we are too small ; but we are going to conquer them by light, by education at our university at Athens, by our schools, by our literature. Then there will arise a spiritual union which must in the end bring about a political union. Such is the destiny of Greece once again in history : to civilize the Orient.
Still Time has no wings for flight on a rainy day in a country town ; he rolls over you heavily, crushing you into the earth, or smiting you with his hour-glass. The coffee-house thins out at intervals ; I fell asleep in my chair, looking at Herkyna, as she sang her loud lullaby. A drowsy time ; but Parnassus looms up yonder, now without a cloud ; the summit has been cleared by the rain. In the late afternoon the elemental war seems over, and the skies beam with peace.
The housewife, too, I meet in a saunter ; it is Persiphoneia Proserpine. Indeed ! Your husband has to thank the Gods for that divine name ; it must require much good con-duct in you to overcome its suggestion. Wife of the Infernal Regions, here of the household ; so the old Greek Goddess has impressed herself upon the modern woman. It was at Lebedeia that I first heard the name Elpinike, though known in antiquity as the name of the sister of Kimon ; often afterwards I heard it in the Delphic olives. Plutarch, too, still lives here, not far from his ancient abode ; I saw him in the coffee-house of Lebedeia, darting among the tables in fez and fustanella.
In accordance with my promise I went to the house of my hostess early in the evening, and remained with the family. Nothing was spared which might conduce to the guest’s entertainment and comfort ; certainly it is the most generous hospitality that I have ever met with anywhere. The daughters are still in gala-dress ; whether in honor of me or of some saint whose festival is to-day I dare not inquire. But a merry time we had sitting in the room around the fire with occasional sips of recinato. They jested me about my Albanitza or Albanian woman whom I said I was going to take with me to America; the witty hostess asked me in banter how many pounds she could carry–these Albanian women being famous for their strength. Here I observed some indications of discord between the Greek and Albanian races. These people rather dispised the Albanians as uncultivated and barbarous ; the contempt is generally returned by the latter who consider the Greeks as effeminate and tricky. But the difference is great in one respect : the sunny atmosphere of this Greek family is a strong contrast to the gloom of the Albanian hovel, where there is often no light except what comes through the door. Here all is bright, cheery, truly Greek.
Some relatives dropping in, there were persons enough to have a little Greek dance or chorus. The circle is formed, the dancers wind about to their own song or rather sing-song; the people seated around the room join in the chant. Then there is at times a verse with its answer from two different sets of dancers. Not much can be gotten out of it ; but I am promised beautiful choruses, that is dances, when I come to Parnassus.
The dance ceases, and we turn to more sober things. A Greek girl asks me about the marriage portion given to young ladies in my country. This is a very important mat-ter here, this matter of proika as they term it. The young lady is always attached to a dower by which she takes her rank in the scale of being. To my surprise I heard a stout protest against this immemorial Greek usage ; a lively girl insisted very strongly upon love without a marriage portion to which proposition one could only give his heartiest assent. Of course I did not dare ask her whether she were of the dowerless ones, but she divined my smile, and replied that she had a proika, I need not laugh.
But still more emphatic was their condemnation of the present position of Greek women ; particularly the mother a keen, lively, energetic person thought that there should be some change. Not that they were violent supporters of woman’s rights they did not know what that meant ; but there was a feeling of the need for the industrial emancipation of women. I gave a little account of the station of the American sister ; that is what we want to some extent, she said. Certain employments now closed to females should be thrown open to them ; the seclusion of the Orient should come to an end.
Also desire for instruction I found there ; all had some education and had read a little. The daughter wanted to study French ; an old text-book of that tongue was brought out and shown me ; it was indeed an ancient book both in type and in method. There was no teacher in town, and my proposition to stay and become her instructor she evidently regarded as a jest. Such aspiration will be found in that friendly, sunny Greek household, the joy of the traveler.
In the morning the anxious sojourner will first, when he rises, shove the curtain aside and look out of the window to see what Zeus commands him from the skies. Not a cloud is there, the rains are over, the order to-day is manifestly to march, the Sun himself is in the heavens lighting the way. I have to part, there is no use of hesitation, though the hostess gives’ a pressing invitation to stay. I break the pang of separation by saying that I may return well, I may. Good-bye ; a kiss to little Corallion who brings some more flowers ; she with her sweet face and two braids down the back, stirs the waters deep within, all unconscious of her power; I kiss in hers a little face 5,000 miles away. Good-bye ; a final glance into the group of dark eyes hanging around the door, and I am off. Passing down the street I look back once more ; a handkerchief waves out of the window, to which a like response is given ; then a corner is turned and that family has become a pleasant dream.
My friends, let us stop for a moment, ere we separate, and look back at our whole journey in its different stages. We have traveled along a geographical line, filled with the fairest and most varied views of Nature, delightful to our vision; but we have also, I hope, traveled along a spiritual line into -which the old Greek elevated Nature and of which he made her bear the impress. Him we have sought to follow, first through Marathon with its historical Deed, then back through Aulis with its mythical Deed ; in both we have be-held one struggle, that with the Orient, and have seen Greece come forth therefrom new-born, ever rising into something truer and more worthy spiritually. Already to Helicon we have come the third act of our little drama ; here, among other wonders, we have beheld the birth of the Gods themselves, those who victoriously controlled that conflict ; here we have seen the old Gods arise and be put down, like the East, like Nature, too ; now the new Gods are sunnily seated upon their mountain throne and sway thence the new world. This is the new Hellas, illuminated , by a new sun shining out of the victory of Marathon, out of the capture of Troy, out of the subjection of Cronus to Zeus : quite the same thing they all are in Spirit. Such, too, is the key-note of happy Helicon, heard in the voice of her Poet, ancient Hesiod, heard also in her Oracle, old Trophonius. Still this is but the exultant beginning of the day, it is the glorious sunrise of Hellas; somewhat, we may imagine, is yet to follow.