Page images
PDF
EPUB

edges rows of the fan-shaped antefixæ / when newly quarried. Twice, on clear of classic architecture are often placed. days, I made a serious attempt to study Wealthy citizens sometimes build isolated the details of exterior ornament on the houses with fronts and entrances of the Academy, and could not endure the sight, classic orders, the Ionic and Corinthian it was so dazzlingly, blindingly white ! orders having the preference, for private My third and successful visit I was forced dwellings. The balcony is indispensable. to make on a cloudy day. Often this is half filled with house plants; The Academy is of especial interest, beand many a visitor to Athens, in his sul- cause in its decoration the architect is trytry morning walks, has learned to avoid ing the effect of those brilliant blues and the tempting shadows beneath the balco- scarlets in the moulding of the soffits, and nies because of the dropping of superflu- along the cornice, and on the capitals of ous water from these projecting flower the columns, of which we find so many gardens after their morning shower-bath. traces in the Parthenon. However our

The finer public buildings are of dress- modern taste may rebel at the idea of ed stone or marble, and several of them painted statues and temples of marble, would do credit to any city of Europe or there can be no doubt that Athenians of America. The patriotism of Greek mer- the best age of art used these colors, and chants who win wealth in foreign lands found the effect pleasing to an eye and an is every year finding expression in hand- æsthetic taste as highly developed as any some gifts or bequests to adorn the city age has ever known. And while few who of their love. Thus the Varvakion, the are destitute of a strain of Eastern love of boys' high school of Athens, was erected color in their blood at first admire color by Barbakes as a gift to the city; while thus applied—while we Occidentals have Arsakes, another wealthy Athenian, twen- always loved to associate the pure white ty years ago erected the Arsakion, or of the marble with perfect ideal beauty of girls' high school. The fine building to form-yet no one who has not seen it can which the Polytechnic School and Muse- intelligently condemn the effect of color um have just been removed, and where thus used in this brilliant sunshine, and the treasures from Schliemann's excava- in a climate where purples and blues and tions are on exhibition, is the gift of two reds and yellows are so rich and so plenwealthy Epirotes who are doing business tiful as here in Grecian seas and sunsets, in Germany, and who feel that they best and on Grecian mountain ranges. Nahonor all Greece in honoring Athens. ture riots in rich effects of color here in By far the most noteworthy building of the Ægean. modern Athens-another gift of patriotic The first funeral procession which we private wealth-is the Academy, still in met in Athens showed the peculiarities of process of construction. It is designed the Greek custom at their best. On an for the use of a society of scholars and open bier, resting on the shoulders of six artists and men of letters, not yet formed, young men, lay the body of a beautiful but to be modelled after the Academy and girl of sixteen, dressed in light blue and the Institute of France. It is constructed white, her face and arms exposed, her head of Pentelic marble, and, with the quarries garlanded with flowers, and flowers filling of Pentelicus close at hand, it has already her hands, and lying in knots and clusters cost more than $1,500,000. In many of on her breast. So she was borne through its proportions it is modelled after the Par- the clear, sweet morning sunshine that thenon. The tympanum of the principal flooded the streets of her native city, to front has received a colossal group of her grave beyond its limits, under the statuary—a reproduction, as far as is pos- shadow of Mount Hymettus. sible, of “The Birth of Minerva," which Delegeorges, ex-Prime Minister, in the adorned the eastern front of the great quickly succeeding changes of Greek partemple on the Acropolis. The work is ty government several times at the head wonderfully well done. From this build of the cabinet, and as often the leader of ing one may form some conception of the the opposition, died during our stay at splendor of the great Athenian temples Athens. He was a man whose stanch of sparkling Pentelic marble in this brill- integrity and democratic love of simpliciiant Athenian sunshine, before time and ty had endeared him to the people. He exposure had dimmed the sparkling, crys- was buried on the day after his deathtalline purity which this marble shows the rule at Athens.

Dense crowds of men and boys thronged the streets near his house, from which the procession was to start.

There were no services at his home, but acquaintances passed in to view the remains, and to offer sympathy to the family, who, as a rule, do not accompany the procession to the church or the grave.

Every man who entered the house put on a white lace scarf over the right shoulder and under the left arm, the badge of mourning. Many bearded priests of the Greek Church mingled with the crowd. Their luxuriant hair is never cut, but is twisted into a roll, and knotted on the back of the head like a woman's. They wear a tall, cylindrical hat, brimless below, but with a round flat crown which projects laterally an inch or two. The dignitaries of the Church were resplendent in gold-embroidered robes of white, purple, and scarlet.

The coffin was of blue satin. The body, dressed in plain black as in life, the low shoes tied with white ribbon, was tionality passed me through the closed brought out and placed on the open bier. doors, and secured me an excellent place As is the custom at Athens, the upper half -seats there were none, save for bishops of the coffin, for its entire length, had been and king. removed with the lid, and was carried in First enter the sacred banners, and the advance of the bier. On it was worked, men with the lid of the coffin; then in white, a cross and a crown. A glass priests with lanterns, censers, tapers, and cover was placed over the body. Flow- banners; then the coffin is carried in, and ers in profusion lay about the form of the placed on a black catafalque in the choir. dead statesman.

The king, with a few attendants, has takTwo red banners-one with a formal | en his place just to the left of the Patrisacred painting, in the Byzantine style, of arch's throne, which is on the south of the Annunciation, and of Mary and the the choir. King George is rather tall, Child; the other representing, in archaic erect, well - formed, fair-haired, with a figures, the Crucifixion and the Resurrec- blonde mustache, and pleasantly regular tion-were borne before the coffin. Then features. He wears the dark blue unifollowed the clergy and prominent citi- form of a major, and a light blue short zens, while the brass band played a slow- cloak with crimson lining, while a wide moving dirge. Leaving the crowded light blue scarf crosses his breast from streets, I went by a shorter way to the the right shoulder. cathedral, where the mention of my na Young men press forward to the coffin

[graphic]

BISHOP OF THE GREEK CHURCH.

with garlands of flowers. They are dele-man waits to be courted. Even if he be gates from the university and the schools. really in love, he is taught to interpose obThe Patriarch takes his seat, two bishops jections and to seem reluctant, that thus on either hand, venerable, white-bearded he may secure the offer of a larger marmen. The loud shrill chant of the priests, riage portion. Often the bride and groom men's voices singing in unison, begins have never seen each other more than the service. Two singers who are not once or twice when they meet at the altar. priests intone most of the service, the The student finds again and again depriests and bishops over against them an- lightful illustrations of the Greek classics swering antiphonally. The music has in Athenian customs and habits of to-day. that weird shaking of the voice within Thucydides gives us a vivid description a range of four or five notes which re- of the half-playful way in which the calls Arabian music. Indeed, the Greeks Athenian soldiers, forced by stress of of to-day, in their church chants and in weather to land in the harbor off the isltheir street ballads, have no music which and of Sphacteria (the modern Navarino), does not seem to have been borrowed from set to work, at Demosthenes's request, to Asia. Nothing you see or hear at Athens fortify the point. He tells us that solis more unlike Europe and America than diers, bending over and clasping their the singing.

hands low on their backs, took, in the reThe service finished, the king goes out ceptacle thus formed, loads of mud for first, after him the priests and the coffin. mortar, and of stone, which they carried The procession resumes its slow march up the hill to the wall. In Nikodemus through the principal streets. Two hours Street, in Athens, I saw long lines of lalater, as I stood on the Acropolis, I could borers carrying stones in precisely this see the crowd still standing about the same manner four or five rods, and up a open grave among the cypresses beyond narrow staging, to the masons at work on the Ilissus, listening to panegyrics deliv- the walls of a new house. Some few of ered in succession by four ex-prime minis- them wore a thick pad to protect the back, ters, the rivals and friends of the dead but most of them simply bent down, statesman. For several days the newspa- clasped their hands low on their hips bepers of Athens were filled with eulogies hind, and were loaded by other laborers of Delegeorges. Many of them were very with three or four huge rough stones. eloquent. I had the curiosity to count The loose earth from the excavation was in one of these articles the words which I carried out in baskets strapped on the could not readily trace to a root used in shoulders. classic Greek. There were but eleven On a saint's day, in the vacant space such words in an article of two columns, close under the north wall of the Acropso truly is the Greek of to-day Greek and olis, we came upon a scene which was renot Slavonic.

plete with suggestions of the Homeric As to weddings, outside of Sparta, where sacrificial feast. A group of rather roughwomen have still, as in classic times, more looking men were roasting whole a sheep freedom and greater privileges than any which they had just killed. At a little where else in Greece, the general princi- distance the grass, crimsoned with gore, ple is, at every stage of the proceeding, a showed where the victim's “head had heavy discount upon the woman. When been drawn back, while the sharp knife a girl is born, the sex is often concealed took away his strength.” The pelt, just from the mother as long as possible, lest removed, lay close by. The carcass was disappointment kill her outright. “Only spitted from the mouth straight through a girl,” is the despondent answer of the fa- the body, one end of the spit resting on ther to inquiring friends. A man is said a huge stone, the other end in a forked to be “terribly poor,” because with small stake driven for the purpose. A fire was property he has half a dozen daughters, burning under its whole length, and the whom he must, if possible, get married. master of ceremonies slowly turned it on Matches are usually arranged by the par- the spit. A hastily improvised sausage ents or relatives of the contracting parties. had been made by stuffing some of the Usually the first advances come from the finely chopped liver, heart, etc., into the friends of the girl, who try to dispose of larger intestines; and we saw this broilher here and there with as small a dot as ing sausage, looking not at all unsavory, possible. On the other hand, the young tasted by the cook as we stood watching

[graphic][merged small]

the Homeric scene. Here was a sugges-shade of these trees, and are commonly tion that the process so often baldly trans- sown in the orchards. We walk across lated “tasting the entrails” may have fields of wheat stubble, then over meabeen a rather savory sampling of tidbits, dow-land, gay with yellow, blue, and red after all. To make the picture complete flowers. We count twenty-three variely Homeric, certain impatient youths had ties of blossoming flowers, all brilliant of cut up small pieces of the raw meat, had hue. Then through groves of pomegran“pierced them through with little spits,” ates, with their great, solid, deep red bloshad “roasted them carefully,” and were soms, and on through vineyards, where “drawing them off the coals” as we came the blood red of the poppies contrasts beauupon the ground. But candor compels tifully with the tender green of the lowthe admission that priestly fillets and salt- trimmed vines. Large swallows skim ed barley and pempobola nowhere ap- the fields in every direction, twittering peared.

musically, reminding us of Anacreon's After the Acropolis and the Pnyx, per- love for this bird, still so common even haps no place at Athens has a deeper in the streets of Athens, and so well charm from its associations than has the loved by the people. Other birds sing Academy of Plato. We visited its site constantly in the groves. The tetix one beautiful morning about the middle chirps shrilly in the grass. Little brown of May. From my note-book I venture and green lizards dart here and there on to copy the description of our visit. the low earth walls which separate the

We walk two miles northwest from fields. Immense old olive-trees, with the Acropolis to the olive groves that still gnarled and knotted trunks hollow at mark the place. The wheat harvest is heart, remind us of those near Jerusalem. just finishing Men are reaping with Fig-trees send out branches which are an toothed sickles. One or two poorly dress- intricate net-work of thick, clumsy shoots, ed women are gleaning in the corners of bending now this way, then that, at the the fields. Other women follow the reap- sharpest possible angle, regardless of all ers, binding the sheaves. The olive-trees laws of symmetry. ovely cloud shadare in blossom. In this warm climate, ows rest on Salamis, and float up the wheat and barley ripen well under the slopes of Mounts Ægaleos, Corydallus,

um.

and Parnes. The mountains of Argolis seen all Attica and half of Greece from are as blue as is the bay that lies rippling the summit of Mount Pentelicus, who has between them and us. To the southeast, followed Pausanias and Leake and Curabove the thickly clustering roofs of the tius over all the boundaries of old Athens, modern city, rises the steep, altar-like rock who has read the plays of Æschylus and of the Acropolis, still crowned with the Sophocles and Aristophanes sitting in the ruins of the Parthenon and the Erechthe- old Dionysiac Theatre, on the very seats

Thus enthroned above the modern where sat the quick-eyed, keen enthusicity, the citadel, with its matchless ruins, asts for art who witnessed the first triseems constantly to assert its undying umphs of these dramatists at that bright

spring festival to which thronged all the intellect and fashion of young Europe; or, best of all, has ascended, morning, noon, and night, day after day, that airy Acropolis that presides over the modern city like the embodied memory of her glorious past. On this Acropolis the visitor shall learn, as only he who waits long and often there can learn, the soul-satisfying beauty of the ruins of the Parthenon, perfect in decay, mellowed to richest cream tint, the golden gift of this Southern sun, softened by time, and revealing in their exquisite proportions possibilities of harmony of which he had never before conceived, as the rays of the setting sun stream past these fluted columns, half filling the flutings with lines of shadow, and painting on other columns the graceful curves of this building, where curves took the place of rigid lines, and Plato's own “music of mathematics," and not the plumb-line, was the presiding genius as the temple rose.

There is a marvellous æsthetic exaltation in the effect produced on one by this perfect Greek architecture in the transparent, exhilarating atmosphere of Ath

Well might Aristophanes exclaim,

“O thou, our Athens, violet-wreathed, right to be regarded as Athens, to the ut- brilliant, most enviable city!" Well ter oblivion of all which the nineteenth might Euripides speak of the Athenians century has built below them.

Across as ever treading, with light and meathis same lovely landscape, to those tem- sured grace, through a clear, transparent ples, then perfect, and rearing their snowy air.” splendor against the purple-gray back The last night of my stay at Athens was ground of Hymettus, in the pauses of their spent upon the Acropolis. The fascinaconversation were lifted the eyes of that ting charm the perfect moonlight cast group of earnest, clear-souled thinkers around me there was too strong to be who talked with Plato in these very olive broken. As I lay and gazed at the Parthegroves, on the banks of the Cephissus—the non, the strong, abiding beauty, the restmen whose calm, enthusiastic search for ful strength, of the Doric architecture took truth has rendered so illustrious these possession of me—a new revelation of Academic shades that, through all ages, in harmony and delight. One could feel all lands, the lovers of wisdom and of art these mighty yet graceful columns bearhave been fain to borrow from their ing easily, yet bearing firmly and forever, groves the name “Academy."

and with the grace of conscious beauty The literature and history of Greece be- and strength, the immense weight laid come doubly delightful to one who has I upon them. The perfect proportions of

[graphic]

MARBLE THRONE IN THE DIONYSIAC THEATRE.

ens.

« EelmineJätka »