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Title: Old Calabria
Author: Douglas, Norman, 1868-1952
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Old Calabria" ***

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OLD CALABRIA

BY NORMAN DOUGLAS



CONTENTS

I. SARACEN LUCERA
II. MANFRED'S TOWN
III. THE ANGEL OF MANFREDONIA
IV. CAVE-WORSHIP
V. LAND OF HORACE
VI. AT VENOSA
VII. THE BANDUSIAN FOUNT
VIII. TILLERS OF THE SOIL
IX. MOVING SOUTHWARDS
X. THE FLYING MONK
XI. BY THE INLAND SEA
XII. MOLLE TARENTUM
XIII. INTO THE JUNGLE
XIV. DRAGONS
XV. BYZANTINISM
XVI. REPOSING AT CASTROVILLARI
XVII. OLD MORANO
XVIII. AFRICAN INTRUDERS
XIX. UPLANDS OF POLLINO
XX. A MOUNTAIN FESTIVAL
XXI. MILTON IN CALABRIA
XXII. THE "GREEK" SILA
XXIII. ALBANIANS AND THEIR COLLEGE
XXIV. AN ALBANIAN SEER
XXV. SCRAMBLING TO LONGOBUCCO
XXVI. AMONG THE BRUTTIANS
XXVII. CALABRIAN BRIGANDAGE
XXVIII. THE GREATER SILA
XXIX. CHAOS
XXX. THE SKIRTS OF MONTALTO
XXXI. SOUTHERN SAINTLINESS
XXXII. ASPROMONTE, THE CLOUD-GATHERER
XXXIII. MUSOLINO AND THE LAW
XXXIV. MALARIA
XXXV. CAULONIA TO SERRA
XXXVI. MEMORIES OF GISSING
XXXVII. COTRONE
XXXVIII. THE SAGE OF CROTON
XXXIX. MIDDAY AT PETELIA
XL. THE COLUMN
INDEX.



OLD CALABRIA

I

SARACEN LUCERA


I find it hard to sum up in one word the character of Lucera--the effect
it produces on the mind; one sees so many towns that the freshness of
their images becomes blurred. The houses are low but not undignified;
the streets regular and clean; there is electric light and somewhat
indifferent accommodation for travellers; an infinity of barbers and
chemists. Nothing remarkable in all this. Yet the character is there, if
one could but seize upon it, since every place has its genius. Perhaps
it lies in a certain feeling of aloofness that never leaves one here. We
are on a hill--a mere wave of ground; a kind of spur, rather, rising up
from, the south--quite an absurd little hill, but sufficiently high to
dominate the wide Apulian plain. And the nakedness of the land
stimulates this aerial sense. There are some trees in the "Belvedere" or
public garden that lies on the highest part of the spur and affords a
fine view north and eastwards. But the greater part were only planted a
few years ago, and those stretches of brown earth, those half-finished
walks and straggling pigmy shrubs, give the place a crude and embryonic
appearance. One thinks that the designers might have done more in the
way of variety; there are no conifers excepting a few cryptomerias and
yews which will all be dead in a couple of years, and as for those
yuccas, beloved of Italian municipalities, they will have grown more
dyspeptic-looking than ever. None the less, the garden will be a
pleasant spot when the ilex shall have grown higher; even now it is the
favourite evening walk of the citizens. Altogether, these public parks,
which are now being planted all over south Italy, testify to renascent
taste; they and the burial-places are often the only spots where the
deafened and light-bedazzled stranger may find a little green
content; the content, respectively, of _L'Allegro_ and _Il Penseroso._
So the cemetery of Lucera, with its ordered walks drowned in the shade
of cypress--roses and gleaming marble monuments in between--is a
charming retreat, not only for the dead.

The Belvedere, however, is not my promenade. My promenade lies yonder,
on the other side of the valley, where the grave old Suabian castle sits
on its emerald slope. It does not frown; it reposes firmly, with an air
of tranquil and assured domination; "it has found its place," as an
Italian observed to me. Long before Frederick Barbarossa made it the
centre of his southern dominions, long before the Romans had their
fortress on the site, this eminence must have been regarded as the key
of Apulia. All round the outside of those turreted walls (they are
nearly a mile in circumference; the enclosure, they say, held sixty
thousand people) there runs a level space. This is my promenade, at all
hours of the day. Falcons are fluttering with wild cries overhead; down
below, a long unimpeded vista of velvety green, flecked by a few trees
and sullen streamlets and white farmhouses--the whole vision framed in a
ring of distant Apennines. The volcanic cone of Mount Vulture, land of
Horace, can be detected on clear days; it tempts me to explore those
regions. But eastward rises up the promontory of Mount Gargano, and on
the summit of its nearest hill one perceives a cheerful building, some
village or convent, that beckons imperiously across the intervening
lowlands. Yonder lies the venerable shrine of the archangel Michael, and
Manfred's town. . . .

This castle being a _national monument,_ they have appointed a custodian
to take charge of it; a worthless old fellow, full of untruthful
information which he imparts with the hushed and conscience-stricken air
of a man who is selling State secrets.

"That corner tower, sir, is the King's tower. It was built by the King."

"But you said just now that it was the Queen's tower."

"So it is. The Queen--she built it."

"What Queen?"

"What Queen? Why, the Queen--the Queen the German professor was talking
about three years ago. But I must show you some skulls which we found
_(sotto voce)_ in a subterranean crypt. They used to throw the poor dead
folk in here by hundreds; and under the Bourbons the criminals were
hanged here, thousands of them. The blessed times! And this tower is the
Queen's tower."

"But you called it the King's tower just now."

"Just so. That is because the King built it."

"What King?"

"Ah, sir, how can I remember the names of all those gentlemen? I haven't
so much as set eyes on them! But I must now show you some round
sling-stones which we excavated _(sotto voce)_ in a subterranean crypt----"

One or two relics from this castle are preserved in the small municipal
museum, founded about five years ago. Here are also a respectable
collection of coins, a few prehistoric flints from Gargano, some quaint
early bronze figurines and mutilated busts of Roman celebrities carved
in marble or the recalcitrant local limestone. A dignified old lion--one
of a pair (the other was stolen) that adorned the tomb of Aurelius,
prastor of the Roman Colony of Luceria--has sought a refuge here, as
well as many inscriptions, lamps, vases, and a miscellaneous collection
of modern rubbish. A plaster cast of a Mussulman funereal stone, found
near Foggia, will attract your eye; contrasted with the fulsome epitaphs
of contemporary Christianity, it breathes a spirit of noble resignation:--

"In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate. May God show
kindness to Mahomet and his kinsfolk, fostering them by his favours!
This is the tomb of the captain Jacchia Albosasso. God be merciful to
him. He passed away towards noon on Saturday in the five days of the
month Moharram of the year 745 (5th April, 1348). May Allah likewise
show mercy to him who reads."

One cannot be at Lucera without thinking of that colony of twenty
thousand Saracens, the escort of Frederick and his son, who lived here
for nearly eighty years, and sheltered Manfred in his hour of danger.
The chronicler Spinelli [Footnote: These journals are now admitted to
have been manufactured in the sixteenth century by the historian
Costanze for certain genealogical purposes of his own. Professor
Bernhard! doubted their authenticity in 1869, and his doubts have been
confirmed by Capasse.] has preserved an anecdote which shows Manfred's
infatuation for these loyal aliens. In the year 1252 and in the
sovereign's presence, a Saracen official gave a blow to a Neapolitan
knight--a blow which was immediately returned; there was a tumult, and
the upshot of it was that the Italian was condemned to lose his hand;
all that the Neapolitan nobles could obtain from Manfred was that his
left hand should be amputated instead of his right; the Arab, the cause
of all, was merely relieved of his office. Nowadays, all memory of
Saracens has been swept out of the land. In default of anything better,
they are printing a local halfpenny paper called "II Saraceno"--a very
innocuous pagan, to judge by a copy which I bought in a reckless moment.

This museum also contains a buxom angel of stucco known as the "Genius
of Bourbonism." In the good old days it used to ornament the town hall,
fronting the entrance; but now, degraded to a museum curiosity, it
presents to the public its back of ample proportions, and the curator
intimated that he considered this attitude quite appropriate--historically
speaking, of course. Furthermore, they have carted
hither, from the Chamber of Deputies in Rome, the chair once
occupied by Ruggiero Bonghi. Dear Bonghi! From a sense of duty he used
to visit a certain dull and pompous house in the capital and forthwith
fall asleep on the nearest sofa; he slept sometimes for two hours at a
stretch, while all the other visitors were solemnly marched to the spot
to observe him--behold the great Bonghi: he slumbers! There is a statue
erected to him here, and a street has likewise been named after another
celebrity, Giovanni Bovio. If I informed the townsmen of my former
acquaintance with these two heroes, they would perhaps put up a marble
tablet commemorating the fact. For the place is infected with the
patriotic disease of monumentomania. The drawback is that with every
change of administration the streets are re-baptized and the statues
shifted to make room for new favourites; so the civic landmarks come and
go, with the swiftness of a cinematograph.

Frederick II also has his street, and so has Pietjo Giannone. This
smacks of anti-clericalism. But to judge by the number of priests and
the daily hordes of devout and dirty pilgrims that pour into the town
from the fanatical fastnesses of the Abruzzi--picturesque, I suppose we
should call them--the country is sufficiently orthodox. Every
self-respecting family, they tell me, has its pet priest, who lives on
them in return for spiritual consolations.

There was a religious festival some nights ago in honour of Saint
Espedito. No one could tell me more about this holy man than that he was
a kind of pilgrim-warrior, and that his cult here is of recent date; it
was imported or manufactured some four years ago by a rich merchant who,
tired of the old local saints, built a church in honour of this new one,
and thereby enrolled him among the city gods.

On this occasion the square was seething with people: few
women, and the men mostly in dark clothes; we are already under Moorish
and Spanish influences. A young boy addressed me with the polite
question whether I could tell him the precise number of the population
of London.

That depended, I said, on what one described as London. There was what
they called greater London--

It depended! That was what he had always been given to understand. . . .
And how did I like Lucera? Rather a dull little place, was it not?
Nothing like Paris, of course. Still, if I could delay my departure for
some days longer, they would have the trial of a man who had murdered
three people: it might be quite good fun. He was informed that they
hanged such persons in England, as they used to do hereabouts; it seemed
rather barbaric, because, naturally, nobody is ever responsible for his
actions; but in England, no doubt--

That is the normal attitude of these folks towards us and our
institutions. We are savages, hopeless savages; but a little savagery,
after all, is quite endurable. Everything is endurable if you have lots
of money, like these English.

As for myself, wandering among that crowd of unshaven creatures, that
rustic population, fiercely gesticulating and dressed in slovenly hats
and garments, I realized once again what the average Anglo-Saxon would
ask himself: Are they _all_ brigands, or only some of them? That music,
too--what is it that makes this stuff so utterly unpalatable to a
civilized northerner? A soulless cult of rhythm, and then, when the
simplest of melodies emerges, they cling to it with the passionate
delight of a child who has discovered the moon. These men are still in
the age of platitudes, so far as music is concerned; an infantile aria
is to them what some foolish rhymed proverb is to the Arabs: a thing of
God, a portent, a joy for ever.

You may visit the cathedral; there is a fine _verde antico_ column on
either side of the sumptuous main portal. I am weary, just now, of these
structures; the spirit of pagan Lucera--"Lucera dei Pagani" it used to
be called--has descended upon me; I feel inclined to echo Carducci's
"_Addio, nume semitico!_" One sees so many of these sombre churches,
and they are all alike in their stony elaboration of mysticism and
wrong-headedness; besides, they have been described, over and over
again, by enthusiastic connaisseurs who dwell lovingly upon their
artistic quaintnesses but forget the grovelling herd that reared them,
with the lash at their backs, or the odd type of humanity--the gargoyle
type--that has since grown up under their shadow and influence.
I prefer to return to the sun and stars, to my promenade beside
the castle walls.

But for the absence of trees and hedges, one might take this to be some
English prospect of the drowsy Midland counties--so green it is, so
golden-grey the sky. The sunlight peers down dispersedly through windows
in this firmament of clouded amber, alighting on some mouldering tower,
some patch of ripening corn or distant city--Troia, lapped in Byzantine
slumber, or San Severo famed in war. This in spring. But what days of
glistering summer heat, when the earth is burnt to cinders under a
heavenly dome that glows like a brazier of molten copper! For this
country is the Sahara of Italy.

One is glad, meanwhile, that the castle does not lie in the natal land
of the Hohenstaufen. The interior is quite deserted, to be sure; they
have built half the town of Lucera with its stones, even as Frederick
quarried them out of the early Roman citadel beneath; but it is at least
a harmonious desolation. There are no wire-fenced walks among the ruins,
no feeding-booths and cheap reconstructions of draw-bridges and
police-notices at every corner; no gaudy women scribbling to their
friends in the "Residenzstadt" post cards illustrative of the
"Burgruine," while their husbands perspire over mastodontic beer-jugs.
There is only peace.

These are the delights of Lucera: to sit under those old walls and watch
the gracious cloud-shadows dappling the plain, oblivious of yonder
assemblage of barbers and politicians. As for those who can reconstruct
the vanished glories of such a place--happy they! I find the task
increasingly difficult. One outgrows the youthful age of hero-worship;
next, our really keen edges are so soon worn off by mundane trivialities
and vexations that one is glad to take refuge in simpler pleasures once
more--to return to primitive emotionalism. There are so many Emperors of
past days! And like the old custodian, I have not so much as set eyes on
them.

Yet this Frederick is no dim figure; he looms grandly through the
intervening haze. How well one understands that craving for the East,
nowadays; how modern they were, he and his son the "Sultan of Lucera,"
and their friends and counsellors, who planted this garden of exotic
culture! Was it some afterglow of the luminous world that had sunk below
the horizon, or a pale streak of the coming dawn? And if you now glance
down into this enclosure that once echoed with the song of minstrels
and the soft laughter of women, with the discourse of wits, artists and
philosophers, and the clang of arms--if you look, you will behold
nothing but a green lake, a waving field of grass. No matter. The
ambitions of these men are fairly realized, and every one of us may keep
a body-guard of pagans, an't please him; and a harem likewise--to judge
by the newspapers.

For he took his Orientalism seriously; he had a harem, with eunuchs,
etc., all proper, and was pleased to give an Eastern colour to his
entertainments. Matthew Paris relates how Frederick's brother-in-law,
returning from the Holy Land, rested awhile at his Italian court, and
saw, among other diversions, "duas puellas Saracenicas formosas, quae in
pavimenti planitie binis globis insisterent, volutisque globis huo
illucque ferrentur canentes, cymbala manibus collidentes, corporaque
secundum modules motantes atque flectentes." I wish I had been there. . . .

I walked to the castle yesterday evening on the chance of seeing an
eclipse of the moon which never came, having taken place at quite
another hour. A cloudless night, dripping with moisture, the electric
lights of distant Foggia gleaming in the plain. There are brick-kilns at
the foot of the incline, and from some pools in the neighbourhood issued
a loud croaking of frogs, while the pallid smoke of the furnaces,
pressed down by the evening dew, trailed earthward in a long twisted
wreath, like a dragon crawling sulkily to his den. But on the north side
one could hear the nightingales singing in the gardens below. The dark
mass of Mount Gargano rose up clearly in the moonlight, and I began to
sketch out some itinerary of my wanderings on that soil. There was Sant'
Angelo, the archangel's abode; and the forest region; and Lesina with
its lake; and Vieste the remote, the end of all things. . . .

Then my thoughts wandered to the Hohenstaufen and the conspiracy whereby
their fate was avenged. The romantic figures of Manfred and Conradin;
their relentless enemy Charles; Costanza, her brow crowned with a poetic
nimbus (that melted, towards the end, into an aureole of bigotry);
Frangipani, huge in villainy; the princess Beatrix, tottering from the
dungeon where she had been confined for nearly twenty years; her
deliverer Roger de Lauria, without whose resourcefulness and audacity it
might have gone ill with Aragon; Popes and Palaso-logus--brilliant
colour effects; the king of England and Saint Louis of France; in the
background, dimly discernible, the colossal shades of Frederick and
Innocent, looked in deadly embrace; and the whole congress of figures
enlivened and interpenetrated as by some electric fluid--the personality
of John of Procida. That the element of farce might not be lacking, Fate
contrived that exquisite royal duel at Bordeaux where the two mighty
potentates, calling each other by a variety of unkingly epithets,
enacted a prodigiously fine piece of foolery for the delectation of
Europe.

From this terrace one can overlook both Foggia and Castel
Fiorentino--the beginning and end of the drama; and one follows the
march of this magnificent retribution without a shred of compassion for
the gloomy papal hireling. Disaster follows disaster with mathematical
precision, till at last he perishes miserably, consumed by rage and
despair. Then our satisfaction is complete.

No; not quite complete. For in one point the stupendous plot seems to
have been imperfectly achieved. Why did Roger de Lauria not profit by
his victory to insist upon the restitution of the young brothers of
Beatrix, of those unhappy princes who had been confined as infants in
1266, and whose very existence seems to have faded from the memory of
historians? Or why did Costanza, who might have dealt with her enemy's
son even as Conradin had been dealt with, not round her magnanimity by
claiming her own flesh and blood, the last scions of a great house? Why
were they not released during the subsequent peace, or at least in 1302?
The reason is as plain as it is unlovely; nobody knew what to do with
them. Political reasons counselled their effacement, their
non-existence. Horrible thought, that the sunny world should be too
small for three orphan children! In their Apulian fastness they
remained--in chains. A royal rescript of 1295 orders that they be freed
from their fetters. Thirty years in fetters! Their fate is unknown; the
night of medievalism closes in upon them once more. . . .

Further musings were interrupted by the appearance of a shape which
approached from round the corner of one of the towers. It cams nearer
stealthily, pausing every now and then. Had I evoked, willy-nilly, some
phantom of the buried past?

It was only the custodian, leading his dog Musolino. After a shower of
compliments and apologies, he gave me to understand that it was his
duty, among other things, to see that no one should endeavour to raise
the treasure which was hidden under these ruins; several people, he
explained, had already made the attempt by night. For the rest, I was
quite at liberty to take my pleisure about the castle at all hours. But
as to touching the buried hoard, it was _proibito_--forbidden!

I was glad of the incident, which conjured up for me the Oriental mood
with its genii and subterranean wealth. Straightway this incongruous and
irresponsible old buffoon was invested with a new dignity; transformed
into a threatening Ifrit, the guardian of the gold, or--who
knows?--Iblis incarnate. The gods take wondrous shapes, sometimes.



II

MANFRED'S TOWN


As the train moved from Lucera to Foggia and thence onwards, I had
enjoyed myself rationally, gazing at the emerald plain of Apulia, soon
to be scorched to ashes, but now richly dight with the yellow flowers of
the giant fennel, with patches of ruby-red poppy and asphodels pale and
shadowy, past their prime. I had thought upon the history of this
immense tract of country--upon all the floods of legislation and
theorizings to which its immemorial customs of pasturage have given
birth. . . .

Then, suddenly, the aspect of life seemed to change. I felt unwell, and
so swift was the transition from health that I had wantonly thrown out
of the window, beyond recall, a burning cigar ere realizing that it was
only a little more than half smoked. We were crossing the Calendaro, a
sluggish stream which carefully collects all the waters of this region
only to lose them again in a swamp not far distant; and it was
positively as if some impish sprite had leapt out of those noisome
waves, boarded the train, and flung himself into me, after the fashion
of the "Horla" in the immortal tale.

Doses of quinine such as would make an English doctor raise his eyebrows
have hitherto only succeeded in provoking the Calendaro microbe to more
virulent activity. Nevertheless, _on s'y fait._ I am studying him and,
despite his protean manifestations, have discovered three principal
ingredients: malaria, bronchitis and hay-fever--not your ordinary
hay-fever, oh, no! but such as a mammoth might conceivably catch, if
thrust back from his germless, frozen tundras into the damply blossoming
Miocene.

The landlady of this establishment has a more commonplace name for the
distemper. She calls it "scirocco." And certainly this pest of the south
blows incessantly; the mountain-line of Gargano is veiled, the sea's
horizon veiled, the coast-lands of Apulia veiled by its tepid and
unwholesome breath. To cheer me up, she says that on clear days one can
see Castel del Monte, the Hohenstaufen eyrie, shining yonder above
Barletta, forty miles distant.  It sounds rather improbable; still,
yesterday evening there arose a sudden vision of a white town in that
direction, remote and dream-like, far across the water. Was it Barletta?
Or Margherita? It lingered awhile, poised on an errant sunbeam; then
sank into the deep.

From this window I look into the little harbour whose beach is dotted
with fishing-boats. Some twenty or thirty sailing-vessels are riding at
anchor; in the early morning they unfurl their canvas and sally forth,
in amicable couples, to scour the azure deep--it is greenish-yellow at
this moment--returning at nightfall with the spoils of ocean, mostly
young sharks, to judge by the display in the market. Their white sails
bear fabulous devices in golden colour of moons and crescents and
dolphins; some are marked like the "orange-tip" butterfly. A gunboat is
now stationed here on a mysterious errand connected with the Albanian
rising on the other side of the Adriatic. There has been whispered talk
of illicit volunteering among the youth on this side, which the
government is anxious to prevent. And to enliven the scene, a steamer
calls every now and then to take passengers to the Tremiti islands. One
would like to visit them, if only in memory of those martyrs of
Bourbonism, who were sent in hundreds to these rocks and cast into
dungeons to perish. I have seen such places; they are vast caverns
artificially excavated below the surface of the earth; into these the
unfortunates were lowered and left to crawl about and rot, the living
mingled with the dead. To this day they find mouldering skeletons,
loaded with heavy iron chains and ball-weights.

A copious spring gushes up on this beach and flows into the sea. It is
sadly neglected. Were I tyrant of Manfredonia, I would build me a fair
marble fountain here, with a carven assemblage of nymphs and
sea-monsters spouting water from their lusty throats, and plashing in
its rivulets. It may well be that the existence of this fount helped to
decide Manfred in his choice of a site for his city; such springs are
rare in this waterless land. And from this same source, very likely, is
derived the local legend of Saint Lorenzo and the Dragon, which is quite
independent of that of Saint Michael the dragon-killer on the heights
above us. These venerable water-spirits, these _dracs,_ are interesting
beasts who went through many metamorphoses ere attaining their present
shape.

Manfredonia lies on a plain sloping very gently seawards--practically
a dead level, and in one of the hottest districts of Italy.  Yet, for
some obscure reason, there is no street along the sea itself; the
cross-roads end in abrupt squalor at the shore. One wonders what
considerations--political, aesthetic or hygienic--prevented the
designers of the town from carrying out its general principles of
construction and building a decent promenade by the waves, where the ten
thousand citizens could take the air in the breathless summer evenings,
instead of being cooped up, as they now are, within stifling hot walls.
The choice of Man-fredonia as a port does not testify to any great
foresight on the part of its founder--peace to his shade! It will for
ever slumber in its bay, while commerce passes beyond its reach; it will
for ever be malarious with the marshes of Sipontum at its edges. But
this particular defect of the place is not Manfred's fault, since the
city was razed to the ground by the Turks in 1620, and then built up
anew; built up, says Lenormant, according to the design of the old city.
Perhaps a fear of other Corsair raids induced the constructors to adhere
to the old plan, by which the place could be more easily defended. Not
much of Man-fredonia seems to have been completed when Pacicchelli's
view (1703) was engraved.

Speaking of the weather, the landlady further told me that the wind blew
so hard three months ago--"during that big storm in the winter, don't
you remember?"--that it broke all the iron lamp-posts between the town
and the station. Now here was a statement sounding even more improbable
than her other one about Castel del Monte, but admitting of
verification. Wheezing and sneezing, I crawled forth, and found it
correct. It must have been a respectable gale, since the cast-iron
supports are snapped in half, every one of them.

Those Turks, by the way, burnt the town on that memorable occasion. That
was a common occurrence in those days. Read any account of their
incursions into Italy during this and the preceding centuries, and you
will find that the corsairs burnt the towns whenever they had time to
set them alight. They could not burn them nowadays, and this points to a
total change in economic conditions. Wood was cut down so heedlessly
that it became too scarce for building purposes, and stone took its
place. This has altered domestic architecture; it has changed the
landscape, denuding the hill-sides that were once covered with timber;
it has impoverished the country by converting fruitful plains into
marshes or arid tracts of stone swept by irregular and intermittent
floods; it has modified, if I mistake not, the very character of
the people. The desiccation of the climate has entailed a desiccation
of national humour.

Muratori has a passage somewhere in his "Antiquities" regarding the old
method of construction and the wooden shingles, _scandulae,_ in use for
roofing--I must look it up, if ever I reach civilized regions again.

At the municipality, which occupies the spacious apartments of a former
Dominican convent, they will show you the picture of a young girl, one
of the Beccarmi family, who was carried off at a tender age in one of
these Turkish raids, and subsequently became "Sultana." Such captive
girls generally married sultans--or ought to have married them; the wish
being father to the thought. But the story is disputed; rightly, I
think. For the portrait is painted in the French manner, and it is
hardly likely that a harem-lady would have been exhibited to a European
artist. The legend goes on to say that she was afterwards liberated by
the Knights of Malta, together with her Turkish son who, as was meet and
proper, became converted to Christianity and died a monk. The Beccarmi
family (of Siena, I fancy) might find some traces of her in their
archives. _Ben trovato,_ at all events. When one looks at the pretty
portrait, one cannot blame any kind of "Sultan" for feeling
well-disposed towards the original.

The weather has shown some signs of improvement and tempted me, despite
the persistent "scirocco" mood, to a few excursions into the
neighbourhood. But there seem to be no walks hereabouts, and the hills,
three miles distant, are too remote for my reduced vitality. The
intervening region is a plain of rock carved so smoothly, in places, as
to appear artificially levelled with the chisel; large tracts of it are
covered with the Indian fig (cactus). In the shade of these grotesque
growths lives a dainty flora: trembling grasses of many kinds, rue,
asphodel, thyme, the wild asparagus, a diminutive blue iris, as well as
patches of saxifrage that deck the stone with a brilliant enamel of red
and yellow. This wild beauty makes one think how much better the
graceful wrought-iron balconies of the town would look if enlivened with
blossoms, with pendent carnations or pelargonium; but there is no great
display of these things; the deficiency of water is a characteristic of
the place; it is a flowerless and songless city. The only good
drinking-water is that which is bottled at the mineral springs of Monte
Vulture and sold cheaply enough all over the country. And the mass of
the country people have small charm of feature. Their faces seem to have
been chopped with a hatchet into masks of sombre virility; a hard life
amid burning limestone deserts is reflected in their countenances.

None the less, they have a public garden; even more immature than that
of Lucera, but testifying to greater taste. Its situation, covering a
forlorn semicircular tract of ground about the old Anjou castle, is _a
priori_ a good one. But when the trees are fully grown, it will be
impossible to see this fine ruin save at quite close quarters--just
across the moat.

I lamented this fact to a solitary gentleman who was strolling about
here and who replied, upon due deliberation:

"One cannot have everything."

Then he added, as a suggestive afterthought:

"Inasmuch as one thing sometimes excludes another."

I pause, to observe parenthetically that this habit of uttering
platitudes in the grand manner as though disclosing an idea of vital
novelty (which Charles Lamb, poor fellow, thought peculiar to natives of
Scotland) is as common among Italians as among Englishmen. But veiled in
sonorous Latinisms, the staleness of such remarks assumes an air of
profundity.

"For my part," he went on, warming to his theme, "I am thoroughly
satisfied. Who will complain of the trees? Only a few makers of bad
pictures. They can go elsewhere. Our country, dear sir, is _encrusted,_
with old castles and other feudal absurdities, and if I had the
management of things----"

The sentence was not concluded, for at that moment his hat was blown off
by a violent gust of wind, and flew merrily over beds of flowering
marguerites in the direction of the main street, while he raced after
it, vanishing in a cloud of dust. The chase must have been long and
arduous; he never returned.

Wandering about the upper regions of this fortress whose chambers are
now used as a factory of cement goods and a refuge for some poor
families, I espied a good pre-renaissance relief of Saint Michael and
the dragon immured in the masonry, and overhung by the green leaves of
an exuberant wild fig that has thrust its roots into the sturdy old
walls. Here, at Manfredonia, we are already under the shadow of the holy
mountain and the archangel's wings, but the usual representations of him
are childishly emasculate--the negation of his divine and heroic
character. This one portrays a genuine warrior-angel of the old type:
grave and grim. Beyond this castle and the town-walls, which are best
preserved on the north side, nothing in Manfredonia is older than 1620.
There is a fine _campanile,_ but the cathedral looks like a shed for
disused omnibuses.

Along the streets, little red flags are hanging out of the houses, at
frequent intervals: signals of harbourage for the parched wayfarer.
Within, you behold a picturesque confusion of rude chairs set among
barrels and vats full of dark red wine where, amid Rembrandtesque
surroundings, you can get as drunk as a lord for sixpence. Blithe oases!
It must be delightful, in summer, to while away the sultry hours in
their hospitable twilight; even at this season they seem to be extremely
popular resorts, throwing a new light on those allusions by classical
authors to "thirsty Apulia."

But on many of the dwellings I noticed another symbol: an ominous blue
metal tablet with a red cross, bearing the white-lettered words
"VIGILANZA NOTTURNA."

Was it some anti-burglary association? I enquired of a serious-looking
individual who happened to be passing.

His answer did not help to clear up matters.

"A pure job, _signore mio_, a pure job! There is a society in Cerignola
or somewhere, a society which persuades the various town
councils--_persuades_ them, you understand----"

He ended abruptly, with the gesture of paying out money between his
finger and thumb. Then he sadly shook his head.

I sought for more light on this cryptic utterance; in vain. What were
the facts, I persisted? Did certain householders subscribe to keep a
guardian on their premises at night--what had the municipalities to do
with it--was there much house-breaking in Manfredonia, and, if so, had
this association done anything to check it? And for how long had the
institution been established?

But the mystery grew ever darker. After heaving a deep sigh, he
condescended to remark:

"The usual camorra! Eat--eat; from father to son. Eat--eat! That's all
they think about, the brood of assassins. . . . Just look at them!"

I glanced down the street and beheld a venerable gentleman of kindly
aspect who approached slowly, leaning on the arm of a fair-haired
youth--his grandson, I supposed. He wore a long white beard, and an air
of apostolic detachment from the affairs of this world. They came
nearer. The boy was listening, deferentially, to some remark of the
elder; his lips were parted in attention and his candid, sunny face
would have rejoiced the heart of della Robbia. They passed within a few
feet of me, lovingly engrossed in one another.

"Well?" I queried, turning to my informant and anxious to learn what
misdeeds could be laid to the charge of such godlike types of humanity.

But that person was no longer at my side. He had quietly withdrawn
himself, in the interval; he had evanesced, "moved on."

An oracular and elusive citizen. ...



III

THE ANGEL OF MANFREDONIA


Whoever looks at a map of the Gargano promontory will see that it is
besprinkled with Greek names of persons and places--Matthew, Mark,
Nikander, Onofrius, Pirgiano (Pyrgos) and so forth. Small wonder, for
these eastern regions were in touch with Constantinople from early days,
and the spirit of Byzance still hovers over them. It was on this
mountain that the archangel Michael, during his first flight to Western
Europe, deigned to appear to a Greek bishop of Sipontum, Laurentius by
name; and ever since that time a certain cavern, sanctified by the
presence of this winged messenger of God, has been the goal of millions
of pilgrims.

The fastness of Sant' Angelo, metropolis of European angel-worship, has
grown up around this "devout and honourable cave"; on sunny days its
houses are clearly visible from Man-fredonia. They who wish to pay their
devotions at the shrine cannot do better than take with them
Gregorovius, as cicerone and mystagogue.

Vainly I waited for a fine day to ascend the heights. At last I
determined to have done with the trip, be the weather what it might. A
coachman was summoned and negotiations entered upon for starting next
morning.

Sixty-five francs, he began by telling me, was the price paid by an
Englishman last year for a day's visit to the sacred mountain. It may
well be true--foreigners will do anything, in Italy. Or perhaps it was
only said to "encourage" me. But I am rather hard to encourage,
nowadays. I reminded the man that there was a diligence service there
and back for a franc and a half, and even that price seemed rather
extortionate. I had seen so many holy grottos in my life! And who, after
all, was this Saint Michael? The Eternal Father, perchance? Nothing of
the kind: just an ordinary angel! We had dozens of them, in England.
Fortunately, I added, I had already received an offer to join one of the
private parties who drive up, fourteen or fifteen persons behind
one diminutive pony--and that, as he well knew, would be a matter of
only a few pence. And even then, the threatening sky . . . Yes, on
second thoughts, it was perhaps wisest to postpone the excursion
altogether. Another day, if God wills! Would he accept this cigar as a
recompense for his trouble in coming?

In dizzy leaps and bounds his claims fell to eight francs. It was the
tobacco that worked the wonder; a gentleman who will give _something for
nothing_ (such was his logic)--well, you never know what you may not get
out of him. Agree to his price, and chance it!

He consigned the cigar to his waistcoat pocket to smoke after dinner,
and departed--vanquished, but inwardly beaming with bright anticipation.

A wretched morning was disclosed as I drew open the shutters--gusts of
rain and sleet beating against the window-panes. No matter: the carriage
stood below, and after that customary and hateful apology for breakfast
which suffices to turn the thoughts of the sanest man towards themes of
suicide and murder--when will southerners learn to eat a proper
breakfast at proper hours?--we started on our journey. The sun came out
in visions of tantalizing briefness, only to be swallowed up again in
driving murk, and of the route we traversed I noticed only the old stony
track that cuts across the twenty-one windings of the new carriage-road
here and there. I tried to picture to myself the Norman princes, the
emperors, popes, and other ten thousand pilgrims of celebrity crawling
up these rocky slopes--barefoot--on such a day as this. It must have
tried the patience even of Saint Francis of Assisi, who pilgrimaged with
the rest of them and, according to Pontanus, performed a little miracle
here _en passant,_ as was his wont.

After about three hours' driving we reached the town of Sant' Angelo. It
was bitterly cold at this elevation of 800 metres. Acting on the advice
of the coachman, I at once descended into the sanctuary; it would be
warm down there, he thought. The great festival of 8 May was over, but
flocks of worshippers were still arriving, and picturesquely pagan they
looked in grimy, tattered garments--their staves tipped with
pine-branches and a scrip.

In the massive bronze doors of the chapel, that were made at
Constantinople in 1076 for a rich citizen of Amalfi, metal rings are
inserted; these, like a true pilgrim, you must clash furiously, to call
the attention of the Powers within to your visit; and on issuing, you
must once more knock as hard as you can, in order that the consummation
of your act of worship may be duly reported: judging by the noise made,
the deity must be very hard of hearing.  Strangely deaf they are,
sometimes.

The twenty-four panels of these doors are naively encrusted with
representations, in enamel, of angel-apparitions of many kinds; some of
them are inscribed, and the following is worthy of note:

"I beg and implore the priests of Saint Michael to cleanse these gates
once a year as I have now shown them, in order that they may be always
bright and shining." The recommendation has plainly not been carried out
for a good many years past.

Having entered the portal, you climb down a long stairway amid swarms of
pious, foul clustering beggars to a vast cavern, the archangel's abode.
It is a natural recess in the rock, illuminated by candles. Here divine
service is proceeding to the accompaniment of cheerful operatic airs
from an asthmatic organ; the water drops ceaselessly from the rocky
vault on to the devout heads of kneeling worshippers that cover the
floor, lighted candle in hand, rocking themselves ecstatically and
droning and chanting. A weird scene, in truth. And the coachman was
quite right in his surmise as to the difference in temperature. It is
hot down here, damply hot, as in an orchid-house. But the aroma cannot
be described as a floral emanation: it is the _bouquet,_ rather, of
thirteen centuries of unwashed and perspiring pilgrims. "TERRIBILIS EST
LOCUS ISTE," says an inscription over the entrance of the shrine. Very
true. In places like this one understands the uses, and possibly the
origin, of incense.

I lingered none the less, and my thoughts went back to the East, whence
these mysterious practices are derived. But an Oriental crowd of
worshippers does not move me like these European masses of fanaticism; I
can never bring myself to regard without a certain amount of disquietude
such passionate pilgrims. Give them their new Messiah, and all our
painfully accumulated art and knowledge, all that reconciles civilized
man to earthly existence, is blown to the winds. Society can deal with
its criminals. Not they, but fond enthusiasts such as these, are the
menace to its stability. Bitter reflections; but then--the drive upward
had chilled my human sympathies, and besides--that so-called breakfast.
. . .

The grovelling herd was left behind. I ascended the stairs and,
profiting by a gleam of sunshine, climbed up to where, above the town,
there stands a proud aerial ruin known as the "Castle of
the Giant." On one of its stones is inscribed the date 1491--a certain
Queen of Naples, they say, was murdered within those now crumbling
walls. These sovereigns were murdered in so many castles that one
wonders how they ever found time to be alive at all. The structure is a
wreck and its gateway closed up; nor did I feel any great inclination,
in that icy blast of wind, to investigate the roofless interior.

I was able to observe, however, that this "feudal absurdity" bears a
number like any inhabited house of Sant' Angelo--it is No. 3.

This is the latest pastime of the Italian Government: to re-number
dwellings throughout the kingdom; and not only human habitations, but
walls, old ruins, stables, churches, as well as an occasional door-post
and window. They are having no end of fun over the game, which promises
to keep them amused for any length of time--in fact, until the next
craze is invented. Meanwhile, so long as the fit lasts, half a million
bright-eyed officials, burning with youthful ardour, are employed in
affixing these numerals, briskly entering them into ten times as many
note-books and registering them into thousands of municipal archives,
all over the country, for some inscrutable but hugely important
administrative purposes. "We have the employes," as a Roman deputy once
told me, "and therefore: they must find some occupation."

Altogether, the weather this day sadly impaired my appetite for research
and exploration. On the way to the castle I had occasion to admire the
fine tower and to regret that there seemed to exist no coign of vantage
from which it could fairly be viewed; I was struck, also, by the number
of small figures of Saint Michael of an ultra-youthful, almost
infantile, type; and lastly, by certain clean-shaven old men of the
place. These venerable and decorative brigands--for such they would have
been, a few years ago--now stood peacefully at their thresholds, wearing
a most becoming cloak of thick brown wool, shaped like a burnous. The
garment interested me; it may be a legacy from the Arabs who dominated
this region for some little time, despoiling the holy sanctuary and
leaving their memory to be perpetuated by the neighbouring "Monte
Saraceno." The costume, on the other hand, may have come over from
Greece; it is figured on Tanagra statuettes and worn by modern Greek
shepherds. By Sardinians, too. ... It may well be a primordial form of
clothing with mankind.

The view from this castle must be superb on clear days. Standing there,
I looked inland and remembered all the places I had intended to
see--Vieste, and Lesina with its lakes, and Selva Umbra, whose very name
is suggestive of dewy glades; how remote they were, under such
dispiriting clouds! I shall never see them. Spring hesitates to smile
upon these chill uplands; we are still in the grip of winter--

  Aut aquilonibus
  Querceti Gargani laborent
  Et foliis viduantur orni--

so sang old Horace, of Garganian winds. I scanned the horizon, seeking
for his Mount Vulture, but all that region was enshrouded in a grey
curtain of vapour; only the Stagno Salso--a salt mere wherein Candelaro
forgets his mephitic waters--shone with a steady glow, like a sheet of
polished lead.

Soon the rain fell once more and drove me to seek refuge among the
houses, where I glimpsed the familiar figure of my coachman, sitting
disconsolately under a porch. He looked up and remarked (for want of
something better to say) that he had been searching for me all over the
town, fearing that some mischief might have happened to me. I was
touched by these words; touched, that is, by his child-like simplicity
in imagining that he could bring me to believe a statement of such
radiant improbability; so touched, that I pressed a franc into his
reluctant palm and bade him buy with it something to eat. A whole franc.
. . . _Aha!_ he doubtless thought, _my theory of the gentleman: it
begins to work._

It was barely midday. Yet I was already surfeited with the angelic
metropolis, and my thoughts began to turn in the direction of
Manfredonia once more. At a corner of the street, however, certain
fluent vociferations in English and Italian, which nothing would induce
me to set down here, assailed my ears, coming up--apparently--out of the
bowels of the earth. I stopped to listen, shocked to hear ribald
language in a holy town like this; then, impelled by curiosity,
descended a long flight of steps and found myself in a subterranean
wine-cellar. There was drinking and card-playing going on here among a
party of emigrants--merry souls; a good half of them spoke English and,
despite certain irreverent phrases, they quickly won my heart with a
"Here! You drink _this,_ mister."

This dim recess was an instructive pendant to the archangel's cavern. A
new type of pilgrim has been evolved; pilgrims who think no more of
crossing to Pittsburg than of a drive to Manfredonia. But their cave was
permeated with an odour of spilt wine and tobacco-smoke instead of the
subtle _Essence des pèlerins_ _àes Abruzzes fleuris,_ and alas, the
object of their worship was not the Chaldean angel, but another and
equally ancient eastern shape: Mammon. They talked much of dollars; and
I also heard several unorthodox allusions to the "angel-business," which
was described as "played out," as well as a remark to the effect that
"only damn-fools stay in this country." In short, these men were at the
other end of the human scale; they were the strong, the energetic; the
ruthless, perhaps; but certainly--the intelligent.

And all the while the cup circled round with genial iteration, and it
was universally agreed that, whatever the other drawbacks of Sant'
Angelo might be, there was nothing to be said against its native liquor.

It was, indeed, a divine product; a _vino di montagna_ of noble
pedigree. So I thought, as I laboriously scrambled up the stairs once
more, solaced by this incident of the competition-grotto and slightly
giddy, from the tobacco-smoke. And here, leaning against the door-post,
stood the coachman who had divined my whereabouts by some dark masonic
intuition of sympathy. His face expanded into an inept smile, and I
quickly saw that instead of fortifying his constitution with sound food,
he had tried alcoholic methods of defence against the inclement weather.
Just a glass of wine, he explained. "But," he added, "the horse is
perfectly sober."

That quadruped was equal to the emergency. Gloriously indifferent to our
fates, we glided down, in a vertiginous but masterly vol-plane, from the
somewhat objectionable mountain-town.

An approving burst of sunshine greeted our arrival on the plain.



IV

CAVE-WORSHIP


Why has the exalted archangel chosen for an abode this reeking cell,
rather than some well-built temple in the sunshine? "As symbolizing a
ray of light that penetrates into the gloom," so they will tell you. It
is more likely that he entered it as an extirpating warrior, to oust
that heathen shape which Strabo describes as dwelling in its dank
recesses, and to take possession of the cleft in the name of
Christianity. Sant' Angelo is one of many places where Michael has
performed the duty of Christian Hercules, cleanser of Augean stables.

For the rest, this cave-worship is older than any god or devil. It is
the cult of the feminine principle--a relic of that aboriginal obsession
of mankind to shelter in some Cloven Rock of Ages, in the sacred womb of
Mother Earth who gives us food and receives us after death.
Grotto-apparitions, old and new, are but the popular explanations of
this dim primordial craving, and hierophants of all ages have understood
the commercial value of the holy shudder which penetrates in these
caverns to the heart of worshippers, attuning them to godly deeds. So
here, close beside the altar, the priests are selling fragments of the
so-called "Stone of Saint Michael." The trade is brisk.

The statuette of the archangel preserved in this subterranean chapel is
a work of the late Renaissance. Though savouring of that mawkish
elaboration which then began to taint local art and literature and is
bound up with the name of the poet Marino, it is still a passably virile
figure. But those countless others, in churches or over house-doors--do
they indeed portray the dragon-killer, the martial prince of angels?
This amiable child with girlish features--can this be the Lucifer of
Christianity, the Sword of the Almighty? _Quis ut Déus!_ He could
hardly hurt a fly.

The hoary winged genius of Chaldea who has absorbed the essence of so
many solemn deities has now, in extreme old age, entered upon a second
childhood and grown altogether too youthful for his _role,_ undergoing
a metimorphosis beyond the boundaries of legendary probability or common
sense; every trace of divinity and manly strength has been boiled out of
him. So young and earthly fair, he looks, rather, like some pretty boy
dressed up for a game with toy sword and helmet--one wants to have a
romp with him. No warrior this! _C'est beau, mais ce n'est pas la
guerre._

The gods, they say, are ever young, and a certain sensuous and fleshly
note is essential to those of Italy if they are to retain the love of
their worshippers. Granted. We do not need a scarred and hirsute
veteran; but we need, at least, a personage capable of wielding the
sword, a figure something like this:--

His starry helm unbuckled show'd his prime In manhood where youth ended;
by his side As in a glist'ring zodiac hung the sword, Satan's dire
dread, and in his hand the spear. . . .

There! That is an archangel of the right kind.

And the great dragon, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, has
suffered a similar transformation. He is shrunk into a poor little
reptile, the merest worm, hardly worth crushing.

But how should a sublime conception like the apocalyptic hero appeal to
the common herd? These formidable shapes emerge from the dusk, offspring
of momentous epochs; they stand aloof at first, but presently their
luminous grandeur is dulled, their haughty contour sullied and
obliterated by attrition. They are dragged down to the level of their
lowest adorers, for the whole flock adapts its pace to that of the
weakest lamb. No self-respecting deity will endure this treatment--to be
popularized and made intelligible to a crowd. Divinity comprehended of
the masses ceases to be efficacious; the Egyptians and Brahmans
understood that. It is not giving gods a chance to interpret them in an
incongruous and unsportsmanlike fashion. But the vulgar have no idea of
propriety or fair play; they cannot keep at the proper distance; they
are for ever taking liberties. And, in the end, the proudest god is
forced to yield.

We see this same fatality in the very word Cherub. How different an
image does this plump and futile infant evoke to the stately Minister of
the Lord, girt with a sword of flame! We see it in the Italian Madonna
of whom, whatever her mental acquirements may have been, a certain
gravity of demeanour is to be presupposed, and who, none the less, grows
more childishly smirking every day; in her Son who--hereabouts at
least--has doffed all the serious attributes of manhood and dwindled
into something not much better than a doll. It was the same in days of
old. Apollo (whom Saint Michael has supplanted), and Eros, and
Aphrodite--they all go through a process of saccharine deterioration.
Our fairest creatures, once they have passed their meridian vigour, are
liable to be assailed and undermined by an insidious diabetic tendency.

It is this coddling instinct of mankind which has reduced Saint Michael
to his present state. And an extraneous influence has worked in the same
direction--the gradual softening of manners within historical times,
that demasculinization which is an inevitable concomitant of increasing
social security. Divinity reflects its human creators and their
environment; grandiose or warlike gods become superfluous, and finally
incomprehensible, in humdrum days of peace. In order to survive, our
deities (like the rest of us) must have a certain plasticity. If
recalcitrant, they are quietly relieved of their functions, and
forgotten. This is what has happened in Italy to God the Father and the
Holy Ghost, who have vanished from the vulgar Olympus; whereas the
devil, thanks to that unprincipled versatility for which he is famous,
remains ever young and popular.

The art-notions of the Cinque-Cento are also to blame; indeed, so far as
the angelic shapes of south Italy are concerned, the influence of the
Renaissance has been wholly malefic. Aliens to the soil, they were at
first quite unknown--not one is pictured in the Neapolitan catacombs.
Next came the brief period of their artistic glory; then the syncretism
of the Renaissance, when these winged messengers were amalgamated with
pagan _amoretti_ and began to flutter in foolish baroque fashion about
the Queen of Heaven, after the pattern of the disreputable little genii
attendant upon a Venus of a bad school. That same instinct which
degraded a youthful Eros into the childish Cupid was the death-stroke to
the pristine dignity and holiness of angels. Nowadays, we see the
perversity of it all; we have come to our senses and can appraise the
much-belauded revival at its true worth; and our modern sculptors will
rear you a respectable angel, a grave adolescent, according to the best
canons of taste--should you still possess the faith that once
requisitioned such works of art.

We travellers acquaint ourselves with the lineage of this celestial
Messenger, but it can hardly be supposed that the worshippers now
swarming at his shrine know much of these things. How shall one discover
their real feelings in regard to this great cave-saint and his life and
deeds?

Well, some idea of this may be gathered from the literature sold on the
spot. I purchased three of these modern tracts printed respectively at
Bitonto, Molfetta and Naples. The "Popular Song in honour of St. Michael"
contains this verse:

  Nell' ora della morte
  Ci salvi dal!' inferno
  E a Regno Sempiterno
  Ci guidi per pietà.

_Ci guidi per pietà. . . ._ This is the Mercury-heritage. Next, the
"History and Miracles of St. Michael" opens with a rollicking dialogue
in verse between the archangel and the devil concerning a soul; it ends
with a goodly list, in twenty-five verses, of the miracles performed by
the angel, such as helping women in childbirth, curing the blind, and
other wonders that differ nothing from those wrought by humbler earthly
saints. Lastly, the "Novena in Onore di S. Michele Arcangelo," printed
in 1910 (third edition) with ecclesiastical approval, has the following
noteworthy paragraph on the

"DEVOTION FOR THE SACRED STONES OF THE GROTTO OF ST. MICHAEL.

"It is very salutary to hold in esteem the STONES which are taken from
the sacred cavern, partly because from immemorial times they have always
been held in veneration by the faithful and also because they have been
placed as relics of sepulchres and altars. Furthermore, it is known that
during the plague which afflicted the kingdom of Naples in the year
1656, Monsignor G. A. Puccini, archbishop of Manfredonia, recommended
every one to carry devoutly on his person a fragment of the sacred
STONE, whereby the majority were saved from the pestilence, and this
augmented the devotion bestowed on them."

The cholera is on the increase, and this may account for the rapid sale
of the STONES at this moment.

This pamphlet also contains a litany in which the titles of the
archangel are enumerated. He is, among other things, Secretary of God,
Liberator from Infernal Chains, Defender in the Hour of Death, Custodian
of the Pope, Spirit of Light, Wisest of Magistrates, Terror of Demons,
Commander-in-Chief of the Armies of the Lord, Lash of Heresies, Adorer
of the Word Incarnate, Guide of Pilgrims, Conductor of Mortals: Mars,
Mercury, Hercules, Apollo, Mithra--what nobler ancestry can angel
desire? And yet, as if these complicated and responsible functions did
not suffice for his energies, he has twenty others, among them being
that of "Custodian of the Holy Family "--who apparently need a
protector, a Monsieur Paoli, like any mortal royalties.

"Blasphemous rubbish!" I can hear some Methodist exclaiming. And one
may well be tempted to sneer at those pilgrims for the more enlightened
of whom such literature is printed. For they are unquestionably a
repulsive crowd: travel-stained old women, under-studies for the Witch
of Endor; dishevelled, anaemic and dazed-looking girls; boys, too weak
to handle a spade at home, pathetically uncouth, with mouths agape and
eyes expressing every grade of uncontrolled emotion--from wildest joy to
downright idiotcy. How one realizes, down in this cavern, the effect
upon some cultured ancient like Rutilius Namatianus of the
catacomb-worship among those early Christian converts, those _men who
shun the light,_ drawn as they were from the same social classes towards
the same dark underground rites! One can neither love nor respect such
people; and to affect pity for them would be more consonant with their
religion than with my own.

But it is perfectly easy to understand them. For thirteen centuries this
pilgrim-movement has been going on. Thirteen centuries? No. This site
was an oracle in heathen days, and we know that such were frequented by
men not a whit less barbarous and bigoted than their modern
representatives--nothing is a greater mistake than to suppose that the
crowds of old Rome and Athens were more refined than our own
("Demosthenes, sir, was talking to an assembly of brutes"). For thirty
centuries then, let us say, a deity has attracted the faithful to his
shrine--Sant' Angelo has become a vacuum, as it were, which must be
periodically filled up from the surrounding country. These pilgrimages
are in the blood of the people: infants, they are carried there; adults,
they carry their own offspring; grey-beards, their tottering steps are
still supported by kindly and sturdier fellow-wanderers.

Popes and emperors no longer scramble up these slopes; the spirit of
piety has abated among the great ones of the earth; so much is certain.
But the rays of light that strike the topmost branches have not yet
penetrated to the rank and seething undergrowth. And then--what else can
one offer to these Abruzzi mountain-folk? Their life is one of
miserable, revolting destitution.  They have no games or sports, no
local racing, clubs, cattle-shows, fox-hunting, politics, rat-catching,
or any of those other joys that diversify the lives of our peasantry. No
touch of humanity reaches them, no kindly dames send them jellies or
blankets, no cheery doctor enquires for their children; they read no
newspapers or books, and lack even the mild excitements of church
_versus_ chapel, or the vicar's daughter's love-affair, or the squire's
latest row with his lady--nothing! Their existence is almost bestial in
its blankness. I know them--I have lived among them. For four months in
the year they are cooped up in damp dens, not to be called chambers,
where an Englishman would deem it infamous to keep a dog--cooped up amid
squalor that must be seen to be believed; for the rest of the time they
struggle, in the sweat of their brow, to wrest a few blades of corn from
the ungrateful limestone. Their visits to the archangel--these vernal
and autumnal picnics--are their sole form of amusement.

The movement is said to have diminished since the early nineties, when
thirty thousand of them used to come here annually. It may well be the
case; but I imagine that this is due not so much to increasing
enlightenment as to the depopulation caused by America; many villages
have recently been reduced to half their former number of inhabitants.

And here they kneel, candle in hand, on the wet flags of this foetid and
malodorous cave, gazing in rapture upon the blandly beaming idol, their
sensibilities tickled by resplendent priests reciting full-mouthed Latin
phrases, while the organ overhead plays wheezy extracts from "La Forza
del Destino" or the Waltz out of Boito's "Mefistofele"... for sure, it
must be a foretaste of Heaven! And likely enough, these are "the poor in
heart" for whom that kingdom is reserved.

One may call this a debased form of Christianity. Whether it would have
been distasteful to the feelings of the founder of that cult is another
question, and, debased or not, it is at least alive and palpitating,
which is more than can be said of certain other varieties. But the
archangel, as was inevitable, has suffered a sad change. His fairest
attribute of Light-bringer, of Apollo, is no longer his own; it has been
claimed and appropriated by the "Light of the World," his new master.
One by one, his functions have been stripped from him, all save in name,
as happens to men and angels alike, when they take service under
"jealous" lords.

What is now left of Saint Michael, the glittering hierarch? Can he still
endure the light of sun? Or has he not shrivelled into a spectral
Hermes, a grisly psychopomp, bowing his head in minished glory, and
leading men's souls no longer aloft but downwards--down to the pale
regions of things that have been? And will it be long ere he, too, is
thrust by some flaming Demogorgon into these same realms of Minos, into
that shadowy underworld where dwell Saturn, and Kronos, and other
cracked and shivered ideals?

So I mused that afternoon, driving down the slopes from Sant' Angelo
comfortably sheltered against the storm, while the generous mountain
wine sped through my veins, warming my fancy. Then, at last, the sun
came out in a sudden burst of light, opening a rift in the vapours and
revealing the whole chain of the Apennines, together with the peaked
crater of Mount Vulture.

The spectacle cheered me, and led me to think that such a day might
worthily be rounded off by a visit to Sipontum, which lies a few miles
beyond Manfredonia on the Foggia road. But I approached the subject
cautiously, fearing that the coachman might demur at this extra work.
Far from it. I had gained his affection, and he would conduct me
whithersoever I liked. Only to Sipontum? __Why not to Foggia, to Naples,
to the ends of the earth? As for the horse, he was none the worse for
the trip, not a bit the worse; he liked nothing better than running in
front of a carriage; besides, _è suo dovere--_ it was his duty.

Sipontum is so ancient that it was founded, they say, by that legendary
Diomed who acted in the same capacity for Beneven-tum, Arpi, and other
cities. But this record does not satisfy Monsignor Sarnelli, its
historian, according to whom it was already a flourishing town when
Shem, first son of Noah, became its king. He reigned about the year 1770
of the creation of the world. Two years after the deluge he was 100
years old, and at that age begat a son Arfaxad, after whose birth he
lived yet another five hundred years. The second king of Sipontum was
Appulus, who ruled in the year 2213. . . . Later on, Saint Peter
sojourned here, and baptized a few people.

Of Sipontum nothing is left; nothing save a church, and even that built
only yesterday--in the eleventh century; a far-famed church, in the
Pisan style, with wrought marble columns reposing on lions, sculptured
diamond ornaments, and other crafty stonework that gladdens the eye. It
used to be the seat of an archbishopric, and its fine episcopal chairs
are now preserved at Sant' Angelo; and you may still do homage to the
authentic Byzantine Madonna painted on wood by Saint Luke,
brown-complexioned, long-nosed, with staring eyes, and holding the
Infant on her left arm. Earthquakes and Saracen incursions ruined the
town, which became wholly abandoned when Man-fredonia was built with its
stones.

Of pagan antiquity there are a few capitals lying about, as well as
granite columns in the curious old crypt. A pillar stands all forlorn in
a field; and quite close to the church are erected two others--the
larger of cipollino, beautified by a patina of golden lichen; a marble
well-head, worn half through with usage of ropes, may be found buried in
the rank grass. The plain whereon stood the great city of Sipus is
covered, now, with bristly herbage. The sea has retired from its old
beach, and half-wild cattle browse on the site of those lordly quays and
palaces. Not a stone is left. Malaria and desolation reign supreme.

It is a profoundly melancholy spot. Yet I was glad of the brief vision.
I shall have fond and enduring memories of that sanctuary--the
travertine of its artfully carven fabric glowing orange-tawny in the
sunset; of the forsaken plain beyond, full of ghostly phantoms of the past.

As for Manfredonia--it is a sad little place, when the south wind moans
and mountains are veiled in mists.



V

LAND OF HORACE


Venosa, nowadays, lies off the beaten track. There are only three trains
a day from the little junction of Rocchetta, and they take over an hour
to traverse the thirty odd kilometres of sparsely inhabited land. It is
an uphill journey, for Venosa lies at a good elevation. They say that
German professors, bent on Horatian studies, occasionally descend from
those worn-out old railway carriages; but the ordinary travellers are
either peasant-folk or commercial gentlemen from north Italy. Worse than
malaria or brigandage, against both of which a man may protect himself,
there is no escaping from the companionship of these last-named--these
pathologically inquisitive, empty-headed, and altogether dreadful
people. They are the terror of the south. And it stands to reason that
only the most incapable and most disagreeable of their kind are sent to
out-of-the-way places like Venosa.

One asks oneself whether this town has greatly changed since Roman
times. To be sure it has; domestic calamities and earthquakes (such as
the terrible one of 1456) have altered it beyond recognition. The
amphitheatre that seated ten thousand spectators is merged into the
earth, and of all the buildings of Roman date nothing is left save a
pile of masonry designated as the tomb of the Marcellus who was killed
here by Hannibal's soldiery, and a few reticulated walls of the second
century or thereabouts known as the "House of Horace"--as genuine as
that of Juliet in Verona or the Mansion of Loreto. Yet the tradition is
an old one, and the builder of the house, whoever he was, certainly
displayed some poetic taste in his selection of a fine view across the
valley. There is an indifferent statue of Horace in the marketplace. A
previous one, also described as Horace, was found to be the effigy of
somebody else. Thus much I learn from Lupoli's "Iter Venusinum."

But there are ancient inscriptions galore, worked into the masonry of
buildings or lying about at random. Mommsen has collected numbers of
them in his _Corpus,_ and since that time some sixty new ones have been
discovered. And then--the stone lions of Roman days, couched forlornly
at street corners, in courtyards and at fountains, in every stage of
decrepitude, with broken jaws and noses, missing legs and tails! Venosa
is a veritable infirmary for mutilated antiques of this species. Now the
lion is doubtless a nobly decorative beast, but--_toujours perdrix!_ Why
not a few griffons or other ornaments? The Romans were not an
imaginative race.

The country around must have looked different in olden days. Horace
describes it as covered with forests, and from a manuscript of the early
seventeenth century which has lately been printed one learns that the
surrounding regions were full of "hares, rabbits, foxes, roe deer,
wild boars, martens, porcupines, hedgehogs, tortoises and
wolves"--wood-loving creatures which have now, for the most part, deserted
Venosa. Still, there are left some stretches of oak at the back
of the town, and the main lines of the land cannot change. Yonder lies
the Horatian Forense and "Acherontia's nest"; further on, the glades of
Bantia (the modern Banzi); the long-drawn Garganian Mount, on which the
poet's eye must often have rested, emerges above the plain of Apulia
like an island (and such it is: an island of Austrian stone, stranded
upon the beach of Italy). Monte Vulture still dominates the landscape,
although at this nearness the crater loses its shapely conical outline
and assumes a serrated edge. On its summit I perceive a gigantic
cross--one of a number of such symbols which were erected by the
clericals at the time of the recent rationalist congress in Rome.

From this chronicler I learn another interesting fact: that Venosa was
not malarious in the author's day. He calls it healthy, and says that
the only complaint from which the inhabitants suffered was "ponture"
(pleurisy). It is now within the infected zone. I dare say the
deforestation of the country, which prevented the downflow of the
rivers--choking up their beds with detritus and producing stagnant pools
favourable to the breeding of the mosquito--has helped to spread the
plague in many parts of Italy. In Horace's days Venosa was immune,
although Rome and certain rural districts were already malarious.
Ancient votive tablets to the fever-goddess Mephitis (malaria) have been
found not far from here, in the plain below the present city of Potenza.

A good deal of old Roman blood and spirit seems to survive here. After
the noise of the Neapolitan provinces, where chattering takes the place
of thinking, it is a relief to find oneself in the company of these
grave self-respecting folks, who really converse, like the Scotch, in
disinterested and impersonal fashion.  Their attitude towards religious
matters strikes me as peculiarly Horatian; it is not active scepticism,
but rather a bland tolerance or what one of them described as
"indifferentismo"--submission to acts of worship and all other usages
(whatever they may be) consecrated by time: the _pietàs--_the
conservative, law-abiding Roman spirit. And if you walk towards sunset
along any of the roads leading into the country, you will meet the
peasants riding home from their field labours accompanied by their dogs,
pigs and goats; and among them you will recognize many types of Roman
physiognomies--faces of orators and statesmen--familiar from old coins.
About a third of the population are of the dark-fair complexion, with
blue or green eyes. But the women are not handsome, although the town
derives its name from Benoth (Venus). Some genuine Roman families have
continued to exist to this day, such as that of Cenna (Cinna). One of
them was the author of the chronicle above referred to; and there is an
antique bas-relief worked into the walls of the Trinità abbey, depicting
some earlier members of this local family.

One is astonished how large a literature has grown up around this small
place--but indeed, the number of monographs dealing with every one of
these little Italian towns is a ceaseless source of surprise. Look below
the surface and you will find, in all of them, an undercurrent of keen
spirituality--a nucleus of half a dozen widely read and thoughtful men,
who foster the best traditions of the mind. You will not find them in
the town council or at the café. No newspapers commend their labours, no
millionaires or learned societies come to their assistance, and though
typography is cheap in this country, they often stint themselves of the
necessities of life in order to produce these treatises of calm
research. There is a deep gulf, here, between the mundane and the
intellectual life. These men are retiring in their habits; and one
cannot but revere their scholarly and almost ascetic spirit that
survives like a green oasis amid the desert of "politics," roguery and
municipal corruption.

The City Fathers of Venosa are reputed rich beyond the dreams of
avarice. Yet their town is by no means a clean place--it is twice as
dirty as Lucera: a reposeful dirtiness, not vulgar or chaotic, but
testifying to time-honoured neglect, to a feudal contempt of
cleanliness. You crawl through narrow, ill-paved streets, looking down
into subterranean family bedrooms that must be insufferably damp in
winter, and filled, during the hot months, with an odour hard to
conceive. There is electric lighting, of course--a paternal government
having made the price of petroleum so prohibitive that the use of
electricity for street-lighting became quite common in the lowliest
places; but the crude glare only serves to show up the general squalor.
One reason for this state of affairs is that there are no quarries for
decent paving-stones in the neighbourhood. And another, that Venosa
possesses no large citizen class, properly so called. The inhabitants
are mostly peasant proprietors and field labourers, who leave the town
in the morning and return home at night with their beasts, having
learned by bitter experience to take up their domiciles in the towns
rather than in the country-side, which was infested with brigandage and
in an unsettled state up to a short time ago. The Cincinnatus note
dominates here, and with an agricultural population no city can be kept
clean.

But Venosa has one inestimable advantage over Lucera and most Italian
towns: there is no octroi.

Would it be believed that Naples is surrounded by a towering Chinese
wall, miles upon miles of it, crowned with a complicated apparatus of
alarm-bells and patrolled night and day by a horde of _doganieri_ armed
to the teeth--lest some peasant should throw a bundle of onions into the
sacred precincts of the town without paying the duty of half a farthing?
No nation with any sense of humour would endure this sort of thing.
Every one resents the airs of this army of official loafers who infest
the land, and would be far better employed themselves in planting onions
upon the many miles of Italy which now lie fallow; the results of the
system have been shown to be inadequate, "but," as my friend the Roman
deputy once asked me, "if we dismiss these fellows from their job, how
are we to employ them?"

"Nothing is simpler," I replied. "Enrol them into the Town Council of
Naples. It already contains more _employes_ than all the government
offices of London put together; a few more will surely make no difference?"

"By Bacchus," he cried, "you foreigners have ideas! We could dispose of
ten or fifteen thousand of them, at least, in the way you suggest. I'll
make a note of that, for our next session."

And so he did.

But the _Municipio_ of Naples, though extensive, is a purely local
charity, and I question whether its inmates will hear of any one save
their own cousins and brothers-in-law figuring as colleagues in office.

Every attempt at innovation in agriculture, as in industry, is forthwith
discouraged by new and subtle impositions, which lie in wait for the
enterprising Italian and punish him for his ideas. There is, of course,
a prohibitive duty on every article or implement manufactured abroad;
there is the octroi, a relic of medisevalism, the most unscientific,
futile, and vexatious of taxes; there are municipal dues to be paid on
animals bought and animals sold, on animals kept and animals killed, on
milk and vine-props and bricks, on timber for scaffolding and lead and
tiles and wine--on every conceivable object which the peasant produces
or requires for his existence. And one should see the faces of the
municipal _employes_ who extort these tributes.  God alone knows from
what classes of the populace they are recruited; certain it is that
their physiognomy reflects their miserable calling.  One can endure the
militarism of Germany and the bureaucracy of Austria; but it is
revolting to see decent Italian countryfolk at the mercy of these
uncouth savages, veritable cave-men, whose only intelligible expression
is one of malice striving to break through a crust of congenital
cretinism.

We hear much of the great artists and speculative philosophers of old
Italy. The artists of modern Italy are her bureaucrats who design and
elaborate the taxes; her philosophers, the peasants who pay them.

In point of method, at least, there is nothing to choose between the
exactions of the municipal and governmental ruffians. I once saw an old
woman fined fifty francs for having in her possession a pound of
sea-salt. By what logic will you make it clear to ignorant people that
it is wrong to take salt out of the sea, whence every one takes fish
which are more valuable? The waste of time employed over red tape alone
on these occasions would lead to a revolution anywhere save among men
inured by long abuses to this particular form of tyranny. No wonder the
women of the country-side, rather than waste three precious hours in
arguments about a few cheeses, will smuggle them past the authorities
under the device of being _enceintes;_ no wonder their wisest old men
regard the paternal government as a successfully organized swindle,
which it is the citizen's bounden duty to frustrate whenever possible.
Have _you_ ever tried to convey--in legal fashion--a bottle of wine from
one town into another; or to import, by means of a sailing-boat, an old
frying-pan into some village by the sea? __It is a fine art, only to be
learnt by years of apprenticeship. The regulations on these subjects,
though ineffably childish, look simple enough on paper; they take no
account of that "personal element" which is everything in the south, of
the ruffled tempers of those gorgeous but inert creatures who, disturbed
in their siestas or mandolin-strummings, may keep you waiting half a
day while they fumble ominously over some dirty-looking scrap of paper.
For on such occasions they are liable to provoking fits of
conscientiousness. This is all very well, my dear sir, but--Ha! Where,
where is that certificate of origin, that stamp, that _lascia-passare?_

And all for one single sou!

No wonder even Englishmen discover that law-breaking, in Italy, becomes
a necessity, a rule of life.

And, soon enough, much more than a mere necessity. . . .

For even as the traveller new to Borneo, when they offer him a
durian-fruit, is instantly brought to vomiting-point by its odour, but
after a few mouthfuls declares it to be the very apple of Paradise, and
marvels how he could have survived so long in the benighted lands where
such ambrosial fare is not; even as the true connaisseur who, beholding
some rare scarlet idol from the Tingo-Tango forests, at first casts it
aside and then, light dawning as he ponders over those monstrous
complexities, begins to realize that they, and they alone, contain the
quintessential formulae of all the fervent dreamings of Scopas and
Michelangelo; even as he who first, upon a peak in Darien, gazed
awestruck upon the grand Pacific slumbering at his feet, till presently
his senses reeled at the blissful prospect of fresh regions unrolling
themselves, boundless, past the fulfilment of his fondest hopes------

Even so, in Italy, the domesticated Englishman is amazed to find that he
possesses a sense hitherto unrevealed, opening up a new horizon, a new
zest in life--the sense of law-breaking. At first, being an honest man,
he is shocked at the thought of such a thing; next, like a sensible
person, reconciled to the inevitable; lastly, as befits his virile race,
he learns to play the game so well that the horrified officials
grudgingly admit (and it is their highest praise):

  Inglese italianizzato--
  Diavolo incarnato.

Yes; slowly the charm of law-breaking grows upon the Italianated Saxon;
slowly, but surely. There is a neo-barbarism not only in matters of art.



VI

AT VENOSA


There has always, no doubt, been a castle at Venosa. Frederick
Barbarossa lived here oftener than in Sicily; from these regions he
could look over to his beloved East, and the security of this particular
keep induced him to store his treasures therein. The indefatigable
Huillard Bréholles has excavated some account of them from the
Hohen-staufen records. Thus we learn that here, at Venosa, the Emperor
deposited that marvel, that _tentorium,_ I mean, _mirifica arte
constructum, in quo imagines solis et lunce artificialiter motte, cursum
suum certis et debitis spatiis peragrant, et boras diei et noctis
in-fallibiliter indicant. Cuius tentorii valor viginti millium marcarum
pretium dicitur transcendisse._ It was given him by the Sultan of
Babylonia. Always the glowing Oriental background!

The present castle, a picturesque block with moat and corner towers, was
built in 1470 by the redoubtable Pierro del Balzo. A church used to
occupy the site, but the warrior, recognizing its strategic advantages,
transplanted the holy edifice to some other part of the town. It is now
a ruin, the inhabitable portions of which have been converted into cheap
lodgings for sundry poor folk--a monetary speculation of some local
magnate, who paid 30,000 francs for the whole structure. You can climb
up into one of the shattered towers whereon reposes an old cannon amid a
wind-sown garden of shrubs and weeds. Here the jackdaws congregate at
nightfall, flying swiftly and noiselessly to their resting-place. Odd,
how quiet Italian jackdaws are, compared with those of England; they
have discarded their voices, which is the best thing they could have
done in a land where every one persecutes them. There is also a dungeon
at this castle, an underground recess with cunningly contrived
projections in its walls to prevent prisoners from climbing upwards; and
other horrors.

The cathedral of Venosa contains a chapel with an unusually nne portal
of Renaissance work, but the chief architectural beauty of the town is
the decayed Benedictine abbey of La Trinità. The building is roofless;
it was never completed, and the ravages of time and of man have not
spared it; earthquakes, too, have played sad tricks with its arches and
columns, particularly that of 1851, which destroyed the neighbouring
town of Melfi. It stands beyond the more modern settlement on what is
now a grassy plain, and attached to it is a Norman chapel containing the
bones of Alberada, mother of Boemund, and others of her race. Little of
the original structure of this church is left, though its walls are
still adorned, in patches, with frescoes of genuine angels--attractive
creatures, as far removed from those bloodless Byzantine anatomies as
from the plethoric and insipid females of the _settecento._ There is
also a queenly portrait declared to represent Catherine of Siena. I
would prefer to follow those who think it is meant for Sigilgaita.

Small as it is, this place--the church and the abbey--is not one for a
casual visit. Lenormant calls the Trinità a "_Musée épigra-phique"--_so
many are the Latin inscriptions which the monks have worked into its
masonry. They have encrusted the walls with them; and many antiquities
of other kinds have been deposited here since those days. The ruin is
strewn with columns and capitals of fantastic devices; the inevitable
lions, too, repose upon its grassy floor, as well as a pagan altar-stone
that once adorned the neighbouring amphitheatre. One thinks of the
labour expended in raising those prodigious blocks and fitting them
together without mortar in their present positions--they, also, came
from the amphitheatre, and the sturdy letterings engraved on some of
them formed, once upon a time, a sentence that ran round that building,
recording the names of its founders.

Besides the Latin inscriptions, there are Hebrew funereal stones of
great interest, for a colony of Jews was established here between the
years 400 and 800; poor folks, for the most part; no one knows whence
they came or whither they went. One is apt to forget that south Italy
was swarming with Jews for centuries. The catacombs of Venosa were
discovered in 1853. Their entrance lies under a hill-side not far from
the modern railway station, and Professor Mueller, a lover of Venosa,
has been engaged for the last twenty-five years in writing a ponderous
tome on the subject. Unfortunately (so they say) there is not much
chance of its ever seeing the light, for just as he is on the verge of
publication, some new Jewish catacombs are discovered in another part of
the world which cause the Professor to revise all his previous theories.
The work must be written anew and brought up to date, and hardly is this
accomplished when fresh catacombs are found elsewhere, necessitating a
further revision.  The Professor once more rewrites the whole. . . .

You will find accounts of the Trinità in Bertaux, Schulz and other
writers. Italian ones tell us what sounds rather surprising, namely,
that the abbey was built after a Lombard model, and not a French one. Be
that as it may--and they certainly show good grounds for their
contention--the ruin is a place of rare charm. Not easily can one see
relics of Roman, Hebrew and Norman life crushed into so small a space,
welded together by the massive yet fair architecture of the
Benedictines, and interpenetrated, at the same time, with a
Mephistophelian spirit of modern indifference. Of cynical
_insouciance;_ for although this is a "national monument," nothing
whatever is done in the way of repairs. Never a month passes without
some richly carven block of stonework toppling down into the weeds,
[Footnote: The process of decay can be seen by comparing my photograph
of the east front with that taken to illustrate Giuseppe de Lorenzo's
monograph "Venosa e la Regione del Vulture" (Bergamo, 1906).]
and were it not for the zeal of a private citizen, the interior of the
building would long ago have become an impassable chaos of stones and
shrubbery. The Trinità cannot be _restored_ without enormous outlay;
nobody dreams of such a thing. A yearly expenditure of ten pounds,
however, would go far towards arresting its fall. But where shall the
money be found? This enthusiastic nation, so enamoured of all that is
exquisite in art, will spend sixty million francs on a new Ministry of
Justice which, barely completed, is already showing signs of disrupture;
it will cheerfully vote _(vide_ daily press) the small item of eighty
thousand francs to supply that institution with pens and ink--lucky
contractor!--while this and a hundred other buildings of singular beauty
are allowed to crumble to pieces, day by day.

Not far from the abbey there stands a church dedicated to Saint Roque.
Go within, if you wish to see the difference between Benedictine dignity
and the buffoonery which subsequently tainted the Catholicism of the
youth. On its gable sits a strange emblem: a large stone dog, gazing
amiably at the landscape. The saint, during his earthly career, was
always accompanied by a dog, and now likes to have him on the roof of
his sanctuary.

The Norman church attached to the Trinità lies at a lower level than
that building, having been constructed, says Lupoli, on the foundations
of a temple to Hymenaeus. It may be so; but one distrusts Lupoli. A
remarkable Norman capital, now wrought into a font, is preserved here,
and I was interested in watching the behaviour of a procession of female
pilgrims in regard to it. Trembling with emotion, they perambulated the
sacred stone, kissing every one of its corners; then they dipped their
hands into its basin, and kissed them devoutly. An old hag, the mistress
of the ceremonies, muttered: "tutti santi--tutti santi!" at each
osculation. Next, they prostrated themselves on the floor and licked
the cold stones, and after wallowing there awhile, rose up and began to
kiss a small fissure in the masonry of the wall, the old woman
whispering, "Santissimo!" A familiar spectacle, no doubt; but one which
never fails of its effect. This anti-hygienic crack in the wall, with
its suggestions of yoni-worship, attracted me so strongly that I begged
a priest to explain to me its mystical signification. But he only said,
with a touch of mediaeval contempt:

"_Sono femine!_"

He showed me, later on, a round Roman pillar near the entrance of the
church worn smooth by the bodies of females who press themselves between
it and the wall, in order to become mothers. The notion caused him some
amusement--he evidently thought this practice a speciality of Venosa.

In my country, I said, pillars with a contrary effect would be more
popular among the fair sex.

Lear gives another account of this phallic emblem. He says that
perambulating it hand in hand with another person, the two are sure to
remain friends for life.

This is pre-eminently a "Victorian" version.



VII

THE BANDUSIAN FOUNT


The traveller in these parts is everlastingly half-starved. Here, at
Venosa, the wine is good--excellent, in fact; but the food monotonous
and insufficient. This improper dieting is responsible for much
mischief; it induces a state of chronic exacerbation. Nobody would
believe how nobly I struggle, day and night, against its evil
suggestions. A man's worst enemy is his own empty stomach. None knew it
better than Horace.

And yet he declared that lettuces and such-like stuff sufficed him. No
doubt, no doubt. "Olives nourish me." Just so! One does not grow up in
the school of Maecenas without learning the subtle delights of the
simple life. But I would wager that after a week of such feeding as I
have now undergone at his native place, he would quickly have remembered
some urgent business to be transacted in the capital--Caesar Augustus,
me-thinks, would have desired his company. And even so, I have suddenly
woke up to the fact that Taranto, my next resting-place, besides
possessing an agreeably warm climate, has some passable restaurants. I
will pack without delay. Mount Vulture must wait. The wind alone, the
Vulturnus or south-easterly wind, is quite enough to make one despair of
climbing hills. It has blown with objectionable persistency ever since
my arrival at Venosa.

To escape from its attentions, I have been wandering about the secluded
valleys that seam this region. Streamlets meander here amid rustling
canes and a luxuriant growth of mares' tails and creepers; their banks
are shaded by elms and poplars--Horatian trees; the thickets are loud
with songs of nightingale, black-cap and oriole. These humid dells are a
different country from the uplands, wind-swept and thriftily cultivated.

It was here, yesterday, that I came upon an unexpected sight--an army of
workmen engaged in burrowing furiously into the bowels of Mother Earth.
They told me that this tunnel would presently become one of the arteries
of that vast system, the Apulian Aqueduct. The discovery accorded with
my Roman mood, for the conception and execution alike of this grandiose
project are worthy of the Romans. Three provinces where, in years of
drought, wine is cheaper than water, are being irrigated--in the teeth
of great difficulties of engineering and finance. Among other things,
there are 213 kilometres of subterranean tunnellings to be built; eleven
thousand workmen are employed; the cost is estimated at 125 million
francs. The Italian government is erecting to its glory a monument more
durable than brass.  This is their heritage from the Romans--this talent
for dealing with rocks and waters; for bridling a destructive
environment and making it subservient to purposes of human
intercourse. It is a part of that practical Roman genius for
"pacification." Wild nature, to the Latin, ever remains an obstacle to
be overcome--an enemy.

Such was Horace's point of view. The fruitful fields and their hardy
brood of tillers appealed to him; [Footnote: See next chapter.]
the ocean and snowy Alps were beyond the range of his affections. His
love of nature was heartfelt, but his nature was not ours; it was nature
as we see it in those Roman landscapes at Pompeii; nature ancillary to
human needs, in her benignant and comfortable moods. Virgil's _lachrymae
rerum_ hints at mystic and extra-human yearnings; to the troubadours
nature was conventionally stereotyped--a scenic decoration to set off
sentiments more or less sincere; the roman-ticists wallow in her rugged
aspects. Horace never allowed phantasy to outrun intelligence; he kept
his feet on earth; man was the measure of his universe, and a sober mind
his highest attribute.  Nature must be kept "in her place." Her
extrava-gances are not to be admired. This anthropocentric spirit has
made him what he is--the ideal anti-sentimentalist and anti-vulgarian.
For excess of sentiment, like all other intemperance, is the mark of
that unsober and unsteady beast--the crowd.

Things have changed since those days; in proportion as the world has
grown narrower and the element of fear and mystery diluted, our
sympathies have broadened; the Goth, in particular, has learnt the knack
of detecting natural charm where the Latin, to this day, beholds nothing
but confusion and strife.

On the spot, I observe, one is liable to return to the antique outlook;
to see the beauty of fields and rivers, yet only when subsidiary to
man's personal convenience; to appreciate a fair landscape--with a
shrewd worldly sense of its potential uses. "The garden that I love,"
said an Italian once to me, "contains good vegetables." This utilitarian
flavour of the south has become very intelligible to me during the last
few days. I, too, am thinking less of calceolarias than of cauliflowers.

A pilgrimage to the Bandusian Fount (if such it be) is no great
undertaking--a morning's trip. The village of San Gervasio is the next
station to Venosa, lying on an eminence only thirteen kilometres from
there.

Here once ran a fountain which was known as late as the twelfth century
as the Fons Bandusinus, and Ughelli, in his "Italia Sacra," cites a deed
of the year 1103 speaking of a church "at the Bandusian Fount near
Venosa." Church and fountain have now disappeared; but the site of the
former, they say, is known, and close to it there once issued a copious
spring called "Fontana Grande." This is probably the Horatian one; and
is also, I doubt not, that referred to in Cenna's chronicle of Venosa:
"At Torre San Gervasio are the ruins of a castle and an abundant spring
of water colder than all the waters of Venosa," _Frigus amabile. . . ._

I could discover no one in the place to show me where this now vanished
church stood. I rather think it occupied the site of the present church
of Saint Anthony, the oldest in San Gervasio.

As to the fountain--there are now two of them, at some considerable
distance from each other. Both of them are copious, and both lie near
the foot of the hill on which the village now stands. Capmartin de
Chaupy has reasons for believing that in former times San Gervasio did
not occupy its present exalted position (vol. iii, p. 538).

One of them gushes out on the plain near the railway station, and has
been rebuilt within recent times. It goes by the name of "Fontana
rotta." The other, the "Fontana del Fico," lies on the high road to
Spinazzola; the water spouts out of seven mouths, and near at hand is a
plantation of young sycamores. The basin of this fount was also rebuilt
about ten years ago at no little expense, and has now a thoroughly
modern and businesslike aspect. But I was told that a complicated
network of subterranean pipes and passages, leading to "God knows
where," was unearthed during the process of reconstruction. It was
magnificent masonry, said my informant, who was an eye-witness of the
excavations but could tell me nothing more of interest.

The problem how far either of these fountains fulfils the conditions
postulated in the last verse of Horace's ode may be solved by every one
according as he pleases. In fact, there is no other way of solving it.
In my professorial mood, I should cite the cavern and the "downward
leaping" waters against the hypothesis that the Bandusian Fount stood on
either of these modern sites; in favour of it, one might argue that the
conventional rhetoric of all Roman art may have added these embellishing
touches, and cite, in confirmation thereof, the last two lines of the
previous verse, mentioning animals that could hardly have slaked their
thirst with any convenience at a cavernous spring such as he describes.
Caverns, moreover, are not always near the summits of hills; they may be
at the foot of them; and water, even the Thames at London Bridge, always
leaps downhill--more or less. Of more importance is old Chaupy's
discovery of the northerly aspect of one of these springs--"thee the
fierce season of the blazing dog-star cannot touch." There may have been
a cave at the back of the "Fontana del Fico"; the "Fontana rotta" is
hopelessly uncavernous.

For the rest, there is no reason why the fountain should not have
changed its position since ancient days. On the contrary, several things
might incline one to think that it has been forced to abandon the high
grounds and seek its present lower level. To begin with, the hill on
which the village stands is honeycombed by hives of caves which the
inhabitants have carved out of the loose conglomerate (which, by the
way, hardly corresponds with the poet's _saxum);_ and it may well be
that a considerable collapse of these earth-dwellings obstructed the
original source of the waters and obliged them to seek a vent lower down.

Next, there are the notorious effects of deforestation. An old man told
me that in his early days the hill was covered with timber--indeed, this
whole land, now a stretch of rolling grassy downs, was decently wooded
up to a short time ago. I observed that the roof of the oldest of the
three churches, that of Saint Anthony, is formed of wooden rafters (a
rare material hereabouts). Deforestation would also cause the waters to
issue at a lower level.

Lastly, and chiefly--the possible shatterings of earthquakes.
Catastrophes such as those which have damaged Venosa in days past may
have played havoc with the water-courses of this place by choking up
their old channels. My acquaintance with the habits of Apulian
earthquakes, with the science of hydrodynamics and the geological
formation of San Gervasio is not sufficiently extensive to allow me to
express a mature opinion. I will content myself with presenting to
future investigators the plausible theory--plausible because
conveniently difficult to refute--that some terrestrial upheaval in past
days is responsible for the present state of things.

But these are merely three hypotheses. I proceed to mention three facts
which point in the same direction; i.e. that the water used to issue at
a higher level. Firstly, there is that significant name "Fontana
rotta"--"the broken fountain." . . . Does not this suggest that its flow
may have been interrupted, or intercepted, in former times?

Next, if you climb up from this "Fontana rotta" to the village by the
footpath, you will observe, on your right hand as you ascend the slope,
at about a hundred yards below the Church of Saint Anthony, an old well
standing in a field of corn and shaded by three walnuts and an oak. This
well is still running, and was described to me as "molto antico."
Therefore an underground stream--in diminished volume, no doubt--still
descends from the heights.

Thirdly, in the village you will notice an alley leading out of the
Corso Manfredi (one rejoices to find the name of Manfred surviving in
these lands)--an alley which is entitled "Vico Sirene." The name arrests
your attention, for what have the Sirens to do in these inland regions?
Nothing whatever, unless they existed as ornamental statuary: statuary
such as frequently gives names to streets in Italy, witness the "Street
of the Faun" in Ouida's novel, or that of the "Giant" in Naples (which
has now been re-christened). It strikes me as a humble but quite
scholarly speculation to infer that, the chief decorative uses of Sirens
being that of fountain deities, this obscure roadway keeps alive the
tradition of the old "Fontana Grande"--ornamented, we may suppose, with
marble Sirens--whose site is now forgotten, and whose very name has
faded from the memory of the countryfolk.

What, then, does my ramble of two hours at San Gervasio amount to? It
shows that there is a possibility, at least, of a now vanished fountain
having existed on the heights where it might fulfil more accurately the
conditions of Horace's ode. If Ughelli's church "at the Bandusian Fount"
stood on this eminence--well, I shall be glad to corroborate, for once
in the way, old Ughelli, whose book contains a deal of dire nonsense.
And if the Abbe Chaupy's suggestion that the village lay at the foot of
the hill should ever prove to be wrong--well, his amiable ghost may be
pleased to think that even this does not necessitate the sacrifice of
his Venosa theory in favour of that of the scholiast Akron; there is
still a way out of the difficulty.

But whether this at San Gervasio is the actual fountain hymned by
Horace--ah, that is quite another affair! Few poets, to be sure, have
clung more tenaciously to the memories of their childhood than did he
and Virgil. And yet, the whole scene may be a figment of his
imagination--the very word Bandusia may have been coined by him. Who can
tell? Then there is the Digentia hypothesis. I know it, I know it! I
have read some of its defenders, and consider _(entre nous)_ that they
have made out a pretty strong case. But I am not in the mood for
discussing their proposition--not just now.

Here at San Gervasio I prefer to think only of the Roman singer, so
sanely jovial, and of these waters as they flowed, limpid and cool, in
the days when they fired his boyish fancy. Deliberately I refuse to hear
the charmer Boissier. Deliberately, moreover, I shut my eyes to the
present condition of affairs; to the herd of squabbling laundresses and
those other incongruities that spoil the antique scene. Why not? The
timid alone are scared by microscopic discords of time and place. The
sage can invest this prosaic water-trough with all its pristine dignity
and romance by an unfailing expedient. He closes an eye. It is an art he
learns early in life; a simple art, and one that greatly conduces to
happiness. The ever alert, the conscientiously wakeful--how many fine
things they fail to see! Horace knew the wisdom of being genially
unwise; of closing betimes an eye, or an ear; or both. _Desipere in
loco. . . ._



VIII

TILLERS OF THE SOIL


I remember watching an old man stubbornly digging a field by himself. He
toiled through the flaming hours, and what he lacked in strength was
made up in the craftiness, _malizia,_ born of long love of the soil. The
ground was baked hard; but there was still a chance of rain, and the
peasants were anxious not to miss it. Knowing this kind of labour, I
looked on from my vine-wreathed arbour with admiration, but without envy.

I asked whether he had not children to work for him.

"All dead--and health to you!" he replied, shaking his white head
dolefully.

And no grandchildren?

"All Americans (emigrants)."

He spoke in dreamy fashion of years long ago when he, too, had
travelled, sailing to Africa for corals, to Holland and France; yes, and
to England also. But our dockyards and cities had faded from his mind;
he remembered only our men.

"_Che bella gioventù--che bella gioventù!_" ("a sturdy brood"), he kept
on repeating. "And lately," he added, "America has been discovered." He
toiled fourteen hours a day, and he was 83 years old.

Apart from that creature of fiction, the peasant _in fabula_ whom we all
know, I can find little to admire in this whole class of men, whose talk
and dreams are of the things of the soil, and who knows of nothing save
the regular interchange of summer and winter with their unvarying tasks
and rewards. None save a Cincinnatus or Garibaldi can be ennobled by the
spade. In spleenful moments, it seems to me that the most depraved of
city-dwellers has flashes of enthusiasm and self-abnegation never
experienced by this shifty, retrogressive and ungenerous brood, which
lives like the beasts of the field and has learnt all too much of their
logic. But they have a beast-virtue hereabouts which compels
respect--contentment in adversity. In this point they resemble the
Russian peasantry. And yet, who can pity the moujik? His cheeks are
altogether too round, and his morals too superbly bestial; he has
clearly been created to sing and starve by turns. But the Italian
peasant who speaks in the tongue of Homer and Virgil and Boccaccio is
easily invested with a halo of martyrdom; it is delightful to sympathize
with men who combine the manners of Louis Quatorze with the profiles of
Augustus or Plato, and who still recall, in many of their traits, the
pristine life of Odyssean days. Thus, they wear to-day the identical
"clouted leggings of oxhide, against the scratches of the thorns" which
old Laertes bound about his legs on the upland farm in Ithaka. They call
them "galandrine."

On occasions of drought or flood there is not a word of complaint. I
have known these field-faring men and women for thirty years, and have
yet to hear a single one of them grumble at the weather. It is not
indifference; it is true philosophy--acquiescence in the inevitable. The
grievances of cultivators of lemons and wholesale agriculturalists,
whose speculations are often ruined by a single stroke of the human pen
in the shape of new regulations or tariffs, are a different thing;
_their_ curses are loud and long. But the bean-growers, dependent
chiefly on wind and weather, only speak of God's will. They have the
same forgiveness for the shortcomings of nature as for a wayward child.
And no wonder they are distrustful. Ages of oppression and misrule have
passed over their heads; sun and rain, with all their caprice, have been
kinder friends to them than their earthly masters. Some day, presumably,
the government will wake up to the fact that Italy is not an industrial
country, and that its farmers might profitably be taken into account again.

But a change is upon the land. Types like this old man are becoming
extinct; for the patriarchal system of Coriolanus, the glory of southern
Italy, is breaking up.

This is not the fault of conscription which, though it destroys old
dialects, beliefs and customs, widens the horizon by bringing fresh
ideas into the family, and generally sound ones. It does even more; it
teaches the conscripts to read and write, so that it is no longer as
dangerous to have dealings with a man who possesses these
accomplishments as in the days when they were the prerogative of
_avvocati_ and other questionable characters. A countryman, nowadays,
may read and write and yet be honest.

What is shattering family life is the speculative spirit born of
emigration. A continual coming and going; two-thirds of the adolescent
and adult male population are at this moment in Argentina or the United
States--some as far afield as New Zealand. Men who formerly reckoned in
sous now talk of thousands of francs; parental authority over boys is
relaxed, and the girls, ever quick to grasp the advantages of money,
lose all discipline and steadiness.

"My sons won't touch a spade," said a peasant to me; "and when I thrash
them, they complain to the police. They simply gamble and drink, waiting
their turn to sail. If I were to tell you the beatings _we_ used to get,
sir, you wouldn't believe me. You wouldn't believe me, not if I took my
oath, you wouldn't! I can feel them still--speaking with respect--here!"

These emigrants generally stay away three or four years at a stretch,
and then return, spend their money, and go out again to make more.
Others remain for longer periods, coming back with huge incomes--twenty
to a hundred francs a day. Such examples produce the same effect as
those of the few lucky winners in the State lottery; every one talks of
them, and forgets the large number of less fortunate speculators.
Meanwhile the land suffers. The carob-tree is an instance. This
beautiful and almost eternal growth, the "hope of the southern
Apennines" as Professor Savastano calls it, whose pods constitute an
important article of commerce and whose thick-clustering leaves yield a
cool shelter, comparable to that of a rocky cave, in the noonday heat,
used to cover large tracts of south Italy. Indifferent to the scorching
rays of the sun, flourishing on the stoniest declivities, and sustaining
the soil in a marvellous manner, it was planted wherever nothing else
would grow--a distant but sure profit. Nowadays carobs are only cut
down. Although their produce rises in value every year, not one is
planted; nobody has time to wait for the fruit.  [Footnote: There are a
few laudable exceptions, such as Prince Belmonte, who has covered large
stretches of bad land with this tree. (See Consular Reports, Italy, No.
431.) But he is not a peasant!]

It is nothing short of a social revolution, depopulating the country of
its most laborious elements. 788,000 emigrants left in one year alone
(1906); in the province of Basilicata the exodus exceeds the birthrate.
I do not know the percentage of those who depart never to return, but it
must be considerable; the land is full of chronic grass-widows.

Things will doubtless right themselves in due course; it stands to
reason that in this acute transitional stage the demoralizing effects of
the new system should be more apparent than its inevitable benefits.
Already these are not unseen; houses are springing up round villages,
and the emigrants return home with a disrespect for many of their
country's institutions which, under the circumstances, is neither
deplorable nor unjustifiable. A large family of boy-children, once a
dire calamity, is now the soundest of investments. Soon after their
arrival in America they begin sending home rations of money to their
parents; the old farm prospers once more, the daughters receive decent
dowries. I know farmers who receive over three pounds a month from their
sons in America--all under military age.

"We work, yes," they will then tell you, "but we also smoke our pipe."

Previous to this wholesale emigration, things had come to such a pass
that the landed proprietor could procure a labourer at a franc a day,
out of which he had to feed and clothe himself; it was little short of
slavery. The roles are now reversed, and while landlords are
impoverished, the rich emigrant buys up the farms or makes his own terms
for work to be done, wages being trebled. A new type of peasant is being
evolved, independent of family, fatherland or traditions--with a sure
haven of refuge across the water when life at home becomes intolerable.

Yes; a change is at hand.

And another of those things which emigration and the new order of
affairs are surely destroying is that ancient anthropomorphic way of
looking at nature, with its expressive turns of speech. A small boy,
whom I watched gathering figs last year, informed me that the fig-tree
was _innamorato delle pietre e cisterne--_enamoured of stones and
cisterns; meaning, that its roots are searchingly destructive to masonry
and display a fabulous intuition for the proximity of water. He also
told me, what was news to me, that there are more than two or three
varieties of figs. Will you have his list of them? Here it is:

There is the _fico arnese,_ the smallest of all, and the _fico
santillo,_ both of which are best when dried; the _fico vollombola,_
which is never dried, because it only makes the spring fruit; the _fico
molegnano,_ which ripens as late as the end of October and must be eaten
fresh; the _fico coretorto ("_ wry-heart "--from its shape), which has
the most leathery skin of all and is often destroyed by grubs after
rain; the _fico troiano;_ the _fico arzano;_ and the _fico vescovo,_
which appears when all the others are over, and is eaten in February
(this may be the kind referred to in Stamer's "Dolce Napoli" as deriving
from Sorrento, where the first tree of its kind was discovered growing
out of the garden wall of the bishop's palace, whence the name). All
these are _neri--_black.

Now for the white kinds. The _fico paradiso_ has a tender skin, but is
easily spoilt by rain and requires a ridiculous amount of sun to dry it;
ihe _fico vottato_ is also better fresh; the _fico pezzottolo_ is often
attacked by grubs, but grows to a large size every two or three years;
the _fico pascarello_ is good up till Christmas; the _fico natalino;_
lastly, the _fico ----_, whose name I will not record, though it would
be an admirable illustration of that same anthropomorphic turn of mind.
The _santillo_ and _arnese,_ he added, are the varieties which are cut
into two and laid lengthwise upon each other and so dried (Query: Is not
this the "duplex ficus" of Horace?).

"Of course there are other kinds," he said, "but I don't remember them
just now." When I asked whether he could tell these different fig-trees
apart by the leaves and stems alone and without the fruit, he said that
each kind, even in winter, retained its peculiar "faccia" (face), but
that some varieties are more easy to distinguish than others. I enquired
into the mysteries of caprification, and learned that artificial
ripening by means of a drop of oil is practised with some of them,
chiefly the _santillo, vollombola, pascarello_ and _natalino._ Then he
gave me an account of the prices for the different qualities and seasons
which would have astonished a grocer.

All of which proves how easy it is to misjudge of folks who, although
they do not know that Paris is the capital of France, yet possess a
training adapted to their present needs. They are specialists for things
of the grain-giving earth; it is a pleasure to watch them grafting vines
and olives and lemons with the precision of a trained horticulturist.
They talk of "governing" _(governare)_ their soil; it is the word they
use in respect to a child.

Now figs are neither white nor black, but such is the terminology.
Stones are white or black; prepared olives are white or black; wine
is white or black. Are they become colour-blind because impregnated,
from earliest infancy, with a perennial blaze of rainbow
hues--colour-blinded, in fact; or from negligence, attention to this
matter not bringing with it any material advantage? Excepting that
sign-language which is profoundly interesting from an artistic and
ethnological point of view--why does not some scholar bring old lorio's
"Mimica degli Antichi" up to date?--few things are more worthy of
investigation than the colour-sense of these people. Of blue they have
not the faintest conception, probably because there are so few blue
solids in nature; Max Mueller holds the idea of blue to be quite
a modern acquisition on the part of the human race. So a cloudless sky
is declared to be "quite white." I once asked a lad as to the colour
of the sea which, at the moment, was of the most brilliant sapphire hue.
He pondered awhile and then said:

"Pare come fosse un colore morto" (a sort of dead colour).

Green is a little better known, but still chiefly connected with things
not out of doors, as a green handkerchief. The reason may be that this
tint is too common in nature to be taken note of. Or perhaps because
their chain of association between green and grass is periodically
broken up--our fields are always verdant, but theirs turn brown in
summer. Trees they sometimes call yellow, as do some ancient writers;
but more generally "half-black" or "tree-colour." A beech in full leaf
has been described to me as black. _"Rosso"_ does not mean red, but
rather dun or dingy; earth is _rosso._ When our red is to be signified,
they will use the word "turco," which came in with the well-known
dye-stuff of which the Turks once monopolized the secret. Thus there are
"Turkish" apples and "Turkish" potatoes. But "turco" may also mean
black--in accordance with the tradition that the Turks, the Saracens,
were a black race. Snakes, generally greyish-brown in these parts, are
described as either white or black; an eagle-owl is half-black; a
kestrel _un quasi bianco._ The mixed colours of cloths or silks are
either beautiful or ugly, and there's an end of it. It is curious to
compare this state of affairs with that existing in the days of Homer,
who was, as it were, feeling his way in a new region, and the propriety
of whose colour epithets is better understood when one sees things on
the spot. Of course I am only speaking of the humble peasant whose
blindness, for the rest, is not incurable.

One might enlarge the argument and deduce his odd insensibility to
delicate scents from the fact that he thrives in an atmosphere saturated
with violent odours of all kinds; his dullness in regard to finer shades
of sound--from the shrieks of squalling babies and other domestic
explosions in which he lives from the cradle to the grave. That is why
these people have no "nerves"; terrific bursts of din, such as the
pandemonium of Piedigrotta, stimulate them in the same way that others
might be stimulated by a quartette of Brahms. And if they who are so
concerned about the massacre of small birds in this country would devote
their energies to the invention of a noiseless and yet cheap powder,
their efforts would at last have some prospects of success. For it is
not so much the joy of killing, as the pleasurable noise of the gun,
which creates these local sportsmen; as the sagacious "Ultramontain"
observed long ago. "Le napolitain est pas-sionné pour la chasse," he
says, "parce que les coups de fusil flattent son oreille." [Footnote:
I have looked him up in Jos. Blanc's "Bibliographic." His name was C.
Haller.] This ingenuous love of noise may be connected, in some way,
with their rapid nervous discharges.

I doubt whether intermediate convulsions have left much purity of Greek
blood in south Italy, although emotional travellers, fresh from the
north, are for ever discovering "classic Hellenic profiles" among the
people. There is certainly a scarce type which, for want of a better
hypothesis, might be called Greek: of delicate build and below the
average height, small-eared and straight-nosed, with curly hair that
varies from blonde to what Italians call _castagno chiaro._ It differs
not only from the robuster and yet fairer northern breed, but also from
the darker surrounding races. But so many contradictory theories have
lately been promulgated on this head, that I prefer to stop short at the
preliminary question--did a Hellenic type ever exist? No more, probably,
than that charming race which the artists of Japan have invented for our
delectation.

Strains of Greek blood can be traced with certainty by their track of
folklore and poetry and song, such as still echoes among the vales of
Sparta and along the Bosphorus. Greek words are rather rare here, and
those that one hears--such as _sciusciello, caruso, crisommele,_
etc.--have long ago been garnered by scholars like De Grandis, Moltedo,
and Salvatore Mele. So Naples is far more Hellenic in dialect, lore,
song and gesture than these regions, which are still rich in pure
latinisms of speech, such as surgere (to arise); scitare (excitare--to
arouse); è (est--yes); fetare (foetare); trasete (transitus--passage of
quails); titillare (to tickle); craje (cras--to-morrow); pastena (a
plantation of young vines; Ulpian has "pastinum instituere"). A woman is
called "muliera," a girl "figliola," and children speak of their fathers
as "tata" (see Martial, epig. I, 101). Only yesterday I added a
beautiful latinism to my collection, when an old woman, in whose cottage
I sometimes repose, remarked to me, "Non avete virtù oggi "--you are not
_up to the mark_ to-day. The real, antique virtue! I ought to have
embraced her. No wonder I have no "virtue" just now. This savage
Vulturnian wind--did it not sap the Roman virtue at Cannae?

All those relics of older civilizations are disappearing under the
standardizing influence of conscription, emigration and national schooling.
And soon enough the _Contranome-_system __will become a thing of the
past. I shall be sorry to see it go, though it has often driven me
nearly crazy.

What is a _contranome?_

The same as a _sopranome._ It is a nickname which, as with the Russian
peasants, takes the place of Christian and surname together. A man will
tell you: "My name is Luigi, but they call me, by _contranome,_
O'Canzirro. I don't know my surname." Some of these nicknames are
intelligible, such as O'Sborramurella, which refers to the man's
profession of building those walls without mortar which are always
tumbling down and being repaired again; or O'Sciacquariello (acqua--a
leaking--one whose money leaks from his pocket--a spendthrift); or San
Pietro, from his saintly appearance; O'Civile, who is so uncivilized, or
Cristoforo Colombo, because he is so very wideawake. But eighty per cent
of them are quite obscure even to their owners, going back, as they do,
to some forgotten trick or incident during childhood or to some pet name
which even in the beginning meant nothing. Nearly every man and boy has
his contranome by which, and _by which alone,_ he is known in his
village; the women seldomer, unless they are conspicuous by some
peculiarity, such as A'Sbirra (the spy), or A'Paponnessa (the fat
one)--whose counterpart, in the male sex, would be O'Tripone.

Conceive, now, what trouble it entails to find a man in a strange
village if you happen not to know his contranome (and how on earth are
you to discover it?), if his surname means nothing to the inhabitants,
and his Christian name is shared by a hundred others. For they have an
amazing lack of inventiveness in this matter; four or five Christian
names will include the whole population of the place. Ten to one you
will lose a day looking for him, unless something like this takes place:

You set forth your business to a crowd of villagers that have collected
around. It is simple enough. You want to speak to Luigi So-and-so. A
good-natured individual, who seems particularly anxious to help,
summarizes affairs by saying:

"The gentleman wants Luigi So-and-so."

There is evidently some joke in the mere suggestion of such a thing;
they all smile. Then a confused murmur of voices goes up:

"Luigi--Luigi. . . . Now which Luigi does he mean?"

You repeat his surname in a loud voice. It produces no effect, beyond
that of increased hilarity.

"Luigi--Luigi. . . ."

"Perhaps O'Zoccolone?"

"Perhaps O'Seticchio?"

"Or the figlio d' O'Zibalocchio?"

The good-natured individual volunteers to beat the surrounding district
and bring in all the Luigis he can find. After half an hour they begin
to arrive, one by one. He is not among them. Dismissed with cigars, as
compensation for loss of time.

Meanwhile half the village has gathered around, vastly enjoying the fun,
which it hopes will last till bedtime. You are getting bewildered; new
people flock in from the fields to whom the mysterious joke about Luigi
must be explained.

"Luigi--Luigi," they begin again. "Now, which of them can he mean?"

"Perhaps O'Marzariello?"

"Or O'Cuccolillo?"

"I never thought of him," says the good-natured individual. "Here, boy,
run and tell O'Cuccolillo that a foreign gentleman wants to give him a
cigar."

By the time O'Cuccolillo appears on the scene the crowd has thickened.
You explain the business for the fiftieth time; no--he is Luigi, of
course, but not the right Luigi, which he regrets considerably. Then the
joke is made clear to him, and he laughs again. You have lost all your
nerve, but the villagers are beginning to love you,

"Can it be O'Sciabecchino?"

"Or the figlio d' O'Chiappino?"

"It might be O'Busciardiello (the liar)."

"He's dead."

"So he is. I quite forgot. Well, then it must be the husband of
A'Cicivetta (the flirt)."

"He's in prison. But how about O'Caccianfierno?"

Suddenly a withered hag croaks authoritatively:

"I know! The gentleman wants O'Tentillo."

Chorus of villagers:

"Then why doesn't he say so?"

O'Tentillo lives far, far away. An hour elapses; at last he comes, full
of bright expectations. No, this is not your Luigi, he is another Luigi.
You are ready to sink into the earth, but there is no escape. The crowd
surges all around, the news having evidently spread to neighbouring
hamlets.

"Luigi--Luigi. . . . Let me see. It might be O'Rappo."

"O'Massassillo, more likely."

"I have it! It's O'Spennatiello."

"I never thought of him," says a well-known voice. "Here, boy, run and
tell----"

"Or O'Cicereniello."

"O'Vergeniello."

"O'Sciabolone. ..."

"Never mind the G---- d---- son of b----," says a cheery person in
excellent English, who has just arrived on the scene. "See here, I live
fifteen years in Brooklyn; damn fine! 'Ave a glass of wine round my
place. Your Luigi's in America, sure. And if he isn't, send him to Hell."

Sound advice, this.

"What's his surname, anyhow?" he goes on.

You explain once more.

"Why, there's the very man you're looking for. There, standing right in
front of you! He's Luigi, and that's his surname right enough. He don't
know it himself, you bet."

And he points to the good-natured individual. . . .


These countryfolk can fare on strange meats. A boy consumed a snake that
was lying dead by the roadside; a woman ate thirty raw eggs and then a
plate of maccheroni; a man swallowed six kilograms of the uncooked fat
of a freshly slaughtered pig (he was ill for a week afterwards); another
one devoured two small birds alive, with beaks, claws and feathers. Such
deeds are sternly reprobated as savagery; still, they occur, and nearly
always as the result of wagers. I wish I could couple them with equally
heroic achievements in the drinking line, but, alas! I have only heard
of one old man who was wont habitually to en-gulph twenty-two litres of
wine a day; eight are spoken of as "almost too much" in these degenerate
days. . . .

Mice, says Movers, were sacrificially eaten by the Babylonians. Here, as
in England, they are cooked into a paste and given to children, to cure
a certain complaint. To take away the dread of the sea from young boys,
they mix into their food small fishes which have been devoured by larger
ones and taken from their stomachs--the underlying idea being that these
half-digested fry are thoroughly familiar with the storms and perils of
the deep, and will communicate these virtues to the boys who eat them.
It is the same principle as that of giving chamois blood to the
goat-boys of the Alps, to strengthen their nerves against
giddiness--pure sympathetic magic, of which there is this, at least, to
be said, that "its fundamental conception is identical with that of
modern science--a faith in the order or uniformity of nature."

I have also met persons who claim to have been cured of rachitic
troubles in their youth by eating a puppy dog cooked in a saucepan. But
only one kind of dog is good for this purpose, to be procured from those
foundling hospitals whither hundreds of illegitimate infants are taken
as soon as possible after birth. The mothers, to relieve the discomfort
caused by this forcible separation from the new-born, buy a certain kind
of puppy there, bring them home, and nourish them _in loco infantis._
These puppies cost a franc apiece, and are generally destroyed after
performing their duties; it is they who are cooked for curing the
scrofulous tendencies of other children. Swallows' hearts are also used
for another purpose; so is the blood of tortoises--for strengthening the
backs of children (the tortoise being a _hard_ animal). So is that of
snakes, who are held up by head and tail and pricked with needles; the
greater their pain, the more beneficial their blood, which is soaked up
with cotton-wool and applied as a liniment for swollen glands. In fact,
nearly every animal has been discovered to possess some medicinal property.

But of the charm of such creatures the people know nothing. How
different from the days of old! These legendary and gracious beasts,
that inspired poets and artists and glyptic engravers--these things of
beauty have now descended into the realm of mere usefulness, into the
pharmacopoeia.

The debasement is quite intelligible, when one remembers what
accumulated miseries these provinces have undergone. Memories of
refinement were starved out of the inhabitants by centuries of misrule,
when nothing was of interest or of value save what helped to fill the
belly. The work of bestialization was carried on by the despotism of
Spanish Viceroys and Bourbons. They, the Spaniards, fostered and perhaps
imported the Camorra, that monster of many heads which has established
itself in nearly every town of the south. Of the deterioration in taste
coincident with this period, I lately came across this little bit of
evidence, curious and conclusive:--In 1558 a number of the country-folk
were captured in one of the usual Corsair raids; they were afterwards
ransomed, and among the Christian names of the women I note: Livia,
Fiula, Cassandra, Aurelia, Lucrezia, Verginia, Medea, Violanta, Galizia,
Vittoria, Diamanta, etc. Where were these full-sounding noble names two
centuries later--where are they nowadays? Do they not testify to a state
of culture superior to that of the present time, when Maria, Lucia, and
about four others of the most obvious catholic saints exhaust the list
of all female Christian names hereabouts?

All this is changing once more; a higher standard of comfort is being
evolved, though relics of this former state of insecurity may still be
found; such as the absence, even in houses of good families, of clocks
and watches, and convenient storage for clothes and domestic utensils;
their habits of living in penury and of buying their daily food by
farthings, as though one never knew what the next day might bring; their
dread of going out of doors by night (they have a proverb which runs,
_di notte, non parlar forte; di giorno, guardati attorno_), their lack
of humour. For humour is essentially a product of ease, and nobody can
be at ease in unquiet times. That is why so few poets are humorous;
their restlessly querulous nature has the same effect on their outlook
as an insecure environment.

But it will be long ere these superstitions are eradicated. The magic of
south Italy deserves to be well studied, for the country is a cauldron
of demonology wherein Oriental beliefs--imported direct from Egypt, the
classic home of witchcraft--commingled with those of the West. A
foreigner is at an unfortunate disadvantage; if he asks questions, he
will only get answers dictated by suspicion or a deliberate desire to
mislead--prudent answers; whoso accepts these explanations in good
faith, might produce a wondrous contribution to ethnology.

Wise women and wizards abound, but they are not to be compared with that
_santa_ near Naples whom I used to visit in the nineties, and who was so
successful in the magics that the Bishop of Pozzuoli, among hundreds of
other clients, was wont to drive up to her door once a week for a
consultation. These mostly occupy themselves with the manufacture of
charms for gaining lucky lottery numbers, and for deluding fond women
who wish to change their lovers.

The lore of herbs is not much studied. For bruises, a slice of the
Opuntia is applied, or the cooling parietaria (known as "pareta" or
"paretene"); the camomile and other common remedies are in vogue; the
virtues of the male fern, the rue, sabina and (home-made) ergot of rye
are well known but not employed to the extent they are in Russia, where
a large progeny is a disaster. There is a certain respect for the
legitimate unborn, and even in cases of illegitimacy some neighbouring
foundling hospital, the house of the Madonna, is much more convenient.

It is a true monk's expedient; it avoids the risk of criminal
prosecution; the only difference being that the Mother of God, and not
the natural mother of the infant, becomes responsible for its prompt and
almost inevitable destruction.  [Footnote: The scandals that
occasionally arise in connection with that saintly institution, the
Foundling Hospital at Naples, are enough to make humanity shudder. Of
856 children living under its motherly care during 1895, 853 "died" in
the course of that one year-only three survived; a wholesale massacre.
These 853 murdered children were carried forward in the books as still
living, and the institution, which has a yearly revenue of over 600,000
francs, was debited with their maintenance, while 42 doctors (instead of
the prescribed number of 19) continued to draw salaries for their
services to these innocents that had meanwhile been starved and tortured
to death. The official report on these horrors ends with the words:
"There is no reason to think that these facts are peculiar to the year
1895."]

That the moon stands in sympathetic relations with living vegetation is
a fixed article of faith among the peasantry. They will prune their
plants only when the satellite is waxing--_al sottile detta luna,_ as
they say. Altogether, the moon plays a considerable part in their lore,
as might be expected in a country where she used to be worshipped under
so many forms. The dusky markings on her surface are explained by saying
that the moon used to be a woman and a baker of bread, her face gleaming
with the reflection of the oven, but one day she annoyed her mother, who
took up the brush they use for sweeping away the ashes, and smirched her
face. . . .

Whoever reviews the religious observances of these people as a whole
will find them a jumble of contradictions and incongruities, lightly
held and as lightly dismissed. Theirs is the attitude of mind of little
children--of those, I mean, who have been so saturated with Bible
stories and fairy tales that they cease to care whether a thing be true
or false, if it only amuses for the moment. That is what makes them an
ideal prey for the quack physician. They will believe anything so long
as it is strange and complicated; a straightforward doctor is not
listened to; they want that mystery-making "priest-physician"
concerning whom a French writer--I forget his name--has wisely
discoursed. I once recommended a young woman who was bleeding at the
nose to try the homely remedy of a cold key. I thought she would have
died of laughing! The expedient was too absurdly simple to be efficacious.

The attitude of the clergy in regard to popular superstitions is the
same here as elsewhere. They are too wise to believe them, and too
shrewd to discourage the belief in others; these things can be turned to
account for keeping the people at a conveniently low level of
intelligence. For the rest, these priests are mostly good fellows of the
live-and-let-live type, who would rather cultivate their own potatoes
than quarrel about vestments or the Trinity. Violently acquisitive, of
course, like most southerners. I know a parish priest, a son of poor
parents, who, by dint of sheer energy, has amassed a fortune of half a
million francs. He cannot endure idleness in any shape, and a fine
mediaeval scene may be witnessed when he suddenly appears round the
corner and catches his workmen wasting their time and his money--

"Ha, loafers, rogues, villains, vermin and sons of _bastardi cornuti!_
If God had not given me these garments and thereby closed my lips to all
evil-speaking (seizing his cassock and displaying half a yard of purple
stocking)--wouldn't I just tell you, spawn of adulterous assassins, what
I think of you!"

But under the new regime these priests are becoming mere decorative
survivals, that look well enough in the landscape, but are not taken
seriously save in their match-making and money-lending capacities.

The intense realism of their religion is what still keeps it alive for
the poor in spirit. Their saints and devils are on the same familiar
footing towards mankind as were the old gods of Greece. Children do not
know the meaning of "Inferno"; they call it "casa del diavolo" (the
devil's house); and if they are naughty, the mother says, "La Madonna
strilla"--the Madonna will scold. Here is a legend of Saint Peter,
interesting for its realism and because it has been grafted upon a very
ancient _motif:--_

The apostle Peter was a dissatisfied sort of man, who was always
grumbling about things in general and suggesting improvements in the
world-scheme. He thought himself cleverer even than "N. S. G. C." One
day they were walking together in an olive orchard, and Peter said:

"Just look at the trouble and time it takes to collect all those
miserable little olives. Let's have them the size of melons."

"Very well. Have your way, friend Peter! But something awkward is bound
to happen. It always does, you know, with those improvements of yours."
And, sure enough, one of these enormous olives fell from the tree
straight on the saint's head, and ruined his new hat.

"I told you so," said N. S. G. C.

I remember a woman explaining to me that the saints in Heaven took their
food exactly as we do, and at the same hours.

"The same food?" I asked. "Does the Madonna really eat beans?"

"Beans? Not likely! But fried fish, and beefsteaks of veal." I tried to
picture the scene, but the effort was too much for my hereditary Puritan
leanings. Unable to rise to these heights of realism, I was rated a
pagan for my ill-timed spirituality.

_Madame est servie. . . ._



IX

MOVING SOUTHWARDS


The train conveying me to Taranto was to halt for the night at the
second station beyond Venosa--at Spinaz-zola. Aware of this fact, I had
enquired about the place and received assuring reports as to its hotel
accommodation. But the fates were against me. On my arrival in the late
evening I learnt that the hotels were all closed long ago, the townsfolk
having gone to bed "with the chickens"; it was suggested that I had
better stay at the station, where the manageress of the restaurant kept
certain sleeping quarters specially provided for travellers in my
predicament.

Presently the gentle dame lighted a dim lantern and led me across what
seemed to be a marsh (it was raining) to the door of a hut which was to
be my resting-place. At the entrance she paused, and after informing me
that a band of musicians had taken all the beds save one which was at my
disposal if I were good enough to pay her half a franc, she placed the
lantern in my hand and stumbled back into the darkness.

I stepped into a low chamber, the beds of which were smothered under a
profusion of miscellaneous wraps. The air was warm--the place exhaled an
indescribable _esprit de corps._ Groping further, I reached another
apartment, vaulted and still lower than the last, an old-fashioned
cow-stable, possibly, converted into a bedroom. One glance sufficed me:
the couch was plainly not to be trusted. Thankful to be out of the rain
at least, I lit a pipe and prepared to pass the weary hours till 4 a.m.

It was not long ere I discovered that there was another bed in this den,
opposite my own; and judging by certain undulatory and saltatory
movements within, it was occupied. Presently the head of a youth
emerged, with closed eyes and flushed features. He indulged in a series
of groans and spasmodic kicks, that subsided once more, only to
recommence. A flute projected from under his pillow.

"This poor young man," I thought, "is plainly in bad case. On account of
illness, he has been left behind by the rest of the band, who have gone
to Spinazzola to play at some marriage festival. He is feverish, or
possibly subject to fits--to choriasis or who knows what disorder of the
nervous system. A cruel trick, to leave a suffering youngster alone in
this foul hovel." I mis-liked his symptoms--that anguished complexion
and delirious intermittent trembling, and began to run over the scanty
stock of household remedies contained in my bag, wondering which of them
might apply to his complaint. There was court plaster and boot polish,
quinine, corrosive sublimate and Worcester sauce (detestable stuff, but
indispensable hereabouts).

Just as I had decided in favour of the last-named, he gave a more than
usually vigorous jerk, sat up in bed and, opening his eyes, remarked:

"Those fleas!"

This, then, was the malady. I enquired why he had not joined his
companions.

He was tired, he said; tired of life in general, and of flute-playing in
particular. Tired, moreover, of certain animals; and with a tiger-like
spring he leapt out of bed.

Once thoroughly awake, he proved an amiable talker, though oppressed
with an incurable melancholy which no amount of tobacco and Venosa wine
could dispel. In gravely boyish fashion he told me of his life and
ambitions. He had passed a high standard at school, but--what would
you?--every post was crowded. He liked music, and would gladly take it
up as a profession, if anything could be learnt with a band such as his;
he was sick, utterly sick, of everything. Above all things, he wished to
travel. Visions of America floated before his mind--where was the money
to come from? Besides, there was the military service looming close at
hand; and then, a widowed mother at home--the inevitable mother--with a
couple of little sisters; how shall a man desert his family? He was born
on a farm on the Murge, the watershed between this country and the
Adriatic. Thinking of the Murge, that shapeless and dismal range of
limestone hills whose name suggests its sad monotony, I began to
understand the origin of his pagan wistfulness.

"Happy foreigners!"--such was his constant refrain--"happy foreigners,
who can always do exactly what they like! Tell me something about other
countries," he said.

"Something true?"

"Anything--anything!"

To cheer him up, I replied with improbable tales of Indian life, of
rajahs and diamonds, of panthers whose eyes shine like moonbeams in the
dark jungle, of elephants huge as battleships, of sportive monkeys who
tie knots in each others' tails and build themselves huts among the
trees, where they brew iced lemonade, which they offer in friendliest
fashion to the thirsty wayfarer, together with other light
refreshment----

"Cigarettes as well?"

"No. They are not allowed to cultivate tobacco."

"Ah, that _monopolio,_ the curse of humanity!"

He was almost smiling when, at 2.30 a.m., there resounded a furious
knocking at the door, and the rest of the band appeared from their
unknown quarters in the liveliest of spirits. Altogether, a memorable
night. But at four o'clock the lantern was extinguished and the cavern,
bereft of its Salvator-Rosa glamour, resolved itself into a prosaic and
infernally unclean hovel. Issuing from the door, I saw those murky
recesses invaded by the uncompromising light of dawn, and shuddered. . . .

The railway journey soon dispelled the phantoms of the night. As the
train sped downhill, the sun rose in splendour behind the Murge hills,
devouring mists so thickly couched that, struck by the first beams, they
glistered like compact snow-fields, while their shaded portions might
have been mistaken for stretches of mysterious swamp, from which an
occasional clump of tree-tops emerged, black and island-like. These
dreamland effects lasted but a brief time, and soon the whole face of
the landscape was revealed. An arid region, not unlike certain parts of
northern Africa.

Yet the line passes through places renowned in history. Who would not
like to spend a day at Altamura, if only in memory of its treatment by
the ferocious Cardinal Ruffo and his army of cut-throats? After a heroic
but vain resistance comparable only to that of Saguntum or Petelia,
during which every available metal, and even money, was converted into
bullets to repel the assailers, there followed a three days' slaughter
of young and old; then the cardinal blessed his army and pronounced, in
the blood-drenched streets, a general absolution. Even this man has
discovered apologists. No cause so vile, that some human being will not
be found to defend it.

So much I called to mind that morning from the pages of Colletta, and
straightway formed a resolution to slip out of the carriage and arrest
my journey at Altamura for a couple of days. But I must have been asleep
while the train passed through the station, nor did I wake up again till
the blue Ionian was in sight.

At Venosa one thinks of Roman legionaries fleeing from Hannibal,
of Horace, of Norman ambitions; Lucera and Manfredonia call up
Saracen memories and the ephemeral gleams of Hohen-staufen; Gargano
takes us back into Byzantine mysticism and monkery. And now from
Altamura with its dark record of Bourbon horrors, we glide into the
sunshine of Hellenic days when the wise Archytas, sage and lawgiver,
friend of Plato, ruled this ancient city of Tarentum. A wide sweep of
history! And if those Periclean times be not remote enough, yonder lies
Oria on its hilltop, the stronghold of pre-Hellenic and almost legendary
Messapians; while for such as desire more recent associations there is
the Albanian colony of San Giorgio, only a few miles distant, to recall
the glories of Scanderbeg and his adventurous bands.

Herein lies the charm of travel in this land of multiple
civilizations--the ever-changing layers of culture one encounters, their
wondrous juxtaposition.

My previous experiences of Taranto hotels counselled me to take a
private room overlooking the inland sea (the southern aspect is already
intolerably hot), and to seek my meals at restaurants. And in such a one
I have lived for the last ten days or so, reviving old memories. The
place has grown in the interval; indeed, if one may believe certain
persons, the population has increased from thirty to ninety thousand
in--I forget how few years. The arsenal brings movement into the town;
it has appropriated the lion's share of building sites in the "new"
town. Is it a ripple on the surface of things, or will it truly stir the
spirits of the city? So many arsenals have come and gone, at Taranto!

This arsenal quarter is a fine example of the Italian mania of _fare
figura--_everything for effect. It is an agglomeration of dreary
streets, haunted by legions of clamorous black swifts, and constructed
on the rectangular principle dear to the Latin mind. Modern, and
surpassingly monotonous. Are such interminable rows of stuccoed barracks
artistic to look upon, are they really pleasant to inhabit? Is it
reasonable or even sanitary, in a climate of eight months' sunshine, to
build these enormous roadways and squares filled with glaring limestone
dust that blows into one's eyes and almost suffocates one; these Saharas
that even at the present season of the year (early June) cannot be
traversed comfortably unless one wears brown spectacles and goes veiled
like a Tuareg? This arsenal quarter must be a hell during the really not
season, which continues into October.

For no trees whatever are planted to shade the walking population, as in
Paris or Cairo or any other sunlit city.

And who could guess the reason? An Englishman, at least, would never
bring himself to believe what is nevertheless a fact, namely, that if
the streets are converted into shady boulevards, the rents of the houses
immediately fall. When trees are planted, the lodgers complain and
finally emigrate to other quarters; the experiment has been tried, at
Naples and elsewhere, and always with the same result. Up trees, down
rents. The tenants refuse to be deprived of their chief pleasure in
life--that of gazing at the street-passengers, who must be good enough
to walk in the sunshine for their delectation. But if you are of an
inquisitive turn of mind, you are quite at liberty to return the
compliment and to study from the outside the most intimate details of
the tenants' lives within. Take your fill of their domestic doings;
stare your hardest. They don't mind in the least, not they! That feeling
of privacy which the northerner fosters doggedly even in the centre of a
teeming city is alien to their hearts; they like to look and be looked
at; they live like fish in an aquarium. It is a result of the whole
palazzo-System that every one knows his neighbour's business better than
his own. What does it matter, in the end? Are we not all "Christians "?

The municipality, meanwhile, is deeply indebted for the sky-piercing
ambitions which have culminated in the building of this new quarter. To
meet these obligations, the octroi prices have been raised to the
highest pitch by the City Fathers. This octroi is farmed out and
produces (they tell me) 120 pounds a day; there are some hundred
toll-collecting posts at the outskirts of the town, and the average
salary of their officials is three pounds a month. They are supposed to
be respectable and honest men, but it is difficult to see how a family
can be supported on that wage, when one knows how high the rents are,
and how severely the most ordinary commodities of life are taxed.

I endeavoured to obtain photographs of the land as it looked ere it was
covered by the arsenal quarter, but in vain. Nobody seems to have
thought it worth while preserving what would surely be a notable
economic document for future generations. Out of sheer curiosity I also
tried to procure a plan of the old quarter, that labyrinth of
thick-clustering humanity, where the Streets are often so narrow that
two persons can barely squeeze past each other. I was informed that no
such plan had ever been drawn up; it was agreed that a map of this kind
might be interesting, and suggested, furthermore, that I might undertake
the task myself; the authorities would doubtless appreciate my labours.
We foreigners, be it understood, have ample means and unlimited leisure,
and like nothing better than doing unprofitable jobs of this kind.
[Footnote: here is a map of old Taranto in Lasor a Varea (Savonarola)
_Universus terrarum etc.,_ Vol. II, p. 552, and another in J. Blaev's
_Theatrum Civitatum_ (1663). He talks of the "rude houses" of this
town.]

One is glad to leave the scintillating desert of this arsenal quarter,
and enter the cool stone-paved streets of the other, which remind one
somewhat of Malta. In the days of Salis-Marschlins this city possessed
only 18,000 inhabitants, and "outdid even the customary Italian filth,
being hardly passable on account of the excessive nastiness and stink."
It is now scrupulously clean--so absurdly clean, that it has quite
ceased to be picturesque. Not that its buildings are particularly
attractive to me; none, that is, save the antique "Trinità" column of
Doric gravity--sole survivor of Hellenic Taras, which looks wondrously
out of place in its modern environment. One of the finest of these
earlier monuments, the Orsini tower depicted in old prints of the place,
has now been demolished.

Lovers of the baroque may visit the shrine of Saint Cataldo, a jovial
nightmare in stone. And they who desire a literary pendant to this
fantastic structure should read the life of the saint written by Morone
in 1642. Like the shrine, it is the quintessence of insipid exuberance;
there is something preposterous in its very title "Cataldiados," and
whoever reads through those six books of Latin hexameters will arise
from the perusal half-dazed. Somehow or other, it dislocates one's whole
sense of terrestrial values to see a frowsy old monk [Footnote: This
wandering Irish missionary is supposed to have died here in the seventh
century, and they who are not satisfied with his printed biographies
will find one in manuscript of 550 pages, compiled in 1766, in the Cuomo
Library at Naples.] treated in the heroic style and metre, as though he
were a new Achilles. As a _jeu d'esprit_ the book might pass; but it is
deadly serious. Single men will always be found to perpetrate
monstrosities of literature; the marvel is that an entire generation of
writers should have worked themselves into a state of mind which
solemnly approved of such freaks.

Every one has heard of the strange position of this hoary island-citadel
(a metropolis, already, in neolithic days). It is of oval shape, the
broad sides washed by the Ionian Sea and an oyster-producing lagoon;
bridges connect it at one extremi-y with the arsenal or new town, and at
the other with the so-called commercial quarter. It is as if some
precious gem were set, in a ring, between two others of minor worth. Or,
to vary the simile, this acropolis, with its close-packed alleys, is the
throbbing heart of Taranto; the arsenal quarter--its head; and that
other one--well, its stomach; quite an insignificant stomach as compared
with the head and corroborative, in so far, of the views of
Metch-nikoff, who holds that this hitherto commendable organ ought now
to be reduced in size, if not abolished altogether. . . .

From out of this window I gaze upon the purple lagoon flecked with
warships and sailing-boats; and beyond it, upon the venerable land of
Japygia, the heel of Italy, that rises in heliotrope-tinted undulations
towards the Adriatic watershed. At night-time an exquisite perfume of
flowers and ripe corn comes wafted into my room over the still waters,
and when the sun rises, white settlements begin to sparkle among its
olives and vineyards. My eyes often rest upon one of them; it is
Grottaglie, distant a few miles from Taranto on the Brindisi line. I
must visit Grottaglie, for it was here that the flying monk received his
education.

The flying monk!

The theme is not inappropriate at this moment, when the newspapers are
ringing with the Paris-Rome aviation contest and the achievements of
Beaumont, Garros and their colleagues. I have purposely brought his
biography with me, to re-peruse on the spot. But let me first explain
how I became acquainted with this seventeenth-century pioneer of aviation.


It was an odd coincidence.

I had arrived in Naples, and was anxious to have news of the proceedings
at a certain aviation meeting in the north, where a rather inexperienced
friend of mine had insisted upon taking a part; the newspaper reports of
these entertainments are enough to disturb anybody. While admiring the
great achievements of modern science in this direction, I wished
devoutly, at that particular moment, that flying had never been
invented; and it was something of a coincidence, I say, that stumbling
in this frame of mind down one of the unspeakable little side-streets in
the neighbourhood of the University, my glance should have fallen upon
an eighteenth-century engraving in a bookseller's window which depicted
a man raised above the ground without any visible means of
support--flying, in short. He was a monk, floating before an altar. A
companion, near at hand, was portrayed as gazing in rapturous wonder at
this feat of levitation. I stepped within and demanded the volume to
which this was the frontispiece.

The salesman, a hungry-looking old fellow with incredibly dirty hands
and face, began to explain.

"The Flying Monk, sir, Joseph of Copertino. A mighty saint and conjuror!
Or perhaps you would like some other book? I have many, many lives of
_santi_ here. Look at this one of the great Egidio, for instance. I can
tell you all about him, for he raised my mother's grand-uncle from the
dead; yes, out of the grave, as one may say. You'll find out all about
it in this book; and it's only one of his thousand miracles. And here is
the biography of the renowned Giangiuseppe, a mighty saint and----"

I was paying little heed; the flying monk had enthralled me. An
unsuspected pioneer of aviation . . . here was a discovery!

"He flew?" I queried, my mind reverting to the much-vaunted triumphs of
modern science.

"Why not? The only reason why people don't fly like that nowadays is
because--well, sir, because they can't. They fly with machines, and
think it something quite new and wonderful. And yet it's as old as the
hills! There was Iscariot, for example--Icarus, I mean----"

"Pure legend, my good man."

"Everything becomes legend, if the gentleman will have the goodness to
wait. And here is the biography of----"

"How much for Joseph of Copertino?" Cost what it may, I said to myself,
that volume must be mine.

He took it up and began to turn over the pages lovingly, as though
handling some priceless Book of Hours.

"A fine engraving," he observed, _sotto voce._ "And this is the best of
many biographies of the flying monk. It is by Rossi, the
Minister-General of the Franciscan order to which our monk belonged; the
official biography, it might be called--dedicated, by permission, to His
Holiness Pope Clemens XIII, and based on the documents which led to the
saint's beatification. Altogether, a remarkable volume----"

And he paused awhile. Then continued:

"I possess a cheaper biography of him, also with a frontispiece, by
Montanari, which has the questionable advantage of being printed as
recently as 1853. And here is yet another one, by Antonio Basile--oh, he
has been much written about; a most celebrated _taumaturgo,_
(wonder-worker)! As to this _Life_ of 1767, I could not, with a good
conscience, appraise it at less than five francs."

"I respect your feelings. But--five francs! I have certain scruples of
my own, you know, and it irks my sense of rectitude to pay five francs
for the flying monk unless you can supply me with six or seven
additional books to be included in that sum.

"Twelve _soldi_ (sous) apiece--that strikes me as the proper price of
such literature, for foreigners, at least. Therefore I'll have the great
Egidio as well, and Montanari's life of the flying monk, and that other
one by Basile, and Giangiuseppe, and----"

"By all means! Pray take your choice."

And so it came about that, relieved of a tenuous and very sticky
five-franc note, and loaded down with three biographies of the flying
monk, one of Egidio, two of Giangiuseppe--I had been hopelessly
swindled, but there! no man can bargain in a hurry, and my eagerness to
learn something of the life of this early airman had made me oblivious
of the natural values of things--and with sundry smaller volumes of
similar import bulging out of my pockets I turned in the direction of
the hotel, promising myself some new if not exactly light reading.

But hardly had I proceeded twenty paces before the shopkeeper came
running after me with another formidable bundle under his arm. More
books! An ominous symptom--the clearest demonstration of my defeat; I
was already a marked man, a good customer. It was humiliating, after my
long years' experience of the south.

And there resounded an unmistakable note of triumph in his voice, as he
said:

"Some more biographies, sir. Read them at your leisure, and pay me what
you like. You cannot help being generous; I see it in your face."

"I always try to encourage polite learning, if that is what you think to
decipher in my features. But it rains _santi_ this morning," I added,
rather sourly.

"The gentleman is pleased to joke! May it rain _soldi_ tomorrow."

"A little shower, possibly. But not a cloud-burst, like today. . . ."



X

THE FLYING MONK


As to the flying monk, there is no doubt whatever that he deserved his
name. He flew. Being a monk, these feats of his were naturally confined
to convents and their immediate surroundings, but that does not alter
the facts of the case.

Of the flights that he took in the little town of Copertino-alone, more
than seventy, says Father Rossi whom I follow throughout, are on record
in the depositions which were taken on oath from eye-witnesses after his
death. This is one of them, for example:

"Stupendous likewise was the _ratto_ (flight or rapture) which he
exhibited on a night of Holy Thursday. . . . He suddenly flew towards
the altar in a straight line, leaving untouched all the ornaments of
that structure; and after some time, being called back by his superior,
returned flying to the spot whence he had set out."

And another:

"He flew similarly upon an olive tree . . . and there remained in
kneeling posture for the space of half an hour. A marvellous thing it
was to see the branch which sustained him swaying lightly, as though a
bird had alighted upon it."

But Copertino is a remote little place, already famous in the annals of
miraculous occurrences. It can be urged that a kind of enthusiasm for
their distinguished brother-monk may have tempted the inmates of the
convent to exaggerate his rare gifts. Nothing of the kind. He performed
flights not only in Copertino, but in various large towns of Italy, such
as Naples, Rome, and Assisi. And the spectators were by no means an
assemblage of ignorant personages, but men whose rank and credibility
would have weight in any section of society.

"While the Lord High Admiral of Castille, Ambassador of Spain at the
Vatican, was passing through Assisi in the year 1645, the custodian of
the convent commanded Joseph to descend from the room into the church,
where the Admiral's lady was waiting for him, desirous of seeing him.
and speaking to him; to whom Joseph replied, 'I will obey, but I do not
know whether I shall be able to speak to her.' And, as a matter of fact,
hardly had he entered the church and raised his eyes to a statue . . .
situated above the altar, when he threw himself into a flight in order
to embrace its feet at a distance of twelve paces, passing over the
heads of all the congregation; then, after remaining there some time, he
flew back over them with his usual cry, and immediately returned to his
cell. The Admiral was amazed, his wife fainted away, and all the
onlookers became piously terrified."

And if this does not suffice to win credence, the following will
assuredly do so:

"And since it was God's wish to render him marvellous even in the sight
of men of the highest sphere, He ordained that Joseph, having arrived in
Rome, should be conducted one day by the Father-General (of the
Franciscan Order) to kiss the feet of the High Pontiff, Urban the
Eighth; in which act, while contemplating Jesus Christ in the person of
His Vicar, he was ecstatically raised in air, and thus remained till
called back by the General, to whom His Holiness, highly astonished,
turned and said that 'if Joseph were to die during his pontificate, he
himself would bear witness to this _successo.'"_

But his most remarkable flights took place at Fossombrone, where once
"detaching himself in swiftest manner from the altar with a cry like
thunder, he went, like lightning, gyrating hither and thither about the
chapel, and with such an impetus that he made all the cells of the
dormitory tremble, so that the monks, issuing thence in consternation,
cried, 'An earthquake! An earthquake!'" Here, too, he cast a young sheep
into the air, and took flight after it to the height of the trees, where
he "remained in kneeling posture, ecstatic and with extended arms, for
more than two hours, to the extraordinary marvel of the clergy who
witnessed this." This would seem to have been his outdoor record--two
hours without descent to earth.

Sometimes, furthermore, he took a passenger, if such a term can properly
be applied.

So once, while the monks were at prayers, he was observed to rise up and
run swiftly towards the Confessor of the convent, and "seizing him by
the hand, he raised him from the ground by supernatural force, and with
jubilant rapture drew him along, turning him round and round in a
_violento ballo;_ the Confessor moved by Joseph, and Joseph by God."

And what happened at Assisi is still more noteworthy, for here
was a gentleman, a suffering invalid, whom Joseph "snatched by the hair,
and, uttering his customary cry of 'oh!' raised himself from the earth,
while he drew the other after him by his hair, carrying him in this
fashion for a short while through the air, to the intensest admiration
of the spectators." The patient, whose name was Chevalier Baldassarre,
discovered, on touching earth again, that he had been cured by this
flight of a severe nervous malady which had hitherto afflicted him. . . .

Searching in the biography for some other interesting traits of Saint
Joseph of Copertino, I find, in marked contrast to his heaven-soaring
virtues, a humility of the profoundest kind. Even as a full-grown man he
retained the exhilarating, childlike nature of the pure in heart. "_La
Mamma mia_"--thus he would speak, in playful-saintly fashion, of the
Mother of God--"_la Mamma mia_ is capricious. When I bring Her flowers,
She tells me She does not want them; when I bring Her candles, She also
does not want them; and when I ask Her what She wants, She says, 'I
want the heart, for I feed only on hearts.'" What wonder if the "mere
pronouncement of the name of Maria often sufficed to raise him from the
ground into the air"?

Nevertheless, the arch-fiend was wont to creep into his cell at night
and to beat and torture him; and the monks of the convent were terrified
when they heard the hideous din of echoing blows and jangling chains.
"We were only having a little game," he would then say. This is
refreshingly boyish. He once induced a flock of sheep to enter the
chapel, and while he recited to them the litany, it was observed with
amazement that "they responded at the proper place to his verses--he
saying _Sancta Maria,_ and they answering, after their manner, _Bah!"_

I am not disguising from myself that an incident like the last-named may
smack of childishness to a certain austere type of northern Puritan.
Childishness! But to go into this question of the relative hilarity and
moroseness of religions would take us far afield; for aught I know it
may, at bottom, be a matter of climatic influences, and there we can
leave it. Under the sunny sky of Italy, who would not be disposed to see
the bright side of things?

Saint Joseph of Copertino performed a variety of other miracles. He
multiplied bread and wine, calmed a tempest, drove out devils, caused
the lame to walk and the blind to see--all of which are duly attested by
eye-witnesses on oath. Though "illiterate," he had an innate knowledge
of ecclesiastical dogma; he detected persons of impure life by their
smell, and sinners were revealed to his eyes with faces of black colour
(the Turks believe that on judgment day the damned will be thus marked);
he enjoyed the company of two guardian angels, which were visible not
only to himself but to other people. And, like all too many saints, he
duly fell into the clutches of the Inquisition, ever on the look-out for
victims pious or otherwise.

There is one little detail which it would be disingenuous to slur over.
It is this. We are told that Saint Joseph was awkward and backward in
his development. As a child his boy-comrades used to laugh at him for
his open-mouthed staring habits; they called him "bocca-aperta"
(gape-mouth), and in the frontispiece to Montanari's life of him, which
depicts him as a bearded man of forty or fifty, his mouth is still
agape; he was, moreover, difficult to teach, and Rossi says he profited
very little by his lessons and was of _niuna letteratura._ As a lad of
seventeen he could not distinguish white bread from brown, and he used
to spill water-cans, break vases and drop plates to such an extent that
the monks of the convent who employed him were obliged, after eight
months' probation, to dismiss him from their service. He was unable to
pass his examination as priest. At the age of twenty-five he was
ordained by the Bishop of Castro, without that formality.

All this points to a certain weak-mindedness or arrested development,
and were this an isolated case one might be inclined to think that the
church had made Saint Joseph an object of veneration on the same
principles as do the Arabs, who elevate idiots, epileptics, and
otherwise deficient creatures to the rank of marabouts, and credit them
with supernatural powers.

But it is not an isolated case. The majority of these southern saints
are distinguished from the vulgar herd by idiosyncrasies to which modern
physicians give singular names such as "gynophobia," "glossolalia" and
"demonomania"; [Footnote: Good examples of what Max Nordau calls
_Echolalie_ are to be found in this biography (p. 22).] even the founder
of the flying monk's order, the great Francis of Assisi, has been
accused of some strange-sounding mental disorder because, with touching
humility, he doffed his vestments and presented himself naked before his
Creator. What are we to conclude therefrom?

The flying monk resembles Saint Francis in more than one feature. He,
too, removed his clothes and even his shirt, and exposed himself thus to
a crucifix, exclaiming, "Here I am, Lord, deprived of everything." He
followed his prototype, further, in that charming custom of introducing
the animal world into his ordinary talk ("Brother Wolf, Sister Swallow,"
etc.). So Joseph used to speak of himself as _l'asinelio--_the little
ass; and a pathetic scene was witnessed on his death-bed when he was
heard to mutter: "_L'asinelio_ begins to climb the mountain;
_l'asinelio_ is half-way up; _l'asinelio_ has reached the summit;
_l'asinelio_ can go no further, and is about to leave his skin behind."

It is to be noted, in this connection, that Saint Joseph of Coper-tino
was born in a stable.

This looks like more than a mere coincidence. For the divine Saint
Francis was likewise born in a stable.

But why should either of these holy men be born in stables?

A reasonable explanation lies at hand. A certain Japanese statesman is
credited with that shrewd remark that the manifold excellencies and
diversities of Hellenic art are due to the fact that the Greeks had no
"old masters" to copy from--no "schools" which supplied their
imagination with ready-made models that limit and smother individual
initiative. And one marvels to think into what exotic beauties these
southern saints would have blossomed, had they been at liberty, like
those Greeks, freely to indulge their versatile genius--had they not
been bound to the wheels of inexorable precedent. If the flying monk,
for example, were an ordinary mortal, there was nothing to prevent him
from being born in an omnibus or some other of the thousand odd places
where ordinary mortals occasionally are born. But--no! As a Franciscan
saint, he was obliged to conform to the school of Bethlehem and Assisi.
He was obliged to select a stable. Such is the force of tradition. . . .

Joseph of Copertino lived during the time of the Spanish viceroys, and
his fame spread not only over all Italy, but to France, Germany and
Poland. Among his intimates and admirers were no fewer than eight
cardinals, Prince Leopold of Tuscany, the Duke of Bouillon, Isabella of
Austria, the Infanta Maria of Savoy and the Duke of Brunswick, who,
during a visit to various courts of Europe in 1649, purposely went to
Assisi to see him, and was there converted from the Lutheran heresy by
the spectacle of one of his flights. Prince Casimir, heir to the throne
of Poland, was his particular friend, and kept up a correspondence with
him after the death of his father and his own succession to the throne.

Towards the close of his life, the flying monk became so celebrated that
his superiors were obliged to shut him up in the convent of Osimo, in
close confinement, in order that his aerial voyages "should not be
disturbed by the concourse of the vulgar." And here he expired, in his
sixty-first year, on the 18th September, 1663. He had been suffering and
infirm for some little time previous to that event, but managed to take
a short flight on the very day preceding his demise.

Forthwith the evidences of his miraculous deeds were collected and
submitted to the inspired examination of the Sacred Congregation of
Rites in Rome. Their conscientiousness in sifting and weighing the
depositions is sufficiently attested by the fact that ninety years were
allowed to elapse ere Joseph of Copertino was solemnly received into the
number of the Blessed. This occurred in 1753; and though the date may
have been accidentally chosen, some people will be inclined to detect
the hand of Providence in the ordering of the event, as a challenge to
Voltaire, who was just then disquieting Europe with certain doctrines of
a pernicious nature.



XI

BY THE INLAND SEA


The railway line to Grottaglie skirts the shore of the inland sea for
two or three miles, and then turns away. Old Taranto glimmers in lordly
fashion across the tranquil waters; a sense of immemorial culture
pervades this region of russet tilth, and olives, and golden corn.

They led me, at Grottaglie, to the only convent of males now in use, San
Francesco, recently acquired by the Jesuits. In the sacristy of its
church, where I was told to wait, a slender young priest was praying
rapturously before some image, and the clock that stood at hand recorded
the flight of twenty minutes ere his devotions were ended. Then he arose
slowly and turned upon me a pair of lustrous, dreamy eyes, as though
awakened from another world.

This was quite a new convent, he explained; it could not possibly be the
one I was seeking. But there was another one, almost a ruin, and now
converted into a refuge for a flock of poor old women; he would gladly
show me the way. Was I a "Germanese"?  [Footnote: _Germanese_ or
_Allemanno = a_ German. _Tedesco,_ hereabouts, signifies an Austrian--a
detested nationality, even at this distance of time. I have wondered,
since writing the above, whether this is really the place of which Rossi
speaks. He calls it Grottole (the difference in spelling would be of
little account), and says it lies not far distant from Copertino. But
there may be a place of this name still nearer; it is a common
appellation in these honeycombed limestone districts. This Grottaglie
_is_ certainly the birth-place of another religious hero, the
priest-brigand Ciro, who gave so much trouble to Sir R. Church.] No, I
replied; I came from Scotland.

"A Calvinist," he remarked, without bitterness.

"A Presbyterian," I gently corrected.

"To be sure--a Presbyterian."

As we walked along the street under the glowing beams of midday I set
forth the object of my visit. He had never heard of the flying monk--it
was astonishing, he said. He would look up the subject without delay.
The flying monk! That a Protestant should come all the way from "the
other end of the world" to enquire about a local Catholic saint of
whose existence he himself was unaware, seemed not so much to surprise
as positively to alarm him.

Among other local curiosities, he pointed out the portal of the parish
church, a fine but dilapidated piece of work, with a large rosette
window overhead. The town, he told me, derives its name from certain
large grottoes wherein the inhabitants used to take refuge during
Saracen raids. This I already knew, from the pages of Swinburne and
Sanchez; and in my turn was able to inform him that a certain Frenchman,
Bertaux by name, had written about the Byzantine wall-paintings within
these caves. Yes, those old Greeks! he said. And that accounted for the
famous ceramics of the place, which preserved the Hellenic traditions in
extraordinary purity. I did not inform him that Hector Preconi, who
purposely visited Grottaglie to study these potteries, was considerably
disappointed.

At the door of the decayed convent my guide left me, with sundry polite
expressions of esteem. I entered a spacious open courtyard; a well stood
in the centre of a bare enclosure whereon, in olden days, the monks may
have cultivated their fruit and vegetables; round this court there ran
an arched passage, its walls adorned with frescoes, now dim and faded,
depicting sacred subjects. The monastery itself was a sombre maze of
stairways and cells and corridors--all the free spaces, including the
very roof, encumbered with gleaming potteries of every shape and size,
that are made somewhere near the premises.

I wandered about this sunless and cobwebby labyrinth, the old woman
pensioners flitting round me like bats in the twilight. I peered into
many dark closets; which of them was it--Joseph's famous
blood-bespattered cell?

"He tormented his body so continuously and obstinately with pins,
needles and blades of steel, and with such effusion of blood, that even
now, after entire years, the walls of his cell and other places of
retirement are discoloured and actually encrusted with blood." Which of
them was it--the chamber that witnessed these atrocious macerations? It
was all so gloomy and forlorn.

Then, pushing aside a door in these tenebrous regions, I suddenly found
myself bathed in dazzling light. A loggia opened here, with a view over
stretches of gnarled olives, shining all silvery under the immaculate
sky of noonday and bounded by the sapphire belt of the Ionian. Sunshine
and blue sea! Often must the monks have taken pleasure in this fair
prospect; and the wiser among them, watching the labourers returning
home at nightfall, the children at play, and all the happy life of a
world so alien to their own, may well have heaved a sigh.

Meanwhile a crowd of citizens had assembled below, attracted by the
unusual novelty of a stranger in their town. The simple creatures
appeared to regard my investigations in the light of a good joke; they
had heard of begging monks, and thieving monks, and monks of another
variety whose peculiarities I dare not attempt to describe; but a flying
monk--no, never!

"The Dark Ages," said one of them--the mayor, I dare say--with an air of
grave authority. "Believe me, dear sir, the days of such fabulous
monsters are over."

So they seem to be, for the present.

No picture or statue records the life of this flying wonder, this
masterpiece of Spanish priestcraft; no mural tablet--in this land of
commemorative stones--has been erected to perpetuate the glory of his
signal achievements; no street is called after him. It is as if he had
never existed. On the contrary, by a queer irony of fate, the roadway
leading past his convent evokes the memory of a misty heathen poet,
likewise native of these favoured regions, a man whose name Joseph of
Copertino had assuredly never heard--Ennius, of whom I can now recall
nothing save that one unforgettable line which begins "O Tite tute Tati
tibi----"; Ennius, who never so much as tried to fly, but contented
himself with singing, in rather bad Latin, of the things of this earth.

_Via Ennio. . . ._

It is the swing of the pendulum. The old pagan, at this moment, may be
nearer to our ideals and aspirations than the flying monk who died only
yesterday, so to speak.

But a few years hence--who can tell?

A characteristic episode. I had carefully timed myself to catch the
returning train to Tarante. Great was my surprise when, half-way to the
station, I perceived the train swiftly approaching. I raced it, and
managed to jump into a carriage just as it drew out of the station. The
guard straightway demanded my ticket and a fine for entering the train
without one (return tickets, for weighty reasons of "internal
administration," are not sold). I looked at my watch, which showed that
we had left six minutes before the scheduled hour. He produced his; it
coincided with my own. "No matter," he said. "I am not responsible for
the eccentricities of the driver, who probably had some urgent private
affairs to settle at Taranto. The fine must be paid." A fellow-passenger
took a more charitable view of the case. He suggested that an inspector
of the line had been travelling along with us, and that the driver,
knowing this, was naturally ambitious to show how fast he could go.

A mile or so before reaching Tarante the railway crosses a stream that
flows into the inland sea. One would be glad to believe those sages who
hold it to be the far-famed Galaesus. It rises near at hand in a marsh,
amid mighty tufts of reeds and odorous flowers, and the liquid bubbles
up in pools of crystalline transparency--deep and perfidious cauldrons
overhung by the trembling soil on which you stand. These fountains form
a respectable stream some four hundred yards in length; another copious
spring rises up in the sea near its mouth. But can this be the river
whose virtues are extolled by: Virgil, Horace, Martial, Statius,
Propertius, Strabo, Pliny, Varrò and Coramella? What a constellation of
names around these short-lived waters! Truly, _minuit praesentia
famam,_ as Boccaccio says of the once-renowned Sebethus.

Often have I visited this site and tried to reconstruct its vanished
glories. My enthusiasm even led me, some years ago, to the town hall, in
order to ascertain its true official name, and here they informed me
that "it is vulgarly called Citrezze; but the correct version is 'Le
Giadrezze,' which, as you are aware, sir, signifies _pleasantness"_
This functionary was evidently ignorant of the fact that so long ago as
1771 the learned commentator (Carducci) of the "Delizie Tarentine"
already sneered at this popular etymology; adding, what is of greater
interest, that "in the time of our fathers" this region was covered with
woods and rich in game. In the days of Keppel Craven, the vale was
"scantily cultivated with cotton." Looking at it from above, it
certainly resembles an old river-bed of about five hundred yards in
breadth, and I hold it possible that the deforestation of the higher
lands may have suffocated the original sources with soil carried down
from thence, and forced them to seek a lower level, thus shortening the
stream and reducing its volume of water.

But who shall decide? If we follow Polybius, another brook at the
further end of the inland sea has more valid claims to the title of
Galaesus. Virgil called it "black Galaesus "--a curious epithet, still
applied to water in Italy as well as in Greece (Mavromati, etc.). "For
me," says Gissing, "the Galaesus is the stream I found and tracked,
whose waters I heard mingle with the little sea." There is something to
be said for such an attitude, on the part of a dilettante traveller,
towards these desperate antiquarian controversies.

It is an agreeable promenade from the Giadrezze rivulet to Taranto along
the shore of this inland sea. Its clay banks are full of shells and
potteries of every age, and the shallow waters planted with stakes
indicating the places where myriads of oysters and mussels are
bred--indeed, if you look at a map you will observe that the whole of
this lagoon, as though to shadow forth its signification, is split up
into two basins like an opened oyster.

Here and there along this beach are fishermen's huts constructed of
tree-stems which are smothered under multitudinous ropes of grass, ropes
of all ages and in every stage of decomposition, some fairly fresh,
others dissolving once more into amorphous bundles of hay. There is a
smack of the stone ages, of primeval lake-dwellings, about these
shelters on the deserted shore; two or three large fetichistic stones
stand near their entrance; wickerwork objects of dark meaning strew the
ground; a few stakes emerge, hard by, out of the placid and oozy waters.
In such a cabin, methinks, dwelt those two old fishermen of
Theocritus--here they lived and slumbered side by side on a couch of sea
moss, among the rude implements of their craft.

The habits of these fisherfolk are antique, because the incidents of
their calling have remained unchanged. Some people have detected traces
of "Greek" in the looks and language of these of Tarante. I can detect
nothing of the kind.

And the same with the rest of the population. Hellenic traits have
disappeared from Tarante, as well they may have done, when one remembers
its history. It was completely latinized under Augustus, and though
Byzantines came hither under Nicephorus Phocas--Benjamin of Tudela says
the inhabitants are "Greeks"--they have long ago become merged into
the Italian element. Only the barbers seem to have preserved something
of the old traditions: grandiloquent and terrible talkers, like the
cooks in Athenasus.

I witnessed an Aristophanic scene in one of their shops lately, when a
simple-minded stranger, a north Italian--some arsenal official--brought
a little boy to have his hair cut "not too short" and, on returning
from a brief visit to the tobacconist next door, found it cropped much
closer than he liked.

"But, damn it," he said (or words to that effect), "I told you not to
cut the hair too short."

The barber, immaculate and imperturbable, gave a preliminary bow. He was
collecting his thoughts, and his breath.

"I say, I told you not to cut it too short. It looks horrible----"
"Horrible? That, sir--pardon my frankness!--is a matter of opinion. I
fully admit that you desired the child's hair to be cut not too short.
Those, in fact, were your very words. Notwithstanding, I venture to
think you will come round to my point of view, on due reflection, like
most of my esteemed customers. In the first place, there is the
ethnological aspect of the question. You are doubtless sufficiently
versed in history to know that under the late regime it was considered
improper, if not criminal, to wear a moustache.  Well, nowadays we think
differently. Which proves that fashions change; yes, they change, sir;
and the wise man bends to them--up to a certain point, of course; up to
a certain reasonable point----" "But, damn it----"

"And in favour of my contention that hair should be worn short nowadays,
I need only cite the case of His Majesty the King, whose august head, we
all know, is clipped like that of a racehorse. Horrible (as you call it)
or not, the system has momentarily the approval of royalty, and that
alone should suffice for all loyal subjects to deem it not unworthy of
imitation. Next, there are what one might describe as hygienic and
climatic considerations. Summer is approaching, sir, and apart from
certain unpleasant risks which I need not specify, you will surely agree
with me that the solstitial heat is a needlessly severe trial for a boy
with long hair. My own children are all cropped close, and I have reason
to think they are grateful for it. Why not yours? Boys may differ in
strength or complexion, in moral character and mental attainments, but
they are remarkably unanimous as to what constitutes personal comfort.
And it is obviously the duty of parents to consult the personal comfort
of their offspring--within certain reasonable limits, of course----"

"But----"

"Lastly, we come to the much-debated point: I mean the aesthetic side of
the matter. No doubt, to judge by some old pictures such as those of the
renowned Mantegna, there must have been a time when men thought long
hair in children rather beautiful than otherwise. And I am not so
rigorous as to deny a certain charm to these portraits--a charm which is
largely due I fancy, to the becoming costumes of the period. At the same
time----"

The stranger did not trust himself to listen any longer. He threw down a
coin and walked out of the shop with his son, muttering something not
very complimentary to the barber's female relations.

But the other was quite unmoved. "And after all," he continued,
addressing the half-opened door through which his visitor had fled, "the
true question is this: What is 'too short'? Don't cut it too short,
you said. _Che vuol dire?_ An ambiguous phrase!

"Too short for one man may be too long for another. Everything is
relative. Yes, gentlemen" (turning to myself and his shop-assistant),
"everything on this earth is relative."

With this sole exception, I have hitherto garnered no Hellenic traits in
Taranto.

Visible even from Giadrezze, on the other side of the inland sea and
beyond the arsenal, there stands a tall, solitary palm. It is the last,
the very last, or almost the very last, of a race of giants that adorned
the gardens which have now been converted into the "New Quarter." I
imagine it is the highest existing palm in Italy, and am glad to have
taken a likeness of it, ere it shall have been cut down like the rest of
its fellows. Taranto was once celebrated for these queenly growths,
which the Saracens brought over from their flaming Africa.

The same fate has overtaken the trees of the Villa Beaumont, which used
to be a shady retreat, but was bought by the municipality and forthwith
"pulizzato"--i.e. cleaned. This is in accordance with that
_mutilomania_ of the south: that love of torturing trees which causes
them to prune pines till they look like paint-brushes that had been out
all night, and which explains their infatuation for the much-enduring
robinia that allows itself to be teased into any pattern suggested by
their unhealthy phantasy. It is really as if there were something
offensive to the Latin mind in the sight of a well-grown tree, as if man
alone had the right of expanding normally. But I must not do the City
Fathers an injustice. They have planted two rows of cryp-tomerias. Will
people never learn that cryptomerias cannot flourish in south Italy?
Instead of this amateurish gardening, why not consult some competent
professional, who with bougain-villeas, hibiscus and fifty other such
plants would soon transform this favoured spot into a miniature paradise?

The Villa Beaumont and the road along the Admiralty canal are now the
citizens' chief places of disport. Before the year 1869 the Corso
Vittorio Emmanuele, that skirts the sea on the south side of the old
town, was their sole promenade. And even this street was built only a
short time ago. Vainly one conjectures where the medieval Tarentines
took the air. It must have been like Manfredonia at the present day.

This Corso, which has a most awkward pavement and is otherwise
disagreeable as looking due south, becomes interesting after sunset.
Here you may see the young bloods of Taranto leaning in rows against the
railing with their backs to the sea--they are looking across the road
whence, from balconies and windows, the fair sex are displaying their
charms. Never a word is spoken. They merely gaze at each other like
lovesick puppies; and after watching the performance for several
evenings, I decided in favour of robuster methods--I decided that
courtship, under conditions such as the Corso supplies, can only be
pursued by the very young or the hopelessly infatuated. But in the
south, this gazing is only part of a huge game. They are not really in
love at all, these excellent young men--not at all, at all; they know
better. They are only pretending, because it looks manly.

We must revise our conceptions as to the love-passions of these
southerners; no people are more fundamentally sane in matters of the
heart; they have none of our obfuscated sentimentality; they are seldom
naively enamoured, save in early stages of life. It is then that small
girls of eight or ten may be seen furtively recording their feelings on
the white walls of their would-be lovers' houses; these archaic scrawls
go straight to the point, and are models of what love-letters may
ultimately become, in the time-saving communities of the future. But
when the adolescent and perfumed-pink-paper stage is reached, the
missives relapse into barbarous ambiguity; they grow allegorical and
wilfully exuberant as a Persian carpet, the effigy of a pierced heart at
the end, with enormous blood-drops oozing from it, alone furnishing a
key to the document.

So far they are in earnest, and it is the girl who takes the lead; her
youthful _innamorato_ ties these letters into bundles and returns them
conscientiously, in due course, to their respective senders. Seldom does
a boy make overtures in love; he gets more of it than he knows what to
do with; he is still torpid, and slightly bored by all these attentions.

But presently he wakes up to the fact that he is a man among men, and
the obsession of "looking manly" becomes a part of his future artificial
and rhetorical life-scheme. From henceforth he plays to the gallery.

Reading the city papers, one would think that south Italian youths are
the most broken-hearted creatures in the world; they are always trying
to poison themselves for love. Sometimes they succeed, of course; but
sometimes--dear me, no! Suicides look manly, that is all. They are part
of the game. The more sensible youngsters know exactly how much
corrosive sublimate to take without immediate fatal consequences,
allowing for time to reach the nearest hospital. There, the kindly
physician and his stomach-pump will perform their duty, and the patient
wears a feather in his cap for the rest of his life. The majority of
these suicides are on a par with French duels--a harmless institution
whereby the protagonists honour themselves; they confer, as it were, a
patent of virility. The country people are as warmblooded as the
citizens, but they rarely indulge in suicides because--well, there are
no hospitals handy, and the doctor may be out on his rounds. It is too
risky by half.

And a good proportion of these suicides are only simulated. The wily
victim buys some innocuous preparation which sends him into convulsions
with ghastly symptoms of poisoning, and, after treatment, remains the
enviable hero of a mysterious masculine passion. Ask any town
apothecary. A doctor friend of mine lately analysed the results of his
benevolent exertions upon a young man who had been seen to drink some
dreadful liquid out of a bottle, and was carried to his surgery,
writhing in most artistic agonies. He found not only no poison, but not
the slightest trace of any irritant whatever.

The true courtship of these Don Giovannis of Tarante will be quite
another affair--a cash transaction, and no credit allowed. They will
select a life partner, upon the advice of _ma mere_ and a strong
committee of uncles and aunts, but not until the military service is
terminated. Everything in its proper time and place.

Meanwhile they gaze and perhaps even serenade. This looks as if they
were furiously in love, and has therefore been included among the rules
of the game. Youth must keep up the poetic tradition of "fiery."
Besides, it is an inexpensive pastime--the cinematograph costs forty
centimes--and you really cannot sit in the barber's all night long.

But catch them marrying the wrong girl!

POSTSCRIPT.--Here are two samples of youthful love-letters from my
collection.

1.--From a disappointed maiden, aged 13. Interesting, because
intermediate between the archaic and pink-paper stages:

"IDOL OF MY HEART,

"Do not the stars call you when you look to Heaven? Does not the moon
tell you, the black-cap on the willow when it says farewell to the sun?
The birds of nature, the dreary country sadly covered by a few flowers
that remain there? Once your look was passionate and pierced me like a
sunny ray, now it seems the flame of a day. Does nothing tell you of
imperishable love?" I love you and love you as (illegible) loves its
liberty, as the corn in the fields loves the sun, as the sailor loves
the sea tranquil or stormy. To you I would give my felicity, my future;
for one of your words I would spill my blood drop by drop.

"Of all my lovers you are the only ideal consort _(consorto)_ to whom I
would give my love and all the expansion of my soul and youthful
enthusiasm _(intusiamo),_ the greatest enthusiasm _(co-tusiamo)_ my
heart has ever known. O cruel one who has deigned to put his sweet
poison in my heart to-day, while to-morrow you will pass me with
indifference. Cold, proud as ever, serious and disdainful--you
understand? However that may be, I send you the unrepenting cry of my
rebellious heart: I love you!

"It is late at night, and I am still awake, and at this hour my soul is
sadder than ever in its great isolation _(insolamende);_ I look on my
past love and your dear image. Too much I love you and (illegible)
without your affection.

"How sadly I remember your sweet words whispered on a pathetic evening
when everything around was fair and rosy. How happy I then was when life
seemed radiant with felicity and brightened by your love. And now
nothing more remains of it; everything is finished. How sad even to say
it. My heart is shipwrecked far, far away from that happiness which I
sought."

(Three further pages of this.)

2.--From a boy of 14 who takes the initiative; such letters are rare.
Note the business-like brevity.

"DEAR MISS ANNE,

"I write you these few lines to say that I have understood your character
_ (carattolo)._ Therefore, if I may have the honour of being your
sweetheart, you will let me know the answer at your pleasure. I salute
you, and remain,

"Signing myself, "SALVATORE.

"Prompt reply requested!"



XII

MOLLE TARENTUM


One looks into the faces of these Tarentines and listens to their casual
conversations, trying to unravel what manner of life is theirs. But it
is difficult to avoid reading into their characters what history leads
one to think should be there.

The upper classes, among whom I have some acquaintance, are mellow and
enlightened; it is really as if something of the honied spirit of those
old Greek sages still brooded over them. Their charm lies in the fact
that they are civilized without being commercialized. Their politeness
is unstrained, their suaveness congenital; they remind me of that New
England type which for Western self-assertion substitutes a yielding
graciousness of disposition. So it is with persistent gentle upbringing,
at Taranto and elsewhere. It tones the individual to reposeful
sweetness; one by one, his anfractuosities are worn off; he becomes as a
pebble tossed in the waters, smooth, burnished, and (to outward
appearances) indistinguishable from his fellows.

But I do not care about the ordinary city folk. They have an air of
elaborate superciliousness which testifies to ages of systematic
half-culture. They seem to utter that hopeless word, _connu!_ And what,
as a matter of fact, do they know? They are only dreaming in their
little backwater, like the oysters of the lagoon, distrustful of
extraneous matter and oblivious of the movement in a world of men beyond
their shell. You hear next to nothing of "America," that fruitful source
of fresh notions; there is no emigration to speak of; the population is
not sufficiently energetic--they prefer to stay at home. Nor do they
care much about the politics of their own country: one sees less
newspapers here than in most Italian towns. "Our middle classes," said
my friend the Italian deputy of whom I have already spoken, "are like
our mules: to be endurable, they must be worked thirteen hours out of
the twelve." But these have no industries to keep them awake, no sports,
no ambitions; and this has gone on for long centuries, In Taranto it is
always afternoon. "The Tarentines," says Strabo, "have more holidays
than workdays in the year."

And never was city-population more completely cut off from the country;
never was wider gulf between peasant and townsman. There are charming
walks beyond the New Quarter--a level region, with olives and figs and
almonds and pomegranates standing knee-deep in ripe odorous wheat; but
the citizens might be living at Timbuctu for all they know of these
things. It rains little here; on the occasion of my last visit not a
drop had fallen _for fourteen months;_ and consequently the country
roads are generally smothered in dust. Now, dusty boots are a scandal
and an offence in the eyes of the gentle burghers, who accordingly never
issue out of their town walls. They have forgotten the use of ordinary
appliances of country life, such as thick boots and walking-sticks; you
will not see them hereabouts. Unaware of this idiosyncrasy, I used to
carry a stick on my way through the streets into the surroundings, but
left it at home on learning that I was regarded as a kind of
perambulating earthquake. The spectacle of a man clattering through the
streets on horseback, such as one often sees at Venosa, would cause them
to barricade their doors and prepare for the last judgment.

Altogether, essentially nice creatures, lotus-eaters, fearful of fuss or
novelty, and drowsily satisfied with themselves and life in general. The
breezy healthfulness of travel, the teachings of art or science, the
joys of rivers and green lanes--all these things are a closed book to
them. Their interests are narrowed down to the purely human: a case of
partial atrophy. For the purely human needs a corrective; it is not
sufficiently humbling, and that is exactly what makes them so
supercilious. We must take a little account of the Cosmos nowadays--it
helps to rectify our bearings. They have their history, no doubt. But
save for that one gleam of Periclean sunshine the record, though long
and varied, is sufficiently inglorious and does not testify to undue
exertions.

A change is at hand.

Gregorovius lamented the filthy condition of the old town. It is now
spotless.

He deplored that Taranto possessed no museum. This again is changed, and
the provincial museum here is justly praised, though the traveller may
be annoyed at finding his favourite rooms temporarily closed (is there
any museum in Italy not "partially closed for alterations"?). New
accessions to its store are continually pouring in; so they lately
discovered, in a tomb, a Hellenistic statuette of Eros and Aphrodite, 30
centimetres high, terra-cotta work of the third century. The goddess
stands, half-timidly, while Eros alights in airy fashion on her
shoulders and fans her with his wings--an exquisite little thing.

He was grieved, likewise, that no public collection of books existed
here. But the newly founded municipal library is all that can be
desired. The stranger is cordially welcomed within its walls and may
peruse, at his leisure, old Galateus, Giovan Giovene, and the rest of them.

Wandering among those shelves, I hit upon a recent volume (1910) which
gave me more food for thought than any of these ancients. It is called
"Cose di Puglie," and contains some dozen articles, all by writers of
this province of old Calabria, [Footnote: It included the heel of
Italy.] on matters of exclusively local interest--its history,
meteorology, dialects, classical references to the country, extracts
from old economic documents, notes on the development of Apulian
printing, examples of modern local caricature, descriptions of mediaeval
monuments; a kind of anthology, in short, of provincial lore. The
typography, paper and illustrations of this remarkable volume are beyond
all praise; they would do honour to the best firm in London or Paris.
What is this book? It is no commercial speculation at all; it is a
wedding present to a newly married couple--a bouquet of flowers, of
intellectual blossoms, culled from their native Apulian meadows. One
notes with pleasure that the happy pair are neither dukes nor princes.
There is no trace of snobbishness in the offering, which is simply a
spontaneous expression of good wishes on the part of a few friends. But
surely it testifies to most refined feelings. How immeasurably does this
permanent and yet immaterial feast differ from our gross wedding
banquets and ponderous gilt clocks and tea services!  Such persons
cannot but have the highest reverence for things of the mind; such a
gift is the fairest efflorescence of civilization. And this is only
another aspect of that undercurrent of spirituality in south Italy of
whose existence the tourist, harassed by sordid preoccupations, remains
wholly unaware.

This book was printed at Bari. Bari, not long ago, consisted of a dark
and tortuous old town, exactly like the citadel of Taranto. It has now
its glaring New Quarter, not a whit less disagreeable than the one here.
Why should Taranto not follow suit in the matter of culture? Heraclea,
Sybaris and all the Greek settlements along this coast have vanished
from earth; only Taranto and Cotrone have survived to carry on, if they
can, the old traditions. They have survived, thanks to peculiar physical
conditions that have safeguarded them from invaders. . . .

But these very conditions have entailed certain drawbacks--drawbacks
which Buckle would have lovingly enumerated to prove their influence
upon the habits and disposition of the Tarentines. That marine situation
. . . only think of three thousand years of scirocco, summer and winter!
It is alone enough to explain _molle Tarentum--_ enough to drain the
energy out of a Newfoundland puppy! And then, the odious dust of the
country roadways--for it _is_ odious. Had the soil been granitic, or
even of the ordinary Apennine limestone, the population might have
remained in closer contact with wild things of nature, and retained a
perennial fountain of enjoyment and inspiration. A particular kind of
rock, therefore, has helped to make them sluggish and incurious. The
insularity of their citadel has worked in the same direction, by
focussing their interests upon the purely human. That inland sea, again:
were it not an ideal breeding-place for shell-fish, the Tarentines would
long ago have learnt to vary their diet. Thirty centuries of
mussel-eating cannot but impair the physical tone of a people.

And had the inland sea not existed, the Government would not have been
tempted to establish that arsenal which has led to the erection of the
new town and consequent municipal exactions. "The arsenal," said a
grumbling old boatman to me, "was the beginning of our purgatory." A
milk diet would work wonders with the health and spirits of the
citizens. But since the building of the new quarter, such a diet has
become a luxury; cows and goats will soon be scarce as the megatherium.
There is a tax of a franc a day on every cow, and a herd of ten goats,
barely enough to keep a poor man alive, must pay annually 380 francs in
octroi. These and other legalized robberies, which among a more virile
populace would cause the mayor and town council to be forthwith attached
to the nearest lamp-post, are patiently borne. It is _imbelle
Tarentum--_ a race without grit.

I would also recommend the burghers some vegetables, so desirable for
their sedentary habits, but there again! it seems to be a peculiarity of
the local soil to produce hardly a leaf of salad or cabbage. Potatoes
are plainly regarded as an exotic--they are the size of English peas,
and make me think of Ruskin's letter to those old ladies describing the
asparagus somewhere in Tuscany. And all this to the waiter's undisguised
astonishment.

"The gentleman is rich enough to pay for meat. Why trouble about this
kind of food?"...

And yet--a change is at hand. These southern regions are waking up from
their slumber of ages. Already some of Italy's acutest thinkers and most
brilliant politicians are drawn from these long-neglected shores. For we
must rid ourselves of that incubus of "immutable race characters": think
only of our Anglo-Saxon race! What has the Englishman of to-day in
common with that rather lovable fop, drunkard and bully who would faint
with ecstasy over Byron's _Parisina_ after pistolling his best friend
in a duel about a wench or a lap-dog?  Such differences as exist between
races of men, exist only at a given moment.

And what, I sometimes ask myself--what is now the distinguishing feature
between these southern men and ourselves? Briefly this, I think. In
mundane matters, where the personal equation dominates, their judgment
is apt to be turbid and perverse; but as one rises into questions of
pure intelligence, it becomes serenely impartial. We, on the other hand,
who are pre-eminently clear-sighted in worldly concerns of law and
government and in all subsidiary branches of mentality, cannot bring
ourselves to reason dispassionately on non-practical subjects. "L'esprit
aussi a sa pudeur," says Remy de Gourmont. Well, this _pudeur de
l'esprit,_ discouraged among the highest classes in England, is the
hall-mark of respectability hereabouts. A very real difference, at this
particular moment. . . .

There is an end of philosophizing.

They have ousted me from my pleasant quarters, the landlady's son and
daughter-in-law having returned unexpectedly and claiming their
apartments. I have taken refuge in a hotel. My peace is gone; my days in
Taranto are numbered.

Loath to depart, I linger by the beach of the Ionian Sea beyond the new
town. It is littered with shells and holothurians, with antique tesserae
blue glass and marble fragments, with white mosaic pavements and
potteries of every age, from the glossy Greco-Roman ware whose
delicately embossed shell devices are emblematic of this sea-girt city,
down to the grosser products of yesterday. Of marbles I have found
_cipollino, pavonazzetto, giallo_ and _rosso antico,_ but no harder
materials such as porphyry or serpentine. This, and the fact that the
mosaics are pure white, suggests that the houses here must have dated,
at latest, from Augustan times.

[Footnote: Nor is there any of the fashionable _verde_ _antico,_ and
this points in the same direction. Corsi says nothing as to the date of
its introduction, and I have not read the treatise of Silenziario, but
my own observations lead me to think that the _lapis_ _atracius_ can
hardly have been known under Tiberius. Not so those hard ones: they
imported wholesale by his predecessor Augustus, who was anxious to be
known as a scorner of luxury (a favourite pose with monarchs), yet spent
incalculable sums on ornamental stones both for public and private ends.
One is struck by a certain waste of material; either the expense was
deliberately disregarded or finer methods of working the stones were not
yet in vogue. A revolution in the technique of stone-cutting must have
set in soon after his death, for thenceforward we find the most
intractable rocks cut into slices thin as card-board: too thin for
pavements, and presumably for encrusting walls and colonnades. The
Augustans, unable to produce these effects naturally, attempted
imitation-stones, and with wonderful success. I have a fragment of their
plaster postiche copying the close-grained Egyptian granite; the oily
lustre of the quartz is so fresh and the peculiar structure of the rock,
with its mica scintillations, so admirably rendered as to deceive, after
two thousand years, the eye of a trained mineralogist.]

Here I sit, on the tepid shingle, listening to the plash of the waves
and watching the sun as it sinks over the western mountains that are
veiled in mists during the full daylight, but loom up, at this sunset
hour, as from a fabulous world of gold. Yonder lies the Calabrian Sila
forest, the brigands' country. I will attack it by way of Rossano, and
thence wander, past Longobucco, across the whole region. It may be well,
after all, to come again into contact with streams and woodlands, after
this drenching of classical associations and formal civic life!

Near me stands a shore-battery which used to be called "Batteria
Chianca." It was here they found, some twenty years ago, a fine marble
head described as a Venus, and now preserved in the local museum. I
observe that this fort has lately been re-christened "Batteria Archyta."
Can this be due to a burst of patriotism for the Greek warrior-sage who
ruled Taranto, or is it a subtle device to mislead the foreign spy?

Here, too, are kilns where they burn the blue clay into tiles and vases.
I time a small boy at work shaping the former. His average output is
five tiles in four minutes, including the carrying to and fro of the
moist clay; his wages about a shilling a day. But if you wish to see the
manufacture of more complicated potteries, you must go to the unclean
quarter beyond the railway station. Once there, you will not soon weary
of that potter's wheel and the fair shapes that blossom forth under its
enchanted touch. This ware of Taranto is sent by sea to many parts of
south Italy, and you may see picturesque groups of it, here and there,
at the street corners.

Hardly has the sun disappeared before the lighthouse in the east begins
to flash. The promontory on which it stands is called San Vito after one
of the musty saints, now almost forgotten, whose names survive along
these shores. Stoutly this venerable one defended his ancient worship
against the radiant and victorious Madonna; nor did she dislodge him
from a certain famous sanctuary save by the questionable expedient of
adopting his name: she called herself S. M. "della Vita." That settled
it. He came from Mazzara in Sicily, whither they still carry, to his
lonely shrine, epileptics and others distraught in mind. And were I in a
discursive mood, I would endeavour to trace some connection between his
establishment here and the tarantella--between St. Vitus' dance and that
other one which cured, they say, the bite of the Tarentine spider.

But I am not inclined for such matters at present. The Cala-brian
uplands are still visible in the gathering twilight; they draw me
onwards, away from Taranto. It must be cool up there, among the firs and
beeches.

And a land, moreover, of multiple memories and interests--this Calabria.
A land of great men. In 1737 the learned Aceti was able to enumerate
over two thousand celebrated Calabrians--athletes, generals, musicians,
centenarians, inventors, martyrs, ten popes, ten kings, as well as some
sixty conspicuous women. A land of thinkers. Old Zavarroni, born in
1705, gives us a list of seven hundred Calabrian writers; and I, for
one, would not care to bring his catalogue up to date. The recently
acquired _Biblioteca Calabra_ at Naples alone contains God knows how
many items, nearly all modern!

And who shall recount its natural attractions? Says another old writer:

"Here is all sorts of Corn, sundry Wines, and in great abundance, all
kinds of Fruits, Oyle, Hony, Wax, Saffron, Bombace, Annis and Coriander
seeds. There groweth Gum, Pitch, Turpentine and liquid Storax. In former
times it was never without Mettals, but at this present it doth much
abound, having in most parts divers sorts of Mines, as Gold, Silver,
Iron, Marble, Alabaster, Cristal, Marchesite, three sorts of white
Chaulk, Virmilion, Alume, Brimstone, and the Adamant stone, which being
in the fifth degree, draweth not Iron, and is in colour black. There
groweth hemp and flax of two sorts, the one called the male, the other
the female: there falleth Manna from heaven, truly a thing very rare;
and although there is not gathered such abundance of Silk, yet I dare
say there is not had so much in all _Italy_ besides. There are also
bathes, both hot, luke-warm, and cold, to cure many diseases. Near the
Seaside, and likewise on the Mediterrane are goodly Gardens full of
Oringes, Citrons, and Lemons of divers sorts. It is watered with many
Rivers. There are on the hils of the Apennine, thick Woods of high
Firrs, Holms, Platanes, Oaks, where grows the white odoriferous Mushrome
which shineth in the night. Here is bred the soft stone _Frigia,_ which
every month yields a delicate and wholesome Gum, and the stone
_Aetites,_ by us called the stone _Aquilina._ In this Province there is
excellent hunting of divers creatures, as wild Hoggs, Staggs, Goats,
Hares, Foxes, Porcupines, Marmosets. There are also ravenous beasts, as
Wolves, Bears, Luzards, which are quick-sighted, and have the hinder
parts spotted with divers colours. This kind of Beast was brought from
_France_ to _Rome_ in the sports of _Pompey_ the great, and Hunters
affirm this Beast to be of so frail a memory, that although he eateth
with hunger, if he chance to look back, remembreth no more his meat, and
departing searcheth for other." Who would not visit Calabria, if only on
the chance of beholding the speckled posterior of the absent-minded
Luzard?



XIII

INTO THE JUNGLE


This short plunge into the jungle was a relief, after the all-too-human
experiences of Taranto. The forest of Policoro skirts the Ionian; the
railway line cleaves it into two unequal portions, the seaward tract
being the smaller. It is bounded on the west by the river Sinnc, and I
imagine the place has not changed much since the days when Keppel Craven
explored its recesses.

Twilight reigns in this maze of tall deciduous trees. There is thick
undergrowth, too; and I measured an old lentiscus--a shrub, in
Italy--which was three metres in circumference. But the exotic feature
of the grove is its wealth of creeping vines that clamber up the trunks,
swinging from one tree-top to another, and allowing the merest threads
of sunlight to filter through their matted canopy. Policoro has the
tangled beauty of a tropical swamp. Rank odours arise from the decaying
leaves and moist earth; and once within that verdant labyrinth, you
might well fancy yourself in some primeval region of the globe, where
the foot of man has never penetrated.

Yet long ago it resounded with the din of battle and the trumpeting of
elephants--in that furious first battle between Pyrrhus and the Romans.
And here, under the very soil on which you stand, lies buried, they say,
the ancient city of Siris.

They have dug canals to drain off the moisture as much as possible, but
the ground is marshy in many places and often quite impassable,
especially in winter. None the less, winter is the time when a little
shooting is done here, chiefly wild boars and roe-deer. They are driven
down towards the sea, but only as far as the railway line. Those that
escape into the lower portions are safe for another year, as this is
never shot over but kept as a permanent preserve. I have been told that
red-deer were introduced, ut that the experiment failed; probably the
country was too not and damp. In his account of Calabria, Duret de Tavel
[Footnote: An English translation of his book appeared in 1832.]
sometimes speaks of killing the fallow-deer, an autochthonous
Tyrrhenian beast which is now extinct on the mainland in its wild state.
Nor can he be confounding it with the roe, since he mentions the two
together--for instance, in the following note from Corigliano (February,
1809), which must make the modern Calabrian's mouth water:

"Game has multiplied to such an extent that the fields are ravaged, and
we are rendering a real service in destroying it. I question whether
there exists in Europe a country offering more varied species. . . . We
return home followed by carriages and mules loaded with wild boars,
roe-deer, fallow-deer, hares, pheasants, wild duck, wild geese--to say
nothing of foxes and wolves, of which we have already killed an immense
quantity."

The pheasants seem to have likewise died out, save in royal preserves.
They were introduced into Calabria by that mighty hunter Frederick II.

The parcelling out of many of these big properties has been followed by
a destruction of woodland and complete disappearance of game. It is
hailed as the beginning of a new era of prosperity; and so it well may
be, from a commercial point of view. But the traveller and lover of
nature will be glad to leave some of these wild districts in the hands
of their rich owners, who have no great interests in cultivating every
inch of ground, levelling rocky spaces, draining the land and hewing
down every tree that fails to bear fruit. Split into peasant
proprietorships, this forest would soon become a scientifically
irrigated campagna for the cultivation of tomatoes or what not, like the
"Colonia Elena," near the Pontine Marshes. The national exchequer would
profit, without a doubt. But I question whether we should all take the
economical point of view--whether it would be wise for humanity to do
so. There is a prosperity other than material. Some solitary artist or
poet, drawing inspiration from scenes like this, might have contributed
more to the happiness of mankind than a legion of narrow-minded, grimy
and litigious tomato-planters.

To all appearances, Italy is infected just now with a laudable mania for
the "exploitation of natural resources"--at the expense, of course, of
wealthy landowners, who are described as withholding from the people
their due. The programme sounds reasonable enough; but one must not
forget that what one reads on this subject in the daily papers is
largely the campaign of a class of irresponsible pressmen and
politicians, who exploit the ignorance of weak people to fill their own
pockets. How one learns to loathe, in Italy and in England, that lovely
word _socialism,_ when one knows a little of the inner workings of the
cause and a few--just a few!--details of the private lives of these
unsavoury saviours of their country!

The lot of the southern serfs was bad enough before America was
"discovered"; and quite unendurable in earlier times. There is a village
not many hours from Naples where, in 1789, only the personal attendants
of the feudal lord lived in ordinary houses; the two thousand
inhabitants, the serfs, took refuge in caves and shelters of straw.
Conceive the conditions in remote Calabria! Such was the anguished
poverty of the country-folk that up to the eighties of last century they
used to sell their children by regular contracts, duly attested before
the local mayors. But nowadays I listen to their complaints with
comparative indifference.

"You are badly treated, my friend? I quite believe it; indeed, I can see
it. Well, go to Argentina and sell potatoes, or to the mines of
Pennsylvania. There you will grow rich, like the rest of your
compatriots. Then return and send your sons to the University; let them
become _avvocati_ and members of Parliament, who shall harass into
their graves these wicked owners of the soil."

This, as a matter of fact, is the career of a considerable number of them.

For the rest, the domain of Policoro--it is spelt _Pelicaro_ in older
maps like those of Magini and Rizzi-Zannone--seems to be well
administered, and would repay a careful study. I was not encouraged,
however, to undertake this study, the manager evidently suspecting some
ulterior motive to underlie my simple questions. He was not at all
responsive to friendly overtures. Restive at first, he soon waxed
ambiguous, and finally taciturn. Perhaps he thought I was a tax-gatherer
in disguise. A large structure combining the features of palace,
fortress and convent occupies an eminence, and is supposed by some to
stand on the site of old Heracleia; it was erected by the Jesuits; the
workpeople live in humble dwellings that cluster around it. Those that
are now engaged in cutting the corn receive a daily wage of two carlini
(eightpence)--the Bourbon coinage still survives in name.

You walk to this building from the station along an avenue of eucalypti
planted some forty years ago. Detesting, as I do, the whole tribe of gum
trees, I never lose an opportunity of saying exactly what I think about
this particularly odious representative of the brood, this eyesore, this
grey-haired scarecrow, this reptile of a growth with which a pack of
misguided enthusiasts have disfigured the entire Mediterranean basin.
They have now realized that it is useless as a protection against
malaria. Soon enough they will learn that instead of preventing the
disease, it actually fosters it, by harbouring clouds of mosquitoes
under its scraggy so-called foliage.  These abominations may look better
on their native heath: I sincerely hope they do. Judging by the "Dead
Heart of Australia"--a book which gave me a nightmare from which I shall
never recover--I should say that a varnished hop-pole would be an
artistic godsend out there.

But from here the intruder should be expelled without mercy. A single
eucalyptus will ruin the fairest landscape. No plant on earth rustles in
such a horribly metallic fashion when the wind blows through those
everlastingly withered branches; the noise chills one to the marrow; it
is like the sibilant chattering of ghosts. Its oil is called "medicinal"
only because it happens to smell rather nasty; it is worthless as
timber, objectionable in form and hue--objectionable, above all things,
in its perverse, anti-human habits. What other tree would have the
effrontery to turn the sharp edges of its leaves--as if these were not
narrow enough already!--towards the sun, so as to be sure of giving at
all hours of the day the minimum of shade and maximum of discomfort to
mankind?

But I confess that this avenue of Policoro almost reconciled me to the
existence of the anaemic Antipodeans. Almost; since for some reason or
other (perhaps on account of the insufferably foul nature of the soil)
their foliage is here thickly tufted; it glows like burnished bronze in
the sunshine, like enamelled scales of green and gold. These eucalypti
are unique in Italy. Gazing upon them, my heart softened and I almost
forgave the gums their manifold iniquities, their diabolical thirst,
their demoralizing aspect of precocious senility and vice, their peeling
bark suggestive of unmentionable skin diseases, and that system of
radication which is nothing short of a scandal on this side of the
globe. . . .

In the exuberance of his joy at the prospect of getting rid of me, the
manager of the estate lent me a dog-cart to convey me to the forest's
edge, as well as a sleepy-looking boy for a guide, warning me, however,
not to put so much as the point of my nose inside the jungle, on account
of the malaria which has already begun to infect the district. One sees
all too many wan faces hereabouts. Visible from the intervening plain is
a large building on the summit of a hill; it is called Acinapura, and
this is the place I should have gone to, had time permitted, for the
sake of the fine view which it must afford over the whole Policoro region.

Herds of buffaloes wallow in the mire. An old bull, reposing in solitary
grandeur, allowed me so near an approach that I was able to see two or
three frogs hopping about his back, and engaged in catching the
mosquitoes that troubled him. How useful, if something equally efficient
and inexpensive could be devised for humanity!

We entered the darksome forest. The boy, who had hitherto confined
himself to monosyllables, suddenly woke up under its mysterious
influence; he became alert and affable; he related thrilling tales of
the outlaws who used to haunt these thickets, lamenting that those happy
days were over. There were the makings of a first-class brigand in
Paolo. I stimulated his brave fancy; and it was finally proposed that I
should establish myself permanently with the manager of the estate, so
that on Sundays we could have some brigand-sport together, on the sly.

Then out again--into the broad and sunlit bed of the Sinno. The water
now ripples in bland content down a waste of shining pebbles. But its
wintry convulsions are terrific, and higher up the stream, where the
banks are steep, many lives are lost in those angry floods that rush
down from the hill-sides, filling the riverbed with a turmoil of crested
waves. At such moments, these torrents put on new faces. From placid
waterways they are transformed into living monsters, Aegirs or dragons,
that roll themselves seaward, out of their dark caverns, in tawny coils
of destruction.



XIV

DRAGONS


And precisely this angry aspect of the waters has been acclaimed as one
of the origins of that river-dragon idea which used to be common in
south Italy, before the blight of Spaniardism fell upon the land and
withered up the pagan myth-making faculty. There are streams still
perpetuating this name--the rivulet Dragone, for instance, which falls
into the Ionian not far from Cape Colonne.

A non-angry aspect of them has also been suggested as the origin: the
tortuous wanderings of rivers in the plains, like the Meander, that
recall the convolutions of the serpent. For serpent and dragon are apt
to be synonymous with the ancients.

Both these explanations, I think, are late developments in the evolution
of the dragon-image. They leave one still puzzling as to what may be the
aboriginal conception underlying this legendary beast of earth and
clouds and waters. We must go further back.

What is a dragon? An animal, one might say, which looks or regards
(Greek _drakon);_ so called, presumably, from its terrible eyes. Homer
has passages which bear out this interpretation:

_[Greek: Smerdaleon de dedorken],_ etc.

Now the Greeks were certainly sensitive to the expression of animal
eyes--witness "cow-eyed" Hera, or the opprobrious epithet "dog-eyed";
altogether, the more we study what is left of their zoological
researches, the more we realize what close observers they were in
natural history. Aristotle, for instance, points out sexual differences
in the feet of the crawfish which were overlooked up to a short time
ago. And Hesiod also insists upon the dragon's eyes. Yet it is
significant that _ophis,_ the snake, is derived, like _drakon,_ from a
root meaning nothing more than to perceive or regard. There is no
connotation of ferocity in either of the words. Gesner long ago suspected
that the dragon was so called simply from its keen or rapid perception.

One likes to search for some existing animal prototype of a fabled
creature like this, seeing that to invent such things out of sheer
nothing is a feat beyond human ingenuity--or, at least, beyond what the
history of others of their kind leads us to expect. It may well be that
the Homeric writer was acquainted with the Uromastix lizard that occurs
in Asia Minor, and whoever has watched this beast, as I have done,
cannot fail to have been impressed by its contemplative gestures, as if
it were gazing intently _(drakon)_ at something. It is, moreover, a
"dweller in rocky places," and more than this, a vegetarian--an "eater
of poisonous herbs" as Homer somewhere calls his dragon. So Aristotle
says: "When the dragon has eaten much fruit, he seeks the juice of the
bitter lettuce; he has been seen to do this."

Are we tracking the dragon to his lair? Is this the aboriginal beast?
Not at all, I should say. On the contrary, this is a mere side-issue, to
follow which would lead us astray. The reptile-dragon was invented when
men had begun to forget what the arch-dragon was; it is the product of a
later stage--the materializing stage; that stage when humanity sought to
explain, in naturalistic fashion, the obscure traditions of the past. We
must delve still deeper. . . .

My own dragon theory is far-fetched--perhaps necessarily so, dragons
being somewhat remote animals. The dragon, I hold, is the
personification of the life within the earth--of that life which, being
unknown and uncontrollable, is _eo ipso_ hostile to man. Let me explain
how this point is reached.

The animal which _looks or regards. . . ._ Why--why an animal? Why not
_drakon =_ that which looks?

Now, what looks?

The eye.

This is the key to the understanding of the problem, the key to the
subterranean dragon-world.

The conceit of fountains or sources of water being things that see
_(drakon)_--that is, eyes--or bearing some resemblance to eyes, is common
to many races. In Italy, for example, two springs in the inland sea near
Taranto are called "Occhi"--eyes; Arabs speak of a watery fountain as an
eye; the notion exists in England top--in the "Blentarn" of Cumberland,
the blind tarn (tarn = a trickling of tears), which is "blind" because
dry and waterless, and therefore lacking the bright lustre of the open eye.

There is an eye, then, in the fountain: an eye which looks or regards.
And inasmuch as an eye presupposes a head, and a head without body is
hard to conceive, a material existence was presently imputed to that
which looked upwards out of the liquid depths. This, I think, is the
primordial dragon, the archetype. He is of animistic descent and
survives all over the earth; and it is precisely this universality of
the dragon-idea which induces me to discard all theories of local origin
and to seek for some common cause. Fountains are ubiquitous, and so are
dragons. There are fountain dragons in Japan, in the superstitions of
Keltic races, in the Mediterranean basin. The dragon of Wantley lived in
a well; the Lambton Worm began life in fresh water, and only took to
dry land later on. I have elsewhere spoken of the Manfredonia legend of
Saint Lorenzo and the dragon, an indigenous fable connected, I suspect,
with the fountain near the harbour of that town, and quite independent
of the newly-imported legend of Saint Michael. Various springs in Greece
and Italy are called Dragoneria; there is a cave-fountain Dragonara on
Malta, and another of the same name near Cape Misenum--all are sources
of apposite lore. The water-drac. . . .

So the dragon has grown into a subterranean monster, who peers up from
his dark abode wherever he can--out of fountains or caverns whence
fountains issue. It stands to reason that he is sleepless; all dragons
are "sleepless "; their eyes are eternally open, for the luminous
sparkle of living waters never waxes dim. And bold adventurers may well
be devoured by dragons when they fall into these watery rents, never to
appear again.

Furthermore, since gold and other treasures dear to mankind lie hidden
in the stony bowels of the earth and are hard to attain, the jealous
dragon has been accredited with their guardianship--hence the plutonic
element in his nature. The dragon, whose "ever-open eye" protected the
garden of the Hesperides, was the _Son of Earth._ The earth or
cave-dragon. . . . Calabria has some of these dragons' caves; you can
read about them in the _Campania. Sotteranea_ of G. Sanchez.

In volcanic regions there are fissures in the rocks exhaling pestiferous
emanations; these are the _spiracula,_ the breathing-holes, of the
dragon within. The dragon legends of Naples and Mondragone are probably
of this origin, and so is that of the Roman Campagna (1660) where the
dragon-killer died from the effects of this poisonous breath: Sometimes
the confined monster issues in a destructive lava-torrent--Bellerophon
and the Chimsera. The fire-dragon. ... Or floods of water suddenly
stream down from the hills and fountains are released. It is the hungry
dragon, rushing from his den in search of prey; the river-dragon. . . .
He rages among the mountains with such swiftness and impetuosity.

This is chiefly the poets' work, though the theologians have added one
or two embellishing touches. But in whatever shape he appears, whether
his eyes have borrowed a more baleful fire from heathen basilisks, or
traits of moral evil are instilled into his pernicious physique by
amalgamation with the apocalyptic Beast, he remains the vindictive enemy
of man and his ordered ways. Of late--like the Saurian tribe in
general--he has somewhat degenerated. So in modern Greece, by that
process of stultified anthropomorphism which results from grafting
Christianity upon an alien mythopoesis, he dons human attributes,
talking and acting as a man (H. F. Tozer). And here, in Calabria, he
lingers in children's fables, as "sdrago," a mockery of his former self.

To follow up his wondrous metamorphoses through medievalism would be a
pastime worthy of some leisured dilettante. How many noble shapes
acquired a tinge of absurdity in the Middle Ages! Switzerland alone,
with its mystery of untrodden crevices, used to be crammed with
dragons--particularly the calcareous (cavernous) province of Rhaetia.
Secondary dragons; for the good monks saw to it that no reminiscences of
the autochthonous beast survived. Modern scholars have devoted much
learning to the local Tazzelwurm and Bergstutz. But dragons of our
familiar kind were already well known to the chroniclers from whom old
Cysat extracted his twenty-fifth chapter (wherein, by the way, you will
learn something of Calabrian dragons); then came J. J. Wagner (1680);
then Scheuchzer, prince of dragon-finders, who informs us that _multorum
draconum historta mendax._

But it is rather a far cry from Calabria to the asthmatic Scheuchzer,
wiping the perspiration off his brow as he clambers among the Alps to
record truthful dragon yarns and untruthful barometrical observations;
or to China, dragon-land _par excellence;_ [Footnote: In Chinese
mythology the telluric element has remained untarnished.  The dragon is
an earth-god, who controls the rain and thunder clouds.] or even to our
own Heralds' College, where these and other beasts have sought a refuge
from prying professors under such queer disguises that their own mothers
would hardly recognize them.



XV

BYZANTINISM


Exhausted with the morning's walk at Policoro, a railway journey and a
long drive up nearly a thousand feet to Rossano in the heat of midday, I
sought refuge, contrary to my usual custom, in the chief hotel,
intending to rest awhile and then seek other quarters. The establishment
was described as "ganz ordentlich" in Baedeker. But, alas! I found
little peace or content. The bed on which I had hoped to repose was
already occupied by several other inmates. Prompted by curiosity, I
counted up to fifty-two of them; after that, my interest in the matter
faded away. It became too monotonous. They were all alike, save in point
of size (some were giants). A Swammerdam would have been grieved by
their lack of variety.

And this, I said to myself, in a renowned city that has given birth to
poets and orators, to saints like the great Nilus, to two popes
and--last, but not least--one anti-pope! I will not particularize the
species beyond saying that they did not hop. Nor will I return to this
theme. Let the reader once and for all take _them_ for granted.
[Footnote: They have their uses, to be sure. Says Kircher: _Cunices
lectularii potens remedium contra quartanum est, si ab inscio aegro cum
vehiculo congrua potentur; mulierum morbis medentur et uterum prolapsum
solo odore in mum locum restituunt._] Let him note that most of the inns
of this region are quite uninhabitable, for this and other reasons,
unless he takes the most elaborate precautions.  . . .

Where, then, do I generally go for accommodation?

Well, as a rule I begin by calling for advice at the chemist's shop,
where a fixed number of the older and wiser citizens congregate for a
little talk. The cafés and barbers and wine-shops are also
meeting-places of men; but those who gather here are not of the right
type--they are the young, or empty-headed, or merely thirsty. The other
is the true centre of the leisured class, the philosophers' rendezvous.
Your _speciale_ (apothecary) is himself an elderly and honoured man,
full of responsibility and local knowledge; he is altogether a superior
person, having been trained in a University. You enter the shop,
therefore, and purchase a pennyworth of vaseline. This act entitles you
to all the privileges of the club. Then is the moment to take a seat,
smiling affably at the assembled company, but without proffering a
syllable. If this etiquette is strictly adhered to, it will not be long
ere you are politely questioned as to your plans, your present
accommodation, and so forth; and soon several members will be vying with
each other to procure you a clean and comfortable room at half the price
charged in a hotel.

Even when this end is accomplished, my connection with the pharmacy
coterie is not severed. I go there from time to time, ostensibly to
talk, but in reality to listen. Here one can feel the true pulse of the
place. Local questions are dispassionately discussed, with ample forms
of courtesy and in a language worthy of Cicero. It is the club of the
_élite._

In olden days I used to visit south Italy armed with introductions to
merchants, noblemen and landed proprietors. I have quite abandoned that
system, as these people, bless their hearts, have such cordial notions
of hospitality that from morning to night the traveller has not a moment
he can call his own. Letters to persons in authority, such as syndics or
police officers, are useless and worse than useless. Like Chinese
mandarins, these officials are so puffed up with their own importance
that it is sheer waste of time to call upon them. If wanted, they can
always be found; if not, they are best left alone. For besides being
usually the least enlightened and least amiable of the populace, they
are inordinately suspicious of political or commercial designs on the
part of strangers--God knows what visions are fermenting in their turbid
brains--and seldom let you out of their sight, once they have known you.

Excepting at Cosenza, Cotrone and Catanzaro, an average white man will
seldom find, in any Calabrian hostelry, what he is accustomed to
consider as ordinary necessities of life. The thing is easily
explicable. These men are not yet in the habit of "handling" civilized
travellers; they fail to realize that hotel-keeping is a business to be
learnt, like tailoring or politics. They are still in the patriarchal
stage, wealthy proprietors for the most part, and quite independent of
your custom. They have not learnt the trick of Swiss servility. You must
therefore be prepared to put up with what looks like very bad treatment.
On your entrance nobody moves a step to enquire after your wants; you
must begin by foraging for yourself, and thank God if any notice is
taken of what you say; it is as if your presence were barely
tolerated. But once the stranger has learnt to pocket his pride and
treat his hosts in the same offhand fashion, he will find among them an
unconventional courtesy of the best kind.

The establishment being run as a rule by the proprietor's own family,
gratuities with a view to exceptional treatment are refused with quiet
dignity, and even when accepted will not further your interests in the
least; on the contrary, you are thenceforward regarded as tactless and
weak in the head. Discreet praise of their native town or village is the
best way to win the hearts of the younger generation; for the parents a
little knowledge of American conditions is desirable, to prove that you
are a man of the world and worthy, a priori, of some respect. But if
there exists a man-cook, he is generally an importation and should be
periodically and liberally bribed, without knowledge of the family, from
the earliest moment. Wonderful, what a cook can do!

It is customary here not to live _en pension_ or to pay a fixed price
for any meal, the smallest item, down to a piece of bread, being
conscientiously marked against you. My system, elaborated after
considerable experimentation, is to call for this bill every morning
and, for the first day or two after arrival, dispute in friendly fashion
every item, remorselessly cutting down some of them. Not that they
overcharge; their honesty is notorious, and no difference is made in
this respect between a foreigner and a native. It is a matter of
principle. By this system, which must not be overdone, your position in
the house gradually changes; from being a guest, you become a friend, a
brother. For it is your duty to show, above all things, that you are not
_scemo_--witless, soft-headed--the unforgivable sin in the south. You
may be a forger or cut-throat--why not? It is a vocation like any other,
a vocation for _men._ But whoever cannot take care of him-self--i.e. of
his money--is not to be trusted, in any walk of life; he is of no
account; he is no man. I have become firm friends with some of these
proprietors by the simple expedient of striking a few francs off their
bills; and should I ever wish to marry one or their daughters, the
surest way to predispose the whole family in my favour would be this
method of amiable but unsmiling contestation.

Of course the inns are often dirty, and not only in their sleeping
accommodation. The reason is that, like Turks or Jews, their owners do
not see dirt (there is no word for dirt in the Hebrew language); they
think it odd when you draw their attention to it. I remember
complaining, in one of my fastidious moments, of a napkin, plainly not
my own, which had been laid at my seat. There was literally not a clean
spot left on its surface, and I insisted on a new one. I got it; but not
before hearing the proprietor mutter something about "the caprices of
pregnant women." . . .

The view from these my new quarters at Rossano compensates for divers
other little drawbacks. Down a many-folded gorge of glowing red earth
decked with olives and cistus the eye wanders to the Ionian Sea shining
in deepest turquoise tints, and beautified by a glittering margin of
white sand. To my left, the water takes a noble sweep inland; there lies
the plain of Sybaris, traversed by the Crathis of old that has thrust a
long spit of fand into the waves. On this side the outlook is bounded by
the high range of Pollino and Dolcedorme, serrated peaks that are even
now (midsummer) displaying a few patches of snow. Clear-cut in the
morning light, these exquisite mountains evaporate, towards sunset, in
an amethystine haze. A restful prospect.

But great was my amazement, on looking out of the window during the
night after my arrival, to observe the Polar star placed directly over
the Ionian Sea--the south, as I surely deemed it. A week has passed
since then, and in spite of the map I have not quite familiarized myself
with this spectacle, nor yet with that other one of the sun setting
apparently due east, over Monte Pollino.

The glory of Rossano is the image of the Madonna Achiropita.
Bartholomaeus tells us, in his life of Saint Nilus, that in olden days
she was wont to appear, clothed in purple, and drive away with a divine
torch the Saracen invaders of this town. In more recent times, too, she
has often saved the citizens from locusts, cholera, and other calamitous
visitations. Unlike most of her kind, she was not painted by Saint Luke.
She is _acheiropoeta--_not painted by any human hands whatever, and in
so far resembles a certain old image of the Magna Mater, her prototype,
which was also of divine origin. It is generally supposed that this
picture is painted on wood. Not so, says Diehl; it is a fragment of a
fresco on stone.

Hard by, in the clock-tower of the square, is a marble tablet erected to
the memory of the deputy Felice Cavalotti. We all remember Cavalotti,
the last--with Imbriani--of the republican giants, a blustering
rhetorician-journalist, annihilator of monarchs and popes; a fire-eating
duellist, who deserved his uncommon and unlovely fate. He provoked a
colleague to an encounter and, during a frenzied attack, received into
his open mouth the point of his adversary's sword, which sealed up for
ever that fountain of eloquence and vituperation.

Cavalotti and the Virgin Achiropita--the new and the old. Really, with
such extreme ideals before his eyes, the burghers of Rossano must
sometimes wonder where righteousness lies.

They call themselves Calabrians. _Noi siamo calabresi!_ they proudly
say, meaning that they are above suspicion of unfair dealing. As a
matter of fact, they are a muddled brood, and considerably given to
cheating when there is any prospect of success. You must watch the
peasants coming home at night from their field-work if you wish to see
the true Calabrian type--whiskered, short and wiry, and of dark
complexion. There is that indescribable mark of _race_ in these
countrymen; they are different in features and character from the
Italians; it is an ascetic, a Spanish type. Your Calabrian is strangely
scornful of luxury and even comfort; a creature of few but well-chosen
words, straightforward, indifferent to pain and suffering, and dwelling
by preference, when religiously minded, on the harsher aspects of his
faith. A note of unworldliness is discoverable in his outlook upon life.
Dealing with such men, one feels that they are well disposed not from
impulse, but from some dark sense of preordained obligation. Greek and
other strains have infused versatility and a more smiling exterior; but
the groundwork of the whole remains that old _homo ibericus_ of austere
gentlemanliness.

Rossano was built by the Romans, says Procopius, and during Byzantine
days became a fortress of primary importance. An older settlement
probably lay by the seashore, and its harbour is marked as "good" so
late as the days of Edrisius. Like many of these old Calabrian ports, it
is now invaded by silt and sand, though a few ships still call there.
Wishful to learn something of the past glories of the town, I enquired
at the municipality for the public library, but was informed by the
supercilious and not over-polite secretary that this proud city
possesses no such institution. A certain priest, he added, would give me
all the desired information.

Canonico Rizzo was a delightful old man, with snowy hair and candid blue
eyes. Nothing, it seemed, could have given him greater pleasure than my
appearance at that particular moment. He discoursed awhile, and sagely,
concerning England and English literature, and then we passed on, _via_
Milton, to Calvin and the Puritan movement in Scotland; next, _via_
Livingstone, to colonial enterprises in Africa; and finally, _via_
Egypt, Abyssinia, and Prester John, to the early history of the eastern
churches. Byzantinism--Saint Nilus; that gave me the desired
opportunity, and I mentioned the object of my visit.

"The history of Rossano? Well, well! The secretary of the municipality
does me too much honour. You must read the Book of Genesis and Hesiod
and Berosus and the rest of them. But stay! I have something of more
modern date, in which you will find these ancient authors conveniently
classified."

From this book by de Rosis, printed in 1838, I gleaned two facts,
firstly, that the city of Rossano is now 3663 years old--quite a
respectable age, as towns go--and lastly, that in the year 1500 it had
its own academy of lettered men, who called themselves "I spensierati,"
with the motto _Non alunt curai--_an echo, no doubt, of the Neapolitan
renaissance under Alfonso the Magnificent. The popes Urban VIII and
Benedict XIII belonged to this association of "thoughtless ones." The
work ends with a formidable list of local personages distinguished in
the past for their gentleness of birth and polite accomplishments. One
wonders how all these delicately nurtured creatures can have survived at
Rossano, if their sleeping accommodation----

You might live here some little time before realizing that this place,
which seems to slope gently downhill against a pleasing background of
wooded mountains, is capable of being strongly fortified. It lies, like
other inland Calabrian (and Etruscan) cities, on ground enclosed by
stream-beds, and one of these forms a deep gully above which Rossano
towers on a smooth and perpendicular precipice. The upper part of this
wall of rock is grey sandstone; the lower a bed of red granitic matter.
From this coloured stone, which crops up everywhere, the town may have
drawn its name of Rossano (rosso = red); not a very old settlement,
therefore; although certain patriotic philologers insist upon deriving
it from "rus sanum," healthy country. Its older names were Roscia, and
Ruscianum; it is not marked in Peutinger. Countless jackdaws and
kestrels nestle in this cliff, as well as clouds of swifts, both Alpine
and common. These swifts are the ornithological phenomenon of Rossano,
and I think the citizens have cause to be thankful for their existence;
to them I attribute the fact that there are so few flies, mosquitoes,
and other aerial plagues here. If only the amiable birds could be
induced to extend their attentions to the bedrooms as well!

This shady glen at the back of the city, with its sparse tufts of
vegetation and monstrous blocks of deep red stone cloven into rifts and
ravines by the wild waters, has a charm of its own. There are undeniable
suggestions of Hell about the place. A pathway runs adown this vale of
Hinnom, and if you follow it upwards to the junction of the streams you
will reach a road that once more ascends to the town, past the old
church of Saint Mark, a most interesting building. It has five little
cupolas, but the interior, supported by eight columns, has been
whitewashed. The structure has now rightly been declared a "national
monument." It dates from the ninth or tenth century and, according to
Bertaux, has the same plan and the same dimensions as the famous
"Cattolica" at Stilo, which the artistic Lear, though he stayed some
time at that picturesque place, does not so much as mention. They say
that this chapel of Saint Mark was built by Euprassius, protos-padarius
of Calabria, and that in the days of Nilus it was dedicated to Saint
Anastasius. Here, at Rossano, we are once more _en plein Byzance._

Rossano was not only a political bulwark, the most formidable citadel of
this Byzantine province. It was a great intellectual centre, upon which
literature, theology and art converged. Among the many perverse
historical notions of which we are now ridding ourselves is this-that
Byzantinism in south Italy was a period of decay and torpid dreamings.
It needed, on the contrary, a resourceful activity to wipe out, as did
those colonists from the east, every trace of Roman culture and language
(Latin rule only revived at Rossano in the fifteenth century). There was
no lethargy in their social and political ambitions, in their military
achievements, which held the land against overwhelming numbers of
Saracens, Lombards and other intruders. And the life of those old monks
of Saint Basil, as we now know it, represented a veritable renaissance
of art and letters.

Of the ten Basilean convents that grew up in the surroundings of Rossano
the most celebrated was that of S. M. del Patir. Together with the
others, it succeeded to a period of eremitism of solitary anchorites
whose dwellings honeycombed the warm slopes that confront the
Ionian....

The lives of some of these Greco-Calabrian hermits are valuable
documents. In the _Vitae Sanctorum Siculorum_ of O. Caietanus (1057)
the student will find a Latin translation of the biography of one of
them, Saint Elia Junior. He died in 903. It was written by a
contemporary monk, who tells us that the holy man performed many
miracles, among them that of walking over a river dryshod. And the
Bollandists _(Acta Sanctorum,_ 11th September) have reprinted the
biography of Saint Elia Spelaeotes-the cave-dweller, as composed in
Greek by a disciple. It is yet more interesting. He lived in a "honesta
spelunca" which he discovered in 864 by means of a flight of bats
issuing therefrom; he suffered persecutions from a woman, exactly after
the fashion of Joseph and Potiphar's wife; he grew to be 94 years old;
the Saracens vainly tried to burn his dead body, and the water in which
this corpse was subsequently washed was useful for curing another holy
man's toothache. Yet even these creatures were subject to gleams of
common sense. "Virtues," said this one, "are better than miracles."

How are we to account for these rock-hermits and their inelegant habits?
How explain this poisoning of the sources of manly self-respect?

Thus, I think: that under the influence of their creed they reverted
perforce to the more bestial traits of aboriginal humanity. They were
thrust back in their development. They became solitaries, animalesque
and shy--such as we may imagine our hairy progenitors to have been.
Hence their dirt and vermin, their horror of learning, their unkempt
hair, their ferocious independence, their distrust of sunshine and
ordered social life, their foul dieting, their dread of malign spirits,
their cave-dwelling propensities. All bestial characteristics!

This atavistic movement, this retrogression towards primevalism, must
have possessed a certain charm, for it attracted vast multitudes; it was
only hemmed, at last, by a physical obstacle.

The supply of caves ran out.

Not till then were its votaries forced to congregate in those unhealthy
clusters which afterwards grew to be monasteries. Where many of them
were gathered together under one roof there imposed itself a certain
rudimentary discipline and subordination; yet they preserved as much as
they could of their savage traits, cave-like cells and hatred of
cleanliness, terror of demons, matted beards.

Gradually the social habits of mundane fellow-creatures insinuated
themselves into these hives of squalor and idleness. The inmates began
to wash and to shave; they acquired property, they tilled the ground,
they learnt to read and write, and finally became connaisseurs of books
and pictures and wine and women. They were pleased to forget that the
eunuch and the beggar are the true Christian or Buddhist. In other
words, the allurements of rational life grew too strong for their
convictions; they became reasonable beings in spite of their creed. This
is how coenobitism grew out of eremitism not only in Calabria, but in
every part of the world which has been afflicted with these
eccentrics. Go to Mount Athos, if you wish to see specimens of all the
different stages conveniently arranged upon a small area. . . .

This convent of Patir exercised a great local influence as early as the
tenth century; then, towards the end of the eleventh, it was completely
rebuilt without and reorganized within. The church underwent a thorough
restoration in 1672. But it was shattered, together with the rest of the
edifice, by the earthquake of 1836 which, Madonna Achiropita
notwithstanding, levelled to the ground one-half of the fifteen thousand
houses then standing at Rossano.

These monastic establishments, as a general rule, were occupied later on
by the Benedictines, who ousted the Basileans and were supplanted, in
their turn, by popular orders of later days like the Theatines. Those
that are conveniently situated have now been turned into post offices,
municipalities, and other public buildings--such has been the common
procedure. But many of them, like this of Patir, are too decayed and
remote from the life of man. Fiore, who wrote in 1691, counts up 94
dilapidated Basilean monasteries in Calabria out of a former total of
about two hundred; Patir and thirteen others he mentions as having, in
his day, their old rites still subsisting. Batiffol has recently gone
into the subject with his usual thoroughness.

Nothing is uglier than a modern ruin, and the place would assuredly not
be worth the three hours' ride from Rossano were it not for the church,
which has been repaired, and for the wondrous view to be obtained from
its site. The journey, too, is charming, both by the ordinary track that
descends from Rossano and skirts the foot of the hills through olives
and pebbly stream-beds, ascending, finally, across an odorous tangle of
cistus, rosemary and myrtle to the platform on which the convent
stands--or by the alternative and longer route which I took on the
homeward way, and which follows the old water conduit built by the monks
into a forest of enormous chestnuts, oaks, hollies and Calabrian pines,
emerging out of an ocean of glittering bracken.

I was pursued into the church of Patir by a bevy of country wenches who
frequented this region for purposes of haymaking. There is a miraculous
crucifix in this sanctuary, hidden behind a veil which, with infinite
ceremony, these females withdrew for my edification. There it was, sure
enough; but what, I wondered, would happen from the presence of these
impure creatures in such a place? Things have changed considerably since
the days of old, for such was the contamination to be expected from the
mere presence of a woman within these walls that even the Mother of God,
while visiting Saint Nilus--the builder, not the great saint--at work
upon the foundations, often conversed with him, but never ventured to
step within the area of the building itself. And later on it was a
well-authenticated phenomenon recorded by Beltrano and others, that if a
female entered the church, the heavens immediately became cloudy and
sent down thunders and lightnings and such-like signs of celestial
disapproval, which never ceased until the offending monster had left the
premises.

From this ancient monastery comes, I fancy, the Achiropita image.
Montorio will tell you all about it; he learnt its history in June 1712
from the local archbishop, who had extracted his information out of the
episcopal archives. Concerning another of these wonder-working
idols--that of S. M. del Patirion--you may read in the ponderous tomes
of Ughelli.

Whether the celebrated Purple Codex of Rossano ever formed part of the
library of Patirion has not yet been determined. This wonderful
parchment--now preserved at Rossano--is mentioned for the first time by
Cesare Malpica, who wrote some interesting things about the Albanian and
Greek colonies in Calabria, but it was only discovered, in the right
sense of that word, in March 1879 by Gebhardt and Harnack. They
illustrated it in their _Evangeliorum Codex Graecus._ Haseloff also
described it in 1898 _(Codex Purpureus Rossanensis),_ and pointed out
that its iconographical value consists in the fact that it is the only
Greek Testament MS. containing pictures of the life of Christ before the
eighth-ninth century. These pictures are indeed marvellous--more
marvellous than beautiful, like so many Byzantine productions; their
value is such that the parchment has now been declared a "national
monument." It is sternly guarded, and if it is moved out of Rossano--as
happened lately when it was exhibited at Grottaferrata--it travels in
the company of armed carbineers.

Still pursued by the flock of women, I took to examining the floor of
this church, which contains tesselated marble pavements depicting
centaurs, unicorns, lions, stags, and other beasts. But my contemplation
of these choice relics was disturbed by irrelevant remarks on the part
of the worldly females, who discovered in the head of the stag some
subtle peculiarity that stirred their sense of humour.

"Look!" said one of them to her neighbour. "He has horns. Just like your
Pasquale."

"Pasquale indeed! And how about Antonio?"

I enquired whether they knew what kind of animals these were.

"Beasts of the ancients. Beasts that nobody knows. Beasts that have
horns--like certain Christians. . . ."

From the terrace of green sward that fronts this ruined monastery you
can see the little town of Corigliano, whose coquettish white houses lie
in a fold of the hills. Corigliano--[Greek: xorion __hellaion] (land of
olives): the derivation, if not correct, is at least appropriate, for it
lies embowered in a forest of these trees. A gay place it was, in
Bourbon times, with a ducal ruler of its own. Here, they say, the
remnants of the Sybarites took refuge after the destruction of their
city whose desolate plain lies at our feet, backed by the noble range of
Dolcedorme. Swinburne, like a sensible man, takes the Sybarites under
his protection; he defends their artificially shaded streets and those
other signs of voluptuousness which, to judge by certain modern
researches, seem to have been chiefly contrived for combating the demon
of malaria. Earthly welfare, the cult of material health and ease--such
was _their_ ideal.

In sharpest contrast to these strivings stands the aim of those old
monks who scorned the body as a mere encumbrance, seeking spiritual
enlightenment and things not of this earth.

And now, Sybarites and Basileans--alike in ruins!

A man of to-day, asked which of the two civilizations he would wish
restored, would not hesitate long in deciding for the Hellenic one.
Readers of Lenormant will call to mind his glowing pages on the wonders
that might be found buried on the site of Sybaris. His plan of
excavation sounds feasible enough. But how remote it becomes, when one
remembers the case of Herculaneum! Here, to our certain knowledge, many
miracles of antique art and literature lie within a few feet of our
reach; yet nothing is done. These hidden monuments, which are the
heritage of all humanity, are withheld from our eyes by the
dog-in-the-manger policy of a country which, even without foreign
assistance, could easily accomplish the work, were it to employ thereon
only half the sum now spent in feeding, clothing and supervising a horde
of criminals, every one of whom ought to be hanged ten times over.
Meanwhile other nations are forbidden to co-operate; the fair-minded
German proposals were scornfully rejected; later on, those of Sir
Charles Waldstein.

"What!" says the _Giornale d' Italia_, "are we to have international
excavation-committees thrust upon us? Are we to be treated like the Turks?"

That, gentle sirs, is precisely the state of the case.

The object of such committees is to do for the good of mankind what a
single nation is powerless or unwilling to do. Your behaviour at
Herculaneum is identical with that of the Turks at Nineveh. The system
adopted should likewise be the same.

I shall never see that consummation.

But I shall not forget a certain article in an American paper--"The New
York Times," I fancy--which gave me fresh food for thought, here at
Patirion, in the sight of that old Hellenic colony, and with the light
chatter of those women still ringing in my ears. Its writer, with whom
not all of us will agree, declared that first in importance of all the
antiquities buried in Italian soil come the lost poems of Sappho. The
lost poems of Sappho--a singular choice! In corroboration whereof he
quoted the extravagant praise of J. A. Symonds upon that amiable and
ambiguous young person. And he might have added Algernon Swinburne, who
calls her "the greatest poet who ever was at all."

Sappho and these two Victorians, I said to myself. . . . Why just these
two? How keen is the cry of elective affinity athwart the ages! _The
soul,_ says Plato, _divines that which it seeks, and traces obscurely
the footsteps of its obscure desire._

The footsteps of its obscure desire----

So one stumbles, inadvertently, upon problems of the day concerning
which our sages profess to know nothing. And yet I do perceive a certain
Writing upon the Wall setting forth, in clearest language, that 1 + 1 =
3; a legend which it behoves them not to expunge, but to expound. For it
refuses to be expunged; and we do not need a German lady to tell us how
much the "synthetic" sex, the hornless but not brainless sex, has done
for the life of the spirit while those other two were reclaiming the
waste places of earth, and procreating, and fighting--as befits their
horned anatomy.



XVI

REPOSING AT CASTROVILLARI


I remember asking my friend the Roman deputy of whom I have already
spoken, and whom I regard as a fountain of wisdom on matters Italian,
how it came about that the railway stations in his country were apt to
be so far distant from the towns they serve. Rocca Bernarda, I was
saying, lies 33 kilometres from its station; and even some of the
largest towns in the kingdom are inconveniently and unnecessarily remote
from the line.

"True," he replied. "Very true! Inconveniently . . . but perhaps not
unnecessarily. . . ." He nodded his head, as he often does, when
revolving some deep problem in his mind.

"Well, sir?"

"Inasmuch as everything has its reasons, be they geographical,
sociological, or otherwise . . ." and he mused again. "Let me tell you
what I think as regards our respective English and Italian points of
view," he said at last. "And to begin with--a few generalities! We may
hold that success in modern life consists in correctly appreciating the
principles which underlie our experiences--in what may be called the
scientific attitude towards things in general. Now, do the English
cultivate this attitude? Not sufficiently. They are in the stage of
those mediaeval scholars who contentedly alleged separate primary causes
for each phenomenon, instead of seeking, by the investigation of
secondary ones, for the inevitable interdependence of the whole. In
other words, they do not subordinate facts; they co-ordinate them. Your
politicians and all your public men are guided by impulse--by
expediency, as they prefer to call it; they are empirical; they never
attempt to codify their conduct; they despise it as theorizing. What
happens? This old-fashioned hand-to-mouth system of theirs invariably
breaks down here and there. And then f Then they trust to some divine
interposition, some accident, to put things to rights again. The success
of the English is largely built up on such accidents--on the mistakes of
other people. Provi dence has favoured them so far, on the whole; but
one day it may leave them in the lurch, as it did the anti-scientific
Russians in their war with the Japanese. One day other people will
forget to make these pleasant mistakes."

He paused, and I forbore to interrupt his eloquence.

"To come now to the practical application--to this particular instance.
Tell me, does your English system testify to any constructive
forethought? In London, I am assured, the railway companies have built
stations at enormous expense in the very heart of the town. What will be
the consequence of this hand-to-mouth policy? This, that in fifty years
such structures will have become obsolete--stranded in slums at the back
of new quarters yet undreamed of. New depots will have to be built.
Whereas in Italy the now distant city will in fifty years have grown to
reach its station and, in another half-century, will have encircled it.
Thanks to our sagacity, the station will then be in its proper place, in
the centre of the town. Our progeny will be grateful; and that again,
you will admit, is a worthy aim for our politicians. Besides, what would
happen to our coachmen if nobody needed their services on arriving at
his destination? The poor men must not be allowed to starve! Cold head
and warm heart, you know; humanitarian considerations cannot be thrust
aside by a community that prides itself on being truly civilized. I
trust I have made myself intelligible?"

"You always do. But why should I incommode myself to please your
progeny, or even my own? And I don't like the kind of warm heart that
subordinates my concerns to those of a cab-driver. You don't altogether
convince me, dear sir."

"To speak frankly, I sometimes don't convince myself. My own country
station, for example, is curiously remote from the city, and it is
annoying on wintry nights to drive through six miles of level mud when
you are anxious to reach home and dinner; so much so that, in my
egoistical moments, I would have been glad if our administration had
adopted the more specious British method. But come now! You cannot raise
that objection against the terminus at Rome."

"Not that one. But I can raise two others. The platforms are
inconveniently arranged, and a traveller will often find it impossible
to wash his hands and face there; as to hot water----"

"Granting a certain deplorable disposition of the lines--why on earth,
pray, should a man cleanse himself at the station when there are
countless hotels and lodging-houses in the city? O you English originals!"

"And supposing," I urged, "he is in a hurry to catch another train going
south, to Naples or Palermo?"

"There I have you, my illustrious friend! _Nobody travels south of Rome."_

Nobody travels south of Rome. . . .

Often have I thought upon those words.

This conversation was forcibly recalled to my mind by the fact that it
took our creaky old diligence two and a half hours (one of the horses
had been bought the day before, for six pounds) to drive from the
station of Castrovillari to the entrance of the town, where we were
delayed another twenty minutes, while the octroi zealots searched
through every bag and parcel on the post-waggon.

Many people have said bad things about this place. But my once
unpleasant impressions of it have been effaced by my reception at its
new and decent little hostelry. What a change after the sordid filth of
Rossano! Castrovillari, to be sure, has no background of hoary eld to
atone for such deficiencies. It was only built the other day, by the
Normans; or by the Romans, who called it Aprustum; or possibly by the
Greeks, who founded their Abystron on this particular site for the same
reasons that commended it in yet earlier times to certain bronze and
stone age primitives, whose weapons you may study in the British Museum
and elsewhere.  [Footnote: Even so Taranto, Cumae, Paestum, Metapontum,
Monteleone and other southern towns were founded by the ancients on the
site of prehistoric stations.]

But what are the stone ages compared with immortal and immutable
Rossano? An ecclesiastical writer has proved that Calabria was inhabited
before the Noachian flood; and Rossano, we may be sure, was one of the
favourite haunts of the antediluvians. None the less, it is good to rest
in a clean bed, for a change; and to feed off a clean plate.

We are in the south. One sees it in sundry small ways--in the behaviour
of the cats, for instance. . . .

The Tarentines, they say, imported the cat into Europe. If those of
south Italy still resemble their old Nubian ancestors, the beast would
assuredly not have been worth the trouble of acclimatizing. On entering
these regions, one of the first things that strikes me is the difference
between the appearance of cats and dogs hereabouts, and in England or
any northern country; and the difference in their temperaments. Our dogs
are alert in their movements and of wideawake features; here they are
arowsy and degraded mongrels, with expressionless eyes. Our cats are
sleek and slumberous; here they prowl about haggard, shifty and
careworn, their fur in patches and their ears a-tremble from nervous
anxiety. That domestic animals such as these should be fed at home does
not commend itself to the common people; they must forage for their food
abroad. Dogs eat offal, while the others hunt for lizards in the fields.
A lizard diet is supposed to reduce their weight (it would certainly
reduce mine); but I suspect that southern cats are emaciated not only
from this cause, but from systematic starvation. Many a kitten is born
that never tastes a drop of cow's milk from the cradle to the grave, and
little enough of its own mother's.

To say that our English _zoophilomania--_our cult of lap-dogs--smacks of
degeneracy does not mean that I sympathize with the ill-treatment of
beasts which annoys many visitors to these parts and has been attributed
to "Saracenic" influences. Wrongly, of course; one might as well
attribute it to the old Greeks.  [Footnote: Whose attitude towards
animals, by the way, was as far removed from callousness as from
sentimentalism. We know how those Hellenic oxen fared who had laboured
to draw up heavy blocks for the building of a temple--how, on the
completion of their task, they were led into green fields, there to
pasture unmolested for the rest of their lives. We know that the Greeks
were appreciative of the graces and virtues of canine nature--is not the
Homeric Argo still the finest dog-type in literature?  Yet to them the
dog, even he of the tender Anthology, remained what he is: a tamed
beast. The Greeks, sitting at dinner, resented the insolence of a
creature that, watching every morsel as it disappeared into the mouth of
its master, plainly discovered by its physiognomy the desire, the
presumed right, to devour what he considered fit only for himself.
Whence that profound word [Greek: kunopes]--dog-eyed, shameless. In
contrast to this sanity, observe what an Englishman can read into a
dog's eye:

  That liquid, melancholy eye,
  From whose pathetic, soul-fed springs
  Seemed surging the Virgilian cry--
  The sense of tears in mortal things. . . .

[That is how Matthew Arnold interprets the feelings of Fido, watching his
master at work upon a tender beefsteak. . . .]

Poor Saracens! They are a sort of whipping-boy, all over the country.
The chief sinner in this respect is the Vatican, which has authorized
cruelty to animals by its official teaching. When Lord Odo-Russell
enquired of the Pope regarding the foundation of a society for the
prevention of cruelty to animals in Italy, the papal answer was: "Such
an association _could not be sanctioned_ by the Holy See, being founded
on a theological error, to wit, that Christians owed any duties to
animals." This language has the inestimable and rather unusual merit of
being perspicuous. Nevertheless, Ouida's flaming letters to "The Times"
inaugurated an era of truer humanity. . . .

And the lateness of the dining-hour--another symptom of the south. It
was eleven o'clock when I sat down to dinner on the night of my arrival,
and habitues of the hotel, engineers and so forth, were still dropping
in for their evening meal. Appetite comes more slowly than ever, now
that the heats have begun.

They have begun in earnest. The swoon of summer is upon the land, the
grass is cut, cicadas are chirping overhead. Despite its height of a
thousand feet, Castrovillari must be blazing in August, surrounded as it
is by parched fields and an amphitheatre of bare limestone hills that
exhale the sunny beams. You may stroll about these fields observing the
construction of the line which is to pass through Cassano, a pretty
place, famous for its wine and mineral springs; or studying the habits
of the gigantic grasshoppers that hang in clusters to the dried thistles
and start off, when scared, with the noise of a covey of partridges; or
watching how the cows are shod, at this season, to thresh the corn. Old
authors are unanimous in declaring that the town was embowered in oak
forests; as late as 1844 it was lamented that this "ancient barbarous
custom" of cutting them down had not yet been discontinued. The
mischief is now done, and it would be interesting to know the difference
between the present summer temperature and that of olden days.

The manna ash used to be cultivated in these parts. I cannot tell
whether its purgative secretion is still in favour. The confusion
between this stuff and the biblical manna gave rise to the legends about
Calabria where "manna droppeth as dew from Heaven." Sandys says it was
prepared out of the mulberry. He copied assiduously, did old Sandys, and
yet found room for some original blunders of his own. R. Pococke, by the
way, is one of those who were dissatisfied with Castrovillari. He found
no accommodation save an empty house. "A poor town." . . .

Driving through modern Castrovillari one might think the place flat and
undeserving of the name of _castrum._ But the old town is otherwise. It
occupies a proud eminence--the head of a promontory which overlooks the
junction of two streams; the newer settlement stands on the more level
ground at its back. This acropolis, once thronged with folk but now
well-nigh deserted, has all the macabre fascination of decay. A mildewy
spirit haunts those tortuous and uneven roadways; plaster drops unheeded
from the walls; the wild fig thrusts luxuriant arms through the windows
of palaces whose balconies are rusted and painted loggias crumbling to
earth ... a mournful and malarious agglomeration of ruins.

There is a castle, of course. It was built, or rebuilt, by the
Aragonese, with four corner towers, one of which became infamous for a
scene that rivals the horrors of the Black Hole of Calcutta. Numbers of
confined brigands, uncared-for, perished miserably of starvation within
its walls. Says the historian Botta:

"The abominable taint prevented the guards from approaching; the dead
bodies were not carried away. The pestilence increased; in pain and
exhaustion, the dying fell shuddering on the dead; the hale on the
dying; all tearing themselves like dogs with teeth and nails. The tower
of Castrovillari became a foul hole of corruption, and the stench was
spread abroad for a long season."

This castle is now used as a place of confinement. Sentries warned me at
one point not to approach too near the walls; it was "forbidden." I had
no particular desire to disobey this injunction. Judging by the number
of rats that swarm about the place, it is not exactly a model prison.

One of the streets in this dilapidated stronghold bears to this day the
inscription "Giudea," or Jewry. Southern Italy was well stocked with
those Hebrews concerning whom Mr. H. M. Adler has sagely discoursed.
They lived in separate districts, and seem to have borne a good
reputation. Those of Castrovillari, on being ejected by Ferdinand the
Catholic in 1511, obligingly made a donation of their school to the
town. But they returned anon, and claimed it again. Persecuted as they
were, they never suffered the martyrdom of the ill-starred Waldensian
colonies in Calabria.

The houses of this Jewry overlook the Coscile river, the Sybaris of old,
and from a spot in the quarter a steep path descends to its banks. Here
you will find yourself in another climate, cool and moist. The livid
waters tumble gleefully towards the plain, amid penurious plots of beans
and tomatoes, and a fierce tangle of vegetation wherever the hand of man
has not made clearings. Then, mounting aloft once more, you will do well
to visit the far-famed chapel that sits at the apex of the promontory,
Santa Maria del Castello. There is a little platform where you may
repose and enjoy the view, as I have done for some evenings
past--letting the eye roam up-country towards Dolcedorme and its sister
peaks, and westwards over the undulating Sila lands whose highest point,
Botte Donato, is unmistakable even at this distance of forty miles, from
its peculiar shape.

The Madonna picture preserved within the sanctuary has performed so many
miracles in ages past that I despair of giving any account of them. It
is high time, none the less, for a new sign from Heaven. Shattered by
earthquakes, the chapel is in a dis-ruptured and even menacing
condition. Will some returned emigrant from America come forward with
the necessary funds?

That would be a miracle, too, in its way. But gone, for the present, are
the ages of Faith--the days when the peevishly-protestant J. H. Bartels
sojourned here and groaned as he counted up the seven monasteries of
Castrovillari (there used to be nearly twice that number), and viewed
the 130 priests, "fat-paunched rascals, loafing about the streets and
doorways." . . .

From my window in the hotel I espy a small patch of snow on the hills. I
know the place; it is the so-called "Montagna del Principe" past which
the track winds into the Pollino regions. Thither I am bound; but so
complicated is life that even for a short three days' ramble among those
forests a certain amount of food and clothing must be provided--a mule
is plainly required. There seem to be none of these beasts available at
Castrovillari.

"To Morano!" they tell me. "It is nearer the mountain, and there you
will find mules plentiful as blackberries. To Morano!"

Morano lies a few miles higher up the valley on the great military road
to Lagonegro, which was built by Murat and cuts through the interior of
Basilicata, rising at Campo Tenese to a height of noo metres. They are
now running a public motor service along this beautiful stretch of 52
kilometres, at the cheap rate of a sou per kilometre.

_En route!_


POSTSCRIPT.--Another symptom of the south:

Once you have reached the latitude of Naples, the word _grazie_ (thank
you) vanishes from the vocabulary of all save the most cultured. But to
conclude therefrom that one is among a thankless race is not altogether
the right inference. They have a wholly different conception of the
affair. Our septentrional "thanks" is a complicated product in which
gratefulness for things received and for things to come are
unconsciously balanced; while their point of view differs in nothing
from that of the beau-ideal of Greek courtesy, of Achilles, whose mother
procured for him a suit of divine armour from Hephaistos, which he
received without a word of acknowledgment either for her or for the god
who had been put to some little trouble in the matter. A thing given
they regard as a thing found, a hermaion, a happy hit in the lottery of
life; the giver is the blind instrument of Fortune. This chill attitude
repels us; and our effusive expressions of thankfulness astonish these
people and the Orientals.

A further difference is that the actual gift is viewed quite
extrinsically, intellectually, either in regard to what it would fetch
if bartered or sold, or, if to be kept, as to how far its possession may
raise the recipient in the eyes of other men. This is purely Homeric,
once more--Homeric or primordial, if you prefer. Odysseus told his kind
host Alkinoos, whom he was never to see again, that he would be glad to
receive farewell presents from him--to cherish as a friendly memory?
No, but "because they would make him look a finer fellow when he got
home." The idea of a keepsake, of an emotional value attaching to some
trifle, is a northern one. Here life is give and take, and lucky he who
takes more than he gives; it is what Professor Mahaffy calls the
"ingrained selfishness of the Greek character." Speaking of all below
the upper classes, I should say that disinterested benevolence is apt to
surpass their comprehension, a good-natured person being regarded as
weak in the head.

Has this man, then, no family, that he should benefit strangers? Or is
he one of nature's unfortunates--soft-witted? Thus they argue. They will
do acts of spontaneous kindness towards their family, far oftener than
is customary with us. But outside that narrow sphere, _interesse_
(Odyssean self-advantage) is the mainspring of their actions. Whence
their smooth and glozing manners towards the stranger, and those
protestations of undying affection which beguile the unwary--they wish
to be forever in your good graces, for sooner or later you may be of
use; and if perchance you do content them, they will marvel
(philosophically) at your grotesque generosity, your lack of
discrimination and restraint. Such _malizia_ (cleverness) is none the
more respectable for being childishly transparent. The profound and
unscrupulous northerner quickly familiarizes himself with its technique,
and turns it to his own profit. Lowering his moral notions, he soon--so
one of them expressed it to me--"walks round them without getting off
his chair" and, on the strength of his undeserved reputation for
simplicity and fair dealing, keeps them dangling a lifetime in a tremble
of obsequious amiability, cheered on by the hope of ultimately
over-reaching him. Idle dream, where a pliant and sanguine southerner is
pitted against the unswerving Saxon or Teuton! This accounts for the
success of foreign trading houses in the south. Business is business,
and the devil take the hindmost! By all means; but they who are not
rooted to the spot by commercial exigencies nor ready to adopt debased
standards of conduct will find that a prolonged residence in a centre
like Naples--the daily attrition of its ape-and-tiger elements--sullies
their homely candour and self-respect.

For a tigerish flavour does exist in most of these southern towns.

Camorra, the law of intimidation, rules the city. This is what Stendhal
meant when, speaking of the "simple and inoffensive" personages in the
_ Vicar of Wakefield,_ he remarked that "in the sombre Italy, a simple
and inoffensive creature would be quickly destroyed." It is not easy to
be inoffensive and yet respected in a land of teeth and claws, where a
man is reverenced in proportion as he can browbeat his fellows. So much
ferocity tinctures civic life, that had they not dwelt in towns while we
were still shivering in bogs, one would deem them not yet ripe for
herding together in large numbers; one would say that post-patriarchal
conditions evoked the worst qualities of the race. And we must revise
our conceptions of fat and lean men; we must pity Cassius, and dread
Falstaff.

"What has happened"--you ask some enormous individual--"to your
adversary at law?"

"To which one of them?"

"Oh, Signor M----, the timber merchant."

"_L'abbiamo mangiato!_" (I have eaten him.)

Beware of the fat Neapolitan. He is fat from prosperity, from, dining
off his leaner brothers.

Which reminds me of a supremely important subject, eating.

The feeding here is saner than ours with its all-pervading animal grease
(even a boiled egg tastes of mutton fat in England), its stock-pot,
suet, and those other inventions of the devil whose awful effects we
only survive because we are continually counteracting or eliminating
them by the help of (1) pills, (2) athletics, and (3) alcohol. Saner as
regards material, but hopelessly irrational in method. Your ordinary
employe begins his day with a thimbleful of black coffee, nothing more.
What work shall be got out of him, under such anti-hygienic conditions?
Of course it takes ten men to do the work of one; and of course all ten
of them are sulky and irritable throughout the morning, thinking only of
their luncheon. Then indeed--then they make up for lost time; those few
favoured ones, at least, who can afford it.

I once watched a young fellow, a clerk of some kind, in a restaurant at
midday. He began by informing the waiter that he had no appetite that
morning--_sangue di Dio!_ no appetite whatever; but at last allowed
himself to be persuaded into consuming a _hors d' oeuvres_ of anchovies
and olives. Then he was induced to try the maccheroni, because they were
"particularly good that morning"; he ate, or rather drank, an immense
plateful. After that came some slices of meat and a dish of green stuff
sufficient to satisfy a starving bullock. A little fish? asked the
waiter. Well, perhaps yes, just for form's sake--two fried mullets and
some nondescript fragments. Next, he devoured a couple of raw eggs "on
account of his miserably weak stomach," a bowl of salad and a goodly
lump of fresh cheese. Not without a secret feeling of envy I left him at
work upon his dessert, of which he had already consumed some six
peaches. Add to this (quite an ordinary repast) half a bottle of heavy
wine, a cup of black coffee and three glasses of water--what work shall
be got out of a man after such a boa-constrictor collation? He is as
exasperated and prone to take offence as in the morning--this time from
another cause. . . .

That is why so many of them suffer from chronic troubles of the
digestive organs. The head of a hospital at Naples tells me that stomach
diseases are more prevalent there than in any other part of Europe, and
the stomach, whatever sentimentalists may say to the contrary, being the
true seat of the emotions, it follows that a judicious system of dieting
might work wonders upon their development. Nearly all Mediterranean
races have been misfed from early days; that is why they are so small. I
would undertake to raise the Italian standard of height by several
inches, if I had control of their nutrition for a few centuries. I would
undertake to alter their whole outlook upon life, to convert them from
utilitarians into romantics--were such a change desirable. For if
utilitarianism be the shadow of starvation, romance is nothing but the
vapour of repletion.

And yet men still talk of race-characteristics as of something fixed and
immutable! The Jews, so long as they starved in Palestine, were the most
acrimonious bigots on earth. Now that they live and feed sensibly, they
have learnt to see things in their true perspective--they have become
rationalists. Their less fortunate fellow-Semites, the Arabs, have
continued to starve and to swear by the Koran--empty in body and empty
in mind. No poise or balance is possible to those who live in uneasy
conditions. The wisest of them can only attain to stoicism--a dumb
protest against the environment. There are no stoics among well-fed
people. The Romans made that discovery for themselves, when they
abandoned the cheese-paring habits of the Republic.

In short, it seems to me that virtues and vices which cannot be
expressed in physiological terms are not worth talking about; that when
a morality refuses to derive its sanction from the laws which govern our
body, it loses the right to exist. This being so, what is the most
conspicuous native vice?

Envy, without a doubt.

Out of envy they pine away and die; out of envy they kill one another.
To produce a more placid race, [Footnote: By placid I do not mean
peace-loving and pitiful in the Christian sense. That doctrine of loving
and forgiving one's enemies is based on sheer funk; our pity for others
is dangerously akin to self-pity, most odious of vices. Catholic
teaching--in practice, if not in theory---glides artfully over the
desirability of these imported freak-virtues, knowing that they cannot
appeal to a masculine stock. By placid I mean steady, self-contained.]
to dilute envious thoughts and the acts to which they lead, is at bottom
a question of nutrition. One would like to know for how much black
brooding and for how many revengeful deeds that morning thimbleful of
black coffee is responsible.

The very faces one sees in the streets would change. Envy is reflected
in all too many of those of the middle classes, while the poorest
citizens are often haggard and distraught from sheer hunger--hunger
which has not had time to be commuted into moral poison; college-taught
men, in responsible positions, being forced to live on salaries which a
London lift-boy would disdain. When that other local feature, that
respect for honourable poverty--the reverse of what we see in England
where, since the days of the arch-snob Pope, a slender income has grown
to be considered a subject of reproach.

And yet another symptom of the south----

Enough! The clock points to 6.20; it is time for an evening walk--my
final one--to the terrace of S. M. del Castello.



XVII

OLD MORANO


This Morano is a very ancient city; Tufarelli, writing in 1598, proves
that it was then exactly 3349 years old. Oddly enough, therefore, its
foundation almost coincides with that of Rossano. . . .

There may be mules at Morano; indeed, there are. But they are illusive
beasts: phantom-mules. Despite the assistance of the captain of the
carbineers, the local innkeeper, the communal policeman, the secretary
of the municipality, an amiable canon of the church and several
non-official residents, I vainly endeavoured, for three days, to procure
one--flitting about, meanwhile, between this place and Castrovillari.
For Morano, notwithstanding its size (they say it is larger than the
other town) offers no accommodation or food in the septentrional sense
of those terms.

Its situation, as you approach from Castrovillari, is striking. The
white houses stream in a cataract down one side of a steep conical hill
that dominates the landscape--on the summit sits the inevitable castle,
blue sky peering through its battered windows. But the interior is not
at all in keeping with this imposing aspect. Morano, so far as I was
able to explore it, is a labyrinth of sombre, tortuous and fetid alleys,
whexe black pigs wallow amid heaps 'of miscellaneous and malodorous
filth--in short, the town exemplifies that particular idea of civic
liberty which consists in everybody being free to throw their own
private refuse into the public street and leave it there, from
generation to generation. What says Lombroso? "The street-cleaning is
entrusted, in many towns, to the rains of heaven and, in their absence,
to the voracity of the pigs." None the less, while waiting for mules
that never came, I took to patrolling those alleys, at first out of
sheer boredom, but soon impelled by that subtle fascination which
emanates from the _ne plus ultra_ of anything--even of grotesque
dirtiness. On the second day, however, a case of cholera was announced,
which chilled my ardour for further investigations. It was on that
account that I failed to inspect what was afterwards described to me as
the chief marvel of the place--a carved wooden altar-piece in a certain
church.

"It is prodigious and _antichissimo,"_ said an obliging citizen to
whom I applied for information. "There is nothing like it on earth, and
I have been six times to America, sir. The artist--a real artist, mind
you, not a common professor--spent his whole life in carving it. It was
for the church, you see, and he wanted to show what he could do in the
way of a masterpiece. Then, when it was finished and in its place, the
priests refused to pay for it. It was made not for them, they said, but
for the glory of God; the man's reward was sufficient. And besides, he
could have remission of sins for the rest of his life. He said he did
not care about remission of sins; he wanted money--money! But he got
nothing. Whereupon he began to brood and to grow yellow. Money--money!
That was all he ever said. And at last he became quite green and died.
After that, his son took up the quarrel, but he got as little out of the
priests as the father. It was fixed in the church, you understand, and
he could not take it away. He climbed through the window one night and
tried to burn it--the marks are there to this day--but they were too
sharp for him. And he took the business so much to heart that he also
soon died quite young! And quite green--like his father."

The most characteristic item in the above history is that about growing
green. People are apt to put on this colour in the south from
disappointment or from envy. They have a proverb which runs "sfoga o
schiatta"--relieve yourself or burst; our vaunted ideal of
self-restraint, of dominating the reflexes, being thought not only
fanciful but injurious to health. Therefore, if relief is thwarted,
they either brood themselves into a green melancholy, or succumb to a
sudden "colpo di sangue," like a young woman of my acquaintance who,
considering herself beaten in a dispute with a tram-conductor about a
penny, forthwith had a "colpo di sangue," and was dead in a few hours. A
primeval assertion of the ego . . .

Unable to perambulate the streets of Morano, I climbed to the ruined
fortress along the verdant slope at its back, and enjoyed a fair view
down the fertile valley, irrigated by streamlets and planted with
many-hued patches of culture, with mulberries, pomegranates and poplars.
Some boys were up here, engaged in fishing--fishing for young kestrels
in their nest above a shattered gateway. The tackle consisted of a rod
with a bent piece of wire fixed to one end, and it seemed to me a pretty
unpromising form of sport. But suddenly, amid wild vociferations, they
hooked one, and carried it off in triumph to supper. The mother bird,
meanwhile, sailed restlessly about the aether watching every movement,
as I could see by my glasses; at times she drifted quite near, then
swerved again and hovered, with vibrating pinions, directly overhead. It
was clear that she could not tear herself away from the scene, and
hardly had the marauders departed, when she alighted on the wall and
began to inspect what was left of her dwelling. It was probably rather
untidy. I felt sorry for her; yet such harebrained imprudence cannot go
unpunished. With so many hundred crannies in this old castle, why choose
one which any boy can reach with a stick? She will know better next season.

Then an old shepherd scrambled up, and sat on the stone beside me. He
was short-sighted, asthmatic, and unable to work; the doctor had
recommended an evening walk up to the castle. We conversed awhile, and
he extracted a carnation out of his waistcoat pocket--unusual receptacle
for flowers--which he presented to me. I touched upon the all-absorbing
topic of mules.

"Mules are very busy animals in Morano," he explained. _"Animali
occupatissimi."_ However, he promised to exert himself on my behalf; he
knew a man with a mule--two mules--he would send him round, if possible.

Quite a feature in the landscape of Morano is the costume of the women,
with their home-dyed red skirts and ribbons of the same hue plaited into
their hair. It is a beautiful and reposeful shade of red, between
Pompeian and brick-colour, and the tint very closely resembles that of
the cloth worn by the beduin (married) women of Tunisia. Maybe it was
introduced by the Saracens. And it is they, I imagine, who imported that
love of red peppers (a favourite dish with most Orientals) which is
peculiar to these parts, where they eat them voraciously in every form,
particularly in that of red sausages seasoned with these fiery condiments.

The whole country is full of Saracen memories. The name of Morano, they
say, is derived from _moro,_ [Footnote: This is all wrong, of course.
And equally wrong is the derivation from _moral,_ a mulberry--abundant
as these trees are. And more wrong still, if possible, is that which is
drawn from a saying of the mysterious Oenotrians--that useful
tribe--who, wandering in search of homesteads across these regions and
observing their beauty, are supposed to have remarked: _Hic moremur--_
here let us stay! Morano (strange to say) is simply the Roman Muranum.]
a Moor; and in its little piazza--an irregular and picturesque spot,
shaded by a few grand old elms amid the sound of running waters--there
is a sculptured head of a Moor inserted into the wall, commemorative, I
was told, of some ancient anti-Saracen exploit. It is the escutcheon of
the town. This Moor wears a red fez, and his features are painted black
(this is _de rigueur,_ for "Saracens "); he bears the legend _Vivit
sub arbore morus._ Near at hand, too, lies the prosperous village
Saracena, celebrated of old for its muscatel wines. They are made from
the grape which the Saracens brought over from Maskat, and planted all
over Sicily.  [Footnote: See next chapter.]

The men of Morano emigrate to America; two-thirds of the adult and
adolescent male population are at this moment on the other side of the
Atlantic. But the oldsters, with their peaked hats (capello pizzuto)
shading gnarled and canny features, are well worth studying. At this
summer season they leave the town at 3.30 a.m. to cultivate their
fields, often far distant, returning at nightfall; and to observe these
really wonderful types, which will soon be extinct, you must take up a
stand on the Castrovillari road towards sunset and watch them riding
home on their donkeys, or walking, after the labours of the day.

Poorly dressed, these peasants are none the less wealthy; the post
office deposit of Morano is said to have two million francs to its
credit, mostly the savings of these humble cultivators, who can discover
an astonishing amount of money when it is a question, for example, of
providing their daughters with a dowry. The bridal dress alone, a blaze
of blue silk and lace and gold embroidery, costs between six hundred and
a thousand francs. Altogether, Morano is a rich place, despite its
sordid appearance; it is also celebrated as the birthplace of various
learned men. The author of the "Calascione Scordato," a famous
Neapolitan poem of the seventeenth century, certainly lived here for
some time and has been acclaimed as a son of Morano, though he
distinctly speaks of Naples as his home. Among its elder literary
glories is that Leonardo Tufarelli, who thus apostrophizes his birthplace:

"And to proceed--how many _letterati_ and _virtuosi_ have issued from
you in divers times? Among whom--not to name all of them--there has been
in our days Leopardo de l'Osso of happy memory, physician and most
excellent philosopher, singular in every science, of whom I dare say
that he attained to Pythagorean heights. How many are there to-day,
versed in every faculty, in theology, in the two laws, and in medicine?
How many historians, how many poets, grammarians, artists, actors?"

The modern writer Nicola Leoni is likewise a child of Morano; his
voluminous "Della Magna Grecia e delle Tre Calabrie" appeared in
1844-1846. He, too, devotes much space to the praises of his natal city,
and to lamentations regarding the sad condition of Calabrian letters
during those dark years.

"Closed for ever is the academy of Amantea! Closed for ever is
the academy of Rossano! Rare are the lectures in the academy of
Monteleone! Rare indeed the lectures in the academy of Catan-zaro!
Closed for ever is the public library of Monteleone! O ancient days! O
wisdom of our fathers! Where shall I find you? . . ."

To live the intellectual life amid the ferociously squalid surroundings
of Morano argues an enviable philosophic calm--a detachment bordering on
insensibility. But perhaps we are too easily influenced by externals, in
these degenerate times. Or things may have been better in days of
old--who can tell? One always likes to think so, though the evidence
usually points to the contrary.

When least I expected it, a possessor of mules presented himself. He was
a burly ruffian of northern extraction, with clear eyes, fair moustache,
and an insidious air of cheerfulness.

Yes, he had a mule, he said; but as to climbing the mountain for three
or four days on end--ha, ha!--that was rather an undertaking, you know.
Was I aware that there were forests and snow up there? Had I ever been
up the mountain? Indeed! Well, then I must know that there was no food----

I pointed to my store of provisions from Castrovillari. His eye wandered
lovingly over the pile and reposed, finally, upon sundry odd bottles and
a capacious demijohn, holding twelve litres.

"Wine of family," I urged. "None of your eating-house stuff."

He thought he could manage it, after all. Yes; the trip could be
undertaken, with a little sacrifice. And he had a second mule, a
lady-mule, which it struck him I might like to ride now and then; a
pleasant beast and a companion, so to speak, for the other one. Two
mules and two Christians--that seemed appropriate. . . . And only four
francs a day more.

Done! It was really cheap. So cheap, that I straightway grew suspicious
of the "lady-mule."

We sealed the bargain in a glass of the local mixture, and I thereupon
demanded a _caparra--_ a monetary security that he would keep his word,
i.e. be round at my door with the animals at two in the morning, so as
to reach the uplands before the heat became oppressive.

His face clouded--a good omen, indicating that he was beginning to
respect me. Then he pulled out his purse, and reluctantly laid two
francs on the table.

The evening was spent in final preparations; I retired early to bed, and
tried to sleep. One o'clock came, and two o'clock, and three o'clock--no
mules! At four I went to the man's house, and woke him out of ambrosial
slumbers.

"You come to see me so early in the morning?" he enquired, sitting up in
bed and rubbing his eyes. "Now that's really nice of you."

One of the mules, he airily explained, had lost a shoe in the afternoon.
He would get it put right at once--at once.

"You might have told me so yesterday evening, instead of keeping me
awake all night waiting for you."

"True," he replied. "I thought of it at the time. But then I went to
bed, and slept. Ah, sir, it is good to sleep!" and he stretched himself
voluptuously.

The beast was shod, and at 5 a.m. we left.



XVIII

AFRICAN INTRUDERS


There is a type of physiognomy here which is undeniably Semitic--with
curly hair, dusky skin and hooked nose. We may take it to be of
Saracenic origin, since a Phoenician descent is out of the question,
while mediaeval Jews never intermarried with Christians. It is the same
class of face which one sees so abundantly at Palermo, the former
metropolis of these Africans. The accompanying likeness is that of a
native of Cosenza, a town that was frequently in their possession.
Eastern traits of character, too, have lingered among the populace. So
the humour of the peddling Semite who will allow himself to be called by
the most offensive epithets rather than lose a chance of gaining a sou;
who, eternally professing poverty, cannot bear to be twitted on his
notorious riches; their ceaseless talk of hidden treasures, their
secretiveness and so many other little Orientalisms that whoever has
lived in the East will be inclined to echo the observation of Edward
Lear's Greek servant: "These men are Arabs, but they have more clothes on."

Many Saracenic words (chiefly of marine and commercial import) have
survived from this period; I could quote a hundred or more, partly in
the literary language (balio, dogana, etc.), partly in dialect (cala,
tavuto, etc.) and in place-names such as Tamborio (the Semitic Mount
Tabor), Kalat (Calatafimi), Marsa (Marsala).

Dramatic plays with Saracen subjects are still popular with the lower
classes; you can see them acted in any of the coast towns. In fact, the
recollection of these intruders is very much alive to this day. They
have left a deep scar.

Such being the case, it is odd to find local writers hardly referring to
the Saracenic period. Even a modern like l'Occaso, who describes the
Castrovillari region in a conscientious fashion, leaps directly from
Greco-Roman events into those of the Normans. But this is in accordance
with the time-honoured ideal of writing such works: to say nothing in
dispraise of your subject (an exception may be made in favour of
Spano-Bolani's History of Reggio). Malaria and earthquakes and Saracen
irruptions are awkward arguments when treating of the natural
attractions and historical glories of your native place. So the once
renowned descriptions of this province by Grano and the rest of them are
little more than rhetorical exercises; they are "Laus Calabria." And
then--their sources of information were limited and difficult of access.
Collective works like those of Muratori and du Chesne had not appeared
on the market; libraries were restricted to convents; and it was not to
be expected that they should know all the chroniclers of the Byzantines,
Latins, Lombards, Normans and Hohenstaufen--to say nothing of Arab
writers like Nowairi, Abulfeda, Ibn Chaldun and Ibn Alathir--who throw a
little light on those dark times, and are now easily accessible to
scholars.

Dipping into this old-world literature of murders and prayers, we gather
that in pre-Saracenic times the southern towns were denuded of their
garrisons, and their fortresses fallen into disrepair. "Nec erat formido
aut metus bellorum, quoniam alta pace omnes gaudebant usque ad tempora
Saracenorum." In this part of Italy, as well as at Taranto and other
parts of old "Calabria," the invaders had an easy task before them, at
first.

In 873, on their return from Salerno, they poured into Calabria, and by
884 already held several towns, such as Tropea and Amantea, but were
driven out temporarily. In 899 they ravaged, says Hepi-danus, the
country of the Lombards (? Calabria). In 900 they destroyed Reggio, and
renewed their incursions in 919, 923, 924, 925, 927, till the Greek
Emperor found it profitable to pay them an annual tribute. In 953, this
tribute not being forthcoming, they defeated the Greeks in Calabria, and
made further raids in 974, 975; 976, 977, carrying off a large store of
captives and wealth. In 981 Otto II repulsed them at Cotrone, but was
beaten the following year near Squillace, and narrowly escaped capture.
It was one of the most romantic incidents of these wars. During the
years 986, 988, 991, 994, 998, 1002, 1003 they were continually in the
country; indeed, nearly every year at the beginning of the eleventh
century is marked by some fresh inroad. In 1009 they took Cosenza for
the third or fourth time; in 1020 they were at Bisignano in the Crati
valley, and returned frequently into those parts, defeating, in 1025, a
Greek army under Orestes, and, in 1031, the assembled forces of the
Byzantine Catapan------ [Footnote: I have not seen Moscato's "Cronaca
dei Musulmani in Calabria," where these authorities might be
conveniently tabulated. It must be a rare book. Martorana deals only
with the Saracens of Sicily.]

No bad record, from their point of view.

But they never attained their end, the subjection of the mainland. And
their methods involved appalling and enduring evils.

Yet the presumable intent or ambition of these aliens must be called
reasonable enough. They wished to establish a provincial government here
on the same lines as in Sicily, of which island it has been said that it
was never more prosperous than under their administration.

Literature, trade, industry, and all the arts of peace are described as
flourishing there; in agriculture they paid especial attention to the
olive; they initiated, I believe, the art of terracing and irrigating
the hill-sides; they imported the date-palm, the lemon and sugar-cane
(making the latter suffice not only for home consumption, but for
export); their silk manufactures were unsurpassed. Older writers like
Mazzella speak of the abundant growth of sugar-cane in Calabria
(Capialbi, who wallowed in learning, has a treatise on the subject);
John Evelyn saw it cultivated near Naples; it is now extinct from
economical and possibly climatic causes. They also introduced the
papyrus into Sicily, as well as the cotton-plant, which used to be
common all over south Italy, where I have myself seen it growing.

All this sounds praiseworthy, no doubt. But I see no reason why they
should have governed Sicily better than they did North Africa, which
crumbled into dust at their touch, and will take many long centuries to
recover its pre-Saracen prosperity. There is something flame-like and
anti-constructive in the Arab, with his pastoral habits and contempt of
forethought. In favour of their rule, much capital has been made out of
Benjamin of Tudela's account of Palermo. But it must not be forgotten
that his brief visit was made a hundred years after the Norman
occupation had begun. Palermo, he says, has about 1500 Jews and a large
number of Christians and Mohammedans; Sicily "contains all the pleasant
things of this world." Well, so it did in pre-Saracen times; so it does
to-day. Against the example of North Africa, no doubt, may be set their
activities in Spain.

They have been accused of destroying the old temples of Magna Gracia
from religious or other motives. I do not believe it; this was against
their usual practice. They sacked monasteries, because these were
fortresses defended by political enemies and full of gold which they
coveted; but in their African possessions, during all this period, the
ruins of ancient civilizations were left untouched, while Byzantine
cults lingered peacefully side by side with Mos-lemism; why not here?
Their fanaticism has been much exaggerated. Weighing the balance between
conflicting writers, it would appear that Christian rites were tolerated
in Sicily during all their rule, though some governors were more bigoted
than others; the proof is this, that the Normans found resident
fellow-believers there, after 255 years of Arab domination.  It was the
Christians rather, who with the best intentions set the example of
fanaticism during their crusades; these early Saracen raids had no more
religious colouring than our own raids into the Transvaal or elsewhere.
The Saracens were out for plunder and fresh lands, exactly like the
English.  [Footnote: The behaviour of the Normans was wholly different
from that of the Arabs, immediately on their occupation of the country
they razed to the ground thousands of Arab temples and sanctuaries. Of
several hundred in Palermo alone, not a single one was left standing.]

Nor were they tempted to destroy these monuments for decorative
purposes, since they possessed no palaces on the mainland like the
Palermitan Cuba or Zisa; and that sheer love of destructive-ness with
which they have been credited certainly spared the marbles of Paestum
which lay within a short distance of their strongholds, Agropoli and
Cetara. No. What earthquakes had left intact of these classic relics
was niched by the Christians, who ransacked every corner of Italy
for such treasures to adorn their own temples in Pisa, Rome and
Venice--displaying small veneration for antiquity, but considerable
taste. In Calabria, for instance, the twenty granite pillars of the
cathedral of Gerace were drawn from the ruins of old Locri; those of
Melito came from the ancient Hipponium (Monteleone). So Paestum, after
the Saracens, became a regular quarry for the Lombards and the rich
citizens of Amalfi when they built their cathedral; and above all, for
the shrewdly pious Robert Guiscard. Altogether, these Normans, dreaming
through the solstitial heats in pleasaunces like Ravello, developed a
nice taste in the matter of marbles, and were not particular where they
came from, so long as they came from somewhere. The antiquities remained
intact, at least, which was better than the subsequent system of Colonna
and Frangipani, who burnt them into lime.

Whatever one may think of the condition of Sicily under Arab rule, the
proceedings of these strangers was wholly deplorable so far as the
mainland of Italy was concerned. They sacked and burnt wherever they
went; the sea-board of the Tyrrhenian, Ionian and Adriatic was
depopulated of its inhabitants, who fled inland; towns and villages
vanished from the face of the earth, and the richly cultivated land
became a desert; they took 17,000 prisoners from Reggio on a single
occasion--13,000 from Termula; they reduced Matera to such distress,
that a mother is said to have slaughtered and devoured her own child.
Such was their system on the mainland, where they swarmed. Their numbers
can be inferred from a letter written in 871 by the Emperor Ludwig II
to the Byzantine monarch, in which he complains that "Naples has become
a second Palermo, a second Africa," while three hundred years later, in
1196, the Chancellor Konrad von Hildesheim makes a noteworthy
observation, which begins: "In Naples I saw the Saracens, who with their
spittle destroy venomous beasts, and will briefly set forth how they
came by this virtue. . . ."  [Footnote: He goes on to say, "Paulus
Apostolus naufragium passus, apud Capream insulam applicuit _[sic]_ quae
in Actibus Apostolorum Mitylene nuncupatur, et cum multis allis evadens,
ab indigenis tcrrae benigne acceptatus est." Then follows the episode of
the fire and of the serpent which Paul casts from him; whereupon the
Saracens, naturally enough, begin to adore him as a saint. In recompense
for this kind treatment Paul grants to them and their descendants the
power of killing poisonous animals in the manner aforesaid--i.e. with
their spittle--a superstition which is alive in south Italy to this day.
These gifted mortals are called Sanpaulari, or by the Greek word
Cerauli; they are men who are born either on St. Paul's night (24-25
January) or on 29 June.  Saint Paul, the "doctor of the Gentiles," is a
great wizard hereabouts, and an invocation to him runs as follows:
"Saint Paul, thou wonder-worker, kill this beast, which is hostile to
God; and save me, for I am a son of Maria."]

It is therefore no exaggeration to say that the coastal regions of south
Italy were practically in Arab possession for centuries, and one is
tempted to dwell on their long semi-domination here because it has
affected to this day the vocabulary of the people, their lore, their
architecture, their very faces--and to a far greater extent than a
visitor unacquainted with Moslem countries and habits would believe.
Saracenism explains many anomalies in their mode of life and social
conduct.

From these troublous times dates, I should say, that use of the word
_cristiano_ applied to natives of the country--as opposed to Mohammedan
enemies.

"Saraceno" is still a common term of abuse.

The fall of Luceria may be taken as a convenient time-boundary to mark
the end of the Saracenic period. A lull, but no complete repose from
attacks, occurs between that event and the fall of Granada. Then begins
the activity of the corsairs. There is this difference between them,
that the corsairs merely paid flying visits; a change of wind, the
appearance of an Italian sail, an unexpected resistance on the part of
the inhabitants, sufficed to unsettle their ephemeral plans. The
coast-lands were never in their possession; they only harried the
natives. The system of the Saracens on the mainland, though it seldom
attained the form of a provincial or even military government, was
different. They had the _animus manendi._ Where they dined, they slept.

In point of destructiveness, I should think there was little to choose
between them. One thinks of the hundreds of villages the corsairs
devastated; the convents and precious archives they destroyed,
[Footnote: In this particular branch, again, the Christians surpassed
the unbeliever. More archives were destroyed in the so-called "Age of
Lead"--the closing period of Bour-bonism--than under Saracens and
Corsairs combined. It was quite the regular thing to sell them as
waste-paper to the shopkeepers. Some of them escaped this fate by the
veriest miracle--so those of the celebrated Certoza of San Lorenzo in
Padula. The historian Marincola, walking in the market of Salerno,
noticed a piece of cheese wrapped up in an old parchment. He elicited
the fact that it came from this Certosa, intercepted the records on
their way for sale in Salerno, and contrived by a small present to the
driver that next night two cartloads of parchments were deposited in the
library of La Cava.] the thousands of captives they carried
off--sometimes in such numbers that the ships threatened to sink till
the more unsaleable portion of the human freight had been cast
overboard. And it went on for centuries.  Pirates and slave-hunters they
were; but not a whit more so than their Christian adversaries, on whose
national rivalries they thrived. African slaves, when not chained to the
galleys, were utilized on land; so the traveller Moore records that the
palace of Caserta was built by gangs of slaves, half of them Italian,
half Turkish. We have not much testimony as to whether these Arab slaves
enjoyed their lot in European countries; but many of the Christians in
Algiers certainly enjoyed theirs. A considerable number of them refused
to profit by Lord Exmouth's arrangement for their ransom. I myself knew
the descendant of a man who had been thus sent back to his relations
from captivity, and who soon enough returned to Africa, declaring that
the climate and religion of Europe were alike insupportable.

In Saracen times the Venetians actually sold Christian slaves to the
Turks. Parrino cites the severe enactments which were issued in the
sixteenth century against Christian sailors who decoyed children on
board their boats and sold them as slaves to the Moslem. I question
whether the Turks were ever guilty of a corresponding infamy.

This Parrino, by the way, is useful as showing the trouble to which the
Spanish viceroys were put by the perpetual inroads of these Oriental
pests. Local militia were organized, heavy contributions levied, towers
of refuge sprang up all along the coast--every respectable house had its
private tower as well (for the dates, see G. del Giudice, _Del Grande
Archivio di Napoli,_ 1871, p. 108). The daring of the pirates knew no
bounds; they actually landed a fleet at Naples itself, and carried off a
number of prisoners. The entire kingdom, save the inland parts, was
terrorized by their lightning-like descents.

A particular literature grew up about this time--those "Lamenti" in
rime, which set forth the distress of the various places they afflicted.

The saints had work to do. Each divine protector fought for his own town
or village, and sometimes we see the pleasing spectacle of two patrons
of different localities joining their forces to ward off a piratical
attack upon some threatened district by means of fiery hail, tempests,
apparitions and other celestial devices. A bellicose type of Madonna
emerges, such as S. M. della Libera and S. M. di Constantinopoli, who
distinguishes herself by a fierce martial courage in the face of the
enemy. There is no doubt that these inroads acted as a stimulus to the
Christian faith; that they helped to seat the numberless patron saints
of south Italy more firmly on their thrones. The Saracens as
saint-makers. . . .

But despite occasional successes, the marine population suffered
increasingly. Historians like Summonte have left us descriptions of the
prodigious exodus of the country people from Calabria and elsewhere into
the safer capital, and how the polished citizens detested these new
arrivals.

The ominous name "Torre di Guardia" (tower of outlook)--a cliff whence
the sea was scanned for the appearance of Turkish vessels--survives all
over the south. Barbarossa, too, has left his mark; many a hill,
fountain or castle has been named after him. In the two Barbarossas were
summed up the highest qualities of the pirates, and it is curious to
think that the names of those scourges of Christendom, Uruj and
Kheir-eddin, should have been contracted into the classical forms of
Horace and Ariadne. The picturesque Uruj was painted by Velasquez; the
other entertained a polite epistolatory correspondence with Aretino, and
died, to his regret, "like a coward" in bed. I never visit
Constantinople without paying my respects to that calm tomb at
Beshiktah, where, after life's fitful fever, sleeps the _Chief of the Sea._

And so things went on till recently. K. Ph. Moritz writes that King
Ferdinand of Naples, during his sporting excursions to the islands of
his dominions, was always accompanied by two cruisers, to forestall the
chance of his being carried off by these _Turchi._ But his loyal
subjects had no cruisers at their disposal; they lived _Turcarum
praedonibus semper obnoxii._ Who shall calculate the effects of this
long reign of terror on the national mind?

For a thousand years--from 830 to 1830--from the days when the
Amalfitans won the proud title of "Defenders of the Faith" up to those
of the sentimental poet Waiblinger (1826), these shores were infested by
Oriental ruffians, whose activities were an unmitigated evil. It is all
very well for Admiral de la Gravière to speak of "Gallia Victrix"--the
Americans, too, might have something to say on that point. The fact is
that neither European nor American arms crushed the pest. But for the
invention of steam, the Barbary corsairs might still be with us.



XIX

UPLANDS OF POLLINO


It has a pleasant signification, that word "Dolcedorme": it means
_Sweet slumber._ But no one could tell me how the mountain group came by
this name; they gave me a number of explanations, all fanciful and
unconvincing. Pollino, we are told, is derived from Apollo, and authors
of olden days sometimes write of it as "Monte Apollino." But Barrius
suggests an alternative etymology, equally absurd, and connected with
the medicinal herbs which are found there. _Pollino,_ he says, _a
polleo dictus, quod nobilibus herbis medelae commodis polleat. Pro-venit
enim ibi, ut ab herbariis accepi, tragium dictamnum Cretense, chamaeleon
bigenum, draucus, meum, nardus, celtica, anonides, anemone, peucedamum,
turbit, reubarbarum, pyrethrum, juniperus ubertim, stellarla,
imperatoria, cardus masticem fundens, dracagas, cythisus--_whence
likewise the magnificent cheeses; gold and the Phrygian stone, he adds,
are also found here.

Unhappily Barrius--we all have a fling at this "Strabo and Pliny of
Calabria"! So jealous was he of his work that he procured a prohibition
from the Pope against all who might reprint it, and furthermore invoked
the curses of heaven and earth upon whoever should have the audacity to
translate it into Italian. Yet his shade ought to be appeased with the
monumental edition of 1737, and, as regards his infallibility, one must
not forget that among his contemporaries the more discerning had already
censured his _philopatria,_ his immoderate love of Calabria. And that is
the right way to judge of men who were not so much ignorant as unduly
zealous for the fair name of their natal land. To sneer at them is to
misjudge their period. It was the very spirit of the Renaissance to
press rhetorical learning into the service of patriotism. They made some
happy guesses and not a few mistakes; and when they lied deliberately,
it was done in what they held a just cause--as scholars and gentlemen.

The _Calabria Illustrata_ of Fiore also fares badly at the hands of
critics. But I shall not repeat what they say; I confess to a sneaking
fondness for Father Fiore.

Marafioti, a Calabrian monk, likewise dwells on these same herbs of
Pollino, and gives a long account of a medical secret which he learnt on
the spot from two Armenian botanists. Alas for Marafioti! Despite his
excellent index and seductively chaste Paduan type and paper, the
impartial Soria is driven to say that "to make his shop appear more rich
in foreign merchandise, he did not scruple to adorn it with books and
authors apocryphal, imaginary, and unknown to the whole human race." In
short, he belonged to the school of Pratilli, who wrote a wise and
edifying history of Capua on the basis of inscriptions which he himself
had previously forged; of Ligorio Pirro, prince of his tribe, who
manufactured thousands of coins, texts and marbles out of sheer
exuberance of creative artistry!

Gone are those happy days of authorship, when the constructive
imagination was not yet blighted and withered. . . .

Marching comfortably, it will take you nearly twelve hours to go from
Morano to the village of Terranova di Pollino, which I selected as my
first night-quarter. This includes a scramble up the peak of Pollino,
locally termed "telegrafo," from a pile of stones--? an old
signal-station--erected on the summit. But since decent accommodation
can only be obtained at Castrovillari, a start should be made from
there, and this adds another hour to the trip. Moreover, as the peak of
Pollino lies below that of Dolcedorme, which shuts oil a good deal of
its view seaward, this second mountain ought rather to be ascended, and
that will probably add yet another hour--fourteen altogether. The
natives, ever ready to say what they think will please you, call it a
six hours' excursion. As a matter of fact, although I spoke to numbers
of the population of Morano, I only met two men who had ever been to
Terranova, one of them being my muleteer; the majority had not so much
as heard its name. They dislike mountains and torrents and forests, not
only as an offence to the eye, but as hindrances to agriculture and
enemies of man and his ordered ways. "La montagna" is considerably
abused, all over Italy.

It takes an hour to cross the valley and reach the slopes of the
opposite hills. Here, on the plain, lie the now faded blossoms of the
monstrous arum, the botanical glory of these regions. To see it in
flower, in early June, is alone almost worth the trouble of a journey to
Calabria.

On a shady eminence at the foot of these mountains, in a most
picturesque site, there stands a large castellated building, a
monastery. It is called Colorito, and is now a ruin; the French, they
say, shelled it for harbouring the brigand-allies of Bourbonism. Nearly
all convents in the south, and even in Naples, were at one time or
another refuges of bandits, and this association of monks and robbers
used to give much trouble to conscientious politicians. It is a solitary
building, against the dark hill-side; a sombre and romantic pile such as
would have charmed Anne Radcliffe; one longs to explore its recesses.
But I dreaded the coming heats of midday. Leone da Morano, who died in
1645, belonged to this congregation, and was reputed an erudite
ecclesiastic. The life of one of its greatest luminaries, Fra Bernardo
da Rogliano, was described by Tufarelli in a volume which I have never
been able to catch sight of. It must be very rare, yet it certainly was
printed.  [Footnote: Haym has no mention of this work. But it is fully
quoted in old Toppi's "Biblioteca" (p. 317), and also referred to in
Savonarola's "Universus Terrarum," etc. (1713, Vol. I, p. 216). Both say
it was printed at Cosenza; the first, in 1650; the second, in 1630.]

The path ascends now through a long and wearisome limestone gap called
Valle di Gaudolino, only the last half-hour of the march being shaded by
trees. It was in this gully that an accidental encounter took place
between a detachment of French soldiers and part of the band of the
celebrated brigand Scarolla, whom they had been pursuing for months all
over the country. The brigands were sleeping when the others fell upon
them, killing numbers and carrying off a large booty; so rich it was,
that the soldiers were seen playing at "petis palets"--whatever that may
be--with quadruples of Spain--whatever _that_ may be. Scarolla escaped
wounded, but was afterwards handed over to justice, for a consideration
of a thousand ducats, by some shepherds with whom he had taken refuge;
and duly hanged. His band consisted of four thousand ruffians; it was
one of several that infested south Italy. This gives some idea of the
magnitude of the evil.

It was my misfortune that after weeks of serene weather this particular
morning should be cloudy. There was sunshine in the valley below, but
wreaths of mist were skidding over the summit of Pollino; the view, I
felt sure, would be spoilt. And so it was. Through swiftly-careering
cloud-drifts I caught glimpses of the plain and the blue Ionian; of the
Sila range confronting me; of the peak of Dolcedorme to the left, and
the "Montagna del Principe" on the right; of the large forest region at
my back. Tantalizing visions!

Viewed from below, this Pollino is shaped like a pyramid, and promises
rather a steep climb over bare limestone; but the ascent is quite easy.
No trees grow on the pyramid. The rock is covered with a profusion of
forget-me-nots and gay pansies; some mez-ereon and a few dwarfed
junipers--earthward-creeping--nearly reach the summit. When I passed
here on a former trip, on the 6th of June, this peak was shrouded in
snow. There are some patches of snow even now, one of them descending in
glacier fashion down the slope on the other side; they call it
"eternal," but I question whether it will survive the heats of autumn.
Beyond a brace of red-legged partridges, I saw no birds whatever. This
group of Pollino, descending its seven thousand feet in a precipitous
flight of terraces to the plain of Sibari, is an imposing _finale_ to
the Apennines that have run hitherward, without a break, from Genoa and
Bologna. Westward of this spot there are mountains galore; but no more
Apennines; no more limestone precipices. The boundary of the old
provinces of Calabria and Basilicata ran over this spot. . . .

I was glad to descend once more, and to reach the _Altipiano di
Pollino--_an Alpine meadow with a little lake (the merest puddle),
bright with rare and beautiful flowers. It lies 1780 metres above
sea-level, and no one who visits these regions should omit to see this
exquisite tract encircled by mountain peaks, though it lies a little off
the usual paths. Strawberries, which I had eaten at Rossano, had not yet
opened their flowers here; the flora, boreal in parts, has been studied
by Terracciano and other Italian botanists.

It was on this verdant, flower-enamelled mead that, fatigued with the
climb, I thought to try the powers of my riding mule. But the beast
proved vicious; there was no staying on her back. A piece of string
attached to her nose by way of guiding-rope was useless as a rein; she
had no mane wherewith I might have steadied myself in moments of danger,
and as to seizing her ears for that purpose, it was out of the question,
for hardly was I in the saddle before her head descended to the ground
and there remained, while her hinder feet essayed to touch the stars.
After a succession of ignominious and painful flights to earth, I
complained to her owner, who had been watching the proceedings with
quiet interest.

"That lady-mule," he said, "is good at carrying loads. But she has never
had a Christian on her back till now. I was rather curious to see how
she would behave."

"_Santo Dio!_ And do you expect me to pay four francs a day for having
my bones broken in this fashion?"

"What would you, sir? She is still young--barely four years old. Only
wait! Wait till she is ten or twelve."

To do him justice, however, he tried to make amends in other ways. And
he certainly knew the tracks. But he was a returned emigrant, and when
an Italian has once crossed the ocean he is useless for my purposes, he
has lost his savour--the virtue has gone out of him. True Italians will
soon be rare as the dodo in these parts. These _americani_ cast off
their ancient animistic traits and patriarchal disposition with the ease
of a serpent; a new creature emerges, of a wholly different
character--sophisticated, extortionate at times, often practical and in
so far useful; scorner of every tradition, infernally wideawake and
curiously deficient in what the Germans call "Gemuet" (one of those
words which we sadly need in our own language). Instead of being regaled
with tales of Saint Venus and fairies and the Evil Eye, I learnt a good
deal about the price of food in the Brazilian highlands.

The only piece of local information I was able to draw from him
concerned a mysterious plant in the forest that "shines by night." I
dare say he meant the _dictamnus fraxinella,_ which is sometimes luminous.

The finest part of the forest was traversed in the afternoon. It is
called Janace, and composed of firs and beeches. The botanist Tenore
says that firs 150 feet in height are "not difficult to find" here, and
some of the beeches, a forestal inspector assured me, attain the height
of 35 metres. They shoot up in straight silvery trunks; their roots are
often intertwined with those of the firs. The track is not level by any
means. There are torrents to be crossed; rocky ravines with splashing
waters where the sunshine pours down through a dense network of branches
upon a carpet of russet leaves and grey boulders--the envious beeches
allowing of no vegetation at their feet; occasional meadows, too, bright
with buttercups and orchids. No pines whatever grow in this forest. Yet
a few stunted ones are seen clinging to the precipices that descend into
the Coscile valley; their seeds may have been wafted across from the
Sila mountains.

In olden days all this country was full of game; bears, stags and
fallow-deer are mentioned. Only wolves and a few roe-deer are now left.
The forest is sombre, but not gloomy, and one would like to spend some
time in these wooded regions, so rare in Italy, and to study their life
and character--but how set about it? The distances are great; there are
no houses, not even a shepherd's hut or a cave; the cold at night is
severe, and even in the height of midsummer one must be prepared for
spells of mist and rain. I shall be tempted, on another occasion, to
provide myself with a tent such as is supplied to military officers.
They are light and handy, and perhaps camping out with a man-cook of the
kind that one finds in the Abruzzi provinces would be altogether the
best way of seeing the remoter parts of south and central Italy. For
decent food-supplies can generally be obtained in the smallest places;
the drawback is that nobody can cook them. Dirty food by day and dirty
beds by night will daunt the most enterprising natures in the long run.

These tracks are only traversed in summer. When I last walked through
this region--in the reverse direction, from Lagonegro over Latronico and
San Severino to Castrovillari--the ground was still covered with
stretches of snow, and many brooks were difficult to cross from the
swollen waters. This was in June. It was odd to see the beeches rising,
in full leaf, out of the deep snow.

During this afternoon ramble I often wondered what the burghers of
Taranto would think of these sylvan solitudes. Doubtless they would
share the opinion of a genteel photographer of Morano who showed me some
coloured pictures of local brides in their appropriate costumes, such as
are sent to relatives in America after weddings. He possessed a good
camera, and I asked whether he had never made any pictures of this fine
forest scenery. No, he said; he had only once been to the festival of
the Madonna di Pollino, but he went alone--his companion, an
_avvocato,_ got frightened and failed to appear at the last moment.

"So I went alone," he said, "and those forests, it must be confessed,
are too savage to be photographed. Now, if my friend had come, he might
have posed for me, sitting comically at the foot of a tree, with crossed
legs, and smoking a cigar, like this. ... Or he might have pretended to
be a wood-cutter, bending forwards and felling a tree . . . tac, tac,
tac . . . without his jacket, of course. That would have made a picture.
But those woods and mountains, all by themselves--no! The camera
revolts. In photography, as in all good art, the human element must
predominate."

It is sad to think that in a few years' time nearly all these forests
will have ceased to exist; another generation will hardly recognize the
site of them. A society from Morbegno (Valtellina) has acquired rights
over the timber, and is hewing down as fast as it can. They import their
own workmen from north Italy, and have built at a cost of two million
francs (say the newspapers) a special funicular railway, 23 kilometres
long, to carry the trunks from the mountain to Francavilla at its foot,
where they are sawn up and conveyed to the railway station of Cerchiara,
near Sibari. This concession, I am told, extends to twenty-five
years--they have now been at work for two, and the results are already
apparent in some almost bare slopes once clothed with these huge
primeval trees.

There are inspectors, some of them conscientious, to see that a due
proportion of the timber is left standing; but we all know what the
average Italian official is, and must be, considering his salary. One
could hardly blame them greatly if, as I have been assured is the case,
they often sell the wood which they are paid to protect.

The same fate is about to overtake the extensive hill forests which lie
on the watershed between Morano and the Tyrrhenian. These, according to
a Castrovillari local paper, have lately been sold to a German firm for
exploitation.

It is useless to lament the inevitable--this modern obsession of
"industrialism" which has infected a country purely agricultural. Nor is
it any great compensation to observe that certain small tracts of
hill-side behind Morano are being carefully reafforested by the
Government at this moment. Whoever wishes to see these beautiful
stretches of woodland ere their disappearance from earth--let him hasten!

After leaving the forest region it is a downhill walk of nearly three
hours to reach Terranova di Pollino, which lies, only 910 metres above
sea-level, against the slope of a wide and golden amphitheatre of hills,
at whose entrance the river Sarmento has carved itself a prodigious
gateway through the rock. A dirty little place; the male inhabitants are
nearly all in America; the old women nearly all afflicted with goitre. I
was pleased to observe the Calabrian system of the house-doors, which
life in civilized places had made me forget. These doors are divided
into two portions, not vertically like ours, but horizontally. The upper
portion is generally open, in order that the housewife sitting within
may have light and air in her room, and an opportunity of gossiping with
her neighbours across the street; the lower part is closed, to prevent
the pigs in the daytime from entering the house (where they sleep at
night). The system testifies to social instincts and a certain sense of
refinement.

The sights of Terranova are soon exhausted. They had spoken to me of a
house near the woods, about four hours distant, inhabited just now by
shepherds. Thither we started, next day, at about 3 p.m.

The road climbs upwards through bare country till it reaches a dusky
pinnacle of rock, a conspicuous landmark, which looks volcanic but is
nothing of the kind. It bears the name of Pietra-Sasso--the explanation
of this odd pleonasm being, I suppose, that here the whole mass of rock,
generally decked with grass or shrubs, is as bare as any single stone.

There followed a pleasant march through pastoral country of streamlets
and lush grass, with noble views downwards on our right, over
many-folded hills into the distant valley of the Sinno. To the left is
the forest region. But the fir trees are generally mutilated--their
lower branches lopped off; and the tree resents this treatment and often
dies, remaining a melancholy stump among the beeches. They take these
branches not for fuel, but as fodder for the cows. A curious kind of
fodder, one thinks; but Calabrian cows will eat anything, and their milk
tastes accordingly. No wonder the natives prefer even the greasy fluid
of their goats to that of cows.

"How?" they will ask, "You Englishmen, with all your money--you drink
the milk of cows?"

Goats are over-plentiful here, and the hollies, oaks and thorns along
the path have been gnawed by them into quaint patterns like the
topiarian work in old-fashioned gardens. If they find nothing to their
taste on the ground, they actually climb trees; I have seen them
browsing thus, at six feet above the ground. These miserable beasts are
the ruin of south Italy, as they are of the whole Mediterranean basin.
What malaria and the Barbary pirates have done to the sea-board, the
goats have accomplished for the regions further inland; and it is really
time that sterner legislation were introduced to limit their
grazing-places and incidentally reduce their numbers, as has been done
in parts of the Abruzzi, to the great credit of the authorities. But the
subject is a well-worn one.

The solitary little house which now appeared before us is called
"Vitiello," presumably from its owner or builder, a proprietor of the
village of Noepoli. It stands in a charming site, with a background of
woodland whence rivulets trickle down--the immediate surroundings are
covered with pasture and bracken and wild pear trees smothered in
flowering dog-roses. I strolled about in the sunset amid tinkling herds
of sheep and goats that were presently milked and driven into their
enclosure of thorns for the night, guarded by four or five of those
savage white dogs of the Campagna breed. Despite these protectors, the
wolf carried off two sheep yesterday, in broad daylight. The flocks come
to these heights in the middle of June, and descend again in October.

The shepherds offered us the only fare they possessed--the much-belauded
Pollino cheeses, the same that were made, long ago, by Polyphemus
himself. You can get them down at a pinch, on the principle of the
German proverb, "When the devil is hungry, he eats flies." Fortunately
our bags still contained a varied assortment, though my man had
developed an appetite and a thirst that did credit to his Berserker
ancestry.

We retired early. But long after the rest of them were snoring hard I
continued awake, shivering under my blanket and choking with the acrid
smoke of a fire of green timber. The door had been left ajar to allow it
to escape, but the only result of this arrangement was that a glacial
blast of wind swept into the chamber from outside. The night was
bitterly cold, and the wooden floor on which I was reposing seemed to be
harder than the majority of its kind. I thought with regret of the tepid
nights of Taranto and Castrovillari, and cursed my folly for climbing
into these Arctic regions; wondering, as I have often done, what demon
of restlessness or perversity drives one to undertake such insane
excursions.



XX

A MOUNTAIN FESTIVAL


Leaving the hospitable shepherds in the morning, we arrived after
midday, by devious woodland paths, at the Madonna di Pollino. This
solitary fane is perched, like an eagle's nest, on the edge of a cliff
overhanging the Frida torrent. Owing to this fact, and to its great
elevation, the views inland are wonderful; especially towards evening,
when crude daylight tints fade away and range after range of mountains
reveal themselves, their crests outlined against each other in tender
gradations of mauve and grey. The prospect is closed, at last, by the
lofty groups of Sirino and Alburno, many long leagues away. On all other
sides are forests, interspersed with rock. But near at hand lies a
spacious green meadow, at the foot of a precipice. This is now covered
with encampments in anticipation of to-morrow's festival, and the
bacchanal is already in full swing.

Very few foreigners, they say, have attended this annual feast, which
takes place on the first Saturday and Sunday of July, and is worth
coming a long way to see. Here the old types, uncon-taminated by
modernism and emigration, are still gathered together. The whole
country-side is represented; the peasants have climbed up with their
entire households from thirty or forty villages of this thinly populated
land, some of them marching a two days' journey; the greater the
distance, the greater the "divozione" to the Mother of God. _Piety
conquers rough tracks,_ as old Bishop Paulinus sang, nearly fifteen
hundred years ago.

It is a vast picnic in honour of the Virgin. Two thousand persons are
encamped about the chapel, amid a formidable army of donkeys and mules
whose braying mingles with the pastoral music of reeds and
bagpipes--bagpipes of two kinds, the common Calabrian variety and that
of Basilicata, much larger and with a resounding base key, which will
soon cease to exist. A heaving ebb and flow of humanity fills the eye;
fires are flickering before extempore shelters, and an ungodly amount of
food is being consumed, as traditionally prescribed for such
occasions--"si mangia per divozione." On all sides picturesque groups of
dancers indulge in the old peasants' measure, the _percorara,_ to the
droning of bagpipes--a demure kind of tarantella, the male capering
about with faun-like attitudes of invitation and snappings of fingers,
his partner evading the advances with downcast eyes. And the church
meanwhile, is filled to overflowing; orations and services follow one
another without interruption; the priests are having a busy time of it.

The rocky pathway between this chapel and the meadow is obstructed by
folk and lined on either side with temporary booths of green branches,
whose owners vociferously extol the merits of their wares--cloths,
woollens, umbrellas, hot coffee, wine, fresh meat, fruit, vegetables
(the spectre of cholera is abroad, but no one heeds)--as well as gold
watches, rings and brooches, many of which will be bought ere to-morrow
morning, in memory of to-night's tender meetings. The most interesting
shops are those which display ex-votos, waxen reproductions of various
ailing parts of the body which have been miraculously cured by the
Virgin's intercession: arms, legs, fingers, breasts, eyes. There are
also entire infants of wax. Strangest of all of them is a many-tinted
and puzzling waxen symbol which sums up all the internal organs of the
abdomen in one bold effort of artistic condensation; a kind of heraldic,
materialized stomache-ache. I would have carried one away with me, had
there been the slightest chance of its remaining unbroken.  [Footnote: A
good part of these, I dare say, arc intended to represent the enlarged
spleen of malaria. In old Greece, says Dr. W. H. D. Rouse, votives of
the trunk are commonest, after the eyes--malaria, again.]

These are the votive offerings which catch the visitor's eye in southern
churches, and were beloved not only of heathendom, but of the neolithic
gentry; a large deposit has been excavated at Taranto; the British
Museum has some of marble, from Athens; others were of silver, but the
majority terra-cotta. The custom must have entered Christianity in early
ages, for already Theo-doret, who died in 427, says, "some bring images
of eyes, others of feet, others of hands; and sometimes they are made of
gold, sometimes of silver. These votive gifts testify to cure of
maladies." Nowadays, when they become too numerous, they are melted down
for candles; so Pericles, in some speech, talks of selling them for the
benefit of the commonwealth.

One is struck with the feast of costumes here, by far the brightest
being those of the women who have come up from the seven or eight
Albanian villages that surround these hills. In their variegated array
of chocolate-brown and white, of emerald-green and gold and flashing
violet, these dames move about the sward like animated tropical flowers.
But the Albanian girls of Cività stand out for aristocratic
elegance--pleated black silk gowns, discreetly trimmed with gold and
white lace, and open at the breast. The women of Morano, too, make a
brave show.

Night brings no respite; on the contrary, the din grows livelier than
ever; fires gleam brightly on the meadow and under the trees; the
dancers are unwearied, the bagpipers with their brazen lungs show no
signs of exhaustion. And presently the municipal music of Castrovillari,
specially hired for the occasion, ascends an improvised bandstand and
pours brisk strains into the night. Then the fireworks begin,
sensational fireworks, that have cost a mint of money; flaring wheels
and fiery devices that send forth a pungent odour; rockets of many hues,
lighting up the leafy recesses, and scaring the owls and wolves for
miles around.

Certain persons have told me that if you are of a prying disposition,
now is the time to observe amorous couples walking hand in hand into the
gloom--passionate young lovers from different villages, who have looked
forward to this night of all the year on the chance of meeting, at last,
in a fervent embrace under the friendly beeches. These same stern men
(they are always men) declare that such nocturnal festivals are a
disgrace to civilization; that the Greek Comedy, long ago, reprobated
them as disastrous to the morals of females--that they were condemned by
the Council of Elvira, by Vigilantius of Marseilles and by the great
Saint Jerome, who wrote that on such occasions no virgin should wander a
hand's-breadth from her mother. They wish you to believe that on these
warm summer nights, when the pulses of nature are felt and senses
stirred with music and wine and dance, the _Gran Madre di Dio_ is adored
in a manner less becoming Christian youths and maidens, than heathens
celebrating mad orgies to _Magna Mater_ in Daphne, or the Babylonian
groves (where she was not worshipped at all--though she might have been).

In fact, they insinuate that-----

It may well be true. What were the moralists doing there?

Festivals like this are relics of paganism, and have my cordial
approval. We English ought to have learnt by this time that the
repression of pleasure is a dangerous error. In these days when even
Italy, the grey-haired _cocotte,_ has become tainted with
Anglo-Pecksniffian principles, there is nothing like a little
time-honoured bestiality for restoring the circulation and putting
things to rights generally. On ethical grounds alone--as
safety-valves--such nocturnal feasts ought to be kept up in regions such
as these, where the country-folk have not our "facilities." Who would
grudge them these primordial joys, conducted under the indulgent
motherly eye of Madonna, and hallowed by antiquity and the starlit
heavens above? Every one is so happy and well-behaved. No bawling, no
quarrelsomeness, no staggering tipplers; a spirit of universal good
cheer broods over the assembly.  Involuntarily, one thinks of the
drunkard-strewn field of battle at the close of our Highland games; one
thinks of God-fearing Glasgow on a Saturday evening, and of certain
other aspects of Glasgow life. . . .

I accepted the kindly proffered invitation of the priests to share their
dinner; they held out hopes of some sort of sleeping accommodation as
well. It was a patriarchal hospitality before that fire of logs (the
night had grown chilly), and several other guests partook of it,
forestal inspectors and such-like notabilities--one lady among them who,
true to feudal traditions, hardly spoke a word the whole evening. I was
struck, as I have sometimes been, at the attainments of these country
priests; they certainly knew our Gargantuan novelists of the Victorian
epoch uncommonly well. Can it be that these great authors are more
readable in Italian translations than in the original? One of them took
to relating, in a strain of autumnal humour, experiences of his life in
the wilds of Bolivia, where he had spent many years among the Indians;
my neighbour, meanwhile, proved to be steeped in Horatian lore. It was
his pet theory, supported by a wealth of aptly cited lines, that Horace
was a "typical Italian countryman," and great was his delight on
discovering that I shared his view and could even add another--somewhat
improper--utterance of the poet's to his store of illustrative quotations.

They belonged to the old school, these sable philosophers; to the days
when the priest was arbiter of life and death, and his mere word
sufficient to send a man to the galleys; when the cleverest boys of
wealthy and influential families were chosen for the secular career and
carefully, one might say liberally, trained to fulfil those responsible
functions. The type is becoming extinct, the responsibility is gone, the
profession has lost its glamour; and only the clever sons of pauper
families, or the dull ones of the rich, are now tempted to forsake the
worldly path.

Regarding the origin of this festival, I learned that it was
"tradition." It had been suggested to me that the Virgin had appeared to
a shepherd in some cave near at hand--the usual Virgin, in the usual
cave; a cave which, in the present instance, no one was able to point
out to me. _Est traditio, ne quaeras amplius._

My hosts answered questions on this subject with benignant ambiguity,
and did not trouble to defend the divine apparition on the sophistical
lines laid down in Riccardi's "Santuari." The truth, I imagine, is that
they have very sensibly not concerned themselves with inventing an
original legend. The custom of congregating here on these fixed days
seems to be recent, and I am inclined to think that it has been called
into being by the zeal of some local men of standing. On the other hand,
a shrine may well have stood for many years on this spot, for it marks
the half-way house in the arduous two days' journey between San Severino
and Castro-villari, a summer _trek_ that must date from hoary antiquity.

Our bedroom contained two rough couches which were to be shared between
four priests and myself. Despite the fact that I occupied the place of
honour between the two oldest and wisest of my ghostly entertainers,
sleep refused to come; the din outside had grown to a pandemonium. I lay
awake till, at 2.30 a.m., one of them arose and touched the others with
a whispered and half-jocular _oremus!_ They retired on tiptoe to the
next room, noiselessly closing the door, to prepare themselves for early
service. I could hear them splashing vigorously at their ablutions in
the icy water, and wondered dreamily how many Neapolitan priests would
indulge at that chill hour of the morning in such a lustrai rite,
prescribed as it is by the rules of decency and of their church.

After that, I stretched forth at my ease and endeavoured to repose
seriously. There were occasional lulls, now, in the carnival, but
explosions of sound still broke the stillness, and phantoms of the
restless throng began to chase each other through my brain. The exotic
costumes of the Albanian girls in their green and gold wove themselves
into dreams and called up colours seen in Northern Africa during still
wilder festivals--negro festivals such as Fro-mentin loved to depict. In
spectral dance there flitted before my vision nightmarish throngs of
dusky women bedizened in that same green and gold; Arabs I saw, riding
tumultuously hither and thither with burnous flying in the wind; beggars
crawling about the hot sand and howling for alms; ribbons and flags
flying--a blaze of sunshine overhead, and on earth a seething orgy of
colour and sound; methought I heard the guttural yells of the
fruit-vendors, musketry firing, braying of asses, the demoniacal groans
of the camels----

Was it really a camel? No. It was something infinitely worse, and within
a few feet of my ears. I sprang out of bed. There, at the very window,
stood a youth extracting unearthly noises out of the Basilicata bagpipe.
To be sure! I remembered expressing an interest in this rare instrument
to one of my hosts who, with subtle delicacy, must have ordered the boy
to give me a taste of his quality--to perform a matutinal serenade, for
my especial benefit. How thoughtful these people are. It was not quite 4
a.m. With some regret, I said farewell to sleep and stumbled out of
doors, where my friends of yesterday evening were already up and doing.
The eating, the dancing, the bagpipes--they were all in violent
activity, under the sober and passionless eye of morning.

A gorgeous procession took place about midday. Like a many-coloured
serpent it wound out of the chapel, writhed through the intricacies of
the pathway, and then unrolled itself freely, in splendid convolutions,
about the sunlit meadow, saluted by the crash of mortars, bursts of
military music from the band, chanting priests and women, and all the
bagpipers congregated in a mass, each playing his own favourite tune.
The figure of the Madonna--a modern and unprepossessing image--was
carried aloft, surrounded by resplendent ecclesiastics and followed by a
picturesque string of women bearing their votive offerings of candles,
great and small. Several hundredweight of wax must have been brought up
on the heads of pious female pilgrims. These multi-coloured candles are
arranged in charming designs; they are fixed upright in a framework of
wood, to resemble baskets or bird-cages, and decked with bright ribbons
and paper flowers.

Who settles the expenses of such a festival? The priests, in the first
place, have paid a good deal to make it attractive; they have improved
the chapel, constructed a number of permanent wooden shelters (rain
sometimes spoils the proceedings), as well as a capacious reservoir for
holding drinking water, which has to be transported in barrels from a
considerable distance. Then--as to the immediate outlay for music,
fireworks, and so forth--the Madonna-statue is "put up to auction":
_fanno l'incanto della Madonna,_ as they say; that is, the privilege of
helping to carry the idol from the church and back in the procession is
sold to the highest bidders. Inasmuch as She is put up for auction
several times during this short perambulation, fresh enthusiasts coming
forward gaily with bank-notes and shoulders--whole villages competing
against each other--a good deal of money is realized in this way. There
are also spontaneous gifts of money. Goats and sheep, too, decorated
with coloured rags, are led up by peasants who have "devoted" them to
the Mother of God; the butchers on the spot buy these beasts for
slaughter, and their price goes to swell the funds.

This year's expenditure may have been a thousand francs or so, and the
proceeds are calculated at about two-thirds of that sum.

No matter. If the priests do not make good the deficiency, some one else
will be kind enough to step forward. Better luck next year! The
festival, they hope, is to become more popular as time goes on, despite
the chilling prophecy of one of our friends: "It will finish, this
comedy!" The money, by the way, does not pass through the hands of the
clerics, but of two individuals called "Regolatore" and "Priore," who
mutually control each other. They are men of reputable families, who
burden themselves with the troublesome task for the honour of the thing,
and make up any deficiencies in the accounts out of their own pockets.
Cases of malversation are legendary.

This procession marked the close of the religious gathering. Hardly was
it over before there began a frenzied scrimmage of departure. And soon
the woodlands echoed with the laughter and farewellings of pilgrims
returning homewards by divergent paths; the whole way through the
forest, we formed part of a jostling caravan along the
Castrovillari-Morano track--how different from the last time I had
traversed this route, when nothing broke the silence save a chaffinch
piping among the branches or the distant tap of some woodpecker!

So ended the _festa._ Once in the year this mountain chapel is rudely
disquieted in its slumbers by a boisterous riot; then it sinks again
into tranquil oblivion, while autumn dyes the beeches to gold. And very
soon the long winter comes; chill tempests shake the trees and leaves
are scattered to earth; towards Yuletide some woodman of Viggianello
adventuring into these solitudes, and mindful of their green summer
revels, discovers his familiar sanctuary entombed up to the door-lintle
under a glittering sheet of snow. . . .

There was a little episode in the late afternoon. We had reached the
foot of the Gaudolino valley and begun the crossing of the plain, when
there met us a woman with dishevelled hair, weeping bitterly and showing
other signs of distress; one would have thought she had been robbed or
badly hurt. Not at all! Like the rest of us, she had attended the feast
and, arriving home with the first party, had been stopped at the
entrance of the town, where they had insisted upon fumigating her
clothes as a precaution against cholera, and those of her companions.
That was all. But the indignity choked her--she had run back to warn the
rest of us, all of whom were to be treated to the same outrage. Every
approach to Morano, she declared, was watched by doctors, to prevent
wary pilgrims from entering by unsuspected paths.

During her recital my muleteer had grown thoughtful.

"What's to be done?" he asked.

"I don't much mind fumigation," I replied.

"Oh, but I do! I mind it very much. And these doctors are so dreadfully
distrustful. How shall we cheat them? ... I have it, I have it!"

And he elaborated the following stratagem:

"I go on ahead of you, alone, leading the two mules. You follow, out of
sight, behind. And what happens? When I reach the doctor, he asks slyly:
'Well, and how did you enjoy the festival this year?' Then I say:
'Not this year, doctor; alas, no festival for me! I've been with an
Englishman collecting beetles in the forest, and see? here's his riding
mule. He walks on behind--oh, quite harmless, doctor! a nice gentleman,
indeed--only, he prefers walking; he really _likes_ it, ha, ha, ha!----"

"Why mention about my walking?" I interrupted. The lady-mule was still a
sore subject.

"I mention about your not riding," he explained graciously, "because it
will seem to the doctor a sure sign that you are a little"--here he
touched his forehead with a significant gesture--"a little like some
other foreigners, you know. And that, in its turn, will account for your
collecting beetles. And that, in its turn, will account for your not
visiting the Madonna. You comprehend the argument: how it all hangs
together?"

"I see. What next?"

"Then you come up, holding one beetle in each hand, and pretend not to
know a word of Italian--not a word! You must smile at the doctor, in
friendly fashion; he'll like that. And besides, it will prove what I
said about----" (touching his forehead once more). "In fact, the truth
will be manifest. And there will be no fumigation for us."

It seemed a needlessly circuitous method of avoiding such a slight
inconvenience. I would have put more faith in a truthful narrative by
myself, suffused with that ingratiating amiability which I would
perforce employ on such occasions. But the stronger mind, as usual, had
its way.

"I'll smile," I agreed. "But you shall carry my beetles; it looks more
natural, somehow. Go ahead, and find them."

He moved forwards with the beasts and, after destroying a considerable
tract of stone wall, procured a few specimens of native coleoptera,
which he carefully wrapped up in a piece of paper. I followed slowly.

Unfortunately for him, that particular doctor happened to be
an _americana_ a snappy little fellow, lately returned from the States.

"Glad to make your acquaintance, sir," he began, as I came up to where
the two were arguing together. "I've heard of your passing through the
other day. So you don't talk Italian? Well, then, see here: this man of
yours, this God-dam son of Satan, has been showing me a couple of bugs
and telling me a couple of hundred lies about them. Better move on right
away; lucky you struck _me!_ As for this son of a ----, you bet I'll
sulphur him, bugs and all, to hell!"

I paid the crestfallen muleteer then and there; took down my bags,
greatly lightened, and departed with them. Glancing round near the
little bridge, I saw that the pair were still engaged in heated
discussion, my man clinging despairingly, as it seemed, to the
beetle-hypothesis; he looked at me with reproachful eyes, as though I
had deserted him in his hour of need.

But what could I do, not knowing Italian?

Moreover, I remembered the "lady-mule."

Fifteen minutes later a light carriage took me to Castrovillari, whence,
after a bath and dinner that compensated for past hardships, I sped down
to the station and managed, by a miracle, to catch the night-train to
Cosenza.



XXI

MILTON IN CALABRIA


You may spend pleasant days in this city of Cosenza, doing nothing
whatever. But I go there a for set purpose, and bristling with energy. I
go there to hunt for a book by a certain Salandra, which was printed on
the spot, and which I have not yet been able to find, although I once
discovered it in an old catalogue, priced at 80 _grani._ Gladly would I
give 8000 for it!

The author was a contemporary of that Flying Monk of whom I spoke in
Chapter X, and he belonged to the same religious order. If, in what I
then said about the flying monk, there appears to be some trace of light
fooling in regard to this order and its methods, let amends be made by
what I have to tell about old Salandra, the discovery of whose book is
one of primary importance for the history of English letters. Thus I
thought at the time; and thus I still think, with all due deference to
certain grave and discerning gentlemen, the editors of various English
monthlies to whom I submitted a paper on this subject--a paper which
they promptly returned with thanks. No; that is not quite correct. One
of them has kept it; and as six years have passed over our heads, I
presume he has now acquired a title by "adverse possession." Much good
may it do him!

Had the discovery been mine, I should have endeavoured to hide my light
under the proverbial bushel. But it is not mine, and therefore I make
bold to say that Mr. Bliss Perry, of the "Atlantic Monthly," knew better
than his English colleagues when he published the article from which I
take what follows.

"Charles Dunster ('Considerations on Milton's Early Reading,' etc.,
1810) traces the _prima stamina_ of 'Paradise Lost' to Sylvester's 'Du
Bartas.' Masenius, Cedmon, Vendei, and other older writers have also
been named in this connection, while the majority of Milton's English
commentators--and among foreigners Voltaire and Tiraboschi--are inclined
to regard the 'Adamus Exul' of Grotius or Andreini's sacred drama of
'Adamo' as the prototype."

This latter can be consulted in the third volume of Cowper's 'Milton'
(1810).

The matter is still unsettled, and in view of the number of recent
scholars who have interested themselves in it, one is really surprised
that no notice has yet been taken of an Italian article which goes far
towards deciding this question and proving that the chief source of
'Paradise Lost' is the 'Adamo Caduto,' a sacred tragedy by Serafino
della Salandra. The merit of this discovery belongs to Francesco Zicari,
whose paper, 'Sulla scoverta dell' originale italiano da cui Milton
trasse il suo poema del paradiso perduto,' is printed on pages 245
to 276 in the 1845 volume of the Naples 'Album
scientifico-artistico-letterario' now lying before me. It is in the form
of a letter addressed to his friend Francesco Ruffa, a native of
Tropea in Calabria.  [Footnote: Zicari contemplated another paper on
this subject, but I am unaware whether this was ever published. The
Neapolitan Minieri-Riccio, who wrote his 'Memorie Storiche' in 1844,
speaks of this article as having been already printed in 1832, but does
not say where. This is corroborated by N. Falcone ('Biblioteca
storica-topo-grafica della Calabria,' 2nd ed., Naples, 1846, pp.
151-154), who gives the same date, and adds that Zicari was the author
of a work on the district of Fuscaldo. He was born at Paola in Calabria,
of which he wrote a (manuscript) history, and died in 1846.  In this
Milton article, he speaks of his name being 'unknown in the republic of
letters.'. He it mentioned by Nicola Leoni (' Della Magna Grecia,' vol.
ii, p. 153),]

Salandra, it is true, is named among the writers of sacred tragedies in
Todd's 'Milton' (1809, vol. ii, p. 244), and also by Hayley, but neither
of them had the curiosity, or the opportunity, to examine his 'Adamo
Caduto'; Hayley expressly says that he has not seen it. More recent
works, such as that of Moers ('De fontibus Paradisi Amissi Miltoniani,'
Bonn, 1860), do not mention Salandra at all. Byse ('Milton on the
Continent,' 1903) merely hints at some possible motives for the Allegro
and the Penseroso.

As to dates, there can be no doubt to whom the priority belongs. The
'Adamo' of Salandra was printed at Cosenza in 1647. Richardson thinks
that Milton entered upon his 'Paradise Lost' in 1654, and that it was
shown, as done, in 1665; D. Masson agrees with this, adding that 'it was
not published till two years afterwards.' The date 1665 is fixed, I
presume, by the Quaker Elwood's account of his visit to Milton in the
autumn of that year, when the poet gave him the manuscript to read; the
two years' delay in publication may possibly have been due to the
confusion occasioned by the great plague and fire of London.

The castigation bestowed upon Lauder by Bishop Douglas, followed, as it
was, by a terrific 'back-hander' from the brawny arm of Samuel Johnson,
induces me to say that Salandra's 'Adamo Caduto,' though extremely
rare--so rare that neither the British Museum nor the Paris Bibliothèque
Nationale possesses a copy--is _not_ an imaginary book; I have had it in
my hands, and examined it at the Naples Biblioteca Nazionale; it is a
small octavo of 251 pages (not including twenty unnumbered ones, and
another one at the end for correction of misprints); badly printed and
bearing all the marks of genuineness, with the author's name and the
year and place of publication clearly set forth on the title-page. I
have carefully compared Zicari's references to it, and quotations from
it with the original. They are correct, save for a few insignificant
verbal discrepancies which, so far as I can judge, betray no indication
of an attempt on his part to mislead the reader, such as using the word
_tromba_ (trumpet) instead of Salandra's term _sambuca_ (sackbut). And
if further proof of authenticity be required, I may note that the 'Adamo
Caduto' of Salandra is already cited in old bibliographies like Toppi's
'Biblioteca Napoletana' (1678), or that of Joannes a S. Antonio
('Biblioteca universa Franciscana, etc.,' Madrid, 1732-1733, vol. iii,
p. 88). It appears to have been the only literary production of its
author, who was a Franciscan monk and is described as 'Preacher, Lector
and Definitor of the Reformed Province of Basilicata.'

We may take it, then, that Salandra was a real person, who published a
mystery called 'Adamo Caduto' in 1647; and I will now, without further
preamble, extract from Zicari's article as much as may be sufficient to
show ground for his contention that Milton's 'Paradise Lost' is a
transfusion, in general and in particular, of this same mystery.

Salandra's central theme is the Universe shattered by the disobedience
of the First Man, the origin of our unhappiness and sins. The same with
Milton.

Salandra's chief personages are God and His angels; the first man and
woman; the serpent; Satan and his angels. The same with Milton.

Salandra, at the opening of his poem (the prologue), sets forth his
argument, and dwells upon the Creative Omnipotence and his works. The
same with Milton.

Salandra then describes the council of the rebel angels, their fall from
heaven into a desert and sulphurous region, their discourses. Man is
enviously spoken of, and his fall by means of stratagem decided upon; it
is resolved to reunite in council in Pandemonium or the Abyss, where
measures may be adopted to the end that man may become the enemy of God
and the prey of hell. The same with Milton.

Salandra personifies Sin and Death, the latter being the child of the
former. The same with Milton.

Salandra describes Omnipotence foreseeing the effects of the temptation
and fall of man, and preparing his redemption. The same with Milton.

Salandra depicts the site of Paradise and the happy life there. The same
with Milton.

Salandra sets forth the miraculous creation of the universe and of man,
and the virtues of the forbidden fruit. The same with Milton.

Salandra reports the conversation between Eve and the Serpent; the
eating of the forbidden fruit and the despair of our first parents. The
same with Milton.

Salandra describes the joy of Death at the discomfiture of Eve; the
rejoicings in hell; the grief of Adam; the flight of our first parents,
their shame and repentance. The same with Milton.

Salandra anticipates the intercession of the Redeemer, and the overthrow
of Sin and Death; he dwells upon the wonders of the Creation, the murder
of Abel by his brother Cain, and other human ills; the vices of the
Antediluvians, due to the fall of Adam; the infernal gift of war. The
same with Milton.

Salandra describes the passion of Jesus Christ, and the comforts which
Adam and Eve receive from the angel who announces the coming of the
Messiah; lastly, their departure from the earthly paradise. The same
with Milton.

So much for the general scheme of both poems. And now for a few
particular points of resemblance, verbal and otherwise.

The character of Milton's Satan, with the various facets of pride, envy,
vindictiveness, despair, and impenitence which go to form that
harmonious whole, are already clearly mapped out in the Lucifero of
Salandra. For this statement, which I find correct, Zicari gives chapter
and verse, but it would take far too long to set forth the matter in
this place. The speeches of Lucifero, to be sure, read rather like a
caricature--it must not be forgotten that Salandra was writing for
lower-class theatrical spectators, and not for refined readers--but the
elements which Milton has utilized are already there.

Here is a coincidence:

Here we may reign secure . . .

Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.

MILTON (i, 258)

. . . . Qui propria voglia, Son capo, son qui duce, son
lor Prence.

SALANDRA (p. 49).

And another:

. . . Whom shall we find Sufficient?
. . . This enterprise None shall
partake with me.
--MILTON (ii, 403, 465).

A chi basterà l' anima di voi?
. . . certo che quest' affare
A la mia man s' aspetta.
--SALANDRA (p. 64).

Milton's Terror is partially taken from the Megera of the Italian poet.
The 'grisly Terror' threatens Satan (ii, 699), and the office of Megera,
in Salandra's drama, is exactly the same--that is, to threaten and
chastise the rebellious spirit, which she does very effectually (pages
123-131). The identical monsters--Cerberus, Hydras, and Chimseras--are
found in their respective abodes, but Salandra does not content himself
with these three; his list includes such a mixed assemblage of creatures
as owls, basilisks, dragons, tigers, bears, crocodiles, sphynxes,
harpies, and panthers. Terror moves with dread rapidity:

. . . and from his seat
The monster moving onward came as fast
With horrid strides.
--MILTON (ii, 675).

and so does Megera:

In atterir, in spaventar son . . .
Rapido si ch' ogni ripar è vano.
--SALANDRA (p. 59).

Both Milton and Salandra use the names of the gods of antiquity for
their demons, but the narrative epic of the English poet naturally
permitted of far greater prolixity and variety in this respect. A most
curious parallelism exists between Milton's Belial and that of Salandra.
Both are described as luxurious, timorous, slothful, and scoffing, and
there is not the slightest doubt that Milton has taken over these mixed
attributes from the Italian.  [Footnote: This is one of the occasions in
which Zicari appears, at first sight, to have stretched a point in order
to improve his case, because, in the reference he gives, it is Behemoth,
and not Belial, who speaks of himielf as cowardly _(imbelle)._ But in
another place Lucifer applies this designation to Belial as well,]

The words of Milton's Beelzebub (ii, 368):

  Seduce them to our party, that their god
  May prove their foe . . .

are copied from those of the Italian Lucifero (p. 52):

  . . . Facciam Acciò, che l' huom divenga
  A Dio nemico . . .

Regarding the creation of the world, Salandra asks (p. 11):

  Qual lingua può di Dio,
  Benché da Dio formato
  Lodar di Dio le meraviglie estreme?

which is thus echoed by Milton (vii, 112):

  . . . to recount almighty works
  What words or tongue of Seraph can suffice?

There is a considerable resemblance between the two poets in their
descriptions of Paradise and of its joys. In both poems, too, Adam warns
his spouse of her frailty, and in the episode of Eve's meeting with the
serpent there are no less than four verbal coincidences. Thus Salandra
writes (p. 68):

    Ravviso gli animal, ch' a schiera a schiera
    Già fanno humil e _reverente_ inclino . . .
    Ravveggio il bel serpente _avvolto_ in giri;
    O sei bello
    Con tanta varietà che certo sembri
    Altro stellato ciel, _smaltata_ terra.
    O che sento, _tu parli?_

and Milton transcribes it as follows (ix, 517-554):

    . . . She minded not, as used
    To such disport before her through the field
    From every beast, more _duteous_ at her call . . .
    Curled many a wanton _wreath_ in sight of Eve.
    His turret crest and sleek _enamelled_ neck . . .
    What may this mean?
    Language of man _pronounced_
    By tongue of brute?

Altogether, Zicari has observed that Rolli, although unacquainted with
the 'Adamo Caduto,' has sometimes inadvertently hit upon the same words
in his Italian translation of Milton which Salandra had used before him.

Eve's altered complexion after the eating of the forbidden fruit is
noted by both poets:

Torbata ne la faccia? Non sei quella

Qual ti lasciai contenta . . .--SALANDRA (p. 89).

Thus Eve with countenance blithe her story told;

But in her cheek distemper flushing glowed. --MILTON (ix, 886).

only with this difference, that the Italian Eve adds a half-lie by way
of explaining the change:

  . . . Forse cangiata (del che non mi avveggio)
  Sono nel volto per la tua partenza.--(p. 89).

In both poems Sin and Death reappear on the scene after the transgression.

The flight of Innocence from earth; the distempered lust which dominates
over Adam and Eve after the Fall; the league of Sin and Death to rule
henceforward over the world; the pathetic lament of Adam regarding his
misfortune and the evils in store for his progeny; his noble sentiment,
that none can withdraw himself from the all-seeing eye of God--all these
are images which Milton has copied from Salandra.

Adam's state of mind, after the fall, is compared by Salandra to a boat
tossed by impetuous winds (p. 228):

  Qual agitato legno d'Austro, e Noto,
  Instabile incostante, non hai pace,
  Tu vivi pur . . .

which is thus paraphrased in Milton (ix, 1122):

  . . . High winds worse within
  Began to rise . . . and shook sore
  Their inward state of mind, calm region once
  And full of peace, now tossed and turbulent.

Here is a still more palpable adaptation:

  ... So God ordains:
  God is thy law, thou mine.
  --MILTON (iv, 636)

  . . . . Un voler sia d' entrambi,
  E quel' uno di noi, di Dio sia tutto.
  --SALANDRA (p. 42).

After the Fall, according to Salandra, _vacillò la terra_ (i), _geme_
(2), _e pianse_ (3), _rumoreggiano i tuoni_ (4), _accompagnati da
grandini_ (5), _e dense nevi_ (6), (pp. 138, 142, 218). Milton
translates this as follows: Earth trembled from her entrails (1), and
nature gave a second groan (2); sky loured and, muttering thunders (4),
some sad drops wept (3), the winds, armed with ice and snow (6) and hail
(5). ('Paradise Lost,' ix, 1000, x. 697).

Here is another translation:

  . . . inclino il ciclo
  Giù ne la terra, e questa al Ciel innalza.
  --SALANDRA (p. 242).

  And Earth be changed to Heaven, and Heaven to Earth.
  --MILTON (vii, 160).

It is not to my purpose to do Zicari's work over again, as this would
entail a complete translation of his long article (it contains nearly
ten thousand words), to which, if the thing is to be done properly, must
be appended Salandra's 'Adamo,' in order that his quotations from it can
be tested. I will therefore refer to the originals those who wish to go
into the subject more fully, warning them, _en passant,_ that they may
find the task of verification more troublesome than it seems, owing to a
stupid mistake on Zicari's part.  For in his references to Milton, he
claims (p. 252) to use an 1818 Venice translation of the 'Paradise Lost'
by Rolli. Now Rolli's 'Paradiso Perduto' is a well-known work which was
issued in many editions in London, Paris, and Italy throughout the
eighteenth century.  But I cannot trace this particular one of Venice,
and application to many of the chief libraries of Italy has convinced me
that it does not exist, and that 1818 must be a misprint for some other
year. The error would be of no significance if Zicari had referred to
Rolli's 'Paradiso' by the usual system of cantos and lines, but he
refers to it by pages, and the pagination differs in every one of the
editions of Rolli which have passed through my hands. Despite every
effort, I have not been able to hit upon the precise one which Zicari
had in mind, and if future students are equally unfortunate, I wish them
joy of their labours.  [Footnote: Let me take this opportunity of
expressing my best thanks to Baron E.  Tortora Brayda, of the Naples
Biblioteca Nazionale, who has taken an infinity of trouble in this
matter.]

These few extracts, however, will suffice to show that, without
Salandra's 'Adamo,' the 'Paradise Lost,' as we know it, would not be in
existence; and that Zicari's discovery is therefore one of primary
importance for English letters, although it would be easy to point out
divergencies between the two works--divergencies often due to the
varying tastes and feelings of a republican Englishman and an Italian
Catholic, and to the different conditions imposed by an epic and a
dramatic poem. Thus, in regard to this last point, Zicari has already
noted (p. 270) that Salandra's scenic acts were necessarily reproduced
in the form _of visions_ by Milton, who could not avail himself of the
mechanism of the drama for this purpose. Milton was a man of the world,
traveller, scholar, and politician; but it will not do for us to insist
too vehemently upon the probable mental inferiority of the Calabrian
monk, in view of the high opinion which Milton seems to have had of his
talents. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The 'Adamo
Caduto,' of course, is only one of a series of similar works concerning
which a large literature has now grown up, and it might not be difficult
to prove that Salandra was indebted to some previous writer for those
words and phrases which he passed on to the English poet.

But where did Milton become acquainted with this tragedy? It was at
Naples, according to Cowper ('Milton,' vol. iii, p. 206), that the
English poet may first have entertained the idea of 'the loss of
paradise as a subject peculiarly fit for poetry.' He may well have
discussed sacred tragedies, like those of Andreini, with the Marquis
Manso. But Milton had returned to England long before Salandra's poem
was printed; nor can Manso have sent him a copy of it, for he died in
1645--two years before its publication--and Zicari is thus mistaken in
assuming (p. 245) that Milton became acquainted with it in the house of
the Neapolitan nobleman. Unless, therefore, we take for granted that
Manso was intimate with the author Salandra--he knew most of his
literary countrymen--and sent or gave to Milton a copy of the manuscript
of 'Adamo' before it was printed, or that Milton was personally
familiar with Salandra, we may conclude that the poem was forwarded to
him from Italy by some other friend, perhaps by some member of the
_Accademia, degli Oziosi_ which Manso had founded.

A chance therefore seems to have decided Milton; Salandra's tragedy fell
into his hands, and was welded into the epic form which he had designed
for Arthur the Great, even as, in later years, a chance question on the
part of Elwood led to his writing 'Paradise Regained.' [Footnote:  _Thou
hast said much of Paradise Lost, but what hast thou to say of Paradise
Found?_ He made no answer, but sat some time in a muse. . . .]

For this poem there were not so many models handy as for the other, but
Milton has written too little to enable us to decide how far its
inferiority to the earlier epic is due to this fact, and how far to the
inherent inertia of its subject-matter. Little movement can be contrived
in a mere dialogue such as 'Paradise Regained '; it lacks the grandiose
_mise-en-scene_ and the shifting splendours of the greater epic; the
stupendous figure of the rebellious archangel, the true hero of
'Paradise Lost,' is here dwarfed into a puny, malignant sophist; nor is
the final issue in the later poem _even for a moment_ in doubt--a
serious defect from an artistic point of view. Jortin holds its peculiar
excellence to be 'artful sophistry, false reasoning, set off in the most
specious manner, and refuted by the Son of God with strong unaffected
eloquence'; merits for which Milton needed no original of any kind, as
his own lofty religious sentiments, his argumentative talents and long
experience of political pamphleteering, stood him in good stead. Most of
us must have wondered how it came about that Milton could not endure to
hear 'Paradise Lost' preferred to 'Paradise Regained,' in view of the
very apparent inferiority of the latter. If we had known what Milton
knew, namely, to how large an extent 'Paradise Lost' was not the child
of his own imagination, and therefore not so precious in his eyes as
'Paradise Regained,' we might have understood his prejudice.

Certain parts of 'Paradise Lost' are drawn, as we all know, from other
Italian sources, from Sannazario, Ariosto, Guarini, Bojardo, and others.
Zicari who, it must be said, has made the best of his case, will have it
that the musterings and battles of the good and evil angels are copied
from the 'Angeleide' of Valvasone published at Milan in 1590. But G.
Polidori, who has reprinted the 'Angeleide' in his Italian version of
Milton (London, 1840), has gone into this matter and thinks otherwise.
These devil-and-angel combats were a popular theme at the time, and
there is no reason why the English poet should copy continental writers
in such descriptions, which necessarily have a common resemblance. The
Marquis Manso was very friendly with the poets Tasso and Marino, and it
is also to be remarked that entire passages in 'Paradise Lost' are
copied, _totidem verbis,_ from the writings of these two, Manso having
no doubt drawn Milton's attention to their beauties. In fact, I am
inclined to think that Manso's notorious enthusiasm for the _warlike_
epic of Tasso may first of all have diverted Milton from purely pastoral
ideals and inflamed him with the desire of accomplishing a similar feat,
whence the well-known lines in Milton's Latin verses to this friend,
which contain the first indication of such a design on his part. Even
the familiar invocation, 'Hail, wedded Love,' is bodily drawn from one
of Tasso's letters (see Newton's 'Milton,' 1773, vol. i, pp. 312, 313).

It has been customary to speak of these literary appropriations as
'imitations '; but whoever compares them with the originals will find
that many of them are more correctly termed translations. The case, from
a literary-moral point of view, is different as regards ancient writers,
and it is surely idle to accuse Milton, as has been done, of pilferings
from Aeschylus or Ovid. There is no such thing as robbing the classics.
They are our literary fathers, and what they have left behind them is
our common heritage; we may adapt, borrow, or steal from them as much as
will suit our purpose; to acknowledge such 'thefts' is sheer pedantry
and ostentation. But Salandra and the rest of them were Milton's
contemporaries. It is certainly an astonishing fact that no scholar of
the stamp of Thyer was acquainted with the 'Adamo Caduto'; and it says
much for the isolation of England that, at a period when poems on the
subject of paradise lost were being scattered broadcast in Italy and
elsewhere--when, in short, all Europe was ringing with the doleful
history of Adam and Eve--Milton could have ventured to speak of
his work as 'Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyma'--an amazing
verse which, by the way, is literally transcribed out of Ariosto
('Cosa, non detta in prosa mai, né in rima'). But even now the
acquaintance of the British public with the productions of continental
writers is superficial and spasmodic, and such was the ignorance of
English scholars of this earlier period, that Birch maintained that
Milton's drafts, to be referred to presently, indicated his intention of
writing an _opera_ (!); while as late as 1776 the poet Mickle,
notwithstanding Voltaire's authority, questioned the very existence of
Andreini, who has written thirty different pieces.

Some idea of the time when Salandra's tragedy reached Milton might be
gained if we knew the date of his manuscript projects for 'Paradise
Lost' and other writings which are preserved at Cambridge. R. Garnett
('Life of Milton,' 1890, p. 129) supposes these drafts to date from
about 1640 to 1642, and I am not sufficiently learned in Miltonian lore
to controvert or corroborate in a general way this assertion. But the
date must presumably be pushed further forward in the case of the
skeletons for 'Paradise Lost,' which are modelled to a great extent upon
Salandra's 'Adamo' of 1647, though other compositions may also have been
present before Milton's mind, such as that mentioned on page 234 of the
second volume of Todd's 'Milton,' from which he seems to have drawn the
hint of a 'prologue spoken by Moses.'

Without going into the matter exhaustively, I will only say that from
these pieces it is clear that Milton's primary idea was to write, like
Salandra, a sacred tragedy upon this theme, and not an epic. These
drafts also contain a chorus, such as Salandra has placed in his drama,
and a great number of mutes, who do not figure in the English epic, but
who reappear in the 'Adamo Caduto' and all similar works. Even Satan is
here designated as Lucifer, in accordance with the Italian Lucifero; and
at the end of one of Milton's drafts we read 'at last appears Mercy,
comforts him, promises the Messiah, etc.,' which is exactly what
Salandra's Misericordia (Mercy) does in the same place.

Milton no doubt kept on hand many loose passages of poetry, both
original and borrowed, ready to be worked up into larger pieces; all
poets are smothered in odd scraps of verse and lore which they 'fit in'
as occasion requires; and it is therefore quite possible that some
fragments now included in 'Paradise Lost' may have been complete before
the 'Adamo Caduto' was printed. I am referring, more especially, to
Satan's address to the sun, which Philips says was written before the
commencement of the epic.

Admitting Philips to be correct, I still question whether this
invocation was composed before Milton's visit to Naples; and if it was,
the poet may well have intended it for some other of the multitudinous
works which these drafts show him to have been revolving in his mind, or
for none of them in particular.

De Quincey rightly says that Addison gave the initial bias in favour of
'Paradise Lost' to the English national mind, which has thenceforward
shrunk, as Addison himself did, from a dispassionate contemplation of
its defects; the idea being, I presume, that a 'divine poem' in a manner
disarmed rational criticism. And, strange to say, even the few faults
which earlier scholars did venture to point out in Milton's poem will be
found in that of Salandra. There is the same superabundance of allegory;
the same confusion of spirit and matter among the supernatural persons;
the same lengthy astronomical treatise; the same personification of Sin
and Death; the same medley of Christian and pagan mythology; the same
tedious historico-theological disquisition at the end of both poems.

For the rest, it is to be hoped that we have outgrown our fastidiousness
on some of these points. Theological fervour has abated, and in a work
of the pure imagination, as 'Paradise Lost' is now--is it
not?--considered to be, there is nothing incongruous or offensive in an
amiable commingling of Semitic and Hellenic deities after the approved
Italian recipe; nor do a few long words about geography or science
disquiet us any more. Milton was not writing for an uncivilized mob, and
his occasional displays of erudition will represent to a cultured person
only those breathing spaces so refreshing in all epic poetry. That
Milton's language is saturated with Latinisms and Italianisms is
perfectly true. His English may not have been good enough for his
contemporaries. But it is quite good enough for us. That 'grand manner'
which Matthew Arnold claimed for Milton, that sustained pitch of kingly
elaboration and fullness, is not wholly an affair of high moral tone; it
results in part from the humbler ministrations of words happily
chosen--from a felicitous alloy of Mediterranean grace and Saxon mettle.
For, whether consciously or not, we cannot but be influenced by the
_colour-effects_ of mere words, that arouse in us definite but
indefinable moods of mind. To complain of the foreign phraseology and
turns of thought in 'Paradise Lost' would be the blackest ingratitude
nowadays, seeing that our language has become enriched by steady gleams
of pomp and splendour due, in large part, to the peculiar _lustre_ of
Milton's comely importations.



XXII

THE "GREEK" SILA


It was to be the Sila in earnest, this time. I would traverse the whole
country, from the Coscile valley to Catanzaro, at the other end.
Arriving from Cosenza the train deposited me, once more, at the unlovely
station of Castrovillari. I looked around the dusty square, half-dazed
by the sunlight--it was a glittering noonday in July--but the postal
waggon to Spezzano Albanese, my first resting-point, had not yet
arrived. Then a withered old man, sitting on a vehicle behind the sorry
skeleton of a horse, volunteered to take me there at once; we quickly
came to terms; it was too hot, we both agreed, to waste breath in
bargaining. With the end of his whip he pointed out the church of
Spezzano on its hilltop; a proud structure it looked at this distance,
though nearer acquaintance reduced it to extremely humble proportions.

The Albanian Spezzano (Spezzano Grande is another place) lies on the
main road from Castrovillari to Cosenza, on the summit of a
long-stretched tongue of limestone which separates the Crati river from
the Esaro; this latter, after flowing into the Coscile, joins its waters
with the Crati, and so closes the promontory. An odd geographical
feature, this low stretch, viewed from the greater heights of Sila or
Pollino; one feels inclined to take a broom and sweep it into the sea,
so that the waters may mingle sooner.

Our road ascended the thousand feet in a sinuous ribbon of white dust,
and an eternity seemed to pass as we crawled drowsily upwards to the
music of the cicadas, under the simmering blue sky. There was not a soul
in sight; a hush had fallen upon all things; great Pan was brooding over
the earth. At last we entered the village, and here, once more,
deathlike stillness reigned; it was the hour of post-prandial slumber.

At our knocking the proprietor of the inn, situated in a side-street,
descended. But he was in bad humour, and held out no hopes of
refreshment. Certain doctors and government officials, he said, were
gathered together in his house, telegraphically summoned to consult
about a local case of cholera. As to edibles, the gentlemen had lunched,
and nothing was left, absolutely nothing; it had been _uno
sterminio--_an extermination--of all he possessed. The prospect of
walking about the burning streets till evening did not appeal to me, and
as this was the only inn at Spezzano I insisted, first gently, then
forcibly--in vain. There was not so much as a chair to sit upon, he
avowed; and therewith retired into his cool twilight.

Despairing, I entered a small shop wherein I had observed the only signs
of life so far--an Albanian woman spinning in patriarchal fashion. It
was a low-ceilinged room, stocked with candles, seeds, and other
commodities which a humble householder might desire to purchase,
including certain of those water-gugglets of Corigliano ware in whose
shapely contours something of the artistic dreamings of old Sybaris
still seems to linger. The proprietress, clothed in gaudily picturesque
costume, greeted me with a smile and the easy familiarity which I have
since discovered to be natural to all these women. She had a room, she
said, where I could rest; there was also food, such as it was, cheese,
and wine, and----

"Fruit?" I queried.

"Ah, you like fruit? Well, we may not so much as speak about it just
now--the cholera, the doctors, the policeman, the prison! I was going to
say _salami."_

Salami? I thanked her. I know Calabrian pigs and what they feed on,
though it would be hard to describe in the language of polite society.

Despite the heat and the swarms of flies in that chamber, I felt little
desire for repose after her simple repast; the dame was so affable and
entertaining that we soon became great friends. I caused her some
amusement by my efforts to understand and pronounce her language--these
folk speak Albanian and Italian with equal facility--which seemed to my
unpractised ears as hopeless as Finnish. Very patiently, she gave me a
long lesson during which I thought to pick up a few words and phrases,
but the upshot of it all was:

"You'll never learn it. You have begun a hundred years too late."

I tried her with modern Greek, but among such fragments as remained on
my tongue after a lapse of over twenty years, only hit upon one word
that she could understand.

"Quite right!" she said encouragingly. "Why don't you always speak
properly? And now, let me hear a little of your own language."

I gave utterance to a few verses of Shakespeare, which caused
considerable merriment.

"Do you mean to tell me," she asked, "that people really talk like that?"

"Of course they do."

"And pretend to understand what it means?"

"Why, naturally."

"Maybe they do," she agreed. "But only when they want to be thought
funny by their friends."

The afternoon drew on apace, and at last the pitiless sun sank to rest.
I perambulated Spezzano in the gathering twilight; it was now fairly
alive with people. An unclean place; an epidemic of cholera would work
wonders here. . . .

At 9.30 p.m. the venerable coachman presented himself, by appointment;
he was to drive me slowly (out of respect for his horse) through the
cool hours of the night as far as Vaccarizza, on the slopes of the Greek
Sila, where he expected to arrive early in the morning. (And so he did;
at half-past five.) Not without more mirth was my leave-taking from the
good shopwoman; something, apparently, was hopelessly wrong with the
Albanian words of farewell which I had carefully memorized from our
preceding lesson. She then pressed a paper parcel into my hand.

"For the love of God," she whispered, "silence! Or we shall all be in
jail to-morrow."

It contained a dozen pears.

Driving along, I tried to enter into conversation with the coachman who,
judging by his face, was a mine of local lore. But I had come too late;
the poor old man was so weakened by age and infirmities that he cared
little for talk, his thoughts dwelling, as I charitably imagined, on his
wife and children, all dead and buried (so he said) many long years ago.
He mentioned, however, the _diluvio,_ the deluge, which I have heard
spoken of by older people, among whom it is a fixed article of faith.
This deluge is supposed to have affected the whole Crati valley,
submerging towns and villages. In proof, they say that if you dig near
Tarsia below the present river-level, you will pass through beds of silt
and ooze to traces of old walls and cultivated land. Tarsia used to lie
by the river-side, and was a flourishing place, according to the
descriptions of Leandro Alberti and other early writers; floods and
malaria have now forced it to climb the hills.

The current of the Crati is more spasmodic and destructive than in
classical times when the river was "navigable"; and to one of its
inundations may be due this legend of the deluge; to the same
one, maybe, that affected the courses of this river and the Coscile,
mingling their waters which used to flow separately into the Ionian. Or
it may be a hazy memory of the artificial changing of the riverbed when
the town of Sybaris, lying between these two rivers, was destroyed. Yet
the streams are depicted as entering the sea apart in old maps such as
those of Magini, Fiore, Coronelli, and Cluver; and the latter writes
that "near the mouth of the Crati there flows into the same sea a river
vulgarly called Cochile."  [Footnote: In the earlier part of
Rathgeber's astonishing "Grossgriechenland und Pythagoras" (1866) will
be found a good list of old maps of the country.]

This is important. It remains to be seen whether this statement is the
result of a personal visit, or whether he simply repeated the old
geography. His text in many places indicates a personal acquaintance
with southern Italy--_Italian_, says Heinsius, _non semel
peragravit--_ and he may well have been tempted to investigate a site
like that of Sybaris. If so, the change in the river courses and
possibly this "deluge" has taken place since his day.

Deprived of converse, I relapsed into a doze, but soon woke up with a
start. The carriage had stopped; it was nearly midnight; we were at
Terranova di Sibari, whose houses were lit up by the silvery beams of
the moon.

Thurii--death-place of Herodotus! How one would like to see this place
by daylight. On the ancient site, which lies at a considerable distance,
they have excavated antiquities, a large number of which are in the
possession of the Marchese Galli at Castrovillari. I endeavoured to see
his museum, but found it inaccessible for "family reasons." The same
answer was given me in regard to a valuable private library at Rossano,
and annoying as it may be, one cannot severely blame such local
gentlemen for keeping their collections to themselves. What have they to
gain from the visits of inquisitive travellers?

During these meditations on my part, the old man hobbled busily to and
fro with a bucket, bearing water from a fountain near at hand wherewith
to splash the carriage-wheels. He persisted in this singular occupation
for an unreasonably long time. Water was good for the wheels, he
explained; it kept them cool.

At last we started, and I began to slumber once more. The carriage
seemed to be going down a steep incline; endlessly it descended, with a
pleasant swaying motion. . . . Then an icy shiver roused me from my
dreams. It was the Crati whose rapid waves, fraught with unhealthy
chills, rippled brightly in the moonlight. We crossed the malarious
valley, and once more touched the hills.

From those treeless slopes there streamed forth deliciously warm
emanations stored up during the scorching hours of noon; the short scrub
that clothed them was redolent of that peculiar Calabrian odour which
haunts one like a melody--an odour of dried cistus and other aromatic
plants, balsamic by day, almost overpowering at this hour. To aid and
diversify the symphony of perfume, I lit a cigar, and then gave myself
up to contemplation of the heavenly bodies. We passed a solitary man,
walking swiftly with bowed head. What was he doing there?

"Lupomanaro," said the driver.

A werewolf. . . .

I had always hoped to meet with a werewolf on his nocturnal rambles, and
now my wish was gratified. But it was disappointing to see him in human
garb--even werewolves, it seems, must march with the times. This
enigmatical growth of the human mind flourishes in Calabria, but is not
popular as a subject of conversation. The more old-fashioned werewolves
cling to the true _versipellis_ habits, and in that case only the pigs,
the inane Calabrian pigs, are dowered with the faculty of distinguishing
them in daytime, when they look like any other "Christian." There is a
record, in Fiore's book, of an epidemic of lycanthropy that attacked the
boys of Cassano. (Why only the boys?) It began on 31 July, 1210; and the
season of the year strikes me as significant.

After that I fell asleep in good earnest, nor did I wake up again till
the sun was peering over the eastern hills. We were climbing up a long
slope; the Albanian settlements of Vaccarizza and San Giorgio lay before
us and, looking back, I still saw Spezzano on its ridge; it seemed so
close that a gunshot could have reached it.

These non-Italian villages date from the centuries that followed the
death of Scanderbeg, when the Grand Signior consolidated his power. The
refugees arrived in flocks from over the sea, and were granted tracts of
wild land whereon to settle--some of them on this incline of the Sila,
which was accordingly called "Greek" Sila, the native confusing these
foreigners with the Byzantines whose dwellings, as regards Calabria, are
now almost exclusively confined to the distant region of Aspromonte.
Colonies of Albanians are scattered all over South Italy, chiefly in
Apulia, Calabria, Basilicata, and Sicily; a few are in the north and
centre--there is one on the Po, for instance, now reduced to 200
inhabitants; most of these latter have become absorbed into the
surrounding Italian element. Angelo Masci (reprinted 1846) says
there are 59 villages of them, containing altogether 83,000
inhabitants--exclusive of Sicily; Morelli (1842) gives their total
population for Italy and Sicily as 103,466. If these figures are
correct, the race must have multiplied latterly, for I am told there are
now some 200,000 Albanians in the kingdom, living in about 80 villages.
This gives approximately 2500 for each settlement--a likely number, if
it includes those who are at present emigrants in America. There is a
voluminous literature on the subject of these strangers, the authors of
which are nearly all Albanians themselves. The fullest account of older
conditions may well be that contained in the third volume of Rodotà's
learned work (1758); the ponderous Francesco Tajani (1886) brings
affairs up to date, or nearly so. If only he had provided his book with
an index!

There were troubles at first. Arriving, as they did, solely "with their
shirts and rhapsodies" (so one of them described it to me)--that is,
despoiled of everything, they indulged in robberies and depredations
somewhat too freely even for those free days, with the result that
ferocious edicts were issued against them, and whole clans wiped out. It
was a case of necessity knowing no law. But in proportion as the forests
were hewn down and crops sown, they became as respectable as their
hosts. They are bilingual from birth, one might almost say, and numbers
of the men also express themselves correctly in English, which they pick
up in the United States.

These islands of alien culture have been hotbeds of Liberalism
throughout history. The Bourbons persecuted them savagely on that
account, exiling and hanging the people by scores. At this moment there
is a good deal of excitement going on in favour of the Albanian revolt
beyond the Adriatic, and it was proposed, among other things, to
organize a demonstration in Rome, where certain Roman ladies were to
dress themselves in Albanian costumes and thus work upon the sentiments
of the nation; but "the authorities" forbade this and every other
movement. None the less, there has been a good deal of clandestine
recruiting, and bitter recriminations against this turcophile attitude
on the part of Italy--this "reactionary rigorism against every
manifestation of sympathy for the Albanian cause." Patriotic
pamphleteers ask, rightly enough, why difficulties should be placed in
the way of recruiting for Albania, when, in the recent cases of Cuba and
Greece, the despatch of volunteers was actually encouraged by the
government? "Legality has ceased to exist here; we Albanians are watched
and suspected exactly as our compatriots now are by the Turks. . . .
They sequestrate our manifestos, they forbid meetings and conferences,
they pry into our postal correspondence. . . .  Civil and military
authorities have conspired to prevent a single voice of help and comfort
reaching our brothers, who call to us from over the sea." A hard case,
indeed. But Vienna and Cettinje might be able to throw some light upon
it.  [Footnote: This was written before the outbreak of the Balkan war.]

The Albanian women, here as elsewhere, are the veriest beasts of burden;
unlike the Italians, they carry everything (babies, and wood, and water)
on their backs. Their crudely tinted costumes would be called more
strange than beautiful under any but a bright sunshiny sky. The fine
native dresses of the men have disappeared long ago; they even adopted,
in days past, the high-peaked Calabrian hat which is now only worn by
the older generation. Genuine Calabrians often settle in these foreign
villages, in order to profit by their anti-feudal institutions. For even
now the Italian cultivator is supposed to make, and actually does make,
"voluntary" presents to his landlord at certain seasons; gifts which are
always a source of irritation and, in bad years, a real hardship. The
Albanians opposed themselves from the very beginning against these
mediaeval practices. "They do not build houses," says an old writer, "so
as not to be subject to barons, dukes, princes, or other lords. And if
the owner of the land they inhabit ill-treats them, they set fire to
their huts and go elsewhere." An admirable system, even nowadays.

One would like to be here at Easter time to see the _rusalet--_those
Pyrrhic dances where the young men group themselves in martial array,
and pass through the streets with song and chorus, since, soon enough,
America will have put an end to such customs. The old Albanian guitar of
nine strings has already died out, and the double tibia--_biforem dat
tibia cantum--_will presently follow suit. This instrument, familiar
from classical sculpture and lore, and still used in Sicily and
Sardinia, was once a favourite with the Sila shepherds, who called it
"fischietto a pariglia." But some years ago I vainly sought it in the
central Sila; the answer to my enquiries was everywhere the same: they
knew it quite well; so and so used to play it; certain persons in
certain villages still made it--they described it accurately enough, but
could not produce a specimen. Single pipes, yes; and bagpipes galore;
but the _tibia: pares_ were "out of fashion" wherever I asked for them.

Here, in the Greek Sila, I was more fortunate. A boy at the village of
Macchia possessed a pair which he obligingly gave me, after first
playing a song--a farewell song--a plaintive ditty that required, none
the less, an excellent pair of lungs, on account of the two mouthpieces.
Melodies on this double flageolet are played principally at Christmas
time. The two reeds are about twenty-five centimetres in length, and
made of hollow cane; in my specimen, the left hand controls four, the
other six holes; the Albanian name of the instrument is "fiscarol."

From a gentleman at Vaccarizza I received a still more valuable
present--two neolithic celts (aenolithic, I should be inclined to call
them) wrought in close-grained quartzite, and found not far from that
village. These implements must be rare in the uplands of Calabria, as I
have never come across them before, though they have been found, to my
knowledge, at Savelli in the central Sila. At Vaccarizza they call such
relics "pic"--they are supposed, as usual, to be thunderbolts, and I am
also told that a piece of string tied to one of them cannot be burnt in
fire. The experiment might be worth trying.

Meanwhile, the day passed pleasantly at Vaccarizza. I became the guest
of a prosperous resident, and was treated to genuine Albanian
hospitality and excellent cheer. I only wish that all his compatriots
might enjoy one meal of this kind in their lifetime. For they are poor,
and their homes of miserable aspect. Like all too many villages in South
Italy, this one is depopulated of its male inhabitants, and otherwise
dirty and neglected. The impression one gains on first seeing one of
these places is more than that of Oriental decay; they are not merely
ragged at the edges. It is a deliberate and sinister chaos, a note of
downright anarchy--a contempt for those simple forms of refinement which
even the poorest can afford. Such persons, one thinks, cannot have much
sense of home and its hallowed associations; they seem to be
everlastingly ready to break with the existing state of things. How
different from England, where the humblest cottages, the roadways, the
very stones testify to immemorial love of order, to neighbourly feelings
and usages sanctioned by time!

They lack the sense of home as a fixed and old-established topographical
point; as do the Arabs and Russians, neither of whom have a word
expressing our "home" or "Heimat." Here, the nearest equivalent is _la
famiglia._ We think of a particular house or village where we were born
and where we spent our impressionable days of childhood; these others
regard home not as a geographical but as a social centre, liable to
shift from place to place; they are at home everywhere, so long as their
clan is about them. That acquisitive sense which affectionately adorns
our meanest dwelling, slowly saturating it with memories, has been
crushed out of them--if it ever existed--by hard blows of fortune; it is
safer, they think, to transform the labour of their hands into gold,
which can be moved from place to place or hidden from the tyrant's eye.
They have none of our sentimentality in regard to inanimate objects.
Eliza Cook's feelings towards her "old arm-chair" would strike them as
savouring of childishness. Hence the unfinished look of their houses,
within and without. Why expend thought and wealth upon that which may be
abandoned to-morrow?

The two churches of Vaccarizza, dark and unclean structures, stand side
by side, and I was shown through them by their respective priests, Greek
and Catholic, who walked arm in arm in friendly wise, and meekly smiled
at a running fire of sarcastic observations on the part of another
citizen directed against the "bottega" in general--the _shop,_ as the
church is sometimes irreverently called. The Greco-Catholic cult to
which these Albanians belong is a compromise between the Orthodox and
Roman; their priests may wear beards and marry wives, they use bread
instead of the wafer for sacramental purposes, and there are one or two
other little differences of grave import.

Six Albanian settlements lie on these northern slopes of the Sila--San
Giorgio, Vaccarizza, San Cosimo, Macchia, San Demetrio Corone, and Santa
Sofia d' Epiro. San Demetrio is the largest of them, and thither, after
an undisturbed night's rest at the house of my kind host--the last, I
fear, for many days to come--I drove in the sunlit hours of next
morning. Along the road one can see how thoroughly the Albanians have
done their work; the land is all under cultivation, save for a dark belt
of trees overhead, to remind one of what once it was. Perhaps they have
eradicated the forest over-zealously, for I observe in San Demetrio that
the best drinking water has now to be fetched from a spring at a
considerable distance from the village; it is unlikely that this should
have been the original condition of affairs; deforestation has probably
diminished the water-supply.

It was exhilarating to traverse these middle heights with their aerial
views over the Ionian and down olive-covered hill-sides towards the wide
valley of the Crati and the lofty Pollino range, now swimming in
midsummer haze. The road winds in and out of gullies where rivulets
descend from the mountains; they are clothed in cork-oak, ilex, and
other trees; golden orioles, jays, hoopoes and rollers flash among the
foliage. In winter these hills are swept by boreal blasts from the
Apennines, but at this season it is a delightful tract of land.



XXIII

ALBANIANS AND THEIR COLLEGE


San Demetrio, famous for its Italo-Albanian College, lies on a fertile
incline sprinkled with olives and mulberries and chestnuts, fifteen
hundred feet above sea-level. They tell me that within the memory of
living man no Englishman has ever entered the town. This is quite
possible; I have not yet encountered a single English traveller, during
my frequent wanderings over South Italy. Gone are the days of Keppel
Craven and Swinburne, of Eustace and Brydone and Hoare! You will come
across sporadic Germans immersed in Hohenstaufen records, or searching
after Roman antiquities, butterflies, minerals, or landscapes to
paint--you will meet them in the most unexpected places; but never an
Englishman. The adventurous type of Anglo-Saxon probably thinks the
country too tame; scholars, too trite; ordinary tourists, too dirty. The
accommodation and food in San Demetrio leave much to be desired; its
streets are irregular lanes, ill-paved with cobbles of gneiss and
smothered under dust and refuse. None the less, what noble names have
been given to these alleys--names calculated to fire the ardent
imagination of young Albanian students, and prompt them to valorous and
patriotic deeds! Here are the streets of "Odysseus," of "Salamis" and
"Marathon" and "Thermopylae," telling of the glory that was Greece; "Via
Skanderbeg" and "Hypsilanti" awaken memories of more immediate renown;
"Corso Dante Alighieri" reminds them that their Italian hosts, too, have
done something in their day; the "Piazza Francesco Ferrer" causes their
ultra-liberal breasts to swell with mingled pride and indignation; while
the "Via dell' Industria" hints, not obscurely, at the great truth that
genius, without a capacity for taking pains, is an idle phrase. Such
appellations, without a doubt, are stimulating and glamorous. But if the
streets themselves have seen a scavenger's broom within the last
half-century, I am much mistaken. The goddess "Hygeia" dost not figure
among their names, nor yet that Byzantine Monarch whose infantile
exploit might be re-enacted in ripest maturity without attracting any
attention in San Demetrio. To the pure all things are pure.

The town is exclusively Albanian; the Roman Catholic church has fallen
into disrepair, and is now used as a shed for timber. But at the door of
the Albanian sanctuary I was fortunate enough to intercept a native
wedding, just as the procession was about to enter the portal. Despite
the fact that the bride was considered the ugliest girl in the place,
she had been duly "robbed" by her bold or possibly blind lover--her
features were providentially veiled beneath her nuptial _flammèum,_ and
of her squat figure little could be discerned under the gorgeous
accoutrements of the occasion. She was ablaze with ornaments and
embroidery of gold, on neck and shoulders and wrist; a wide lace collar
fell over a bodice of purple silk; silken too, and of brightest green,
was her pleated skirt. The priest seemed ineffably bored with his task,
and mumbled through one or two pages of holy books in record time; there
were holdings of candles, interchange of rings, sacraments of bread and
wine and other solemn ceremonies--the most quaint being the
_stephanoma,_ or crowning, of the happy pair, and the moving of their
respective crowns from the head of one to that of the other. It ended
with a chanting perlustration of the church, led by the priest: this is
the so-called "pesatura."

I endeavoured to attune my mind to the gravity of this marriage, to the
deep historico-ethnologico-poetical significance of its smallest detail.
Such rites, I said to myself, must be understood to be appreciated, and
had I not been reading certain native commentators on the subject that
very morning? Nevertheless, my attention was diverted from the main
issue--the bridegroom's face had fascinated me. The self-conscious male
is always at a disadvantage during grotesquely splendid buffooneries of
this kind; and never, in all my life, have I seen a man looking such a
sorry fool as this individual, never; especially during the
perambulation, when his absurd crown was supported on his head, from
behind, by the hand of his best man.

Meanwhile a handful of boys, who seemed to share my private feelings in
regard to the performance, had entered the sacred precincts, their
pockets stuffed with living cicadas. These Albanian youngsters, like all
true connaisseurs, are aware of the idiosyncrasy of the classical insect
which, when pinched or tickled on a certain spot, emits its
characteristic and ear-piercing note--the "lily-soft voice" of the Greek
bard. The cicadas, therefore, were duly pinched and then let loose; like
squibs and rockets they careered among the congregation, dashing in our
faces and clinging to our garments; the church resounded like an
olive-copse at noon. A hot little hand conveyed one of these tremulously
throbbing creatures into my own, and obeying a whispered injunction of
"Let it fly, sir!" I had the joy of seeing the beast alight with a
violent buzz on the head of the bride--doubtless the happiest of
auguries. Such conduct, on the part of English boys, would be deemed
very naughty and almost irreverent; but here, one hopes, it may have its
origin in some obscure but pious credence such as that which prompts the
populace to liberate birds in churches, at Easter time. These escaping
cicadas, it may be, are symbolical of matrimony--the individual man and
woman freed, at last, from the dungeon-like horrors of celibate
existence; or, if that parallel be far-fetched, we may conjecture that
their liberation represents the afflatus of the human soul, aspiring
upwards to merge its essence into the Divine All. . . .

The pride of San Demetrio is its college. You may read about it in
Professor Mazziotti's monograph; but whoever wishes to go to the
fountain-head must peruse the _Historia Erectionis Pontifici Collegi
Corsini Ullanensis, etc.,_ of old Zavarroni--an all-too-solid piece of
work. Founded under the auspices of Pope Clement XII in 1733 (or 1735)
at San Benedetto Ullano, it was moved hither in 1794, and between that
time and now has passed through fierce vicissitudes. Its president,
Bishop Bugliari, was murdered by the brigands in 1806; much of its lands
and revenues have been dissipated by maladministration; it was
persecuted for its Liberalism by the Bourbons, who called it a "workshop
of the devil." It distinguished itself during the anti-dynastic revolts
of 1799 and 1848 and, in 1860, was presented with twelve thousand ducats
by Garibaldi, "in consideration of the signal services rendered to the
national cause by the brave and generous Albanians." [Footnote: There
used to be regiments of these Albanians at Naples. In Filati de
Tassulo's sane study (1777) they are spoken of as highly prized.] Even
now the institution is honeycombed with Freemasonry--the surest path to
advancement in any career, in modern Italy. Times indeed have changed
since the "Inviolable Constitutions" laid it down that _nullus omnino
Alumnus in Collegio detineatur, cuius futura; Chris-tìanae pietatis
significatio non extet._ But only since 1900 has it been placed on a
really sound and prosperous footing. An agricultural school has lately
been added, under the supervision of a trained expert. They who are
qualified to judge speak of the college as a beacon of learning--an
institution whose aims and results are alike deserving of high respect.
And certainly it can boast of a fine list of prominent men who have
issued from its walls.

This little island of stern mental culture contains, besides twenty-five
teachers and as many servants, some three hundred scholars preparing for
a variety of secular professions. About fifty of them are
Italo-Albanians, ten or thereabouts are genuine Albanians from over the
water, the rest Italians, among them two dozen of those unhappy orphans
from. Reggio and Messina who flooded the country after the earthquake,
and were "dumped down" in colleges and private houses all over Italy.
Some of the boys come of wealthy families in distant parts, their
parents surmising that San Demetrio offers no temptations to youthful
folly and extravagance. In this, so far as I can judge, they are
perfectly correct.

The heat of summer and the fact that the boys were in the throes of
their examinations may have helped to make the majority of them seem
pale and thin; they certainly complained of their food, and the cook was
the only prosperous-looking person whom I could discover in the
establishment--his percentages, one suspects, being considerable. The
average yearly payment of each scholar for board and tuition is only
twenty pounds (it used to be twenty ducats); how shall superfluities be
included in the bill of fare for such a sum?

The class-rooms are modernized; the dormitories neither clean nor very
dirty; there is a rather scanty gymnasium as well as a physical
laboratory and museum of natural history. Among the recent acquisitions
of the latter is a vulture _(Gyps fulvus)_ which was shot here in the
spring of this year. The bird, they told me, has never been seen in
these regions before; it may have come over from the east, or from
Sardinia, where it still breeds. I ventured to suggest that they should
lose no time in securing a native porcupine, an interesting beast
concerning which I never fail to enquire on my rambles. They used to be
encountered in the Crati valley; two were shot near Corigliano a few
years ago, and another not far from Cotronei on the Neto; they still
occur in the forests near the "Pagliarelle" above Petilia Policastro;
but, judging by all indications, I should say that this animal is
rapidly approaching extinction not only here, but all over Italy.
Another very rare creature, the otter, was killed lately at Vaccarizza,
but unfortunately not preserved.

Fencing and music are taught, but those athletic exercises which led to
the victories of Marathon and Salamis are not much in vogue--_mens sana
in corpare sana_ is clearly not the ideal of the place; fighting among
the boys is reprobated as "savagery," and corporal punishment forbidden.
There is no playground or workshop, and their sole exercise consists in
dull promenades along the high road under the supervision of one or more
teachers, during which the youngsters indulge in attempts at games by
the wayside which are truly pathetic. So the old "Inviolable
Constitutions" ordain that "the scholars must not play outside the
college, and if they meet any one, they should lower their voices." A
rule of recent introduction is that in this warm weather they must all
lie down to sleep for two hours after the midday meal; it may suit the
managers, but the boys consider it a great hardship and would prefer
being allowed to play. Altogether, whatever the intellectual results may
be, the moral tendency of such an upbringing is damaging to the spirit
of youth and must make for precocious frivolity and brutality. But the
pedagogues of Italy are like her legislators: theorists. They close
their eyes to the cardinal principles of all education--that the waste
products and toxins of the imagination are best eliminated by motor
activities, and that the immature stage of human development, far from
being artificially shortened, should be prolonged by every possible
means. . If the internal arrangement of this institution is not all it
might be as regards the healthy development of youth, the situation of
the college resembles the venerable structures of Oxford in that it is
too good, far too good, for mere youngsters. This building, in its
seclusion from the world, its pastoral surroundings and soul-inspiring
panorama, is an abode not for boys but for philosophers; a place to fill
with a wave of deep content the sage who has outgrown earthly ambitions.
Your eye embraces the snow-clad heights of Dolcedorme and the Ionian
Sea, wandering over forests, and villages, and rivers, and long reaches
of fertile country; but it is not the variety of the scene, nor yet the
historical memories of old Sybaris which kindle the imagination so much
as the spacious amplitude of the whole prospect. In England we think
something of a view of ten miles. Conceive, here, a grandiose valley
wider than from Dover to Calais, filled with an atmosphere of such
impeccable clarity that there are moments when one thinks to see every
stone and every bush on the mountains yonder, thirty miles distant. And
the cloud-effects, towards sunset, are such as would inspire the brush
of Turner or Claude Lorraine. . . .

For the college, as befits its grave academic character, stands by
itself among fruitful fields and backed by a chestnut wood, at ten
minutes' walk from the crowded streets. It is an imposing edifice--the
Basilean convent of St. Adrian, with copious modern additions; the
founders may well have selected this particular site on account of its
fountain of fresh water, which flows on as in days of yore. One thinks
of those communities of monks in the Middle Ages, scattered over this
wild region and holding rare converse with one another by gloomy forest
paths--how remote their life and ideals! In the days of Fiore (1691) the
inmates of this convent still practised their old rites.

The nucleus of the building is the old chapel, containing a remarkable
font; two antique columns sawn up (apparently for purposes of
transportation from some pagan temple by the shore)--one of them being
of African marble and the other of grey granite; there is also a
tessellated pavement with beast-patterns of leopards and serpents akin
to those of Patir. Bertaux gives a reproduction of this serpent; he
assimilates it, as regards technique and age, to that which lies before
the altar of Monte Cassino and was wrought by Greek artisans of the
abbot Desiderius. The church itself is held to be two centuries older
than that of Patir.

The library, once celebrated, contains musty folios of classics and
their commentators, but nothing of value. It has been ransacked of its
treasures like that of Patir, whose _disjecta membra_ have been tracked
down by the patience and acumen of Monsignor Batiffol.

Batiffol, Bertaux--Charles Diehl, Jules Gay (who has also written on San
Demetrio)--Huillard-Bréholles--Luynes--Lenormant. . . here are a few
French scholars who have recently studied these regions and their
history. What have we English done in this direction?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Such thoughts occur inevitably.

It may be insinuated that researches of this kind are gleanings; that
our English genius lies rather in the spade-work of pioneers like Leake
or Layard. Granted. But a hard fact remains; the fact, namely, that
could any of our scholars have been capable of writing in the large and
profound manner of Bertaux or Gay, not one of our publishers would have
undertaken to print his work. Not one. They know their business; they
know that such a book would have been a dead loss. Therefore let us
frankly confess the truth: for things of the mind there is a smaller
market in England than in France. _How much smaller_ only they can tell,
who have familiarized themselves with other departments of French thought.

Here, then, I have lived for the past few days, strolling among the
fields, and attempting to shape some picture of these Albanians from
their habits and such of their literature as has been placed at my
disposal. So far, my impression of them has not changed since the days
when I used to rest at their villages, in Greece. They remind me of the
Irish. Both races are scattered over the earth and seem to prosper best
outside their native country; they have the same songs and bards, the
same hero-chieftains, the same com-bativeness and frank hospitality;
both are sunk in bigotry and broils; they resemble one another in their
love of dirt, disorder and display, in their enthusiastic and
adventurous spirit, their versatile brilliance of mind, their incapacity
for self-government and general (Keltic) note of inspired inefficiency.
And both profess a frenzied allegiance to an obsolete tongue which, were
it really cultivated as they wish, would put a barrier of triple brass
between themselves and the rest of humanity.

Even as the Irish despise the English as their worldly and effete
relatives, so the Albanians look down upon the Greeks--even those of
Pericles--with profoundest contempt. The Albanians, so says one of their
writers, are "the oldest people upon earth," and their language is the
"divine Pelasgic mother-tongue." I grew interested awhile in Stanislao
Marchiano's plausibly entrancing study on this language, as well as in a
pamphlet of de Rada's on the same subject; but my ardour has cooled
since learning, from another native grammarian, that these writers are
hopelessly in the wrong on nearly every point. So much is certain, that
the Albanian language already possesses more than _thirty different
alphabets_ (each of them with nearly fifty letters). Nevertheless they
have not yet, in these last four (or forty) thousand years, made up
their minds which of them to adopt, or whether it would not be wisest,
after all, to elaborate yet another one--a thirty-first. And so
difficult is their language with any of these alphabets that even after
a five days' residence on the spot I still find myself puzzled by such
simple passages as this:

  . . . Zilji,
  mosse vet, ce asso mbremie
  to ngcnrct me iljis, praa
  gjith e miegculem, mhi siaarr
  rriij i sgjuat. Nje voogh e keljbur
  sorrevet te liosta
  ndjej se i oxtenej
  e pisseroghej. Zuu shiu
  menes; ne mee se Ijinaar
  chish Ijeen pa-shuatur
  skiotta, e i ducheje per moon.

I will only add that the translation of such a passage--it contains
twenty-eight accents which I have omitted--is mere child's play to its
pronunciation.



XXIV

AN ALBANIAN SEER


Sometimes I find my way to the village of Macchia, distant about three
miles from San Demetrio. It is a dilapidated but picturesque cluster of
houses, situate on a projecting tongue of land which is terminated by a
little chapel to Saint Elias, the old sun-god Helios, lover of peaks and
promontories, whom in his Christian shape the rude Albanian colonists
brought hither from their fatherland, even as, centuries before, he had
accompanied the Byzantines on the same voyage and, fifteen centuries yet
earlier, the Greeks.

At Macchia was born, in 1814, of an old and relatively wealthy family,
Girolamo de Rada, [Footnote: Thus his friend and compatriot, Dr. Michele
Marchiano, spells the name in a biography which I recommend to those who
think there is no intellectual movement in South Italy. But he himself,
at the very close of his life, in 1902, signs himself Ger. de Rhada. So
this village of Macchia is spelt indifferently by Albanians as Maki or
Makji. They have a fine Elizabethan contempt for orthography--as well
they may have, with their thirty alphabets.] a flame-like patriot in
whom the tempestuous aspirations of modern Albania took shape. The ideal
pursued during his long life was the regeneration of his country; and if
the attention of international congresses and linguists and folklorists
is now drawn to this little corner of the earth--if, in _1902,_
twenty-one newspapers were devoted to the Albanian cause (eighteen in
Italy alone, and one even in London)--it was wholly his merit.

He was the son of a Greco-Catholic priest. After a stern religious
upbringing under the paternal roof at Macchia and in the college of San
Demetrio, he was sent to Naples to complete his education. It is
characteristic of the man that even in the heyday of youth he cared
little for modern literature and speculations and all that makes for
exact knowledge, and that he fled from his Latin teacher, the celebrated
Puoti, on account of his somewhat exclusive love of grammatical rules.
None the less, though con-genitally averse to the materialistic and
subversive theories that were then seething in Naples, he became
entangled in the anti-Bourbon movements of the late thirties, and
narrowly avoided the death-penalty which struck down some of his
comrades. At other times his natural piety laid him open to the
accusation of reactionary monarchical leanings.

He attributed his escape from this and every other peril to the hand of
God. Throughout life he was a zealous reader of the Bible, a firm and
even ascetic believer, forever preoccupied, in childlike simplicity of
soul, with first causes. His spirit moved majestically in a world of
fervent platitudes. The whole Cosmos lay serenely distended before his
mental vision; a benevolent God overhead, devising plans for the
prosperity of Albania; a malignant, ubiquitous and very real devil,
thwarting these His good intentions whenever possible; mankind on earth,
sowing and reaping in the sweat of their brow, as was ordained of old.
Like many poets, he never disabused his mind of this comfortable form of
anthropomorphism. He was a firm believer, too, in dreams. But his
guiding motive, his sun by day and star by night, was a belief in the
"mission" of the Pelasgian race now scattered about the shores of the
Inland Sea--in Italy, Sicily, Greece, Dalmatia, Roumania, Asia Minor,
Egypt--a belief as ardent and irresponsible as that which animates the
_Lost Tribe_ enthusiasts of England. He considered that the world hardly
realized how much it owed to his countryfolk; according to his views,
Achilles, Philip of Macedon, Alexander the Great, Aristotle, Pyrrhus,
Diocletian, Julian the Apostate--they were all Albanians. Yet even
towards the end of his life he is obliged to confess:--

"But the evil demon who for over four thousand years has been hindering
the Pelasgian race from collecting itself into one state, is still
endeavouring by insidious means to thwart the work which would lead it
to that union."

Disgusted with the clamorous and intriguing bustle of Naples, he
retired, at the early age of 34, to his natal village of Macchia,
throwing over one or two offers of lucrative worldly appointments. He
describes himself as wholly disenchanted with the "facile fatuity" of
Liberalism, the fact being, that he lacked what a French psychologist
has called the _function of the real;_ his temperament was not of the
kind to cope with actualities. This retirement is an epoch in his
life--it is the Grand Renunciation. Henceforward he loses personal touch
with thinking humanity. At Macchia he remained, brooding on Albanian
wrongs, devising remedies, corresponding with foreigners and
writing--ever writing; consuming his patrimony in the cause of Albania,
till the direst poverty dogged his footsteps.

I have read some of his Italian works. They are curiously oracular, like
the whisperings of those fabled Dodonian oaks of his fatherland; they
heave with a darkly-virile mysticism. He shares Blake's ruggedness, his
torrential and confused utterance, his benevolence, his flashes of
luminous inspiration, his moral background. He resembles that visionary
in another aspect: he was a consistent and passionate adorer of the
_Ewig-weibliche._ Some of the female characters in his poems retain
their dewy freshness, their exquisite originality, even after passing
through the translator's crucible.

At the age of 19 he wrote a poem on "Odysseus," which was published
under a pseudonym. Then, three years later, there appeared a collection
of rhapsodies entitled "Milosao," which he had garnered from the lips of
Albanian village maidens. It is his best-known work, and has been
translated into Italian more than once. After his return to Macchia
followed some years of apparent sterility, but later on, and especially
during the last twenty years of his life, his literary activity became
prodigious. Journalism, folklore, poetry, history, grammar, philology,
ethnology, aesthetics, politics, morals--nothing came amiss to his
gifted pen, and he was fruitful, say his admirers, even in his errors,
Like other men inflamed with one single idea, he boldly ventured into
domains of thought where specialists fear to tread. His biographer
enumerates forty-three different works from his pen. They all throb with
a resonant note of patriotism; they are "fragments of a heart," and
indeed, it has been said of him that he utilized even the grave science
of grammar as a battlefield whereon to defy the enemies of Albania. But
perhaps he worked most successfully as a journalist. His "Fiamuri
Arberit" (the Banner of Albania) became the rallying cry of his
countrymen in every corner of the earth.

These multifarious writings--and doubtless the novelty of his central
theme--attracted the notice of German philologers and linguists, of all
lovers of freedom, folklore and verse. Leading Italian writers like
Cantùpraised him highly; Lamartine, in 1844, wrote to him: "Je suis
bien-heureux de ce signe de fraternité poétique et politique entre vous
et moi. La poesie est venue de vos rivages et doit y retourner. . . ."
Hermann Buchholtz discovers scenic changes worthy of Shakespeare, and
passages of Aeschylean grandeur, in his tragedy "Sofonisba." Carnet
compares him with Dante, and the omniscient Mr. Gladstone wrote in
1880--a post card, presumably--belauding his disinterested efforts on
behalf of his country. He was made the subject of many articles and
pamphlets, and with reason. Up to his time, Albania had been a myth. He
it was who divined the relationship between the Albanian and Pelasgian
tongues; who created the literary language of his country, and
formulated its political ambitions.

Whereas the hazy "Autobiologia" records complicated political intrigues
at Naples that are not connected with his chief strivings, the little
"Testamento politico," printed towards the end of his life, is more
interesting. It enunciates his favourite and rather surprising theory
that the Albanians cannot look for help and sympathy save only to their
_brothers,_ the Turks. Unlike many Albanians on either side of the
Adriatic, he was a pronounced Turco-phile, detesting the "stolid
perfidy" and "arrogant disloyalty" of the Greeks. Of Austria, the most
insidious enemy of his country's freedom, he seems to have thought well.
A year before his death he wrote to an Italian translator of "Milosao"
(I will leave the passage in the original, to show his cloudy language):

"Ed un tempo propizio la accompagna: la ricostituzione dell' Epiro nei
suoi quattro vilayet autonomi quale è nei propri consigli e nei propri
desideri; ricostituzione, che pel suo Giornale, quello dell' ottimo A.
Lorecchio--cui precede il principe Nazionale Kastriota, Chini--si
annuncia fatale, e quasi fulcro della stabilità dello impero Ottomano, a
della pace Europea; preludio di quella diffusione del regno di Dio sulla
terra, che sarà la Pace tra gli Uomini."

Truly a remarkable utterance, and one that illustrates the disadvantages
of living at a distance from the centres of thought. Had he travelled
less with the spirit and more with the body, his opinions might have
been modified and corrected. But he did not even visit the Albanian
colonies in Italy and Sicily. Hence that vast confidence in his
mission--a confidence born of solitude, intellectual and geographical.
Hence that ultra-terrestrial yearning which tinges his apparently
practical aspirations.

He remained at home, ever poor and industrious; wrapped in bland
exaltation and oblivious to contemporary movements of the human mind.
Not that his existence was without external activities. A chair of
Albanian literature at San Demetrio, instituted in 1849 but suppressed
after three years, was conferred on him in 1892 by the historian and
minister Pasquale Villari; for a considerable time, too, he was director
of the communal school at Corigliano, where, with characteristic energy,
he set up a printing press; violent journalistic campaigns succeeded one
another; in 1896 he arranged for the first congress of Albanian language
in that town, which brought together delegates from every part of Italy
and elicited a warm telegram of felicitation from the minister
Francesco Crispi, himself an Albanian. Again, in 1899, we find him
reading a paper before the twelfth international congress of
Orientalists at Rome.

But best of all, he loved the seclusion of Macchia.

Griefs clustered thickly about the closing years of this unworldly
dreamer. Blow succeeded blow. One by one, his friends dropped off; his
brothers, his beloved wife, his four sons--he survived them all; he
stood alone at last, a stricken figure, in tragic and sublime isolation.
Over eighty years old, he crawled thrice a week to deliver his lectures
at San Demetrio; he still cultivated a small patch of ground with
enfeebled arm, composing, for relaxation, poems and rhapsodies at the
patriarchal age of 88! They will show you the trees under which he was
wont to rest, the sunny views he loved, the very stones on which he sat;
they will tell you anecdotes of his poverty--of an indigence such as we
can scarcely credit. During the last months he was often thankful for a
crust of bread, in exchange for which he would bring a sack of acorns,
self-collected, to feed the giver's pigs. Destitution of this kind,
brought about by unswerving loyalty to an ideal, ceases to exist in its
sordid manifestations: it exalts the sufferer. And his life's work is
there. Hitherto there had been no "Albanian Question" to perplex the
chanceries of Europe. He applied the match to the tinder; he conjured up
that phantom which refuses to be laid.

He died, in 1903, at San Demetrio; and there lies entombed in the
cemetery on the hill-side, among the oaks.

But you will not easily find his grave.

His biographer indulges a poetic fancy in sketching the fair monument
which a grateful country will presently rear to his memory on the snowy
Acroceraunian heights. It might be well, meanwhile, if some simple
commemorative stone were placed on the spot where he lies buried. Had he
succumbed at his natal Macchia, this would have been done; but death
overtook him in the alien parish of San Demetrio, and his remains were
mingled with those of its poorest citizens. A microcosmic illustration
of that clannish spirit of Albania which he had spent a lifetime in
endeavouring to direct to nobler ends!

He was the Mazzini of his nation.

A Garibaldi, when the crisis comes, may possibly emerge from that
tumultuous horde.

Where is the Cavour?



XXV

SCRAMBLING TO LONGOBUCCO


A driving road to connect San Demetrio with Acri whither I was now bound
was begun, they say, about twenty years ago; one can follow it for a
considerable distance beyond the Albanian College. Then, suddenly, it
ends. Walking to Acri, however, by the old track, one picks up, here and
there, conscientiously-engineered little stretches of it, already
overgrown with weeds; these, too, break off as abruptly as they began,
in the wild waste. For purposes of wheeled traffic these picturesque but
disconnected fragments are quite useless.

Perhaps the whole undertaking will be completed some day--_speriamo!_ as
the natives say, when speaking of something rather beyond reasonable
expectation. But possibly not; and in that case--_pazienza!_ meaning,
that all hope may now be abandoned. There is seldom any great hurry,
with non-governmental works of this kind.

It would be interesting if one could learn the inner history of these
abortive transactions. I have often tried, in vain. It is impossible for
an outsider to pierce the jungle of sordid mystery and intrigue which
surrounds them. So much I gathered: that the original contract was based
on the wages then current and that, the price of labour having more than
doubled in consequence of the "discovery" of America, no one will
undertake the job on the old terms. That is sufficiently intelligible.
But why operations proceeded so slowly at first, and why a new contract
cannot now be drawn up--who can tell! The persons interested blame the
contractor, who blames the engineer, who blames the dilatory and corrupt
administration of Cosenza. My private opinion is, that the last three
parties have agreed to share the swag between them. Meanwhile everybody
has just grounds of complaint against everybody else; the six or seven
inevitable lawsuits have sprung up and promise to last any length of
time, seeing that important documents have been lost or stolen and that
half the original contracting parties have died in the interval: nobody
knows what is going to happen in the end. It all depends upon whether
some patriotic person will step forward and grease the wheels in the
proper quarter.

And even then, if he hails from Acri, they of San Demetrio will probably
work against the project, and vice versa. For no love is lost between
neighbouring communities--wonderful, with what venomous feudal animosity
they regard each other! United Italy means nothing to these people,
whose conceptions of national and public life are those of the cock on
his dung-hill. You will find in the smallest places intelligent and
broad-minded men, tradespeople or professionals or landed proprietors,
but they are seldom members of the _municipio;_ the municipal career is
also a money-making business, yes; but of another kind, and requiring
other qualifications.

Foot-passengers like myself suffer no inconvenience by being obliged to
follow the shorter and time-honoured mule-track that joins the two
places. It rises steeply at first, then begins to wind in and out among
shady vales of chestnut and oak, affording unexpected glimpses now
towards distant Tarsia and now, through a glade on the right, on to the
ancient citadel of Bisignano, perched on its rock.

I reached Acri after about two and a half hours' walking. It lies in a
theatrical situation and has a hotel; but the proprietor of that
establishment having been described to me as "the greatest brigand of
the Sila" I preferred to refresh myself at a small wineshop, whose
manageress cooked me an uncommonly good luncheon and served some of the
best wine I had tasted for long. Altogether, the better-class women here
are far more wideawake and civilized than those of the Neapolitan
province; a result of their stern patriarchal up-bringing and of their
possessing more or less sensible husbands.

Thus fortified, I strolled about the streets. One would like to spend a
week or two in a place like this, so little known even to Italians, but
the hot weather and bad feeding had begun to affect me disagreeably and
I determined to push on without delay into cooler regions. It would
never do to be laid up at Acri with heatstroke, and to have one's last
drops of life drained away by copious blood-lettings, relic of
Hispano-Arabic practices and the favourite remedy for every complaint.
Acri is a large place, and its air of prosperity contrasts with the
slumberous decay of San Demetrio; there is silk-rearing, and so much
emigration into America that nearly every man I addressed replied in
English. New houses are rising up in all directions, and the place is
celebrated for its rich citizens.

But these same wealthy men are in rather a dilemma. Some local
authority, I forget who, has deduced from the fact that there are so
many forges and smiths' shops here that this must be the spot to which
the over-sensitive inhabitants of Sybaris banished their workers in
metal and other noisy professions. Now the millionaires would like to be
thought Sybarites by descent, but it is hardly respectable to draw a
pedigree from these outcasts.

They need not alarm themselves. For Acri, as Forbiger has shown, is the
old Acherontia; the river Acheron, the Mocone or Mucone of to-day, flows
at its foot, and from one point of the town I had a fine view into its
raging torrent.

A wearisome climb of two hours brought me to the _Croce Greca,_ the
Greek Cross, which stands 1185 metres above sea-level. How hot it was,
in that blazing sun! I should be sorry to repeat the trip, under the
same conditions. A structure of stone may have stood here in olden days;
at present it is a diminutive wooden crucifix by the roadside. It marks,
none the less, an important geographical point: the boundary between the
"Greek" Sila which I was now leaving and the Sila Grande, the central
and largest region. Beyond this last-named lies the lesser Sila, or
"Sila Piccola "; and if you draw a line from Rogliano (near Cosenza) to
Cotrone you will approximately strike the watershed which divides the
Sila Grande from this last and most westerly of the three Sila
divisions. After that comes Catanzaro and the valley of the Corace, the
narrowest point of the Italian continent, and then the heights of Serra
and Aspromonte, the true "Italy" of old, that continue as far as Reggio.

Though I passed through some noble groves of chestnut on the way up, the
country here was a treeless waste. Yet it must have been forest up to a
short time ago, for one could see the beautiful vegetable mould which
has not yet had time to be washed down the hill-sides. A driving road
passes the Croce Greca; it joins Acri with San Giovanni, the capital of
Sila Grande, and with Cosenza.

It was another long hour's march, always uphill, before I reached a
spacious green meadow or upland with a few little buildings. The place
is called Verace and lies on the watershed between the upper Crati
valley and the Ionian; thenceforward my walk would be a descent along
the Trionto river, the Traeis of old, as far as Longo-bucco which
overlooks its flood. It was cool here at last, from the altitude and the
decline of day; and hay-making was going on, amid the pastoral din of
cow-bells and a good deal of blithe love-making and chattering.

After some talk with these amiable folks, I passed on to where
the young Traeis bubbles up from the cavernous reservoirs of the earth.
Of those chill and roguish wavelets I took a draught, mindful of the day
when long ago, by these same waters, an irreparable catastrophe
overwhelmed our European civilization. For it was the Traeis near whose
estuary was fought the battle between 300,000 Sybarites (I refuse to
believe these figures) and the men of Croton conducted by their champion
Milo--a battle which led to the destruction of Sybaris and,
incidentally, of Hellenic culture throughout the mainland of Italy. This
was in the same fateful year 510 that witnessed the expulsion of the
Tarquins from Rome and the Pisistratidae from Athens.

Pines, the characteristic tree of the Sila, now begin to appear. Passing
through Verace I had already observed, on the left, a high mountain
entirely decked with them. It is the ridge marked Pale-parto on the map;
the Trionto laves its foot. But the local pronunciation of this name is
Palépite, and I cannot help thinking that here we have a genuine old
Greek name perpetuated by the people and referring to this covering of
hoary pines--a name which the cartographers, arbitrary and ignorant as
they often are, have unconsciously disguised. (It occurs in some old
charts, however, as Paleparto.) An instructive map of Italy could be
drawn up, showing the sites and cities wrongly named from corrupt
etymology or falsified inscriptions, and those deliberately miscalled
out of principles of local patriotism. The whole country is full of
these inventions of _litterati_ which date, for the most part, from the
enthusiastic but undisciplined Cinque-Cento.

The minute geographical triangle comprised between Cosenza, Longobucco
and San Demetrio which I was now traversing is one of the least known
corners of Italy, and full of dim Hellenic memories. The streamlet
"Calamo" flows through the valley I ascended from Acri, and at its side,
a little way out of the town, stands the fountain "Pompeio" where the
brigands, not long ago, used to lie in wait for women and children
coming to fetch water, and snatch them away for ransom. On the way up, I
had glimpses down a thousand feet or more into the Mucone or Acheron,
raging and foaming in its narrow valley. It rises among the mountains
called "Fallistro" and "Li Tartari"--unquestionably Greek names.

On this river and somewhere above Acri stood, according to the scholarly
researches of Lenormant, the ancient city of Pandosia. I do not know if
its site has been determined since his day. It was "very strong" and
rich and at its highest prosperity in the fourth century B.C.; after the
fall of Sybaris it passed under the supremacy of Croton. The god Pan was
figured on some of its coins, and appropriately enough, considering its
sylvan surroundings; others bear the head of the nymph Pandosia with her
name and that of the river Crathis, under the guise of a young shepherd:
they who wish to learn his improper legend will find it in the pages of
Aelian, or in chapter xxxii of the twenty-fifth book of Rhodiginus,
beginning _Quae sit brutorum affectio,_ etc.  [Footnote: _Brunii a
brutis moribus:_ so say certain spiteful writers, an accusation which
Strabo and Horace extend to all Calabrians. As to the site of Pandosia,
a good number of scholars, such as old Prosper Parisius and Luigi Maria
Greco, locate it at the village of Mendicino on the river Merenzata,
which was called Arconte (? Acheron) in the Middle Ages. So the Trionto
is not unquestionably the Traeis, and in Marincola Pistoia's good little
"Cose di Sibari" (1845) the distinction is claimed for one of four
rivers--the Lipuda, Colognati, Trionto, or Fiuminicà.]

We have here not the Greece of mediaeval Byzantine times, much less that
of the Albanians, but the sunny Hellas of the days when the world was
young, when these ardent colonists sailed westwards to perpetuate their
names and legends in the alien soil of Italy.

The Mucone has always been known as a ferocious and pitiless torrent,
and maintains to this day its Tartarean reputation. Twenty persons a
year, they tell me, are devoured by its angry waters: _mangia venti
cristiani all' anno!_ This is as bad as the Amendolea near Reggio. But
none of its victims have attained the celebrity of Alexander of
Molossus, King of Epirus, who perished under the walls of Pandosia in
326 B.C. during an excursion against the Lucanians. He had been warned
by the oracle of Dodona to avoid the waters of Acheron and the town of
Pandosia; once in Italy, however, he paid small heed to these words,
thinking they referred to the river and town of the same name in
Thesprotia. But the gods willed otherwise, and you may read of his death
in the waters, and the laceration of his body by the Lucanians, in
Livy's history.

It is a strange caprice that we should now possess what is in every
probability the very breastplate worn by the heroic monarch on that
occasion. It was found in 1820, and thereafter sold--some fragments of
it, at least--to the British Museum, where under the name of "Bronze of
Siris" it may still be admired: a marvellous piece of repoussée work, in
the style of Lysippus, depicting the combat of Ajax and the Amazons. . . .

The streamlet Trionto, my companion to Longobucco, glides along between
stretches of flowery meadow-land--fit emblem of placid rural
contentment. But soon this lyric mood is spent. It enters a winding
gorge that shuts out the sunlight and the landscape abruptly assumes an
epic note; the water tumbles wildly downward, hemmed in by mountains
whose slopes are shrouded in dusky pines wherever a particle of soil
affords them foothold. The scenery in this valley is as romantic as any
in the Sila. Affluents descend on either side, while the swollen rivulet
writhes and screeches in its narrow bed, churning the boulders with
hideous din. The track, meanwhile, continues to run beside the water
till the passage becomes too difficult; it must perforce attack the
hill-side. Up it climbs, therefore, in never-ending ascension, and then
meanders at a great height above the valley, in and out of its tributary
glens.

I was vastly enjoying this promenade--the shady pines, whose fragrance
mingled with that of a legion of tall aromatic plants in full
blossom--the views upon the river, shining far below me like the thread
of silver--when I observed with surprise that the whole mountain-side
which the track must manifestly cross had lately slipped down into the
abyss. A cloud-burst two or three days ago, as I afterwards learned, had
done the mischief. On arrival at the spot, the path was seen to be
interrupted--clean gone, in fact, and not a shred of earth or trees
left; there confronted me a bare scar, a wall of naked rock which not
even a chamois could negotiate. Here was a dilemma. I must either
retrace my steps along the weary road to Verace and there seek a night's
shelter with the gentle hay-makers, or clamber down into the ravine,
follow the river and--chance it! After anxious deliberation, the latter
alternative was chosen.

But the Trionto was now grown into a formidable torrent of surging waves
and eddies, with a perverse inclination to dash from one side to the
other of its prison, so as to necessitate frequent fordings on my part.
These watery passages, which I shall long remember, were not without a
certain danger. The stream was still swollen with the recent rains, and
its bed, invisible under the discoloured element, sufficiently deep to
inspire respect and studded, furthermore, with slippery boulders of
every size, concealing insidious gulfs. Having only a short
walking-stick to support me through this raging flood, I could not but
picture to myself the surprise of the village maidens of Crepolati,
lower down, on returning to their laundry work by the river-side next
morning and discovering the battered anatomy of an Englishman--a rare
fish, in these waters--stranded upon their familiar beach. Murdered, of
course. What a galaxy of brigand legends would have clustered round my
memory!

Evening was closing in, and I had traversed the stream so often and
stumbled so long amid this chaos of roaring waters and weirdly-tinted
rocks, that I began to wonder whether the existence of Longobucco was
not a myth. But suddenly, at a bend of the river, the whole town, still
distant, was revealed, upraised on high and framed in the yawning mouth
of the valley. After the solitary ramble of that afternoon, my eyes
familiarized to nothing save the wild things of nature, this unexpected
glimpse of complicated, civilized structures had all the improbability
of a mirage. Longo-bucco, at that moment, arose before me like those
dream-cities in the Arabian tale, conjured by enchantment out of the
desert waste.

The vision, though it swiftly vanished again, cheered me on till after a
good deal more scrambling and wading, with boots torn to rags, lame,
famished and drenched to the skin, I reached the bridge of the Rossano
highway and limped upwards, in the twilight, to the far-famed "Hotel
Vittoria."

Soon enough, be sure, I was enquiring as to supper. But the manageress
met my suggestions about eatables with a look of blank astonishment.

Was there nothing in the house, then? No cheese, or meat, or maccheroni,
or eggs--no wine to drink?

"Nothing!" she replied. "Why should you eat things at this hour? You
must find them yourself, if you really want them. I might perhaps
procure you some bread."

_Avis aux voyageurs,_ as the French say.

Undaunted, I went forth and threw myself upon the mercy of a citizen of
promising exterior, who listened attentively to my case. Though far too
polite to contradict, I could see that nothing in the world would induce
him to credit the tale of my walking from San Demetrio that day--it was
tacitly relegated to the regions of fable. With considerable tact, so as
not to wound my feelings, he avoided expressing any opinion on so
frivolous a topic; nor did the reason of his reluctance to discuss my
exploit dawn upon me till I realized, later on, that like many of the
inhabitants he had never heard of the track over Acri, and consequently
disbelieved its existence. They reach San Demetrio by a two or even
three days' drive over Rossano, Corigliano, and Vaccarizza. He became
convinced, however, that for some reason or other I was hungry, and
thereupon good-naturedly conducted me to various places where wine and
other necessities of life were procured.

The landlady watched me devouring this fare, more astonished than
ever--indeed, astonishment seemed to be her chronic condition so long as
I was under her roof. But the promised bread was not forthcoming, for
the simple reason that there was none in the house.  She had said that
she could procure it for me, not that she possessed it; now, since I had
given no orders to that effect, she had not troubled about it.

Nobody travels south of Rome. . . .

Strengthened beyond expectation by this repast, I sallied into the night
once more, and first of all attended an excellent performance at the
local cinematograph. After that, I was invited to a cup of coffee by
certain burghers, and we strolled about the piazza awhile, taking our
pleasure in the cool air of evening (the town lies 794 metres above
sea-level). Its streets are orderly and clean; there are no Albanians,
and no costumes of any kind. Here, firm-planted on the square, and
jutting at an angle from the body of the church, stands a massive
bell-tower overgrown from head to foot with pendent weeds and grasses
whose roots have found a home in the interstices of its masonry; a
grimly venerable pile, full of character.

Weary but not yet satiated, I took leave of the citizens and
perambulated the more ignoble quarters, all of which are decently
lighted with electricity. Everywhere in these stiller regions was the
sound of running waters, and I soon discerned that Longobucco is an
improvement on the usual site affected by Calabrian hill-towns--the
Y-shaped enclosure, namely, at the junction of two rivers--inasmuch as
it has contrived to perch itself on a lofty platform protected by no
less than three streams that rush impetuously under its walls: the
Trionto and two of its affluents. On the flank inclined towards the
Ionian there is a veritable chasm; the Trionto side is equally difficult
of approach--the rear, of course, inaccessible. No wonder the brigands
chose it for their chief citadel.

I am always on the look-out for modern epigraphical curiosities;
regarding the subject as one of profound social significance (postage
stamps, indeed!) I have assiduously formed a collection, the envy of
connaisseurs, about one-third of whose material, they tell me, might
possibly be printed at Brussels or Geneva. Well, here is a mural
_graffito_ secured in the course of this evening's walk:

_Abaso [sic] questo paese sporco incivile:_ down with this dirty savage
country!

There is food for thought in this inscription. For if some bilious
hyper-civilized stranger were its author, the sentiments might pass. But
coming from a native, to what depths of morbid discontent do they
testify! Considering the recent progress of these regions that has led
to a security and prosperity formerly undreamed of, one is driven to the
conjecture that these words can only have been penned by some
cantankerous churl of an emigrant returning to his native land after an
easeful life in New York and compelled--"for his sins," as he would put
it--to reside at the "Hotel Vittoria."

Towards that delectable hostelry I now turned, somewhat regretfully, to
face a bedroom whose appearance had already inspired me with anything
but confidence. But hardly were the preliminary investigations begun,
when a furious noise in the street below drew me to the window once
more. Half the town was passing underneath in thronged procession, with
lighted torches and flags, headed by the municipal band discoursing
martial strains of music.

Whither wending, at this midnight hour?

To honour a young student, native of the place, now returning up the
Rossano road from Naples, where he had distinguished himself prominently
in some examination. I joined the crowd, and presently we were met by a
small carriage whence there emerged a pallid and frail adolescent with
burning eyes, who was borne aloft in triumph and cheered with that
vociferous, masculine heartiness which we Englishmen reserve for our
popular prize-fighters. And this in the classic land of brigandage and
bloodshed!

The intellectual under-current. . . .

It was an apt commentary on my _graffito._ And another, more personally
poignant, not to say piquant, was soon to follow: the bed. But no. I
will say nothing about the bed, nothing whatever; nothing beyond this,
that it yielded an entomological harvest which surpassed my wildest
expectations.



XXVI

AMONG THE BRUTTIANS


Conspicuous among the wise men of Longobucco in olden days was the
physician Bruno, who "flourished" about the end of the thirteenth
century. He called himself _Longoburgensis Calaber,_ and his great
treatise on anatomical dissection, embodying much Greek and Arabic lore,
was printed many years after his death. Another was Francesco Maria
Labonia; he wrote, in 1664, "De vera loci urbis Timesinae situatione,
etc.," to prove, presumably, that his birthplace occupied the site
whence the Homeric ore of Temese was derived. There are modern writers
who support this view.

The local silver mines were exploited in antiquity; first by Sybaris,
then by Croton. They are now abandoned, but a good deal has been written
about them. In the year 1200 a thousand miners were employed, and the
Anjous extracted a great deal of precious metal thence; the goldsmiths
of Longobucco were celebrated throughout Italy during the Middle Ages.
The industrious H. W. Schulz has unearthed a Royal rescript of 1274
charging a certain goldsmith Johannes of Longobucco with researches into
the metal and salt resources of the whole kingdom of Naples.

Writing from Longobucco in 1808 during a brigand-hunt, Duret de Tavel says:

"The high wooded mountains which surround this horrible place spread
over it a sombre and savage tint which saddens the imagination. This
borough contains a hideous population of three thousand souls, composed
of nail-makers, of blacksmiths and charcoal-burners. The former
government employed them in working the silver mines situated in the
neighbourhood which are now abandoned."

He tells a good deal about the brigandage that was then rife here, and
the atrocities which the repression of this pest entailed. Soon after
his arrival, for instance, four hundred soldiers were sent to a village
where the chiefs of the brigand "insurrection" were supposed to be
sheltered. The soldiers, he says, "poured into the streets like a
torrent in flood, and there began a horrible massacre, rendered
inevitable by the obstinacy of the insurgents, who fired from all the
houses. This unhappy village was sacked and burnt, suffering all the
horrors inseparable from a capture by assault." Two hundred dead were
found in the streets. But the brigand chiefs, the sole pretext of this
bloodshed, managed to escape. Perhaps they were not within fifty miles
of the place.

Be that as it may, they were captured later on by their own compatriots,
after the French had waited a month at Longobucco. Their heads were
brought in, still bleeding, and "l'identite ayant été suffisamment
constatée, la mort des principaux acteurs a termine cette sanglante
tragèdie, et nous sommes sortis de ces catacombes apénnines pour revoir
le plus brillant soleil."

Wonderful tales are still told of the brigands in these forests. They
will show you notches on the trees, cut by such and such a brigand for
some particular purpose of communication with his friends; buried
treasure has been found, and even nowadays shepherds sometimes discover
rude shelters of bark and tree trunks built by them in the thickest part
of the woods. There are legends, too, of caverns wherein they hived
their booty--caverns with cleverly concealed entrances--caverns which
(many of them, at least) I regard as a pure invention modelled after the
authentic brigand caves of Salerno and Abruzzi, where the limestone rock
is of the kind to produce them. Bourbonism fostered the brood, and there
was a fierce recrudescence in the troubled sixties. They lived in bands,
_ squadrigli,_ burning and plundering with impunity. Whoever refused to
comply with their demands for food or money was sure to repent of it.
All this is over, for the time being; the brigands are extirpated, to
the intense relief of the country people, who were entirely at their
mercy, and whose boast it is that their district is now as safe as the
streets of Naples. Qualified praise, this. . . .  [Footnote: See next
chapter.]

It is an easy march of eight hours or less, through pleasing scenery and
by a good track, from Longobucco to San Giovanni in Fiore, the capital
of the Sila. The path leaves Longobucco at the rear of the town and,
climbing upward, enters a valley which it follows to its head. The
peasants have cultivated patches of ground along the stream; the slopes
are covered, first with chestnuts and then with hoary firs--a rare
growth, in these parts--from whose branches hangs the golden bough of
the mistletoe. And now the stream is ended and a dark ridge blocks the
way; it is overgrown with beeches, under whose shade you ascend in steep
curves. At the summit the vegetation changes once more, and you find
yourself among magnificent stretches of pines that continue as far as
the governmental domain of Galoppano, a forestal station, two hours'
walk from Longobucco.

This pine is a particular variety _(Pinus lancio,_ var. _Calabra),_
known as the "Pino della Sila"--it is found over this whole country,
and grows to a height of forty metres with a silvery-grey trunk,
exhaling a delicious aromatic fragrance. In youth, especially where the
soil is deep, it shoots up prim and demure as a Nuremberg toy; but in
old age grows monstrous. High-perched upon some lonely granite boulder,
with roots writhing over the bare stone like the arms of an octopus, it
sits firm and unmoved, deriding the tempest and flinging fantastic limbs
into the air--emblem of tenacity in desolation. From these trees, which
in former times must have covered the Sila region, was made that
Bruttian pitch mentioned by Strabo and other ancient writers; from them
the Athenians, the Syracusans, Tarentines and finally the Romans built
their fleets. Their timber was used in the construction of Caserta palace.

A house stands here, inhabited by government officials the whole year
round--one may well puzzle how they pass the long winter, when snow lies
from October to May. So early did I arrive at this establishment that
the more civilized of its inhabitants were still asleep; by waiting, I
might have learnt something of the management of the estate, but gross
material preoccupations--the prospect of a passable luncheon at San
Giovanni after the "Hotel Vittoria" fare--tempted me to press forwards.
A boorish and unreliable-looking individual volunteered three pieces of
information--that the house was built thirty years ago, that a large
nursery for plants lies about ten kilometres distant, and that this
particular domain covers "two or four thousand hectares." A young
plantation of larches and silver birches--aliens to this region--seemed
to be doing well.

Not far from here, along my track, lies Santa Barbara, two or three
huts, with corn still green--like Verace (above Acri) on the watershed
between the Ionian and upper Grati. Then follows a steep climb up the
slopes of Mount Pettinascura, whose summit lies 1708 metres above
sea-level. This is the typical landscape of the Sila Grande. There is
not a human habitation in sight; forests all around, with views down
many-folded vales into the sea and towards the distant and fairy-like
Apennines, a serrated edge, whose limestone precipices gleam like
crystals of amethyst between the blue sky and the dusky woodlands of the
foreground.

Here I reposed awhile, watching the crossbills, wondrously tame, at work
among the branches overhead, and the emerald lizard peering out of the
bracken at my side. This _lucertone,_ as they call it, is a local beast,
very abundant in some spots (at Venosa and Patirion, for example); it is
elsewhere conspicuous by its absence. The natives are rather afraid of
it, and still more so of the harmless gecko, the "salamide," which is
reputed highly poisonous.

Then up again, through dells and over uplands, past bubbling streams,
sometimes across sunlit meadows, but oftener in the leafy shelter of
maples and pines--a long but delightful track, winding always high above
the valleys of the Neto and Lese. At last, towards midday, I struck the
driving road that connects San Giovanni with Savelli, crossed a bridge
over the foaming Neto, and climbed into the populous and dirty streets
of the town--the "Siberia of Calabria," as it may well be, for seven
months of the year.

At this season, thanks to its elevation of 1050 metres, the temperature
is all that could be desired, and the hotel, such as it is, compares
favourably indeed with the den at Longobucco. Instantly I felt at home
among these good people, who recognized me, and welcomed me with the
cordiality of old friends.

"Well," they asked, "and have you found it at last?"

They remembered my looking for the double flute, the _tibiae pares,_
some years ago.

It will not take you long to discover that the chief objects of interest
in San Giovanni are the women. Many Calabrian villages still possess
their distinctive costumes--Marcellinara and Cimi-gliano are celebrated
in this respect--but it would be difficult to find anywhere an equal
number of handsome women on such a restricted space. In olden days it
was dangerous to approach these attractive and mirthful creatures; they
were jealously guarded by brothers and husbands. But the brothers and
husbands, thank God, are now in America, and you may be as friendly with
them as ever you please, provided you confine your serious attentions to
not more than two or three. Secrecy in such matters is out of the
question, as with the Arabs; there is too much gossip, and too little
coyness about what is natural; your friendships are openly recognized,
and tacitly approved. The priests do not interfere; their hands are full.

To see these women at their best one must choose a Sunday or a
feast-day; one must go, morever, to the favourite fountain of Santa
Lucia, which lies on the hill-side and irrigates some patches of corn
and vegetables. Their natural charms are enhanced by elaborate and
tasteful golden ornaments, and by a pretty mode of dressing the hair,
two curls of which are worn hanging down before their ears with an
irresistibly seductive air. Their features are regular; eyes black or
deep gentian blue; complexion pale; movements and attitudes impressed
with a stamp of rare distinction. Even the great-grandmothers have a
certain austere dignity--sinewy, indestructible old witches, with tawny
hide and eyes that glow like lamps.

And yet San Giovanni is as dirty as can well be; it has the accumulated
filth of an Eastern town, while lacking all its glowing tints or
harmonious outlines. We are disposed to associate squalor with certain
artistic effects, but it may be said of this and many other Calabrian
places that they have solved the problem how to be ineffably squalid
without becoming in the least picturesque. Much of this sordid look is
due to the smoke which issues out of all the windows and blackens the
house walls, inside and out--the Calabrians persisting in a prehistoric
fashion of cooking on the floor. The buildings themselves look crude and
gaunt from their lack of plaster and their eyeless windows; black pigs
wallowing at every doorstep contribute to this slovenly _ensemble._ The
City Fathers have turned their backs upon civilization; I dare say the
magnitude of the task before them has paralysed their initiative.

Nothing is done in the way of public hygiene, and one sees women washing
linen in water which is nothing more or less than an open drain. There
is no street-lighting whatever; a proposal on the part of a North
Italian firm to draw electric power from the Neto was scornfully
rejected; one single tawdry lamp, which was bought some years ago "as a
sample" in a moment of municipal recklessness, was lighted three times
in as many years, and on the very day when it was least necessary--to
wit, on midsummer eve, which happens to be the festival of their patron
saint (St. John). "It now hangs"--so I wrote some years ago--"at a
dangerous angle, and I doubt whether it will survive till its services
are requisitioned next June." Prophetic utterance! It was blown down
that same winter, and has not yet been replaced. This in a town of
20,000 (?) inhabitants--and in Italy, where the evening life of the
populace plays such an important role. No wonder North Italians, judging
by such external indications, regard all Calabrians as savages.

Some trees have been planted in the piazza since my last stay here; a
newspaper has also been started--it is called "Co-operation: Organ of
the Interests of San Giovanni in Fiore," and its first and possibly
unique number contains a striking article on the public health, as
revealed in the report of two doctors who had been despatched by the
provincial sanitary authorities to take note of local conditions of
hygiene. "The illustrious scientists" (thus it runs) "were horrified at
the filth, mud and garbage which encumbered, and still encumbers, our
streets, sending forth in the warm weather a pestilential odour. . . .
They were likewise amazed at the vigorously expressed protest of our
mayor, who said: '_My people cannot live' without their pigs wallowing
in the streets. San Giovanni in Fiore is exempt from earthquakes and
epidemics because it is under the protection of Saint John the Baptist,
and because its provincial councillor is a saintly man.'_" Such
journalistic plain speaking, such lack of sweet reasonableness, cannot
expect to survive in a world governed by compromise, and if the gift of
prophecy has not deserted me, I should say that "Co-operation" has by
this time ended its useful mission upon earth.

This place is unhealthy; its water-supply is not what it should be, and
such commodities as eggs and milk are rather dear, because "the invalids
eat everything" of that kind. Who are the invalids? Typhoid patients
and, above all, malarious subjects who descend to the plains as
agricultural labourers and return infected to the hills, where they
become partially cured, only to repeat the folly next year. It is the
same at Longobucco and other Sila towns. Altogether, San Giovanni has
grave drawbacks. The streets are too steep for comfort, and despite its
height, the prospect towards the Ionian is intercepted by a ridge; in
point of situation it cannot compare with Savelli or the neighbouring
Casino, which have impressive views both inland, and southward down
undulating slopes that descend in a stately procession of four thousand
feet to the sea, where sparkles the gleaming horn of Cotrone. And the
surroundings of the place are nowise representative of the Sila in a
good sense. The land has been so ruthlessly deforested that it has
become a desert of naked granite rocks; even now, in midsummer, the
citizens are already collecting fuel for their long winter from enormous
distances. As one crawls and skips among these unsavoury tenements, one
cannot help regretting that Saint John the Baptist, or the piety of a
provincial councillor, should have hindered the earthquakes from doing
their obvious duty.

Were I sultan of San Giovanni, I would certainly begin by a general
bombardment. Little in the town is worth preserving from a cataclysm
save the women, and perhaps the old convent on the summit of the hill
where the French lodged during their brigand-wars, and that other one,
famous in the ecclesiastical annals of Calabria--the monastery of
Floriacense, founded at the end of the twelfth century, round which the
town gradually grew up. Its ponderous portal is much injured, having
been burnt, I was told, by the brigands in 1860. But the notary, who
kindly looked up the archives for me, has come to the conclusion that
the French are responsible for the damage. It contains, or contained, a
fabulous collection of pious lumber--teeth and thigh-bones and other
relics, the catalogue of which is one of my favourite sections of Father
Fiore's work. I would make an exception, also, in favour of the doorway
of the church, a finely proportioned structure of the Renaissance in
black stone, which looks ill at ease among its ignoble environment. A
priest, to whom I applied for information as to its history, told me
with the usual Calabrian frankness that he never bothered his head about
such things.

San Giovanni was practically unknown to the outside world up to a few
years ago. I question whether Lenormant or any of them came here.
Pacicchelli did, however, in the seventeenth century, though he has left
us no description of the place. He crossed the whole Sila from the
Ionian to the other sea. I like this amiable and loquacious creature,
restlessly gadding about Europe, gloriously complacent, hopelessly,
absorbed in trivialities, and credulous beyond belief. In fact (as the
reader may have observed), I like all these old travellers, not so much
for what they actually say, as for their implicit outlook upon life.
This Pacicchelli was a fellow of our Royal Society, and his accounts of
England are worth reading; here, in Calabria (being a non-southerner)
his "Familiar Letters" and "Memoirs of Travel" act as a wholesome
corrective. Which of the local historians would have dared to speak of
Cosenza as "città aperta, scomposta, e disordinata di fabbriche"?

That these inhabitants of the Sila are Bruttians may be inferred from
the superior position occupied by their women-folk, who are quite
differently treated to those of the lowlands. There--all along the
coasts of South Italy--the _cow-woman_ is still found, unkempt and
uncivilized; there, the male is the exclusive bearer of culture. Such
things are not seen among the Bruttians of the Sila, any more than among
the grave Latins or Samnites. These non-Hellenic races are, generally
speaking, honest, dignified and incurious; they are bigoted, not to say
fanatical; and their women are not exclusively beasts of burden, being
better dressed, better looking, and often as intelligent as the men.
They are the fruits of a female selection.

But wherever the mocking Ionic spirit has penetrated--and the Ionian
women occupied even a lower position than those of the Dorians and
Aeolians--it has resulted in a glorification of masculinity.  Hand in
hand with this depreciation of the female sex go other characteristics
which point to Hellenic influences: lack of commercial morality, of
veracity, of seriousness in religious matters; a persistent,
light-hearted inquisitiveness; a levity (or sprightliness, if you prefer
it) of mind. The people are fetichistic, amulet-loving, rather than
devout. We may certainly suspect Greek or Saracen strains wherever women
are held in low estimation; wherever, as the god Apollo himself said,
"the mother is but the nurse." In the uplands of Calabria the mother is
a good deal more than the nurse.

For the rest, it stands to reason that in proportion as the agricultural
stage supplants that of pasturage, the superior strength and utility of
boys over girls should become more apparent, and this in South Italy is
universally proclaimed by the fact that everything large and fine is
laughingly described as "maschio" (male), and by some odd superstitions
in disparagement of the female sex, such as these: that in giving
presents to women, uneven numbers should be selected, lest even ones "do
them more good than they deserve"; that to touch the hump of a female
hunchback brings no luck whatever; that if a woman be the first to drink
out of a new earthenware pitcher, the vessel may as well be thrown away
at once--it is tainted for ever.  [Footnote: In Japan, says Hearn, the
first bucketful of water to be drawn out of a cleaned well must be drawn
by a man; for if a womsn first draw water, the well will always
hereafter remain muddy. Some of these prejudices seem to be based on
primordial misreadmgs of physiology. There is also a strong feeling in
favour of dark hair. No mother would entrust her infant to a fair
wet-nurse; the milk even of white cows is considered "lymphatic" and not
strengthening; perhaps the eggs of white hens are equally devoid of the
fortifying principle. There is something to be said for this since, in
proportion as we go south, the risk of irritation, photophobia, and
other com-plaints incidental to the xanthous complexion becomes
greater.] Yet the birth of a daughter is no Chinese calamity; even girls
are "Christians" and welcomed as such, the populace having never sunk
to the level of our theologians, who were wont to discuss _an faemina
sint monstra._

All over the Sila there is a large preponderance of women over men,
nearly the whole male section of the community, save the quite young and
the decrepit, being in America. This emigration brings much money into
the country and many new ideas; but the inhabitants have yet to learn
the proper use of their wealth, and to acquire a modern standard of
comfort. Together with the Sardinians, these Calabrians are the hardiest
of native races, and this is what makes them prefer the strenuous but
lucrative life in North American mines to the easier career in
Argentina, which Neapolitans favour. There they learn English. They
remember their families and the village that gave them birth, but their
patriotism towards Casa Savoia is of the slenderest. How could it be
otherwise? I have spoken to numbers of them, and this is what they say:

"This country has done nothing for us; why should we fight its battles?
Not long ago we were almost devouring each other in our hunger; what did
they do to help us? If we have emerged from misery, it is due to our own
initiative and the work of our own hands; if we have decent clothes and
decent houses, it is because they drove us from our old homes with their
infamous misgovern-ment to seek work abroad."

Perfectly true! They have redeemed themselves, though the new regime has
hardly had a fair trial. And the drawbacks of emigration (such as a
slight increase of tuberculosis and alcoholism) are nothing compared
with the unprecedented material prosperity and enlightenment. There has
also been--in these parts, at all events--a marked diminution of crime.
No wonder, seeing that three-quarters of the most energetic and
turbulent elements are at present in America, where they recruit the
Black Hand. That the Bruttian is not yet ripe for town life, that his
virtues are pastoral rather than civic, might have been expected; but
the Arab domination of much of his territory, one suspects, may have
infused fiercer strains into his character and helped to deserve for him
that epithet of _sanguinario_ by which he is proud to be known.



XXVII

CALABRIAN BRIGANDAGE


The last genuine bandit of the Sila was Gaetano Ricca. On account of
some trivial misunderstanding with the authorities, this man was
compelled in the early eighties to take to the woods, where he lived a
wild life _(alla campagna; alla macchia)_ for some three years. A price
was set on his head, but his daring and knowledge of the country
intimidated every one. I should be sorry to believe in the number of
carbineers he is supposed to have killed during that period; no doubt
the truth came out during his subsequent trial. On one occasion he was
surrounded, and while the officer in command of his pursuers, who had
taken refuge behind a tree, ordered him to yield, Ricca waited patiently
till the point of his enemy's foot became visible, when he pierced his
ankle-bone with his last bullet and escaped. He afterwards surrendered
and was imprisoned for twenty years or so; then returned to the Sila,
where up to a short time ago he was enjoying a green old age in his home
at Parenti--Parenti, already celebrated in the annals of brigandage by
the exploit of the perfidious Francatripa (Giacomo Pisani), who, under
pretence of hospitality, enticed a French company into his clutches and
murdered its three officers and all the men, save seven. The memoirs of
such men might be as interesting as those of the Sardinian Giovanni Tolù
which have been printed. I would certainly have paid my respects to
Ricca had I been aware of his existence when, some years back, I passed
through Parenti on my way--a long day's march!--from Rogliano to San
Giovanni. He has died in the interval.

But the case of Ricca is a sporadic one, such as may crop up anywhere
and at any time. It is like that of Musolino--the case of an isolated
outlaw, who finds the perplexed geographical configuration of the
country convenient for offensive and defensive purposes. Calabrian
brigandage, as a whole, has always worn a political character.

The men who gave the French so much trouble were political brigands,
allies of Bourbonism. They were commanded by creatures like Mammone, an
anthropophagous monster whose boast it was that he had personally killed
455 persons with the greatest refinements of cruelty, and who wore at
his belt the skull of one of them, out of which he used to drink human
blood at mealtime; he drank his own blood as well; indeed, he "never
dined without having a bleeding human heart on the table." This was the
man whom King Ferdinand and his spouse loaded with gifts and
decorations, and addressed as "Our good Friend and General--the
faithful Support of the Throne." The numbers of these savages were
increased by shiploads of professional cut-throats sent over from Sicily
by the English to help their Bourbon friends. Some of these actually
wore the British uniform; one of the most ferocious was known as
"L'Inglese"--the Englishman.

One must go to the fountain-head, to the archives, in order to gain some
idea of the sanguinary anarchy that desolated South Italy in those days.
The horrors of feudalism, aided by the earthquake of 1784 and by the
effects of Cardinal Ruffo's Holy Crusade, had converted the country into
a pandemonium. In a single year (1809) thirty-three thousand crimes were
recorded against the brigands of the Kingdom of Naples; in a single
month they are said to have committed 1200 murders in Calabria alone.
These were the bands who were described by British officers as "our
chivalrous brigand-allies."

It is good to bear these facts in mind when judging of the present state
of this province, for the traces of such a reign of terror are not
easily expunged. Good, also, to remember that this was the period of the
highest spiritual eminence to which South Italy has ever attained. Its
population of four million inhabitants were then consoled by the
presence of no less than 120,000 holy persons--to wit, 22 archbishops,
116 bishops, 65,500 ordained priests, 31,800 monks, and 23,600 nuns.
Some of these ecclesiastics, like the Bishop of Capaccio, were notable
brigand-chiefs.

It must be confessed that the French were sufficiently coldblooded in
their reprisals. Colletta himself saw, at Lagonegro, a man impaled by
order of a French colonel; and some account of their excesses may be
gleaned from Duret de Tavel, from Rivarol (rather a disappointing
author), and from the flamboyant epistles of P. L. Courier, a
soldier-scribe of rare charm, who lost everything in this campaign.
"J'ai perdu huit chevaux, mes habits, mon linge, mon manteau, mes
pistolets, mon argent (12,247 francs). . . . Je ne regrette que mon
Homère (a gift from the Abbé Barthélemy), et pour le ravoir, je
donnerais la seule chemise qui me reste."

But even that did not destroy the plague. The situation called for a
genial and ruthless annihilator, a man like Sixtus V, who asked for
brigands' heads and got them so plentifully that they lay "thick as
melons in the market" under the walls of Rome, while the Castel Sant'
Angelo was tricked out like a Christmas tree with quartered corpses--a
man who told the authorities, when they complained of the insufferable
stench of the dead, that the smell of living iniquity was far worse.
Such a man was wanted. Therefore, in 1810, Murat gave _carte blanche_
to General Manhes, the greatest brigand-catcher of modern times, to
extirpate the ruffians, root and branch. He had just distinguished
himself during a similar errand in the Abruzzi and, on arriving in
Calabria, issued proclamations of such inhuman severity that the
inhabitants looked upon them as a joke. They were quickly undeceived.
The general seems to have considered that the end justified the means,
and that the peace and happiness of a province was not to be disturbed
year after year by the malignity of a few thousand rascals; his threats
were carried out to the letter, and, whatever may be said against his
methods, he certainly succeeded. At the end of a few months' campaign,
every single brigand, and all their friends and relations, were wiped
off the face of the earth--together with a very considerable number of
innocent persons. The high roads were lined with decapitated bandits,
the town walls decked with their heads; some villages had to be
abandoned, on account of the stench; the Crati river was swollen with
corpses, and its banks whitened with bones. God alone knows the
cruelties which were enacted; Colletta confesses that he "lacks courage
to relate them." Here is his account of the fate of the brigand chief
Benincasa:

"Betrayed and bound by his followers as he slept in the forest of
Cassano, Benincasa was brought to Cosenza, and General Manhes ordered
that both his hands be lopped off and that he be led, thus mutilated, to
his home in San Giovanni, and there hanged; a cruel sentence, which the
wretch received with a bitter smile. His right hand was first cut off
and the stump bound, not out of compassion or regard for his life, but
in order that all his blood might not flow out of the opened veins,
seeing that he was reserved for a more miserable death. Not a cry
escaped him, and when he saw that the first operation was over, he
voluntarily laid his left hand upon the block and coldly watched the
second mutilation, and saw his two amputated hands lying on the ground,
which were then tied together by the thumbs and hung round his neck; an
awful and piteous spectacle. This happened at Cosenza. On the same day
he began his march to San Giovanni in Fiore, the escort resting at
intervals; one of them offered the man food, which he accepted;
he ate and drank what was placed in his mouth, and not so much in order
to sustain life, as with real pleasure. He arrived at his home, and
slept through the following night; on the next day, as the hour of
execution approached, he refused the comforts of religion, ascended the
gallows neither swiftly nor slowly, and died admired for his brutal
intrepidity." [Footnote: This particular incident was flatly denied by
Manhes in a letter dated 1835, which is __quoted in the "Notizia storica
del Conte C. A. Manhes" (Naples, 1846)--one of a considerable number of
pro-Bourbon books that cropped up about this time. One is apt to have
quite a wrong impression of Manhes, that inexorable but incorruptible
scourge of evildoers. One pictures him a grey-haired veteran, scarred
and gloomy; and learns, on the contrary, that he was only thirty-two
years old at this time, gracious in manner and of surprising personal
beauty.]

For the first time since long Calabria was purged. Ever since the
Bruttians, irreclaimable plunderers, had established themselves at
Cosenza, disquieting their old Hellenic neighbours, the recesses of this
country had been a favourite retreat of political malcontents. Here
Spartacus drew recruits for his band of rebels; here "King Marcene"
defied the oppressive Spanish Viceroys, and I blame neither him nor his
imitators, since the career of bandit was one of the very few that still
commended itself to decent folks, under that regime.

During the interregnum of Bourbonism between Murat and Garibaldi the
mischief revived--again in a political form. Brigands drew pensions from
kings and popes, and the system gave rise to the most comical incidents;
the story of the pensioned malefactors living together at Monticello
reads like an extravaganza. It was the spirit of Offenbach, brooding
over Europe. One of the funniest episodes was a visit paid in 1865 by
the disconsolate Mrs. Moens to the ex-brigand Talarico, who was then
living in grand style on a government pension. Her husband had been
captured by the band of Manzi (another brigand), and expected to be
murdered every day, and the lady succeeded in procuring from the
chivalrous monster--"an extremely handsome man, very tall, with the
smallest and most delicate hands"--an exquisite letter to his colleague,
recommending him to be merciful to the Englishman and to emulate his own
conduct in that respect. The letter had no effect, apparently; but Moens
escaped at last, and wrote his memoirs, while Manzi was caught and
executed in 1868 after a trial occupying nearly a month, during which
the jury had to answer 311 questions.

His villainies were manifold. But they were put in the shade by those of
others of his calling--of Caruso, for example, who was known to have
massacred in one month (September, 1863) two hundred persons with his
own hands. Then, as formerly, the Church favoured the malefactors, and I
am personally acquainted with priests who fought on the side of the
brigands. Francis II endeavoured to retrieve his kingdom by the help of
an army of scoundrels like those of Ruffo, but the troops shot them
down. Brigandage, as a governmental institution, came to an end.
Unquestionably the noblest figure in this reactionary movement was that
of José Borjès, a brave man engaged in an unworthy cause. You can read
his tragic journal in the pages of M.  Monnier or Maffei. It has been
calculated that during these last years of Bourbonism the brigands
committed seven thousand homicides a year in the kingdom of Naples.

Schools and emigration have now brought sounder ideas among the people,
and the secularization of convents with the abolition of ecclesiastical
right of asylum (Sixtus V had wisely done away with it) has broken up
the prosperous old bond between monks and malefactors. What the
government has done towards establishing decent communications in this
once lawless and pathless country ranks, in its small way, beside the
achievement of the French who, in Algeria, have built nearly ten
thousand miles of road. But it is well to note that even as the
mechanical appliance of steam destroyed the corsairs, the external
plague, so this hoary form of internal disorder could have been
permanently eradicated neither by humanity nor by severity. A scientific
invention, the electric telegraph, is the guarantee of peace against the
rascals.

These brigand chiefs were often loaded with gold. On killing them, the
first thing the French used to do was to strip them. "On le dépouilla."
Francatripa, for instance, possessed "a plume of white ostrich feathers,
clasped by a golden band and diamond Madonna" (a gift from Queen
Caroline)--Cerino and Manzi had "bunches of gold chains as thick as an
arm suspended across the breasts of their waistcoats, with gorgeous
brooches at each fastening." Some of their wealth now survives in
certain families who gave them shelter in the towns in winter time, or
when they were hard pressed. These _favoreggiatori_ or _manutengoli_
(the terms are interconvertible, but the first is the legal one) were
sometimes benevolently inclined. But occasionally they conceived the
happy idea of being paid for their silence and services. The brigand,
then, was hoist with his own petard and forced to disgorge his
ill-gotten summer gains to these blood-suckers, who extorted heavy
blackmail under menaces of disclosure to the police, thriving on their
double infamy to such an extent that they acquired immense riches. One
of the wealthiest men in Italy descends from this class; his two hundred
million (?) francs are invested, mostly, in England; every one knows his
name, but the origin of his fortune is no longer mentioned, since
(thanks to this money) the family has been able to acquire not only
respectability but distinction.



XXVIII

THE GREATER SILA


A great project is afoot. As I understand it, a reservoir is being
created by damming up the valley of the Ampollina; the artificial lake
thus formed will be enlarged by the additional waters of the Arvo, which
are to be led into it by means of a tunnel, about three miles long,
passing underneath Monte Nero. The basin, they tell me, will be some ten
kilometres in length; the work will cost forty million francs, and will
be completed in a couple of years; it will supply the Ionian lowlands
with pure water and with power for electric and other industries.

And more than that. The lake is to revolutionize the Sila; to convert
these wildernesses into a fashionable watering-place. Enthusiasts
already see towns growing upon its shores--there are visions of gorgeous
hotels and flocks of summer visitors in elegant toilettes,
villa-residences, funicular railways up all the mountains, sailing
regattas, and motor-boat services. In the place of the desert there will
arise a "Lucerna di Calabria."

A Calabrian Lucerne. H'm. ...

It remains to be seen whether, by the time the lake is completed, there
will be any water left to flow into it. For the catchment basins are
being so conscientiously cleared of their timber that the two rivers
cannot but suffer a great diminution in volume. By 1896 already, says
Marincola San Fioro, the destruction of woodlands in the Sila had
resulted in a notable lack of moisture. Ever since then the vandalism
has been pursued with a zeal worthy of a better cause. One trembles to
think what these regions will be like in fifty years; a treeless and
waterless tableland--worse than the glaring limestone deserts of the
Apennines in so far as they, at least, are diversified in contour.

So the healthfulness, beauty, and exchequer value of enormous tracts in
this country are being systematically impaired, day by day. Italy is
ready, said D'Azeglio, but where are the Italians?

Let us give the government credit for any number of good ideas. It
actually plants bare spaces; it has instituted a "Festa degli alberi"
akin to the American Arbour Day, whereby it is hoped, though scarcely
believed, that the whole of Italy will ultimately be replenished with
trees; it encourages schools of forestry, supplies plants free of cost
to all who ask for them, despatches commissions and prints reports.
Above all, it talks prodigiously and very much to the purpose.

But it omits to administer its own laws with becoming severity. A few
exemplary fines and imprisonments would have a more salutary effect than
the commissioning of a thousand inspectors whom nobody takes seriously,
and the printing of ten thousand reports which nobody reads.

With a single stroke of the pen the municipalities could put an end to
the worst form of forest extirpation--that on the hill-sides--by
forbidding access to such tracts and placing them under the "vincolo
forestale." To denude slopes in the moist climate and deep soil of
England entails no risk; in this country it is the beginning of the end.
And herein lies the ineptitude of the Italian regulations, which entrust
the collective wisdom of rapacious farmers with measures of this kind,
taking no account of the destructively utilitarian character of the
native mind, of that canni-ness which overlooks a distant profit in its
eagerness to grasp the present--that beast avarice which Horace
recognized as the root of all evil. As if provisions like this of the
"vincolo forestale" were ever carried out! Peasants naturally prefer to
burn the wood in their own chimneys or to sell it; and if a landslide
then crashes down, wrecking houses and vineyards--let the government
compensate the victims!

An ounce of fact--

In one year alone (1903), and in the sole province of Cosenza wherein
San Giovanni lies, there were 156 landslides; they destroyed 1940
hectares of land, and their damage amounted to 432,738 francs. The two
other Calabrian provinces--Reggio and Catanzaro--doubtless also had
their full quota of these catastrophes, all due to mischievous
deforestation. So the bare rock is exposed, and every hope of planting
at an end.

_Vox clamantis!_ The Normans, Anjou and Aragonese concerned themselves
with the proper administration of woodlands. Even the Spanish Viceroys,
that ineffable brood, issued rigorous enactments on the subject; while
the Bourbons (to give the devil his due) actually distinguished
themselves as conservators of forests. As to Napoleon--he was busy
enough, one would think, on this side of the Alps. Yet he found time to
frame wise regulations concerning trees which the present patriotic
parliament, during half a century of frenzied confabulation, has not yet
taken to heart.

How a great man will leave his mark on minutiae!

I passed through the basin of this future lake when, in accordance with
my project, I left San Giovanni to cross the remaining Sila in the
direction of Catanzaro. This getting up at 3.30 a.m., by the way, rather
upsets one's daily routine; at breakfast time I already find myself
enquiring anxiously for dinner.

The Ampollina valley lies high; here, in the dewy grass, I enjoyed what
I well knew would be my last shiver for some time to come; then moved
for a few miles on the further bank of the rivulet along that driving
road which will soon be submerged under the waters of the lake, and
struck up a wooded glen called Barbarano. At its head lies the upland
Circilla.

There is no rock scenery worth mentioning in all this Sila country; no
waterfalls or other Alpine features. It is a venerable granitic
tableland, that has stood here while the proud Apennines were still
slumbering in the oozy bed of ocean--[Footnote: Nissen says that "no
landscape of Italy has lost so little of its original appearance in the
course of history as Calabria." This may apply to the mountains; but the
lowlands have suffered hideous changes.] a region of gentle undulations,
the hill-tops covered with forest-growth, the valleys partly arable and
partly pasture. Were it not for the absence of heather with its peculiar
mauve tints, the traveller might well imagine himself in Scotland. There
is the same smiling alternation of woodland and meadow, the same huge
boulders of gneiss and granite which give a distinctive tone to the
landscape, the same exuberance of living waters. Water, indeed, is one
of the glories of the Sila--everywhere it bubbles forth in chill
rivulets among the stones and trickles down the hill-sides to join the
larger streams that wend their way to the forlorn and fever-stricken
coastlands of Magna Graecia. Often, as I refreshed myself at these icy
fountains, did I thank Providence for making the Sila of primitive rock,
and not of the thirsty Apennine limestone.

"Much water in the Sila," an old shepherd once observed to me, "much
water! And little tobacco."

One of the largest of these rivers is the Neto, the classic Neaithos
sung by Theocritus, which falls into the sea north of Cotrone; San
Giovanni overlooks its raging flood, and, with the help of a little
imagination here and there, its whole course can be traced from
eminences like that of Pettinascura. The very name of these
streams--Neto, Arvo, Lese, Ampollina--are redolent of pastoral life. All
of them are stocked with trout; they meander in their upper reaches
through valleys grazed by far-tinkling flocks of sheep and goats and
grey cattle--the experiment of acclimatizing Swiss cattle has proved a
failure, I know not why--and their banks are brilliant with blossoms.
Later on, in the autumn, the thistles begin to predominate--the finest
of them being a noble ground thistle of pale gold, of which they eat the
unopened bud; it is the counterpart of the silvery one of the Alps. The
air in these upper regions is keen. I remember, some years ago, that
during the last week of August a lump of snow, which a goat-boy produced
as his contribution to our luncheon, did not melt in the bright sunshine
on the summit of Monte Nero.

From whichever side one climbs out of the surrounding lowlands into the
Sila plateau, the same succession of trees is encountered. To the
warmest zone of olives, lemons and carobs succeeds that of the
chestnuts, some of them of gigantic dimensions and yielding a sure
though moderate return in fruit, others cut down periodically as coppice
for vine-props and scaffoldings. Large tracts of these old chestnut
groves are now doomed; a French society in Cosenza, so they tell me, is
buying them up for the extraction out of their bark of some chemical or
medicine. The vine still flourishes at this height, though dwarfed in
size; soon the oaks begin to dominate, and after that we enter into the
third and highest region cf the pines and beeches. Those accustomed to
the stony deserts of nearly all South European mountain districts will
find these woodlands intensely refreshing. Their inaccessibility has
proved their salvation--up to a short time ago.

Nearly all the cattle on the Sila, like the land itself, belongs to
large proprietors. These gentlemen are for the most part invisible; they
inhabit their palaces in the cities, and the very name of the Sila sends
a cold shudder through their bones; their revenues are collected from
the shepherds by agents who seem to do their work very conscientiously.
I once observed, in a hut, a small fragment of the skin of a newly
killed kid; the wolf had devoured the beast, and the shepherd was
keeping this _corpus delicti_ to prove to his superior, the agent, that
he was innocent of the murder. There was something naive in his
honesty--as if a shepherd could not eat a kid as well as any wolf, and
keep a portion of its skin! The agent, no doubt, would hand it on to his
lord, by way of _confirmation and verification._ Another time I saw the
debris of a goat hanging from a tree; it was the wolf again; the boy had
attached these remains to the tree in order that all who passed that way
might be his witnesses, if necessary, that the animal had not been sold
underhand.

You may still find the legendary shepherds here--curly-haired
striplings, reclining _sub tegmine fagi_ in the best Theocritean style,
and piping wondrous melodies to their flocks. These have generally come
up for the summer season from the Ionian lowlands. Or you may encounter
yet more primitive creatures, forest boys, clad in leather, with wild
eyes and matted locks, that take an elvish delight in misdirecting you.
These are the Lucanians of old. "They bring them up from childhood in
the woods among the shepherds," says Justinus, "without servants, and
even without any clothes to cover them, or to lie upon, that from their
early years they may become inured to hardiness and frugality, and have
no intercourse with the city. They live upon game, and drink nothing but
water or milk." But the majority of modern Sila shepherds are shrewd
fellows of middle age (many of them have been to America), who keep
strict business accounts for their masters of every ounce of cheese and
butter produced. The local cheese, which Cassiodorus praises in one of
his letters, is the _cacciacavallo_ common all over South Italy; the
butter is of the kind which has been humorously, but quite wrongly,
described by various travellers.

Although the old wolves are shot and killed by spring guns and dynamite
while the young ones are caught alive in steel traps and other
appliances, their numbers are still formidable enough to perturb the
pastoral folks. One is therefore surprised to see what a poor breed of
dogs they keep; scraggy mongrels that run for their lives at the mere
sight of a wolf who can, and often does, bite them into two pieces with
one snap of his jaws. They tell me that there is a government reward for
every wolf killed, but it is seldom paid; whoever has the good fortune
to slay one of these beasts, carries the skin as proof of his prowess
from door to door, and receives a small present everywhere--half a
franc, or a cheese, or a glass of wine.

The goats show fight, and therefore the wolf prefers sheep. Shepherds
have told me that he comes up to them _delicatamente,_ and then, fixing
his teeth in the wool of their necks, pulls them onward, caressing their
sides with his tail. The sheep are fascinated with his gentle manners,
and generally allow themselves to be led up to the spot he has selected
for their execution; the truth being that he is too lazy to carry them,
if he can possibly avoid it.

He will promptly kill his quarry and carry its carcase downhill on the
rare occasions when the flocks are grazing above his haunt; but if it is
an uphill walk, they must be good enough to use their own legs.
Incredible stories of his destructiveness are related.

Fortunately, human beings are seldom attacked, a dog or a pig being
generally forthcoming when the usual prey is not to be found. Yet not
long ago a sad affair occurred; a she-wolf attacked a small boy before
the eyes of his parents, who pursued him, powerless to help--the head
and arms had already been torn off before a shot from a neighbour
despatched the monster. Truly, "a great family displeasure," as my
informant styled it. Milo of Croton, the famous athlete, is the most
renowned victim of these Sila wolves. Tradition has it that, relying on
his great strength, he tried to rend asunder a mighty log of wood which
closed, however, and caught his arms in its grip; thus helpless, he was
devoured alive by them.

By keeping to the left of Circilla, I might have skirted the forest of
Gariglione. This tract lies at about four and a half hours' distance
from San Giovanni; I found it, some years ago, to be a region of real
"Urwald" or primary jungle; there was nothing like it, to my knowledge,
on this side of the Alps, nor yet in the Alps themselves; nothing of the
kind nearer than Russia. But the Russian jungles, apart from their
monotony of timber, foster feelings of sadness and gloom, whereas these
southern ones, as Hehn has well observed, are full of a luminous
beauty--their darkest recesses being enlivened by a sense of benignant
mystery. Gariglione was at that time a virgin forest, untouched by the
hand of man; a dusky ridge, visible from afar; an impenetrable tangle of
forest trees, chiefest among them being the "garigli" _(Quercus cerris)_
whence it derives its name, as well as thousands of pines and bearded
firs and all that hoary indigenous vegetation struggling out of the
moist soil wherein their progenitors had lain decaying time out of mind.
In these solitudes, if anywhere, one might still have found the
absent-minded luzard (lynx) of the veracious historian; or that squirrel
whose "calabrere" fur, I strongly suspect, came from Russia; or, at any
rate, the Mushroom-stone _which shineth in the night_.  [Footnote: As a
matter of fact, the mushroom-stone is a well-known commodity, being
still collected and eaten, for example, at Santo Stefano in Aspramente.
Older travellers tell us that it used to be exported to Naples and kept
in the cellars of the best houses for the enjoyment of its
fruit--sometimes in lumps measuring two feet in diameter which, being
soaked in water, produced these edible fungi. A stone yielding food--a
miracle! It is a porous tufa adapted, presumably, for sheltering and
fecundating vegetable spores. A little pamphlet by Professor A. Trotter
("Flora Montana della Calabria") gives some idea of the local plants and
contains a useful bibliography. A curious feature is the relative
abundance of boreal and Balkan-Oriental forms; another, the rapid spread
of _Genista anglica,_ which is probably an importation.]

Well, I am glad my path to-day did not lead me to Gariglione, and so
destroy old memories of the place. For the domain, they tell me, has
been sold for 350,000 francs to a German company; its primeval silence
is now invaded by an army of 260 workmen, who have been cutting down the
timber as fast as they can. So vanishes another fair spot from earth!
And what is left of the Sila, once these forests are gone? Not even the
charm, such as it is, of Caithness. . . .

After Circilla comes the watershed that separates the Sila Grande from
the westerly regions of Sila Piccola. Thenceforward it was downhill
walking, at first through forest lands, then across verdant stretches,
bereft of timber and simmering in the sunshine. The peculiar character
of this country is soon revealed--ferociously cloven ravines, utterly
different from the Sila Grande.

With the improvidence of the true traveller I had consumed my stock of
provisions ere reaching the town of Taverna after a march of nine hours
or thereabouts. A place of this size and renown, I had argued, would
surely be able to provide a meal. But Taverna belies its name. The only
tavern discoverable was a composite hovel, half wine-shop, half
hen-house, whose proprietor, disturbed in his noonday nap, stoutly
refused to produce anything eatable. And there I stood in the blazing
sunshine, famished and un-befriended. Forthwith the strength melted out
of my bones; the prospect of walking to Catanzaro, so alluring with a
full stomach, faded out of the realm of possibility; and it seemed a
special dispensation of Providence when, at my lowest ebb of vitality, a
small carriage suddenly hove in sight.

"How much to Catanzaro?"

The owner eyed me critically, and then replied in English:

"You can pay twenty dollars."

Twenty dollars--a hundred francs! But it is useless trying to bargain
with an _americano_ (their time is too valuable).

"A dollar a mile?" I protested.

"That's so."

"You be damned."

"Same to you, mister." And he drove off.

Such bold defiance of fate never goes unrewarded. A two-wheeled cart
conveying some timber overtook me shortly afterwards on my way from the
inhospitable Taverna. For a small consideration I was enabled to pass
the burning hours of the afternoon in an improvised couch among its load
of boards, admiring the scenery and the engineering feats that have
carried a road through such difficult country, and thinking out some
further polite remarks to be addressed to my twenty-dollar friend, in
the event of our meeting at Catanzaro. . . .

One must have traversed the Sila in order to appreciate the manifold
charms of the mountain town--I have revelled in them since my arrival.
But it has one irremediable drawback: the sea lies at an inconvenient
distance. It takes forty-five minutes to reach the shore by means of two
railways in whose carriages the citizens descend after wild scrambles
for places, packed tight as sardines in the sweltering heat. Only a
genuine enthusiast will undertake the trip more than once. For the
Marina itself--at this season, at least--is an unappetizing spot; a
sordid agglomeration of houses, a few dirty fruit-stalls, ankle-deep
dust, swarms of flies. I prefer to sleep through the warm hours of the
day, and then take the air in that delightful public garden which, by
the way, has already become too small for the increasing population.

At its entrance stands the civic museum, entrusted, just now, to the
care of a quite remarkably ignorant and slatternly woman. It contains
two rooms, whose exhibits are smothered in dust and cobwebs; as
neglected, in short, as her own brats that sprawl about its floor. I
enquired whether she possessed no catalogue to show where the objects,
bearing no labels, had been found. A catalogue was unnecessary, she
said; she knew everything--everything!

And everything, apparently, hailed from "Stromboli." The Tiriolo helmet,
the Greek vases, all the rest of the real and sham treasures of this
establishment: they were all discovered at Stromboli.

"Those coins--whence?"

"Stromboli!"

Noticing some neolithic celts similar to those I obtained at Vaccarizza,
I would gladly have learnt their place of origin. Promptly came the answer:

"Stromboli!"

"Nonsense, my good woman. I've been three times to Stromboli; it is an
island of black stones where the devil has a house, and such things are
not found there." (Of course she meant Strangoli, the ancient Petelia.)

This vigorous assertion made her more circumspect. Thenceforward
everything was declared to come from the province--_dalla provincia;_ it
was safer.

"That bad picture--whence?"

"Dalla provincia!"

"Have you really no catalogue?"

"I know everything."

"And this broken statue--whence?"

"Dalla provincia!"

"But the province is large," I objected.

"So it is. Large, and old."

I have also revisited Tiriolo, once celebrated for the "Sepulchres of
the Giants" (Greek tombs) that were unearthed here, and latterly for a
certain more valuable antiquarian discovery. Not long ago it was a
considerable undertaking to reach this little place, but nowadays a
public motor-car whirls you up and down the ravines at an alarming pace
and will deposit you, within a few hours, at remote Cosenza, once an
enormous drive. It is the same all over modern Calabria. The diligence
service, for instance, that used to take fourteen hours from San
Giovanni to Cosenza has been replaced by motors that cover the distance
in four or five. One is glad to save time, but this new element of
mechanical hurry has produced a corresponding kind of traveller--a
machine-made creature, devoid of the humanity of the old; it has done
away with the personal note of conviviality that reigned in the
post-carriages. What jocund friendships were made, what songs and tales
applauded, during those interminable hours in the lumbering chaise!

You must choose Sunday for Tiriolo, on account of the girls, whose
pretty faces and costumes are worth coming any distance to see. A good
proportion of them have the fair hair which seems to have been
eliminated, in other parts of the country, through the action of malaria.

Viewed from Catanzaro, one of the hills of Tiriolo looks like a broken
volcanic crater. It is a limestone ridge, decked with those
characteristic flowers like _Campanula fragilis_ which you will vainly
seek on the Sila. Out of the ruins of some massive old building they
have constructed, on the summit, a lonely weather-beaten fabric that
would touch the heart of Maeterlinck. They call it a seismological
station. I pity the people that have to depend for their warnings of
earthquakes upon the outfit of a place like this. I could see no signs
of life here; the windows were broken, the shutters decaying, an old
lightning-rod dangled disconsolately from the roof; it looked as
abandoned as any old tower in a tale. There is a noble view from this
point over both seas and into the riven complexities of Aspromonte, when
the peak is not veiled in mists, as it frequently is. For Tiriolo lies
on the watershed; there (to quote from a "Person of Quality ") "where
the Apennine is drawn into so narrow a point, that the rain-water which
descendeth from the ridge of some one house, falleth on the left in the
Terrene Sea, and on the right into the Adriatick. . . ."

My visits to the provincial museum have become scandalously frequent
during the last few days. I cannot keep away from the place. I go there
not to study the specimens but to converse with their keeper, the woman
who, in her quiet way, has cast a sort of charm over me. Our relations
are the whispered talk of the town; I am suspected of matrimonial
designs upon a poor widow with the ulterior object of appropriating the
cream of the relics under her care. Regardless of the perils of the
situation, I persevere; for the sake of her company I forswear the
manifold seductions of Catan-zaro. She is a noteworthy person, neither
vicious nor vulgar, but simply the _dernier mot_ of incompetence. Her
dress, her looks, her children, her manners--they are all on an even
plane with her spiritual accomplishments; at no point does she sink, or
rise, beyond that level. They are not as common as they seem to be,
these harmoniously inefficient females.

Why has she got this job in a progressive town containing so many folks
who could do it creditably? Oh, that is simple enough! She needs it. On
the platform of the Reggio station (long before the earthquake) I once
counted five station-masters and forty-eight other railway officials,
swaggering about with a magnificent air of incapacity. What were they
doing? Nothing whatever. They were like this woman: they needed a job.

We are in a patriarchal country; work is pooled; it is given not to
those who can do it best, but to those who need it most--given, too, on
pretexts which sometimes strike one as inadequate, not to say recondite.
So the street-scavengering in a certain village has been entrusted to a
one-armed cripple, utterly unfit for the business--why? Because his
maternal grand-uncle is serving a long sentence in gaol. The poor family
must be helped! A brawny young fellow will be removed from a
landing-stage boat, and his place taken by some tottering old peasant
who has never handled an oar--why? The old man's nephew has married
again; the family must be helped. A secretarial appointment was
specially created for an acquaintance of mine who could barely sign his
own name, for the obvious reason that his cousin's sister was rheumatic.
One must help that family.

A postman whom I knew delivered the letters only once every three days,
alleging, as unanswerable argument in his defence, that his brother's
wife had fifteen children.

One must help that family!

Somebody seems to have thought so, at all events.



XXIX

CHAOS


I have never beheld the enchantment of the Straits of Messina, that Fata
Morgana, when, under certain conditions of weather, phantasmagoric
palaces of wondrous shape are cast upon the waters--not mirrored, but
standing upright; tangible, as it were; yet diaphanous as a veil of gauze.

A Dominican monk and correspondent of the Naples Academy, Minasi by
name, friend of Sir W. Hamilton, wrote a dissertation upon this
atmospheric mockery. Many have seen and described it, among them Filati
de Tassulo; Nicola Leoni reproduces the narrative of an eye-witness
of 1643; another account appears in the book of A. Fortis
("Mineralogische Reisen, 1788"). The apparition is coy. Yet there are
pictures of it--in an article in "La Lettura" by Dr. Vittorio Boccara,
who therein refers to a scientific treatise by himself on the subject,
as well as in the little volume "Da Reggio a Metaponto" by Lupi-Crisafi,
which was printed at Gerace some years ago. I mention these writers for
the sake of any one who, luckier than myself, may be able to observe
this phenomenon and become interested in its history and origin. . . .

The chronicles of Messina record the scarcely human feats of the diver
Cola Pesce (Nicholas the Fish). The dim submarine landscapes of the
Straits with their caves and tangled forests held no secrets from him;
his eyes were as familiar with sea-mysteries as those of any fish. Some
think that the legend dates from Frederick II, to whom he brought up
from the foaming gulf that golden goblet which has been immortalized in
Schiller's ballad. But Schneegans says there are Norman documents that
speak of him. And that other tale, according to which he took to his
watery life in pursuit of some beloved maiden who had been swallowed by
the waves, makes one think of old Glaucus as his prototype.

Many are the fables connected with his name, but the most portentous is
this: One day, during his subaqueous wanderings, he discovered the
foundations of Messina. They were insecure! The city rested upon three
columns, one of them intact, another quite decayed away, the third
partially corroded and soon to crumble into ruin. He peered up from, his
blue depths, and in a fateful couplet of verses warned the townsmen of
their impending doom. In this prophetic utterance ascribed to the
fabulous Cola Pesce is echoed a popular apprehension that was only too
justified.

F. Muenter--one of a band of travellers who explored these regions after
the earthquake of 1783--also gave voice to his fears that Messina had
not yet experienced the full measure of her calamities. . . .

I remember a night in September of 1908, a Sunday night, fragrant with
the odours of withered rosemary and cistus and fennel that streamed in
aromatic showers from the scorched heights overhead--a starlit night,
tranquil and calm. Never had Messina appeared so attractive to me.
Arriving there generally in the daytime and from larger and sprightlier
centres of civilization, one is prone to notice only its defects. But
night, especially a southern night, has a wizard touch. It transforms
into objects of mysterious beauty all unsightly things, or hides them
clean away; while the nobler works of man, those facades and cornices
and full-bellied balconies of cunningly wrought iron rise up, under its
enchantment, ethereal as the palace of fairies. And coming, as I then
did, from the sun-baked river-beds of Calabria, this place, with its
broad and well-paved streets, its glittering cafés and demure throng of
evening idlers, seemed a veritable metropolis, a world-city.

With deliberate slowness, _ritardando con molto sentimento,_ I worked my
way to the familiar restaurant.

At last! At last, after an interminable diet of hard bread, onions and
goat's cheese, I was to enjoy the complicated menu mapped out weeks
beforehand, after elaborate consideration and balancing of merits; so
complicated, that its details have long ago lapsed from my memory. I
recollect only the sword-fish, a local speciality, and (as crowning
glory) the _cassata alla siciliana,_ a glacial symphony, a multicoloured
ice of commingling flavours, which requires far more time to describe
than to devour. Under the influence of this Sybaritic fare, helped down
with a crusted bottle of Calabrian wine--your Sicilian stuff is too
strong for me, too straightforward, uncompromising; I prefer to be
wheedled out of my faculties by inches, like a gentleman--under this
genial stimulus my extenuated frame was definitely restored; I became
mellow and companionable; the traveller's lot, I finally concluded, is
not the worst on earth. Everything was as it should be. As for
Messina--Messina was unquestionably a pleasant city. But why were all
the shops shut so early in the evening?

"These Sicilians," said the waiter, an old Neapolitan acquaintance, in
reply to my enquiries, "are always playing some game. They are
pretending to be Englishmen at this moment; they have the Sunday-closing
obsession on the brain. Their attacks generally last a fortnight; it's
like the measles. Poor people."

Playing at being Englishmen!

They have invented a new game now, those that are left of them. They are
living in dolls' houses, and the fit is likely to last for some little
time.

An engineer remarked to me, not long ago, among the ruins:

"This _baracca,_ this wooden shelter, has an interior surface area of
less than thirty square metres. Thirty-three persons--men, women, and
children--have been living and sleeping in it for the last five months."

"A little overcrowded?" I suggested.

"Yes. Some of them are beginning to talk of overcrowding. It was all
very well in the winter months, but when August comes. . . . Well, we
shall see."

No prophetic visions of the Messina of to-day, with its minute sheds
perched among a wilderness of ruins and haunted by scared shadows in
sable vestments of mourning, arose in my mind that evening as I sat at
the little marble table, sipping my coffee--overroasted, like all
Italian coffee, by exactly two minutes--and puffing contentedly at my
cigar, while the sober crowd floated hither and thither before my eyes.
Yes, everything was as it should be. And yet, what a chance!

What a chance for some God, in this age of unbelief, to establish his
rule over mankind on the firm foundations of faith! We are always
complaining, nowadays, of an abatement of religious feeling. How easy
for such a one to send down an Isaiah to foretell the hour of the coming
catastrophe, and thus save those of its victims who were disposed to
hearken to the warning voice; to reanimate the flagging zeal of
worshippers, to straighten doubts and segregate the sheep from the
goats! Truly, He moves in a mysterious way, for no divine message came;
the just were entombed with the unjust amid a considerable deal of
telegraphing and heart-breaking.

A few days after the disaster the Catholic papers explained matters by
saying that the people of Messina had not loved their Madonna
sufficiently well. But she loved them none the less, and sent the
earthquake as an admonishment. Rather a robust method of conciliating
their affection; not exactly the _suaviter in modo. . . ._

But if genuine prophets can only flourish among the malarious willow
swamps of old Babylon and such-like improbable spots, we might at least
have expected better things of our modern spiritualists. Why should
their apparitions content themselves with announcing the decease, at the
Antipodes, of profoundly uninteresting relatives? Alas! I begin to
perceive that spirits of the right kind, of the useful kind, have yet to
be discovered. Our present-day ghosts are like seismographs; they
chronicle the event after it has happened. Now, what we want is----

"The Signore smokes, and smokes, and smokes. Why not take the tram and
listen to the municipal music in the gardens?"

"Music? Gardens? An excellent suggestion, Gennarino."

Even as a small Italian town would be incomplete without its piazza
where streets converge and commercial pulses beat their liveliest
measure, so every larger one contrives to possess a public garden for
the evening disport of its citizens; night-life being the true life of
the south. Charming they are, most of them; none more delectable than
that of old Messina--a spacious pleasaunce, decked out with trim palms
and flower-beds and labyrinthine walks freshly watered, and cooled, that
evening, by stealthy breezes from the sea. The grounds were festively
illuminated, and as I sat down near the bandstand and watched the folk
meandering to and fro, I calculated that no fewer than thirty thousand
persons were abroad, taking their pleasure under the trees, in the bland
air of evening. An orderly, well-dressed crowd. We may smile when they
tell us that these people will stint themselves of the necessities of
life in order to wear fine clothes, but the effect, for an outsider, is
all that it should be. For the rest, the very urchins, gambolling about,
had an air of happy prosperity, different from the squalor of the north
with its pinched white faces, its over-breeding and under-feeding.

And how well the sensuous Italian strains accord with such an hour and
scene! They were playing, if I remember rightly, the ever-popular Aida;
other items followed later--more ambitious ones; a Hungarian rhapsody,
Berlioz, a selection from Wagner.

"_Musica filosofica"_ said my neighbour, alluding to the German
composer. He was a spare man of about sixty; a sunburnt, military
countenance, seamed by lines of suffering. "_Non va in Sicilia--_it
won't do in this country. Not that we fail to appreciate your great
thinkers," he added. "We read and admire your Schopenhauer, your
Spencer. They give passable representations of Wagner in Naples. But----"

"The climate?"

"Precisely. I have travelled, sir; and knowing your Berlin, and London,
and Boston, have been able to observe how ill our Italian architecture
looks under your grey skies, how ill our music sounds among the complex
appliances of your artificial life. It has made you earnest, this
climate of yours, and prone to take earnestly your very pastimes.
Music, for us, has remained what it was in the Golden Age--an
unburdening of the soul on a summer's night. They play well, these
fellows. Palermo, too, has a respectable band--Oh! a little too fast,
that _recitativo!"_

"The Signore is a musician?"

"A _proprietario._ But I delight in music, and I beguiled myself with
the fiddle as a youngster. Nowadays--look here!" And he extended his
hand; it was crippled. "Rheumatism. I have it here, and here"--pointing
to various regions of his body--"_and_ here! Ah, these doctors! The
baths I have taken! The medicines--the ointments--the embrocations: a
perfect pharmacopceia! I can hardly crawl now, and without the help of
these two devoted boys even this harmless little diversion would have
been denied me. My nephews--orphans," he added, observing the direction
of my glance.

They sat on his other side, handsome lads, who spoke neither too much
nor too little. Every now and then they rose with one accord and
strolled among the surging crowd to stretch their legs, returning after
five minutes to their uncle's side. His eyes always followed their
movements.

"My young brother, had he lived, would have made men of them," he once
observed.

The images revive, curiously pertinacious, with dim lapses and gulfs. I
can see them still, the two boys, their grave demeanour belied by mobile
lips and mischievous fair curls of Northern ancestry; the other, leaning
forward intent upon the music, and caressing his moustache with bent
fingers upon which glittered a jewel set in massive gold--some scarab or
intaglio, the spoil of old Magna Graecia. His conversation, during the
intervals, moved among the accepted formulas of cosmopolitanism with
easy flow, quickened at times by the individual emphasis of a man who
can forsake conventional tracks and think for himself. Among other
things, he had contrived an original project for reviving the lemon
industry of his country, which, though it involved a few tariff
modifications--"a mere detail"--struck me as amazingly effective and
ingenious. The local deputy, it seems, shared my view, for he had
undertaken to bring it before the notice of Parliament.

What was it?

I have forgotten!

So we discussed the world, while the music played under the starlit
southern night.

It must have been midnight ere a final frenzied galop on the part of the
indefatigable band announced the close of the entertainment. I walked a
few paces beside the lame "proprietor" who, supported on the arms of his
nephews, made his way to the spot where the cabs were waiting--his
rheumatism, he explained, obliging him to drive. How he had enjoyed
walking as a youth, and what pleasure it would now have given him to
protract, during a promenade to my hotel, our delightful conversation!
But infirmities teach us to curtail our pleasures, and many things that
seem natural to man's bodily configuration are found to be unattainable.
He seldom left his rooms; the stairs--the diabolical stairs! Would I at
least accept his card and rest assured how gladly he would receive me
and do all in his power to make my stay agreeable?

That card has gone the way of numberless others which the traveller in
Southern Europe gathers about him. I have also forgotten the old man's
name. But the _palazzo_ in which he lived bore a certain historical
title which happened to be very familiar to me. I remember wondering how
it came to reach Messina.

In the olden days, of course, the days of splendour.

Will they ever return?

It struck me that the sufferings of the survivors would be alleviated if
all the sheds in which they are living could be painted white or
pearl-grey in order to protect them, as far as possible, from the
burning rays of the sun. I mentioned the idea to an overseer.

"We are painting as fast as we can," he replied. "An expensive matter,
however. The Villagio Elena alone has cost us, in this respect, twenty
thousand francs--with the greatest economy."

This will give some notion of the scale on which things have to be done.
The settlement in question contains some two hundred sheds--two hundred
out of over ten thousand.

But I was alluding not to these groups of hygienic bungalows erected by
public munificence and supplied with schools, laboratories, orphanages,
hospitals, and all that can make life endurable, but to the
others--those which the refugees built for themselves--ill-contrived
hovels, patched together with ropes, potato-sacks, petroleum cans and
miscellaneous odds and ends. A coat of whitewash, at least, inside and
out. ... I was thinking, too, of those still stranger dwellings, the
disused railway trucks which the government has placed at the disposal
of homeless families. At many Stations along the line may be seen
strings of these picturesque wigwams crowded with poor folk who have
installed themselves within, apparently for ever. They are cultivating
their favourite flowers and herbs in gaudy rows along the wooden
platforms of the carriages; the little children, all dressed in black,
play about in the shade underneath. The people will suffer in these
narrow tenements under the fierce southern sun, after their cool
courtyards and high-vaulted chambers! There will be diseases, too;
typhoids from the disturbed drainage and insufficient water-supply; eye
troubles, caused by the swarms of flies and tons of accumulated dust.
The ruins are also overrun with hordes of mangy cats and dogs which
ought to be exterminated without delay.

If, as seems likely, those rudely improvised sheds are to be inhabited
indefinitely, we may look forward to an interesting phenomenon, a
reversion to a corresponding type of man. The lack of the most ordinary
appliances of civilization, such as linen, washing-basins and cooking
utensils, will reduce them to the condition of savages who view these
things with indifference or simple curiosity; they will forget that they
ever had any use for them. And life in these huts where human beings are
herded together after the manner of beasts--one might almost say _fitted
in,_ like the fragments of a mosaic pavement--cannot but be harmful to
the development of growing children.

The Calabrians, I was told, distinguished themselves by unearthly
ferocity; Reggio was given over to a legion of fiends that descended
from the heights during the week of confusion. "They tore the rings and
brooches off the dead," said a young officiai to me. "They strangled the
wounded and dying, in order to despoil them more comfortably. Here, and
at Messina, the mutilated corpses were past computation; but the
Calabrians were the worst."

Vampires, offspring of Night and Chaos.

So Dolomieu, speaking of the _depravation incroyable des moeurs_ which
accompanied the earthquake of 1783, recounts the case of a householder
of Polistena who was pinned down under some masonry, his legs emerging
out of the ruins; his servant came and took the silver buckles off his
shoes and then fled, without attempting to free him. We have seen
something of this kind more recently at San Francisco.

"After despoiling the corpses, they ransacked the dwellings. Five
thousand beds, sir, were carried up from Reggio into the mountains."

"Five thousand beds! _Per Dìo!_ It seems a considerable number."

A young fellow, one of the survivors, attached himself to me in the
capacity of guide through the ruins of Reggio. He wore the
characteristic earthquake look, a dazed and bewildered expression of
countenance; he spoke in a singularly deliberate manner. Knowing the
country, I was soon bending my steps in the direction of the cemetery,
chiefly for the sake of the exquisite view from those windswept heights,
and to breathe more freely after the dust and desolation of the lower
parts. This burial-ground is in the same state as that of Messina, once
the pride of its citizens; the insane frolic of nature has not respected
the slumber of the dead or their commemorative shrines; it has made a
mockery of the place, twisting the solemn monuments into repulsive and
irreverential shapes.

But who can recount the freaks of stone and iron during those
moments--the hair-breadth escapes? My companion's case was miraculous
enough. Awakened from sleep with the first shock, he saw, by the dim
light of the lamp which burns in all their bedrooms, the wall at his
bedside weirdly gaping asunder. He darted to reach the opening, but it
closed again and caught his arm in a stony grip. Hours seemed to
pass--the pain was past enduring; then the kindly cleft yawned once
more, allowing him to jump into the garden below. Simultaneously he
heard a crash as the inner rooms of the house fell; then climbed aloft,
and for four days wandered among the bleak, wet hills. Thousands were in
the same plight.

I asked what he found to eat.

"_Erba, Signore._ We all did. You could not touch property; a single
orange, and they would have killed you."

Grass!

He bore a name renowned in the past, but his home being turned into a
dust-heap under which his money, papers and furniture, his two parents
and brothers, are still lying, he now gains a livelihood by carrying
vegetables and fruit from the harbour to the collection of sheds
honoured by the name of market. Later in the day we happened to walk
past the very mansion, which lies near the quay. "Here is my house and
my family," he remarked, indicating, with a gesture of antique
resignation, a pile of wreckage.

Hard by, among the ruins, there sat a young woman with dishevelled hair,
singing rapturously. "Her husband was crushed to death," he said, "and
it unhinged her wits. Strange, is it not, sir? They used to fight like
fiends, and now--she sings to him night and day to come back."

Love--so the Greeks fabled--was the child of Chaos.

In this part of the town stands the civic museum, which all readers of
Gissing's "Ionian Sea" will remember as the closing note of those
harmonious pages. It is shattered, like everything else that he visited
in Reggio; like the hotel where he lodged; like the cathedral whose
proud superscription _Circumlegentes devenimus Rhegium_ impressed him so
deeply; like that "singular bit of advanced civilization, which gave me
an odd sense of having strayed into the world of those romancers who
forecast the future--a public slaughter-house of tasteful architecture,
set in a grove of lemon trees and palms, suggesting the dreamy ideal of
some reformer whose palate shrinks from vegetarianism." We went the
round of all these places, not forgetting the house which bears the
tablet commemorating the death of a young soldier who fell fighting
against the Bourbons. From its contorted iron balcony there hangs a rope
by which the inmates may have tried to let themselves down.

A friend of mine, Baron C---- of Stilo, is a member of that same
patriotic family, and gave me the following strange account. He was
absent from Reggio at the time of the catastrophe, but three others of
them were staying there. On the first shock they rushed together,
panic-stricken, into one room; the floor gave way, and they suddenly
found themselves sitting in their motor-car which happened to be placed
exactly below them. They escaped with a few cuts and bruises.

An inscription on a neighbouring ruin runs to the effect that the
_mansion having been severely damaged in the earthquake of_ 1783, _its
owner had rebuilt it on lines calculated to defy future shattering!_
Whether he would rebuild it yet again?

Nevertheless, there seems to be some chance for the revival of Reggio;
its prognosis is not utterly hopeless.

But Messina is in desperate case.

That haughty sea-front, with its long line of imposing edifices--imagine
a painted theatre decoration of cardboard through which some sportive
behemoth has been jumping with frantic glee; there you have it. And
within, all is desolation; the wreckage reaches to the windows; you must
clamber over it as best you can. What an all-absorbing post-tertiary
deposit for future generations, for the crafty antiquarian who deciphers
the history of mankind out of kitchen-middens and deformed heaps of
forgotten trash! The whole social life of the citizens, their arts,
domestic economy, and pastimes, lies embedded in that rubbish. "A
musical race," he will conclude, observing the number of decayed
pianofortes, guitars, and mandolines. The climate of Messina, he will
further arene, must have been a wet one, inasmuch as there are umbrellas
everywhere, standing upright among the debris, leaning all forlorn
against the ruins, or peering dismally from under them. It rained much
during those awful days, and umbrellas were at a premium. Yet fifty of
them would not have purchased a loaf of bread.

It was Goethe who, speaking of Pompeii, said that of the many
catastrophes which have afflicted mankind few have given greater
pleasure to posterity. The same will never be said of Messina, whose
relics, for the most part, are squalid and mean. The German poet, by the
way, visited this town shortly after the disaster of 1783, and describes
its _zackige Ruinenwueste_--words whose very sound is suggestive of
shatterings and dislocations. Nevertheless, the place revived again.

But what was 1783?

A mere rehearsal, an amateur performance.

Wandering about in this world of ghosts, I passed the old restaurant
where the sword-fish had once tasted so good--an accumulation of stones
and mortar--and reached the cathedral. It is laid low, all save the
Gargantuan mosaic figures that stare down from behind the altar in
futile benediction of Chaos; inane, terrific. This, then, is the house
of that feudal lady of the _fortiter in re,_ who sent an earthquake and
called it love. Womanlike, she doted on gold and precious stones, and
they recovered her fabulous hoard, together with a copy of a Latin
letter she sent to the Christians of Messina by the hand of Saint Paul.

And not long afterwards--how came it to pass?--my steps were guided amid
that wilderness towards a narrow street containing the ruins of a
_palazzo_ that bore, on a tablet over the ample doorway, an inscription
which arrested my attention. It was an historical title familiar to me;
and forthwith a train of memories, slumbering in the caverns of my mind,
was ignited. Yes; there was no doubt about it: the old "proprietor" and
his nephews, he of the municipal gardens. . . .

I wondered how they had met their fate, on the chill wintry morning. For
assuredly, in that restricted space, not a soul can have escaped alive;
the wreckage, hitherto undisturbed, still covered their remains.

And, remembering the old man and his humane converse that evening under
the trees, the true meaning of the catastrophe began to disentangle
itself from accidental and superficial aspects. For I confess that the
massacre of a myriad Chinamen leaves me cool and self-possessed; between
such creatures and ourselves there is hardly more than the frail bond of
a common descent from the ape; they are altogether too remote for our
narrow world-sympathies. I would as soon shed tears over the lost
Pleiad. But these others are our spiritual cousins; we have deep roots
in this warm soil of Italy, which brought forth a goodly tithe of what
is best in our own lives, in our arts and aspirations.

And I thought of the two nephews, their decent limbs all distorted and
mangled under a heap of foul rubbish, waiting for a brutal disinterment
and a nameless grave. This is no legitimate death, this murderous
violation of life. How inconceivably hateful is such a leave-taking, and
all that follows after! To picture a fair young body, that divine
instrument of joy, crushed into an unsightly heap; once loved, now
loathed of all men, and thrust at last, with abhorrence, into some
common festering pit of abominations. . . . The Northern type--a mighty
bond, again; a tie of blood, this time, between our race and those
rulers of the South, whose exploits in this land of orange and myrtle
surpassed the dreamings of romance.

Strange to reflect that, without the ephemeral friendship of that
evening, Messina of to-day might have represented to my mind a mere
spectacle, the hecatomb of its inhabitants extorting little more than a
conventional sigh. So it is. The human heart has been constructed on
somewhat ungenerous lines. Moralists, if any still exist on earth, may
generalize with eloquence from the masses, but our poets have long ago
succumbed to the pathos of single happenings; the very angels of Heaven,
they say, take more joy in one sinner that repenteth than in a hundred
righteous, which, duly apprehended, is only an application of the same
illiberal principle.

A rope of bed-sheets knotted together dangled from one of the upper
windows, its end swaying in mid-air at the height of the second floor.
Many of them do, at Messina: a desperate expedient of escape. Some pots
of geranium and cactus, sadly flowering, adorned the other windows,
whose glass panes were unbroken. But for the ominous sunlight pouring
through them from _within,_ the building looked fairly intact on this
outer side. Its ponderous gateway, however, through which I had hoped to
enter, was choked up by internal debris, and I was obliged to climb,
with some little trouble, to the rear of the house.

If a titanic blade had sheared through the _palazzo_ lengthwise, the
thing could not have been done more neatly. The whole interior had gone
down, save a portion of the rooms abutting on the street-front; these
were literally cut in half, so as to display an ideal section of
domestic architecture. The house with its inmates and all it contained
was lying among the high-piled wreckage within, under my feet; masonry
mostly--entire fragments of wall interspersed with crumbling mortar and
convulsed iron girders that writhed over the surface or plunged sullenly
into the depths; fetid rents and gullies in between, their flanks
affording glimpses of broken vases, candelabras, hats, bottles,
birdcages, writing-books, brass pipes, sofas, picture-frames,
tablecloths, and all the paltry paraphernalia of everyday life. No
attempt at stratification, horizontal, vertical, or inclined; it was as
if the objects had been thrown up by some playful volcano and allowed to
settle where they pleased. Two immense chiselled blocks of stone--one
lying prone at the bottom of a miniature ravine, the other proudly
erect, like a Druidical monument, in the upper regions--reminded me of
the existence of a staircase, a _diabolical_ staircase.

Looking upwards, I endeavoured to reconstruct the habits of the inmates,
but found it impossible, the section that remained being too shallow.
Sky-blue seems to have been their favourite colour. The kitchen was
easily discernible, the hearth with its store of charcoal underneath,
copper vessels hanging in a neat row overhead, and an open cupboard full
of household goods; a neighbouring room (the communicating doors were
all gone), with lace window-curtains, a table, lamp, and book, and a
bedstead toppling over the abyss; another one, carpeted and hung with
pictures and a large faded mirror, below which ran a row of shelves that
groaned under a multitudinous collection of phials and bottles.

The old man's embrocations. . . .



XXX

THE SKIRTS OF MONTALTO


After such sights of suffering humanity--back to the fields and
mountains! Aspromonte, the wild region behind Reggio, was famous, not
long ago, for Garibaldi's battle. But the exploits of this warrior have
lately been eclipsed by those of the brigand Musolino, who infested the
country up to a few years ago, defying the soldiery and police of all
Italy. He would still be safe and unharmed had he remained in these
fastnesses. But he wandered away, wishful to leave Italy for good and
all, and was captured far from his home by some policemen who were
looking for another man, and who nearly fainted when he pronounced his
name. After a sensational trial, they sentenced him to thirty odd years'
imprisonment; he is now languishing in the fortress of Porto Longone on
Elba. Whoever has looked into this Spanish citadel will not envy him. Of
the lovely little bay, of the loadstone mountain, of the romantic
pathway to the hermitage of Monserrato or the glittering beach at
Rio--of all the charms of Porto Longone he knows nothing, despite a
lengthy residence on the spot.

They say he has grown consumptive and witless during the long solitary
confinement which preceded his present punishment--an eternal night in a
narrow cell. No wonder. I have seen the condemned on their release from
these boxes of masonry at the island of Santo Stefano: dazed shadows,
tottering, with complexions the colour of parchment. These are the
survivors. But no one asks after the many who die in these dungeons
frenzied, or from battering their heads against the wall; no one knows
their number save the doctor and the governor, whose lips are sealed. . . .

I decided upon a rear attack of Aspromonte. I would go by rail as far as
Bagnara on the Tyrrhenian, the station beyond Scylla of old renown; and
thence afoot via Sant' Eufemia  [Footnote: Not to be confounded with the
railway station on the gulf of that name, near Maida.] to Sinopoli,
pushing on, if day permitted, as far as Delianuova, at the foot of
the mountain. Early next morning I would climb the summit and descend to
the shores of the Ionian, to Bova. It seemed a reasonable programme.

All this Tyrrhenian coast-line is badly shattered; far more so than the
southern shore. But the scenery is finer. There is nothing on that side
to compare with the views from Nicastro, or Monte-leone, or Sant' Elia
near Palmi. It is also more smiling, more fertile, and far less
malarious. Not that cultivation of the land implies absence of
malaria--nothing is a commoner mistake! The Ionian shore is not
malarious because it is desert--it is desert because malarious. The
richest tracts in Greece are known to be very dangerous, and it is the
same in Italy. Malaria and intensive agriculture go uncommonly well
together. The miserable anopheles-mosquito loves the wells that are sunk
for the watering of the immense orange and lemon plantations in the
Reggio district; it displays a perverse predilection for the minute
puddles left by the artificial irrigation of the fields that are covered
with fruit and vegetables. This artificial watering, in fact, seems to
be partly responsible for the spread of the disease. It is doubtful
whether the custom goes back into remote antiquity, for the climate used
to be moister and could dispense with these practices. Certain products,
once grown in Calabria, no longer thrive there, on account of the
increased dryness and lack of rainfall.

But there are some deadly regions, even along this Tyrrhenian shore.
Such is the plain of Maida, for instance, where stood not long ago the
forest of Sant' Eufemia, safe retreat of Parafante and other brigand
heroes. The level lands of Rosarno and Gioia are equally ill-reputed. A
French battalion stationed here in the summer of 1807 lost over sixty
men in fourteen days, besides leaving two hundred invalids in the
hospital at Monteleone. Gioia is so malarious that in summer every one
of the inhabitants who can afford the price of a ticket goes by the
evening train to Palmato sleep there. You will do well, by the way, to
see something of the oil industry of Palmi, if time permits. In good
years, 200,000 quintals of olive oil are manufactured in the regions of
which it is the commercial centre. Not long ago, before modern methods
of refining were introduced, most of this oil was exported to Russia, to
be burned in holy lamps; nowadays it goes for the most part to Lucca, to
be adulterated for foreign markets (the celebrated Lucca oil, which the
simple Englishman regards as pure); only the finest quality is sent
elsewhere, to Nice. From Gioia there runs a postal diligence once a day
to Delianuova of which I might have availed myself, had I not preferred
to traverse the country on foot.

The journey from Reggio to Bagnara on this fair summer morning, along
the rippling Mediterranean, was short enough, but sufficiently long to
let me overhear the following conversation:

A.--What a lovely sea! It is good, after all, to take three or four
baths a year. What think you?

B.--I? No. For thirteen years I have taken no baths. But they are
considered good for children.

The calamities that Bagnara has suffered in the past have been so
numerous, so fierce and so varied that, properly speaking, the town has
no right to exist any longer. It has enjoyed more than its full share of
earthquakes, having been shaken to the ground over and over again. Sir
William Hamilton reports that 3017 persons were killed in that of 1783.
The horrors of war, too, have not spared it, and a certain modern
exploit of the British arms here strikes me as so instructive that I
would gladly extract it from Grant's "Adventures of an Aide-de-Camp,"
were it not too long to transcribe, and far too good to abbreviate.

A characteristic story, further, is told of the methods of General
Manhes at Bagnara. It may well be an exaggeration when they say that the
entire road from Reggio to Naples was lined with the heads of
decapitated brigands; be that as it may, it stands to reason that
Bagnara, as befits an important place, was to be provided with an
appropriate display of these trophies. The heads were exhibited in
baskets, with strict injunctions to the authorities that they were not
to be touched, seeing that they served not only for decorative but also
moral purposes--as examples. Imagine, therefore, the General's feelings
on being told that one of these heads had been stolen; stolen, probably,
by some pious relative of the deceased rascal, who wished to give the
relic a decent Christian burial.

"That's rather awkward," he said, quietly musing. "But of course the
specimen must be replaced. Let me see. . . . Suppose we put the head of
the mayor of Bagnara into the vacant basket? Shall we? Yes, we'll have
the mayor. It will make him more careful in future." And within half an
hour the basket was filled once more.

There was a little hitch in starting from Bagnara. From the windings of
the carriage-road as portrayed by the map, I guessed that there must be
a number of short cuts into the uplands at the back of the town,
undiscoverable to myself, which would greatly shorten the journey.
Besides, there was my small bag to be carried. A porter familiar with
the tracks was plainly required, and soon enough I found a number of
lusty youths leaning against a wall and doing nothing in particular.
Yes, they would accompany me, they said, the whole lot of them, just for
the fun of the thing.

"And my bag?" I asked.

"A bag to be carried? Then we must get a woman."

They unearthed a nondescript female who undertook to bear the burden as
far as Sinopoli for a reasonable consideration. So far good. But as we
proceeded, the boys began to drop off, till only a single one was left.
And then the woman suddenly vanished down a side street, declaring that
she must change her clothes. We waited for three-quarters of an hour, in
the glaring dust of the turnpike; she never emerged again, and the
remaining boy stoutly refused to handle her load.

"No," he declared. "She must carry the bag. And I will keep you company."

The precious morning hours were wearing away, and here we stood idly by
the side of the road. It never struck me that the time might have been
profitably employed in paying a flying visit to one of the most sacred
objects in Calabria and possibly in the whole world, one which Signor N.
Marcene describes as reposing at Bagnara in a rich reliquary--the
authentic Hat of the Mother of God. A lady tourist would not have missed
this chance of studying the fashions of those days.  [Footnote: See next
chapter.]

Finally, in desperation, I snatched up the wretched luggage and poured
my griefs with unwonted eloquence into the ears of a man driving a
bullock-cart down the road. So much was he moved, that he peremptorily
ordered his son to conduct me then and there to Sinopoli, to carry the
bag, and claim one franc by way of payment. The little man tumbled off
the cart, rather reluctantly.

"Away with you!" cried the stern parent, and we began the long march,
climbing uphill in the blazing sunshine; winding, later on, through
shady chestnut woods and across broad tracts of cultivated land. It was
plain that the task was beyond his powers, and when we had reached a
spot where the strange-looking new village of Sant' Eufemia was
visible--it is built entirely of wooden shelters; the stone town was
greatly shaken in the late earthquake--he was obliged to halt, and
thenceforward stumbled slowly into the place. There he deposited the bag
on the ground, and faced me squarely.

"No more of this!" he said, concentrating every ounce of his virility
into a look of uncompromising defiance.

"Then I shall not pay you a single farthing, my son. And, moreover, I
will tell your father. You know what he commanded: to Sinopoli. This is
only Sant' Eufemia. Unless----"

"You will tell my father? Unless----?"

"Unless you discover some one who will carry the bag not only to
Sinopoli, but as far as Delianuova." I was not in the mood for repeating
the experiences of the morning.

"It is difficult. But we will try."

He went in search, and returned anon with a slender lad of unusual
comeliness--an earthquake orphan. "This big one," he explained, "walks
wherever you please and carries whatever you give him. And you will pay
him nothing at all, unless he deserves it. Such is the arrangement. Are
you content?"

"You have acted like a man."

The earthquake survivor set off at a swinging pace, and we soon reached
Sinopoli--new Sinopoli; the older settlement lies at a considerable
distance. Midday was past, and the long main street of the town--a
former fief of the terrible Ruffo family--stood deserted in the
trembling heat. None the less there was sufficient liveliness within the
houses; the whole place seemed in a state of jollification. It was
Sunday, the orphan explained; the country was duller than usual,
however, because of the high price of wine. There had been no murders to
speak of--no, not for a long time past. But the vintage of this year, he
added, promises well, and life will soon become normal again.

The mule track from here to Delianuova traverses some pretty scenery,
both wild and pastoral. But the personal graces of my companion made me
take small heed of the landscape. He was aglow with animal spirits, and
his conversation naively brilliant and of uncommon import. Understanding
at a glance that he belonged to a type which is rather rare in Calabria,
that he was a classic (of a kind), I made every effort to be pleasant to
him; and I must have succeeded, for he was soon relating anecdotes which
would have been neither instructive, nor even intelligible, to the
_jeune fille;_ all this, with angelic serenity of conscience.

This radiantly-vicious child was the embodiment of the joy of life, the
perfect immoralist. There was no cynicism in his nature, no cruelty, no
obliquity, no remorse; nothing but sunshine with a few clouds sailing
across the fathomless blue spaces--the sky of Hellas. _Nihil humani
alienum;_ and as I listened to those glad tales, I marvelled at the
many-tinted experiences that could be crammed into seventeen short
years; what a document the ad-verttures of such a frolicsome demon would
be, what a feast for the initiated, could some one be induced to make
them known! But such things are hopelessly out of the question. And that
is why so many of our wise people go into their graves without ever
learning what happens in this world.

Among minor matters, he mentioned that he had already been three times
to prison for "certain little affairs of blood," while defending
"certain friends." Was it not dull, I asked, in prison? "The time passes
pleasantly anywhere," he answered, "when you are young. I always make
friends, even in prison." I could well believe it. His affinities were
with the blithe crew of the Liber Stratonis. He had a roving eye and the
mouth of Antinous; and his morals were those of a condescending tiger-cub.

Arriving at Delianuova after sunset, he conceived the project of
accompanying me next morning up Montalto. I hesitated. In the first
place, I was going not only up that mountain, but to Bova on the distant
Ionian littoral----

"For my part," he broke in, "_ho pigliato confidenza._ If you mistrust
me, here! take my knife," an ugly blade, pointed, and two inches in
excess of the police regulation length. This act of quasi-filial
submission touched me; but it was not his knife I feared so much as that
of "certain friends." Some little difference of opinion might arise,
some question of money or other argument, and lo! the friends would be
at hand (they always are), and one more stranger might disappear among
the clefts and gullies of Montalto. Aspromonte, the roughest corner of
Italy, is no place for misunderstandings; the knife decides promptly who
is right or wrong, and only two weeks ago I was warned not to cross the
district without a carbineer on either side of me.

But to have clothed my thoughts in words during his gracious mood would
have been supremely unethical. I contented myself with the trite but
pregnant remark that things sometimes looked different in the morning,
which provoked a pagan fit of laughter; farewelled him "with the
Madonna!" and watched as he withdrew under the trees, lithe and buoyant,
like a flame that is swallowed up in the night.

Only then did the real business begin. I should be sorry to say into how
many houses and wine-shops the obliging owner of the local inn conducted
me, in search of a guide. We traversed all the lanes of this straggling
and fairly prosperous place, and even those of its suburb Paracorio,
evidently of Byzantine origin; the answer was everywhere the same: To
Montalto, yes; to Bova, no! Night drew on apace and, as a last resource,
he led the way to the dwelling of a gentleman of the old school--a
retired brigand, to wit, who, as I afterwards learned, had some ten or
twelve homicides to his account. Delianuova, and indeed the whole of
Aspromonte, has a bad reputation for crime.

It was our last remaining chance.

We found the patriarch sitting in a simple but tidy chamber, smoking his
pipe and playing with a baby; his daughter-in-law rose as we entered,
and discreetly moved into an adjoining room. The cheery cut-throat put
the baby down to crawl on the floor, and his eyes sparkled when he heard
of Bova.

"Ah, one speaks of Bova!" he said. "A fine walk over the mountain!" He
much regretted that he was too old for the trip, but so-and-so, he
thought, might know something of the country. It pained him, too, that
he could not offer me a glass of wine. There was none in the house. In
his day, he added, it was not thought right to drink in the modern
fashion; this wine-bibbing was responsible for considerable mischief; it
troubled the brain, driving men to do things they afterwards repented.
He drank only milk, having become accustomed to it during a long life
among the hills. Milk cools the blood, he said, and steadies the hand,
and keeps a man's judgment undisturbed.

The person he had named was found after some further search. He was a
bronzed, clean-shaven type of about fifty, who began by refusing his
services point-blank, but soon relented, on hearing the ex-brigand's
recommendation of his qualities.



XXXI

SOUTHERN SAINTLINESS


Southern saints, like their worshippers, put on new faces and vestments
in the course of ages. Old ones die away; new ones take their place.
Several hundred of the older class of saint have clean faded from the
popular memory, and are now so forgotten that the wisest priest can tell
you nothing about them save, perhaps, that "he's in the
church"--meaning, that some fragment of his holy anatomy survives as a
relic amid a collection of similar antiques. But you can find their
histories in early literature, and their names linger on old maps where
they are given to promontories and other natural features which are
gradually being re-christened.

Such saints were chiefly non-Italian: Byzantines or Africans who, by
miraculous intervention, protected the village or district of which they
were patrons from the manifold scourges of medi-aevalism; they took the
place of the classic tutelar deities. They were men; they could fight;
and in those troublous times that is exactly what saints were made for.

With the softening of manners a new element appears. Male saints lost
their chief _raison d'etre,_ and these virile creatures were superseded
by pacific women. So, to give only one instance, Saint Rosalia in
Palermo displaced the former protector Saint Mark. Her sacred bones were
miraculously discovered in a cave; and have since been identified as
those of a goat. But it was not till the twelfth century that the cult
of female saints began to assume imposing dimensions.

Of the Madonna no mention occurs in the songs of Bishop Paulinus (fourth
century); no monument exists in the Neapolitan catacombs. Thereafter her
cult begins to dominate.

She supplied the natives with what orthodox Christianity did not give
them, but what they had possessed from early times--a female element in
religion. Those Greek settlers had their nymphs, their Venus, and so
forth; the Mother of God absorbed and continued their functions. There
is indeed only one of these female pagan divinities whose role she has
not endeavoured to usurp--Athene. Herein she reflects the minds of her
creators, the priests and common people, whose ideal woman contents
herself with the duties of motherhood. I doubt whether an
Athene-Madonna, an intellectual goddess, could ever have been evolved;
their attitude towards gods in general is too childlike and positive.

South Italians, famous for abstractions in philosophy, cannot endure
them in religion. Unlike ourselves, they do not desire to learn anything
from their deities or to argue about them. They only wish to love and be
loved in return, reserving to themselves the right to punish them, when
they deserve it. Countless cases are on record where (pictures or
statues of) Madonnas and saints have been thrown into a ditch for not
doing what they were told, or for not keeping their share of a bargain.
During the Vesuvius eruption of 1906 a good number were subjected to
this "punishment," because they neglected to protect their worshippers
from the calamity according to contract (so many candles and festivals =
so much protection).

For the same reason the adult Jesus--the teacher, the God--is
practically unknown. He is too remote from themselves and the ordinary
activities of their daily lives; he is not married, like his mother; he
has no trade, like his father (Mark calls him a carpenter); moreover,
the maxims of the Sermon on the Mount are so repugnant to the South
Italian as to be almost incomprehensible. In effigy, this period of
Christ's life is portrayed most frequently in the primitive monuments of
the catacombs, erected when tradition was purer.

Three tangibly-human aspects of Christ's life figure here: the
_bambino-cult,_ which not only appeals to the people's love of babyhood
but also carries on the old traditions of the Lar Familiaris and of
Horus; next, the youthful Jesus, beloved of local female mystics; and
lastly the Crucified--that grim and gloomy image of suffering which was
imported, or at least furiously fostered, by the Spaniards.

The engulfing of the saints by the Mother of God is due also to
political reasons. The Vatican, once centralized in its policy, began to
be disquieted by the persistent survival of Byzantinism (Greek cults and
language lingered up to the twelfth century); with the Tacitean _odium
fratrum_ she exercised more severity towards the sister-faith than
towards actual paganism.  [Footnote: Greek and Egyptian anchorites were
established in south Italy by the fourth century. But paganism was still
flourishing, locally, in the sixth. There is some evidence that
Christians used to take part in pagan festivals.]

The Madonna was a fit instrument for sweeping away the particularist
tendencies of the past; she attacked relic-worship and other outworn
superstitions; like a benignant whirlwind she careered over the land,
and these now enigmatical shapes and customs fell faster than leaves of
Vallombrosa.  No sanctuary or cave so remote that she did not endeavour
to expel its male saint--its old presiding genius, whether Byzantine or
Roman. But saints have tough lives, and do not yield without a struggle;
they fought for their time-honoured privileges like the "daemons" they
were, and sometimes came off victorious. Those sanctuaries that proved
too strong to be taken by storm were sapped by an artful and determined
siege. The combat goes on to this day. This is what is happening to the
thrice-deposed and still triumphant Saint Januarius, who is hard pressed
by sheer force of numbers. Like those phagocytes which congregate from
all sides to assail some weakened cell in the body physical, even so
Madonna-cults--in frenzied competition with each other--cluster thickest
round some imperilled venerable of ancient lineage, bent on his
destruction. The Madonna dell' Arco, del Soccorso, and at least fifty
others (not forgetting the newly-invented Madonna di Pompei)--they have
all established themselves in the particular domain of St. Januarius;
they are all undermining his reputation, and claiming to possess his
special gifts.  [Footnote: He is known to have quelled an outbreak of
Vesuvius in the fifth century, though his earliest church, I believe,
only dates from the ninth. His blood, famous for liquefaction, is not
mentioned till 1337.]

Early monastic movements of the Roman Church also played their part in
obliterating old religious landmarks. Settling down in some remote place
with the Madonna as their leader or as their "second Mother," these
companies of holy men soon acquired such temporal and spiritual
influence as enabled them successfully to oppose their divinity to the
local saint, whose once bright glories began to pale before her
effulgence. Their labours in favour of the Mother of God were part of
that work of consolidating Papal power which was afterwards carried on
by the Jesuits.

Perhaps what chiefly accounts for the spread of Madonna-worship is the
human craving for novelty. You can invent most easily where no fixed
legends are established. Now the saints have fixed legendary attributes
and histories, and as culture advances it becomes increasingly difficult
to manufacture new saints with fresh and original characters and yet
passable pedigrees (the experiment is tried, now and again); while the
old saints have been exploited and are now inefficient--worn out, like
old toys. Madonna, on the other hand, can subdivide with the ease of an
amoeba, and yet never lose her identity or credibility; moreover, thanks
to her divine character, anything can be accredited to her--anything
good, however wonderful; lastly, the traditions concerning her are so
conveniently vague that they actually foster the mythopoetic faculty.
Hence her success. Again: the man-saints were separatists; they fought
for their own towns against African intruders, and in those frequent and
bloody inter-communal battles which are a feature of Italian
medievalism.  Nowadays it is hardly proper that neighbouring townsmen,
aided and abetted by their respective saints, should sally forth to cut
each others' throats. The Madonna, as cosmopolitan Nike, is a fitter
patroness for settled society.

She also found a ready welcome in consequence of the pastoral
institutions of the country in which the mother plays such a conspicuous
role. So deeply are they ingrained here that if the Mother of God had
not existed, the group would have been deemed incomplete; a family
without a mother is to them like a tree without roots--a thing which
cannot be. This accounts for the fact that their Trinity is not ours; it
consists of the Mother, the Father (Saint Joseph), and the Child--with
Saint Anne looming in the background (the grandmother is an important
personage in the patriarchal family). The Creator of all things and the
Holy Ghost have evaporated; they are too intangible and non-human.

But She never became a true cosmopolitan Nike, save in literature. The
decentralizing spirit of South Italy was too strong for her. She had to
conform to the old custom of geographical specialization. In all save in
name she doffed her essential character of Mother of God, and became a
local demi-god; an accessible wonder-worker attached to some particular
district. An inhabitant of village A would stand a poor chance of his
prayers being heard by the Madonna of village B; if you have a headache,
it is no use applying to the _Madonna of the Hens,_ who deals with
diseases of women; you will find yourself in a pretty fix if you expect
financial assistance from the Madonna of village C: she is a
weather-specialist. In short, these hundreds of Madonnas have taken up
the qualities of the saints they supplanted.

They can often outdo them; and this is yet another reason for their
success. It is a well-ascertained fact, for example, that many holy men
have been nourished by the Milk of the Mother of God, "not," as a
Catholic writer says, "in a mystic or spiritual sense, but with their
actual lips"; Saint Bernard "among a hundred, a thousand, others." Nor
is this all, for in the year 1690, a painted image of the Madonna, not
far from the city of Carinola, was observed to "diffuse abundant milk"
for the edification of a great concourse of spectators--a miracle which
was recognized as such by the bishop of that diocese, Monsignor Paolo
Ayrola, who wrote a report on the subject. Some more of this authentic
milk is kept in a bottle in the convent of Mater Domini on Vesuvius, and
the chronicle of that establishment, printed in 1834, says:

"Since Mary is the Mother and Co-redeemer of the Church, may she not
have left some drops of her precious milk as a gift to this Church, even
as we still possess some of the blood of Christ? In various churches
there exists some of this milk, by means of which many graces and
benefits are obtained. We find such relics, for example, in the church
of Saint Luigi in Naples, namely, two bottles full of the milk of the
Blessed Virgin; and this milk becomes fluid on feast-days of the
Madonna, as everybody can see. Also in this convent of Mater Domini the
milk sometimes liquefies." During eruptions of Vesuvius this bottle is
carried abroad in procession, and always dispels the danger. Saint
Januarius must indeed look to his laurels! Meanwhile it is interesting
to observe that the Mother of God has condescended to employ the method
of holy relics which she once combated so strenuously, her milk
competing with the blood of Saint John, the fat of Saint Laurence, and
those other physiological curios which are still preserved for the
edification of believers.

All of which would pass if a subtle poison had not been creeping in to
taint religious institutions. Taken by themselves, these infantile
observances do not necessarily harm family life, the support of the
state; for a man can believe a considerable deal of nonsense, and yet go
about his daily work in a natural and cheerful manner. But when the body
is despised and tormented the mind loses its equilibrium, and when that
happens nonsense may assume a sinister shape. We have seen it in
England, where, during the ascetic movement of Puritanism, more witches
were burnt than in the whole period before and after.

The virus of asceticism entered South Italy from three principal
sources. From early ages the country had stood in commercial relations
with the valley of the Nile; and even as its black magic is largely
tinged with Egyptian practices, so its magic of the white kind--its
saintly legends--bear the impress of the self-macerations and perverted
life-theories of those desert-lunatics who called themselves Christians.
[Footnote: These ascetics were here before Christianity (see Philo
Judaeus); in fact, there is not a single element in the new faith which
had not been independently developed by the pagans, many of whom, like
Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius, were ripe for the most abject
self-abasement.] But this Orientalism fell at first upon unfruitful
soil; the Vatican was yet wavering, and Hellenic notions of
conduct still survived. It received a further rebuff at the hands of men
like Benedict, who set up sounder ideals of holiness, introducing a
gleam of sanity even in that insanest of institutions--the herding
together of idle men to the glory of God.

But things became more centralized as the Papacy gainedground. The
strong Christian, the independent ruler or warrior or builder saint, was
tolerated only if he conformed to its precepts; and the inauspicious
rise of subservient ascetic orders like the Franciscans and Dominicans,
who quickly invaded the fair regions of the south, gave an evil tone to
their Christianity.

There has always been a contrary tendency at work: the Ionic spirit,
heritage of the past. Monkish ideals of chastity and poverty have never
appealed to the hearts of people, priests or prelates of the south; they
will endure much fondness in their religion, but not those phenomena of
cruelty and pruriency which are inseparably connected with asceticism;
their notions have ever been akin to those of the sage Xenocrates, who
held that "happiness consists not only in the possession of human
virtues, but _in the accomplishment of natural acts."_ Among the latter
they include the acquisition of wealth and the satisfaction of carnal
needs. At this time, too, the old Hellenic curiosity was not wholly
dimmed; they took an intelligent interest in imported creeds like that
of Luther, which, if not convincing, at least satisfied their desire for
novelty. Theirs was exactly the attitude of the Athenians towards Paul's
"New God"; and Protestantism might have spread far in the south, had it
not been ferociously repressed.

But after the brilliant humanistic period of the Aragons there followed
the third and fiercest reaction--that of the Spanish viceroys, whose
misrule struck at every one of the roots of national prosperity. It is
that "seicentismo" which a modern writer (A. Niceforo, "L'Italia
barbara," 1898) has recognized as the blight, the evil genius, of south
Italy. The Ionic spirit did not help the people much at this time. The
greatest of these viceroys, Don Pietro di Toledo, hanged 18,000 of them
in eight years, and then confessed, with a sigh, that "he did not know
what more he could do." What more _could_ he do? As a pious Spaniard he
was incapable of understanding that quarterings and breakings on the
rack were of less avail than the education of the populace in certain
secular notions of good conduct--notions which it was the business of
his Church not to teach. Reading through the legislation of the
viceregal period, one is astonished to find how little was done for the
common people, who lived like the veriest beasts of earth.

Their civil rulers--scholars and gentlemen, most of them--really
believed that the example of half a million illiterate and vicious monks
was all the education they needed. And yet one notes with surprise that
the Government was perpetually at loggerheads with the ecclesiastical
authorities. True; but it is wonderful with what intuitive alacrity they
joined forces when it was a question of repelling their common
antagonist, enlightenment.

From this rank soil there sprang up an exotic efflorescence of holiness.
If south Italy swarmed with sinners, as the experiences of Don Pietro
seemed to show, it also swarmed with saints. And hardly one of them
escaped the influence of the period, the love of futile ornamentation.
Their piety is overloaded with embellishing touches and needless
excrescences of virtue. It was the baroque period of saintliness, as of
architecture.

I have already given some account of one of them, the Flying Monk
(Chapter X), and have perused the biographies of at least fifty others.
One cannot help observing a great uniformity in their lives--a kind of
family resemblance. This parallelism is due to the simple reason that
there is only one right for a thousand wrongs. One may well look in
vain, here, for those many-tinted perversions and aberrations which
disfigure the histories of average mankind. These saints are all
alike--monotonously alike, if one cares to say so--in their chastity and
other official virtues. But a little acquaintance with the subject will
soon show you that, so far as the range of their particular Christianity
allowed of it, there is a praiseworthy and even astonishing diversity
among them. Nearly all of them could fly, more or less; nearly all of
them could cure diseases and cause the clouds to rain; nearly all of
them were illiterate; and every one of them died in the odour of
sanctity--with roseate complexion, sweetly smelling corpse, and flexible
limbs. Yet each one has his particular gifts, his strong point. Joseph
of Copertino specialized in flying; others were conspicuous for their
heroism in sitting in hot baths, devouring ordure, tormenting themselves
with pins, and so forth.

Here, for instance, is a good representative biography--the Life of
Saint Giangiuseppe della Croce (born 1654), reprinted for the occasion
of his solemn sanctification.  [Footnote: "Vita di S. Giangiuseppe della
Croce . . . Scritta dal P. Fr. Diodato dell' Assunta per la
Beatificazione ed ora ristampata dal postulatore della causa P. Fr.
Giuseppe Rostoll in occasione della solenne Santificazione." Roma,
1839.]

He resembled other saints in many points. He never allowed the "vermin
which generated in his bed" to be disturbed; he wore the same clothes
for sixty-four years on end; with women his behaviour was that of an
"animated statue," and during his long life he never looked any one in
the face (even his brother-monks were known to him only by their
voices); he could raise the dead, relieve a duchess of a devil in the
shape of a black dog, change chestnuts into apricots, and bad wine into
good; his flesh was encrusted with sores, the result of his fierce
scarifications; he was always half starved, and when delicate viands
were brought to him, he used to say to his body: "Have you seen them?
Have you smelt them? Then let that suffice for you."

He, too, could fly a little. So once, when he was nowhere to be found,
the monks of the convent at last discovered him in the church, "raised
so high above the ground that his head touched the ceiling." This is not
a bad performance for a mere lad, as he then was. And how useful this
gift became in old age was seen when, being almost incapable of moving
his legs, and with body half paralysed, he was nevertheless enabled to
accompany a procession for the length of two miles on foot, walking, to
the stupefaction of thousands of spectators, at about a cubit's height
above the street, on air; after the fashion of those Hindu gods whose
feet--so the pagans fable--are too pure to touch mortal earth.

His love of poverty, moreover, was so intense that even after his death
a picture of him, which his relatives had tried to attach to the wall in
loving remembrance, repeatedly fell down again, although nailed very
securely; nor did it remain fixed until they realized that its costly
gilt frame was objectionable to the saint in heaven, and accordingly
removed it. No wonder the infant Jesus was pleased to descend from the
breast of Mary and take rest for several hours in the arms of Saint
Giangiuseppe, who, on being disturbed by some priestly visitor,
exclaimed, "O how I have enjoyed holding the Holy Babe in my arms!" This
is an old and favourite motif; it occurs, for example, in the Fioretti
of Saint Francis; there are precedents, in fact, for all these divine
favours.

But his distinguishing feature, his "dominating gift," was that of
prophecy, especially in foretelling the deaths of children, "which he
almost always accompanied with jocular words _(scherzi)_ on his lips."
He would enter a house and genially remark: "O, what an odour of
Paradise "; sooner or later one or more of the children of the family
would perish. To a boy of twelve he said, "Be good, Natale, for the
angels are coming to take you." These playful words seem to have weighed
considerably on the boy's mind and, sure enough, after a few years he
died. But even more charming--_più grazioso,_ the biographer calls
it--was the incident when he once asked a father whether he would give
his son to Saint Pasquale. The fond parent agreed, thinking that the
words referred to the boy's future career in the Church. But the saint
meant something quite different--he meant a career in heaven! And in
less than a month the child died. To a little girl who was crying in the
street he said: "I don't want to hear you any more. Go and sing in
Paradise." And meeting her a short time after, he said, "What, are you
still here?" In a few days she was dead.

The biography gives many instances of this pretty gift which would
hardly have contributed to the saint's popularity in England or any
other country save this, where--although the surviving youngsters are
described as "struck with terror at the mere name of the Servant of
God"--the parents were naturally glad to have one or two angels in the
family, to act as _avvocati_ (pleaders) for those that remained on earth.

And the mention of the legal profession brings me to one really
instructive miracle. It is usually to be observed, after a saint has
been canonized, that heaven, by some further sign or signs, signifies
approval of this solemn act of the Vicar of God; indeed, to judge by
these biographies, such a course is not only customary but, to use a
worldly expression, _de rigueur._ And so it happened after the decree
relative to Saint Giangiuseppe had been pronounced in the Vatican
basilica by His Holiness Pius VI, in the presence of the assembled
cardinals. Innumerable celestial portents (their enumeration fills
eleven pages of the "Life") confirmed and ratified the great event, and
among them this: the notary, who had drawn up both the ordinary and the
apostolic _processi,_ was cured of a grievous apoplexy, survived for
four years, and finally died on the very anniversary of the death of the
saint. Involuntarily one contrasts this heavenly largesse with the
sordid guineas which would have contented an English lawyer. . . .

Or glance into the biography of the Venerable Sister Orsola Benincasa.
She, too, could fly a little and raise men from the dead. She cured
diseases, foretold her own death and that of others, lived for a month
on the sole nourishment of a consecrated wafer; she could speak Latin
and Polish, although she had been taught nothing at all; wrought
miracles after death, and possessed to a heroic degree the virtues of
patience, humility, temperance, justice, etc. etc. So inflamed was she
with divine love, that almost every day thick steam issued out of her
mouth, which was observed to be destructive to articles of clothing; her
heated body, when ice was applied, used to hiss like a red-hot iron
under similar conditions.

As a child, she already cried for other people's sins; she was always
hunting for her own and would gladly, at the end of her long and
blameless career, have exchanged her sins for those of the youthful
Duchess of Aquaro. An interesting phenomenon, by the way, the theory of
sinfulness which crops up at this particular period of history. For our
conception of sin is alien to the Latin mind. There is no "sin" in Italy
(and this is not the least of her many attractions); it is an article
manufactured exclusively for export.  [Footnote: "Vita della Venerabile
Serva di Dio Suor Orsola Benincasa, Scritta da un cherico regolare,"
Rome, 1796. There are, of course, much earlier biographies of all these
saints; concerning Sister Orsola we possess, for instance, the
remarkable pamphlet by Cesare d'Eboli ("Caesaris Aevoli Neapolitan!
Apologia pro Ursula Neapolitana quas ad urbem accessit MDLXXXIII,"
Venice, 1589), which achieves the distinction of never mentioning Orsola
by name: she is only once referred to as "mulier de qua agitur." But I
prefer to quote from the more recent ones because they are
authoritative, in so far as they have been written on the basis of
miracles attested by eye-witnesses and accepted as veracious by the
Vatican tribunal. Sister Orsola, though born in 154.7, was only declared
Venerable by Pontifical decree of 1793. Biographies prior to that date
are therefore ex-parte statements and might conceivably contain errors
of fact. This is out of the question here, as is clearly shown by the
author on p. 178.]

Orsola's speciality, however, were those frequent trance-like conditions
by reason of which, during her lifetime, she was created "Protectress of
the City of Naples." I cannot tell whether she was the first woman-saint
to obtain this honour. Certainly the "Seven Holy Protectors" concerning
whom Paolo Regio writes were all musty old males. . . .

And here is quite another biography, that of Alfonso di Liguori (born
1696), the founder of the Redemptorist order and a canonized saint. He,
too, could fly a little and raise the dead to life; he suffered
devil-temptations, caused the clouds to rain, calmed an eruption of
Vesuvius, multiplied food, and so forth. Such was his bashfulness, that
even as an aged bishop he refused to be unrobed by his attendants; such
his instinct for moral cleanliness that once, when a messenger had
alighted at his convent accompanied by a soldier, he instantly detected,
under the military disguise, the lineaments of a young woman-friend.
Despite these divine gifts, he always needed a confessor. An enormous
batch of miracles accompanied his sanctification.

But he only employed these divine graces by the way; he was by
profession not a _taumaturgo,_ but a clerical instructor, organizer,
and writer. The Vatican has conferred on him the rare title of "Doctor
Ecclesia," which he shares with Saint Augustine and some others.

The biography from which I have drawn these details was printed in Rome
in 1839. It is valuable because it is modern and so far authentic; and
for two other reasons. In the first place, curiously enough, it barely
mentions the saint's life-work--his writings.  Secondly, it is a good
example of what I call the pious palimpsest. It is over-scored with
contradictory matter. The author, for example, while accidentally
informing us that Alfonso kept a carriage, imputes to him a degrading,
Oriental love of dirt and tattered garments, in order (I presume) to
make his character conform to the grosser ideals of the mendicant
friars. I do not believe in these traits--in his hatred of soap and
clean apparel. From his works I deduce a different original. He was
refined and urbane; of a casuistical and prying disposition; like many
sensitive men, unduly preoccupied with the sexual life of youth; like a
true feudal aristocrat, ever ready to apply force where verbal
admonition proved unavailing. . . .

In wonder-working capacities these saints were all put in the shade by
the Calabrian Francesco di Paola, who raised fifteen persons from the
dead in his boyhood. He used to perform a hundred miracles a day, and
"it was a miracle, when a day passed without a miracle." The index alone
of any one of his numerous biographies is enough to make one's head swim.

The vast majority of saints of this period do not belong to that third
sex after which, according to some, the human race has ever striven--the
constructive and purposeful third sex. They are wholly sexless, unsocial
and futile beings, the negation of every masculine or feminine virtue.
Their independence fettered by the iron rules of the Vatican and of
their particular order, these creatures had _nothing to do;_ and like
the rest of us under such conditions, became vacuously introspective.
Those honourable saintly combats of the past with external enemies and
plagues and stormy seasons were transplanted from without into the
microcosm within, taking the shape of hallucinations and
demon-temptations. They were no longer actors, but sufferers; automata,
who attained a degree of inanity which would have made their old
Byzantine prototypes burst with envy.

Yet they vary in their gifts; each one, as I have said, has his or her
strong point. Why? The reason of this diversity lies in the furious
competition between the various monastic orders of the time--in those
unedifying squabbles which led to never-ending litigation and complaints
to head-quarters in Rome. Every one of these saints, from the first
dawning of his divine talents, was surrounded by an atmosphere of
jealous hatred on the part of his co-religionists. If one order came out
with a flying wonder, another, in frantic emulation, would introduce
some new speciality to eclipse his fame--something in the fasting line,
it may be; or a female mystic whose palpitating letters to Jesus Christ
would melt all readers to pity. The Franciscans, for instance, dissected
the body of a certain holy Margaret and discovered in her heart the
symbols of the Trinity and of the Passion. This bold and original idea
would have gained them much credit, but for the rival Dominicans, who
promptly discovered, and dissected, another saintly Margaret, whose
heart contained three stones on which were engraven portraits of the
Virgin Mary.  [Footnote: These and other details will be found in the
four volumes "Das Heidentum in der romischen Kirche" (Gotha, 1889-91),
by Theodor Trede, a late Protestant parson in Naples, strongly tinged
with anti-Catholicism, but whose facts may be relied upon. Indeed, he
gives chapter and verse for them.] So they ceaselessly unearthed fresh
saints with a view to disparaging each other--all of them waiting for a
favourable moment when the Vatican could be successfully approached to
consider their particular claims. For it stands to reason that a
Carmelite Pope would prefer a Carmelite saint to one of the Jesuits, and
so forth.

And over all throned the Inquisition in Rome, alert, ever-suspicious;
testing the "irregularities" of the various orders and harassing their
respective saints with Olympic impartiality.

I know that mystics such as Orsola Benincasa are supposed to have
another side to their character, an eminently practical side. It is
perfectly true--and we need not go out of England to learn it--that
piety is not necessarily inconsistent with nimbleness in worldly
affairs. But the mundane achievements, the monasteries and churches, of
nine-tenths of these southern ecstatics are the work of the confessor
and not of the saint. Trainers of performing animals are aware how these
differ in plasticity of disposition and amenability to discipline; the
spiritual adviser, who knows his business, must be quick to detect these
various qualities in the minds of his penitents and to utilize them to
the best advantage. It is inconceivable, for instance, that the
convent-foundress Orsola was other than a neuropathic nonentity--a blind
instrument in the hands of what we should call her backers, chiefest of
whom (in Naples) were two Spanish priests, Borii and Navarro, whose
local efforts were supported, at head-quarters, by the saintly Filippo
Neri and the learned Cardinal Baronius.

This is noticeable. The earlier of these godly biographies are written
in Latin, and these are more restrained in their language; they were
composed, one imagines, for the priests and educated classes who could
dispense to a certain degree with prodigies.  But the later ones, from
the viceregal period onwards, are in the vernacular and display a marked
deterioration; one must suppose that they were printed for such of the
common people as could still read (up to a few years ago, sixty-five per
cent of the populace were analphabetic). They are pervaded by the
characteristic of all contemporary literature and art: that deliberate
intention to _astound_ which originated with the poet Marino, who
declared such to have been his object and ideal. The miracles certainly
do astound; they are as _strepitosi_ (clamour-arousing) as the writers
claim them to be; how they ever came to occur must be left to the
consciences of those who swore on oath to the truth of them.

During this period the Mother of God as a local saint increased in
popularity. There was a ceaseless flow of monographs dealing with
particular Madonnas, as well as a small library on what the Germans
would doubtless call the "Madonna as a Whole." Here is Serafino
Montorio's "Zodiaco di Maria," printed in 1715 on the lines of that
monster of a book by Gumppenberg. It treats of over two hundred
subspecies of Madonna worshipped in different parts of south Italy which
is divided, for these celestial purposes, into twelve regions, according
to the signs of the Zodiac. The book is dedicated by the author to his
"Sovereign Lady the _Gran Madre di Dio"_ and might, in truth, have been
written to the glory of that protean old Magna Mater by one of Juvenal's
"tonsured herd" possessed of much industry but little discrimination.
[Footnote: The Mater Dei was officially installed in the place of Magna
Mater at the Synod of Ephesus in 431.] Such as it is, it reflects the
crude mental status of the Dominican order to which the author belonged.
I warmly recommend this book to all Englishmen desirous of understanding
the south. It is pure, undiluted paganism--paganism of a bad school; one
would think it marked the lowest possible ebb of Christian spirituality.
But this is by no means the case, as I shall presently show.

How different, from such straightforward unreason, are the etherealized,
saccharine effusions of the "Glories of Mary," by Alfonso di Liguori!
They represent the other pole of Mariolatry--the gentlemanly pole. And
under the influence of Mary-worship a new kind of saintly physiognomy
was elaborated, as we can see from contemporary prints and pictures. The
bearded men-saints were extinct; in the place of them this mawkish,
sub-sexual love for the Virgin developed a corresponding type of
adorer--clean-shaven, emasculate youths, posing in ecstatic attitudes
with a nauseous feminine smirk. Rather an unpleasant sort of saint.

The unwholesome chastity-ideal, without which no holy man of the period
was "complete," naturally left its mark upon literature, notably on that
of certain Spanish theologians. But good specimens of what I mean may
also be found in the Theologia Moralis of Liguori; the kind of stuff,
that is, which would be classed as "curious" in catalogues and kept in a
locked cupboard by the most broad-minded paterfamilias. Reading these
elucubrations of Alfonso's, one feels that the saint has pondered long
and lovingly upon themes like _an et quando peccata sint oscula_ or _de
tactu et adspectu corporis;_ he writes with all the authority of an
expert whose richly-varied experiences in the confessional have been
amplified and irradiated by divine inspiration. I hesitate what to call
this literature, seeing that it was obviously written to the glory of
God and His Virgin Mother. The congregation of the Index, which was
severe in the matter of indecent publications and prohibited Boccaccio's
Decameron on these grounds, hailed with approval the appearance of such
treatises composed, as they were, for the guidance of young priests.

Cruelty (in the shape of the Inquisition) and lasciviousness (as
exemplified by such pious filth)--these are the prime fruits of that
cult of asceticism which for centuries the Government strove to impose
upon south Italy. If the people were saved, it was due to that
substratum of sanity, of Greek _sophrosyne,_ which resisted the one and
derided the other. Whoever has saturated himself with the records will
marvel not so much that the inhabitants preserved some shreds of common
sense and decent feeling, as that they survived at all--he will marvel
that the once fair kingdom was not converted into a wilderness, saintly
but uninhabited, like Spain itself.

For the movement continued in a vertiginous crescendo. Spaniardism
culminated in Bourbonism, and this, again, reached its climax in the
closing years of the eighteenth century, when the conditions of south
Italy baffled description. I have already (p. 212) given the formidable
number of its ecclesiastics; the number of saints was commensurate,
but--as often happens when the quantity is excessive--the quality
declined. This lazzaroni-period was the debacle of holiness. So true it
is that our gods reflect the hearts that make them.

The Venerable Fra Egidio, a native of Taranto, is a good example of
contemporary godliness. My biography of him was printed in Naples in
1876, [Footnote: "Vita del Venerabile servo di Dio Fra Egidio da S.
Giuseppe laico professo alcantarino," Napoli, 1876.] and contains a
dedicatory epistle addressed to the Blessed Virgin by her "servant,
subject, and most loving son Rosario Frungillo"--a canon of the church
and the author of the book.

This "taumaturgo" could perform all the ordinary feats; I will not
linger over them. What has made him popular to this day are those
wonders which appealed to the taste of the poorer people, such as, for
example, that miracle of the eels. A fisherman had brought fourteen
hundredweight of these for sale in the market. Judge of his
disappointment when he discovered that they had all died during the
journey (southerners will not pay for dead eels). Fortunately, he saw
the saint arriving in a little boat, who informed him that the eels were
"not dead, but only asleep," and who woke them up again by means of a
relic of Saint Pasquale which he always carried about with him, after a
quarter of an hour's devout praying, during which the perspiration oozed
from his forehead. The eels, says the writer, had been dead and slimy,
but now turned their bellies downwards once more and twisted about in
their usual spirals; there began a general weeping among the onlookers,
and the fame of the miracle immediately spread abroad. He could do the
same with lobsters, cows, and human beings.

Thus a cow belonging to Fra Egidio's monastery was once stolen by an
impious butcher, and cut up into the usual joints with a view to a
clandestine sale of the meat. The saint discovered the beast's remains,
ordered that they should be laid together on the floor in the shape of a
living cow, with the entrails, head and so forth in their natural
positions; then, having made the sign of the cross with his cord upon
the slaughtered beast, and rousing up all his faith, he said: "In the
name of God and of Saint Pasquale, arise, Catherine!" (Catherine was the
cow's name.) "At these words the animal lowed, shook itself, and stood
up on its feet alive, whole and strong, even as it had been before it
was killed."

In the case of one of the dead men whom he brought to life, the
undertakers were already about their sad task; but Fra Egidio, viewing
the corpse, remarked in his usual manner that the man was "not dead, but
only asleep," and after a few saintly manipulations, roused him from his
slumber. The most portentous of his wonders, however, are those which he
wrought _after his own death_ by means of his relics and otherwise; they
have been sworn to by many persons. Nor did his hand lose its old
cunning, in these posthumous manifestations, with the finny tribe. A
certain woman, Maria Scuotto, was enabled to resuscitate a number of
dead eels by means of an image of the deceased saint which she cast
among them.

Every one of the statements in this biography is drawn from the
_processi_ to which I will presently refer; there were 202 witnesses who
deposed "under the rigour and sanctity of oath" to the truth of these
miracles; and among those who were personally convinced of the
Venerable's rare gifts was the Royal Family of Naples, the archbishop of
that town, as well as innumerable dukes and princes. An embittered
rationalist would note that the reading of Voltaire, at this period, was
punished with three years' galley-slavery and that several thousand
citizens were hanged for expressing liberal opinions; he will suggest
that belief in the supernatural, rejected by the thinking classes, finds
an abiding shelter among royalty and the proletariat.

It occurs to me, a propos of Fra Egidio, to make the obvious statement
that an account of an occurrence is not necessarily true, because it
happened long ago. Credibility does not improve, like violins and port
wine, with lapse of years. This being the case, it will not be
considered objectionable to say that there are certain deeds attributed
to holy men of olden days which, to speak frankly, are open to doubt; or
at least not susceptible of proof. Who were these men, if they ever
existed? and who vouches for their prodigies? This makes me think that
Pope Gelasius showed no small penetration in excluding, as early as the
fifth century, some few _acta sanctorum_ from the use of the churches;
another step in the same direction was taken in the twelfth century when
the power of canonizing saints, which had hitherto been claimed by all
bishops, became vested in the Pope alone; and yet another, when Urban
VIII forbade the nomination of local patron saints by popular vote.
Pious legends are supposed to have their uses as an educative agency. So
be it. But such relations of imperfectly ascertained and therefore
questionable wonders suffer from one grave drawback: they tend to shake
our faith in the evidence of well-authenticated ones. Thus Saint Patrick
is also reported to have raised a cow from the dead--five cows, to be
quite accurate; but who will come forward and vouch for the fact? No
one. That is because Saint Patrick belongs to the legendary stage; he
died, it is presumed, about 490.

Here, with Saint Egidio, we are on other ground; on the ground of bald
actuality. He expired in 1812, and the contemporaries who have attested
his miraculous deeds are not misty phantoms of the Thebais; they were
creatures of flesh and blood, human, historical personages, who were
dressed and nourished and educated after the fashion of our own
grandfathers. Yet it was meet and proper that the documentary evidence
as to his divine graces should be conscientiously examined. And only in
1888 was the crowning work accomplished. In that year His Holiness Leo
XIII and the Sacred Congregation of Cardinals solemnly approved the
evidence and inscribed the name of Egidio in the book of the Blessed.

To touch upon a few minor matters--I observe that Fra Egidio, like the
Flying Monk, was "illiterate," and similarly preserved up to a decrepit
age "the odorous lily of purity, which made him appear in words and
deeds as a most innocent child." He was accustomed to worship before a
favourite picture of the Mother of God which he kept adorned with
candles; and whenever the supply of these ran out, he was wont to
address Her with infantile simplicity of heart and in the local dialect:
"Now there's no wax for You; so think about it Yourself; if not, You'll
have to go without." The playful-saintly note. . . .

But there is this difference between him and earlier saints that whereas
they, all too often, suffered in solitude, misunderstood and rejected of
men, he enjoyed the highest popularity during his whole long life.
Wherever he went, his footsteps were pursued by crowds of admirers,
eager to touch his wonder-working body or to cut off shreds of his
clothing as amulets; hardly a day passed that he did not return home
with garments so lacerated that only half of them was left; every
evening they had to be patched up anew, although they were purposely
stitched full of wires and small chains of iron as a protection. The
same passionate sympathy continued after death, for while his body was
lying in state a certain Luigi Ascione, a surgeon, pushed through the
crowd and endeavoured to cut off one of his toe-nails with the flesh
attached to it; he admitted being driven to this act of pious
depredation by the pleading request of the Spanish Ambassador and a
Neapolitan princess, who held Fra Egidio in great veneration.

This is not an isolated instance. Southerners love their saints, and do
not content themselves with chill verbal expressions of esteem. So the
biographer of Saint Giangiuseppe records that "one of the deceased
saint's toes was bitten off with most regret-able devotion by the teeth
of a man in the crowd, who wished to preserve it as a relic. And the
blood from the wound flowed so copiously and so freely that many pieces
of cloth were saturated with it; nor did it cease to flow till the
precious corpse was interred." It is hard to picture such proofs of
fervid popularity falling to the lot of English deans and bishops.

He was modern, too, in this sense, that he did not torment himself with
penitences (decay of Spanish austerity); on the contrary, he even kept
chocolate, honey and suchlike delicacies in his cell. In short, he was
an up-to-date saint, who despised mediaeval practices and lived in a
manner befitting the age which gave him birth. In this respect he
resembles our English men of holiness, who exercise a laudable
self-denial in resisting the seductions of the ascetic life.

Meanwhile, the cult of the Mother of God continued to wax in favour, and
those who are interested in its development should read the really
remarkable book by Antonio Cuomó, "Saggio apologetico della belezza
celeste e divina di Maria S.S. Madre di Dio" (Castellamare, 1863). It is
a diatribe against modernism by a champion of lost causes, an
exacerbated lover of the "Singular Virgin and fecund Mother of the
Verb." His argument, as I understand it, is the _consensus gentium_
theory applied to the Virgin Mary. In defence of this thesis, the book
has been made to bristle with quotations; they stand out like quills
upon the porcupine, ready to impale the adventurous sceptic. Pliny and
Virgil and the Druids and Balaam's Ass are invoked as foretelling Her
birth; the Old Testament--that venerable sufferer, as Huxley called
it--is twisted into dire convulsions for the same purpose; much evidence
is also drawn from Hebrew observances and from the Church Fathers. But
the New Testamentary record is seldom invoked; the Saviour, on the rare
occasions when He is mentioned, being dismissed as "G. C." The volume
ends with a pyrotechnical display of invective against non-Catholic
heretics; a medley of threats and abuse worthy of those breezy days of
Erasmus, when theologians really said what they thought of each other.
The frank polytheism of Montorio is more to my taste. This outpouring of
papistical rhetoric gives me unwarrantable sensations--it makes me feel
positively Protestant.

Another sign of increasing popularity is that the sacred bacchanals
connected with the "crowning" of various Madonnas were twice as
numerous, in Naples, in the nineteenth as in the eighteenth century. Why
an image of the Mother of God should be decked with this worldly symbol,
as a reward for services rendered, will be obscure only to those who
fail to appreciate the earthly-tangible complexion of southern religion.
Puerility is its key-note. The Italian is either puerile or adult; the
Englishman remains everlastingly adolescent. . . .

Now of course it is open to any one to say that the pious records from
which I have quoted are a desolation of the spirit; that they possess
all the improbability of the "Arabian Nights," and none of their charm;
that all the distempered dreamings to which our poor humanity is subject
have given themselves a rendezvous in their pages. I am not for
disputing the point, and I can understand how one man may be saddened by
their perusal, while another extracts therefrom some gleams of mirth.
For my part, I merely verify this fact: the native has been fed with
this stuff for centuries, and if we desire to enter into his feelings,
we must feed ourselves likewise--up to a point. The past is the key to
the present. That is why I have dwelt at such length on the subject--in
the hope of clearing up the enigma in the national character: the
unpassable gulf, I mean, between the believing and the unbelieving
sections of the community.

An Anglo-Saxon arriving at Bagnara and witnessing a procession in honour
of that Sacred Hat of the Mother of God which has led me into this
disquisition, would be shocked at the degree of bigotry implied. "The
Hat of the Virgin Mary," he would say--"what next?" Then, accosting some
ordinary citizen not in the procession--any butcher or baker--he would
receive a shock of another kind; he would be appalled at the man's
language of contemptuous derision towards everything which he, the
Anglo-Saxon, holds sacred in biblical tradition. There is no attempt,
here, at "reconciliation." The classes calling themselves enlightened
are making a clean sweep of the old gods in a fashion that bewilders us
who have accustomed ourselves to see a providential design in everything
that exists (possibly because our acquaintance with a
providentially-designed Holy Office is limited to an obsolete statute, the
genial _de haeretico comburendo)._ The others, the fetishists, have
remained on the spiritual level of their own saints. And there we stand
today. That section so numerous in England, the pseudo-pagans,
crypto-Christians, or whatever obscurantists like Messrs. A. J. Balfour
and Mallock like to call themselves (the men who, with disastrous
effects, transport into realms of pure intelligence the spirit of
compromise which should be restricted to practical concerns)--that
section has no representatives hereabouts.

Fully to appreciate their attitude as opposed to ours, we must also
remember that the south Italian does not trouble himself about the
objective truth of any miracle whatever; his senses may be perverted,
but his intelligence remains outside the sphere of infection. This is
his saving grace. To the people here, the affair of Moses and the
Burning Bush, the raising of Lazarus, and Egidio's cow-revival, are on
the identical plane of authenticity; the Bible is one of a thousand
saints' books; its stories may be as true as theirs, or just as untrue;
in any case, what has that to do with his own worldly conduct? But the
Englishman with ingenuous ardour thinks to believe in the Burning Bush
wonder, and in so far his intelligence is infected; with equal ardour he
excludes the cow-performance from the range of possibility; and to him
it matters considerably which of the miracles are true and which are
false, seeing that his conduct is supposed to take colour from such
supernatural events. Ultra-credulous as to one set of narratives, he has
no credulity left for other sets; he concentrates his believing energies
upon a small space, whereas the Italian's are diffused, thinly, over a
wide area. It is the old story: Gothic intensity and Latin spaciousness.
So the Gothic believer takes his big dose of irrationalism on one fixed
day; the Latin, by attending Mass every morning, spreads it over the
whole week. And the sombre strenuousness of our northern character
expects a remuneration for this outlay of faith, while the other
contents himself with such sensuous enjoyment as he can momentarily
extract from his ceremonials. That is why our English religion has a
_democratic_ tinge distasteful to the Latin who, at bottom, is always a
philosopher; democratic because it relies for its success, like
democratic politicians, upon promises--promises that may or may not be
kept--promises that form no part (they are only an official appendage)
of the childlike paganism of the south. . . .

Fifteen francs will buy you a reliable witness for a south Italian
lawsuit; you must pay a good deal more in England. Thence one might
argue that the cult of credulity implied by these saintly biographies is
responsible for this laxness, for the general disregard of veracity. I
doubt it. I am not inclined to blame the monkish saint-makers for this
particular trait; I suspect that for fifteen francs you could have
bought a first-class witness under Pericles. Southerners are not yet
pressed for time; and when people are not pressed for time, they do not
learn the time-saving value of honesty. Our respect for truth and fair
dealing, such as it is, derives from modern commerce; in the Middle Ages
nobody was concerned about honesty save a few trading companies like the
Hanseatic League, and the poor mediaeval devil (the only gentleman of
his age) who was generally pressed for time and could be relied upon to
keep his word. Even God, of whom they talked so much, was systematically
swindled. Where time counts for nothing, expeditious practices between
man and man are a drug in the market. Besides, it must be noted that
this churchly misteaching was only a fraction of that general shattering
which has disintegrated all the finer fibres of public life. It stands
to reason that the fragile tissues of culture are dislocated, and its
delicate edges defaced, by such persistive governmental brutalization as
the inhabitants have undergone. None but the grossest elements in a
people can withstand enduring misrule; none but a mendacious and servile
nature will survive its wear and tear. So it comes about that up to a
few years ago the nobler qualities which we associate with those old
Hellenic colonists--their intellectual curiosity, their candid outlook
upon life, their passionate sense of beauty, their love of nature--all
these things had been abraded, leaving, as residue, nothing save what
the Greeks shared with ruder races. There are indications that this
state of affairs is now ending.

The position is this. The records show that the common people never took
their saints to heart in the northern fashion--as moral exemplars; from
beginning to end, they have only utilized them as a pretext for fun and
festivals, a means of brightening the cata-combic, the essentially
sunless, character of Christianity. So much for the popular saints, the
patrons and heroes. The others, the ecclesiastical ones, are an
artificial product of monkish institutions. These monkeries were
established in the land by virtue of civil authority. Their continued
existence, however, was contingent upon the goodwill of the Vatican. One
of the surest and cheapest methods of obtaining this goodwill was to
produce a satisfactory crop of saints whose beatification swelled the
Vatican treasury with the millions collected from a deluded populace for
that end. The monks paid nothing; they only furnished the saint and, in
due course, the people's money. Can we wonder that they discovered
saints galore? Can we wonder that the Popes were gratified by their
pious zeal?

So things went on till yesterday. But now a large proportion of the ten
thousand (?) churches and monasteries of Naples are closed or actually
in ruins; wayside sanctuaries crumble to dust in picturesque fashion;
the price of holy books has fallen to zero, and the godly brethren have
emigrated to establish their saint-manufactories elsewhere. Not without
hope of success; for they will find purchasers of their wares wherever
mankind can be interested in that queer disrespect of the body which is
taught by the metaphysical ascetics of the East.

It was Lewes, I believe, who compared metaphysics to ghosts by saying
that there was no killing either of them; one could only dissipate them
by throwing light into the dark places they love to inhabit--to show
that nothing is there. Spectres, likewise, are these saintly caricatures
of humanity, perambulating metaphysics, the application _in corpore
vili_ of Oriental fakirism. Nightmare-literature is the crazy recital of
their deeds and sufferings.  Pathological phantoms! The state of mind
which engenders and cherishes such illusions is a disease, and it has
been well said that "you cannot refute a disease." You cannot nail
ghosts to the counter.

But a ray of light . . .



XXXII

ASPROMONTE, THE CLOUD-GATHERER


Day was barely dawning when we left Delianuova and began the long and
weary climb up Montalto. Chestnuts gave way to beeches, but the summit
receded ever further from us. And even before reaching the uplands, the
so-called Piano di Carmelia, we encountered a bank of bad weather. A
glance at the map will show that Montalto must be a cloud-gatherer,
drawing to its flanks every wreath of vapour that rises from Ionian and
Tyrrhenian; a west wind was blowing that morning, and thick fogs clung
to the skirts of the peak. We reached the summit (1956 metres) at last,
drenched in an icy bath of rain and sleet, and with fingers so numbed
that we could hardly hold our sticks.

Of the superb view--for such it must be--nothing whatever was to be
seen; we were wrapped in a glacial mist. On the highest point stands a
figure of the Redeemer. It was dragged up in pieces from Delianuova some
seven years ago, but soon injured by frosts; it has lately been
refashioned. The original structure may be due to the same pious
stimulus as that which placed the crosses on Monte Vulture and other
peaks throughout the country--a counterblast to the rationalistic
congress at Rome in 1904, when Giordano Bruno became, for a while, the
hero of the country. This statue does not lack dignity. The Saviour's
regard turns towards Reggio, the capital of the province; and one hand
is upraised in calm and godlike benediction.

Passing through magnificent groves of fir, we descended rapidly into
anothsr climate, into realms of golden sunshine. Among these trees I
espied what has become quite a rare bird in Italy--the common
wood-pigeon. The few that remain have been driven into the most secluded
recesses of the mountains; it was different in the days of Theocritus,
who sang of this amiable fowl when the climate was colder and the
woodlands reached as far as the now barren seashore. To the firs
succeeded long stretches of odorous pines interspersed with
Mediterranean heath (brayère), which here grows to a height of twelve
feet; one thinks of the number of briar pipes that could be cut out of
its knotty roots. A British Vice-Consul at Reggio, Mr. Kerrich, started
this industry about the year 1899; he collected the roots, which were
sawn into blocks and then sent to France and America to be made into
pipes. This Calabrian briar was considered superior to the French kind,
and Mr. Kerrich had large sales on both sides of the Atlantic; his chief
difficulty was want of labour owing to emigration.

We passed, by the wayside, several rude crosses marking the site of
accidents or murders, as well as a large heap of stones, where-under lie
the bones of a man who attempted to traverse these mountains in
winter-time and was frozen to death.

"They found him," the guide told me, "in spring, when the snow melted
from off his body. There he lay, all fresh and comely! It looked as if
he would presently wake up and continue his march; but he neither spoke
nor stirred. Then they knew he was dead. And they piled all these stones
over him, to prevent the wolves, you understand----"

Aspromonte deserves its name. It is an incredibly harsh agglomeration of
hill and dale, and the geology of the district, as I learned long ago
from my friend Professor Cortese, reveals a perfect chaos of rocks of
every age, torn into gullies by earthquakes and other cataclysms of the
past--at one place, near Scido, is an old stream of lava. Once the
higher ground, the nucleus of the group, is left behind, the wanderer
finds himself lost in a maze of contorted ravines, winding about without
any apparent system of watershed. Does the liquid flow north or south?
Who can tell! The track crawls in and out of valleys, mounts upwards to
heights of sun-scorched bracken and cistus, descends once more into dewy
glades hemmed in by precipices and overhung by drooping fernery. It
crosses streams of crystal clearness, rises afresh in endless gyrations
under the pines only to vanish, yet again, into the twilight of deeper
abysses, where it skirts the rivulet along precarious ledges, until some
new obstruction blocks the way--so it writhes about for long, long
hours. . . .

Here, on the spot, one can understand how an outlaw like Musolino was
enabled to defy justice, helped, as he was, by the fact that the vast
majority of the inhabitants were favourable to him, and that the officer
in charge of his pursuers was paid a fixed sum for every day he spent in
the chase and presumably found it convenient not to discover his
whereabouts. [Footnote: See next chapter.]

We rested awhile, during these interminable meanderings, under the
shadow of a group of pines.

"Do you see that square patch yonder?" said my man. "It is a cornfield.
There Musolino shot one of his enemies, whom he suspected of giving
information to the police. It was well done."

"How many did he shoot, altogether?"

"Only eighteen. And three of them recovered, more or less; enough to
limp about, at all events. Ah, if you could have seen him, sir! He was
young, with curly fair hair, and a face like a rose. God alone can tell
how many poor people he helped in their distress. And any young girl he
met in the mountains he would help with her load and accompany as far as
her home, right into her father's house, which none of us would have
risked, however much we might have liked it. But every one knew that he
was pure as an angel."

"And there was a young fellow here," he went on, "who thought he could
profit by pretending to be Musolino. So one day he challenged a
proprietor with his gun, and took all his money. When it came to
Musolino's ears, he was furious--furious! He lay in wait for him, caught
him, and said: 'How dare you touch fathers of children? Where's that
money you took from Don Antonio?' Then the boy began to cry and tremble
for his life. 'Bring it,' said Musolino, 'every penny, at midday next
Monday, to such and such a spot, or else----' Of course he brought it.
Then he marched him straight into the proprietor's house. 'Here's this
wretched boy, who robbed you in my name. And here's the money: please
count it. Now, what shall we do with him?' So Don Antonio counted the
money. 'It's all there,' he said; 'let him off this time.' Then Musolino
turned to the lad: 'You have behaved like a mannerless puppy,' he said,
'without shame or knowledge of the world. Be reasonable in future, and
understand clearly: I will have no brigandage in these mountains. Leave
that to the syndics and judges in the towns.'"

We did not traverse Musolino's natal village, Santo Stefano; indeed, we
passed through no villages at all. But after issuing from the labyrinth,
we saw a few of them, perched in improbable situations--Roccaforte and
Roghudi on our right; on the other side, Africo and Casalnuovo. Salis
Marschlins says that the inhabitants of these regions are so wild and
innocent that money is unknown; everything is done by barter. That comes
of copying without discrimination. For this statement he utilized the
report of a Government official, a certain Leoni, who was sent hither
after the earthquake of 1783, and found the use of money not unknown,
but forgotten, in consequence of this terrible catastrophe.

These vales of Aspromonte are one of the last refuges of living
Byzantinism. Greek is still spoken in some places, such as Rocca-forte
and Roghudi. Earlier travellers confused the natives with the Albanians;
Niehbuhr, who had an obsession on the subject of Hellenism, imagined
they were relics of old Dorian and Achaean colonies. Scholars are
apparently not yet quite decided upon certain smaller matters. So
Lenormant (Vol. II, p. 433) thinks they came hither after the Turkish
conquest, as did the Albanians; Batiffol argues that they were chased
into Calabria from Sicily by the Arabs after the second half of the
seventh century; Morosi, who treats mostly of their Apulian settlements,
says that they came from the East between the sixth and tenth centuries.
Many students, such as Morelli and Comparetti, have garnered their
songs, language, customs and lore, and whoever wants a convenient résumé
of these earlier researches will find it in Pellegrini's book which was
written in 1873 (printed 1880). He gives the number of Greek inhabitants
of these places--Roghudi, for example, had 535 in his day; he has also
noted down these villages, like Africo and Casalnuovo, in which the
Byzantine speech has lately been lost. Bova and Condofuri are now the
head-quarters of mediaeval Greek in these parts.

From afar we had already descried a green range of hills that shut out
the seaward view. This we now began to climb, in wearisome ascension; it
is called _Pie d'lmpisa,_ because "your feet are all the time on a steep
incline." Telegraph wires here accompany the track, a survival of the
war between the Italian Government and Musolino. On the summit lies a
lonely Alp, Campo di Bova, where a herd of cattle were pasturing under
the care of a golden-haired youth who lay supine on the grass, gazing at
the clouds as they drifted in stately procession across the firmament.
Save for a dusky charcoal-burner crouching in a cave, this boy was the
only living person we encountered on our march--so deserted are these
mountain tracks.

At Campo di Bova a path branches off to Staiti; the sea is visible once
more, and there are fine glimpses, on the left, towards Staiti (or is it
Ferruzzano?) and, down the right, into the destructive and dangerous
torrent of Amendolea. Far beyond it, rises the mountain peak of
Pentedattilo, a most singular landmark which looks exactly like a molar
tooth turned upside down, with fangs in air. The road passes through a
gateway in the rock whence, suddenly, a full view is disclosed of Bova
on its hill-top, the houses nestling among huge blocks of stone that
make one think of some cyclopean citadel of past ages. My guide stoutly
denied that this was Bova; the town, he declared, lay in quite another
direction. I imagine he had never been beyond the foot of the "Pie
d'Impisa."

Here, once more, the late earthquake has done some damage, and there is
a row of trim wooden shelters near the entrance of the town. I may add,
as a picturesque detail, that about one-third of them have never been
inhabited, and are never likely to be. They were erected in the heat of
enthusiasm, and there they will stay, empty and abandoned, until some
energetic mayor shall pull them down and cook his maccheroni with their
timber.

Evening was drawing on apace, and whether it was due to the joy of
having accomplished an arduous journey, or to inconsiderate potations of
the Bacchus of Bova, one of the most remarkable wines in Italy, I very
soon found myself on excellent terms with the chief citizens of this
rather sordid-looking little place. A good deal has been written
concerning Bova and its inhabitants, but I should say there is still a
mine of information to be exploited on the spot. They are bilingual, but
while clinging stubbornly to their old speech, they have now embraced
Catholicism. The town kept its Greek religious rites till the latter
half of the sixteenth century; and Rodota has described the "vigorous
resistance" that was made to the introduction of Romanism, and the
ceremonies which finally accompanied that event.

Mine hostess obligingly sang me two or three songs in her native
language; the priest furnished me with curious statistics of folklore
and criminology; and the notary, with whom I conversed awhile on the
tiny piazza that overlooks the coastlands and distant Ionian, was a most
affable gentleman. Seeing that the Christian names of the populace are
purely Italian, I enquired as to their surnames, and learned what I
expected, namely, that a good many Greek family names survive among the
people. His own name, he said, was unquestionably Greek: _Condemi;_ if I
liked, he would go through the local archives and prepare me a list of
all such surnames as appeared to him to be non-Italian; we could thus
obtain some idea of the percentage of Greek families still living here.
My best thanks to the good Signor!

After some further liquid refreshment, a youthful native volunteered to
guide me by short cuts to the remote railway station. We stepped
blithely into the twilight, and during the long descent I discoursed
with him, in fluent Byzantine Greek, of the affairs of his village.

It is my theory that among a populace of this kind the words relative to
agricultural pursuits will be those which are least likely to suffer
change with lapse of years, or to be replaced by others.

Acting on this principle, I put him through a catechism on the subject
as soon as we reached our destination, and was surprised at the relative
scarcity of Italian terms--barely 25 per cent I should say. Needless to
add, I omitted to note them down. Such as it is, be that my contribution
to the literature of these sporadic islets of mediaeval Hellenism, whose
outstanding features are being gnawed away by the waves of military
conscription, governmental schooling, and emigration.

Caulonia, my next halting-place, lay far off the line. I had therefore
the choice of spending the night at Gerace (old Locri) or Rocella
Ionica--intermediate stations. Both of them, to my knowledge, possessing
indifferent accommodation, I chose the former as being the nearest, and
slept there, not amiss; far better than on a previous occasion, when
certain things occurred which need not be set down here.

The trip from Delianuova over the summit of Montalto to Bova railway
station is by no means to be recommended to young boys or persons in
delicate health. Allowing for only forty-five minutes' rest, it took me
fourteen hours to walk to the town of Bova, and the railway station lies
nearly three hours apart from that place. There is hardly a level yard
of ground along the whole route, and though my "guide" twice took the
wrong track and thereby probably lost me some little time, I question
whether the best walker, provided (as I was) with the best maps, will be
able to traverse the distance in less than fifteen hours.

Whoever he is, I wish him joy of his journey. Pleasant to recall,
assuredly; the scenery and the mountain flowers are wondrously
beautiful; but I have fully realized what the men of Delianuova meant,
when they said:

"To Montalto, Yes; to Bova, No."



XXXIII

MUSOLINO AND THE LAW


Musolino will remain a hero for many long years to come. "He did his
duty ": such is the popular verdict on his career. He was not a brigand,
but an unfortunate--a martyr, a victim of the law. So he is described
not only by his country-people, but by the writers of many hundred
serious pamphlets in every province of Italy.

At any bookstall you may buy cheap illustrated tracts and poems setting
forth his achievements. In Cosenza I saw a play of which he was the
leading figure, depicted as a pale, long-suffering gentleman of the
"misunderstood" type--friend of the fatherless, champion of widows and
orphans, rectifier of all wrongs; in fact, as the embodiment of those
virtues which we are apt to associate with Prometheus or the founder of
Christianity.

Only to those who know nothing of local conditions will it seem strange
to say that Italian law is one of the factors that contribute to the
disintegration of family life throughout the country, and to the
production of creatures like Musolino. There are few villages which do
not contain some notorious assassins who have escaped punishment under
sentimental pleas, and now terrorize the neighbourhood. This is one of
the evils which derange patriarchalism; the decent-minded living in fear
of their lives, the others with a conspicuous example before their eyes
of the advantages of evil-doing. And another is that the innocent often
suffer, country-bred lads being locked up for months and years in prison
on the flimsiest pretexts--often on the mere word of some malevolent
local policeman--among hardened habitual offenders. If they survive the
treatment, which is not always the case, they return home completely
demoralized and a source of infection to others.

It is hardly surprising if, under such conditions, rich and poor alike
are ready to hide a picturesque fugitive from justice. A sad state of
affairs, but--as an unsavoury Italian proverb correctly says--_il pesce
puzza dal capo._

For the fault lies not only in the fundamental perversity of all Roman
Law. It lies also in the local administration of that law, which is
inefficient and marked by that elaborate brutality characteristic of all
"philosophic" and tender-hearted nations. One thinks of the Byzantines.
. . . That justices should be well-salaried gentlemen, cognizant of
their duties to society; that carbineers and other police-functionaries
should be civilly responsible for outrages upon the public; that a
so-called "habeas-corpus" Act might be as useful here as among certain
savages of the north; that the Baghdad system of delays leads to
corruption of underpaid officials and witnesses alike (not to speak of
judges)--in a word, that the method pursued hereabouts is calculated to
create rather than to repress crime: these are truths of too elementary
a nature to find their way into the brains of the megalomaniac
rhetoricians who control their country's fate. They will never endorse
that saying of Stendhal's: "In Italy, with the exception of Milan, the
death-penalty is the preface of all civilization." (To this day, the
proportion of murders is still 13 per cent higher in Palermo than in
Milan.)

Speak to the wisest judges of the horrors of cellular confinement such
as Musolino was enduring up to a short time ago, as opposed to capital
punishment, and you will learn that they invoke the humanitarian
Beccaria in justification of it. Theorists!

For less formidable criminals there exists that wondrous institution of
_domicilio coatto,_ which I have studied in the islands of Lipari and
Ponza. These evil-doers seldom try to escape; life is far too
comfortable, and the wine good and cheap; often, on completing their
sentences, they get themselves condemned anew, in order to return. The
hard-working man may well envy their lot, for they recuve free lodging
from the Government, a daily allowance of money, and two new suits of
clothes a year--they are not asked to do a stroke of work in return, but
may lie in bed all day long, if so disposed. The law-abiding citizen,
meanwhile, pays for the upkeep of this horde of malefactors, as well as
for the army of officials who are deputed to attend to their wants. This
institution of _domicilio coatto_ is one of those things which would be
incredible, were it not actually in existence. It is a school, a
State-fostered school, for the promotion of criminality.

But what shall be expected? Where judges sob like children, and jurors
swoon away with emotionalism; where floods of bombast--go to the courts,
and listen!--take the place of cross-examination and duly-sworn
affidavits; where perjury is a humanly venial and almost praiseworthy
failing--how shall the code, defective as it is, be administered?
Rhetoric, and rhetoric alone, sways the decision of the courts. Scholars
are only now beginning to realize to what an extent the ancient sense of
veracity was tainted with this vice--how deeply all classical history is
permeated with elegant partisan non-truth. And this evil legacy from
Greco-Roman days has been augmented by the more recent teachings of
Jesuitry and the Catholic theory of "peccato veniale." Rhetoric alone
counts; rhetoric alone is "art." The rest is mere facts; and your
"penalista" has a constitutional horror of a bald fact, because _there
it is,_ and there is nothing to be done with it. It is too crude a thing
for cultured men to handle. If a local barrister were forced to state in
court a plain fact, without varnish, he would die of cerebral
congestion; the judge, of boredom.

In early times, these provinces had a rough-and-ready cowboy justice
which answered simple needs, and when, in Bourbon days, things became
more centralized, there was still a never-failing expedient: each judge
having a fixed and publicly acknowledged tariff, the village elders, in
deserving cases, subscribed the requisite sum and released their
prisoner. But Italy is now paying the penalty of ambition. With one foot
in the ferocity of her past, and the other on a quicksand of
dream-nurtured idealism, she contrives to combine the disadvantages of
both. She, who was the light o' love of all Europe for long ages, and in
her poverty denied nothing to her clientèle, has now laid aside a little
money, repenting of her frivolous and mercenary deeds (they sometimes
do), and becoming puritanically zealous of good works in her old
age--all this, however, as might have been expected from her antecedent
career, without much discrimination.

It is certainly remarkable that a race of men who have been such ardent
opponents of many forms of tyranny in the past, should still endure a
system of criminal procedure worthy of Torquemada. High and low cry out
against it, but--_pazienza!_ Where shall grievances be ventilated? In
Parliament? A good joke, that! In the press? Better still! Italian
newspapers nowise reflect the opinions of civilized Italy; they are mere
cheese-wrappers; in the whole kingdom there are only three
self-respecting dailies. The people have learnt to despair of their
rulers--to regard them with cynical suspicion. Public opinion has been
crushed out of the country. What goes by that name is the gossip of the
town-concierge, or obscure village cabals and schemings.

I am quite aware that the law-abiding spirit is the slow growth of ages,
and that a serious mischief like this cannot be repaired in a short
generation. I know that even now the Italian code of criminal procedure,
that tragic farce, is under revision. I know, moreover, that there are
stipendiary magistrates in south Italy whose discernment and integrity
would do honour to our British courts.  But--take the case out of their
hands into a higher tribunal, and you may put your trust in God, or in
your purse. Justice hereabouts is in the same condition as it was in
Egypt at the time of Lord Dufferin's report: a mockery.

It may be said that it does not concern aliens to make such criticism. A
fatuous observation! Everything concerns everybody. The foreigner in
Italy, if he is wise, will familiarize himself not only with the
cathedrals to be visited, but also, and primarily, with the technique of
legal bribery and subterfuge--with the methods locally employed for
escaping out of the meshes of the law. Otherwise he may find unpleasant
surprises in store for him. Had Mr. Mercer made it his business to
acquire some rudiments of this useful knowledge, he would never have
undergone that outrageous official ill-treatment which has become a
byword in the annals of international amenities. And if these strictures
be considered too severe, let us see what Italians themselves have to
say. In 1900 was published a book called "La Quistione Meridionale"
(What's Wrong with the South), that throws a flood of light upon local
conditions. It contains the views of twenty-seven of the most prominent
men in the country as to how south Italian problems should be faced and
solved. Nearly all of them deplore the lack of justice. Says Professor
Colajanni: "To heal the south, we require an honest, intelligent and
sagacious government, _which we have not got."_ And Lombroso: "In the
south it is necessary to introduce justice, _which does not exist, save
in favour of certain classes."_

I am tempted to linger on this subject, not without reason. These people
and their attitude towards life will remain an enigma to the traveller,
until he has acquainted himself with the law of the land and seen with
his own eyes something of the atrocious misery which its administration
involves. A murderer like Musolino, crowned with an aureole of
saintliness, would be an anomaly in England. We should think it rather
paradoxical to hear a respectable old farmer recommending his boys to
shoot a policeman, whenever they safely can. On the spot, things begin
to wear a different aspect. Musolino is no more to be blamed than a
child who has been systematically misguided by his parents; and if these
people, much as they love their homes and families, are all potential
Musolinos, they have good reasons for it--excellent reasons.

No south Italian living at this present moment, be he of what social
class you please--be he of the gentlest blood or most refined
culture--is _a priori_ on the side of the policeman. No; not _a
priori._ The abuses of the executive are too terrific to warrant such an
attitude. Has not the entire police force of Naples, up to its very
head, been lately proved to be in the pay of the camorra; to say nothing
of its connection with what Messrs. King and Okey euphemistically call
"the unseen hand at Rome"--a hand which is held out for blackmail, and
not vainly, from the highest ministerial benches? Under such conditions,
the populace becomes profoundly distrustful of the powers that be, and
such distrust breeds bad citizens. But so things will remain, until the
bag-and-baggage policy is applied to the whole code of criminal
procedure, and to a good half of its present administrators.

The best of law-systems, no doubt, is but a compromise. Science being
one thing, and public order another, the most enlightened of legislators
may well tremble to engraft the fruits of modern psychological research
upon the tree of law, lest the scion prove too vigorous for the aged
vegetable. But some compromises are better than others; and the Italian
code, which reads like a fairy tale and works like a Fury, is as bad a
one as human ingenuity can devise. If a prisoner escape punishment, it
is due not so much to his innocence as to some access of sanity or
benevolence on the part of the judge, who courageously twists the law in
his favour. Fortunately, such humane exponents of the code are common
enough; were it otherwise, the prisons, extensive as they are, would
have to be considerably enlarged. But that ideal judge who shall be paid
as befits his grave calling, who shall combine the honesty and common
sense of the north with the analytical acumen of the south, has yet to
be evolved. What interests the student of history is that things
hereabouts have not changed by a hair since the days of Demosthenes and
those preposterous old Hellenic tribunals. Not by a single hair! On the
one hand, we have a deluge of subtle disquisitions on "jurisprudence,"
"personal responsibility" and so forth; on the other, the sinister
tomfoolery known as _law--_ that is, babble, corruption, palaeolithic
ideas of what constitutes evidence, and a court-procedure that reminds
one of Gilbert and Sullivan at their best.

There was a report in the papers not long ago of the trial of an old
married couple, on the charge of murdering a young girl. The bench
dismissed the case, remarking that there was not a particle of evidence
against them; they had plainly been exemplary citizens all their long
lives. They had spent five years in prison awaiting trial. Five years,
and innocent! It stands to reason that such abuses disorganize the
family, especially in Italy, where the "family" means much more than it
does in England; the land lies barren, and savings are wasted in paying
lawyers and bribing greedy court officials. What are this worthy couple
to think of _Avanti, Savoia!_ once they have issued from their dungeon?

I read, in yesterday's Parliamentary Proceedings, of an honourable
member (Aprile) rising to ask the Minister of Justice (Gallini) whether
the time has not come to proceed with the trial of "Signori Camerano and
their co-accused," who have been in prison for six years, charged with
voluntary homicide. Whereto His Excellency sagely replies that "la
magistratura ha avuto i suoi motivi"--the magistrates have had their
reasons. Six years in confinement, and perhaps innocent! Can one wonder,
under such circumstances, at the anarchist schools of Prato and
elsewhere? Can one wonder if even a vindictive and corrupt rag like the
socialistic "Avanti" occasionally prints frantic protests of
quasi-righteous indignation? And not a hundredth part of such accused
persons can cause a Minister of the Crown to be interpellated on their
behalf. The others suffer silently and often die, forgotten, in their
cells.

And yet--how seriously we take this nation! Almost as seriously as we
take ourselves. The reason is that most of us come to Italy too
undiscerning, too reverent; in the pre-critical and pre-humorous stages.
We arrive here, stuffed with Renaissance ideals or classical lore, and
viewing the present through coloured spectacles. We arrive here, above
all things, too young; for youth loves to lean on tradition and to draw
inspiration from what has gone before; youth finds nothing more
difficult than to follow Goethe's advice about grasping that living life
which shifts and fluctuates about us. Few writers are sufficiently
detached to laugh at these people as they, together with ourselves, so
often and so richly deserve. I spoke of the buffoonery of Italian law; I
might have called it a burlesque. The trial of the ex-minister Nasi:
here was a _cause célèbre_ conducted by the highest tribunal of the
land; and if it was not a burlesque--why, we must coin a new word for
what is.



XXXIV

MALARIA


A black snake of alarming dimensions, one of the monsters that still
infest the Calabrian lowlands, glided across the roadway while I was
waiting for the post carriage to drive me to Caulonia from its
railway-station. Auspicious omen! It carried my thoughts from old
Aesculapius to his modern representatives--to that school of wise and
disinterested healers who are ridding these regions of their curse, and
with whom I was soon to have some nearer acquaintance. We started at
last, in the hot hours of the morning, and the road at first skirts the
banks of the Alaro, the Sagra of old, on whose banks was fought the
fabled battle between the men of Croton and Locri. Then it begins to
climb upwards. My companion was a poor peasant woman, nearly blind (from
malaria, possibly). Full of my impressions of yesterday, I promptly led
the conversation towards the subject of Musolino. She had never spoken
to him, she said, or even seen him. But she got ten francs from him, all
the same. In dire distress, some years ago, she had asked a friend in
the mountains to approach the brigand on her behalf. The money was long
in coming, she added, but of course it came in the end. He always helped
poor people, even those outside his own country. The site of the
original Caulonia is quite uncertain. Excavations now going on at
Monasterace, some ten miles further on, may decide that the town lay
there. Some are in favour of the miserable village of Foca, near at
hand; or of other sites. The name of Foca seems to point, rather, to a
settlement of the regenerator Nicephorus Phocas. Be that as it may, the
present town of Caulonia used to be called Castelvetere, and it
appropriated the Greek name in accordance with a custom which has been
largely followed hereabouts.  [Footnote: It is represented with two
towers in Peutinger's Tables. But these, says an editor, should have
been given to the neighbouring Scilatio, for Caulon was in ruins at the
time of Pliny, and is not even mentioned by Ptolemy. Servius makes
another mistake; he confuses the Calabrian Caulon with a locality of the
same name near Capua.] It contains some ten thousand inhabitants,
amiable, intelligent and distinguished by a _philoxenia_ befitting the
traditions of men who sheltered Pythagoras in his hour of need. As at
Rossano, Catanzaro and many other Calabrian towns, there used to be a
ghetto of Jews here; the district is still called "La Giudeca"; their
synagogue was duly changed into a church of the Madonna.

So much I learn from Montorio, who further informs me that the
ubiquitous Saint Peter preached here on his way to Rome, and converted
the people to Christianity; and that the town can boast of three
authentic portraits of the Mother of God painted by Saint Luke ("Lukas
me pinxit"). One is rather bewildered by the number of these
masterpieces in Italy, until one realizes, as an old ecclesiastical
writer has pointed out, that "the Saint, being excellent in his art,
could make several of them in a few days, to correspond to the great
devotion of those early Christians, fervent in their love to the Great
Mother of God. Whence we may believe that to satisfy their ardent
desires he was continually applying himself to this task of so much
glory to Mary and her blessed Son." But the sacristan of the church at
Caulonia, to whom I applied for information regarding these local
treasures, knew nothing about them, and his comments gave me the
impression that he has relapsed into a somewhat pagan way of regarding
such matters.

You may obtain a fairly good view of Caulonia from the southeast; or
again, from the neighbouring hillock of San Vito. The town lies some 300
metres above sea-level on a platform commanding the valleys of the Amusa
and Alaro. This position, which was clearly chosen for its strategic
value, unfortunately does not allow it to expand, and so the inhabitants
are deprived of that public garden which they amply deserve. At the
highest point lies a celebrated old castle wherein, according to
tradition, Campanella was imprisoned for a while. In the days of
Pacicchelli, it was a fine place--"magnifico nelle regole di Fortezza,
con cinque baloardi provveduti di cannoni di bronzo, ed una riccha
Armeria, degna habitazione di don Carlo Maria Carrafa, Prencipe della
Roccella, che se ne intitola Marchese." Mingled with the stones of its
old walls they have recently found skeletons--victims, possibly, of the
same macabre superstition to which the blood-drenched masonry of the
Tower of London bears witness. Here, too, have been unearthed
terra-cotta lamps and other antiquities. What are we to surmise from
this? That it was a Roman foundation? Or that the malaria in older times
forced Caulonia to wander towards healthier inland heights after the
example of Sybaris-Terranova, and that the Romans continued to occupy
this same site? Or, assuming Castelvetere to date only from mediaeval
times, that these ancient relics found their way into it accidentally?
The low-lying district of Foca, at this day, is certainly very
malarious, whereas the death-rate up here is only about 12 per 1000.

Dr. Francesco Genovese of Caulonia, to whom I am indebted for much
kindness and who is himself a distinguished worker in the humanitarian
mission of combating malaria, has published, among other interesting
pamphlets, one which deals with this village of Foca, a small place of
about 200 inhabitants, surrounded by fertile orange and vine plantations
near the mouth of the Alaro. His researches into its vital statistics
for the half-century ending 1902 reveal an appalling state of affairs.
Briefly summarized, they amount to this, that during this period there
were 391 births and 516 deaths. In other words, the village, which in
1902 ought to have contained between 600 and 800 inhabitants, not only
failed to progress, but devoured its original population of 200; and not
only them, but also 125 fresh immigrants who had entered the region from
the healthy uplands, lured by the hope of gaining a little money during
the vintage season.

A veritable Moloch!

Had the old city of Caulonia, numbering perhaps 20,000 inhabitants,
stood here under such conditions of hygiene, it would have been expunged
off the face of the earth in fifty years.

Yet--speaking of malaria in general--a good deal of evidence has been
brought together to show that the disease has been endemic in Magna
Grsecia for two thousand years, and the customs of the Sybarites seem to
prove that they had some acquaintance with marsh fever, and tried to
guard against it. "Whoever would live long," so ran their proverb, "must
see neither the rising nor the setting sun." A queer piece of advice,
intelligible only if the land was infested with malaria. Many of their
luxurious habits assume another import, on this hypothesis. Like the
inhabitants of the malarious Etruscan region, they were adepts at
draining, and their river is described, in one of the minor works
attributed to Galen, as "rendering men infertile"--a characteristic
result of malaria. What is still more significant is that their new town
Thurii, built on the heights, was soon infected, and though twice
repeopled, decayed away. And that they had chosen the heights for their
relative healthfulness we can infer from Strabo, who says that Paestum,
a colony from Sybaris, was removed further inland from the shore, on
account of the pestilential climate of the lowlands.

But the Ionian shores cannot have been as deadly as they now are. We
calculate, for example, that the town walls of Croton measured eighteen
kilometres in circumference, a figure which the modern visitor to
Cotrone only brings himself to believe when he remembers what can be
actually proved of other Hellenic colonies, such as Syracuse. Well, the
populace of so large a city requires a surrounding district to supply it
with agricultural produce. The Marchesato, the vast tract bordering on
Cotrone, is now practically uninhabitable; the population (including the
town) has sunk to 45 to the square kilometre.  That is malaria.

Or rather, only one side of the evil. For these coastlands attract rural
labourers who descend from the mountains during the season of hay-making
or fruit-harvest, and then return infected to their homes. One single
malarious patient may inoculate an entire village, hitherto immune,
granted the anophelines are there to propagate the mischief. By means of
these annual migrations the scourge has spread, in the past. And so it
spreads to-day, whenever possible. Of forty labourers that left Caulonia
for Cotrone in 1908 all returned infected save two, who had made liberal
use of quinine as a prophylactic. Fortunately, there are no anophelines
at Caulonia.

Greatly, indeed, must this country have changed since olden days; and
gleaning here and there among the ancients, Dr. Genovese has garnered
some interesting facts on this head. The coast-line, now unbroken sand,
is called _rocky,_ in several regions, by Strabo, Virgil and Persius
Flaccus; of the two harbours, of Locri, of that of Metapontum, Caulonia
and other cities, nothing remains; the promontory of Cocynthum
(Stilo)--described as the longest promontory in Italy--together with
other capes, has been washed away by the waves or submerged under silt
carried down from the hills; islands, like that of Calypso which is
described in Vincenzo Pascale's book (1796), and mentioned by G.
Castaidi (1842), have clean vanished from the map.

The woodlands have retired far inland; yet here at Caulonia, says
Thucydides, was prepared the timber for the fleets of Athens. The
rivers, irregular and spasmodic torrents, must have flowed with more
equal and deeper current, since Pliny mentions five of them as
navigable; snow, very likely, covered the mountain tops; the rainfall
was clearly more abundant--one of the sights of Locri was its daily
rainbow; the cicadas of the territory of Reggio are said to have been
"dumb," on account of the dampness of the climate. They are anything but
dumb nowadays.

Earth-movements, too, have tilted the coast-line up and down, and there
is evidence to show that while the Tyrrhenian shore has been raised by
these oscillations, the Ionian has sunk. Not long ago four columns were
found in the sea at Cotrone two hundred yards from the beach; old
sailors remember another group of columns visible at low tide near
Caulonia. It is quite possible that the Ionian used to be as rocky as
the other shore, and this gradual sinking of the coast must have
retarded the rapid outflow of the rivers, as it has done in the plain of
Paestum and in the Pontine marshes, favouring malarious conditions.
Earthquakes have helped in the work; that of 1908 lowered certain parts
of the Calabrian shore opposite Messina by about one metre. Indeed,
though earthquakes have been known to raise the soil and thereby improve
it, the Calabrian ones have generally had a contrary effect. The
terrific upheavals of 1783-1787 produced two hundred and fifteen lakes
in the country; they were drained away in a style most creditable to the
Bourbons, but there followed an epidemic of malaria which carried off
18,800 people!

These Calabrian conditions are only part of a general change of climate
which seems to have taken place all over Italy; a change to which
Columella refers when, quoting Saserna, he says that formerly the vine
and olive could not prosper "by reason of the severe winter" in certain
places where they have since become abundant, "thanks to a milder
temperature." We never hear of the frozen Tiber nowadays, and many
remarks of the ancients as to the moist and cold climate seem strange to
us. Pliny praises the chestnuts of Tarentum; I question whether the tree
could survive the hot climate of to-day. Nobody could induce "splendid
beeches" to grow in the _lowlands_ of Latium, yet Theophrastus, a
botanist, says that they were drawn from this region for shipbuilding
purposes. This gradual desiccation has probably gone on for long ages;
so Signor Cavara has discovered old trunks of white fir in districts of
the Apennines where such a plant could not possibly grow to-day.

A change to a dry and warm atmosphere is naturally propitious to
malaria, granted sufficient water remains to propagate the mosquito. And
the mosquito contents itself with very little--the merest teacup fui.

Returning to old Calabria, we find the woods of Locri praised by
Proclus--woods that must have been of coniferous timber, since Virgil
lauds their resinous pitch. Now the Aleppo pine produces pitch, and
would still flourish there, as it does in the lowlands between Taranto
and Metaponto; the classical Sila pitch-trees, however, could not grow
at this level any more. Corroborative evidence can be drawn from
Theocritus, who mentions heath and arbutus as thriving in the marine
thickets near Cotrone--mountain shrubs, nowadays, that have taken refuge
in cooler uplands, together with the wood-pigeon which haunted the same
jungles. It is true that he hints at marshes near Cotrone, and, indeed,
large tracts of south Italy are described as marshy by the ancients;
they may well have harboured the anopheles mosquito from time
immemorial, but it does not follow that they were malarious.

Much of the healthy physical conditions may have remained into the
Middle Ages or even later; it is strange to read, for example, in
Edrisius, of the pitch and tar that were exported to all parts from the
Bradano river, or of the torrential Sinno that "ships enter this
river--it offers excellent anchorage"; odd, too, to hear of coral
fisheries as late as the seventeenth century at Rocella Ionica, where
the waves now slumber on an even and sandy beach.

But malaria had made insidious strides, meanwhile. Dr. Genovese thinks
that by the year 1691 the entire coast was malarious and abandoned like
now, though only within the last two centuries has man actively
co-operated in its dissemination. So long as the woodlands on the plains
are cut down or grazed by goats, relatively little damage is done; but
it spells ruin to denude, in a country like this, the steep slopes of
their timber. Whoever wishes to know what mischief the goats, those
picturesque but pernicious quadrupeds, can do to a mountainous country,
should study the history of St. Helena.  [Footnote: By J. C. Melliss
(London, 1875).] Thanks to the goats, Maltese fever has lately been
introduced into Calabria. Man, with his charcoal-burning, has completed
the disaster. What happens? The friable rock, no longer sustained by
plant-life, crashes down with each thunderstorm, blocks up the valleys,
devastating large tracts of fertile land; it creates swamps in the
lowlands, and impedes the outflow of water to the sea. These ravenous
_fiumare_ have become a feature in Calabrian scenery; underneath one of
the most terrible of them lies the birthplace of Praxiteles. Dry or
half-dry during the warm months, and of formidable breadth, such
torrent-beds--the stagnant water at their skirts--are ideal
breeding-places for the anophelines from their mouth up to a height of
250 metres. So it comes about that, within recent times, rivers have
grown to be the main arteries of malaria. And there are rivers galore in
Calabria. The patriotic Barrius enumerates no of them--Father Fiore,
less learned, or more prudent, not quite so many.  Deforestation and
malaria have gone hand in hand here, as in Greece, Asia Minor, North
Africa, and other countries.

Thus year after year, from one cause or another, the conditions have
become more favourable for the disease to do its fatal work.

That much of this harm has been done quite lately can often be
proved. At Caulonia, for instance, the woodlands are known to have
reached the shore a hundred years ago, and there are bare tracts of land
still bearing the name of "foresta." In a single summer (1807) a French
regiment stationed at Cosenza lost 800 men from fever, and when Rath
visited the town in 1871 it was described to him as a "vast hospital"
during the hot months; nevertheless, says he, the disease has only been
so destructive during the last two centuries, for up to that time the
forests touched the outskirts of the town and regulated the Crati-bed,
preventing the formation of marshes. The literary record of Cosenza is
one of exceptional brilliance; for acute and original thought this town
can hardly be surpassed by any other of its size on earth. Were
statistics available, I have not the slightest doubt that fever could be
shown to be largely responsible for the withering of its spiritual life.

The same fate--the same relapse from prosperity to decay--and for the
same reasons, has overtaken many other riverside villages, among them
that of Tarsia, the Caprasia of the An tonine Itinerary. "It was
described to us," says Rath, "as the most miserable and dirty village in
Calabria; but we found it worse." It remains, to-day, a highly infected
and altogether pitiable place, concerning which I have made certain
modest researches that would require, none the less, a chapter to
themselves. . . .

Perhaps I have already said over-much on the subject. An Englishman
unacquainted with malaria might think so, oblivious of the fact that Sir
Ronald Ross has called it "perhaps the most important of human
diseases." But let him go to a malarious country and see with his own
eyes something of the degradation it involves; how it stamps its
accursed imprimatur upon man and nature alike! It is the blight of
youth--the desert-maker. A well-known Italian senator has declared that
the story of south Italy is, was, and will be the story of malaria; and
the greater part of Calabria will certainly remain an enigma to the
traveller who ignores what is meant by this plague.

Malaria is the key to a correct understanding of the landscape; it
explains the inhabitants, their mode of life, their habits, their history.



XXXV

CAULONIA TO SERRA


"How do you treat your malaria patients?" I once enquired of a doctor in
India. A few good stiff doses, he said, when the attack is on; that
generally settles them. If not, they can begin again. To take quinine as
a prophylactic, he considered folly. It might grow into a habit; you
never know. . . .

It is to be hoped that such types are extinct, out there. They are
extinct hereabouts. None but an ignorant person would now traverse
malarious tracts in summer without previous quininiza-tion; or, if
infected, deal with the disease otherwise than by an amply protracted
treatment of cure. Yet it is only quite lately that we have gained our
knowledge of a proper use of the drug; and this accounts for the great
mortality long after its specific effects had been recognized by the
profession. It was given both inefficiently and insufficiently. It was
sold at a prohibitive price. The country people were distrustful;
so-and-so had taken it for three or four days; he had improved, yes; but
the fever was on him once more. Why waste money on such experiments?

I remember accosting a lad, anemic, shivering with the tertian, and
marked by that untimely senility which is the sign-manual of malaria. I
suggested quinine.

"I don't take doctors' stuff," he said. "Even if I wanted to, my father
would not let me. And if he did, there's no money to pay for it. And if
there were, it would do no good. He's tried it himself."

"Well, but how are you feeling?"

"Oh, all right. There's nothing much the matter with me. Just the bad air."

Such types, too, are practically extinct nowadays; the people are being
educated to recognize their peril and how to avoid it; they begin to
follow Professor Celli's advice in the matter of regarding quinine as
their "daily bread." For since the discovery of the anophelic origin of
malaria many devices have been put into execution to combat the disease,
not the least of them being a popularized teaching of its causes and
consequences by means of pamphlets, lectures to school-children, and so
forth.

Now, you may either fight the anopheles--the vehicle, or the disease
itself. The first entails putting the country into such a state that the
mosquito finds it unpleasant to live there, a labour of Hercules. Yet
large sums are being expended in draining marshy tracts, regulating
river-beds and afforesting bare spaces; and if you are interested in
such works, you will do well to see what is going on at Metaponto at
this moment. (A considerable portion of the Government grant for these
purposes has lately been deflected for use in the Tripolitan war.)
Exemplary fines are also imposed for illicit timber-cutting and
grazing,--in those towns, at least, where the magistrate has sufficient
sense to perceive the ulterior benefits to be derived from what
certainly entails a good deal of temporary hardship on poor people.
Certain economic changes are helping in this work; so the wealth
imported from America helps to break up the big properties, those
latifundia which, says an Italian authority, "are synonymous with
malaria." The ideal condition--the extirpation of anophelines--will
never be attained; nor is it of vital importance that it should be.

Far more pressing is the protection of man against their attacks.
Wonderful success has crowned the wire-netting of the windows--an
outcome of the classical experiments of 1899, in the Roman Campagna.

But chiefest and most urgent of all is the cure of the infected
population. In this direction, results astonishing--results well-nigh
incredible--have attended the recently introduced governmental sale of
quinine. In the year 1895 there were 16,464 deaths from malaria
throughout Italy. By 1908 the number had sunk to 3463. Eloquent figures,
that require no comment! And, despite the fact that the drug is now sold
at a merely nominal rate or freely given away to the needy--nay, thrust
down the very throats of the afflicted peasantry by devoted gentlemen
who scour the plains with ambulances during the deadly season--despite
this, the yearly profits from its sale are amounting to about
three-quarters of a million francs.

So these forlorn regions are at last beginning to revive.

And returning to Foca, of whose dreadful condition up to 1902 (year of
the introduction of Government quinine) I have just spoken, we find that
a revolution has taken place. Between that year and 1908 the birth-rate
more than doubled the death-rate. In 1908 some two hundred poor folks
frequented the ambulance, nearly six kilogrammes of quinine being
gratuitously distributed; not one of the natives of the place was
attacked by the disease; and there was a single death--an old woman of
eighty, who succumbed to senile decay.  [Footnote: Doctor Genovese's
statistical investigations have brought an interesting little fact to
light. In the debilitating pre-quinine period there was a surplus of
female births; now, with increased healthfulness, those of the males
preponderate.]

This is an example of what the new quinine-policy has done for Italy, in
briefest space of time. Well may the nation be proud of the men who
conceived this genial and beneficial measure and carried it through
Parliament, and of those local doctors without whose enlightened zeal
such a triumph could not have been achieved. . . .

Sir Ronald Ross's discovery, by the way, has been fruitful not only in
practical humanitarian results. For instance, it has reduced North's
laborious "Roman Fever" to something little better than a curiosity. And
here, on these deserted shores that were once resplendent with a great
civilization--here is the place to peruse Mr. W. M. Jones's studies on
this subject. I will not give even the shortest precis of his
conscientious researches nor attempt to picture their effect upon a mind
trained in the old school of thought; suffice to say, that the author
would persuade us that malaria is implicated, to an hitherto unsuspected
extent, in the decline of ancient Greece and Rome. And he succeeds. Yes;
a man accustomed to weigh evidence will admit, I think, that he has made
out a suggestively strong case.

How puzzled we were to explain why the brilliant life of Magna Graecia
was snuffed out suddenly, like a candle, without any appreciably
efficient cause--how we listened to our preachers cackling about the
inevitable consequences of Sybaritic luxury, and to the warnings of sage
politicians concerning the dangers of mere town-patriotism as opposed to
worthier systems of confederation! How we drank it all in! And how it
warmed the cockles of our hearts to think that we were not vicious,
narrow-minded heathens, such as these!

And now a vulgar gnat is declared to be at the bottom of the whole mystery.

Crudely disconcerting, these scientific discoveries. Or is it not rather
hard to be dragged to earth in this callous fashion, while soaring
heavenward on the wings of our edifying reflections? For the rest--the
old, old story; a simple, physical explanation of what used to be an
enigma brimful of moral significance.

That Mr. Jones's facts and arguments will be found applicable to
other decayed races in the old and new worlds is highly probable.
Meanwhile, it takes one's breath away quite sufficiently to realize that
they apply to Hellas and her old colonies on these shores.

"'AUTOS. Strange! My interest waxes. Tell me then, what affliction, God
or Devil, wiped away the fair life upon the globe, the beasts, the
birds, the delectable plantations, and all the blithe millions of the
human race? What calamity fell upon them?'

"'ESCHATA. A gnat.'

"'AUTOS. A gnat?'

"'ESCHATA. Even so.'"

Thus I wrote, while yet unaware that such pests as anophelines existed
upon earth. . . .

At the same time, I think we must be cautious in following certain
deductions of our author; that theory of brutality, for example, as
resulting from malaria. Speaking of Calabria, I would almost undertake
to prove, from the archives of law-courts, that certain of the most
malarial tracts are precisely those in which there is least brutality of
any kind. Cotrone, for instance. . . . The _delegato_ (head of the
police) of that town is so young--a mere boy--that I marvelled how he
could possibly have obtained a position which is usually filled by
seasoned and experienced officers. He was a "son of the white hen," they
told me; that is, a socially favoured individual, who was given this job
for the simple reason that there was hardly any serious work for him to
do. Cosenza, on the other hand, has a very different reputation
nowadays. And it is perfectly easy to explain how malaria might have
contributed to this end. For the disease--and herein lies its
curse--lowers both the physical and social standard of a people; it
breeds misery, poverty and ignorance--fit soil for callous rapacity.

But how about his theory of "pessimism" infecting the outlook of
generations of malaria-weakened sages? I find no trace of pessimism
here, not even in its mild Buddhistic form. The most salient mental
trait of cultured Calabrians is a subtle detachment and contempt of
illusions--whence their time-honoured renown as abstract thinkers and
speculators. This derives from a philosophic view of life and entails,
naturally enough, the outward semblance of gravity--a Spanish gravity,
due not so much to a strong graft of Spanish blood and customs during
the viceregal period, as to actual affinities with the race of Spain.
But this gravity has nothing in common with pessimism, antagonistic
though it be to those outbursts of irresponsible optimism engendered
under northern skies by copious food, or beer.

To reach the uplands of Fabbrizia and Serra, whither I was now bound, I
might have utilized the driving road from Gioioso, on the Reggio side of
Caulonia. But that was everybody's route. Or I might have gone _via_
Stilo, on the other side. But Stilo with its memories of Campanella--a
Spanish type, this!--and of Otho II, its winding track into the
beech-clad heights of Ferdinandea, was already familiar to me. I elected
to penetrate straight inland by the shortest way; a capable muleteer at
once presented himself.

We passed through one single village, Ragona; leaving those of S. Nicola
and Nardo di Pace on the right. The first of them is celebrated for its
annual miracle of the burning olive, when, armed to the teeth (for some
ancient reason), the populace repairs to the walls of a certain convent
out of which there grows an olive tree: at its foot is kindled a fire
whose flames are sufficient to scorch all the leaves, but behold! next
day the foliage is seen to glow more bravely green than ever. Perhaps
the roots of the tree are near some cistern. These mountain villages,
hidden under oaks and vines, with waters trickling through their lanes,
a fine climate and a soil that bears everything needful for life, must
be ideal habitations for simple folks. In some of them, the death-rate
is as low as 7: 1000. Malaria is unknown here: they seem to fulfil all
the conditions of a terrestrial paradise.

There is a note of joyous vigour in this landscape. The mule-track winds
in and out among the heights, through flowery meadows grazed by cattle
and full of buzzing insects and butterflies, and along hill-sides
cunningly irrigated; it climbs up to heathery summits and down again
through glades of chestnut and ilex with mossy trunks, whose shadow
fosters strange sensations of chill and gloom. Then out again, into the
sunshine of waving corn and poppies.

For a short while we stumbled along a torrent-bed, and I grew rather sad
to think that it might be the last I should see for some time to come,
my days in this country being now numbered. This one was narrow. But
there are others, interminable in length and breadth. Interminable! No
breeze stirs in those deep depressions through which the merest thread
of milky water trickles disconsolately. The sun blazes overhead and
hours pass, while you trudge through the fiery inferno; scintillations
of heat rise from the stones and still you crawl onwards, breathless and
footsore, till eyes are dazed and senses reel. One may well say bad
things of these torrid deserts of pebbles which, up till lately, were
the only highways from the lowlands into the mountainous parts. But they
are sweet in memory. One calls to mind the wild savours that hang in
the stagnant air; the cloven hill-sides, seamed with gorgeous patches of
russet and purple and green; the spectral tamarisks, and the glory of
coral-tinted oleanders rising in solitary tufts of beauty, or flaming
congregations, out of the pallid waste of boulders.

After exactly six hours Fabbrizia was reached--a large place whose name,
like that of Borgia, Savelli, Carafa and other villages on these
southern hills, calls up associations utterly non-Calabrian; Fabbrizia,
with pretentious new church and fantastically dirty side-streets. It
lies at the respectable elevation of 900 metres, on the summit of a
monstrous landslide which has disfigured the country.

While ascending along the flank of this deformity I was able to see how
the authorities have attempted to cope with the mischief and arrest
further collapses. This is what they have done. The minute channels of
water, that might contribute to the disintegration of the soil by
running into this gaping wound from the sides or above, have been
artfully diverted from their natural courses; trees and shrubs are
planted at its outskirts in order to uphold the earth at these spots by
their roots--they have been protected by barbed wire from the grazing of
cattle; furthermore, a multitude of wickerwork dykes are thrown across
the accessible portions of the scar, to collect the downward-rushing
material and tempt winged plant-seeds to establish themselves on the
ledges thus formed. To bridle this runaway mountain is no mean task, for
such _frane_ are like rodent ulcers, ever enlarging at the edges. With
the heat, with every shower of rain, with every breath of wind, the
earth crumbles away; there is an eternal trickling, day and night, until
some huge boulder is exposed which crashes down, loosening everything in
its wild career; a single tempest may disrupture what the patience and
ingenuity of years have contrived.

Three more hours or thereabouts will take you to Serra San Bruno along
the backbone of southern Italy, through cultivated lands and pasture and
lonely stretches of bracken, once covered by woodlands.

It may well be that the townlet has grown up around, or rather near, the
far-famed Carthusian monastery. I know nothing of its history save that
it has the reputation of being one of the most bigoted places in
Calabria--a fact of which the sagacious General Manhes availed himself
when he devised his original and effective plan of chastising the
inhabitants for a piece of atrocious conduct on their part. He caused
all the local priests to be arrested and imprisoned; the churches were
closed, and the town placed under what might be called an interdict. The
natives took it quietly at first, but soon the terror of the situation
dawned upon them. No religious marriages, no baptisms, no funerals--the
comforts of heaven refused to living and dead alike. . . . The strain
grew intolerable and, in a panic of remorse, the populace hunted down
their own brigand-relations and handed them over to Manhes, who duly
executed them, one and all. Then the interdict was taken off and the
priests set at liberty; and a certain writer tells us that the people
were so charmed with the General's humane and businesslike methods that
they forthwith christened him "Saint Manhes," a name which, he avers,
has clung to him ever since.

The monastery lies about a mile distant; near at hand is a little
artificial lake and the renowned chapel of Santa Maria. There was a time
when I would have dilated lovingly upon this structure--a time when I
probably knew as much about Carthusian convents as is needful for any of
their inmates; when I studied Tromby's ponderous work and God knows how
many more--ay, and spent two precious weeks of my life in deciphering
certain crabbed MSS. of Tutini in the Brancacciana library--ay, and
tested the spleenful Perrey's "Ragioni del Regio Fisco, etc.," as to the
alleged land-grabbing propensities of this order--ay, and even
pilgrimaged to Rome to consult the present general of the Carthusians
(his predecessor, more likely) as to some administrative detail,
all-important, which has wholly escaped my memory. Gone are those days
of studious gropings into blind alleys! The current of zeal has slowed
down or turned aside, maybe, into other channels. They who wish, will
find a description of the pristine splendour of this monastery in
various books by Pacicchelli; the catastrophe of 1783 was described by
Keppel Craven and reported upon, with illustrations, by the Commission
of the Naples Academy; and if you are of a romantic turn of mind, you
will find a good story of the place, as it looked duringthe ruinous days
of desolation, in Misasi's "Calabrian Tales."

It is now rebuilt on modern lines and not much of the original structure
remains upright. I wandered about the precincts in the company of two
white-robed French monks, endeavouring to reconstruct not the convent as
it was in its younger days, but _them._ That older one, especially--he
had known the world. . . .

Meat being forbidden, the godly brethren have a contract for fish to be
brought up every day by the post-carriage from the distant Soverato. And
what happens, I asked, when none are caught?

"Eh bien, nous mangeons des macaroni!"

Such a diet would never suit me. Let me retire to a monkery where
carnivorous leanings may be indulged. Methinks I could pray more
cheerfully with the prospect of a rational _dejeuner a la fourchette_
looming ahead.

At the back of the monastery lies a majestic forest of white
firs--nothing but firs; a unique region, so far as south and central
Italy are concerned. I was there in the golden hour after sunset, and
yet again in the twilight of dew-drenched morning; and it seemed to me
that in this temple not made by hands there dwelt an enchantment more
elemental, and more holy, than in the cloistered aisles hard by. This
assemblage of solemn trees has survived, thanks to rare conditions of
soil and climate. The land lies high; the ground is perennially moist
and intersected by a horde of rills that join their waters to form the
river Ancinale; frequent showers descend from above. Serra San Bruno has
an uncommonly heavy rainfall. It lies in a vale occupying the site of a
pleistocene lake, and the forest, now restricted to one side of the
basin, encircled it entirely in olden days. At its margin they have
established a manufactory which converts the wood into paper--blissful
sight for the utilitarian.

Finding little else of interest in Serra, and hungering for the
flesh-pots of Cotrone, I descended by the postal diligence to Soverato,
nearly a day's journey. Old Soverato is in ruins, but the new town seems
to thrive in spite of being surrounded by deserts of malaria. While
waiting for supper and the train to Cotrone, I strolled along the
beach, and soon found myself sitting beside the bleached anatomy of
some stranded leviathan, and gazing at the mountains of Squillace that
glowed in the soft lights of sunset. The shore was deserted save for
myself and a portly dogana-official who was playing with his little
son--trying to amuse him by elephantine gambols on the sand, regardless
of his uniform and manly dignity. Notwithstanding his rotundity, he was
an active and resourceful parent, and enjoyed himself vastly; the boy
pretending, as polite children sometimes do, to enter into the fun of
the game.



XXXVI

MEMORIES OF GISSING


Two new hotels have recently sprung up at Cotrone. With laudable
patriotism, they are called after its great local champions, athletic
and spiritual, in ancient days--Hotel Milo and Hotel Pythagoras. As
such, they might be expected to make a strong appeal to the muscles and
brains of their respective clients. I rather fancy that the chief
customers of both are commercial travellers who have as little of the
one as of the other, and to whom these fine names are Greek.

As for myself, I remain faithful to the "Concordia" which has twice
already sheltered me within its walls.

The shade of George Gissing haunts these chambers and passages. It was
in 1897 that he lodged here with that worthy trio: Gibbon, Lenormant and
Cassiodorus. The chapters devoted to Cotrone are the most lively and
characteristic in his "Ionian Sea." Strangely does the description of
his arrival in the town, and his reception in the "Concordia," resemble
that in Bourget's "Sensations."

The establishment has vastly improved since those days. The food is good
and varied, the charges moderate; the place is spotlessly clean in every
part--I could only wish that the hotels in some of our English country
towns were up to the standard of the "Concordia" in this respect. "One
cannot live without cleanliness," as the housemaid, assiduously
scrubbing, remarked to me. It is also enlarged; the old dining-room,
whose guests are so humorously described by him, is now my favourite
bedroom, while those wretched oil-lamps sputtering on the wall have been
replaced by a lavish use of electricity. One is hardly safe, however, in
praising these inns over-much; they are so apt to change hands. So long
as competition with the two others continues, the "Concordia" will
presumably keep to its present level.

Of freaks in the dining-room, I have so far only observed one whom
Gissing might have added to his collection. He is a _director_ of some
kind, and his method of devouring maccheroni I unreservedly admire--it
displays that lack of all effort which distinguishes true art from
false. He does not eat them with deliberate mastication; he does not
even--like your ordinary amateur--drink them in separate gulps; but he
contrives, by some swiftly-adroit process of levitation, that the whole
plateful shall rise in a noiseless and unbroken flood from the table to
his mouth, whence it glides down his gullet with the relentless ease of
a river pouring into a cavern. Altogether, a series of films depicting
him at work upon a meal would make the fortune of a picture-show
company--in England. Not here, however; such types are too common to be
remarked, the reason being that boys are seldom sent to boarding schools
where stereotyped conventions of "good form" are held up for their
imitation, but brought up at home by adoring mothers who care little for
such externals or, if they do, have no great authority to enforce their
views. On entering the world, these eccentricities in manner are proudly
clung to, as a sign of manly independence.

Death has made hideous gaps in the short interval. The kindly
Vice-Consul at Catanzaro is no more; the mayor of Cotrone, whose permit
enabled Gissing to visit that orchard by the riverside, has likewise
joined the majority; the housemaid of the "Concordia," the domestic serf
with dark and fiercely flashing eyes--dead! And dead is mine hostess,
"the stout, slatternly, sleepy woman, who seemed surprised at my demand
for food, but at length complied with it."

But the little waiter is alive and now married; and Doctor Sculco still
resides in his aristocratic _palazzo_ up that winding way in the old
town, with the escutcheon of a scorpion--portentous emblem for a
doctor--over its entrance. He is a little greyer, no doubt; but the same
genial and alert personage as in those days.

I called on this gentleman, hoping to obtain from him some reminiscences
of Gissing, whom he attended during a serious illness.

"Yes," he replied, to my enquiries, "I remember him quite well; the
young English poet who was ill here. I prescribed for him. Yes--yes! He
wore his hair long."

And that was all I could draw from him. I have noticed more than once
that Italian physicians have a stern conception of the Hippocratic oath:
the affairs of their patients, dead or alive, are a sacred trust in
perpetuity.

The town, furthermore, has undergone manifold improvements in those few
years. Trees are being planted by the roadsides; electric light is
everywhere and, best of all, an excellent water-supply has been led down
from the cool heights of the Sila, bringing cleanliness, health and
prosperity in its train. And a stately cement-bridge is being built over
the Esaro, that "all but stagnant and wholly pestilential stream." The
Esaro _glides pleasantly,_ says the chronicler Noia Molisi. Perhaps it
really glided, in his day.

One might do worse than spend a quiet month or two at Cotrone in the
spring, for the place grows upon one: it is so reposeful and orderly.
But not in winter. Gissing committed the common error of visiting south
Italy at that season when, even if the weather will pass, the country
and its inhabitants are not true to themselves. You must not come to
these parts in winter time.

Nor yet in the autumn, for the surrounding district is highly malarious.
Thucydides already speaks of these coastlands as depopulated (relatively
speaking, I suppose), and under the Romans they recovered but little;
they have only begun to revive quite lately.  [Footnote: Between
1815--1843, and in this single province of Catanzaro, there was an
actual decline in the population of thirty-six towns and villages.
Malaria!] Yet this town must have looked well enough in the twelfth
century, since it is described by Edrisius as "a very old city,
primitive and beautiful, prosperous and populated, in a smiling
position, with walls of defence and an ample port for anchorage." I
suspect that the history of Cotrone will be found to bear out Professor
Celli's theory of the periodical recrudescences and abatements of
malaria. However that may be, the place used to be in a deplorable
state. Riedesel (1771) calls it "la ville la plus affreuse de l'Italie,
et peut-ètre du monde entier"; twenty years later, it is described as
"sehr ungesund ... so aermlich als moeglich"; in 1808 it was "réduite a
une population de trois mille habitants rongés par la misere, et les
maladies qu'occasionne la stagnation des eaux qui autrefois
fertilisaient ces belles campagnes." In 1828, says Vespoli, it contained
only 3932 souls.

I rejoice to cite such figures. They show how vastly Cotrone, together
with the rest of Calabria, has improved since the Bourbons were ousted.
The sack of the town by their hero Cardinal Ruffo, described by Pepe and
others, must have left long traces. "Horrible was the carnage
perpetrated by these ferocious bands. Neither age nor sex nor condition
was spared. . . . After two days of pillage accompanied by a multitude
of excesses and cruelties, they erected, on the third day, a magnificent
altar in the middle of a large square"--and here the Cardinal, clothed
in his sacred purple, praised the good deeds of the past two days and
then, raising his arms, displayed a crucifix, absolving his crew from
the faults committed during the ardour of the sack, and blessed them.

I shall be sorry to leave these regions for the north, as leave them I
must, in shortest time. The bathing alone would tempt me to prolong my
stay, were it possible. Whereas Taranto, despite its situation,
possesses no convenient beach, there are here, on either side of the
town, leagues of shimmering sand lapped by tepid and caressing waves; it
is a sunlit solitude; the land is your own, the sea your own, as far as
eye can reach. One may well become an amphibian, at Cotrone.

The inhabitants of this town are well-mannered and devoid of the
"ineffable" air of the Tarentines. But they are not a handsome race.
Gissing says, a propos of the products of a local photographer, that it
was "a hideous exhibition; some of the visages attained an incredible
degree of vulgar ugliness." That is quite true. Old authors praise the
beauty of the women of Cotrone, Bagnara, and other southern towns; for
my part, I have seldom found good-looking women in the coastlands of
Calabria; the matrons, especially, seem to favour that ideal of the
Hottentot Venus which you may study in the Jardin des Plantes; they are
decidedly centripetal. Of the girls and boys one notices only those who
possess a peculiar trait: the eyebrows pencilled in a dead straight
line, which gives them an almost hieratic aspect. I cannot guess from
what race is derived this marked feature which fades away with age as
the brows wax thicker and irregular in contour. We may call it Hellenic
on the old-fashioned principle that everything attractive comes from the
Greeks, while its opposite is ascribed to those unfortunate "Arabs" who,
as a matter of fact, are a sufficiently fine-looking breed.

And there must be very little Greek blood left here. The town--among
many similar vicissitudes--was peopled largely by Bruttians, after
Hannibal had established himself here. In the Viceregal period, again,
there was a great infusion of Spanish elements. A number of Spanish
surnames still linger on the spot.

And what of Gissing's other friend, the amiable guardian of the
cemetery? "His simple good nature and intelligence greatly won upon me.
I like to think of him as still quietly happy amid his garden walls,
tending flowers that grow over the dead at Cotrone."

Dead, like those whose graves he tended; like Gissing himself. He
expired in February 1901--the year of the publication of the "Ionian
Sea," and they showed me his tomb near the right side of the entrance;
_a._ poor little grave, with a wooden cross bearing a number, which will
soon be removed to make room for another one.

This cemetery by the sea is a fair green spot, enclosed in a high wall
and set with flowering plants and comely cypresses that look well
against their background of barren clay-hills. Wandering here, I called
to mind the decent cemetery of Lucera, and that of Manfredonia, built in
a sleepy hollow at the back of the town which the monks in olden days
had utilized as their kitchen garden (it is one of the few localities
where deep soil can be found on that thirsty limestone plain); I
remembered the Venosa burial-ground near the site of the Roman
amphitheatre, among the tombs of which I had vainly endeavoured to find
proofs that the name of Horace is as common here as that of Manfred in
those other two towns; the Taranto cemetery, beyond the railway quarter,
somewhat overloaded with pretentious ornaments; I thought of many cities
of the dead, in places recently explored--that of Rossano, ill-kept
within, but splendidly situated on a projecting spur that dominates the
Ionian; of Caulonia, secluded among ravines at the back of the
town. . .  .

They are all full of character; a note in the landscape, with their
cypresses darkly towering amid the pale and lowly olives; one would
think the populace had thrown its whole poetic feeling into the choice
of these sites and their embellishments. But this is not the case; they
are chosen merely for convenience--not too far from habitations, and yet
on ground that is comparatively cheap. Nor are they truly venerable,
like ours. They date, for the most part, from the timewhen the
Government abolished the oldsystem of inhumation in churches--a system
which, for the rest, still survives; there are over six hundred of these
_fosse carnarie_ in use at this moment, most of them in churches.

And a sad thought obtrudes itself in these oases of peace and verdure.
The Italian law requires that the body shall be buried within
twenty-four hours after decease (the French consider forty-eight hours
too short a term, and are thinking of modifying their regulations in
this respect): a doctor's certificate of death is necessary but often
impossible to procure, since some five hundred Italian communities
possess no medical man whatever. Add to this, the superstitions of
ignorant country people towards the dead, testified to by extraordinary
beliefs and customs which you will find in Pitré and other collectors of
native lore--their mingled fear and hatred of a corpse, which prompts
them to thrust it underground at the earliest possible opportunity.
. . . Premature burial must be all too frequent here. I will not
enlarge upon the theme of horror by relating what gravediggers
have seen with their own eyes on disturbing old coffins; if only half
what they tell me is true, it reveals a state of affairs not to be
contemplated without shuddering pity, and one that calls for prompt
legislation. Only last year a frightful case came to light in Sicily.
_Videant Consules._

Here, at the cemetery, the driving road abruptly ends; thenceforward
there is merely a track along the sea that leads, ultimately, to Capo
Nau, where stands a solitary column, last relic of the great temple of
Hera. I sometimes follow it as far as certain wells that are sunk,
Arab-fashion, into the sand, and dedicated to Saint Anne. Goats and cows
recline here after their meagre repast of scorched grasses, and the
shepherds in charge have voices so soft, and manners so gentle, as to
call up suggestions of the Golden Age. These pastoral folk are the
primitives of Cotrone. From father to son, for untold ages before
Theocritus hymned them, they have kept up their peculiar habits and
traditions; between them and the agricultural classes is a gulf as deep
as between these and the citizens. Conversing with them, one marvels how
the same occupation can produce creatures so unlike as these and the
goat-boys of Naples, the most desperate _camorristi._

The cows may well be descendants of the sacred cattle of Hera that
browsed under the pines which are known to have clothed the bleak
promontory. You may encounter them every day, wandering on the way to
the town which they supply with milk; to avoid the dusty road, they
march sedately through the soft wet sand at the water's edge, their
silvery bodies outlined against a cserulean flood of sky and sea.

On this promenade I yesterday observed, slow-pacing beside the waves, a
meditative priest, who gave me some details regarding the ruined church
of which Gissing speaks. It lies in the direction of the cemetery,
outside the town; "its lonely position," he says, "made it interesting,
and the cupola of coloured tiles (like that of the cathedral of Amalfi)
remained intact, a bright spot against the grey hills behind." This
cupola has recently been removed, but part of the old walls serve as
foundation for a new sanctuary, a sordid-looking structure with
red-tiled roof: I am glad to have taken a view of it, some years ago,
ere its transformation. Its patroness is the Madonna del Carmine--the
same whose church in Naples is frequented by thieves and cut-throats,
who make a special cult of this Virgin Motherand invoke Her blessing on
their nefarious undertakings.

The old church, he told me, was built in the middle of the seventeenth
century; this new one, he agreed, might have been constructed on more
ambitious lines, "but nowadays----" and he broke off, with eloquent
aposiopesis.

It was the same, he went on, with the road to the cemetery; why should
it not be continued right up to the cape of the Column as in olden days,
over ground _dove ogni passo è una memoria:_ where every footstep is a
memory?

"Rich Italians," he said, "sometimes give away money to benefit the
public. But the very rich--never! And at Cotrone, you must remember,
every one belongs to the latter class."

We spoke of the Sila, which he had occasionally visited.

"What?" he asked incredulously, "you have crossed the whole of that
country, where there is nothing to eat--nothing in the purest and most
literal sense of that word? My dear sir! You must feel like Hannibal,
after his passage of the Alps."

Those barren clay-hills on our right of which Gissing speaks (they are
like the _baize_ of the Apennines) annoyed him considerably; they were
the malediction of the town, he declared. At the same time, they
supplied him with the groundwork of a theory for which there is a good
deal to be said. The old Greek city, he conjectured, must have been
largely built of bricks made from their clay, which is once more being
utilized for this purpose. How else account for its utter disappearance?
Much of the finer buildings were doubtless of stone, and these have been
worked into the fort, the harbour and _palazzi_ of new Cotrone; but this
would never account for the vanishing of a town nearly twelve miles in
circumference. Bricks, he said, would explain the mystery; they had
crumbled into dust ere yet the Romans rebuilt, with old Greek stones,
the city on the promontory now occupied by the new settlement.

The modern palaces on the rising ground of the citadel are worthy of a
visit; they are inhabited by some half-dozen "millionaires" who have
given Cotrone the reputation of being the richest town of its size in
Italy. So far as I can judge, the histories of some of these wealthy
families would be curious reading.

"Gentlemen," said the Shepherd, "if you have designs of Trading, you
must go another way; but if you're of the admired sort of Men, that have
the thriving qualifications of Lying and Cheating, you're in the direct
Path to Business; for in this City no Learning flourisheth; Eloquence
finds no room here; nor can Temperance, Good Manners, or any Vertue meet
with a Reward; assure yourselves of finding but two sorts of Men, and
those are the Cheated, and those that Cheat."

If gossip at Naples and elsewhere is to be trusted, old Petronius seems
to have had a prophetic glimpse of the _dessus du panier_ of modern
Cotrone.



XXXVII

COTRONE


The sun has entered the Lion. But the temperature at Cotrone is not
excessive--five degrees lower than Taranto or Milan or London. One grows
weary, none the less, of the deluge of implacable light that descends,
day after day, from the aether. The glistering streets are all but
deserted after the early hours of the morning. A few busy folks move
about till midday on the pavements; and so do I--in the water. But the
long hours following luncheon are consecrated to meditation and repose.

A bundle of Italian newspapers has preceded me hither; upon these I
browse dispersedly, while awaiting the soft call to slumber. Here are
some provincial sheets--the "Movement" of Castro-villari--the "New
Rossano"--the "Bruttian" of Corigliano, with strong literary flavour.
Astonishing how decentralized Italy still is, how brimful of purely
local patriotism: what conception have these men of Rome as their
capital? These articles often reflect a lively turmoil of ideas,
well-expressed. Who pays for such journalistic ventures? Typography is
cheap, and contributors naturally content themselves with the ample
remuneration of appearing in print before their fellow-citizens; a
considerable number of copies are exported to America. Yet I question
whether the circulation of the "New Rossano," a fortnightly in its sixth
year, can exceed five hundred copies.

But these venial and vapid Neapolitan dailies are my pet aversion. We
know them, _nous autres,_ with their odious personalities and playful
blackmailing tactics; many "distinguished foreigners," myself included,
could tell a tale anent that subject. Instead of descending to such
matters, let me copy--it is too good to translate--a thrilling item of
news from the chiefest of them, the _Mattino,_ which touches,
furthermore, upon the all-important subject of Calabrian progress.

"CETRARO. Per le continuate premure ed insistenze di questo egregio
uffiziale postale Signor Rocca Francesco--che nulla lascia
pel bene avviamento del nostro uffizio--presso 1' on. Dirczione delle
poste di Cosenza, si è ottenuta una cassetta postale, che affissa lungo
il Corso Carlo Pancaso, ci da la bella commodità di imbucare le nostre
corrispondenze per essere rilevate tre volte al giorno non solo, quanto
ci evita persino la dolorosa e lunga via crucis che dovevamo percorrere
qualvolta si era costretti d' imbuccare una lettera, essendo il nostro
uffizio situato ali' estremità del paese.

"Tributiamo perciò sincera lode al nostro caro uffiziale postale Sig.
Rocca, e ci auguriamo che egli continui ancora al miglioramento deli'
uffizio istesso, e mercé 1' opera sua costante ed indefessa siamo sicuri
che 1' uffizio postale di Cetraro assurgerà fra non molto ad un'
importanza maggiore di quella che attualmente."

The erection of a letter-box in the Street of a small place of which 80
per cent of the readers have never so much as heard. ... I begin to
understand why the cultured Tarentines do not read these journals.

By far the best part of all such papers is the richly-tinted personal
column, wherein lovers communicate with each other, or endeavour to do
so. I read it conscientiously from beginning to end, admiring, in my
physical capacity, the throbbing passion that prompts such public
outbursts of confidence and, from a literary point of view, their
lapidary style, model of condensation, impossible to render in English
and conditioned by the hard fact that every word costs two sous. Under
this painful material stress, indeed, the messages are sometimes crushed
into a conciseness which the females concerned must have some difficulty
in unperplexing: what on earth does the parsimonious _Flower_ mean by
his Delphic fourpenny worth, thus punctuated--

"(You have) not received. How. Safety."

One cannot help smiling at this circuitous and unromantic method of
touching the hearts of ladies who take one's fancy; at the same time, it
testifies to a resourceful vitality, striving to break through the
barriers of Hispano-Arabic convention which surround the fair sex in
this country. They are nothing if not poetic, these love-sick swains.
_Arrow_ murmurs: "My soul lies on your pillow, caressing you softly";
_Strawberry_ laments that "as bird outside nest, I am alone and lost.
What sadness," and _Star_ finds the "Days eternal, till Thursday." And
yet they often choose rather prosaic pseudonyms. Here is _Sahara_ who
"suffers from your silence," while _Asthma_ is "anticipating one endless
kiss," and _Old England_ observing, more ir sorrow than in anger, that
he "waited vainly one whole hour."

But the sagacious _Cooked Lobster_ desires, before commiting himself
further, "a personal interview." He has perhaps been cooked once before.

Letters and numbers are best, after all. So thinks F. N. 13, who is
utterly disgusted with his flame--

"Your silence speaks. Useless saying anything. Ca ira." And likewise
7776--B, a designing rogue and plainly a spendthrift, who wastes
ninepence in making it clear that he "wishes to marry rich young lady,
forgiving youthful errors." If I were the girl, I would prefer to take
my chances with "Cooked Lobster."

_"Will much-admired young-lady cherries-in-black-hat indicate method
possible correspondence_ 10211, _Post-Office?"_

How many of these arrows, I wonder, reach their mark?

Ah, here are politics and News of the World, at last. A promising
article on the "Direttissimo Roma-Napoli"--the railway line that is to
connect the two towns by way of the Pontine Marshes. . . . Dear me! This
reads very familiarly. . . . Why, to be sure, it is the identical
dissertation, with a few changes by the office-boy, that has cropped up
periodically in these pages for the last half-century, or whenever the
railway was first projected. The line, as usual, is being projected more
strenuously than before, and certain members of the government have
goneso far as to declare. . .. H'm! Let me try something else: "The
Feminist Movement in England" by Our London Correspondent (who lives in
a little side street off the Toledo); that sounds stimulating. . . . The
advanced English Feminists--so it runs--are taking the lead in
encouraging their torpid sisters on the Continent. . . . Hardly a day
passes, that some new manifestation of the Feminist Movement ... in
fact, it may be avowed that the Feminist Movement in England. . . .

The air is cooler, as I awake, and looking out of the window I perceive
from the mellow light-effects that day is declining.

Towards this sunset hour the unbroken dome of the sky often undergoes a
brief transformation. High-piled masses of cloud may then be seen
accumulating over the Sila heights and gathering auxiliaries from every
quarter; lightning is soon playing about the livid and murky
vapours--you can hear the thunders muttering, up yonder, to some
drenching downpour. But on the plain the sun continues to shine in
vacuously benevolent fashion; nothing is felt of the tempest save
unquiet breaths of wind that raise dust-eddies from the country roads
and lash the sea into a mock frenzy of crisp little waves. It is the
merest interlude. Soon the blue-black drifts have fled away from the
mountains that stand out, clear and refreshed, in the twilight. The wind
has died down, the storm is over and Cotrone thirsts, as ever, for rain
that never comes. Yet they have a Madonna-picture here--a celebrated
_black_ Madonna, painted by Saint Luke--who "always procures rain, when
prayed to."

Once indeed the tail of a shower must have passed overhead, for there
fell a few sad drops. I hurried abroad, together with some other
citizens, to observe the phenomenon. There was no doubt about the
matter; it was genuine rain; the drops lay, at respectable intervals, on
the white dust of the station turnpike. A boy, who happened to be
passing in a cart, remarked that if the shower could have been collected
into a saucer or some other small receptacle, it might have sufficed to
quench the thirst of a puppy-dog.

I usually take a final dip in the sea, at this time of the evening.
After that, it is advisable to absorb an ice or two--they are excellent,
at Cotrone--and a glass of Strega liqueur, to ward off the effects of
over-work. Next, a brief promenade through the clean, well-lighted
streets and now populous streets, or along the boulevard Margherita to
view the rank and fashion taking the air by the murmuring waves, under
the cliff-like battlements of Charles the Fifth's castle; and so to dinner.

This meal marks the termination of my daily tasks; nothing serious is
allowed to engage my attention, once that repast is ended; I call for a
chair and sit down at one of the small marble-topped tables in the open
street and watch the crowd as it floats around me, smoking a Neapolitan
cigar and imbibing, alternately, ices and black coffee until, towards
midnight, a final bottle of _vino di Ciro_ is uncorked--fit seal for the
labours of the day.

One might say much in praise of Calabrian wine. The land is full of
pleasant surprises for the cenophilist, and one of these days I hope to
embody my experiences in the publication of a wine-chart of the province
with descriptive text running alongside--the purchasers of which, if
few, will certainly be of the right kind. The good Dr. Barth--all praise
to him!--has already done something of the kind for certain parts of
Italy, but does not so much as mention Calabria. And yet here nearly
every village has its own type of wine and every self-respecting family
its own peculiar method of preparation, little known though they be
outside the place of production, on account of the octroi laws which
strangle internal trade and remove all stimulus to manufacture a good
article for export. This wine of Ciro, for instance, is purest nectar,
and so is that which grows still nearer at hand in the classical vale of
the Neto and was praised, long ago, by old Pliny; and so are at least
two dozen more. For even as Gregorovius says that the smallest Italian
community possesses its duly informed antiquarian, if you can but put
your hand upon him, so, I may be allowed to add, every little place
hereabouts can boast of at least one individual who will give you good
wine, provided--provided you go properly to work to find him.

Now although, when young, the Calabrian Bacchus has a wild-eyed _beaute
du diable_ which appeals to one's expansive moods, he already begins to
totter, at seven years of age, in sour, decrepit eld. To pounce upon him
at the psychological moment, to discover in whose cool and cobwebby
cellar he is dreaming out his golden summer of manhood--that is what a
foreigner can never, never hope to achieve, without competent local aid.

To this end, I generally apply to the priests; not because they are the
greatest drunkards (far from it; they are mildly epicurean, or even
abstemious) but by reason of their unrivalled knowledge of
personalities. They know exactly who has been able to keep his liquor of
such and such a year, and who has been obliged to sell or partially
adulterate it; they know, from the confessional of the wives, the why
and wherefore of all such private family affairs and share, with the
chemist, the gift of seeing furthest into the tangled web of home life.
They are "gialosi," however, of these acquirements, and must be
approached in the right spirit--a spirit of humility. But if you
tactfully lead up to the subject by telling of the manifold hardships of
travel in foreign lands, the discomfort of life in hostelries, the food
that leaves so much to be desired and, above all, the coarse wine that
is already beginning, you greatly fear, to injure your sensitive spleen
(an important organ, in Calabria), inducing a hypochondriacal tendency
to see all the beauties of this fair land in an odious and sombre
light--turning your day into night, as it were--it must be an odd
priest, indeed, who is not compassionately moved to impart the desired
information regarding the whereabouts of the best _vino di famiglia_ at
that moment obtainable. After all, it costs him nothing to do a double
favour--one to yourself and another to the proprietor of the wine,
doubtless an old friend of his, who will be able to sell his stuff to a
foreigner 20 per cent dearer than to a native.

And failing the priests, I go to an elderly individual of that tribe of
red-nosed connaisseurs, the coachmen, ever thirsty and mercenary souls,
who for a small consideration may be able to disclose not only this
secret, but others far more mysterious.

As to your host at the inn--he raises not the least objection to
your importing alien liquor into his house. His own wine, he tells you,
is last year's vintage and somewhat harsh (slightly watered, he might
add)--and why not? The ordinary customers are gentlemen of commerce who
don't care a fig what they eat and drink, so long as there is enough of
it. No horrible suggestions are proffered concerning corkage; on the
contrary, he tests your wine, smacks his lips, and thanks you for
communicating a valuable discovery. He thinks he will buy a bottle or
two for the use of himself and a few particular friends. . . .

Midnight has come and gone. The street is emptying; the footsteps of
passengers begin to ring hollow. I arise, for my customary stroll in the
direction of the cemetery, to attune myself to repose by shaking off
those restlessly trivial images of humanity which might otherwise haunt
my slumbers.

Town visions are soon left behind; it is very quiet here under the hot,
starlit heavens; nothing speaks of man save the lighthouse flashing in
ghostly activity--no, it is a fixed light--on the distant Cape of the
Column. And nothing breaks the stillness save the rhythmic breathing of
the waves, and a solitary cricket that has yet to finish his daily task
of instrumental music, far away, in some warm crevice of the hills.

A suave odour rises up from the narrow patch of olives, and figs loaded
with fruit, and ripening vines, that skirts the path by the beach. _The
fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender
grape give a good smell._

And so I plough my way through the sand, in the darkness, encompassed by
tepid exhalations of earth and sea. Another spirit has fallen upon me--a
spirit of biblical calm. Here, then, stood _the rejoicing city that
dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, I am, and there is none beside
me: how is she become a desolation!_ It is indeed hard to realize that a
town thronged with citizens covered all this area. Yet so it is. Every
footstep is a memory. Along this very track walked the sumptuous ladies
of Croton on their way to deposit their vain jewels before the goddess
Hera, at the bidding of Pythagoras. On this spot, maybe, stood that
public hall which was specially built for the delivery of his lectures.

No doubt the townsfolk had been sunk in apathetic luxury; the time was
ripe for a Messiah.

And lo! he appeared.



XXXVIII

THE SAGE OF CROTON


The popularity of this sage at Croton offers no problem: the inhabitants
had become sufficiently civilized to appreciate the charm of being
regenerated. We all do. Renunciation has always exercised an
irresistible attraction for good society; it makes us feel so
comfortable, to be told we are going to hell--and Pythagoras was very
eloquent on the subject of Tartarus as a punishment. The Crotoniates
discovered in repentance of sins a new and subtle form of pleasure;
exactly as did the Florentines, when Savonarola appeared on the scene.

Next: his doctrines found a ready soil in Magna Graecia which was
already impregnated with certain vague notions akin to those he
introduced. And then--he permitted and even encouraged the emotional sex
to participate in the mysteries; the same tactics that later on
materially helped the triumph of Christianity over the more exclusive
and rational cult of Mithra. Lastly, he came with a "message," like the
Apostle of the Gentiles; and in those times a preaching reformer was a
novelty. That added a zest. We know them a little better, nowadays.

He enjoyed the specious and short-lived success that has attended,
elsewhere, such efforts to cultivate the _ego_ at the expense of its
environment. "A type of aspiring humanity," says Gissing, echoing the
sentiments of many of us, "a sweet and noble figure, moving as a dim
radiance through legendary Hellas." I fancy that the mist of centuries
of undiscriminating admiration has magnified this figure out of all
proportion and contrived, furthermore, to fix an iridescent nimbus of
sanctity about its head. Such things have been known to happen, in foggy
weather.

Was Greece so very legendary, in those times? Why, on the contrary, it
was full of real personages, of true sages to whom it seemed as if no
secrets of heaven or earth were past fathoming; far from being
legendary, the countryhad never attained a higher plane of intellectual
curiosity than when Pythagoras made his appearance. And it cannot be
gainsaid that he and his disciples gave the impetus away from these wise
and beneficial researches into the arid regions of metaphysics. It is so
much more gentlemanly (and so much easier) to talk bland balderdash
about soul-migrations than to calculate an eclipse of the moon or bother
about the circulation of the blood.

That a man of his speculative vigour, knowing so many extra-Hellenic
races, should have hit upon one or two good things adventitiously is
only to be expected. But they were mere by-products. One might as well
praise John Knox for creating the commons of Scotland with a view to the
future prosperity of that country--a consummation which his black
fanaticism assuredly never foresaw.

The chief practical doctrine of Pythagoras, that mankind are to be
governed on the principle of a community of eastern monks, makes for the
disintegration of rational civic life.

And his chief theoretical doctrines, of metempsychosis and the reduction
of everything to a system of numbers [Footnote: Vincenzo Dorsa, an
Albanian, has written two pamphlets on the survival of Greco-Roman
traditions in Calabria. They are difficult to procure, but whoever is
lucky enough to find them will be much helped in his understanding of
the common people. In one place, he speaks of the charm-formula of
_Otto-Nave!_ (Eight-Nine) It is considered meet and proper, in the
presence of a suckling infant, to spit thrice and then call out, three
times, Otto-Nove! This brings luck; and the practice, he thinks, is an
echo of the number-system of Pythagoras.]--these are sheer lunacy.

Was it not something of a relapse, after the rigorous mental discipline
of old, to have a man gravely assuring his fellows that he is the son of
Hermes and the divinely appointed messenger of Apollo; treating
diseases, like an Eskimo Angekok, by incantation; recording veracious
incidents of his experiences during a previous life in Hell, which he
seems to have explored almost as thoroughly as Swedenborg; dabbling in
magic, and consulting dreams, birds and the smoke of incense as oracles?
And in the exotic conglomerate of his teachings are to be found the
_prima stamina_ of much that is worse: the theory of the pious fraud
which has infected Latin countries to this day; the Jesuitical maxim of
the end justifying the means; the insanity of preferring deductions to
facts which has degraded philosophy up to the days of Kant; mysticism,
demon-worship and much else of pernicious mettle--they are all there,
embryonically embedded in Pythagoras.

We are told much of his charity; indeed, an English author has written a
learned work to prove that Pythagoreanism has close affinities with
Christianity. Charity has now been tried on an ample scale, and has
proved a dismal failure. To give, they say, is more blessed than to
receive. It is certainly far easier, for the most part, to give than to
refrain from giving. We are at last shaking off the form, of
self-indulgence called charity; we realize that if mankind is to profit,
sterner conceptions must prevail. The apotheosis of the god-favoured
loafer is drawing to a close.

For the rest, there was the inevitable admixture of quackery about our
reforming sage; his warmest admirers cannot but admit that he savours
somewhat strongly of the holy impostor. Those charms and amulets, those
dark gnomic aphorisms which constitute the stock-in-trade of all
religious cheap-jacks, the bribe of future life, the sacerdotal tinge
with its complement of mendacity, the secrecy of doctrine, the
pretentiously-mysterious self-retirement, the "sacred quaternion," the
bean-humbug . . .

He had the true maraboutic note.

And for me, this regenerator crowned with a saintly aureole remains a
glorified marabout--an intellectual dissolvent; the importer of that
oriental introspectiveness which culminated in the idly-splendid
yearnings of Plato, paved the way for the quaint Alexandrian
_tutti-frutti_ known as Christianity, and tainted the well-springs of
honest research for two thousand years. By their works ye shall known
them. It was the Pythagoreans who, not content with a just victory over
the Sybarites, annihilated their city amid anathemas worthy of those old
Chaldeans (past masters in the art of pious cursings); a crime against
their common traditions and common interests; a piece of savagery which
wrecked Hellenic civilization in Italy. It is ever thus, when the soul
is appointed arbiter over reason. It is ever thus, when gentle,
god-fearing dreamers meddle with worldly affairs. Beware of the wrath of
the lamb!

So rapidly did the virus act, that soon we find Plato declaring that all
the useful arts are _degrading;_ that "so long as a man tries to study
any sensible object, he can never be said to be learning anything"; in
other words, that the kind of person to whom one looks for common sense
should be excluded from the management of his most refined republic. It
needed courage of a rather droll kind to make such propositions in
Greece, under the shadow of the Parthenon. And hand in hand with this
feudalism in philosophy there began that unhealthy preoccupation with
the morals of our fellow-creatures, that miasma of puritanism, which has
infected life and literature up to this moment.

The Renaissance brought many fine things to England. But the wicked
fairy was there with her gift: Pythagoras and Plato. We were not like
the Italians who, after the first rapture of discovery was over, soon
outgrew these distracted dialectics; we stuck fast in them. Hence our
Platonic touch: our _demi-vierge_ attitude in matters of the mind, our
academic horror of clean thinking. How Plato hated a fact!  He could
find no place for it in his twilight world of abstractions. Was it not
he who wished to burn the works of Democritus of Abdera, most exact and
reasonable of old sages?

They are all alike, these humanitarian lovers of first causes. Always
ready to burn something, or somebody; always ready with their cheerful
Hell-fire and gnashing of teeth.

_Know thyself:_ to what depths of vain, egocentric brooding has that
dictum led! But we are discarding, now, such a mischievously narrow view
of the Cosmos, though our upbringing is still too rhetorical and
mediaeval to appraise its authors at their true worth. Youth is prone to
judge with the heart rather than the head; youth thrives on vaporous
ideas, and there was a time when I would have yielded to none in my
enthusiasm for these mellifluous babblers; one had a blind, sentimental
regard for their great names. It seems to me, now, that we take them
somewhat too seriously; that a healthy adult has nothing to learn from
their teachings, save by way of warning example. Plato is food for
adolescents. And a comfort, possibly, in old age, when the judicial
faculties of the mind are breaking up and primitive man, the visionary,
reasserts his ancient rights. For questioning moods grow burdensome with
years; after a strain of virile doubt we are glad to acquiesce once
more--to relapse into Platonic animism, the logic of valetudinarians.
The dog to his vomit.

And after Plato--the deluge. Neo-platonism. . . .

Yet it was quite good sport, while it lasted. To "make men better" by
choice dissertations about Utopias, to sit in marble halls and have a
fair and fondly ardent _jeunesse dorée_ reclining about your knees while
you discourse, in rounded periods, concerning the salvation of their
souls by means of transcendental Love--it would suit me well enough, at
this present moment; far better than croaking, forlorn as the
night-raven, among the ruins of their radiant lives.

Meanwhile, and despite our Universities, new conceptions are prevailing,
Aristotle is winning the day. A fresh kind of thinker has arisen, whose
chief idea of "virtue" is to investigate patiently the facts of life;
men of the type of Lister, any one of whom have done more to regenerate
mankind, and to increase the sum of human happiness, than a wilderness
of the amiably-hazy old doctrinaires who professed the same object. I
call to mind those physicians engaged in their malaria-campaign, and
wonder what Plato would have thought of them. Would he have recognized the
significance of their researches which, while allaying pain and misery,
are furthering the prosperity of the country, causing waters to flow in
dry places and villages to spring up in deserts--strengthening its
political resources, improving its very appearance? Not likely. Plato's
opinion of doctors was on a par with the rest of his mentality. Yet
these are the men who are taking up the thread where it was dropped,
perforce, by those veritable Greek sages, whelmed under turbid floods of
Pythagorean irrationalism. And are such things purely utilitarian? Are
they so grossly mundane? Is there really no "philosophy" in the choice
of such a healing career, no romance in its studious self-denial, no
beauty in its results? If so, we must revise that classic adage which
connects vigour with beauty--not to speak of several others.



XXXIX

MIDDAY AT PETELIA


Day after day, I look across the six miles of sea to the Lacinian
promontory and its column. How reach it? The boatmen are eager for the
voyage: it all depends, they say, upon the wind.

Day after day--a dead calm.

"Two hours--three hours--four hours--according!" And they point to the
sky. A little breeze, they add, sometimes makes itself felt in the early
mornings; one might fix up a sail.

"And for returning at midday?"

"Three hours--four hours--five hours--according!"

The prospect of rocking about for half a day in a small boat under a
blazing sky is not my ideal of enjoyment, the novelty of such an
experience having worn off a good many years ago. I decide to wait; to
make an attack, meanwhile, upon old Petelia--the "Stromboli" of my
lady-friend at the Catanzaro Museum....

It is an easy day's excursion from Cotrone to Strongoli, which is
supposed to lie on the site of that ancient, much-besieged town. It sits
upon a hill-top, and the diligence which awaits the traveller at the
little railway-station takes about two hours to reach the place,
climbing up the olive-covered slopes in ample loops and windings.

Of Strangoli my memories, even at this short distance of time, are
confused and blurred. The drive up under the glowing beams of morning,
the great heat of the last few days, and two or three nights'
sleeplessness at Cotrone had considerably blunted my appetite for new
things. I remember seeing some Roman marbles in the church, and being
thence conducted into a castle.

Afterwards I reposed awhile in the upper regions, under an olive, and
looked down towards the valley of the Neto, which flows not far from
here into the Ionian. I thought upon Theocritus, trying to picture this
vale of Neaithos as it appeared to him and his shepherds. The woodlands
are gone, and the rains of winter, streaming down the earthen slopes,
have remodelled the whole face of the country.

Yet, be nature what it may, men will always turn to one who sings so
melodiously of eternal verities--of those human tasks and needs which no
lapse of years can change. How modern he reads to us, who have been
brought into contact with the true spirit by men like Johnson-Cory and
Lefroy! And how unbelievably remote is that Bartolozzi-Hellenism which
went before! What, for example--what of the renowned pseudo-Theocritus,
Salamon Gessner, who sang of this same vale of Neto in his "Daphnis"?
Alas, the good Salamon has gone the way of all derivative bores; he is
dead--deader than King Psammeticus; he is now moralizing in some
decorous Paradise amid flocks of Dresden-China sheep and sugar-watery
youths and maidens. Who can read his much-translated masterpiece without
unpleasant twinges? Dead as a doornail!

So far as I can recollect, there is an infinity of kissing in "Daphnis."
It was an age of sentimentality, and the Greek pastoral ideal,
transfused into a Swiss environment of 1810, could not but end in
slobber and _Gefuehlsduselei._ True it is that shepherds have ample
opportunities of sporting with Amaryllis in the shade; opportunities
which, to my certain knowledge, they do not neglect. Theocritus knew it
well enough. But, in a general way, he is niggardly with the precious
commodity of kisses; he seems to have thought that in literature, if not
in real life, one can have too much of a good thing. Also, being a
southerner, he could not have trusted his young folks to remain
eternally at the kissing-stage, after the pattern of our fish-like
English lovers. Such behaviour would have struck him as improbable;
possibly immoral. . . .

From where I sat one may trace a road that winds upwards into the Sila,
past Pallagorio. Along its sides are certain mounded heaps and the smoke
of refining works. These are mines of that dusky sulphur which I had
observed being drawn in carts through the streets of Cotrone. There are
some eight or ten of them, they tell me, discovered about thirty years
ago--this is all wrong: they are mentioned in 1571--and employing
several hundred workmen. It had been my intention to visit these
excavations. But now, in the heat of day, I wavered; the distance, even
to the nearest of them, seemed inordinately great; and just as I had
decided to look for a carnage with a view of being driven there (that
curse of conscientiousness!) an amiable citizen snatched me up as his
guest for luncheon. He led me, weakly resisting, to a vaulted chamber
where, amid a repast of rural delicacies and the converse of his spouse,
all such fond projects were straightway forgotten. Instead of
sulphur-statistics, I learnt a little piece of local history.

"You were speaking about the emptiness of our streets of Strangoli," my
host said. "And yet, up to a short time ago, there was no emigration
from this place. Then a change came about: I'll tell you how it was.
There was a _guardia di finanze_ here--a miserable octroi official. To
keep up the name of his family, he married an heiress; not for the sake
of having progeny, but--well! He began buying up all the land round
about--slowly, systematically, cautiously--till, by dint of threats and
intrigues, he absorbed nearly all the surrounding country. Inch by inch,
he ate it up; with his wife's money. That was his idea of perpetuating
his memory. All the small proprietors were driven from their domains and
fled to America to escape starvation; immense tracts of well-cultivated
land are now almost desert. Look at the country! But some day he will
get his reward; under the ribs, you know."

By this purposeful re-creation of those feudal conditions of olden,
days, this man has become the best-hated person in the district.

Soon it was time to leave the friendly shelter and inspect in the
glaring sunshine the remaining antiquities of Petelia. Never have I felt
less inclined for such antiquarian exploits. How much better the hours
would have passed in some cool tavern! I went forth, none the less; and
was delighted to discover that there are practically no antiquities
left--nothing save a few walls standing near a now ruined convent, which
is largely built of Roman stone-blocks and bricks. Up to a few years
ago, the municipality carried on excavations here and unearthed a few
relics which were promptly dispersed. Perhaps some of these are what one
sees in the Catanzaro Museum. The paternal government, hearing of this
enterprise, claimed the site and sat down upon it; the exposed remains
were once more covered up with soil.

A goat-boy, a sad little fellow, sprang out of the earth as I dutifully
wandered about here. He volunteered to show me not only Strongoli, but
all Calabria; in fact, his heart's desire was soon manifest: to escape
from home and find his way to America under my passport and protection.
Here was his chance--a foreigner (American) returning sooner or later to
his own country! He pressed the matter with naif forcefulness. Vainly I
told him that there were other lands on earth; that I was not going to
America. He shook his head and sagely remarked:

"I have understood. You think my journey would cost too much. But you,
also, must understand. Once I get work there, I will repay you every
farthing."

As a consolation, I offered him some cigarettes. He accepted one;
pensive, unresigned.

The goat-herds had no such cravings--in the days of Theocritus.



XL

THE COLUMN


"Two hours--three hours--four hours: according!"

The boatmen are still eager for the voyage. It all depends, as before,
upon the wind.

And day __after day __the Ionian lies before us--immaculate, immutable.

I determined to approach the column by land. A mule was discovered, and
starting from the "Concordia" rather late in the morning, reached the
temple-ruin in two hours to the minute. I might have been tempted to
linger by the way but for the intense sunshine and for the fact that the
muleteer was an exceptionally dull dog--a dusky youth of the taciturn
and wooden-faced Spanish variety, whose anti-Hellenic profile irked me,
in that landscape. The driving road ends at the cemetery. Thence onward
a pathway skirts the sea at the foot of the clay-hills; passes the
sunken wells; climbs up and down steepish gradients and so attains the
plateau at whose extremity stands the lighthouse, the column, and a few
white bungalows--summer-residences of Cotrone citizens.

A day of shimmering heat. . . .

The ground is parched. Altogether, it is a poor and thinly peopled
stretch of land between Cotrone and Capo Rizzuto. No wonder the wolves
are famished. Nine days ago one of them actually ventured upon the road
near the cemetery, in daylight.

Yet there is some plant-life, and I was pleased to see, emerging from
the bleak sand-dunes, the tufts of the well-known and conspicuous sea
lily in full flower. Wishful to obtain a few blossoms, I asked the boy
to descend from his mule, but he objected.

"Non si toccano questi fiori," he said. These flowers are not to be
touched.

Their odour displeased him. Like the Arab, the uncultivated Italian is
insensitive to certain smells that revolt us; while he cannot endure, on
the other hand, the scent of some flowers. I have seen a man professing
to feel faint at the odour of crushed geranium leaves. They are _fiori
di morti,_ he says: planted (sometimes) in graveyards.

The last remarkable antiquity found at this site, to my knowledge, is a
stone vase, fished up some years ago out of the sea, into which it may
have fallen while being carried off by pious marauders for the purpose
of figuring as font in some church (unless, indeed, the land has sunk at
this point, as there is some evidence to show). I saw it, shortly after
its return to dry land, in a shed near the harbour of Cotrone; the
Taranto museum has now claimed it. It is a basin of purple-veined
pavonazzetto marble. Originally a monolith, it now consists of two
fragments; the third and smallest is still missing. This noble relic
stands about 85 centimetres in height and measures some 215 centimetres
in circumference; it was never completed, as can be seen by the rim,
which is still partially in the rough. A similar vessel is figured, I
believe, in Tischbein.

The small villa-settlement on this promontory is deserted owing to lack
of water, every drop of which has to be brought hither by sea from
Cotrone. One wonders why they have not thought of building a cistern to
catch the winter rains, if there are any; for a respectable stone crops
up at this end of the peninsula.

One often wonders at things. . . .

The column has been underpinned and strengthened by a foundation of
cement; rains of centuries had begun to threaten its base, and there was
some risk of a catastrophe. Near at hand are a few ancient walls of
reticulated masonry in strangely leaning attitudes, peopled by black
goats; on the ground I picked up some chips of amphorse and vases, as
well as a fragment of the limb of a marble statue. The site of this
pillar, fronting the waves, is impressively forlorn. And it was rather
thoughtful, after all, of the despoiling Bishop Lucifero to leave two of
the forty-eight columns standing upright on the spot, as a sample of the
local Doric style. One has fallen to earth since his day. Nobody would
have complained at the time, if he had stolen all of them, instead of
only forty-six. I took a picture of the survivor; then wandered a little
apart, in the direction of the shore, and soon found myself in a
solitude of burning stones, a miniature Sahara.

The temple has vanished, together with the sacred grove that once
embowered it; the island of Calypso, where Swinburne took his ease (if
such it was), has sunk into the purple realms of Glaucus; the corals and
sea-beasts that writhed among its crevices are en-gulphed under mounds
of submarine sand. There was life, once, at this promontory. Argosies
touched here, leaving priceless gifts; fountains flowed, and cornfields
waved in the genial sunshine. Doubtless there will be life again; earth
and sea are only waiting for the enchanter's wand.

All now lies bare, swooning in summer stagnation.

Calabria is not a land to traverse alone. It is too wistful and
stricken; too deficient in those externals that conduce to comfort. Its
charms do not appeal to the eye of romance, and the man who would
perambulate Magna Graecia as he does the Alps would soon regret his
choice. One needs something of that "human element" which delighted the
genteel photographer of Morano--comrades, in short; if only those sages,
like old Noia Molisi, who have fallen under the spell of its ancient
glories. The joys of Calabria are not to be bought, like those of
Switzerland, for gold.

_Sir Giovati Battista di Noia Molisi, the last of his family and name,
having no sons and being come to old age without further hope of
offspring, has desired in the place of children to leave of himself an
eternal memory to mankind--_ to wit, this Chronicle of the most Ancient,
Magnificent, and Faithful City of Cotrone. A worthier effort at
self-perpetuation than that of Strangoli. . . .

A sturgeon, he notes, was caught in 1593 by the Spanish Castellan of the
town. This nobleman, puzzling whom he could best honour with so rare a
dainty, despatched it by means of a man on horseback to the Duke of
Nocera. The Duke was no less surprised than pleased; he thought mighty
well of the sturgeon and of the respectful consideration which prompted
the gift; and then, by another horseman, sent it to Noia Molisi's own
uncle, accompanied, we may conjecture, by some ceremonious compliment
befitting the occasion.

A man of parts, therefore, our author's uncle, to whom his Lordship of
Nocera sends table-delicacies by mounted messenger; and himself a mellow
comrade whom I am loath to leave; his pages are distinguished by a
pleasing absence of those saintly paraphernalia which hang like a fog
athwart the fair sky of the south.

Yet to him and to all of them I must bid good-bye, here and now. At this
hour to-morrow I shall be far from Cotrone.

Farewell to Capialbi, inspired bookworm! And to Lenormant.

On a day like this, the scholar sailed at Bivona over a sea so unruffled
that the barque seemed to be suspended in air. The water's surface, he
tells us, is "unie comme une glace." He sees the vitreous depths invaded
by piercing sunbeams that light up its mysterious forests of algae, its
rock-headlands and silvery stretches of sand; he peers down into these
"prairies pélagiennes" and beholds all their wondrous fauna--the
urchins, the crabs, the floating fishes and translucent medusae
"semblables a des clochettes d'opale." Then, realizing how this
"population pullulante des petits animaux marins" must have impressed
the observing ancients, he goes on to touch--ever so lightly!--upon
those old local arts of ornamentation whereby sea-beasts and molluscs
and aquatic plants were reverently copied by master-hand, not from dead
specimens, but "pris sur le vif et observes au milieu des eaux"; he
explains how an entire school grew up, which drew its inspiration from
the dainty ... apes and movements of these frail creatures. This is _àu
meilleur Lenormant._ His was a full-blooded yet discriminating zest of
knowledge. One wonders what more was fermenting in that restlessly
curious brain, when a miserable accident ended his short life, after 120
days of suffering.

So Italy proved fatal to him, as Greece to his father. But one of his
happiest moments must have been spent on the sea at Bivona, on that
clear summer day--a day such as this, when every nerve tingles with joy
of life.

Meanwhile it is good to rest here, immovable but alert, in the
breathless hush of noon. Showers of benevolent heat stream down upon
this desolation; not the faintest wisp of vapour floats upon the
horizon; not a sail, not a ripple, disquiets the waters. The silence can
be felt. Slumber is brooding over the things of earth:

Asleep are the peaks of the hills, and the vales,

The promontories, the clefts,

And all the creatures that move upon the black earth. . . .

Such torrid splendour, drenching a land of austerut simplicity,
decomposes the mind into corresponding states of primal contentment and
resilience. There arises before our phantasy a new perspective of human
affairs; a suggestion of well-being wherein the futile complexities and
disharmonies of our age shall have no place. To discard these wrappings,
to claim kinship with some elemental and robust archetype, lover of
earth and sun----

How fair they are, these moments of golden equipoise!

Yes; it is good to be merged awhile into these harshly-vibrant
surroundings, into the meridian glow of all things. This noontide is the
"heavy" hour of the Greeks, when temples are untrodden by priest or
worshipper. _Controra_ they now call it--the ominous hour. Man and
beast are fettered in sleep, while spirits walk abroad, as at midnight.
_Non timebis a timore noctuno: a sagitta volante in àie: a negotio
perambulante in tenebris: ab incursu et demonio meridiano._ The midday
demon--that southern Haunter of calm blue spaces. . . .

So may some enchantment of kindlier intent have crept over Phaedrus and
his friend, at converse in the noontide under the whispering plane-tree.
And the genius dwelling about this old headland of the Column is candid
and benign.

This corner of Magna Graecia is a severely parsimonious manifestation of
nature. Rocks and waters! But these rocks and waters are actualities;
the stuff whereof man is made. A landscape so luminous, so resolutely
scornful of accessories, hints at brave and simple forms of expression;
it brings us to the ground, where we belong; it medicines to the disease
of introspection and stimulates a capacity which we are in danger of
unlearning amid our morbid hyperborean gloom--the capacity for honest
contempt: contempt of that scarecrow of a theory which would have us
neglect what is earthly, tangible. What is life well lived but a blithe
discarding of primordial husks, of those comfortable intangibilities
that lurk about us, waiting for our weak moments?

The sage, that perfect savage, will be the last to withdraw himself from
the influence of these radiant realities. He will strive to knit closer
the bond, and to devise a more durable and affectionate relationship
between himself and them. Let him open his eyes. For a reasonable
adjustment lies at his feet. From these brown stones that seam the
tranquil Ionian, from this gracious solitude, he can carve out, and bear
away into the cheerful din of cities, the rudiments of something clean
and veracious and wholly terrestrial--some tonic philosophy that shall
foster sunny mischiefs and farewell regret.





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