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Heart of Man by George Edward Woodberry

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"Deep in the general heart of man"






February 18, 1899.


OF the papers contained in this volume
"Taormina" was published in the _Century
Magazine_; the others are new. The intention
of the author was to illustrate how poetry, politics,
and religion are the flowering of the same
human spirit, and have their feeding roots in
a common soil, "deep in the general heart of


February 22, 1809.








What should there be in the glimmering lights of a poor fishing-village
to fascinate me? Far below, a mile perhaps, I behold them in the
darkness and the storm like some phosphorescence of the beach; I see the
pale tossing of the surf beside them; I hear the continuous roar borne
up and softened about these heights; and this is night at Taormina.
There is a weirdness in the scene--the feeling without the reality of
mystery; and at evening, I know not why, I cannot sleep without stepping
upon the terrace or peering through the panes to see those lights. At
morning the charm has flown from the shore to the further heights above
me. I glance at the vast banks of southward-lying cloud that envelop
Etna, like deep fog upon the ocean; and then, inevitably, my eyes seek
the double summit of the Taorminian mountain, rising nigh at hand a
thousand feet, almost sheer, less than half a mile westward. The nearer
height, precipice-faced, towers full in front with its crowning ruined
citadel, and discloses, just below the peak, on an arm of rock toward
its right, a hermitage church among the heavily hanging mists. The other
horn of the massive hill, somewhat more remote, behind and to the old
castle's left, exposes on its slightly loftier crest the edge of a
hamlet. It, too, is cloud-wreathed--the lonely crag of Mola. Over these
hilltops, I know, mists will drift and touch all day; and often they
darken threateningly, and creep softly down the slopes, and fill the
next-lying valley, and roll, and lift again, and reveal the flank of
Monte d'Oro northward on the far-reaching range. As I was walking the
other day, with one of these floating showers gently blowing in my face
down this defile, I noticed, where the mists hung in fragments from the
cloud out over the gulf, how like air-shattered arches they groined the
profound ravine; and thinking how much of the romantic charm which
delights lovers of the mountains and the sea springs from such Gothic
moods of nature, I felt for a moment something of the pleasure of
recognition in meeting with this northern and familiar element in the
Sicilian landscape.

One who has grown to be at home with nature cannot be quite a stranger
anywhere on earth. In new lands I find the poet's old domain. It is not
only from the land-side that these intimations of old acquaintance come.
When my eyes leave, as they will, the near girdle of rainy mountain
tops, and range home at last upon the sea, something familiar is there
too,--that which I have always known,--but marvellously transformed and
heightened in beauty and power. Such sudden glints of sunshine in the
offing through unseen rents of heaven, as brilliant as in mid-ocean, I
have beheld a thousand times, but here they remind me rather of
cloud-lights on far western plains; and where have I seen those still
tracts of changeful colour, iridescent under the silvery vapours of
noon; or, when the weather freshens darkens, those whirlpools of pure
emerald in the gray expanse of storm? They seem like memories of what
has been, made fairer. One recurring scene has the same fascination for
my eyes as the fishers' lights. It is a simple picture: only an arm of
mist thrusting out from yonder lowland by the little cape, and making a
near horizon, where, for half an hour, the waves break with great dashes
of purple and green, deep and angry, against the insubstantial mole. All
day I gaze on these sights of beauty until it seems that nature herself
has taken on nobler forms forever more. When the mountain storm beats
the pane at midnight, or the distant lightnings awake me in the hour
before dawn, I can forget in what climate I am; but the oblivion is
conscious, and half a memory of childhood nights: in an instant comes
the recollection, "I am on the coasts, and these are the couriers, of

The very rain is strange: it is charged with obscure personality; it is
the habitation of a new presence, a storm-genius that I have never
known; it in born of Etna, whence all things here have being and draw
nourishment. It is not rain, but the rain-cloud, spread out over the
valleys, the precipices, the sounding beaches, the ocean plain; it is
not a storm, but a season. It does not rise with the moist Hyades, or
ride with cloudy Orion in the Mediterranean night; it does not pass like
Atlantic tempests on great world-currents: it remains. Its home is upon
Etna; thence it comes and thither it returns; it gathers and disperses,
lightens and darkens, blows and is silent, and though it suffer the
clear north wind, or the west, to divide its veils with heaven, again it
draws the folds together about its abode. It obeys only Etna, who sends
it forth; then with clouds and thick darkness the mountain hides its
face: it is the Sicilian winter.


But Etna does not withdraw continuously from its children even in this
season. On the third day, at farthest, I was told it would bring back
the sun; and I was not deceived. Two days it was closely wrapped in
impenetrable gray; but the third morning, as I threw open my casement
and stepped out upon the terrace, I saw it, like my native winter,
expanding its broad flanks under the double radiance of dazzling clouds
spreading from its extreme summit far out and upward, and of the
snow-fields whose long fair drifts shone far down the sides. Villages
and groves were visible, clothing all the lower zone, and between lay
the plain. It seemed near in that air, but it is twelve miles away.
From the sea-dipping base to the white cone the slope measures more than
twenty miles, and as many more conduct the eye downward to the western
fringe--a vast bulk; yet one does not think of its size as he gazes; so
large a tract the eye takes in, but no more realizes than it does the
distance of the stars. High up, forests peer through the ribbed snows,
and extinct craters stud the frozen scene with round hollow mounds
innumerable. A thousand features, but it remains one mighty mountain.
How natural it seems for it to be sublime! It is the peer of the sea and
of the sky. All day it flashed and darkened under the rack, and I
rejoiced in the sight, and knew why Pindar called it the pillar of
heaven; and at night it hooded itself once more with the winter cloud.


Would you see this land as I see it? Come then, since Etna gives a fair,
pure morning, up over the shelving bank to the great eastern spur of
Taormina, where stood the hollow theatre, now in ruins, and above it the
small temple with which the Greeks surmounted the highest point. It is
such a spot as they often chose for their temples; but none ever
commanded a more noble prospect. The far-shining sea, four or five
hundred feet below, washes the narrow, precipitous descent, and on each
hand is disclosed the whole of that side of Sicily which faces the
rising sun. To the left and northward are the level straits, with the
Calabrian mountains opposite, thinly sown with light snow, as far as the
Cape of Spartivento, distinctly seen, though forty miles away; in front
expands the open sea; straight to the south runs the indented coast, bay
and beach, point after point, to where, sixty miles distant, the great
blue promontory of Syracuse makes far out. On the land-side Etna fills
the south with its lifted snow-fields, now smoke-plumed at the languid
cone; and thence, though lingeringly, the eye ranges nearer over the
intervening plain to the well-wooded ridge of Castiglione, and, next, to
the round solitary top of Monte Maestra, with its long shoreward
descent, and comes to rest on the height of Taormina overhead, with its
hermitage of Santa Maria della Rocca, its castle, and Mola. Yet further
off, at the hand of the defile, looms the barren summit of Monte
Venere, with Monte d'Oro and other hills in the foreground, and
northward, peak after peak, travels the close Messina range.

A landscape of sky, sea, plain, and mountains, great masses majestically
grouped, grand in contour! Yet to call it sublime does not render the
impression it makes upon the soul. Sublime, indeed, it is at times, and
dull were he whose heart from hour to hour awe does not visit here; but
constantly the scene is beautiful, and yields that delight which dwells
unwearied with the soul. One may be seldom touched to the exaltation
which sublimity implies, but to take pleasure in loveliness is the habit
of one who lives as heaven made him; and what characterizes this
landscape and sets it apart is the permanence of its beauty, its
perpetual and perfect charm through every change of light and weather,
and in every quarter of its heaven and earth, felt equally whether the
eye sweeps the great circuit with its vision, or pauses on the nearer
features, for they, too, are wonderfully composed. This hill of my
station falls down for half a mile with broken declivities, and then
becomes the Cape of Taormina, and takes its steep plunge into the sea.
Yonder picturesque peninsula to its left, diminished by distance and
strongly relieved on the purple waves, is the Cape of Sant' Andrea, and
beside it a cluster of small islands lies nearer inshore. On the other
side, to the right of our own cape, shines our port, with Giardini, the
village of my fishers' lights, the beach with its boats, and the white
main road winding in the narrow level between the bluffs and the sands.
The port is guarded on the south by the peninsula of Schiso, where
ancient Naxos stood; and just beyond, the river Alcantara cuts the plain
and flows to the sea. At the other extremity, northward of Sant' Andrea,
is the cove of Letojanni, with its village, and then, perhaps eight
miles away, the bold headland of Sant' Alessio closes the shore view
with a mass of rock that in former times completely shut off the land
approach hither, there being no passage over it, and none around it
except by the strip of sand when the sea was quiet. All this ground,
with in several villages, from Sant' Alessio to the Alcantara, and
beyond into the plain, was anciently the territory of Taormina.

The little city itself lies on its hill, between the bright shore and
the gray old castle, on a crescent-like terrace whose two horns jut out
into the air like capes. The northern one of these is my station, the
site of the old temple and the amphitheatre; the southern one opposite
shows the facade of the Dominican convent; and the town circles between,
possibly a mile from spur to spur. Here and there long broken lines of
the ancient wall, black with age, stride the hillside. A round Gothic
tower, built as if for warfare, a square belfry, a ruined gateway, stand
out among the humble roofs. Gardens of orange and lemon trees gleam like
oblong parks, principally on the upper edge toward the great rock. If
you will climb, as I have done, the craggy plateau close by, which
overhangs the theatre and obstructs the view of the extreme end of the
town at this point, you will see from its level face, rough with the
plants of the prickly-pear, a cross on an eminence just below, and the
gate toward Messina.

The face of the country is bare. Here beneath, where the main ravine of
Taormina cuts into the earth between the two spurs of the city, are
terraces of fruit trees and vegetables, and, wherever the naked rock
permits, similar terraces are seen on the castle hill and every less
steep slope, looking as if they would slide off. Almond and olive trees
cling and climb all over the hillsides, but their boughs do not clothe
the country. It is gray to look at, because of the masses of natural
rock everywhere cropping out, and also from the substructure of the
terraces, which, seen from below, present banks of the same gray stone.
The only colour is given by the fan-like plants of the prickly-pear,
whose flat, thick-lipped, pear-shaped leaves, stuck with thorns, and
often extruding their reddish fruit from the edge, lend a dull green to
the scene. This plant grows everywhere, like wild bush, to a man's
height, covering the otherwise infertile soil, and the goats crop it. A
closer view shows patches of wild candytuft and marigolds, like those at
my feet, and humble purple and blue blossoms hang from crannies or run
over the stony turf; but these are not strong enough to be felt in the
prevalent tones. The blue of ocean, the white of Etna, the gray of
Taormina--this is the scene.

Three ways connect the town with the lower world. The modern carriage
road runs from the Messina gate, and, quickly dropping behind the
northern spur, winds in great serpentine loops between the Campo Santo
below and old wayside tombs, Roman and Arabic, above, until it slowly
opens on the southern outlook, and, after two miles of tortuous courses
above the lovely coves, comes out on the main road along the coast. The
second way starts from the other end of the town, the gate toward Etna,
and goes down more precipitously along the outer flank of the southern
spur, with Mola (here shifted to the other side of the castle hill)
closing the deep ravine behind; and at last it empties into the torrent
of Selina, in whose bed it goes on to Giardini. The third, or short way,
leaps down the great hollow of the spurs, and yet keeps to a ridge
between the folds of the ravine which it discloses on each side, with
here and there a contadino cutting rock on the steep hillsides, or a
sportsman wandering with his dog; or often at twilight, from some coign
of vantage, you may see the goats trooping home across the distant sands
by the sea. It debouches through great limestone quarries on the main
road. There, seen from below, Taormina comes out--a cape, a town, and a
hill. It is, in fact, a long, steep, broken ridge, shaped like a wedge;
one end of the broad lace dips into the sea, the other, high on land,
exposes swelling bluffs; its back bears the town, its point lifts the

This is the Taorminian land. What a quietude hangs over it! How poor,
how mean, how decayed the little town now looks amid all this silent
beauty of enduring nature! It could not have been always so. This
theatre at my feet, hewn in the living rock, flanked at each end by
great piers of massive Roman masonry, and showing broken columns thick
strewn in the midst of the broad orchestra, tells of ancient splendour
and populousness. The narrow stage still stands, with nine columns in
position in two groups; part are shattered half-way up, part are yet
whole, and in the gap between the groups shines the lovely sea with the
long southern coast, set in the beauty of these ruins as in a frame.
Here Attic tragedies were once played, and Roman gladiators fought. The
enclosure is large, much over a hundred yards in diameter. It held many
thousands. Whence came the people to fill it? I noticed by the
roadside, as I came up, Saracenic tombs. I saw in the first square I
entered those small Norman windows, with the lovely pillars and the
round arch. On the ancient church I have observed the ornamentation and
mouldings of Byzantine art. The Virgin with her crown, over the
fountain, was paltry enough, but I saw that this was originally a
mermaid's statue. A water-clock here, a bath there; in all quarters I
come on some slight, poor relics of other ages; and always in the faces
of the people, where every race seems to have set its seal, I see the
ruins of time. These echoes are not all of far-off things. That lookout
below was a station of English cannon, I am told; and the bluff over
Giardini, beyond the torrent, takes its name from the French tents
pitched there long ago. The old walls can be traced for five miles, but
now the circuit is barely two. I wonder, as I go down to my room in the
Casa Timeo, what was the past of this silent town, now so shrunken from
its ancient limits; and who, I ask myself, Timeo?


I thought when I first saw the inaccessibility of this mountain-keep
that I should have no walks except upon the carriage road; but I find
there are paths innumerable. Leap the low walls where I will, I come on
unsuspected ways broad enough for man and beast. They ran down the
hillsides in all directions, and are ever dividing as they descend, like
the branching streams of a waterfall. Some are rudely paved, and hemmed
by low walls; others are mere footways on the natural rock and earth,
often edging precipices, and opening short cross-cuts in the most
unexpected places, not without a suggestion of peril, to make eye and
foot alert, and to infuse a certain wild pleasure into the exercise. The
multiplicity of these paths is a great boon to the lover of beauty, for
here one charm of Italian landscape exists in perfection. Every few
moments the scene rearranges itself in new combinations, as on the
Riviera or at Amalfi, and makes an endless succession of lovely
pictures. The infinite variety of these views is not to be imagined
unless it has been witnessed; and besides the magic wrought by mere
change of position, there is also a constant transformation of tone and
colour from hour to hour, as the lights and shadows vary, and from day
to day, with the unsettled weather.

Yet who could convey to black-and-white speech the sense of beauty which
is the better part of my rambles? It is only to say that here I went up
and down on the open hillsides, and there I followed the ridges or kept
the cliff-line above the fair coves; that now I dropped down into the
vales, under the shade of olive and lemon branches, and wound by the
gushing streams through the orchards. In every excursion I make some
discovery, and bring home some golden store for memory. Yesterday I
found the olive slopes over Letojanni--beautiful old gnarled trees, such
as I have never seen except where the nightingales sing by the eastern
shore of Spezzia. I did not doubt when I was told that those orchards
yield the sweetest oil in the world. It was the lemon harvest, and
everywhere were piles of the pale yellow fruit heaped like apples under
the slender trees, with a gatherer here and there; for this is always a
landscape of solitary figures. To-day I found the little beach of San
Nicolo, not far from the same place. I kept inland, going down the
hollow by the Campo Santo, where there is a cool, gravelly stream in a
dell that is like a nook in the Berkshire hills, and then along the
upland on the skirts of Monte d'Oro, till by a sharp turn seaward I came
out through a marble quarry where men were working with what seemed slow
implements on the gray or party-coloured stone. I passed through the
rather silent group, who stopped to look at me, and a short distance
beyond I crossed the main road, and went down by a stream to the shore.
I found it strewn with seaside rock, as a hundred other beaches are, but
none with rocks like these. They were marble, red or green, or shot with
variegated hues, with many a soft gray, mottled or wavy-lined; and the
sea had polished them. Very lovely they were, and shone where the low
wave gleamed over them. I had wondered at the profusion of marbles in
the Italian churches, but I had not thought to find them wild on a
lonely Sicilian beach. Once or twice already I had seen a block rosy in
the torrent-beds, and it had seemed a rare sight; but here the whole
shore was piled and inlaid with the beautiful stone.

I have learned now that Taormina is famous for these marbles. Over
thirty varieties were sent to the Vienna Exhibition, and they won the
prize. I got this information from the keeper of the Communal Library,
with whom I have made friends. He recalls to my memory the ship that
Hieron of Syracuse gave to Ptolemy, wonderful for its size. It had
twenty banks of rowers, three decks, and space to hold a library, a
gymnasium, gardens with trees in them, stables, and baths, and towers
for assault, and it was provided by Archimedes with many ingenious
mechanical devices. The wood of sixty ordinary galleys was required for
its construction. I describe it because its architect, Filea, was a
Taorminian by birth, and esteemed in his day second only to Archimedes
in his skill in mechanics; and in lining the baths of this huge galley
he used these beautiful Taorminian marbles. My friend the librarian told
me also, with his Sicilian burr, of the wine of Taormina, the Eugenaean,
which was praised by Pliny, and used at the sacred feasts of Rome; but
now, he said sadly, the grape had lost its flavour.

The sugar-cane, which nourished in later times, is also gone. But the
mullet that is celebrated in Juvenal's verse, and the lampreys that once
went to better Alexandrian luxury, are still the spoil of the fishers,
the shrimps are delicate to the palate, and the marbles will endure as
long as this rock itself. The rock lasts, and the sea. The most ancient
memory here is of them, for this is the shore of Charybdis. It is stated
in Sallust and other Latin authors, as well as by writers throughout the
Middle Ages, that all which was swallowed up in the whirlpool of the
straits, after being carried beneath the sea for miles, was finally cast
up on the beach beneath the hill of Taormina.

The rock and the sea were finely blended in one of my first discoveries
in the land, and in consequence they have seemed, to my imagination,
more closely united here than is common. On a stormy afternoon I had
strolled down the main road, and was walking toward Letojanni. I came,
after a little, to a great cliff that overhung the sea, with room for
the road to pass beneath; and as I drew near I heard a strange sound, a
low roaring, a deep-toned reverberation, that seemed not to come from
the breaking waves, loud on the beach: it was a more solemn, a more
piercing and continuous sound. It was from the rock itself. The grand
music of the rolling sea beneath was taken up by the hollowed cliff, and
reechoed with a mighty volume of sound from invisible sources. It seemed
the voice of the rock, as if by long sympathy and neighbourhood in that
lonely place the cliff were interpenetrated with the sea-music, and had
become resonant of itself with those living harmonies heard only in the
Psalmist's song. It seemed a lyre for the centuries; and I thought over
how many a conqueror, how many a race, that requiem had been lifted upon
it as they passed to their death on this shore. I came back slowly in
the twilight, and was roused from my reverie by the cold wind breathing
on me as I reached the top of the hill, pure and keen and frosted like
the bright December breezes of my own land. It was the kiss of Etna on
my cheek.


Will you hear the legend of Taormina?--for in these days I dare not call
it history. Noble and romantic it is, and age-long. I had not hoped to
recover it; but my friend the librarian has brought me books in which
patriotic Taorminians have written the story celebrating their dear
city. I was touched by the simplicity with which he informed me that the
town authorities had been unwilling to waste on a passing stranger these
little paper-bound memorials of their city. "But," he said, "I told them
I had given you my word." So I possess these books with a pleasant
association of Sicilian honour, and I have read them with real interest.
As I turned the pages I was reminded once more how impossible it is to
know the past. The past survives in human institutions, in the
temperament of races, and in the creations of ideal art; but only in the
last is it immortal. Custom and law are for an age: race after race is
pushed to the sea, and dies; only epic and saga and psalm have one date
with man, one destiny with the breath of his lips, one silence at the
last with them. Least of all does the past survive in the living
memories of men. Here and there the earth cherishes a coin or a statue,
the desert embalms some solitary city, a few leagues of rainless air
preserve on rock and column the lost speech of Nile; so the mind of man
holds in dark places, or lifts to living fame, no more than ruins and
fragments of the life that was. I have been a diligent reader of books
in my time; and here in an obscure corner of the Old-World I find a
narrative studded with noble names, not undistinguished by stirring
deeds, and, save for the great movements of history and a few shadowy
figures, it is all fresh to my mind. I have looked on three thousand
years of human life upon this hill; something of what they have yielded,
if you will have patience with such a tract of time, I will set down.

My author is Monsignore Giovanni di Giovanni, a Taorminian, who
flourished in the last century. He was a man of vast erudition, and
there is in his pages the Old-World learning which delights me. He was
born before the days of historic doubt. He tells a true story. To allege
an authority is with him to prove a fact, and to cite all writers who
repeat the original source is to render truth impregnable. Rarely does
he show any symptom of the modern malady of incredulity. _Scripta
littera_ is reason enough, unless the fair fame of his city chances to
be at stake. He was really learned, and I do wrong to seem to diminish
his authority. He was a patient investigator of manuscripts, and did
important service to Sicilian history. The simplicity I have alluded to
affects mainly the ecclesiastical part of his narrative. A few
statements also in regard to the prehistoric period might disturb the
modern mind, but I own to finding in them the charm of lost things. In
my mental provinces I welcome the cave-man, the flint-maker, the
lake-dweller, and all their primitive tribes to the abode of science;
but I feel them to be intruders in my antiquity. I was brought up on
quite other chronologies, and I still like a history that begins with
the flood. I will not, however, ask any one of more serious mind to go
back with Monsignore and myself to the era of autochthonous Sicily, when
the children of the Cyclops inhabited the land, and Demeter in her
search for Proserpina wept on this hill, and Charybdis lay stretched out
under these bluffs watching the sea. It is precise enough to say that
Taormina began eighty years before the Trojan War. Very dimly, it must
be acknowledged, the ancient Sicani are seen arriving and driven, like
all doomed races, south and west out of the land, and in their place the
Siculi flourish, and a Samnite colony voyages over the straits from
Italy and joins them. Here for three centuries these sparse communities
lived along these heights in fear of the sea pirates, and warred
confusedly from their mainhold on Mount Taurus, or the Bull, so called
because the two summits of the mountain from a distance resemble a
bull's horns; and they left no other memory of themselves.

Authentic history begins toward the end of the eighth century before our
era. It is a bright burst; for then, down by yonder green-foaming rock,
the young Greek mariners leaped on the strand. This was their first
land-fall in Sicily; that rock, their Plymouth; and here, doubtless, the
alarmed mountaineers stood in their fastness and watched the bearers of
the world's torch, and knew them not, bringing daybreak to the dark
island for evermore, but fought, as barbarism will, against the light,
and were at last made friends with it--a chance that does not always
befall. Then quickly rose the lowland city of Naxos, and by the river
sprang up the temple to Guiding Apollo, the earliest shrine of the
Sicilian Greeks, where they came ever afterward to pray for a prosperous
voyage when they would go across the sea, homeward. They were from the
first a fighting race; and decade by decade the cloud of war grew
heavier on each horizon, southward from Syracuse and northward from
Messina, and swords beat fiercer and stronger with the rivalries of
growing states--battles dimly discerned now. A single glimpse flashes
out on the page of Thucydides. He relates that when once the Messenians
threatened Naxos with overthrow, the mountaineers rushed down from the
heights in great numbers to the relief of their Greek neighbours, and
routed the enemy and slew many. This is the first bloodstain, clear and
bright, on our Taorminian land. Shall I add, from the few relics of that
age, that Pythagoras, on the journey he undertook to establish the
governments of the Sicilian cities, wrought miracles here, curing a mad
lover of his frenzy by music, and being present on this hill and at
Metaponto the same day--a thing not to be done without magic? But at
last we see plainly Alcibiades coasting along below, and the ill-fated
Athenians wintering in the port, and horsemen going out from Naxos
toward Etna on the side of Athens in the death-struggle of her glory.
And then, suddenly, after the second three hundred years, all is over,
the Greek city betrayed, sacked, destroyed, Naxos trodden out under the
foot of Dionysius the tyrant.

Other fortune awaited him a few years later when he came again, and our
city (which, one knows not when, had been walled and fortified) stood
its first historic siege. Dionysius arrived in the dead of winter. Snow
and ice--I can hardly credit it--whitened and roughened these ravines, a
new ally to the besieged; but the tyrant thought to betray them by a
false security in such a season. On a bitter night, when clouds hooded
the hilltop, and mists rolled low about its flanks, he climbed
unobserved, with his forces, up these precipices, and gained two outer
forts which gave footways to the walls; but the town roused at the sound
of arms and the cries of the guards, and came down to the fray, and
fought until six hundred of the foe fell dead, others with wounds
surrendered, and the rest fled headlong, with Dionysius among them, hard
pressed, and staining the snow with his blood as he went. This was the
city's first triumph.

Not only with brave deeds did Taormina begin, but, as a city should,
with a great man. He was really great, this Andromachus. Do you not
remember him out of Plutarch, and the noble words that have been his
immortal memory among men? "This man was incomparably the best of all
those that bore sway in Sicily at that time, governing his citizens
according to law and justice, and openly professing an aversion and
enmity to all tyrants." Was the defeat of Dionysius the first of his
youthful exploits, as some say? I cannot determine; but it is certain
that he gathered the surviving exiles of Naxos, and gave them this
plateau to dwell upon, and it was no longer called Mount Taurus, as had
been the wont, but Tauromenium, or the Abiding-place of the Bull. A few
years later Andromachus performed the signal action of his life by
befriending Timoleon, as great a character, in my eyes, as Plutarch
records the glory of. Timoleon had set out from Corinth, at the summons
of his Greek countrymen, to restore the liberty of Syracuse, then
tyrannized over by the second Dionysius; and because Andromachus, in his
stronghold of Taormina, hated tyranny, Plutarch says, he "gave Timoleon
leave to muster up his troops there and to make that city the seat of
war, persuading the inhabitants to join their arms with the Corinthian
forces and to assist them in the design of delivering Sicily." It was on
our beach that Timoleon disembarked, and from our city he went forth to
the conquest foretold, by the wreath that fell upon his head as he
prayed at Delphi, and by the prophetic fire that piloted his ship over
the sea. The Carthaginians came quickly after him from Reggio, where he
had eluded them, for they were in alliance with the tyrant; and from
their vessels they parleyed with Andromachus in the port. With an
insolent gesture, the envoy, raising his hand, palm up, and turning it
lightly over, said that even so, and with such ease, would he overturn
the little city; and Andromachus, mocking his hand-play, answered that
if he did not leave the harbour, even so would he upset his galley. The
Carthaginians sailed away. The city remained firm-perched. Timoleon
prospered, brought back liberty to Syracuse, ruled wisely and nobly, and
gave to Sicily those twenty years of peace which were the flower of her
Greek annals. Then, we must believe, rose the little temple on our
headland, the Greek theatre where the tongue of Athens lived, the
gymnasium where the youths grew fair and strong. Then Taormina struck
her coins: Apollo with the laurel, with the lyre, with the grape;
Dionysus with the ivy, and Zeus with the olive; for the gods and temples
of the Naxians had become ours, and were religiously cherished; and with
the rest was struck a coin with the Minotaur, our symbol. But of
Andromachus, the founder of the well-built and fairly adorned Greek city
that then rose, we hear no more--a hero, I think, one of the true breed
of the founders of states. But alas for liberty! A new tyrant,
Agathocles, was soon on the Syracusan throne, and he won this city by
friendly professions, only to empty it by treachery and murder; and he
drove into exile Timaeus, the son of Andromachus. Timaeus? He,
evidently, of my Casa Timeo. I know him now, the once famed historian
whom Cicero praises as the most erudite in history of all writers up to
his time, most copious in facts and various in comment, not unpolished
in style, eloquent, and distinguished by terse and charming expression.
Ninety years he lived in the Greek world, devoted himself to history,
and produced many works, now lost. The ancient writers read him, and
from their criticism it is clear that he was marked by a talent for
invective, was given to sharp censure, and loved the bitter part of
truth. He introduced precision and detail into his art, and is credited
with being the first to realize the importance of chronology and to seek
exactness in it. He never saw again his lovely birthplace, and I easily
forgive to the exile and the son of Andromachus the vigour with which he
depicted the crimes of Agathocles and others of the tyrants. In our
city, meanwhile, the Greek genius waning to its extinction, Tyndarion
ruled; and in his time Pyrrhus came hither to repulse the ever invading
power of Carthage. But he was little more than a shedder of blood; he
accomplished nothing, and I name him only as one of the figures of our

The day of Greece was gone; but those two clouds of war still hung on
the horizon, north and south, with ever darker tempest. Instead of
Syracuse and Messina, Carthage and the new name of Rome now sent them
forth, and over this island they encountered. Our city, true to its
ancient tradition, became Rome's ever faithful ally, as you may read in
the poem of Silius Italicus, and was dignified by treaty with the title
of a confederate city; and of this fact Cicero reminded the judges when
in that famous trial he thundered against Verres, the spoiler of our
Sicilian province, and with the other cities defended this of ours,
whose people had signalized their hatred of the Roman praetor by
overthrowing his statue in the market-place and sparing the pedestal, as
they said, to be an eternal memorial of his infamy. From the Roman age,
however, I take but two episodes, for I find that to write this town's
history were to write the history of half the Mediterranean world. When
the slaves rose in the Servile War, they intrenched themselves on this
hill, and in their hands the city bore its siege by the Roman consul as
hardily as was ever its custom. Cruel they were, no doubt, and
vindictive. With horror Monsignore relates that they were so resolved
not to yield that, starving, they ate their children, their wives, and
one another; and he rejoices when they were at last betrayed and
massacred, and this disgrace was wiped away. I hesitate. I cannot feel
regret when those whom man has made brutal answer brutally to their
oppressors. I have enough of the old Taorminian spirit to remember that
the slaves, too, fought for liberty. I am sorry for those penned and
dying men; their famine and slaughter in these walls were least horrible
for their part in the catastrophe, if one looks through what they did to
what they were, and remembers that the civilization they violated had
stripped them of humanity. After the slave, I make room--for whom else
than imperial Augustus? Off this shore he defeated Sextus Pompey, and he
thought easily to subdue the town above when he summoned it. But Taormina
was always a loyal little place, and it would not yield without a siege.
Then Augustus, sitting down before it, prayed in our temple of Guiding
Apollo that he might have the victory; and as he walked by the beach
afterward a fish threw itself out of the water before him--an omen,
said the diviners, that even so the Pompeians, who held the seas, after
many turns of varied fortune, should be brought to his feet. Pompey
returned with a fleet, and in these waters again the battle was fought
and Augustus lost it, and the siege was raised. But when a third time
the trial of naval strength was essayed, and the cause of the Pompeians
ruined, Augustus remembered the city that had defied him, sent its
inhabitants into exile, and planted a Roman colony in its place. Latin
was now the language here. The massive grandeur of Roman architecture
replaced the old Greek structures. The amphitheatre was enlarged and
renewed in its present form, villas of luxury bordered the coasts as in
Campania, and coins were struck in the Augustan name.

The Roman domination in its turn slowly moved to its fall; and where
should the new age begin more fitly than in this city of beginnings? As
of old the Greek torch first gleamed here, here first on Sicilian soil
was the Cross planted. The gods of Olympus had many temples about the
hill slopes, shrines of venerable antiquity even in those days; but if
the monkish chronicles be credited, the new faith signalized its victory
rather over three strange idolatries,--the worship of Falcone, of
Lissone, and of Scamandro, a goddess. I refuse to believe that the
citizens were accustomed to sacrifice three youths annually to Falcone;
and as for the other two deities, little is known of them except that
their destruction marked the advent of the young religion. Pancrazio was
the name of him who was destined to be our patron saint through the
coming centuries. He was born in Antioch, and when a child of three
years, going with his father into Judea, he had seen the living Christ;
now, grown into manhood, he was sent by St. Peter to spread the gospel
in the isles of the sea. He disembarked on our beach, and forthwith
threw Lissone's image into the waves, and with it a holy dragon which
was coiled about it like a garment and was fed with sacrifices; and he
shattered with his cross the great idol Scamandro: and so Taormina
became Christian, welcomed St. Peter on his way to Rome, and entered on
the long new age. It was here, as elsewhere, the age of
martyrs--Pancrazio first, and after him Geminiano, guided hither with
his mother by an angel; and then San Nicone, who suffered with his one
hundred and ninety-nine brother monks, and Sepero and Corneliano with
their sixty; the age of monks--Luca, who fled from his bridal to live on
Etna, with fasts, visions, and prophecies; and, later, simple-minded
Daniele, the follower of St. Elia, of whom there is more to be recorded;
the age of bishops, heard in Roman councils and the palace of Byzantium,
of whom two only are of singular interest--Zaccaria, who was deprived,
evidently the ablest in mind and policy of all the succession, once a
great figure in the disputes of East and West; and Procopio, whom the
Saracens slew, for the Crescent now followed the Cross.

The ancient war-cloud had again gathered out of Africa. The Saracens
were in the land, and every city had fallen except Syracuse and
Taormina. For sixty years the former held out, and our city for yet
another thirty, the sole refuge of the Christians. Signs of the
impending destruction were first seen by that St. Elia already
mentioned, who wandered hither, and was displeased by the manners and
morals of the citizens. I am sorry to record that Monsignore believed
his report, for only here is there mention of such a matter. "The
citizens," says my author, "lived in luxury and pleasure not becoming to
a state of war. They saw on all sides the fields devastated, houses
burnt, wealth plundered, cities given to the flames, friends and
companions killed or reduced to slavery, yet was there no vice, no sin,
that did not rule unpunished among them." Therefore the saint preached
the woe to come, and, turning to the governor, Constantine Patrizio, in
his place in the cathedral, he appealed to him to restrain his people.
"Let the philosophy of the Gentiles," he exclaimed, "be your shame.
Epaminondas, that illustrious _condottiere_, strictly restrained himself
from intemperance, from every lust, every allurement of pleasure. So,
also, Scipio, the Roman leader, was valorous through the same continence
as Epaminondas; and therefore they brought back signal victory, one over
the Spartans, the other over the Carthaginians, and both erected
immortal trophies." He promised them mercy with repentance, but ended
threateningly: "So far as in me lies I have clearly foretold to you all
that has been divinely revealed to me. If you believe my words, like
the penitents of Nineveh, you shall find mercy; if you despise my
admonitions, bound and captive you shall be reduced to the worst
slavery." He prophesied yet more in private. He went to the house of a
noble citizen, Crisione, who esteemed him as a father, and, lying in
bed, he said to him: "Do you see, Crisione, the bed in which I now lie?
In this same bed shall Ibrahim sleep, hungry for human blood, and the
walls of the rooms shall see many of the most distinguished persons of
this city all together put to the edge of the sword." Then he left the
house and went to the square in the centre of the city, and, standing
there, he lifted his garments above the knee. Whereupon simple Daniele,
who always followed him about, marvelling asked, "What does this thing
mean, father?" The old man had his answer ready, "Now I see rivers of
blood running, and these proud and magnificent buildings which you see
exalted shall be destroyed even to the foundations by the Saracens." And
the monk fled from the doomed city, like a true prophet, and went

The danger was near, but perhaps not more felt than it must always have
been where the prayer for defence against the Saracens had gone up for a
hundred years in the cathedral. The governor, however, had taken pains
to add to the strength of the city by strong fortifications upon Mola.
Ahulabras came under the walls, but gave over the ever unsuccessful
attempt to take the place, and went on to ruin Reggio beyond the
straits. When it was told to his father Ibrahim that Tabermina, as the
Saracens called it, had again been passed by, he cried out upon his son,
"He is degenerate, degenerate! He took his nature from his mother and
not from his father; for, had he been born from me, surely his sword
would not have spared the Christians!" Therefore he recalled him to the
home government, and came himself and sat down before the city. The
garrison was small and insufficient, but, says my author, following old
chronicles, "youths, old men, and children, without distinction of age,
sex, or condition, fearing outrage and all that slavery would expose
them to, all spontaneously offered themselves to fight in this holy war
even to death: with such courage did love of country and religious zeal
inspire the citizens." Ibrahim had other weapons than the sword. He
first corrupted the captains of the Greek fleet, who were afterward
condemned for the treason at Byzantium. Then, all being ready, he
promised some Ethiopians of his army, who are described as of a
ferocious nature and harsh aspect, that he would give them the city for
booty, besides other gifts, if they would devote themselves to the bold
undertaking. The catastrophe deserves to be told in Monsignore's own

"This people, accustomed to rapine, allured by the riches of the
Taorminians and the promises of the king, with the aid of the traitors
entered unexpectedly into the city, and with bloody swords and mighty
cries and clamour assailed the citizens. Meanwhile King Ibrahim, having
entered with all his army by a secret gate under the fortress of Mola,
thence called the gate of the Saracens, raged against the citizens with
such unexpected and cruel slaughter that not only neither the weakness
of sex, nor tender years, nor reverence for hoary age, but not even the
abundance of blood that like torrents flowed down the ways, touched to
pity that ferocious heart. The soldiers, masters of the beautiful and
wealthy city, divided among them the riches and goods of the citizens
according as to each one the lot fell; they levelled to the ground the
magnificent buildings, public or private, sacred or profane, all that
were proudest for amplitude, construction, and ornament; and that not
even the ruins of ancient splendour should remain, all that had survived
they gave to the flames."

This city, which the Saracens destroyed, is the one the Taorminians
cherish as the culmination of their past. In the Greek, the Roman, and
the early Christian ages it had flourished, as both its ruins and its
history attest, and much must have yet survived from those times; while
its station as the only Christian stronghold in the island would
naturally have attracted wealth hither for safety. In this first sack of
the Saracens, the ancient city must have perished, but the destruction
could hardly have been so thorough as is represented, since some of the
churches themselves, in their present state, show Byzantine workmanship.

There remains one bloody and characteristic episode to Ibrahim's
victory. The king, says the Arab chronicler, was pious and naturally
compassionate, but on this occasion he forgot his usual mildness. In the
midst of fire and blood he ordered the soldiers to search the caverns of
the hills, and they dragged forth many prisoners, among whom was the
Bishop Procopio. The king spoke to him gently and nobly, "Because you
are wise and old, O Bishop, I exhort you with soft words to obey my
advice, and to have foresight for your own safety and that of your
companions; otherwise you shall suffer what your fellow-citizens have
suffered from me. If you will embrace my laws, and deny the Christian
religion, you shall have the second place after me, and shall be more
dear to me than all the Agarenes." The prelate only smiled. Then, full
of wrath, the king said: "Do you smile while you are my prisoner? Know
you not in whose presence you are?" "I smile truly," came the answer,
"because I see you are inspired by a demon who puts these words into
your mouth." Furious, the king called to his attendants, "Quick, break
open his breast, tear out his heart, that we may see and understand the
secrets of his mind." While the command was being executed, Procopio
reproved the king and comforted his companions. "The tyrant, swollen
with rage, and grinding his teeth," says the narrative, "barbarously
offered him the torn-out heart that he might eat it." Then he bade them
strike off the bishop's head (who, we are told, was already half dead),
and also the heads of his companions, and to burn the bodies all
together. And as St. Pancrazio of old had thrown the holy dragon into
the sea, so now were his own ashes scattered to the winds of heaven; and
Ibrahim, having accomplished his work, departed.

Some of the citizens, however, had survived, and among them Crisione,
the host of St. Elia. He went to bear the tidings to the saint; and
being now assured of the gift of prophecy possessed by the holy man,
asked him to foretell his future. He met the customary fate of the
curious in such things. "I foresee," said the discomfortable saint,
"that within a few days you will die." And to make an end of St. Elia
with Crisione, let me record here the simple Daniele's last act of piety
to his master. It is little that in such company he fought with devils,
or that after he had written with much labour a beautiful Psalter, the
old monk bade him fling it and worldly pride together over the cliff
into a lake. Such episodes belonged to the times; and, after all, by
making a circuit of six miles he found the Psalter miraculously unwet,
and only his worldly pride remained at the lake's bottom. But it was a
mind singularly inventive of penance that led the dying saint to charge
poor Daniele to bear the corpse on his back a long way over the
mountains, merely because, he said, it would be a difficult thing to do.
Other survivors of the sack of Taormina, more fortunate than Crisione,
watched their opportunity, and, at a moment when the garrison was weak,
entered, seized the place, fortified it anew, and offered it to the
Greek emperor once more. He could not maintain war with the Saracens,
but by a treaty made with them he secured his faithful Taorminians in
the possession of the city. After forty years of peace under this treaty
it was again besieged for several months, and fell on Christmas night.
Seventeen hundred and fifty of its citizens were sent by the victors
into slavery in Africa. Greek troops, however, soon retook the city in
a campaign that opened brilliantly in Sicily only to close in swift
disaster; but for five years longer Taormina sustained continual siege,
and when it fell at last, with the usual carnage of its citizens and the
now thrice-repeated fire and ruin of Saracenic victory, we may well
believe that, though it remained the seat of a governor, little of the
city was left except its memory. Its name even was changed to Moezzia.

The Crescent ruled undisturbed for a hundred years, until the landing of
Count Roger, the Norman, the great hero of mediaeval Sicily, who
recovered the island to the Christian faith. Taormina, true to its
tradition, was long in falling; but after eighteen years of desultory
warfare Count Roger sat down before it with determination. He surrounded
it with a circumvallation of twenty-two fortresses connected by ramparts
and bridges, and cut off all access by land or sea. Each day he
inspected the lines; and the enemy, having noticed this habit, laid an
ambush for him in some young myrtles where the path he followed had a
very narrow passage over the precipices. They rushed out on him, and, as
he was unarmed and alone, would have killed him, had not their cries
attracted one Evandro, a Breton, who, coming, and seeing his chief's
peril, threw himself between, and died in his place. Count Roger was not
forgetful of this noble action. He recovered the body, held great
funeral services, and gave gifts to the soldiers and the church. The
story appealed so to the old chronicler Malaterra, that he told it in
both prose and verse. After seven months the city surrendered, and the
iron cross was again set up on the rocky eminence by the gate. It is a
sign of the ruin which had befallen that the city now lost its bishopric
and was ecclesiastically annexed to another see.

Taormina, compared with what it had been, was now a place of the desert;
but not the less for that did the tide of war rage round it for five
hundred years to come. It was like a rock of the sea over which
conflicting billows break eternally. I will not narrate the feudal story
of internecine violence, nor how amidst it all every religious order set
up monasteries upon the beautiful hillsides, of whose life little is now
left but the piles of books in old bindings over which my friend the
librarian keeps guard, mourning the neglect in which they are left.
Among both the nobles and the fathers were some examples of heroism,
sacrifice, and learning, but their deeds and virtues may sleep unwaked
by me. The kings and queens who took refuge here, and fled again,
Messenian foray and Chiaramontane faction, shall go unrecorded. I must
not, however, in the long roll of the famous figures of our beach forget
that our English Richard the Lion-hearted was entertained here by
Tancred in crusading days; and of notable sieges let me name at least
that which the city suffered for its loyalty to the brave and generous
Manfred when the Messenians surprised and wasted it, and that which with
less destruction the enemies of the second Frederick inflicted on it,
and that of the French under Charles II, who, contrary to his word, gave
up the surrendered city to the soldiery for eight whole days--a terrible
sack, of which Monsignore has heard old men tell. What part the citizens
took in the Sicilian Vespers, and how the Parliament that vainly sought
a king for all Sicily was held here, and in later times the marches of
the Germans, Spaniards, and English--these were too long a tale. With
one more signal memory I close this world-history, as it began, with a
noble name. It was from our beach yonder that Garibaldi set out for
Italy in the campaign of Aspromonte; hither he was brought back,
wounded, to the friendly people, still faithful to that love of liberty
which flowed in the old Taorminian blood.

I shut my books; but to my eyes the rock is scriptured now. What a leaf
it is from the world-history of man upon the planet! Every race has
splashed it with blood; every faith has cried from it to heaven. It is
only a hill-station in the realm of empire; but in the records of such a
city, lying somewhat aside and out of common vision, the course of human
fate may be more simply impressive than in the story of world-cities.
Athens, Rome, Constantinople, London, Paris, are great centres of
history; but in them the mind is confused by the multiplicity and awed
by the majesty of events. Here on this bare rock there is no thronging
of illustrious names, and little of that glory that conceals imperial
crime, the massacre of armies, and the people's woe. Again I use the
figure: it is like a rock of the sea, set here in the midst of the
Mediterranean world, washed by all the tides of history, beat on by
every pitiless storm of the passion of man for blood. The torch of
Greece, the light of the Cross, the streaming portent of the Crescent,
have shone from it, each in its time; all governments, from Greek
democracy to Bourbon tyranny, have ruled it in turn; Roman law and
feudal custom had it in charge, each a long age: yet civilization in all
its historic forms has never here done more, seemingly, than alleviate
at moments the hard human lot. And what has been the end? Go down into
the streets; go out into the villages; go into the country-side. The men
will hardly look up from their burdens, the women will seldom stop to
ask alms, but you will see a degradation of the human form that speaks
not of the want of individuals, of one generation, or of an age, but of
the destitution of centuries stamped physically into the race. There is,
as always, a prosperous class, men well to do, the more fortunate and
better-born; but the common people lead toilsome lives, and among them
suffering is widespread. Three thousand years of human life, and this
the result! Yet I see many indications of a brave patriotism in the
community, an effort to improve general conditions, to arouse, to
stimulate, to encourage--the spirit of free and united Italy awakening
here, too, with faith in the new age of liberty and hope of its promised
blessings. And for a sign there stands in the centre of the poor
fishing-village yonder a statue of Garibaldi.


The rain-cloud is gone. The days are bright, warm, and clear, and every
hour tempts me forth to wander about the hills. It is not spring, but
the hesitancy that holds before the season changes; yet each day there
are new flowers--not our delicate wood flowers, but larger and coarser
of fibre, and it adds a charm to them that I do not know their names.
The trees are budding, and here and there, like a wave breaking into
foam on a windless sea, an almond has burst into blossom, white and
solitary on the gray slopes, and over all the orchards there is the
faint suggestion of pale pink, felt more than seen, so vague is it--but
it is there. I go wandering by cliff or sea-shore, by rocky beds of
running water, under dark-browed caverns, and on high crags; now on our
cape, among the majestic rocks, I watch the swaying of the smooth
deep-violet waters below, changing into indigo as they lap the rough
clefts, or I loiter on the beach to see the fishers about their boats,
weather-worn mariners, and youths in the fair strength of manly beauty,
like athletes of the old world: and always I bring back something for
memory, something unforeseen.

I have ever found this uncertainty a rare pleasure of travel. It is
blessed not to know what the gods will give. I remember once in other
days I left the beach of Amalfi to row away to the isles of the Sirens,
farther down the coast. It was a beautiful, blowing, wave-wild morning,
and I strained my sight, as every headland of the high cliff-coast was
rounded, to catch the first glimpse of the low isles; and there came by
a country boat-load of the peasants, and in the bows, as it neared and
passed, I saw a dark, black-haired boy, bare breast, and dreaming eyes,
motionless save for the dipping prow--a figure out of old Italian
pictures, some young St. John, inexpressibly beautiful. I have
forgotten how the isles of the Sirens looked, but that boy's face I
shall never forget. It is such moments that give the Italy of the
imagination its charm. Here, too, I have similar experiences. A day or
two ago, when the bright weather began, I was threading the rough edge
of a broken path under the hill, and clinging to the rock with my hand.
Suddenly a figure rose just before me, where the land made out a little
farther on a point of the crag, so strange that I was startled; but
straightway I knew the goatherd, the curling locks, the olive face, the
garments of goatskin and leather on his limbs. It came on me like a
flash--_eccola_ the country of Theocritus!

I have never seen it set down among the advantages of travel that one
learns to understand the poets better. To see courts and governments,
manners and customs, works of architecture, statues and pictures and
ruins--this, since modern travel began, is to make the grand tour; but
though I have diligently sought such obvious and common aims, and had my
reward, I think no gain so great as that I never thought of, the light
which travel sheds upon the poets; unless, indeed, I should except that
stronger hold on the reality of the ideal creations of the imagination
which comes from familiar life with pictures, and statues, and kindred
physical renderings of art. This latter advantage must necessarily be
more narrowly availed of by men, since it implies a certain peculiar
temperament; but poetry, in its less exalted forms, is open and common
to all who are not immersed in the materialism of their own lives, and
whatever helps to unlock the poetic treasures of other lands for our
possession may be an important part of life. I think none can fully
taste the sweetness, or behold the beauty, of English song even, until
he has wandered in the lanes and fields of the mother-country; and in
the case of foreign, and especially of the ancient, poets, so much of
whose accepted and assumed world of fact has perished, the loss is very
great. I had trodden many an Italian hillside before I noticed how
subtly Dante's landscape had become realized in my mind as a part of
nature. I own to believing that Virgil's storms never blew on the sea
until once, near Salerno, as I rode back from Paestum, there came a
storm over the wide gulf that held my eyes enchanted--such masses of
ragged, full clouds, such darkness in their broad bosoms broken with
rapid flame, and a change beneath so swift, such anger on the sea, such
an indescribable and awful gleaming hue, not purple, nor green, nor red,
but a commingling of all these--a revelation of the wrath of colour! The
waves were wild with the fallen tempest; quick and heavy the surf came
thundering on the sands; the light went out as if it were extinguished,
and the dark rain came down; and I said, "'Tis one of Virgil's storms."
Such a one you will find also in Theocritus, where he hymns the children
of Leda, succourers of the ships that, "defying the stars that set and
rise in heaven, have encountered the perilous breath of storms. The
winds raise huge billows about their stern, yea, or from the prow, or
even as each wind wills, and cast them into the hold of the ship, and
shatter both bulwarks, while with the sail limits nil the gear confused
and broken, and the wide sea rings, being lashed by the gusts and by
showers of iron hail."

I must leave these older memories, to tell, so far as it is possible in
words, of that land of the idyl which of all enchanted retreats of the
imagination is the hardest for him without the secret to enter. Yet here
I find it all about me in the places where the poets first unveiled it.
Once before I had a sight of it, as all over Italy it glimpses at times
from the hills and the campagna. Descending under the high peak of
Capri, I heard a flute, and turned and saw on the neighbouring slopes
the shepherd-boy leading his flock, the music at his lips. Then the
centuries rolled together like a scroll, and I heard the world's morning
notes. That was a single moment; but here, day-long is the idyl world. I
read the old verses over, and in my walks the song keeps breaking in.
The idyls are full of streams and fountains, just such as I meet with
wherever I turn, and the water counts in the landscape as in the poems.
It is always tumbling over rocks in cascades, brawling with rounded
forms among the stones of the shallow brooks, bubbling in fountains, or
dripping from the cliff, or shining like silver in the plain. The run
that comes down from Mola, the torrent under the olive and lemon
branches toward Letojanni, the more open course in the ravine of the
mill down by Giardini, the cimeter of the far-seen Alcantara lying on
the campagna in the meadows, and that further _fiume freddo_, the cold
stream,--"chill water that for me deep-wooded Etna sends down from the
white snow, a draught divine,"--each of these seems inhabited by a
genius of its own, so that it does not resemble its neighbours. But all
alike murmur of ancient song, and bring it near, and make it real.

On the beach one feels most keenly the actuality of much of the idyls,
and finds the continuousness of the human life that enters into them. No
idyl appeals so directly to modern feeling, I suspect, as does that of
the two fishermen and the dream of the golden fish. Go down to the
shore; you will find the old men still at their toil, the same
implements, the same poverty, the same sentiment for the heart. Often as
I look at them I recall the old words, while the goats hang their heads
over the scant herbage, and the blue sea breaks lazily and heavily on
the sands.

"Two fishers, on a time, two old men, together lay and slept; they had
strewn the dry sea-moss for a bed in their wattled cabin, and there lay
against the leafy wall. Beside them wore strewn the instruments of their
toilsome bands, the fishing-creels, the rods of reed, the hooks, the
sails bedraggled with sea-spoil, the lines, the weels, the lobster-pots
woven of rushes, the seines, two oars, and an old cobble upon props.
Beneath their heads was a scanty matting, their clothes, their sailors'
caps. Here was all their toil, here all their wealth. The threshold had
never a door nor a watch-dog. All things, all, to them seemed
superfluity, for Poverty was their sentinel; they had no neighbour by
them, but ever against their narrow cabin gently floated up the sea."

This is what the eye beholds; and I dare not say that the idyl is
touched more with the melancholy of human fate for us than for the poet.
Poverty such as this, so absolute, I see everywhere at every hour. It is
a terrible sight. It is the physical hunger of the soul in wan limbs and
hand, and the fixed gaze of the unhoping eyes--despair made flesh. How
long has it suffered here? and was it so when Theocritus saw his fishers
and gave them a place in the country of his idyls? He spreads before us
the hills and fountains, and fills the scene-with shepherds, and
maidens, and laughing loves, and among the rest are these two poor old
men. The shadow of the world's poverty falls on this paradise now as
then. With the rock and sea it, too, endures.

A few traces of the old myths also survive on the landscape. Not far
from here, down the coast, the rocks that the Cyclops threw after the
fleeing mariners are still to be seen near the shore above which he
piped to Galatea. Some day I mean to take a boat and see them. But now I
let the Cyclops idyls go, and with them Adonis of Egypt, and Ptolemy,
and the prattling women, and the praises of Hiero, and the deeds of
Herakles; these all belong to the cities of the pastoral, to its
civilization and art in more conscious forms; but my heart stays in the
campagna, where are the song-contests, the amorous praise of maidens,
the boyish boasting, the young, sweet, graceful loves. Fain would I
recover the breath of that springtime; but while from my foot "every
stone upon the way spins singing," make what speed I can, I come not to
the harvest-feast. Bees go booming among the blossoms, and the flocks
crop their pasture, and night falls with Hesperus; but fruitless on my
lips, as at some shrine whence the god is gone, is Bion's prayer:
"Hesperus, golden lamp of the lovely daughter of the foam--dear
Hesperus, sacred jewel of the deep blue night, dimmer as much than the
moon as thou art among the stars preeminent, hail, friend!" Dead now is
that ritual. Now more silent than ever is the country-side, missing
Daphnis, the flower of all those who sing when the heart is young. Sweet
was his flute's first triumph over Menaleas: "Then was the boy glad, and
leaped high, and clapped his hands over his victory, as a young fawn
leaps about his mother"; but sweeter was the unwon victory when he
strove with Damoetas: "Then Damoetas kissed Daphnis, as he ended his
song, and he gave Daphnis a pipe, and Daphnis gave him a beautiful
flute. Damoetas fluted, and Daphnis piped; the herdsmen, and anon the
calves, were dancing in the soft green grass. Neither won the victory,
but both were invincible." And him, too, I miss who loved his friend,
and wished that they twain might "become a song in the ears of all men
unborn," even for their love's sake; and prayed, "Would, O Father
Cronides, and would, ye ageless immortals, that this might be, and that
when two generations have sped, one might bring these tidings to me by
Acheron, the irremeable stream: the loving-kindness that was between
thee and thy gracious friend is even now in all men's mouths, and
chiefly on the lips of the young." Hill and fountain and pine, the gray
sea and Mother Etna, are here; but no children gather in the land, as
once about the tomb of Diocles at the coming in of the spring,
contending for the prize of the kisses--"Whoso most sweetly touches lip
to lip, laden with garlands he returneth to his mother. Happy is he who
judges those kisses of the children." Lost over the bright furrows of
the sea is Europa riding on the back of the divine bull as Moschus
beheld her--"With one hand she clasped the beast's great horn, and with
the other caught up the purple fold of her garment, lest it might trail
and be wet in the hoar sea's infinite spray"; and from the border-land
of mythic story, that was then this world's horizon, yet more faintly
the fading voice of Hylas answers the deep-throated shout of Herakles.
Faint now as his voice are the voices of the shepherds who are gone,
youth and maiden and children; dimly I see them, vaguely I hear them; at
last there remains only "the hoar sea's infinite spray." And will you
say it was in truth all a dream? Were the poor fisherman in their toil
alone real, and the rest airy nothings to whom Sicily gave a local
habitation and a name? It was Virgil's dream and Spenser's; and some
secret there was--something still in our breasts--that made it immortal,
so that to name the Sicilian Muses is to stir an infinite, longing
tenderness in every young and noble heart that the gods have softened
with sweet thoughts.

And here I shut in my pages the one laurel leaf that Taormina bore. She,
too, in her centuries has had her poet. Perhaps none who will see these
words ever gave a thought to the name and fame of Cornelius Severus. Few
of his works remain, and little is known of his life. He is said to have
been the friend of Pollio, and to have been present in the Sicilian war
between Augustus and Sextus Pompey. He wrote the first book of an epic
poem on that subject, so excellent that it has been thought that, had
the entire work been continued at the same level, he would have held the
second place among the Latin epic poets. He wrote also heroic songs, of
which fragments survive, one of which is an elegy upon Cicero, which
Seneca quotes, saying of him, "No one out of so many talented men
deplored the death of Cicero better than Cornelius Severus." Some
dialogues in verse also seem to have been written by him. These
fragments may not he easily obtained. But take down your Virgil; and, if
it be like this of mine which I brought from Rome, you will find at the
very end, last of the shorter pieces ascribed to the poet, one of the
length of a book of the "Georgics," called "Etna." This is the work of
Cornelius Severus. An early death took from him the perfection of his
genius and the hope of fame; but happy was the fortune of him who wrote
so well that for centuries his lines were thought not unworthy of
Virgil, whose name still shields this Taorminian verse from oblivion.


It is my last day at Taormina. I have seen the sunrise from my old
station by the Greek temple, and watched the throng of cattle and men
gathered on the distant beach of Letojanni and darkening the broad bed
of the dry torrent that there makes down to the sea, and I wished I
were among them, for it is their annual fair; and still I dwell on every
feature of the landscape that familiarity has made more beautiful. The
afternoon I have dedicated to a walk to Mola. It is a pleasant, easy
climb, with the black ancient wall of the city on the left, where it
goes up the face of the castle-rock, and on the right the deep ravine,
closed by Monte Venere in the west. All is very quiet; a silent, silent
country! There are few birds or none, and indeed I have heard no
bird-song since I have been here. Opposite, on the other side of the
wall of the ravine, are some cows hanging in strange fashion to the
cliff, where it seems goats could hardly cling; but the unwieldy,
awkward creatures move with sure feet, and seem wholly at home,
pasturing on the bare precipice. I cannot hear the torrent, now a narrow
stream, deep below me, but I see the women of Mola washing by the old
fountain which is its source. There is no other sign of human life. The
fresh spring flowers, large and coarse, but bright-coloured, are all I
have of company, and the sky is blue and the air like crystal. So I go
up, ever up, and at last am by the gate of Mola, and enter the
stony-hearted town. A place more dreary, desolate to the eye, is seldom
seen. There are only low, mean houses of gray stone, and the paved ways.
If you can fancy a prison turned inside out like a glove, with all its
interior stone exposed to the sunlight, which yet seems sunlight in a
prison, and silence over all--that is Mola. The ruins of the fortress
are near the gate on the highest point of the crag. Within is a barren
spot--a cistern, old foundations, and some broken walls. Look over the
battlement westward, and you will see a precipice that one thinks only
birds could assail; and, observing how isolated is the crag on all
sides, you will understand what an inaccessible fastness this was, and
cannot be surprised at its record of defence.

Perhaps here was the oldest dwelling-place of man upon the hill, and it
was the securest retreat. Monsignore, indeed, believes that Ham, the son
of Noah, who drove Japhet out of Sicily, was the first builder; but I do
not doubt its antiquity was very great, and it seems likely that this
was the original Siculian stronghold before the coming of the Greeks,
and the building of the lower city of Taormina. The ruins that exist are
part of the fortress made by that governor who lost the city to the
Saracens, to defend it against them on this side; and here it stood for
nigh a thousand years, like the citadel itself, an impregnable hold of
war. It seldom yielded, and always by treachery or mutiny; for more than
once, when Taormina was sacked, its citadel and Mola remained untaken
and unconquerable on their extreme heights. I shall not tell its story;
but one brave man once commanded here, and his name shall be its fame
now, and my last tale of the Taorminian past.

He was Count Matteo, a nobleman of the days when the Messenians revolted
against the chancellor of Queen Margaret. He was placed over this
castle; and when a certain Count Riccardo was discovered in a conspiracy
to murder the chancellor, and was taken captive, he was given into
Matteo's charge, and imprisoned here. The Messenians came and surprised
the lower city of Taormina, but they could not gain Mola nor persuade
Matteo to yield Riccardo up to them. So they thought to overcome his
fidelity cruelly. They took his wife and children, who were at Messina,
threw them into a dungeon, and condemned them to death. Then they sent
Matteo's brother-in-law to treat with him. But when the count knew the
reason of the visit he said: "It seems to me that you little value the
zeal of an honest man who, loyal to his office, does not wish, neither
knows how, to break his sworn faith. My wife and children would look on
me with scornful eyes should I be renegade; for shame is not the reward
that sweetens life, but burdens it. If the Messenians stain themselves
with innocent blood, I shall weep for the death of my wife and sons, but
the heart of an honest citizen will have no remorse." Then he was
silent. But treachery could do what such threats failed to accomplish.
One Gavaretto was found, who unlocked the prison, and Riccardo was
already escaping when Matteo, roused at a slight noise, came, sword in
hand, and would have slain him; but the traitor behind, "to save his
wages," struck Matteo in the body, and the faithful count fell dead in
his blood. I thought of this story, standing there, and nothing else in
the castle's filled with bloom; then the infinite beauty, slowly
fading, withdrew the scene, and sweetly it parted from my eyes.


Yet once more I step out upon the terrace into the night. I hear the
long roar of the breakers; I see the flickering fishers' lights, and
Etna pale under the stars. The place is full of ghosts. In the darkness
I seem to hear vaguely arising, half sense, half thought, the murmur of
many tongues that have perished here, Sicanian and Siculian and the lost
Oscan, Greek and Latin and the hoarse jargon of barbaric slaves,
Byzantine and Arabic confused with strange African dialects, Norman and
Sicilian, French and Spanish, mingling, blending, changing, the sharp
battle-cry of a thousand assaults rising from the low ravines, the
death-cry of twenty bloody massacres within these walls, ringing on the
hard rock and falling to silence only to rise more full with fiercer
pain--century after century of the battle-wrath and the battle-woe. My
fancy shapes the air till I see over the darkly lifted, castle-rock the
triple crossing swords of Greek, Carthaginian, and Roman in the
age-long duel, and as these fade, the springing brands of Byzantine,
Arab, and Norman, and yet again the heavy blades of France, Spain, and
Sicily; and ever, like rain or snow, falls the bloody dew on this lone
hill-wide. "Oh, wherefore?" I whisper; and all is silent save the surge
still lifting round the coast the far voices of the old Ionian sea. I
have wondered that the children of Etna should dwell in its lovely
paradise, as I thought how often, how terribly, the lava has poured
forth upon it, the shower of ashes fallen, the black horror of volcanic
eruption overwhelmed the land. Yet, sum it all, pang by pang, all that
Etna ever wrought of woe to the sons of men, the agonies of her
burnings, the terrors of her living entombments, all her manifold deaths
at once, and what were it in comparison with the blood that has flowed
on this hillside, the slaughter, the murder, the infinite pain here
suffered at the hands of man. O Etna, it is not thou that man should
fear! He should fear his brother-man.


The stars were paling over Etna, white and ghostly, as I came out to
depart. In the dark street I met a woman with a young boy clinging to
her side. Her black hair fell down over her shoulders, and her bosom was
scantily clothed by the poor garment that fell to her ankles and her
feet. She was still young, and from her dark, sad face her eyes met mine
with that fixed look of the hopeless poor, now grown familiar; the
child, half naked, gazed up at me as he held his mother's hand. What
brought her there at that hour, alone with her child? She seemed the
epitome of the human life I was leaving behind, come forth to bid
farewell; and she passed on under the shadows of the dawn. The last star
faded as I went down the hollow between the spurs. Etna gleamed white
and vast over the shoulder of the ravine, and, as I dipped down, was


There was an old cry, Return to Nature! Let us rather return unto the
soul. Nature is great, and her science marvellous; but it is man who
knows it. In what he knows it is partial and subsidiary. Know thyself,
was the first command of reason; and wisdom was an ancient thing when
the sweet influences of the Pleiades and the path of Arcturus with his
sons were young in human thought. These late conquests of the mind in
the material infinities of the universe, its exploring of stellar space,
its exhuming of secular time, its harnessing of invisible forces, this
new mortal knowledge, its sudden burst, its brilliancy and amplitude of
achievement, thought winnowing the world as with a fan; the vivid
spectacle of vast and beneficent changes wrought by this means in human
welfare, the sense of the increase of man's power springing from
unsuspected and illimitable resources,--all this has made us forgetful
of truth that is the oldest heirloom of the race. In the balances of
thought the soul of man outweighs the mass that gravitation measures.
Man only is of prime interest to men; and man as a spirit, a creature
but made in the likeness of something divine. The lapse of aeons touches
us as little as the reach of space; even the building of our planet, and
man's infancy, have the faint and distant reality of cradle records.
Science may reconstruct the inchoate body of animal man, the clay of our
mould, and piece together the primitive skeleton of the physical being
we now wear; but the mind steadily refuses to recognize a human past
without some discipline in the arts, some exercise in rude virtue, and
some proverbial lore handed down from sire to son. The tree of knowledge
is of equal date with the tree of life; nor were even the tamer of
horses, the worker in metals, or the sower, elder than those twin
guardians of the soul,--the poet and the priest. Conscience and
imagination were the pioneers who made earth habitable for the human
spirit; they are still its lawgivers and where they have lodged their
treasures, there is wisdom. I desire to renew the long discussion of the
nature and method of idealism by engaging in a new defence of poetry,
or the imaginative art in any of its kinds, as the means by which this
wisdom, which is the soul's knowledge of itself, is stored up for the
race in its most manifest, enduring, and vital forms. It is, by literary
tradition and association, a proud task. May I not take counsel of
Spenser and be bold at the first door? Sidney and Shelley pleaded this
cause. Because they spoke, must we be dumb? or shall not a noble example
be put to its best use in trying what truth can now do on younger lips?
The old hunt is up in the Muses' bower; and I would fain speak for that
learning which has to me been light. I use this preface not unwillingly
in open loyalty to studies on which my youth was nourished, and the
masters I then loved whom the natural thoughts of youth made eloquent;
my hope is to continue their finer breath, as they before drank from old
fountains; but chiefly I name them as a reminder that the main argument
is age-long; it does not harden into accepted dogma; and it is thus
ceaselessly tossed because it belongs in that sphere of our warring
nature where conflict is perpetual. It goes on in the lives as well as
on the lips of men. It is a question how to live as well as how to
express life. Each race uses its own tongue, each age its dialect; but,
change the language as man may, he ever remains the questioner of his
few great thoughts.

The defenders of the soul inherit an old cause that links them together
in a long descent; but the battle is always to a present age.
Continually something is becoming superfluous, inapplicable, or wanting
in the work of the past. Victory itself makes arms useless, and consigns
them to dark closets. New times, new weapons, is the history of all
warfare. The doubt of the validity of the ideal, never absent from any
intellectual period, is active on all sides, and in more than one
quarter passes into denial. Literature and the other arts of expression
suffer throughout the world. To that point is it come that those of the
old stock who believe that the imagination exercises man's faculty at
its highest pitch, and that the method of idealism is its law, are bid
step down, while others more newly grounded in what belongs to
literature possess the city; but seeing the shrines interdicted, the
obliteration of ancient names, the heroes' statues thrown down, shall
we learn what our predecessors never knew--to abdicate and abandon? I
hear in the temples the footsteps of the departing gods--

Di quibus imperium hoc steterat;

but no; for our opponents are worse off than those of whom it was said
that though one rose from the dead they would not believe,--Plato, being
dead, yet speaks, Shakspere treads our boards, and (why should I
hesitate?) Tennyson yet breathes among us though already immortal. That
which convinced the master minds of antiquity and many in later ages is
still convincing, if it be attended to; the old tradition is yet
unbroken; therefore, because I was bred in this faith, I will try to set
forth anew in the phrases of our time the eternal ground of reason on
which idealism rests.

The specific question concerns literature and its method, but its import
is not mainly literary. Life is the matter of literature; and thence it
comes that all leading inquiries to which literature gives rise probe
for their premises to the roots of our being and expand in their issues
to the unknown limits of human fate. It is an error to think of idealism
as a thing remote, fantastic, and unsubstantial. It enters intimately
into the lives of all men, however humble and unlearned, if they live at
all except in their bodies. What is here proposed is neither
speculative, technical, nor abstruse; it is practical in matter,
universal in interest, and touches upon those things which men most
should heed. I fear rather to incur the reproach of uttering truisms
than paradoxes. But he does ill who is scornful of the trite. To be
learned in commonplaces is no mean education. They make up the great
body of the people's knowledge. They are the living words upon the lips
of men from generation to generation; the real winged words; the matter
of the unceasing reiteration of families, schools, pulpits, libraries;
the tradition of mankind. Proverb, text, homily,--happy the youth whose
purse is stored with these broad pieces, current, in every country and
for every good, like fairy gifts of which the occasion only when it
arises shows the use. It is with truth as with beauty,--familiarity
endears and makes it more precious. What is common is for that very
reason in danger of neglect, and from it often flashes that divine
surprise which most enkindles the soul. Why must Prometheus bring fire
from heaven to savage man? Did it not sleep in the flint at his feet?
How often, at the master stroke of life, has some text of Holy
Scripture, which lay in the mind from childhood almost like the debris
of memory, illuminated the remorseful darkness of the mind, or
interpreted the sweetness of God's sunshine in the happy heart! Common
as light is love, sang Shelley; and equally common with beauty and truth
and love is all that is most vital to the soul, all that feeds it and
gives it power; if aught be lacking, it is the eye to see and the heart
to understand. Grain, fruit and vegetable, wool, silk and cotton, gold,
silver and iron, steam and electricity,--were not all, like the spark,
within arm's reach of savage man? The slow material progress of mankind
through ages is paralleled by the slow growth of the individual soul in
laying hold of and putting to use the resources of spiritual strength
that are nigh unto it. The service of man to man in the ways of the
spirit is, in truth, an act as simple as the giving of a cup of cold
water to him who is athirst.

Can there be any surprise when I say that the method of idealism is that
of all thought? that in its intellectual process the art of the poet, so
far from being a sort of incantation, is the same as belongs to the
logician, the chemist, the statesman? It is no more than to say that in
creating literature the mind acts; the action of the mind is thought;
and there are no more two ways of thinking than there are two kinds of
gravitation. Experience is the matter of all knowledge. It is given to
the mind as a complex of particular facts, a series, ever continuing, of
impressions outward and inward. It is stored in the memory, and were
memory the only mental faculty, no other knowledge than this of
particular facts in their temporal sequence could be acquired; the sole
method of obtaining knowledge would be by observation. All literature
would then be merely annals of the contents of successive moments in
their order. Reason, however, intervenes. Its process is well known. In
every object of perception, as it exists in the physical world and is
given by sensation to our consciousness, there is both in itself and in
its relations a likeness to other objects and relations, and this
likeness the mind takes notice of; it thus analyzes the complex of
experience, discerns the common element, and by this means classifies
particular facts, thereby condensing them into mental conceptions,--
abstract ideas, formulas, laws. The mind arrives at these in the
course of its normal operation. As soon as we think at all, we speak
of white and black, of bird and beast, of distance and size,--of
uniformities in the behaviour of nature, or laws; by such classification
of qualities, objects, and various relations, not merely in the sensuous
but in every sphere of our consciousness, the mind simplifies its
experience, compacts its knowledge, and economizes its energies. To this
work it brings, also, the method of experiment. It then interferes
arbitrarily with the natural occurrence of facts, and brings that to
pass which otherwise would not have been; and this method it uses to
investigate, to illustrate what was previously known, and to confirm
what was surmised. Its end, whether through observation or experiment,
is to reach general truth as opposed to matter-of-fact, universals more
or less embracing as opposed to particulars, the units of thought as
opposed to the units of phenomena. The body of these constitutes
rational knowledge.

Nature then becomes known, not as a series of impressions on the retina
of sense merely, but as a system seized by the eye of reason; for the
senses show man the aspect worn by the world as it is at the moment, but
reason opens to him the order obtaining in the world as it must be at
every moment; and the instrument by which man rises from the phenomenal
plane of experience to the necessary sphere of truth is the generalizing
faculty whose operation has just been described. The office of the
reason in the exercise of this faculty is to find organic form in that
experience which memory preserves in the mass,--to penetrate, that is,
to that mould of necessity in the world which phenomena, when they
arise, must put on. The species once perceived, the mind no longer cares
for the individual; the law once known, the mind no longer cares for the
facts; for in these universals all particular instances, past, present,
and to come, are contained in their significance. All sciences are
advanced in proportion as they have thus organized their appropriate
matter in abstract conceptions and laws, and are backward in proportion
as there remains much in their provinces not yet so coordinated and
systematized; and in their hierarchy, from astronomical physics
downward, each takes rank according to the nature of the universals it
deals with, as these are more or less embracing.

The matter of literature--that part of total experience which it deals
with--is life; and, to confine attention to imaginative literature where
alone the question of idealism arises, the matter with which imaginative
literature deals is the inward and spiritual order in man's breast as
distinguished from the outward and physical order with which science
deals. The reason as here exercised organizes man's experience in this
great tract of emotion, will, and meditation, and so possesses man of
true knowledge of himself, just as in the realm of science it possesses
him of true knowledge of the physical world, or, in psychology and
metaphysics, of the constitution and processes of the mind itself. Such
knowledge is, without need of argument, of the highest consequence to
mankind. It exceeds, indeed, in dignity and value all other knowledge;
for to penetrate this inward or spiritual order, to grasp it with the
mind and conform to it with the will, is not, as is the case with every
other sort of knowledge, the special and partial effort of selected
minds, but the daily business of all men in their lives. The method of
the mind here is and must be the same with that by which it accomplishes
its work elsewhere, its only method. Here, too, its concern is with the
universal; its end is to know life--the life with which literature
deals--not empirically in its facts, but scientifically in its necessary
order, not phenomenally in the senses but rationally in the mind, not
without relation in its mere procession but organically in its laws; and
its instrument here, as through the whole gamut of the physical sciences
and of philosophy itself, is the generalizing faculty.

One difference there is between scientific and imaginative truth,--a
difference in the mode of statement. Science and also philosophy
formulate truth and end in the formula; literature, as the saying is,
clothes truth in a tale. Imagination is brought in, and by its aid the
mind projects a world of its own, whose principle of being is that it
reembodies general or abstract truth and presents it concretely to the
eye of the mind, and in some arts gives it physical form. So, to draw an
example from science itself, when Leverrier projected in imagination the
planet Uranus, he incarnated in matter a whole group of universal
qualities and relations, all that go to make up a world, and in so doing
he created as the poet creates; there was as much of truth, too, in his
imagined world before he found the actual planet as there was of reality
in the planet itself after it swam into his ken. This creation of the
concrete world of art is the joint act of the imagination and the reason
working in unison; and hence the faculty to which this act is ascribed
is sometimes called the creative reason, or shaping power of the mind,
in distinction from the scientific intellect which merely knows. The
term is intended to convey at once the double phase, under one aspect of
which the reason controls imagination, and under the other aspect the
imagination formulates the reason; it is meant to free the idea, on the
one hand, from that suggestion of abstraction implied by the reason, and
to disembarrass it, on the other, of any connection with the irrational
fancy; for the world of art so conceived is necessarily both concrete,
correspondent to the realities of experience, and truthful, subject to
the laws of the universe; it cannot contain the impossible, it cannot
amalgamate the actual with the unreal, it cannot in any way lie and
retain its own nature. The use of this rational imagination is not
confined to the world of art. It is only by its aid that we build up the
horizons of our earthly life and fill them with objects and events
beyond the reach of our senses. To it we are indebted for our knowledge
of the greater part of others' lives, for our idea of the earth's
surface and the doings of foreign nations, of all past history and its
scene, and the events of primaeval nature which were even before man
was. So far as we realize the world at all beyond the limit of our
private experience of it, we do so by the power of the imagination
acting on the lines of reason. It fills space and time for us through
all their compass. Nor is it less operative in the practical pursuits of
men. The scientist lights his way with it; the statesman forecasts
reform by it, building in thought the state which he afterward realizes
in fact; the entire future lives to us--and it is the most important
part of life--only by its incantation. The poet acts no otherwise in
employing it than the inventor and the speculator even, save that he
uses it for the ends of reason instead of for his private interest. In
some parts of this field there is, or was once, or will be, a physical
parallel, an actuality, containing the verification of the imagined
state of things; but so, for the poet, there is a parallel, a conception
of the reason just as normal, which is not the less real because it is a
tissue of abstract thought. In art this governance of the imagination by
the reason is fundamental, and gives to the office of the latter a
seeming primacy; and therefore emphasis is rightly placed on the
universal element, the truth, as the substance of the artistic form. But
in the light of this preliminary description of the mental processes
involved, let us take a nearer view of their particular employment in

Human life, as represented in literature, consists of two main branches,
character and action. Of these, character, which is the realm of
personality, is generalized by means of type, which is ideal character;
action, which is the realm of experience, by plot, which is ideal
action. It is convenient to examine the nature of these separately. A
type, the example of a class, contains the characteristic qualities
which make an individual one of that class; it does not differ in this
elementary form from the bare idea of the species. The traits of a tree,
for instance, exist in every actual tree, however stunted or imperfect;
and in the type which condenses into itself what is common in all
specimens of the class, these traits only exist; they constitute the
type. Comic types, in literature, are often simple abstractions of some
single human quality, and hence easily afford illustrations. The
braggart, the miser, the hypocrite, contain that one trait which is
common to the class; and in their portrayal this characteristic only is
shown. In proportion as the traits are many in any character, the type
becomes complex. In simple types attention is directed to some one vice,
passion, or virtue, capable of absorbing a human life in to itself. This
is the method of Jonson, and, in tragedy, of Marlowe. As human energy
displays itself more variously in a life, in complex types, the mind
contemplates human nature in a more catholic way, with a less exclusive
identification of character with specific trait, a more free conception
of personality as only partially exhibited; thus, in becoming complex,
types gather breadth and depth, and share more in the mystery of
humanity as something incompletely known to us at the best. Such are the
characters of Shakspere.

The manner in which types are arrived at and made recognizable in other
arts opens the subject more fully and throws light upon their nature.
The sculptor observes in a group of athletes that certain physical
habits result in certain moulds of the body; and taking such
characteristics as are common to all of one class, and neglecting such
as are peculiar to individuals, he carves a statue. So permanent are the
physical facts he relies upon that, centuries after, when the statue is
dug up, men say without hesitation--here is the Greek runner, there the
wrestler. The habit of each in life produces a bodily form which if it
exists implies that habit; the reality here results from the operation
of physical laws and can be physically rendered; the type is
constituted of permanent physical fact. There are habits of the soul
which similarly impress an outward stamp upon the face and form so
certainly that expression, attitude, and shape authentically declare the
presence of the soul that so reveals itself. In the Phidian Zeus was all
awe; in the Praxitelean Hermes all grace, sweetness, tenderness; in the
Pallas Athene of her people who carved or minted her image in statue,
bas-relief, or coin, was all serene and grave wisdom; or, in the glowing
and chastened colours of the later artistic time, the Virgin mother
shines out, in Fra Angelico all adoration, in Bellini all beatitude, in
Raphael all motherhood. The sculptor and the painter are restricted to
the bodily signs of the soul's presence; but the poet passes into
another and wider range of interpretation. He finds the soul stamped in
its characteristic moods, words, actions. He then creates for the mind's
eye Achilles, Aeneas, Arthur; and in his verse are beheld their spirits
rather than their bodies.

These several sorts of types make an ascending series from the
predominantly physical to the predominantly spiritual; but, from the
present point of view, the arts which embody their creations in a
material form should not be opposed to literature which employs the
least interrelation of sensation, as if the former had a physical and
the last a spiritual content. All types have one common element, they
express personality; they have for the mind a spiritual meaning, what
they contain of human character; they differ here only in fulness of
representation. The most purely physical types imply spiritual
qualities, choice, will, command,--all the life which was a condition
precedent to the bodily perfection that was its flower; and, though the
eye rests on the beautiful form, it may discern through it the human
soul of the athlete as in life; and, moreover, the figure may be
represented in some significant act, or mood even, but this last is
rare. The more plainly spiritual types, physically rendered, are most
often shown in some such mood or act expressive in itself of the soul
whose habit lives in the form it has moulded. It is not that the plastic
and pictorial arts cannot spiritualize the stone and the canvas as well
as humanize it bodily; equally with the poetic art they reveal
character, but within narrower bounds. The limitation of these arts in
embodying personality is one of scope, not of intention; and though it
springs out of their use of material forms, it does so in a peculiar
way. It is not the employment of a physical medium of communication that
differentiates them, for a physical medium of some sort is the only
means of exchange between mind and mind; neither is it the employment of
a physical basis, for all art, being concrete, rests on a physical
basis--the world of imagination is exhaled from things that are. The
physical basis of a drama, for instance, is manifest when it is enacted
on the stage; but it is substantially the same whether beheld in thought
or ocularly.

The fact is that the limitation of sculpture and painting and their
kindred arts results from their use of the physical basis of life only
partially, and not as a whole as literature uses it. They set forth
their works in the single element of space; they exclude the changes
that take place in time. The types they show are arrested, each in its
moment; or if a story is told by a series of representations, it is a
succession of such moments of arrested life. The method is that of the
camera; what is given is a fixed state. But literature renders life in
movement; it revolves life through its moments as rapidly as on the
retina of sense; its method is that of the kinetoscope. It holds under
its command change, growth, the entire energy of life in action; it can
chase mood with mood, link act to act. It alone can speak the word,
which is the most powerful instrument of man. Hence the types it shows
by presenting moods, words, and acts with the least obstruction of
matter and the slightest obligation to the active senses, are the most
complete. They have broken the bonds of the flesh, of moment and place.
They exhibit themselves in actions; they speak, and in dialogue and
soliloquy set forth their states of mind lying before, or accompanying,
or following their actions, thus interpreting these more fully. Action
by itself reveals character; speech illumines it, and casts upon the
action also a forward and a backward light. The lapse of time, binding
all together, adds the continuous life of the soul. This large compass,
which is the greatest reached by any art, rests on the wider command and
more flexible control which literature exercises over that physical
basis which is the common foundation of all the arts. Hence it abounds
in complex types, just as other arts present simple types with more
frequency. All types, however, in so far as they appeal to the mind and
interpret the inward world, under which aspect alone they are now
considered, have their physical nature, materially or imaginatively,
even though it be solely visible beauty, in order to express

The type, in the usage of literature, must be further distinguished from
the bare idea of the species as it has thus far been defined. It is more
than this. It is not only an example; it is an example in a high state
of development, if not perfect. The best possible tree, for instance,
does not exist in nature, owing to a confused environment which does not
permit its formation. In literature a type is made a high type either by
intensity, if it be simple, or by richness of nature, if it be complex.
Miserliness, braggadocio, hypocrisy, in their extremes, are the
characters of comedy; a rich nature, such as Hamlet, showing variety of
faculty and depth of experience, is the hero of more profound drama.
This truth, the necessity of high development in the type, underlay the
old canon that the characters of tragedy should be of lofty rank, great
place, and consequence in the world's affairs, preferably even of
historic fame. The canon erred in mistaking one means of securing
credible intensity or richness for the many which are possible. The end
in view is to represent human qualities at their acme. In other times as
a matter of fact persons highly placed were most likely to exhibit such
development; birth, station, and their opportunities for unrestrained
and conspicuous action made them examples of the compass of human
energy, passion, and fate. New ages brought other conditions. Shakspere
recognized the truth of the matter, and laid the emphasis where it
belongs, upon the humanity of the king, not on the kingly office of the
man. Said Henry V: "I think the king is but a man as I am; the violet
smells to him as it doth to me; the element shows to him as it doth to
me; all his senses have but human conditions; his ceremonies laid by, in
his nakedness he appears but a man; and though his appetites are higher
mounted than ours, yet, when they stoop, they stoop with like wing."
Such, too, was Lear in the tempest. And from the other end of the scale
hear Shylock: "Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs,
dimensions, senses, appetites, passions? fed with the same food, hurt
with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same
means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian
is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh?
if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not
revenge?" Rank and race are accidents; the essential thing is that the
type be highly human, let the means of giving it this intensity and
richness be what they may.

It is true that the type may seem defective in the point that it is at
best but a fragment of humanity, an abstraction or a combination of
abstracted qualities. There was never such an athlete as our Greek
sculptor's, never a pagan god nor Virgin Mother, nor a hero equal to
Homer's thought, so beautiful, brave, and courteous, so terrible to his
foe, so loving to his friend. And yet is it not thus that life is known
to us actually? does not this typical rendering of character fall in
with the natural habit of life? What man, what friend, is known to us
except by fragments of his spirit? Only one life, our own, is known to
us as a continuous existence. Just as when we see an orange, we supply
the further side and think of it as round, so with men we supply from
ourselves the unseen side that makes the man completely and continuously
human. Moreover, it is a matter of common experience that men, we
ourselves, may live only in one part, and the best, of our nature at one
moment, and yet for the moment be absorbed in that activity both in
consciousness and energy; for that moment we are only living so; now, if
a character were shown to us only in the moments in which he was living
so, at his best and in his characteristic state as the soldier, the
priest, the lover, then the ideal abstraction of literature would not
differ from the actuality of our experience. In this selfsame way we
habitually build for ourselves ideal characters out of dead and living
men, by dwelling on that part of their career which we most admire or
love as showing their characteristic selves. Napoleon is the conqueror,
St. Francis the priest, Washington the great citizen, only by this
method. They are not thereby de-humanized; neither do the ideal types of
imagination fail of humanization because they are thus fragmentarily,
but consistently, presented.

The type must make this human appeal under all circumstances. Its whole
meaning and virtue lie in what it contains of our common humanity, in
the clearness and brilliancy with which it interprets the man in us, in
the force with which it identifies us with human nature. If it is
separated from us by a too high royalty or a too base villany, it loses
intelligibility, it forfeits sympathy, it becomes more and more an
object of simple curiosity, and removes into the region of the unknown.
Even if the type passes into the supernatural, into fairyland or the
angelic or demoniac world, it must not leave humanity behind. These
spheres are in fact fragments of humanity itself, projections of its
sense of wonder, its goodness, and its evil, in extreme abstraction
though concretely felt. Fairy, angel, and devil cease to be conceivable
except as they are human in trait, however the conditions of their
nature may be fancied; for we have no other materials to build with save
those of our life on earth, though we may combine them in ways not
justified by reason. In so far as these worlds are in the limits of
rational imagination, they are derived from humanity, partial
interpretations of some of its moods, portions of itself; and the beings
who inhabit them are impaired for the purposes of art in the degree to
which their abstract nature is felt as stripping them of complete
humanity. For this reason in dealing with such simple types, being
natures all of one strain, it has been found best in practice to import
into them individually some quality widely common to men in addition to
that limited quality they possess by their conception. Some touch of
weakness in an angel, some touch of pity in a devil, some unmerited
misfortune in an Ariel, bring them home to our bosoms; just as the
frailty of the hero, however great he be, humanizes him at a stroke.
Thus these abstract fragments also are reunited with humanity, with the
whole of life in ourselves.

Types, then, whether simple or complex, whether apparently physical or
purely spiritual, whether given fragmentary or as wholes of personality,
express human character in its essential traits. They may be narrow or
broad generalizations; but if to know ourselves be our aim, those
types, which show man his common and enduring nature, are the most
valuable, and rank first in importance; in proportion as they are
specialized, they are less widely interpretative; in proportion as they
escape from time and place, race, culture, and religion, and present man
eternal and universal in his primary actions, moods, and passions, they
appeal to a greater number and with more permanence; they become
immortal in becoming universal. To preserve this universality is the
essence of the type, and the degree of universality it reaches is its
measure of value to men. It is immaterial whether it be simple as Ajax
or complex as Hamlet, whether it be the work of imagination solely as in
Hercules, or have a historical basis as in Agamemnon; its exemplary
rendering of man in general is its substance and constitutor its

Action, the second great branch of life, is generalized by plot. It
lies, as has been said, in the region of experience. Character, though
it may be conceived as latent, can be presented only energetically as it
finds outward expression. It cannot be shown in a vacuum. It embodies or
reveals itself in an act; form and feature, as expressive of character,
are the record of past acts. This act is the link that binds type to
plot. By means of it character enters the external world, determining
the course of events and being passively affected by them. Plot takes
account of this interplay and sets forth its laws. It is, therefore,
more deeply engaged with the environment, as type is more concerned with
the man in himself. It is, initially, a thing of the outward as type is
a thing of the inward world. How, then, does literature, through plot,
reduce the environment in its human relations to organic form?

The course of events, taken as a whole, is in part a process of nature
independent of man, in part the product of his will. It is a continuous
stream of phenomena in great multiplicity, and proceeding in a temporal
sequence. Science deals with that portion of the whole which is
independent of man, and may be called natural events, and by discerning
causal relations in them arrives at the conception of law as a principle
of unchanging and necessary order in nature. Science seeks to reduce the
multiplicity and heterogeneity of facts as they occur to these simple
formulas of law. Science does not begin in reality until facts end;
facts, ten or ten thousand, are indifferent to her after the law which
contains them is found, and are a burden to her until it is found.
Literature, in its turn, deals with human events; and, in the same way
as science, by attending to causal relations, arrives at the conception
of spiritual law as a similarly permanent principle in the order of the
soul. This causal unity is the cardinal idea of plot which by
definition is a series of events causally related and conceived as a
unit, technically called the action. Plot is thus analogous to an
illustrative experiment in science; it is a concrete example of law,--it
is law operating.

The course of events again, so far as they stand in direct connection
with human life, may be thought of as the expression of the individual's
own will, or of that of his environment. The will of the environment may
be divided into three varieties, the will of nature, the will of other
men, and the will of God. In each case it is will embodied in events. If
these ideas be all merged in the conception of the world as a totality
whose course is the unfolding of one Divine will operant throughout it
and called Fate or Providence, then the individual will, through which,
as through nature also, the Divine will works, is only its servant.
Action so conceived, the march of events under some heavenly power
working through the mass of human will which it overrules in conjunction
with its own more comprehensive purposes, is epic action; in it
characters are subordinate to the main progress of the action, they are
only terms in the action; however free they may be apparently,
considered by themselves, that freedom is within such limits as to allow
entire certainty of result, its mutations are included in the
calculation of the Divine will. The action of the Aeneid is of this
nature: a grand series of destined events worked out through human
agency to fulfil the plan of the ruler of all things in heaven and
earth. On the other hand, if the course of events be more narrowly
attended to within the limits of the individual's own activity, as the
expression primarily and significantly of his personal will, then the
successive acts are subordinate to the character; they are terms of the
character which is thereby exhibited; they externalize the soul. Action,
so conceived, is dramatic action. If in the course of events there
arises a conflict between the will of the individual and that of his
environment, whether nature, man, or God, then the seed of tragedy,
specifically, is present; this conflict is the essential idea of
tragedy. In all these varieties of action, the scene is the external
world; plot lies in that world, and sets forth the order, the causal
principle, obtaining in it.

It is necessary, however, to refine upon this statement of the matter.
The course of external events, in so far as it affects one person,
whether as proceeding from or reacting upon him, reveals character, and
has meaning as an interpretation of inward life. It is a series outward
indeed, but parallel with the states of will, intellect, and emotion
which make up the consciousness of the character; and it is interesting
humanly only as a mirror of them. It is not the murderous blow, but the
depraved will; not the pale victim, but the shocked conscience; not the
muttered prayer, the frantic penance, the suicide, but remorse working
itself out, that hold our attention. Plot here manifests the law of
character outwardly; but the human reality lies within, and to be seen
requires the illumination which only our own hearts can give. All
fiction is such a shadowing forth of the soul. The constancy, the
intimacy, the profundity with which Shakspere felt this, from the
earliest syllables of his art, and the frequency with which he dwells
upon it, mark a characteristic of genius. Says Richard II:--

"'Tis very true, my grief lies all within;
And those external manners of lament
Are merely shadows to the unseen grief
That swells in silence in the tortured soul;
There lies the substance."

So Theseus, of the play of the rude artisans of Athens, excusing all
art: "The best in this kind are but shadows." So Hamlet; so Prospero.

Action is vital in us, and has a double order of phenomena; so far as
these are physical, their law is one of the physical world, and
interests us no more than other physical laws; so far as they belong in
the inward world of self-consciousness, their law is spiritual, and has
human interest as being operant in a soul like our own. The external
fact is seized by the eye as a part of nature; the internal fact is of
the unseen world, and is beheld only in the light which is within our
own bosoms--it is spiritually discerned. On the stage plainly this is
the case. So far as the actions are for the eye of sense alone they are
merely spectacular; so far as they express desires and energies, they
are dramatic, and these we do not see but feel according as our
experience permits us so to comprehend them. We contemplate a world of
emotion there in connection with the active energy of the will, a world
of character in operation in man; we feed it from our life, interpret it
therefrom, build it up in ourselves, suffering the illusion till
absorbed in what is arising in our consciousness under the actor's
genius we become ourselves the character. The greatest actor is he who
makes the spectator play the part. So far is the drama from the scene
that it goes on in our own bosoms; there is the stage without any
illusion whatsoever; the play in vital for the moment in ourselves.

And what is true of the stage is true of life. It is only through our
own hearts that we look into the hearts of others. We interpret the
external signs of sense in terms of personality and experience known
only within us; the life of will, head, and heart that we ascribe to
our nearest and dearest friends is something imagined, something never
seen any more than our own personality. Thus our knowledge of them is
not only fragmentary, as has been said; it is imaginative even within
its limits. It is, in reality as well as in art, a shadow-world we live
in, believing that within its sensuous films a spirit like unto
ourselves abides,--the human soul, though never seen face to face. To
enter this substantial world behind the phenomena of human life as
sensibly shown in imagination, to know the invisible things of
personality and experience, and to set them forth as a spiritual order,
is the main end of ideal art. Though in plot the outward order is
brought into the fullest prominence, and may seem to occupy the field,
yet it is significantly only the shadow of that order within.

In thus presenting plot as the means by which the history of a single
soul is externalized, one important element has been excluded from
consideration. The causal chain of events, which constitutes plot, has a
double unity, answering to the double order of phenomena in action as a
state of mind and a state of external fact. Under one aspect, so much
of the action as is included in any single life and is there a linked
sequence of mental states, has its unity in the personality of that
individual. Under the other aspect, the entire action which sets forth
the relations of all the characters involved, of their several courses
of experience as elements in the working out of the joint result, has
its unity in the constitution of the universe,--the impersonal order,
that structure of being itself, which is independent of man's will,
which is imposed upon him as a condition of existence, and which he must
accept without appeal. This necessity, to give it the best name, to
which man is exposed without and subjected within, is in its broadest
conception the power that increases life, and all things are under its
sway. Its sphere is above man's will; he knows it as immutable law in
himself as it is in nature; it is the highest object of his thoughts.
Its workings are submitted to his observation and experiment as a part
of the world of knowledge; he sees its operation in individuals, social
groups, and nations, and sets it forth in the action of the lyric, the
drama, and the epic as the law of life. In its sphere is the higher
unity of plot by virtue of which it integrates many lives in one main
action. Such, then, is the nature of plot as intermediary between man
and his environment, but deeply engaged in the latter, and not to be
freed from it even by a purely spiritualistic philosophy; for though we
say that, as under one aspect plot shadows forth the unseen world of the
soul's life, so under the other it shadows forth the invisible will of
God, we do not escape from the outward world. Sense is still the medium
by which only man knows his brother man and God also as through a glass

"The painted veil which those who live call life."

It separates all spirits, the beautiful but dense element in which the
pure soul is submerged.

It is necessary only to summarize the characteristics of plot which are
merely parallel to those of type already illustrated. Plot may be simple
or complex; it may be more or less involved in physical conditions in
proportion as it lays stress on its machinery or its psychology; it must
be important, as the type must be high, but important by virtue of its
essential human meaning and not of its accidents; it is a fragment of
destiny only, but in this falls in with the way life in others is known
to us; if it passes into the superhuman world, it must retain human
significance and be brought back to man's life by devices similar to
those used in the type for the same purpose; it rises in value in
proportion to the universality it contains, and gains depth and
permanence as it is interpretative of common human fate at all times and
among all men; it may be purely imaginary or founded on actual
incidents; and its exemplary interpretation of man's life is its
substance, and constitutes its ideality.

In the discussion of type and plot, the concrete nature of the world of
art, which was originally stated to be the characteristic work of the
creative reason, or imagination acting in conformity with truth, has
been assumed; but no reason has been given for it, because it seemed
best to develop first with some fulness the nature of that inward order
which is thus projected in the forms of art. It belongs to the frailty
of man that he seizes with difficulty and holds with feebleness the pure
ideas of the intellect, the more in proportion as they are removed from
sense; and he seeks to support himself against this weakness by framing
sensible representations of the abstract in which the mind can rest.
Thus in all lands and among savage tribes, as well as in the most
civilized nations, symbols have been used immemorially. The flag of a
nation has all its meaning because it is taken as a physical token of
national honour, almost of national life itself. The Moslem crescent,
the Christian cross, have only a similar significance, a bringing near
to the eye of what exists in reality only for the mind and heart. A
symbol, however, is an arbitrary fiction, and stands to the idea as a
metaphor does to the thing itself. In literature the parable of the
mustard seed to which the kingdom of heaven was likened, exemplifies
symbolical or metaphorical method; but the tale of the court of Arthur's
knights, ideal method; between them, and sharing something of both, lies
allegorical method. Idolatry is the religion of symbolism, for the image
is not the god; Christianity is the religion of idealism, for Christ is
God incarnate. Idealism presents the reality itself, the universal truth
made manifest in the concrete type, and there present and embodied in
its characteristics as they are, not merely arbitrarily by a fiction of
thought, symbolically or allegorically.

The way in which type concretes truth is sufficiently plain; but it may
be useful, with respect to plot, to draw out more in detail the analogy
which has been said to exist between it and an illustrative scientific
experiment. If scientific law is declared experimentally, the course of
nature is modified by intent; certain conditions are secured, certain
others eliminated; a selected train of phenomena is then set in motion
to the end that the law may be illustrated, and nothing else. In a
perfect experiment the law is in full operation. In plot there is a like
selection of persons, situations, and incidents so arranged as to
disclose the working of that order which obtains in man's life. The law
may be simple and shown by means of few persons and incidents in a brief
way, as in ancient drama, or complex and exhibited with many characters

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