Part 2 out of 6
much as Mr Hobhouse did, I could not do otherwise than civilly
assent, especially as his Lordship's comfort, at the moment, seemed
in some degree dependent on being confirmed in the good opinion he
was desirous to entertain of his own courtesy. From that night I
evidently rose in his good graces; and, as he was always most
agreeable and interesting when familiar, it was worth my while to
advance, but by cautious circumvallations, into his intimacy; for his
uncertain temper made his favour precarious.
The next morning, either owing to the relaxation of his abstinence,
which he could not probably well avoid amid the good things of the
ambassadorial table; or, what was, perhaps, less questionable, some
regret for his petulance towards his friend, he was indisposed, and
did not make his appearance till late in the evening. I rather
suspect, though there was no evidence of the fact, that Hobhouse
received any concession which he may have made with indulgence; for
he remarked to me, in a tone that implied both forbearance and
generosity of regard, that it was necessary to humour him like a
child. But, in whatever manner the reconciliation was accomplished,
the passengers partook of the blessings of the peace. Byron, during
the following day, as we were sailing along the picturesque shores of
Sicily, was in the highest spirits overflowing with glee, and
sparkling with quaint sentences. The champagne was uncorked and in
the finest condition.
Having landed the mail at Girgenti, we stretched over to Malta, where
we arrived about noon next day--all the passengers, except Orestes
and Pylades, being eager to land, went on shore with the captain.
They remained behind for a reason--which an accidental expression of
Byron let out--much to my secret amusement; for I was aware they
would be disappointed, and the anticipation was relishing. They
expected--at least he did--a salute from the batteries, and sent
ashore notice to Sir Alexander Ball, the Governor, of his arrival;
but the guns were sulky, and evinced no respect of persons; so that
late in the afternoon, about the heel of the evening, the two
magnates were obliged to come on shore, and slip into the city
unnoticed and unknown.
At this time Malta was in great prosperity. Her commerce was
flourishing; and the goodly clusters of its profits hung ripe and
rich at every door. The merchants were truly hospitable, and few
more so than Mr Chabot. As I had letters to him, he invited me to
dinner, along with several other friends previously engaged. In the
cool of the evening, as we were sitting at our wine, Lord Byron and
Mr Hobhouse were announced. His Lordship was in better spirits than
I had ever seen him. His appearance showed, as he entered the room,
that they had met with some adventure, and he chuckled with an inward
sense of enjoyment, not altogether without spleen--a kind of
malicious satisfaction--as his companion recounted with all becoming
gravity their woes and sufferings, as an apology for begging a bed
and morsel for the night. God forgive me! but I partook of Byron's
levity at the idea of personages so consequential wandering destitute
in the streets, seeking for lodgings, as it were, from door to door,
and rejected at all.
Next day, however, they were accommodated by the Governor with an
agreeable house in the upper part of Valetta; and his Lordship, as
soon as they were domiciled, began to take lessons in Arabic from a
monk--I believe one of the librarians of the public library. His
whole time was not, however, devoted to study; for he formed an
acquaintance with Mrs Spencer Smith, the lady of the gentleman of
that name, who had been our resident minister at Constantinople: he
affected a passion for her; but it was only Platonic. She, however,
beguiled him of his valuable yellow diamond ring. She is the
Florence of Childe Harold, and merited the poetical embalmment, or
rather the amber immortalisation, she possesses there--being herself
a heroine. There was no exaggeration in saying that many incidents
of her life would appear improbable in fiction. Her adventures with
the Marquis de Salvo form one of the prettiest romances in the
Italian language; everything in her destiny was touched with
adventure: nor was it the least of her claims to sympathy that she
had incurred the special enmity of Napoleon.
After remaining about three weeks at Malta, Byron embarked with his
friend in a brig of war, appointed to convoy a fleet of small
merchantmen to Prevesa. I had, about a fortnight before, passed over
with the packet on her return from Messina to Girgenti, and did not
fall in with them again till the following spring, when we met at
Athens. In the meantime, besides his Platonic dalliance with Mrs
Spencer Smith, Byron had involved himself in a quarrel with an
officer; but it was satisfactorily settled.
His residence at Malta did not greatly interest him. The story of
its chivalrous masters made no impression on his imagination--none
that appears in his works--but it is not the less probable that the
remembrance of the place itself occupied a deep niche in his bosom:
for I have remarked, that he had a voluntary power of forgetfulness,
which, on more than one occasion, struck me as singular: and I am
led in consequence to think, that something unpleasant, connected
with this quarrel, may have been the cause of his suppression of all
direct allusion to the island. It was impossible that his
imagination could avoid the impulses of the spirit which haunts the
walls and ramparts of Malta; and the silence of his muse on a topic
so rich in romance, and so well calculated to awaken associations
concerning the knights, in unison with the ruminations of Childe
Harold, persuades me that there must have been some specific cause
for the omission. If it were nothing in the duel, I should be
inclined to say, notwithstanding the seeming improbability of the
notion, that it was owing to some curious modification of vindictive
spite. It might not be that Malta should receive no celebrity from
his pen; but assuredly he had met with something there which made him
resolute to forget the place. The question as to what it was, he
never answered the result would throw light into the labyrinths of
Sails from Malta to Prevesa--Lands at Patras--Sails again--Passes
Ithaca--Arrival at Prevesa
It was on the 19th of September, 1809, that Byron sailed in the
Spider brig from Malta for Prevesa, and on the morning of the fourth
day after, he first saw the mountains of Greece; next day he landed
at Patras, and walked for some time among the currant grounds between
the town and the shore. Around him lay one of the noblest landscapes
in the world, and afar in the north-east rose the purple summits of
the Grecian mountains.
Having re-embarked, the Spider proceeded towards her destination; the
poet not receiving much augmentation to his ideas of the grandeur of
the ancients, from the magnitude of their realms and states. Ithaca,
which he doubtless regarded with wonder and disappointment, as he
passed its cliffy shores, was then in the possession of the French.
In the course of a month after, the kingdom of Ulysses surrendered to
a British serjeant and seven men.
Childe Harold sail'd, and pass'd the barren spot,
Where sad Penelope o'erlook'd the wave;
And onward view'd the mount, not yet forgot.
The lover's refuge, and the Lesbian's grave.
But when he saw the evening star above
Leucadia's far-projecting rock of woe,
And hail'd the last resort of fruitless love,
He felt, or deem'd he felt, no common glow;
And as the stately vessel glided slow
Beneath the shadow of that ancient mount,
He watch'd the billows' melancholy flow,
And, sunk albeit in thought as he was wont--
More placid seem'd his eye, and smooth his pallid front.
At seven in the evening, of the same day on which he passed Leucadia,
the vessel came to anchor off Prevesa. The day was wet and gloomy,
and the appearance of the town was little calculated to bespeak
cheerfulness. But the novelty in the costume and appearance of the
inhabitants and their dwellings, produced an immediate effect on the
imagination of Byron, and we can trace the vivid impression animating
and adorning his descriptions.
The wild Albanian, kirtled to his knee,
With shawl-girt head and ornamented gun,
And gold-embroider'd garments, fair to see;
The crimson-scarfed men of Macedon;
The Delhi with his cap of terror on,
And crooked glaive; the lively, supple Greek,
And swarthy Nubia's mutilated son;
The bearded Turk, that rarely deigns to speak,
Master of all around, too potent to be meek.
Having partaken of a consecutive dinner, dish after dish, with the
brother of the English consul, the travellers proceeded to visit the
Governor of the town: he resided within the enclosure of a fort, and
they were conducted towards him by a long gallery, open on one side,
and through several large unfurnished rooms. In the last of this
series, the Governor received them with the wonted solemn civility of
the Turks, and entertained them with pipes and coffee. Neither his
appearance, nor the style of the entertainment, were distinguished by
any display of Ottoman grandeur; he was seated on a sofa in the midst
of a group of shabby Albanian guards, who had but little reverence
for the greatness of the guests, as they sat down beside them, and
stared and laughed at their conversation with the Governor.
But if the circumstances and aspect of the place derived no
importance from visible splendour, every object around was enriched
with stories and classical recollections. The battle of Actium was
fought within the gulf.
Ambracia's gulf behold, where once was lost
A world for woman--lovely, harmless thing!
In yonder rippling bay, their naval host
Did many a Roman chief and Asian king
To doubtful conflict, certain slaughter bring.
Look where the second Caesar's trophies rose!
Now, like the lands that rear'd them, withering;
Imperial monarchs doubling human woes!
God! was Thy globe ordained for such to win and lose?
Having inspected the ruins of Nicopolis, which are more remarkable
for their desultory extent and scattered remnants, than for any
remains of magnificence or of beauty,
Childe Harold pass'd o'er many a mount sublime,
Through lands scarce noticed in historic tales.
Yet in famed Attica such lovely dales
Are rarely seen; nor can fair Tempe boast
A charm they know not; loved Parnassus fails,
Though classic ground and consecrated most,
To match some spots that lurk within this lowering coast.
In this journey he was still accompanied by Mr Hobhouse. They had
provided themselves with a Greek to serve as a dragoman. With this
person they soon became dissatisfied, in consequence of their general
suspicion of Greek integrity, and because of the necessary influence
which such an appendage acquires in the exercise of his office. He
is the tongue and purse-bearer of his master; he procures him
lodging, food, horses, and all conveniences; must support his dignity
with the Turks--a difficult task in those days for a Greek--and his
manifold trusts demand that he should be not only active and
ingenious, but prompt and resolute. In the qualifications of this
essential servant, the travellers were not fortunate--he never lost
an opportunity of pilfering;--he was, however, zealous, bustling, and
talkative, and withal good-humoured; and, having his mind intent on
one object--making money--was never lazy nor drunken, negligent nor
On the 1st of October they embarked, and sailed up the Gulf of
Salona, where they were shown into an empty barrack for lodgings. In
this habitation twelve Albanian soldiers and an officer were
quartered, who behaved towards them with civility. On their
entrance, the officer gave them pipes and coffee, and after they had
dined in their own apartment, he invited them to spend the evening
with him, and they condescended to partake of his hospitality.
Such instances as these in ordinary biography would be without
interest; but when it is considered how firmly the impression of them
was retained in the mind of the poet, and how intimately they entered
into the substance of his reminiscences of Greece, they acquire
dignity, and become epochal in the history of the development of his
"All the Albanians," says Mr Hobhouse, "strut very much when they
walk, projecting their chests, throwing back their heads, and moving
very slowly from side to side. Elmas (as the officer was called) had
this strut more than any man perhaps we saw afterwards; and as the
sight was then quite new to us, we could not help staring at the
magisterial and superlatively dignified air of a man with great holes
in his elbows, and looking altogether, as to his garment, like what
we call a bull-beggar." Mr Hobhouse describes him as a captain, but
by the number of men under him, he could have been of no higher rank
than serjeant. Captains are centurions.
After supper, the officer washed his hands with soap, inviting the
travellers to do the same, for they had eaten a little with him; he
did not, however, give the soap, but put it on the floor with an air
so remarkable, as to induce Mr Hobhouse to inquire the meaning of it,
and he was informed that there is a superstition in Turkey against
giving soap: it is thought it will wash away love.
Next day it rained, and the travellers were obliged to remain under
shelter. The evening was again spent with the soldiers, who did
their utmost to amuse them with Greek and Albanian songs and freaks
In the morning of the 3rd of October they set out for Arta, with ten
horses; four for themselves and servants, four for their luggage, and
two for two soldiers whom they were induced to take with them as
guards. Byron takes no notice of his visit to Arta in Childe Harold;
but Mr Hobhouse has given a minute account of the town. They met
there with nothing remarkable.
The remainder of the journey to Joannina, the capital then of the
famous Ali Pasha, was rendered unpleasant by the wetness of the
weather; still it was impossible to pass through a country so
picturesque in its features, and rendered romantic by the traditions
of robberies and conflicts, without receiving impressions of that
kind of imagery which constitutes the embroidery on the vestment of
The first view of Joannina seen in the morning light, or glittering
in the setting sun, is lively and alluring. The houses, domes, and
minarets, shining through gardens of orange and lemon trees and
groves of cypresses; the lake, spreading its broad mirror at the foot
of the town, and the mountains rising abrupt around, all combined to
present a landscape new and beautiful. Indeed, where may be its
parallel? the lake was the Acherusian, Mount Pindus was in sight, and
the Elysian fields of mythology spread in the lovely plains over
which they passed in approaching the town.
On entering Joannina, they were appalled by a spectacle
characteristic of the country. Opposite a butcher's shop, they
beheld hanging from the boughs of a tree a man's arm, with part of
the side torn from the body. How long is it since Temple Bar, in the
very heart of London, was adorned with the skulls of the Scottish
noblemen who were beheaded for their loyalty to the son and
representative of their ancient kings!
The object of the visit to Joannina was to see Ali Pasha, in those
days the most celebrated Vizier in all the western provinces of the
Ottoman empire; but he was then at Tepellene. The luxury of resting,
however, in a capital, was not to be resisted, and they accordingly
suspended their journey until they had satisfied their curiosity with
an inspection of every object which merited attention. Of Joannina,
it may be said, they were almost the discoverers, so little was known
of it in England--I may say in Western Europe--previous to their
The palace and establishment of Ali Pasha were of regal splendour,
combining with Oriental pomp the elegance of the Occident, and the
travellers were treated by the Vizier's officers with all the
courtesy due to the rank of Lord Byron, and every facility was
afforded them to prosecute their journey. The weather, however--the
season being far advanced--was wet and unsettled, and they suffered
more fatigue and annoyance than travellers for information or
pleasure should have had to encounter.
The journey from Joannina to Zitza is among the happiest sketches in
the Pilgrimage of Childe Harold.
He pass'd bleak Pindus, Acherusia's lake,
And left the primal city of the land,
And onwards did his farther journey take
To greet Albania's chief, whose dread command
Is lawless law; for with a bloody hand
He sways a nation, turbulent and bold:
Yet here and there some daring mountain-band
Disdain his power, and from their rocky hold
Hurl their defiance far, nor yield unless to gold.
Monastic Zitza! from thy shady brow,
Thou small, but favour'd spot of holy ground!
Where'er we gaze, above, around, below,
What rainbow tints, what magic charms are found;
Rock, river, forest, mountain, all abound;
And bluest skies that harmonize the whole.
Beneath, the distant torrent's rushing sound
Tells where the volumed cataract doth roll
Between those hanging rocks that shock yet please the soul.
In the course of this journey the poet happened to be alone with his
guides, when they lost their way during a tremendous thunderstorm,
and he has commemorated the circumstance in the spirited stanzas
Chill and mink is the nightly blast.
Halt at Zitza--The River Acheron--Greek Wine--A Greek Chariot--
Arrival at Tepellene--The Vizier's Palace
The travellers, on their arrival at Zitza, went to the monastery to
solicit accommodation; and after some parley with one of the monks,
through a small grating in a door plated with iron, on which marks of
violence were visible, and which, before the country had been
tranquillised under the vigorous dominion of Ali Pasha, had been
frequently battered in vain by the robbers who then infested the
neighbourhood. The prior, a meek and lowly man, entertained them in
a warm chamber with grapes and a pleasant white wine, not trodden out
by the feet, as he informed them, but expressed by the hand. To this
gentle and kind host Byron alludes in his description of "Monastic
Amid the grove that crowns yon tufted hill,
Which, were it not for many a mountain nigh
Rising in lofty ranks, and loftier still,
Might well itself be deem'd of dignity;
The convent's white walls glisten fair on high:
Here dwells the caloyer, nor rude is he,
Nor niggard of his cheer; the passer-by
Is welcome still; nor heedless will he flee
From hence, if he delight kind Nature's sheen to see.
Having halted a night at Zitza, the travellers proceeded on their
journey next morning, by a road which led through the vineyards
around the villages, and the view from a barren hill, which they were
obliged to cross, is described with some of the most forcible touches
of the poet's pencil.
Dusky and huge, enlarging on the sight,
Nature's volcanic amphitheatre,
Chimera's Alps, extend from left to right;
Beneath, a living valley seems to stir.
Flocks play, trees wave, streams flow, the mountain fir
Nodding above; behold Black Acheron!
Once consecrated to the sepulchre.
Pluto! if this be hell I look upon,
Close shamed Elysium's gates; my shade shall seek for none!
The Acheron, which they crossed in this route, is now called the
Kalamas, a considerable stream, as large as the Avon at Bath but
towards the evening they had some cause to think the Acheron had not
lost all its original horror; for a dreadful thunderstorm came on,
accompanied with deluges of rain, which more than once nearly carried
away their luggage and horses. Byron himself does not notice this
incident in Childe Harold, nor even the adventure more terrific which
he met with alone in similar circumstances on the night before their
arrival at Zitza, when his guides lost their way in the defiles of
the mountains--adventures sufficiently disagreeable in the advent,
but full of poesy in the remembrance.
The first halt, after leaving Zitza, was at the little village of
Mosure, where they were lodged in a miserable cabin, the residence of
a poor priest, who treated them with all the kindness his humble
means afforded. From this place they proceeded next morning through
a wild and savage country, interspersed with vineyards, to Delvinaki,
where it would seem they first met with genuine Greek wine, that is,
wine mixed with resin and lime--a more odious draught at the first
taste than any drug the apothecary mixes. Considering how much of
allegory entered into the composition of the Greek mythology, it is
probable that in representing the infant Bacchus holding a pine, the
ancient sculptors intended an impersonation of the circumstance of
resin being employed to preserve new wine.
The travellers were now in Albania, the native region of Ali Pasha,
whom they expected to find at Libokavo; but on entering the town,
they were informed that he was further up the country at Tepellene,
or Tepalen, his native place. In their route from Libokavo to
Tepalen they met with no adventure, nor did they visit Argyro-castro,
which they saw some nine or ten miles off--a large city, supposed to
contain about twenty thousand inhabitants, chiefly Turks. When they
reached Cezarades, a distance of not more than nine miles, which had
taken them five hours to travel, they were agreeably accommodated for
the night in a neat cottage; and the Albanian landlord, in whose
demeanour they could discern none of that cringing, downcast,
sinister look which marked the degraded Greek, received them with a
Next morning they resumed their journey, and halted one night more
before they reached Tepellene, in approaching which they met a
carriage, not inelegantly constructed after the German fashion, with
a man on the box driving four-in-hand, and two Albanian soldiers
standing on the footboard behind. They were floundering on at a trot
through mud and mire, boldly regardless of danger; but it seemed to
the English eyes of the travellers impossible that such a vehicle
should ever be able to reach Libokavo, to which it was bound. In due
time they crossed the river Laos, or Voioutza, which was then full,
and appeared both to Byron and his friend as broad as the Thames at
Westminster; after crossing it on a stone bridge, they came in sight
of Tepellene, when
The sun had sunk behind vast Tomerit,
And Laos, wide and fierce, came roaring by;
The shades of wonted night were gathering yet,
When down the steep banks, winding warily,
Childe Harold saw, like meteors in the sky,
The glittering minarets of Tepalen,
Whose walls o'erlook the stream; and drawing nigh,
He heard the busy hum of warrior-men
Swelling the breeze that sigh'd along the lengthening glen.
On their arrival, they proceeded at once to the residence of Ali
Pasha, an extensive rude pile, where they witnessed a scene, not
dissimilar to that which they might, perhaps, have beheld some
hundred years ago, in the castle-yard of a great feudal baron.
Soldiers, with their arms piled against the wall, were assembled in
different parts of the court, several horses, completely caparisoned,
were led about, others were neighing under the hands of the grooms;
and for the feast of the night, armed cooks were busy dressing kids
and sheep. The scene is described with the poet's liveliest pencil.
Richly caparison'd a ready row
Of armed horse, and many a warlike store,
Circled the wide extending court below;
Above, strange groups adorn'd the corridor,
And ofttimes through the area's echoing door,
Some high-capp'd Tartar spurr'd his steed away.
The Turk, the Greek, the Albanian, and the Moor
Here mingled in their many-hued array,
While the deep war-drum's sound announced the close of day.
Some recline in groups,
Scanning the motley scene that varies round.
There some grave Moslem to devotion stoops,
And some that smoke, and some that play, are found.
Here the Albanian proudly treads the ground
Half-whispering, there the Greek is heard to prate.
Hark! from the mosque the nightly solemn sound;
The Muezzin's call doth shake the minaret.
"There is no god but God!--to prayer--lo, God is great!"
The peculiar quietness and ease with which the Mahommedans say their
prayers, struck the travellers as one of the most peculiar
characteristics which they had yet witnessed of that people. Some of
the graver sort began their devotions in the places where they were
sitting, undisturbed and unnoticed by those around them who were
otherwise engaged. The prayers last about ten minutes they are not
uttered aloud, but generally in a low voice, sometimes with only a
motion of the lips; and, whether performed in the public street or in
a room, attract no attention from the bystanders. Of more than a
hundred of the guards in the gallery of the Vizier's mansion at
Tepellene, not more than five or six were seen at prayers. The
Albanians are not reckoned strict Mahommedans; but no Turk, however
irreligious himself, ever disturbs the devotion of others.
It was then the fast of Ramazan, and the travellers, during the
night, were annoyed with the perpetual noise of the carousal kept up
in the gallery, and by the drum, and the occasional voice of the
Just at this season, Ramazani's fast
Through the long day its penance did maintain:
But when the lingering twilight hour was past,
Revel and feast assumed the rule again.
Now all was bustle, and the menial train
Prepared and spread the plenteous board within;
The vacant gallery now seem'd made in vain,
But from the chambers came the mingling din,
And page and slave, anon, were passing out and in.
Audience appointed with Ali Pasha--Description of the Vizier's
Person--An Audience of the Vizier of the Morea
The progress of no other poet's mind can be to clearly traced to
personal experience as that of Byron's. The minute details in the
Pilgrimage of Childe Harold are the observations of an actual
traveller. Had they been given in prose, they could not have been
less imbued with fiction. From this fidelity they possess a value
equal to the excellence of the poetry, and ensure for themselves an
interest as lasting as it is intense. When the manners and customs
of the inhabitants shall have been changed by time and the
vicissitudes of society, the scenery and the mountains will bear
testimony to the accuracy of Lord Byron's descriptions.
The day after the travellers' arrival at Tepellene was fixed by the
Vizier for their first audience; and about noon, the time appointed,
an officer of the palace with a white wand announced to them that his
highness was ready to receive them, and accordingly they proceeded
from their own apartment, accompanied by the secretary of the Vizier,
and attended by their own dragoman. The usher of the white rod led
the way, and conducted them through a suite of meanly-furnished
apartments to the presence chamber. Ali when they entered was
standing, a courtesy of marked distinction from a Turk. As they
advanced towards him, he seated himself, and requested them to sit
near him. The room was spacious and handsomely fitted up, surrounded
by that species of continued sofa which the upholsterers call a
divan, covered with richly-embroidered velvet; in the middle of the
floor was a large marble basin, in which a fountain was playing.
In marble-paved pavilion, where a spring
Of living water from the centre rose,
Whose bubbling did a genial freshness fling,
And soft voluptuous couches breathed repose,
ALI reclined; a man of war and woes.
Yet in his lineaments ye cannot trace,
While Gentleness her milder radiance throws
Along that aged, venerable face,
The deeds that lurk beneath and stain him with disgrace.
It is not that yon hoary, lengthening beard,
Ill suits the passions that belong to youth;
Love conquers age--so Hafiz hath averr'd:
So sings the Teian, and he sings in sooth--
But crimes that scorn the tender voice of Ruth,
Beseeming all men ill, but most the man
In years, have mark'd him with a tiger's tooth;
Blood follows blood, and through their mortal span,
In bloodier acts conclude those who with blood began.
When this was written Ali Pasha was still living; but the prediction
which it implies was soon after verified, and he closed his stern and
energetic life with a catastrophe worthy of its guilt and bravery.
He voluntarily perished by firing a powder-magazine, when surrounded,
beyond all chance of escape, by the troops of the Sultan his master,
whose authority he had long contemned.
Mr Hobhouse describes him at this audience as a short fat man, about
five feet five inches in height; with a very pleasing face, fair and
round; and blue fair eyes, not settled into a Turkish gravity. His
beard was long and hoary, and such a one as any other Turk would have
been proud of; nevertheless, he, who was more occupied in attending
to his guests than himself, neither gazed at it, smelt it, nor
stroked it, according to the custom of his countrymen, when they seek
to fill up the pauses in conversation. He was not dressed with the
usual magnificence of dignitaries of his degree, except that his high
turban, composed of many small rolls, was of golden muslin, and his
yataghan studded with diamonds.
He was civil and urbane in the entertainment of his guests, and
requested them to consider themselves as his children. It was on
this occasion he told Lord Byron, that he discovered his noble blood
by the smallness of his hands and ears: a remark which has become
proverbial, and is acknowledged not to be without truth in the
evidence of pedigree.
The ceremonies on such visits are similar all over Turkey, among
personages of the same rank; and as Lord Byron has not described in
verse the details of what took place with him, it will not be
altogether obtrusive here to recapitulate what happened to myself
during a visit to Velhi Pasha, the son of Ali: he was then Vizier of
the Morea, and residing at Tripolizza.
In the afternoon, about four o'clock, I set out for the seraglio with
Dr Teriano, the Vizier's physician, and the Vizier's Italian
secretary. The gate of the palace was not unlike the entrance to
some of the closes in Edinburgh, and the court within reminded me of
Smithfield, in London; but it was not surrounded by such lofty
buildings, nor in any degree of comparison so well constructed. We
ascended a ruinous staircase, which led to an open gallery, where
three or four hundred of the Vizier's Albanian guards were lounging.
In an antechamber, which opened from the gallery, a number of
officers were smoking, and in the middle, on the floor, two old Turks
were seriously engaged at chess.
My name being sent in to the Vizier, a guard of ceremony was called,
and after they had arranged themselves in the presence chamber, I was
admitted. The doctor and the secretary having, in the meantime,
taken off their shoes, accompanied me in to act as interpreters.
The presence chamber was about forty feet square, showy and handsome:
round the walls were placed sofas, which, from being covered with
scarlet, reminded me of the woolsacks in the House of Lords. In the
farthest corner of the room, elevated on a crimson velvet cushion,
sat the Vizier, wrapped in a superb pelisse: on his head was a vast
turban, in his belt a dagger, incrusted with jewels, and on the
little finger of his right hand he wore a solitaire as large as the
knob on the stopper of a vinegar-cruet, and which was said to have
cost two thousand five hundred pounds sterling. In his left hand he
held a string of small coral beads, a comboloio which he twisted
backwards and forwards during the greater part of the visit. On the
sofa beside him lay a pair of richly-ornamented London-made pistols.
At some distance, on the same sofa, but not on a cushion, sat Memet,
the Pasha of Napoli Romania, whose son was contracted in marriage to
the Vizier's daughter. On the floor, at the foot of this pasha, and
opposite to the Vizier, a secretary was writing despatches. These
were the only persons in the room who had the honour of being seated;
for, according to the etiquette of this viceregal court, those who
received the Vizier's pay were not allowed to sit down in his
On my entrance, his highness motioned to me to sit beside him, and
through the medium of the interpreters began with some commonplace
courtly insignificancies, as a prelude to more interesting
conversation. In his manners I found him free and affable, with a
considerable tincture of humour and drollery. Among other questions,
he inquired if I had a wife: and being answered in the negative, he
replied to me himself in Italian, that I was a happy man, for he
found his very troublesome: considering their probable number, this
was not unlikely. Pipes and coffee were in the mean-time served.
The pipe presented to the Vizier was at least twelve feet long; the
mouth-piece was formed of a single block of amber, about the size of
an ordinary cucumber, and fastened to the shaft by a broad hoop of
gold, decorated with jewels. While the pipes and coffee were
distributing, a musical clock, which stood in a niche, began to play,
and continued doing so until this ceremony was over. The coffee was
literally a drop of dregs in a very small china cup, placed in a
golden socket. His highness was served with his coffee by Pasha Bey,
his generalissimo, a giant, with the tall crown of a dun-coloured
beaver-hat on his head. In returning the cup to him, the Vizier
elegantly eructed in his face. After the regale of the pipes and
coffee, the attendants withdrew, and his highness began a kind of
political discussion, in which, though making use of an interpreter,
he managed to convey his questions with delicacy and address.
On my rising to retire, his highness informed me, with more polite
condescension than a Christian of a thousandth part of his authority
would have done, that during my stay at Tripolizza horses were at my
command, and guards who would accompany me to any part of the country
I might choose to visit.
Next morning, he sent a complimentary message, importing, that he had
ordered dinner to be prepared at the doctor's for me and two of his
officers. The two officers were lively fellows; one of them in
particular seemed to have acquired, by instinct, a large share of the
ease and politeness of Christendom. The dinner surpassed all count
and reckoning, dish followed dish, till I began to fancy that the
cook either expected I would honour his highness's entertainment as
Caesar did the supper of Cicero, or supposed that the party were not
finite beings. During the course of this amazing service, the
principal singers and musicians of the seraglio arrived, and sung and
played several pieces of very sweet Turkish music. Among others was
a song composed by the late unfortunate Sultan Selim, the air of
which was pleasingly simple and pathetic. I had heard of the
Sultan's poetry before, a small collection of which has been printed.
It is said to be interesting and tender, consisting chiefly of little
sonnets, written after he was deposed; in which he contrasts the
tranquillity of his retirement with the perils and anxieties of his
former grandeur. After the songs, the servants of the officers, who
were Albanians, danced a Macedonian reel, in which they exhibited
several furious specimens of Highland agility. The officers then
took their leave, and I went to bed, equally gratified by the
hospitality of the Vizier and the incidents of the entertainment.
The Effect of Ali Pasha's Character on Lord Byron--Sketch of the
Career of Ali, and the Perseverance with which he pursued the Objects
of his Ambition
Although many traits and lineaments of Lord Byron's own character may
be traced in the portraits of his heroes, I have yet often thought
that Ali Pasha was the model from which he drew several of their most
remarkable features; and on this account it may be expedient to give
a sketch of that bold and stern personage--if I am correct in my
conjecture--and the reader can judge for himself when the picture is
before him--it would be a great defect, according to the plan of this
work, not to do so.
Ali Pasha was born at Tepellene, about the year 1750. His father was
a pasha of two tails, but possessed of little influence. At his
death Ali succeeded to no inheritance but the house in which he was
born; and it was his boast, in the plenitude of his power, that he
began his fortune with sixty paras, about eighteen pence sterling,
and a musket. At that time the country was much infested with
cattle-stealers, and the flocks and herds of the neighbouring
villages were often plundered.
Ali collected a few followers from among the retainers of his father,
made himself master, first of one village, then of another, amassed
money, increased his power, and at last found himself at the head of
a considerable body of Albanians, whom he paid by plunder; for he was
then only a great robber--the Rob Roy of Albania: in a word, one of
those independent freebooters who divide among themselves so much of
the riches and revenues of the Ottoman dominions.
In following up this career, he met with many adventures and
reverses, but his course was still onwards, and uniformly
distinguished by enterprise and cruelty. His enemies expected no
mercy when vanquished in the field; and when accidentally seized in
private, they were treated with equal rigour. It is reported that he
even roasted alive on spits some of his most distinguished
When he had collected money enough, he bought a pashalic; and being
invested with that dignity, he became still more eager to enlarge his
possessions. He continued in constant war with the neighbouring
pashas; and cultivating, by adroit agents, the most influential
interest at Constantinople, he finally obtained possession of
Joannina, and was confirmed pasha of the territory attached to it, by
an imperial firman. He then went to war with the pashas of Arta, of
Delvino, and of Ocrida, whom he subdued, together with that of
Triccala, and established a predominant influence over the agas of
Thessaly. The pasha of Vallona he poisoned in a bath at Sophia; and
strengthened his power by marrying his two sons, Mouctar and Velhi,
to the daughters of the successor and brother of the man whom he had
murdered. In The Bride of Abydos, Lord Byron describes the
assassination, but applies it to another party.
Reclined and feverish in the bath,
He, when the hunter's sport was up,
But little deem'd a brother's wrath
To quench his thirst had such a cup:
The bowl a bribed attendant bore--
He drank one draught, nor needed more.
During this progression of his fortunes, he had been more than once
called upon to furnish his quota of troops to the imperial armies,
and had served at their head with distinction against the Russians.
He knew his countrymen, however, too well ever to trust himself at
Constantinople. It was reported that he had frequently been offered
some of the highest offices in the empire, but he always declined
them and sought for power only among the fastnesses of his native
region. Stories of the skill and courage with which he counteracted
several machinations to procure his head were current and popular
throughout the country, and among the Greeks in general he was
certainly regarded as inferior only to the Grand Vizier himself. But
though distrusting and distrusted, he always in the field fought for
the Sultan with great bravery, particularly against the famous rebel
Paswan Oglou. On his return from that war in 1798, he was, in
consequence, made a pasha of three tails, or vizier, and was more
than once offered the ultimate dignity of Grand Vizier, but he still
declined all the honours of the metropolis. The object of his
ambition was not temporary power, but to found a kingdom.
He procured, however, pashalics for his two sons, the younger of
whom, Velhi, saved sufficient money in his first government to buy
the pashalic of the Morea, with the dignity of vizier, for which he
paid seventy-five thousand pounds sterling. His eldest son, Mouctar,
was of a more warlike turn, with less ambition than his brother. At
the epoch of which I am speaking, he supplied his father's place at
the head of the Albanians in the armies of the Sultan, in which he
greatly distinguished himself in the campaign of 1809 against the
The difficulties which Ali Pasha had to encounter in establishing his
ascendancy, did not arise so much from the opposition he met with
from the neighbouring pashas as from the nature of the people, and of
the country of which he was determined to make himself master. Many
of the plains and valleys which composed his dominions were occupied
by inhabitants who had been always in rebellion, and were never
entirely conquered by the Turks, such as the Chimeriotes, the
Sulliotes, and the nations living among the mountains adjacent to the
coast of the Ionian Sea. Besides this, the woods and hills of every
part of his dominions were in a great degree possessed by formidable
bands of robbers, who, recruited and protected by the villages, and
commanded by chiefs as brave and as enterprising as himself, laid
extensive tracts under contribution, burning and plundering
regardless of his jurisdiction. Against these he proceeded with the
most iron severity; they were burned, hanged, beheaded, and impaled,
in all parts of the country, until they were either exterminated or
A short time before the arrival of Lord Byron at Joannina, a large
body of insurgents who infested the mountains between that city and
Triccala, were defeated and dispersed by Mouctar Pasha, who cut to
pieces a hundred of them on the spot. These robbers had been headed
by a Greek priest, who, after the defeat, went to Constantinople and
procured a firman of protection, with which he ventured to return to
Joannina, where the Vizier invited him to a conference, and made him
a prisoner. In deference to the firman, Ali confined him in prison,
but used him well until a messenger could bring from Constantinople a
permission from the Porte to authorise him to do what he pleased with
the rebel. It was the arm of this man which Byron beheld suspended
from the bough on entering Joannina.
By these vigorous measures, Ali Pasha rendered the greater part of
Albania and the contiguous districts safely accessible, which were
before overrun by bandits and freebooters; and consequently, by
opening the country to merchants, and securing their persons and
goods, not only increased his own revenues, but improved the
condition of his subjects. He built bridges over the rivers, raised
causeways over the marshes, opened roads, adorned the country and the
towns with new buildings, and by many salutary regulations, acted the
part of a just, though a merciless, prince.
In private life he was no less distinguished for the same unmitigated
cruelty, but he afforded many examples of strong affection. The wife
of his son Mouctar was a great favourite with the old man. Upon
paying her a visit one morning, he found her in tears. He questioned
her several times as to the cause of her grief; she at last
reluctantly acknowledged that it arose from the diminution of her
husband's regard. He inquired if she thought he paid attention to
other women; the reply was in the affirmative; and she related that a
lady of the name of Phrosyne, the wife of a rich Jew, had beguiled
her of her husband's love; for she had seen at the bath, upon the
finger of Phrosyne, a rich ring, which had belonged to Mouctar, and
which she had often in vain entreated him to give to her. Ali
immediately ordered the lady to be seized, and to be tied up in a
sack, and cast into the lake. Various versions of this tragical tale
are met with in all parts of the country, and the fate of Phrosyne is
embodied in a ballad of touching pathos and melody.
That the character of this intrepid and ruthless warrior made a deep
impression on the mind of Byron cannot be questioned. The scenes in
which he acted were, as the poet traversed the country, everywhere
around him; and his achievements, bloody, dark, and brave, had become
themes of song and admiration.
Leave Joannina for Prevesa--Land at Fanari--Albania--Byron's
Character of the Inhabitants
Having gratified their curiosity with an inspection of every object
of interest at Tepellene, the travellers returned Joannina, where
they again resided several days, partaking of the hospitality of the
principal inhabitants. On the 3rd of November they bade it adieu,
and returned to Salona, on the Golf of Arta; where, in consequence of
hearing that the inhabitants of Carnia were up in arms, that numerous
bands of robbers had descended from the mountains of Ziccola and
Agrapha, and had made their appearance on the other side of the gulf,
they resolved to proceed by water to Prevesa, and having presented an
order which they had received from Ali Pasha, for the use of his
galliot, she was immediately fitted out to convey them. In the
course of the voyage they suffered a great deal of alarm, ran some
risk, and were obliged to land on the mainland of Albania, in a bay
called Fanari, contiguous to the mountainous district of Sulli.
There they procured horses, and rode to Volondorako, a town belonging
to the Vizier, by the primate of which and his highness's garrison
they were received with all imaginable civility. Having passed the
night there, they departed in the morning, which, proving bright and
beautiful, afforded them interesting views of the steep romantic
environs of Sulli.
Land of Albania, where Iskander rose,
Theme of the young, and beacon of the wise,
And he his namesake whose oft-baffled foes
Shrunk from his deeds of chivalrous emprise;
Land of Albania! let me bend mine eyes
On thee, thou rugged nurse of savage men!
The Cross descends, thy minarets arise,
And the pale crescent sparkles in the glen,
Through many a cypress grove within each city's ken.
Of the inhabitants of Albania--the Arnaouts or Albanese--Lord Byron
says they reminded him strongly of the Highlanders of Scotland, whom
they undoubtedly resemble in dress, figure, and manner of living.
"The very mountains seemed Caledonian with a kinder climate. The
kilt, though white, the spare active form, their dialect, Celtic in
its sound, and their hardy habits, all carried me back to Morven. No
nation are so detested and dreaded by their neighbours as the
Albanese; the Greeks hardly regard them as Christians, or the Turks
as Moslems, and in fact they are a mixture of both, and sometimes
neither. Their habits are predatory: all are armed, and the red-
shawled Arnaouts, the Montenegrins, Chimeriotes, and Gedges, are
treacherous; the others differ somewhat in garb, and essentially in
character. As far as my own experience goes, I can speak favourably.
I was attended by two, an infidel and a Mussulman, to Constantinople
and every other part of Turkey which came within my observations, and
men more faithful in peril and indefatigable in service are nowhere
to be found. The infidel was named Basilius, the Moslem Dervish
Tahiri; the former a man of middle age, and the latter about my own.
Basili was strictly charged by Ali Pasha in person to attend us, and
Dervish was one of fifty who accompanied us through the forests of
Acarnania, to the banks of the Achelous, and onward to Missolonghi.
There I took him into my own service, and never had occasion to
repent it until the moment of my departure.
"When in 1810, after my friend, Mr Hobhouse, left me for England, I
was seized with a severe fever in the Morea, these men saved my life
by frightening away my physician, whose throat they threatened to cut
if I was not cured within a given time. To this consolatory
assurance of posthumous retribution, and a resolute refusal of Dr
Romanelli's prescriptions, I attributed my recovery. I had left my
last remaining English servant at Athens; my dragoman was as ill as
myself; and my poor Arnaouts nursed me with an attention which would
have done honour to civilization.
"They had a variety of adventures, for the Moslem, Dervish, being a
remarkably handsome man, was always squabbling with the husbands of
Athens; insomuch that four of the principal Turks paid me a visit of
remonstrance at the convent, on the subject of his having taken a
woman to the bath--whom he had lawfully bought, however--a thing
quite contrary to etiquette.
"Basili also was extremely gallant among his own persuasion, and had
the greatest veneration for the Church, mixed with the highest
contempt of Churchmen, whom he cuffed upon occasion in a most
heterodox manner. Yet he never passed a church without crossing
himself; and I remember the risk he ran on entering St Sophia, in
Stamboul, because it had once been a place of his worship. On
remonstrating with him on his inconsistent proceedings, he invariably
answered, 'Our church is holy, our priests are thieves'; and then he
crossed himself as usual, and boxed the ears of the first papas who
refused to assist in any required operation, as was always found to
be necessary where a priest had any influence with the Cogia Bashi of
his village. Indeed, a more abandoned race of miscreants cannot
exist than the lower orders of the Greek clergy.
"When preparations were made for my return, my Albanians were
summoned to receive their pay. Basili took his with an awkward show
of regret at my intended departure, and marched away to his quarters
with his bag of piastres. I sent for Dervish, but for some time he
was not to be found; at last he entered just as Signor Logotheti,
father to the ci-devant Anglo-consul of Athens, and some other of my
Greek acquaintances, paid me a visit. Dervish took the money, but on
a sudden dashed it on the ground; and clasping his hands, which he
raised to his forehead, rushed out of the room weeping bitterly.
From that moment to the hour of my embarkation, he continued his
lamentations, and all our efforts to console him only produced this
answer, 'He leaves me.' Signor Logotheti, who never wept before for
anything less than the loss of a paras, melted; the padre of the
convent, my attendants, my visitors, and I verily believe that even
Sterne's foolish fat scullion would have left her fish-kettle to
sympathise with the unaffected and unexpected sorrow of this
"For my part, when I remembered that a short time before my departure
from England, a noble and most intimate associate had excused himself
from taking leave of me, because he had to attend a relation 'to a
milliner's,' I felt no less surprised than humiliated by the present
occurrence and the past recollection.
"The Albanians in general (I do not mean the cultivators of the earth
in the provinces, who have also that appellation, but the
mountaineers) have a fine cast of countenance; and the most beautiful
women I have ever beheld, in stature and in features, we saw
levelling the road broken down by the torrents between Delvinaki and
Libokavo. Their manner of walking is truly theatrical, but this
strut is probably the effect of the capote or cloak depending from
one shoulder. Their long hair reminds you of the Spartans, and their
courage in desultory warfare is unquestionable. Though they have
some cavalry among the Gedges, I never saw a good Arnaout horseman,
but on foot they are never to be subdued."
The travellers having left Volondorako proceeded southward until they
came near to the seaside, and passing along the shore, under a castle
belonging to Ali Pasha, on the lofty summit of a steep rock, they at
last reached Nicopolis again, the ruins of which they revisited.
On their arrival at Prevesa, they had no choice left but that of
crossing Carnia, and the country being, as already mentioned, overrun
with robbers, they provided themselves with a guard of thirty-seven
soldiers, and procured another galliot to take them down the Gulf of
Arta, to the place whence they were to commence their land journey.
Having embarked, they continued sailing with very little wind until
they reached the fortress of Vonitza, where they waited all night for
the freshening of the morning breeze, with which they again set sail,
and about four o'clock in the afternoon arrived at Utraikee.
At this place there was only a custom house and a barrack for troops
close to each other, and surrounded, except towards the water, by a
high wall. In the evening the gates were secured, and preparations
made for feeding their Albanian guards; a goat was killed and roasted
whole, and four fires were kindled in the yard, around which the
soldiers seated themselves in parties. After eating and drinking,
the greater part of them assembled at the largest of the fires, and,
while the travellers were themselves with the elders of the party
seated on the ground, danced round the blaze to their own songs, with
astonishing Highland energy.
Childe Harold at a little distance stood,
And view'd, but not displeased, the revelry,
Nor hated harmless mirth, however rude;
In sooth, it was no vulgar sight to see
Their barbarous, yet their not indecent glee;
And as the flames along their faces gleam'd,
Their gestures nimble, dark eyes flashing free,
The long wild locks that to their girdles stream'd,
While thus in concert they this lay half sang, half scream'd.
"I talk not of mercy, I talk not of fear;
He neither must know who would serve the vizier;
Since the days of our prophet, the crescent ne'er saw
A chief ever glorious like Ali Pashaw.
Leave Utraikee--Dangerous Pass in the Woods--Catoona--Quarrel between
the Guard and Primate of the Village--Makala--Gouri--Missolonghi--
Having spent the night at Utraikee, Byron and his friend continued
their journey southward. The reports of the state of the country
induced them to take ten additional soldiers with them, as their road
for the first two hours lay through dangerous passes in the forest.
On approaching these places fifteen or twenty of the party walked
briskly on before, and when they had gone through the pass halted
until the travellers came up. In the woods two or three green spots
were discovered on the road-side, and on them Turkish tombstones,
generally under a clump of trees, and near a well or fountain.
When they had passed the forest they reached an open country, whence
they sent back the ten men whom they had brought from Utraikee. They
then passed on to a village called Catoona, where they arrived by
noon. It was their intention to have proceeded farther that day, but
their progress was interrupted by an affair between their Albanian
guard and the primate of the village. As they were looking about,
while horses were collecting to carry their luggage, one of the
soldiers drew his sword at the primate, the Greek head magistrate;
guns were cocked, and in an instant, before either Lord Byron or Mr
Hobhouse could stop the affray, the primate, throwing off his shoes
and cloak, fled so precipitately that he rolled down the hill and
dislocated his shoulder. It was a long time before they could
persuade him to return to his house, where they lodged, and when he
did return he remarked that he cared comparatively little about his
shoulder to the loss of a purse with fifteen sequins, which had
dropped out of his pocket during the tumble. The hint was
Catoona is inhabited by Greeks only, and is a rural, well-built
village. The primate's house was neatly fitted up with sofas. Upon
a knoll, in the middle of the village, stood a schoolhouse, and from
that spot the view was very extensive. To the west are lofty
mountains, ranging from north to south, near the coast; to the east a
grand romantic prospect in the distance, and in the foreground a
green valley, with a considerable river winding through a long line
They had some difficulty in procuring horses at Catoona, and in
consequence were detained until past eleven o'clock the next morning,
and only travelled four hours that day to Makala, a well-built stone
village, containing about forty houses distinct from each other, and
inhabited by Greeks, who were a little above the condition of
peasants, being engaged in pasturage and a small wool-trade.
The travellers were now in Carnia, where they found the inhabitants
much better lodged than in the Albanian villages. The house in which
they slept at this place resembled those old mansions which are to be
met with in the bottoms of the Wiltshire Downs. Two green courts,
one before and the other behind, were attached to it, and the whole
was surrounded by a high and thick wall, which shut out the prospect,
but was necessary in a country so frequently overrun by strong bands
From Makala they proceeded through the woods, and in the course of
their journey passed three new-made graves, which the Albanians
pointing at as they rode by, said they were "robbers." In the course
of the journey they had a distant view of the large town of Vraikore,
on the left bank of the Aspro, but they did not approach it, crossing
the river by a ferry to the village of Gouria, where they passed the
Leaving that place in the morning, they took an easterly direction,
and continued to ride across a plain of cornfields, near the banks of
the river, in a rich country; sometimes over stone causeways, and
between the hedges of gardens and olive-groves, until they were
stopped by the sea. This was that fruitful region formerly called
Paracheloitis, which, according to classic allegory, was drained or
torn from the river Achelous, by the perseverance of Hercules and
presented by him for a nuptial present to the daughter of Oeneus.
The water at which they had now arrived was rather a salt marsh than
the sea, a shallow bay stretching from the mouth of the Gulf of
Lepanto into the land for several miles. Having dismissed their
horses, they passed over in boats to Natolico, a town which stood in
the water. Here they fell in with a hospitable Jew, who made himself
remembered by saying that he was honoured in their having partaken of
his little misery.
Natolico, where they stayed for the night, was a well-built town; the
houses of timber, chiefly of two stories, and about six hundred in
number. Having sent on their baggage in boats, they themselves
proceeded to the town of Missolonghi, so celebrated since as having
suffered greatly during the recent rebellion of the Greeks, but more
particularly as the place where Lord Byron died.
Missolonghi is situated on the south side of the salt marsh or
shallow, along the north coast of the Gulf of Corinth, nearly
opposite to Patras. It is a dull, and I should think an unwholesome
place. The marsh, for miles on each side, has only from a foot to
two feet of water on it, but there is a channel for boats marked out
by perches. When I was there the weather was extremely wet, and I
had no other opportunity of seeing the character of the adjacent
country than during the intervals of the showers. It was green and
pastoral, with a short skirt of cultivation along the bottom of the
Abrupt and rapid as the foregoing sketch of the journey through
Albania has been, it is evident from the novelty of its circumstances
that it could not be performed without leaving deep impressions on
the susceptible mind of the poet. It is impossible, I think, not to
allow that far more of the wildness and romantic gloom of his
imagination was derived from the incidents of this tour, than from
all the previous experience of his life. The scenes he visited, the
characters with whom he became familiar, and above all, the chartered
feelings, passions, and principles of the inhabitants, were greatly
calculated to supply his mind with rare and valuable poetical
materials. It is only in this respect that the details of his
travels are interesting.--Considered as constituting a portion of the
education of his genius, they are highly curious, and serve to show
how little, after all, of great invention is requisite to make
interesting and magnificent poetry.
From Missolonghi the travellers passed over the Gulf of Corinth to
Patras, then a rude, half-ruined, open town with a fortress on the
top of a hill; and on the 4th of December, in the afternoon, they
proceeded towards Corinth, but halted at Vostizza, the ancient
AEgium, where they obtained their first view of Parnassus, on the
opposite side of the gulf; rising high above the other peaks of that
hilly region, and capped with snow. It probably was during this
first visit to Vostizza that the Address to Parnassus was suggested.
Oh, thou Parnassus! whom I now survey
Not in the frensy of a dreamer's eye,
Not in the fabled landscape of a lay,
But soaring snow-clad through thy native sky,
In the wild pomp of mountain majesty!
What marvel if I thus essay to sing?
The humblest of thy pilgrims passing by
Would gladly woo thine echoes with his string,
Though from thy heights no more one muse will wave her wing.
Oft have I dream'd of thee! whose glorious name
Who knows not, knows not man's divinest lore;
And now I view thee, 'tis, alas! with shame
That I in feeblest accents must adore.
When I recount thy worshippers of yore
I tremble, and can only bend the knee;
Nor raise my voice, nor vainly dare to soar,
But gaze beneath thy cloudy canopy
In silent joy, to think at last I look on thee.
Vostizza--Battle of Lepanto--Parnassus--Livadia--Cave at Trophonius--
The Fountains of Oblivion and Memory--Chaeronea--Thebes--Athens
Vostizza was then a considerable town, containing between three and
four thousand inhabitants, chiefly Greeks. It stands on a rising
ground on the Peloponnesian side of the Gulf of Corinth. I say
stands, but I know not if it has survived the war. The scenery
around it will always make it delightful, while the associations
connected with the Achaian League, and the important events which
have happened in the vicinity, will ever render the site interesting.
The battle of Lepanto, in which Cervantes lost his hand, was fought
within sight of it.
What a strange thing is glory! Three hundred years ago all
Christendom rang with the battle of Lepanto, and yet it is already
probable that it will only be interesting to posterity as an incident
in the life of one of the private soldiers engaged in it. This is
certainly no very mournful reflection to one who is of opinion that
there is no permanent fame, but that which is obtained by adding to
the comforts and pleasures of mankind. Military transactions, after
their immediate effects cease to be felt, are little productive of
such a result. Not that I value military virtues the less by being
of this opinion; on the contrary, I am the more convinced of their
excellence. Burke has unguardedly said, 'that vice loses half its
malignity by losing its grossness'; but public virtue ceases to be
useful when it sickens at the calamities of necessary war. The
moment that nations become confident of security, they give way to
corruption. The evils and dangers of war seem as requisite for the
preservation of public morals as the laws themselves; at least it is
the melancholy moral of history, that when nations resolve to be
peaceful with respect to their neighbours, they begin to be vicious
with respect to themselves. But to return to the travellers.
On the 14th of December they hired a boat with fourteen men and ten
oars, and sailed to Salona; thence they proceeded to Crisso, and rode
on to Delphi, ascending the mountain on horseback, by a steep, craggy
path towards the north-east. After scaling the side of Parnassus for
about an hour, they saw vast masses of rock, and fragments of stone,
piled in a perilous manner above them, with niches and sepulchres,
and relics, and remains on all sides.
They visited and drank of Castalia, and the prophetic font, Cassotis;
but still, like every other traveller, they were disappointed.
Parnassus is an emblem of the fortune that attends the votaries of
the Muses, harsh, rugged, and barren. The woods that once waved on
Delphi's steep have all passed away, and may now be sought in vain.
A few traces of terraces may yet be discovered--here and there the
stump of a column, while niches for receiving votive offerings are
numerous among the cliffs, but it is a lone and dismal place;
Desolation sits with Silence, and Ruin there is so decayed as to be
Parnassus is not so much a single mountain as the loftiest of a
range; the cloven summit appears most conspicuous when seen from the
south. The northern view is, however, more remarkable, for the cleft
is less distinguishable, and seven lower peaks suggest, in
contemplation with the summits, the fancy of so many seats of the
Muses. These peaks, nine in all, are the first of the hills which
receive the rising sun, and the last that in the evening part with
From Delphi the travellers proceeded towards Livadia, passing in the
course of the journey the confluence of the three roads where OEdipus
slew his father, an event with its hideous train of fatalities which
could not be recollected by Byron on the spot, even after the tales
of guilt he had gathered in his Albanian journeys, without agitating
At Livadia they remained the greater part of three days, during which
they examined with more than ordinary minuteness the cave of
Trophonius, and the streams of the Hercyna, composed of the mingled
waters of the two fountains of Oblivion and Memory.
From Livadia, after visiting the battlefield of Chaeronea (the
birthplace of Plutarch), and also many of the almost innumerable
storied and consecrated spots in the neighbourhood, the travellers
proceeded to Thebes--a poor town, containing about five hundred
wooden houses, with two shabby mosques and four humble churches. The
only thing worthy of notice in it is a public clock, to which the
inhabitants direct the attention of strangers as proudly as if it
were indeed one of the wonders of the world. There they still affect
to show the fountain of Dirce and the ruins of the house of Pindar.
But it is unnecessary to describe the numberless relics of the famous
things of Greece, which every hour, as they approached towards
Athens, lay more and more in their way. Not that many remarkable
objects met their view; yet fragments of antiquity were often seen,
though many of them were probably brought far from the edifices to
which they had originally belonged; not for their beauty, or on
account of the veneration which the sight of them inspired, but
because they would burn into better lime than the coarser rock of the
lulls. Nevertheless, abased and returned into rudeness as all things
were, the presence of Greece was felt, and Byron could not resist the
inspirations of her genius.
Fair Greece! sad relic of departed worth!
Immortal! though no more; though fallen, great;
Who now shall lead thy scatter'd children forth
And long-accustom'd bondage uncreate?
Not such thy Sons who whilom did await,
The hopeless warriors of a willing doom,
In bleak Thermopylae's sepulchral strait:
Oh! who that gallant spirit shall resume,
Leap from Eurotas' banks, and call thee from the tomb!
In the course of the afternoon of the day after they had left Thebes,
in attaining the summit of a mountain over which their road lay, the
travellers beheld Athens at a distance, rising loftily, crowned with
the Acropolis in the midst of the plain, the sea beyond, and the
misty hills of Egina blue in the distance.
On a rugged rock rising abruptly on the right, near to the spot where
this interesting vista first opened, they beheld the remains of the
ancient walls of Phyle, a fortress which commanded one of the passes
from Baeotia into Attica, and famous as the retreat of the chief
patriots concerned in destroying the thirty tyrants of Athens.
Spirit of freedom! when on Phyle's brow
Thou sat'st with Thrasybulus and his train,
Couldst thou forebode the dismal hour which now
Dims the green beauties of thine Attic plain?
Not thirty tyrants now enforce the chain,
But every carle can lord it o'er thy land;
Nor rise thy sons, but idly rail in vain,
Trembling beneath the scourge of Turkish hand,
From birth till death enslaved; in word, in deed unmann'd.
Such was the condition in which the poet found the country as he
approached Athens; and although the spirit he invoked has reanimated
the dejected race he then beheld around him, the traveller who even
now revisits the country will still look in vain for that lofty mien
which characterises the children of liberty. The fetters of the
Greeks have been struck off, but the blains and excoriated marks of
slavery are still conspicuous upon them; the sinister eye, the
fawning voice, the skulking, crouching, base demeanour, time and many
conflicts only can efface.
The first view of the city was fleeting and unsatisfactory; as the
travellers descended from the mountains the windings of the road
among the hills shut it out. Having passed the village of Casha,
they at last entered upon the slope, and thence into the plain of
Attica but the intervening heights and the trees kept the town
concealed, till a turn of the path brought it full again before them;
the Acropolis crowned with the ruins of the Parthenon--the Museum
hill--and the Monument of Philopappus--
Ancient of Days--august Athena! where,
Where are thy men of might? thy grand in soul?
Gone--glimmering through the dreams of things that were:
First in the race that led to glory's goal,
They won, and pass'd away:--is this the whole?
A schoolboy's tale, the wonder of an hour!
The warrior's weapon, and the sophist's stole
Are sought in vain, and o'er each mouldering tower,
Dim with the mist of years, gray flits the shade of power.
Athens--Byron's Character of the modern Athenians--Visit to Eleusis--
Visit to the Caverns at Vary and Keratea--Lost in the Labyrinths of
It has been justly remarked, that were there no other vestiges of the
ancient world in existence than those to be seen at Athens, they are
still sufficient of themselves to justify the admiration entertained
for the genius of Greece. It is not, however, so much on account of
their magnificence as of their exquisite beauty, that the fragments
obtain such idolatrous homage from the pilgrims to the shattered
shrines of antiquity. But Lord Byron had no feeling for art, perhaps
it would be more correct to say he affected none: still, Athens was
to him a text, a theme; and when the first rush of curiosity has been
satisfied, where else can the palled fancy find such a topic.
To the mere antiquary, this celebrated city cannot but long continue
interesting, and to the classic enthusiast, just liberated from the
cloisters of his college, the scenery and the ruins may for a season
inspire delight. Philosophy may there point her moral apophthegms
with stronger emphasis, virtue receive new incitements to
perseverance, by reflecting on the honour which still attends the
memory of the ancient great, and patriotism there more pathetically
deplore the inevitable effects of individual corruption on public
glory; but to the man who seeks a solace from misfortune, or is "a-
weary of the sun"; how wretched, how solitary, how empty is Athens!
Yet to the remnants of thy splendour past
Shall pilgrims, pensive, but unwearied throng;
Long shall the voyager, with th' Ionian blast,
Hail the bright clime of battle and of song;
Long shall thy annals and immortal tongue
Fill with thy fame the youth of many a shore;
Boast of the aged! lesson of the young!
Which sages venerate and bards adore,
As Pallas and the Muse unveil their awful lore!
Of the existing race of Athenians Byron has observed, that they are
remarkable for their cunning: "Among the various foreigners resident
in Athens there was never a difference of opinion in their estimate
of the Greek character, though on all other topics they disputed with
great acrimony. M. Fauvel, the French consul, who has passed thirty
years at Athens, frequently declared in my hearing, that the Greeks
do not deserve to be emancipated, reasoning on the ground of their
national and individual depravity--while he forgot that such
depravity is to be attributed to causes which can only be removed by
the measures he reprobates.
"M. Roque, a French merchant of respectability long settled in
Athens, asserted with the most amusing gravity, 'Sir, they are the
same canaille that existed in the days of Themistocles.' The
ancients banished Themistocles; the moderns cheat Monsieur Roque:
thus great men have ever been treated.
"In short, all the Franks who are fixtures, and most of the
Englishmen, Germans, Danes, etc., of passage, came over by degrees to
their opinion, on much the same grounds that a Turk in England would
condemn the nation by wholesale, because he was wronged by his lackey
and overcharged by his washerwoman. Certainly, it was not a little
staggering when the Sieurs Fauvel and Lusieri, the two greatest
demagogues of the day, who divide between them the power of Pericles
and the popularity of Cleon, and puzzle the poor Waywode with
perpetual differences, agreed in the utter condemnation of the Greeks
in general, and of the Athenians in particular."
I have quoted his Lordship thus particularly because after his
arrival at Athens he laid down his pen. Childe Harold there
disappears. Whether he had written the pilgrimage up to that point
at Athens I have not been able to ascertain; while I am inclined to
think it was so, as I recollect he told me there that he had then
described or was describing the reception he had met with at
Tepellene from Ali Pasha.
After having halted some time at Athens, where they established their
headquarters, the travellers, when they had inspected the principal
antiquities of the city (those things which all travellers must
visit), made several excursions into the environs, and among other
places went to Eleusis.
On the 13th of January they mounted earlier than usual, and set out
on that road which has the site of the Academy and the Colonos, the
retreat of OEdipus during his banishment, a little to the right; they
then entered the Olive Groves, crossed the Cephessus, and came to an
open, well-cultivated plain, extending on the left to the Piraeus and
the sea. Having ascended by a gentle acclivity through a pass, at
the distance of eight or ten miles from Athens, the ancient
Corydallus, now called Daphnerouni, they came, at the bottom of a
piney mountain, to the little monastery of Daphne, the appearance and
situation of which are in agreeable unison. The monastery was then
fast verging into that state of the uninhabitable picturesque so much
admired by young damsels and artists of a romantic vein. The pines
on the adjacent mountains hiss as they ever wave their boughs, and
somehow, such is the lonely aspect of the place, that their hissing
may be imagined to breathe satire against the pretensions of human
After passing through the hollow valley in which this monastic
habitation is situated, the road sharply turns round an elbow of the
mountain, and the Eleusinian plain opens immediately in front. It
is, however, for a plain, but of small dimensions. On the left is
the Island of Salamis, and the straits where the battle was fought;
but neither of it nor of the mysteries for which the Temple of Ceres
was for so many ages celebrated, has the poet given us description or
suggestion; and yet few topics among all his wild and wonderful
subjects were so likely to have furnished such "ample room, and verge
enough" to his fancy.
The next excursion in any degree interesting, it a qualification of
that kind can be applied to excursions, in Attica, was to Cape
Colonna. Crossing the bed of the Ilissus and keeping nearer to Mount
Hymettus, the travellers arrived at Vary, a farm belonging to the
monastery of Agios Asomatos, and under the charge of a caloyer. Here
they stopped for the night, and being furnished with lights, and
attended by the caloyer's servant as a guide, they proceeded to
inspect the Paneum, or sculptured cavern in that neighbourhood, into
which they descended. Having satisfied their curiosity there, they
proceeded, in the morning, to Keratea, a small town containing about
two hundred and fifty houses, chiefly inhabited by rural Albanians.
The wetness of the weather obliged them to remain several days at
Keratea, during which they took the opportunity of a few hours of
sunshine to ascend the mountain of Parne in quest of a cave of which
many wonderful things were reported in the country. Having found the
entrance, kindled their pine torches, and taken a supply of strips of
the same wood, they let themselves down through a narrow aperture;
creeping still farther down, they came into what seemed a large
subterranean hall, arched as it were with high cupolas of crystal,
and divided into long aisles by columns of glittering spar, in some
parts spread into wide horizontal chambers, in others terminated by
the dark mouths of deep and steep abysses receding into the interior
of the mountain.
The travellers wandered from one grotto to another until they came to
a fountain of pure water, by the side of which they lingered some
time, till, observing that their torches were wasting, they resolved
to return; but after exploring the labyrinth for a few minutes, they
found themselves again close beside this mysterious spring. It was
not without reason they then became alarmed, for the guide confessed
with trepidation that he had forgotten the intricacies of the cave,
and knew not how to recover the outlet.
Byron often described this adventure with spirit and humour,
magnifying both his own and his friend's terrors; and though, of
course, there was caricature in both, yet the distinction was
characteristic. Mr Hobhouse, being of a more solid disposition
naturally, could discern nothing but a grave cause for dread in being
thus lost in the bowels of the earth; Byron, however, described his
own anxiety as a species of excitement and titillation which moved
him to laughter. Their escape from starvation and being buried alive
was truly providential.
While roaming in a state of despair from cave to cell; climbing up
narrow apertures; their last pine-torch fast consuming; totally
ignorant of their position, and all around darkness, they discovered,
as it were by accident, a ray of light gleaming towards them; they
hastened towards it, and arrived at the mouth of the cave.
Although the poet has not made any use of this incident in
description, the actual experience which it gave him of what despair
is, could not but enrich his metaphysical store, and increase his
knowledge of terrible feelings; of the workings of the darkest and
dreadest anticipations--slow famishing death--cannibalism and the
rage of self-devouring hunger.
Proceed from Keratea to Cape Colonna--Associations connected with the
Spot--Second-hearing of the Albanians--Journey to Marathon--Effect of
his Adventures on the Mind of the Poet--Return to Athens--I join the
Travellers there--Maid of Athens
From Keratea the travellers proceeded to Cape Colonna, by the way of
Katapheke. The road was wild and rude, but the distant view of the
ruins of the temple of Minerva, standing on the loneliness of the
promontory, would have repaid them for the trouble, had the road been
This once elegant edifice was of the Doric order, a hexastyle, the
columns twenty-seven feet in height. It was built entirely of white
marble, and esteemed one of the finest specimens of architecture.
The rocks on which the remains stand are celebrated alike by the
English and the Grecian muses; for it was amid them that Falconer
laid the scene of his Shipwreck; and the unequalled description of
the climate of Greece, in The Giaour, was probably inspired there,
although the poem was written in London. It was also here, but not
on this occasion, that the poet first became acquainted with the
Albanian belief in second-hearing, to which he alludes in the same
Deep in whose darkly-boding ear
The death-shot peal'd of murder near.
"This superstition of a second-hearing," says Lord Byron, "fell once
under my own observation. On my third journey to Cape Colonna, as we
passed through the defile that leads from the hamlet between Keratea
and Colonna, I observed Dervish Tahiri (one of his Albanian servants)
riding rather out of the path, and leaning his head upon his hand as
if in pain. I rode up and inquired. 'We are in peril!' he answered.
'What peril? we are not now in Albania, nor in the passes to Ephesus,
Missolonghi, or Lepanto; there are plenty of us well armed, and the
Choriotes have not courage to be thieves.'--'True, Affendi; but,
nevertheless, the shot is ringing in my ears.'--'The shot! not a
tophaike has been fired this morning.'--'I hear it, notwithstanding--
bom--bom--as plainly as I hear your voice.'--'Bah.'--'As you please,
Affendi; if it is written, so will it be.'
"I left this quick-eared predestinarian, and rode up to Basili, his
Christian compatriot, whose ears, though not at all prophetic, by no
means relished the intelligence. We all arrived at Colonna, remained
some hours, and returned leisurely, saying a variety of brilliant
things, in more languages than spoiled the building of Babel, upon
the mistaken seer; Romaic, Arnaout, Turkish, Italian, and English
were all exercised, in various conceits, upon the unfortunate
Mussulman. While we were contemplating the beautiful prospect,
Dervish was occupied about the columns. I thought he was deranged
into an antiquarian, and asked him if he had become a palaocastro
man. 'No,' said he, 'but these pillars will be useful in making a
stand' and added some remarks, which at least evinced his own belief
in his troublesome faculty of fore-hearing.
"On our return to Athens we heard from Leone (a prisoner set on shore
some days after) of the intended attack of the Mainotes, with the
cause of its not taking place. I was at some pains to question the
man, and he described the dresses, arms, and marks of the horses of
our party so accurately, that, with other circumstances, we could not
doubt of his having been in 'villainous company,' and ourselves in a
bad neighbourhood. Dervish became a soothsayer for life, and I dare
say is now hearing more musketry than ever will be fired, to the
great refreshment of the Arnaouts of Berat and his native mountains.
"In all Attica, if we except Athens itself, and Marathon," Byron
remarks, "there is no scene more interesting than Cape Colonna. To
the antiquary and artist, sixteen columns are an inexhaustible source
of observation and design; to the philosopher the supposed scene of
some of Plato's conversations will not be unwelcome; and the
traveller will be struck with the prospect over 'Isles that crown the
AEgean deep.' But, for an Englishman, Colonna has yet an additional
interest in being the actual spot of Falconer's Shipwreck. Pallas
and Plato are forgotten in the recollection of Falconer and Campbell.
"There, in the dead of night, by Donna's steep,
The seamen's cry was heard along the deep."
From the ruins of the temple the travellers returned to Keratea, by
the eastern coast of Attica, passing through that district of country
where the silver mines are situated; which, according to Sir George
Wheler, were worked with some success about a hundred and fifty years
ago. They then set out for Marathon, taking Rapthi in their way;
where, in the lesser port, on a steep rocky island, they beheld, from
a distance, the remains of a colossal statue. They did not, however,
actually inspect it, but it has been visited by other travellers, who
have described it to be of white marble, sedent on a pedestal. The
head and arms are broken off; but when entire, it is conjectured to
have been twelve feet in height. As they were passing round the
shore they heard the barking of dogs, and a shout from a shepherd,
and on looking round saw a large dun-coloured wolf, galloping slowly
through the bushes.
Such incidents and circumstances, in the midst of the most romantic
scenery of the world, with wild and lawless companions, and a
constant sense of danger, were full of poetry, and undoubtedly
contributed to the formation of the peculiar taste of Byron's genius.
As it has been said of Salvator Rosa, the painter, that he derived
the characteristic savage force of his pencil from his youthful
adventures with banditti; it may be added of Byron, that much of his
most distinguished power was the result of his adventures as a
traveller in Greece. His mind and memory were filled with stores of
the fittest imagery, to supply becoming backgrounds and appendages,
to the characters and enterprises which he afterward depicted with
such truth of nature and poetical effect.
After leaving Rapthi, keeping Mount Pentilicus on the left, the
travellers came in sight of the ever-celebrated Plain of Marathon.
The evening being advanced, they passed the barrow of the Athenian
slain unnoticed, but next morning they examined minutely the field of
battle, and fancied they had made antiquarian discoveries. In their
return to Athens they inspected the different objects of research and
fragments of antiquity, which still attract travellers, and with the
help of Chandler and Pausanias, endeavoured to determine the local
habitation and the name of many things, of which the traditions have
perished and the forms have relapsed into rock.
Soon after their arrival at Athens, Mr Hobhouse left Lord Byron to
visit the Negropont, where he was absent some few days. I think he
had only been back three or four when I arrived from Zante. My visit
to Athens at that period was accidental. I had left Malta with the
intention of proceeding to Candia, by Specia, and Idra; but a
dreadful storm drove us up the Adriatic, as far as Valona; and in
returning, being becalmed off the Island of Zante, I landed there,
and allowed the ship, with my luggage, to proceed to her destination,
having been advised to go on by the Gulf of Corinth to Athens; from
which place, I was informed, there would be no difficulty in
recovering my trunks.
In carrying this arrangement into effect, I was induced to go aside
from the direct route, and to visit Velhi Pasha, at Tripolizza, to
whom I had letters. Returning by Argos and Corinth, I crossed the
isthmus, and taking the road by Megara, reached Athens on the 20th of
February. In the course of this journey, I heard of two English
travellers being in the city; and on reaching the convent of the
Propaganda, where I had been advised to take up my lodgings, the
friar in charge of the house informed me of their names. Next
morning, Mr Hobhouse, having heard of my arrival, kindly called on
me, and I accompanied him to Lord Byron, who then lodged with the
widow of a Greek, who had been British Consul. She was, I believe, a
respectable person, with several daughters; one of whom has been
rendered more famous by his Lordship's verses than her degree of
beauty deserved. She was a pale and pensive-looking girl, with
regular Grecian features. Whether he really cherished any sincere
attachment to her I much doubt. I believe his passion was equally
innocent and poetical, though he spoke of buying her from her mother.
It was to this damsel that he addressed the stanzas beginning,
Maid of Athens, ere we part,
Give, oh! give me back my heart.
Occupation at Athens--Mount Pentilicus--We descend into the Caverns--
Return to Athens--A Greek Contract of Marriage--Various Athenian and
Albanian Superstitions--Effect of their Impression on the Genius of
During his residence at Athens, Lord Byron made almost daily
excursions on horseback, chiefly for exercise and to see the
localities of celebrated spots. He affected to have no taste for the
arts, and he certainly took but little pleasure in the examination of
The marble quarry of Mount Pentilicus, from which the materials for
the temples and principal edifices of Athens are supposed to have
been brought, was, in those days, one of the regular staple
curiosities of Greece. This quarry is a vast excavation in the side
of the hill; a drapery of woodbine hangs like the festoons of a
curtain over the entrance; the effect of which, seen from the
outside, is really worth looking at, but not worth the trouble of
riding three hours over a road of rude and rough fragments to see:
the interior is like that of any other cavern. To this place I one
day was induced to accompany the two travellers.
We halted at a monastery close by the foot of the mountain, where we
procured a guide, and ate a repast of olives and fried eggs. Dr
Chandler says that the monks, or caloyers, of this convent are
summoned to prayers by a tune which is played on a piece of an iron
hoop; and, on the outside of the church, we certainly saw a piece of
crooked iron suspended. When struck, it uttered a bell-like sound,
by which the hour of prayer was announced. What sort of tune could
be played on such an instrument the doctor has judiciously left his
readers to imagine.
When we reached the mouth of the grotto, by that "very bad track"
which the learned personage above mentioned clambered up, we saw the
ruins of the building which the doctor at first thought had been
possibly a hermit's cell; but which, upon more deliberate reflection,
he became of opinion "was designed, perhaps, for a sentinel to look
out, and regulate, by signals, the approach of the men and teams
employed in carrying marble to the city." This, we agreed, was a
very sagacious conjecture. It was, indeed, highly probable that
sentinels were appointed to regulate, by signals, the manoeuvres of
carts coming to fetch away stones.
Having looked at the outside of the quarry, and the guide having
lighted candles, we entered into the interior, and beheld on all
sides what Dr Chandler saw, "chippings of marble." We then
descended, consecutively, into a hole, just wide enough to let a man
pass; and when we had descended far enough, we found ourselves in a
cell, or cave; it might be some ten or twelve feet square. Here we
stopped, and, like many others who had been there before us,
attempted to engrave our names. Mine was without success; Lord
Byron's was not much better; but Mr Hobhouse was making some progress
to immortality, when the blade of his knife snapped, or shutting
suddenly, cut his finger. These attempts having failed, we inscribed
our initials on the ceiling with the smoke of our candles. After
accomplishing this notable feat, we got as well out of the scrape as
we could, and returned to Athens by the village of Callandris. In
the evening, after dinner, as there happened to be a contract of
marriage performing in the neighbourhood, we went to see the
Between the contract and espousal two years are generally permitted
to elapse among the Greeks in the course of which the bride,
according to the circumstances of her relations, prepares domestic
chattels for her future family. The affections are rarely consulted
on either side, for the mother of the bridegroom commonly arranges
the match for her son. In this case, the choice had been evidently
made according to the principle on which Mrs Primrose chose her
wedding gown; viz. for the qualities that would wear well. For the
bride was a stout household quean; her face painted with vermilion,
and her person arrayed in uncouth embroidered garments.
Unfortunately, we were disappointed of seeing the ceremony, as it was
over before we arrived.
This incident led me to inquire particularly into the existing usages
and customs of the Athenians; and I find in the notes of my journal
of the evening of that day's adventures, a memorandum of a curious
practice among the Athenian maidens when they become anxious to get
husbands. On the first evening of the new moon, they put a little
honey, a little salt, and a piece of bread on a plate, which they
leave at a particular spot on the east bank of the Ilissus, near the
Stadium, and muttering some ancient words, to the effect that Fate
may send them a handsome young man, return home, and long for the
fulfilment of the charm. On mentioning this circumstance to the
travellers, one of them informed me, that above the spot where these
offerings are made, a statue of Venus, according to Pausanias,
formerly stood. It is, therefore, highly probable that what is now a
superstitious, was anciently a religious rite.
At this period my fellow-passengers were full of their adventures in
Albania. The country was new, and the inhabitants had appeared to
them a bold and singular race. In addition to the characteristic
descriptions which I have extracted from Lord Byron's notes, as well
as Mr Hobhouse's travels, I am indebted to them, as well as to
others, for a number of memoranda obtained in conversation, which
they have themselves neglected to record, but which probably became
unconsciously mingled with the recollections of both; at least, I can
discern traces of them in different parts of the poet's works.
The Albanians are a race of mountaineers, and it has been often
remarked that mountaineers, more than any other people, are attached
to their native land, while no other have so strong a thirst of
adventure. The affection which they cherish for the scenes of their
youth tends, perhaps, to excite their migratory spirit. For the
motive of their adventures is to procure the means of subsisting in
ease at home.
This migratory humour is not, however, universal to the Albanians,
but applies only to those who go in quest of rural employment, and
who are found in a state of servitude among even the Greeks. It
deserves, however, to be noticed, that with the Greeks they rarely
ever mix or intermarry, and that they retain both their own national
dress and manners unchanged among them. Several of their customs are
singular. It is, for example, in vain to ask a light or any fire
from the houses of the Albanians after sunset, if the husband or head
of the family be still afield; a custom in which there is more of
police regulation than of superstition, as it interdicts a plausible
pretext for entering the cottages in the obscurity of twilight, when
the women are defenceless by the absence of the men.
Some of their usages, with respect to births, baptisms, and burials,
are also curious. When the mother feels the fulness of time at hand,
the priestess of Lucina, the midwife, is duly summoned, and she comes
bearing in her hand a tripod, better known as a three-legged stool,
the uses of which are only revealed to the initiated. She is
received by the matronly friends of the mother, and begins the
mysteries by opening every lock and lid in the house. During this
ceremony the maiden females are excluded.
The rites which succeed the baptism of a child are still more
recondite. Four or five days after the christening, the midwife
prepares, with her own mystical hands, certain savoury messes,
spreads a table, and places them on it. She then departs, and all
the family, leaving the door open, in silence retire to sleep. This
table is covered for the Miri of the child, an occult being, that is
supposed to have the care of its destiny. In the course of the
night, if the child is to be fortunate, the Miri comes and partakes
of the feast, generally in the shape of a cat; but if the Miri do not
come, nor taste of the food, the child is considered to have been
doomed to misfortune and misery; and no doubt the treatment it
afterwards receives is consonant to its evil predestination.
The Albanians have, like the vulgar of all countries, a species of
hearth or household superstitions, distinct from their wild and
imperfect religion. They imagine that mankind, after death, become
voorthoolakases, and often pay visits to their friends and foes for
the same reasons, and in the same way, that our own country ghosts
walk abroad; and their visiting hour is, also, midnight. But the
collyvillory is another sort of personage. He delights in mischief
and pranks, and is, besides, a lewd and foul spirit; and, therefore,
very properly detested. He is let loose on the night of the
nativity, with licence for twelve nights to plague men's wives; at
which time some one of the family must keep wakeful vigil all the
livelong night, beside a clear and cheerful fire, otherwise this
naughty imp would pour such an aqueous stream on the hearth, that
fire could never be kindled there again.
The Albanians are also pestered with another species of malignant
creatures; men and women whose gifts are followed by misfortunes,
whose eyes glimpse evil, and by whose touch the most prosperous
affairs are blasted. They work their malicious sorceries in the
dark, collect herbs of baleful influence; by the help of which, they
strike their enemies with palsy, and cattle with distemper. The
males are called maissi, and the females maissa--witches and
Besides these curious superstitious peculiarities, they have among
them persons who pretend to know the character of approaching events
by hearing sounds which resemble those that shall accompany the
actual occurrence. Having, however, given Lord Byron's account of
the adventure of his servant Dervish, at Cape Colonna, it is
unnecessary to be more particular with the subject here. Indeed, but
for the great impression which everything about the Albanians made on
the mind of the poet, the insertion of these memoranda would be
irrelevant. They will, however, serve to elucidate several
allusions, not otherwise very clear, in those poems of which the
scenes are laid in Greece; and tend, in some measure, to confirm the
correctness of the opinion, that his genius is much more indebted to
facts and actual adventures, than to the force of his imagination.
Many things regarded in his most original productions, as fancies and
invention, may be traced to transactions in which he was himself a
spectator or an actor. The impress of experience is vivid upon them
Local Pleasures--Byron's Grecian Poems--His Departure from Athens--
Description of Evening in "The Corsair"--The Opening of "The Giaour"-
-State of Patriotic Feeling then in Greece--Smyrna--Change in Lord
The genii that preside over famous places have less influence on the
imagination than on the memory. The pleasures enjoyed on the spot
spring from the reminiscences of reading; and the subsequent
enjoyment derived from having visited celebrated scenes, comes again
from the remembrance of objects seen there, and the associations
connected with them.
A residence at Athens, day after day, is but little more interesting
than in a common country town: but afterwards, in reading either of
the ancient or of the modern inhabitants, it is surprising to find
how much local knowledge the memory had unconsciously acquired on the
spot, arising from the variety of objects to which the attention had
The best of all Byron's works, the most racy and original, are
undoubtedly those which relate to Greece; but it is only travellers
who have visited the scenes that can appreciate them properly. In
them his peculiar style and faculty are most eminent; in all his
other productions, imitation, even mere translation may be often
traced, and though, without question, everything he touched became
transmuted into something more beautiful and precious, yet he was
never so masterly as in describing the scenery of Greece, and
Albanian manners. In a general estimate of his works, it may be
found that he has produced as fine or finer passages than any in his
Grecian poems; but their excellence, either as respects his own, or
the productions of others, is comparative. In the Grecian poems he
is only truly original; in them the excellence is all his own, and
they possess the rare and distinguished quality of being as true to
fact and nature, as they are brilliant in poetical expression.
Childe Harold's Pilgrimage is the most faithful descriptive poem
which has been written since the Odyssey; and the occasional scenes
introduced into the other poems, when the action is laid in Greece,
are equally vivid and glowing.
When I saw him at Athens, the spring was still shrinking in the bud.
It was not until he returned from Constantinople in the following
autumn, that he saw the climate and country with those delightful
aspects which he has delineated with so much felicity in The Giaour
and The Corsair. It may, however, be mentioned, that the fine
description of a calm sunset, with which the third canto of The
Corsair opens, has always reminded me of the evening before his
departure from Athens, owing to the circumstance of my having, in the
course of the day, visited the spot which probably suggested the
It was the 4th of March, 1810; the Pylades sloop of war came that
morning into the Piraeus, and landed Dr Darwin, a son of the poet,
with his friend, Mr Galton, who had come out in her for a cruise.
Captain Ferguson, her commander, was so kind as to offer the English
then in Athens, viz., Lord Byron, Mr Hobhouse, and myself, a passage
to Smyrna. As I had not received my luggage from Specia, I could not
avail myself of the offer, but the other two did: I accompanied
Captain Ferguson, however, and Dr Darwin, in a walk to the Straits of
Salamis; the ship, in the meantime, after landing them, having been
It was one of those serene and cloudless days of the early spring,
when the first indications of leaf and blossom may just be discerned.
The islands slept, as it were, on their glassy couch, and a slight
dun haze hung upon the mountains, as if they too were drowsy. After
an easy walk of about two hours, passing through the olive groves,
and along the bottom of the hill on which Xerxes sat to view the
battle, we came opposite to a little cove near the ferry, and made a
signal to the ship for a boat. Having gone on board and partaken of
some refreshment, the boat then carried us back to the Piraeus, where
we landed, about an hour before sundown--all the wide landscape
presenting at the time the calm and genial tranquillity which is
almost experienced anew in reading these delicious lines:
Slow sinks more lovely e'er his race be run,
Along Morea's hills, the setting sun
Not, as in northern climes, obscurely bright,
But one unclouded blaze of living light.
O'er the hush'd deep the yellow beam he throws,
Gilds the green wave that trembles as it flows.
On old Egina's rock, and Idra's isle,
The god of gladness sheds his parting smile;
O'er his own regions lingering, loves to shine,
Though there his altars are no more divine;--
Descending fast, the mountain shadows kiss
Thy glorious gulf, unconquer'd Salamis!
Their azure arches, through the long expanse,
More deeply purpled meet his mellowing glance,
And tenderest tints, along their summits driven,
Mark his gay course, and own the hues of heaven;
Till darkly shaded from the land and deep,
Behind his Delphian cliff he sinks to sleep.
The opening of The Giaour is a more general description, but the
locality is distinctly marked by reference to the tomb above the
rocks of the promontory, commonly said to be that of Themistocles;
and yet the scene included in it certainly is rather the view from
Cape Colonna, than from the heights of Munychia.
No breath of air to break the wave
That rolls below the Athenian's grave,
That tomb, which, gleaming o'er the cliff,
First greets the homeward-veering skiff,
High o'er the land he saved in vain--
When shall such hero live again!