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By the Ionian Sea by George Gissing

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Edited by Charles Aldarondo (aldarondo@yahoo.com)






This is the third day of sirocco, heavy-clouded, sunless. All the
colour has gone out of Naples; the streets are dusty and stifling. I
long for the mountains and the sea.

To-morrow I shall leave by the Messina boat, which calls at Paola.
It is now more than a twelvemonth since I began to think of Paola,
and an image of the place has grown in my mind. I picture a little
_marina_; a yellowish little town just above; and behind, rising
grandly, the long range of mountains which guard the shore of
Calabria. Paola has no special interest that I know of, but it is
the nearest point on the coast to Cosenza, which has interest in
abundance; by landing here I make a modestly adventurous beginning
of my ramble in the South. At Paola foreigners are rare; one may
count upon new impressions, and the journey over the hills will be

Were I to lend ear to the people with whom I am staying, here in the
Chiatamone, I should either abandon my project altogether or set
forth with dire misgivings. They are Neapolitans of the better
class; that is to say, they have known losses, and talk of their
former happiness, when they lived on the Chiaia and had everything
handsome about them. The head of the family strikes me as a typical
figure; he is an elderly man, with a fine head, a dignified
presence, and a coldly courteous demeanour. By preference he speaks
French, and his favourite subject is Paris. One observes in him
something like disdain for his own country, which in his mind is
associated only with falling fortunes and loss of self-respect. The
cordial Italian note never sounds in his talk. The _signora_ (also a
little ashamed of her own language) excites herself about taxation
--as well she may--and dwells with doleful vivacity on family
troubles. Both are astonished at my eccentricity and hardiness in
undertaking a solitary journey through the wild South. Their
geographical notions are vague; they have barely heard of Cosenza or
of Cotrone, and of Paola not at all; it would as soon occur to them
to set out for Morocco as for Calabria. How shall I get along with
people whose language is a barbarous dialect? Am I aware that the
country is in great part pestilential?--_la febbre_! Has no one
informed me that in autumn snows descend, and bury everything for
months? It is useless to explain that I only intend to visit places
easily accessible, that I shall travel mostly by railway, and that
if disagreeable weather sets in I shall quickly return northwards.
They look at me dubiously, and ask themselves (I am sure) whether I
have not some more tangible motive than a lover of classical
antiquity. It ends with a compliment to the enterprising spirit of
the English race.

I have purchases to make, business to settle, and I must go hither
and thither about the town. Sirocco, of course, dusks everything to
cheerless grey, but under any sky it is dispiriting to note the
changes in Naples. _Lo sventramento_ (the disembowelling) goes on,
and regions are transformed. It is a good thing, I suppose, that the
broad Corso Umberto I. should cut a way through the old Pendino; but
what a contrast between that native picturesqueness and the
cosmopolitan vulgarity which has usurped its place! "_Napoli se ne
va_!" I pass the Santa Lucia with downcast eyes, my memories of ten
years ago striving against the dulness of to-day. The harbour,
whence one used to start for Capri, is filled up; the sea has been
driven to a hopeless distance beyond a wilderness of dust-heaps.
They are going to make a long, straight embankment from the Castel
dell'Ovo to the Great Port, and before long the Santa Lucia will be
an ordinary street, shut in among huge houses, with no view at all.
Ah, the nights that one lingered here, watching the crimson glow
upon Vesuvius, tracing the dark line of the Sorrento promontory, or
waiting for moonlight to cast its magic upon floating Capri! The
odours remain; the stalls of sea-fruit are as yet undisturbed, and
the jars of the water-sellers; women still comb and bind each
other's hair by the wayside, and meals are cooked and eaten _al
fresco_ as of old. But one can see these things elsewhere, and Santa
Lucia was unique. It has become squalid. In the grey light of this
sad billowy sky, only its ancient foulness is manifest; there needs
the golden sunlight to bring out a suggestion of its ancient charm.

Has Naples grown less noisy, or does it only seem so to me? The men
with bullock carts are strangely quiet; their shouts have nothing
like the frequency and spirit of former days. In the narrow and
thronged Strada di Chiaia I find little tumult; it used to be
deafening. Ten years ago a foreigner could not walk here without
being assailed by the clamour of _cocchieri_; nay, he was pursued
from street to street, until the driver had spent every phrase of
importunate invitation; now, one may saunter as one will, with
little disturbance. Down on the Piliero, whither I have been to take
my passage for Paola, I catch but an echo of the jubilant uproar
which used to amaze me. Is Naples really so much quieter? If I had
time I would go out to Fuorigrotta, once, it seemed to me, the
noisiest village on earth, and see if there also I observed a
change. It would not be surprising if the modernization of the city,
together with the state of things throughout Italy, had a subduing
effect upon Neapolitan manners. In one respect the streets are
assuredly less gay. When I first knew Naples one was never,
literally never, out of hearing of a hand-organ; and these organs,
which in general had a peculiarly dulcet note, played the brightest
of melodies; trivial, vulgar if you will, but none the less
melodious, and dear to Naples. Now the sound of street music is
rare, and I understand that some police provision long since
interfered with the soft-tongued instruments. I miss them; for, in
the matter of music, it is with me as with Sir Thomas Browne. For
Italy the change is significant enough; in a few more years
spontaneous melody will be as rare at Naples or Venice as on the
banks of the Thames.

Happily, the musicians errant still strum their mandoline as you
dine. The old trattoria in the Toledo is as good as ever, as bright,
as comfortable. I have found my old corner in one of the little
rooms, and something of the old gusto for _zuppa di vongole_. The
homely wine of Posillipo smacks as in days gone by, and is commended
to one's lips by a song of the South. . . .

Last night the wind changed and the sky began to clear; this morning
I awoke in sunshine, and with a feeling of eagerness for my journey.
I shall look upon the Ionian Sea, not merely from a train or a
steamboat as before, but at long leisure: I shall see the shores
where once were Tarentum and Sybaris, Croton and Locri. Every man
has his intellectual desire; mine is to escape life as I know it and
dream myself into that old world which was the imaginative delight
of my boyhood. The names of Greece and Italy draw me as no others;
they make me young again, and restore the keen impressions of that
time when every new page of Greek or Latin was a new perception of
things beautiful. The world of the Greeks and Romans is my land of
romance; a quotation in either language thrills me strangely, and
there are passages of Greek and Latin verse which I cannot read
without a dimming of the eyes, which I cannot repeat aloud because
my voice fails me. In Magna Graecia the waters of two fountains
mingle and flow together; how exquisite will be the draught!

I drove with my luggage to the Immacolatella, and a boatman put me
aboard the steamer. Luggage, I say advisedly; it is a rather heavy
portmanteau, and I know it will be a nuisance. But the length of my
wanderings is so uncertain, its conditions are so vaguely
anticipated. I must have books if only for rainy days; I must have
clothing against a change of season. At one time I thought of taking
a mere wallet, and now I am half sorry that I altered my mind. But

We were not more than an hour after time in starting. Perfect
weather. I sang to myself with joy upon the sunny deck as we steamed
along the Bay, past Portici, and Torre del Greco, and into the
harbour of Torre Annunziata, where we had to take on cargo. I was
the only cabin passenger, and solitude suits me. All through the
warm and cloudless afternoon I sat looking at the mountains, trying
not to see that cluster of factory chimneys which rolled black fumes
above the many-coloured houses. They reminded me of the same
abomination on a shore more sacred; from the harbour of Piraeus one
looks to Athens through trails of coal-smoke. By a contrast pleasant
enough, Vesuvius to-day sent forth vapours of a delicate rose-tint,
floating far and breaking seaward into soft little fleeces of
cirrus. The cone, covered with sulphur, gleamed bright yellow
against cloudless blue.

The voyage was resumed at dinner-time; when I came upon deck again,
night had fallen. We were somewhere near Sorrento; behind us lay the
long curve of faint-glimmering lights on the Naples shore; ahead was
Capri. In profound gloom, though under a sky all set with stars, we
passed between the island and Cape Minerva; the haven of Capri
showed but a faint glimmer; over it towered mighty crags, an awful
blackness, a void amid constellations. From my seat near the stern
of the vessel I could discern no human form; it was as though I
voyaged quite alone in the silence of this magic sea. Silence so
all-possessing that the sound of the ship's engine could not reach
my ear, but was blended with the water-splash into a lulling murmur.
The stillness of a dead world laid its spell on all that lived.
To-day seemed an unreality, an idle impertinence; the real was that
long-buried past which gave its meaning to all around me, touching
the night with infinite pathos. Best of all, one's own being became
lost to consciousness; the mind knew only the phantasmal forms it
shaped, and was at peace in vision.



I slept little, and was very early on deck, scanning by the light of
dawn a mountainous coast. At sunrise I learnt that we were in sight
of Paola; as day spread gloriously over earth and sky, the vessel
hove to and prepared to land cargo. There, indeed, was the yellowish
little town which I had so long pictured; it stood at a considerable
height above the shore; harbour there was none at all, only a broad
beach of shingle on which waves were breaking, and where a cluster
of men, women and children stood gazing at the steamer. It gave me
pleasure to find the place so small and primitive. In no hurry to
land, I watched the unloading of merchandise (with a great deal of
shouting and gesticulation) into boats which had rowed out for the
purpose; speculated on the resources of Paola in the matter of food
(for I was hungry); and at moments cast an eye towards the mountain
barrier which it was probable I should cross to-day.

At last my portmanteau was dropped down on to the laden boat; I, as
best I could, managed to follow it; and on the top of a pile of rope
and empty flour-sacks we rolled landward. The surf was high; it cost
much yelling, leaping, and splashing to gain the dry beach.
Meanwhile, not without apprehension, I had eyed the group awaiting
our arrival; that they had their eyes on me was obvious, and I knew
enough of southern Italians to foresee my reception. I sprang into
the midst of a clamorous conflict; half a dozen men were quarreling
for possession of me. No sooner was my luggage on shore than they
flung themselves upon it. By what force of authority I know not, one
of the fellows triumphed; he turned to me with a satisfied smile,
and--presented his wife.

"_Mia sposa, signore_!"

Wondering, and trying to look pleased, I saw the woman seize the
portmanteau (a frightful weight), fling it on to her head, and march
away at a good speed. The crowd and I followed to the _dogana_,
close by, where as vigorous a search was made as I have ever had to
undergo. I puzzled the people; my arrival was an unwonted thing, and
they felt sure I was a trader of some sort. Dismissed under
suspicion, I allowed the lady to whom I had been introduced to guide
me townwards. Again she bore the portmanteau on her head, and
evidently thought it a trifle, but as the climbing road lengthened,
and as I myself began to perspire in the warm sunshine, I looked at
my attendant with uncomfortable feelings. It was a long and winding
way, but the woman continued to talk and laugh so cheerfully that I
tried to forget her toil. At length we reached a cabin where the
_dazio_ (town dues) officer presented himself, and this
conscientious person insisted on making a fresh examination of my
baggage; again I explained myself, again I was eyed suspiciously;
but he released me, and on we went. I had bidden my guide take me to
the best inn; it was the _Leone_, a little place which looked from
the outside like an ill-kept stable, but was decent enough within.
The room into which they showed me had a delightful prospect. Deep
beneath the window lay a wild, leafy garden, and lower on the
hillside a lemon orchard shining with yellow fruit; beyond, the
broad pebbly beach, far seen to north and south, with its white foam
edging the blue expanse of sea. There I descried the steamer from
which I had landed, just under way for Sicily. The beauty of this
view, and the calm splendour of the early morning, put me into
happiest mood. After little delay a tolerable breakfast was set
before me, with a good rough wine; I ate and drank by the window,
exulting in what I saw and all I hoped to see.

Guide-books had informed me that the _corriere_ (mail-diligence)
from Paola to Cosenza corresponded with the arrival of the Naples
steamer, and, after the combat on the beach, my first care was to
inquire about this. All and sundry made eager reply that the
_corriere_ had long since gone; that it started, in fact, at 5 A.M.,
and that the only possible mode of reaching Cosenza that day was to
hire a vehicle. Experience of Italian travel made me suspicious, but
it afterwards appeared that I had been told the truth. Clearly, if I
wished to proceed at once, I must open negotiations at my inn, and,
after a leisurely meal, I did so. Very soon a man presented himself
who was willing to drive me over the mountains--at a charge which
I saw to be absurd; the twinkle in his eye as he named the sum
sufficiently enlightened me. By the book it was no more than a
journey of four hours; my driver declared that it would take from
seven to eight. After a little discussion he accepted half the
original demand, and went off very cheerfully to put in his horses.

For an hour I rambled about the town's one street, very picturesque
and rich in colour, with rushing fountains where women drew fair
water in jugs and jars of antique beauty. Whilst I was thus
loitering in the sunshine, two well-dressed men approached me, and
with somewhat excessive courtesy began conversation. They understood
that I was about to drive to Cosenza. A delightful day, and a
magnificent country! They too thought of journeying to Cosenza, and,
in short, would I allow them to share my carriage? Now this was
annoying; I much preferred to be alone with my thoughts; but it
seemed ungracious to refuse. After a glance at their smiling faces,
I answered that whatever room remained in the vehicle was at their
service--on the natural understanding that they shared the
expense; and to this, with the best grace in the world, they at once
agreed. We took momentary leave of each other, with much bowing and
flourishing of hats, and the amusing thing was that I never beheld
those gentlemen again.

Fortunately--as the carriage proved to be a very small one, and
the sun was getting very hot; with two companions I should have had
an uncomfortable day. In front of the _Leone_ a considerable number
of loafers had assembled to see me off, and of these some half-dozen
were persevering mendicants. It disappointed me that I saw no
interesting costume; all wore the common, colourless garb of our
destroying age. The only vivid memory of these people which remains
with me is the cadence of their speech. Whilst I was breakfasting,
two women stood at gossip on a near balcony, and their utterance was
a curious exaggeration of the Neapolitan accent; every sentence rose
to a high note, and fell away in a long curve of sound, sometimes a
musical wail, more often a mere whining. The protraction of the last
word or two was really astonishing; again and again I fancied that
the speaker had broken into song. I cannot say that the effect was
altogether pleasant; in the end such talk would tell severely on
civilized nerves, but it harmonized with the coloured houses, the
luxuriant vegetation, the strange odours, the romantic landscape.

In front of the vehicle were three little horses; behind it was
hitched an old shabby two-wheeled thing, which we were to leave
somewhere for repairs. With whip-cracking and vociferation, amid
good-natured farewells from the crowd, we started away. It was just
ten o'clock.

At once the road began to climb, and nearly three hours were spent
in reaching the highest point of the mountain barrier. Incessantly
winding, often doubling upon itself, the road crept up the sides of
profound gorges, and skirted many a precipice; bridges innumerable
spanned the dry ravines which at another season are filled with
furious torrents. From the zone of orange and olive and cactus we
passed that of beech and oak, noble trees now shedding their
rich-hued foliage on bracken crisped and brown; here I noticed the
feathery bowers of wild clematis ("old man's beard"), and many a
spike of the great mullein, strange to me because so familiar in
English lanes. Through mists that floated far below I looked over
miles of shore, and outward to the ever-rising limit of sea and sky.
Very lovely were the effects of light, the gradations of colour;
from the blue-black abysses, where no shape could be distinguished,
to those violet hues upon the furrowed heights which had a
transparency, a softness, an indefiniteness, unlike anything to be
seen in northern landscape.

The driver was accompanied by a half-naked lad, who, at certain
points, suddenly disappeared, and came into view again after a few
minutes, having made a short cut up some rugged footway between the
loops of the road. Perspiring, even as I sat, in the blaze of the
sun, I envied the boy his breath and muscle. Now and then he slaked
his thirst at a stone fountain by the wayside, not without
reverencing the blue-hooded Madonna painted over it. A few lean,
brown peasants, bending under faggots, and one or two carts, passed
us before we gained the top, and half-way up there was a hovel where
drink could be bought; but with these exceptions nothing broke the
loneliness of the long, wild ascent. My man was not talkative, but
answered inquiries civilly; only on one subject was he very curt--
that of the two wooden crosses which we passed just before arriving
at the summit; they meant murders. At the moment when I spoke of
them I was stretching my legs in a walk beside the carriage, the
driver walking just in front of me; and something then happened
which is still a puzzle when I recall it. Whether the thought of
crimes had made the man nervous, or whether just then I wore a
peculiarly truculent face, or had made some alarming gesture, all of
a sudden he turned upon me, grasped my arm and asked sharply: "What
have you got in your hand?" I had a bit of fern, plucked a few
minutes before, and with surprise I showed it; whereupon he murmured
an apology, said something about making haste, and jumped to his
seat. An odd little incident.

At an unexpected turn of the road there spread before me a vast
prospect; I looked down upon inland Calabria. It was a valley broad
enough to be called a plain, dotted with white villages, and backed
by the mass of mountains which now, as in old time, bear the name of
Great Sila. Through this landscape flowed the river Crati--the
ancient Crathis; northward it curved, and eastward, to fall at
length into the Ionian Sea, far beyond my vision. The river Crathis,
which flowed by the walls of Sybaris. I stopped the horses to gaze
and wonder; gladly I would have stood there for hours. Less
interested, and impatient to get on, the driver pointed out to me
the direction of Cosenza, still at a great distance. He added the
information that, in summer, the well-to-do folk of Cosenza go to
Paola for sea-bathing, and that they always perform the journey by
night. I, listening carelessly amid my dream, tried to imagine the
crossing of those Calabrian hills under a summer sun! By summer
moonlight it must be wonderful.

We descended at a sharp pace, all the way through a forest of
chestnuts, the fruit already gathered, the golden leaves rustling in
their fall. At the foot lies the village of San Fili, and here we
left the crazy old cart which we had dragged so far. A little
further, and before us lay a long, level road, a true Roman highway,
straight for mile after mile. By this road the Visigoths must have
marched after the sack of Rome. In approaching Cosenza I was drawing
near to the grave of Alaric. Along this road the barbarian bore in
triumph those spoils of the Eternal City which were to enrich his

By this road, six hundred years before the Goth, marched Hannibal on
his sullen retreat from Italy, passing through Cosentia to embark at



It would have been prudent to consult with my driver as to the inns
of Cosenza. But, with a pardonable desire not to seem helpless in
his hands, I had from the first directed him to the _Due Lionetti_,
relying upon my guide-book. Even at Cosenza there is progress, and
guide-beooks to little-known parts of Europe are easily allowed to
fall out of date. On my arrival----

But, first of all, the _dazio_. This time it was a serious business;
impossible to convince the rather surly officer that certain of the
contents of my portmanteau were not for sale. What in the world was
I doing with _tanti libri_? Of course I was a commercial traveller;
ridiculous to pretend anything else. After much strain of courtesy,
I clapped to my luggage, locked it up, and with a resolute face
cried "Avanti!" And there was an end of it. In this case, as so
often, I have no doubt that simple curiosity went for much in the
man's pertinacious questioning. Of course the whole _dazio_ business
is ludicrous and contemptible; I scarce know a baser spectacle than
that of uniformed officials groping in the poor little bundles of
starved peasant women, mauling a handful of onions, or prodding with
long irons a cartload of straw. Did any one ever compare the
expenses with the results?

A glance shows the situation of Cosenza. The town is built on a
steep hillside, above the point where two rivers, flowing from the
valleys on either side, mingle their waters under one name, that of
the Crati. We drove over a bridge which spans the united current,
and entered a narrow street, climbing abruptly between houses so
high and so close together as to make a gloom amid sunshine. It was
four o'clock; I felt tired and half choked with dust; the thought of
rest and a meal was very pleasant. As I searched for the sign of my
inn, we suddenly drew up, midway in the dark street, before a darker
portal, which seemed the entrance to some dirty warehouse. The
driver jumped down--"Ecco l'albergo!"

I had seen a good many Italian hostelries, and nourished no
unreasonable expectations. The Lion at Paola would have seemed to
any untravelled Englishman a squalid and comfortless hole,
incredible as a place of public entertainment; the _Two Little
Lions_ of Cosenza made a decidedly worse impression. Over sloppy
stones, in an atmosphere heavy with indescribable stenches, I felt
rather than saw my way to the foot of a stone staircase; this I
ascended, and on the floor above found a dusky room, where
tablecloths and an odour of frying oil afforded some suggestion of
refreshment. My arrival interested nobody; with a good deal of
trouble I persuaded an untidy fellow, who seemed to be a waiter, to
come down with me and secure my luggage. More trouble before I could
find a bedroom; hunting for keys, wandering up and down stone stairs
and along pitch-black corridors, sounds of voices in quarrel. The
room itself was utterly depressing--so bare, so grimy, so dark.
Quickly I examined the bed, and was rewarded. It is the good point
of Italian inns; be the house and the room howsoever sordid, the bed
is almost invariably clean and dry and comfortable.

I ate, not amiss; I drank copiously to the memory of Alaric, and
felt equal to any fortune. When night had fallen I walked a little
about the scarce-lighted streets and came to an open place, dark and
solitary and silent, where I could hear the voices of the two
streams as they mingled below the hill. Presently I passed an open
office of some kind, where a pleasant-looking man sat at a table
writing; on an impulse I entered, and made bold to ask whether
Cosenza had no better inn than the _Due Lionetti_. Great was this
gentleman's courtesy; he laid down his pen, as if for ever, and gave
himself wholly to my concerns. His discourse delighted me, so
flowing were the phrases, so rounded the periods. Yes, there were
other inns; one at the top of the town--the _Vetere_--in a very
good position; and they doubtless excelled my own in modern comfort.
As a matter of fact, it might be avowed that the _Lionetti_, from
the point of view of the great centres of civilization, left
something to be desired--something to be desired; but it was a
good old inn, a reputable old inn, and probably on further

Further acquaintance did not increase my respect for the _Lionetti_;
it would not be easy to describe those features in which, most
notably, it fell short of all that might be desired. But I proposed
no long stay at Cosenza, where malarial fever is endemic, and it did
not seem worth while to change my quarters. I slept very well.

I had come here to think about Alaric, and with my own eyes to
behold the place of his burial. Ever since the first boyish reading
of Gibbon, my imagination has loved to play upon that scene of
Alaric's death. Thinking to conquer Sicily, the Visigoth marched as
far as to the capital of the Bruttii, those mountain tribes which
Rome herself never really subdued; at Consentia he fell sick and
died. How often had I longed to see this river Busento, which the
"labour of a captive multitude" turned aside, that its flood might
cover and conceal for all time the tomb of the Conqueror! I saw it
in the light of sunrise, flowing amid low, brown, olive-planted
hills; at this time of the year it is a narrow, but rapid stream,
running through a wide, waste bed of yellow sand and stones. The
Crati, which here has only just started upon its long seaward way
from some glen of Sila, presents much the same appearance, the track
which it has worn in flood being many times as broad as the actual
current. They flow, these historic waters, with a pleasant sound,
overborne at moments by the clapping noise of Cosenza's washerwomen,
who cleanse their linen by beating it, then leave it to dry on the
river-bed. Along the banks stood tall poplars, each a spire of
burnished gold, blazing against the dark olive foliage on the slopes
behind them; plane trees, also, very rich of colour, and fig trees
shedding their latest leaves. Now, tradition has it that Alaric was
buried close to the confluence of the Busento and the Crati. If so,
he lay in full view of the town. But the Goths are said to have
slain all their prisoners who took part in the work, to ensure
secrecy. Are we to suppose that Consentia was depopulated? On any
other supposition the story must be incorrect, and Alaric's tomb
would have to be sought at least half a mile away, where the Busento
is hidden in its deep valley.

Gibbon, by the way, calls it Busentinus; the true Latin was
Buxentius. To make sure of the present name, I questioned some half
a dozen peasants, who all named the river Basenzio or Basenz'; a
countryman of more intelligent appearance assured me that this was
only a dialectical form, the true one being Busento. At a
bookseller's shop (Cosenza had one, a very little one) I found the
same opinion to prevail.

It is difficult to walk much in this climate; lassitude and feverish
symptoms follow on the slightest exertion; but--if one can
disregard the evil smells which everywhere catch one's breath--
Cosenza has wonders and delights which tempt to day-long rambling.
To call the town picturesque is to use an inadequate word; at every
step, from the opening of the main street at the hill-foot up to the
stern mediaeval castle crowning its height, one marvels and admires.
So narrow are the ways that a cart drives the pedestrian into shop
or alley; two vehicles (but perhaps the thing never happened) would
with difficulty pass each other. As in all towns of Southern Italy,
the number of hair-dressers is astonishing, and they hang out the
barber's basin--the very basin (of shining brass and with a
semicircle cut out of the rim) which the Knight of La Mancha took as
substitute for his damaged helmet. Through the gloom of high
balconied houses, one climbs to a sunny piazza, where there are
several fine buildings; beyond it lies the public garden, a lovely
spot, set with alleys of acacia and groups of palm and flower-beds
and fountains; marble busts of Garibaldi, Mazzini, and Cavour gleam
among the trees. Here one looks down upon the yellow gorge of the
Crati, and sees it widen northward into a vast green plain, in which
the track of the river is soon lost. On the other side of the Crati
valley, in full view of this garden, begins the mountain region of
many-folded Sila--a noble sight at any time of the day, but most
of all when the mists of morning cling about its summits, or when
the sunset clothes its broad flanks with purple. Turn westward, and
you behold the long range which hides the Mediterranean so high and
wild from this distance, that I could scarce believe I had driven
over it.

Sila--locally the Black Mountain, because dark with climbing
forests--held my gaze through a long afternoon. From the grassy
table-land of its heights, pasturage for numberless flocks and herds
when the long snows have melted, one might look over the shore of
the Ionian Sea where Greek craftsmen built ships of timber cut upon
the mountain's side. Not so long ago it was a haunt of brigands; now
there is no risk for the rare traveller who penetrates that
wilderness; but he must needs depend upon the hospitality of
labourers and shepherds. I dream of sunny glades, never touched,
perhaps, by the foot of man since the Greek herdsman wandered there
with his sheep or goats. Somewhere on Sila rises the Neaithos (now
Neto) mentioned by Theocritus; one would like to sit by its source
in the woodland solitude, and let fancy have her way.

In these garden walks I met a group of peasants, evidently strange
to Cosenza, and wondering at all they saw. The women wore a very
striking costume: a short petticoat of scarlet, much embroidered,
and over it a blue skirt, rolled up in front and gathered in a sort
of knot behind the waist; a bodice adorned with needlework and
metal; elaborate glistening head-gear, and bare feet. The town-folk
have no peculiarity of dress. I observed among them a grave,
intelligent type of countenance, handsome and full of character,
which may be that of their brave ancestors the Bruttii. With
pleasure I saw that they behaved gently to their beasts, the mules
being. very sleek and contented-looking. There is much difference
between these people and the Neapolitans; they seem to have no
liking for noise, talk with a certain repose, and allow the stranger
to go about among them unmolested, unimportuned. Women above the
poorest class are not seen in the streets; there prevails an
Oriental system of seclusion.

I was glad to come upon the pot market; in the south of Italy it is
always a beautiful and interesting sight. Pottery for commonest use
among Calabrian peasants has a grace of line, a charm of colour, far
beyond anything native to our most pretentious china-shops. Here
still lingers a trace of the old civilization. There must be a great
good in a people which has preserved this need of beauty through
ages of servitude and suffering. Compare such domestic utensils--
these oil-jugs and water-jars--with those in the house of an
English labourer. Is it really so certain that all virtues of race
dwell with those who can rest amid the ugly and know it not for

The new age declares itself here and there at Cosenza. A squalid
railway station, a hideous railway bridge, have brought the town
into the European network; and the craze for building, which has
disfigured and half ruined Italy, shows itself in an immense new
theatre--Teatro Garibaldi--just being finished. The old one,
which stands ruinous close by, struck me as, if anything, too large
for the town; possibly it had been damaged by an earthquake, the
commonest sort of disaster at Cosenza. On the front of the new
edifice I found two inscriptions, both exulting over the fall of the
papal power; one was interesting enough to copy:--

"20 SEPT., 1870.

which signifies: "This political date marks the end of theocracy in
civil life. The day which ends its moral rule will begin the epoch
of humanity." A remarkable utterance anywhere; not least so within
the hearing of the stream which flows over the grave of Alaric.

One goes to bed early at Cosenza; the night air is dangerous, and--
Teatro Garibaldi still incomplete--darkness brings with it no sort
of pastime. I did manage to read a little in my miserable room by an
antique lamp, but the effort was dispiriting; better to lie in the
dark and think of Goth and Roman.

Do the rivers Busento and Crati still keep the secret of that "royal
sepulchre, adorned with the splendid spoils and trophies of Rome"?
It seems improbable that the grave was ever disturbed; to this day
there exists somewhere near Cosenza a treasure-house more alluring
than any pictured in Arabian tale. It is not easy to conjecture what
"spoils and trophies" the Goths buried with their king; if they
sacrificed masses of precious metal, then perchance there still lies
in the river-bed some portion of that golden statue of _Virtus_,
which the Romans melted down to eke out the ransom claimed by
Alaric. The year 410 A.D. was no unfitting moment to break into
bullion the figure personifying Manly Worth. "After that," says an
old historian, "all bravery and honour perished out of Rome."



Cosenza is on a line of railway which runs northward up the Crati
valley, and joins the long seashore line from Taranto to Reggio. As
it was my wish to see the whole of that coast, I had the choice of
beginning my expedition either at the northern or the southern end;
for several reasons I decided to make straight for Taranto.

The train started about seven o'clock in the morning. I rose at six
in chill darkness, the discomfort of my room seeming worse than ever
at this featureless hour. The waiter--perhaps he was the landlord,
I left this doubt unsolved--brought me a cup of coffee; dirtier
and more shabbily apparelled man I have never looked upon; viler
coffee I never drank. Then I descended into the gloom of the street.
The familiar odours breathed upon me with pungent freshness, wafted
hither and thither on a mountain breeze. A glance upwards at the
narrow strip of sky showed a grey-coloured dawn, prelude, I feared,
of a dull day.

Evidently I was not the only traveller departing; on the truck just
laden I saw somebody else's luggage, and at the same moment there
came forth a man heavily muffled against the air, who, like myself,
began to look about for the porter. We exchanged greetings, and on
our walk to the station I learned that my companion, also bound for
Taranto, had been detained by illness for several days at the
_Lionetti_, where, he bitterly complained, the people showed him no
sort of attention. He was a commercial traveller, representing a
firm of drug merchants in North Italy, and for his sins (as he put
it) had to make the southern journey every year; he invariably
suffered from fever, and at certain places--of course, the least
civilized--had attacks which delayed him from three days to a
week. He loathed the South, finding no compensation whatever for the
miseries of travel below Naples; the inhabitants he reviled with
exceeding animosity. Interested by the doleful predicament of this
vendor of drugs (who dosed himself very vigorously), I found him a
pleasant companion during the day; after our lunch he seemed to
shake off the last shivers of his malady, and was as sprightly an
Italian as one could wish to meet--young, sharp-witted,
well-mannered, and with a pleasing softness of character.

We lunched at Sybaris; that is to say, at the railway station now so
called, though till recently it bore the humbler name of Buffaloria.
The Italians are doing their best to revive the classical
place-names, where they have been lost, and occasionally the
incautious traveller is much misled. Of Sybaris no stone remains
above ground; five hundred years before Christ it was destroyed by
the people of Croton, who turned the course of the river Crathis so
as to whelm the city's ruins. Francois Lenormant, whose delightful
book, _La Grande Grece_, was my companion on this journey, believed
that a discovery far more wonderful and important than that of
Pompeii awaits the excavator on this site; he held it certain that
here, beneath some fifteen feet of alluvial mud, lay the temples and
the streets of Sybaris, as on the day when Crathis first flowed over
them. A little digging has recently been done, and things of
interest have been found; but discovery on a wide scale is still to
be attempted.

Lenormant praises the landscape hereabouts as of "incomparable
beauty"; unfortunately I saw it in a sunless day, and at
unfavourable moments I was strongly reminded of the Essex coast--
grey, scrubby fiats, crossed by small streams, spreading wearily
seaward. One had only to turn inland to correct this mood; the
Calabrian mountains, even without sunshine, had their wonted grace.
Moreover, cactus and agave, frequent in the foreground, preserved
the southern character of the scene. The great plain between the
hills and the sea grows very impressive; so silent it is, so
mournfully desolate, so haunted with memories of vanished glory. I
looked at the Crathis--the Crati of Cosenza--here beginning to
spread into a sea-marsh; the waters which used to flow over golden
sands, which made white the oxen, and sunny-haired the children,
that bathed in them, are now lost amid a wilderness poisoned by
their own vapours.

The railway station, like all in this region, was set about with
eucalyptus. Great bushes of flowering rosemary scented the air, and
a fine cassia tree, from which I plucked blossoms, yielded a subtler
perfume. Our lunch was not luxurious; I remember only, as at all
worthy of Sybaris, a palatable white wine called Muscato dei
Saraceni. Appropriate enough amid this vast silence to turn one's
thoughts to the Saracens, who are so largely answerable for the ages
of desolation that have passed by the Ionian Sea.

Then on for Taranto, where we arrived in the afternoon. Meaning to
stay for a week or two I sought a pleasant room in a well-situated
hotel, and I found one with a good view of town and harbour. The
Taranto of old days, when it was called Taras, or later Tarentum,
stood on a long peninsula, which divides a little inland sea from
the great sea without. In the Middle Ages the town occupied only the
point of this neck of land, which, by the cutting of an artificial
channel, had been made into an island: now again it is spreading
over the whole of the ancient site; great buildings of
yellowish-white stone, as ugly as modern architect can make them,
and plainly far in excess of the actual demand for habitations, rise
where Phoenicians and Greeks and Romans built after the nobler
fashion of their times. One of my windows looked towards the old
town, with its long sea-wall where fishermen's nets hung drying, the
dome of its Cathedral, the high, squeezed houses, often with gardens
on the roofs, and the swing-bridge which links it to the mainland;
the other gave me a view across the Mare Piccolo, the Little Sea (it
is some twelve miles round about), dotted in many parts with crossed
stakes which mark the oyster-beds, and lined on this side with a
variety of shipping moored at quays. From some of these vessels,
early next morning, sounded suddenly a furious cannonade, which
threatened to shatter the windows of the hotel; I found it was in
honour of the Queen of Italy, whose _festa_ fell on that day. This
barbarous uproar must have sounded even to the Calabrian heights; it
struck me as more meaningless in its deafening volley of noise than
any note of joy or triumph that could ever have been heard in old

I walked all round the island part of the town; lost myself amid its
maze of streets, or alleys rather, for in many places one could
touch both sides with outstretched arms, and rested in the Cathedral
of S. Cataldo, who, by the bye, was an Irishman. All is strange, but
too close-packed to be very striking or beautiful; I found it best
to linger on the sea-wall, looking at the two islands in the offing,
and over the great gulf with its mountain shore stretching beyond
sight. On the rocks below stood fishermen hauling in a great net,
whilst a boy splashed the water to drive the fish back until they
were safely enveloped in the last meshes; admirable figures,
consummate in graceful strength, their bare legs and arms the tone
of terra cotta. What slight clothing they wore became them
perfectly, as is always the case with a costume well adapted to the
natural life of its wearers. Their slow, patient effort speaks of
immemorial usage, and it is in harmony with time itself. These
fishermen are the primitives of Taranto; who shall say for how many
centuries they have hauled their nets upon the rock? When Plato
visited the Schools of Taras, he saw the same brown-legged figures,
in much the same garb, gathering their sea-harvest. When Hannibal,
beset by the Romans, drew his ships across the peninsula and so
escaped from the inner sea, fishermen of Tarentum went forth as
ever, seeking their daily food. A thousand years passed, and the
fury of the Saracens, when it had laid the city low, spared some
humble Tarentine and the net by which he lived. To-day the
fisher-folk form a colony apart; they speak a dialect which retains
many Greek words unknown to the rest of the population. I could not
gaze at them long enough; their lithe limbs, their attitudes at work
or in repose, their wild, black hair, perpetually reminded me of
shapes pictured on a classic vase.

Later in the day I came upon a figure scarcely less impressive.
Beyond the new quarter of the town, on the ragged edge of its wide,
half-peopled streets, lies a tract of olive orchards and of
seed-land; there, alone amid great bare fields, a countryman was
ploughing. The wooden plough, as regards its form, might have been
thousands of years old; it was drawn by a little donkey, and traced
in the soil--the generous southern soil--the merest scratch of a
furrow. I could not but approach the man and exchange words with
him; his rude but gentle face, his gnarled hands, his rough and
scanty vesture, moved me to a deep respect, and when his speech fell
upon my ear, it was as though I listened to one of the ancestors of
our kind. Stopping in his work, he answered my inquiries with
careful civility; certain phrases escaped me, but on the whole he
made himself quite intelligible, and was glad, I could see, when my
words proved that I understood him. I drew apart, and watched him
again. Never have I seen man so utterly patient, so primaevally
deliberate. The donkey's method of ploughing was to pull for one
minute, and then rest for two; it excited in the ploughman not the
least surprise or resentment. Though he held a long stick in his
hand, he never made use of it; at each stoppage he contemplated the
ass, and then gave utterance to a long "Ah-h-h!" in a note of the
most affectionate remonstrance. They were not driver and beast, but
comrades in labour. It reposed the mind to look upon them.

Walking onward in the same direction, one approaches a great wall,
with gateway sentry-guarded; it is the new Arsenal, the pride of
Taranto, and the source of its prosperity. On special as well as on
general grounds, I have a grudge against this mass of ugly masonry.
I had learnt from Lenormant that at a certain spot, Fontanella, by
the shore of the Little Sea, were observable great ancient heaps of
murex shells--the murex precious for its purple, that of Tarentum
yielding in glory only to the purple of Tyre. I hoped to see these
shells, perhaps to carry one away. But Fontanella had vanished,
swallowed up, with all remnants of antiquity, by the graceless
Arsenal. It matters to no one save the few fantastics who hold a
memory of the ancient world dearer than any mechanic triumph of
to-day. If only one could believe that the Arsenal signified
substantial good to Italy! Too plainly it means nothing but the
exhaustion of her people in the service of a base ideal.

The confines of this new town being so vague, much trouble is given
to that noble institution, the _dazio_. Scattered far and wide in a
dusty wilderness, stand the little huts of the officers, vigilant on
every road or by-way to wring the wretched soldi from toilsome
hands. As became their service, I found these gentry anything but
amiable; they had commonly an air of _ennui_, and regarded a
stranger with surly suspicion.

When I was back again among the high new houses, my eye, wandering
in search of any smallest point of interest, fell on a fresh-painted


was well meant. At the sign of "Magna Graecia" one is willing to
accept "hydroelectropathic" as a late echo of Hellenic speech.



Taranto has a very interesting Museum. I went there with an
introduction to the curator, who spared no trouble in pointing out
to me all that was best worth seeing. He and I were alone in the
little galleries; at a second or third visit I had the Museum to
myself, save for an attendant who seemed to regard a visitor as a
pleasant novelty, and bestirred himself for my comfort when I wanted
to make sketches. Nothing is charged for admission, yet no one
enters. Presumably, all the Tarentines who care for archaeology have
already been here, and strangers are few.

Upon the shelves are seen innumerable miniature busts, carved in
some kind of stone; thought to be simply portraits of private
persons. One peers into the faces of men, women, and children,
vaguely conjecturing their date, their circumstances; some of them
may have dwelt in the old time on this very spot of ground now
covered by the Museum. Like other people who grow too rich and
comfortable, the citizens of Tarentum loved mirth and mockery; their
Greek theatre was remarkable for irreverent farce, for parodies of
the great drama of Athens. And here is testimony to the fact: all
manner of comic masks, of grotesque visages; mouths distorted into
impossible grins, eyes leering and goggling, noses extravagant. I
sketched a caricature of Medusa, the anguished features and snaky
locks travestied with satiric grimness. You remember a story which
illustrates this scoffing habit: how the Roman Ambassador, whose
Greek left something to be desired, excited the uproarious derision
of the assembled Tarentines--with results that were no laughing

I used the opportunity of my conversation with the Director of the
Museum to ask his aid in discovering the river Galaesus. Who could
find himself at Taranto without turning in thought to the Galaesus,
and wishing to walk along its banks? Unhappily, one cannot be quite
sure of its position. A stream there is, flowing into the Little
Sea, which by some is called Galeso; but the country-folk commonly
give it the name of Gialtrezze. Of course I turned my steps in that
direction, to see and judge for myself.

To skirt the western shore of the Mare Piccolo I had to pass the
railway station, and there I made a few inquiries; the official with
whom I spoke knew not the name Galeso, but informed me that the
Gialtrezze entered the sea at a distance of some three kilometres.
That I purposed walking such a distance to see an insignificant
stream excited the surprise, even the friendly concern, of my
interlocutor; again and again he assured me it was not worth while,
repeating emphatically, "_Non c'e novita_." But I went my foolish
way. Of two or three peasants or fishermen on the road I asked the
name of the little river I was approaching; they answered,
"Gialtrezze." Then came a man carrying a gun, whose smile and
greeting invited question. "Can you tell me the name of the stream
which flows into the sea just beyond here?" "Signore, it is the

My pulse quickened with delight; all the more when I found that my
informant had no tincture of the classics, and that he supported
Galeso against Gialtrezze simply as a question of local interest.
Joyously I took leave of him, and very soon I was in sight of the
river itself. The river? It is barely half a mile long; it rises
amid a bed of great reeds, which quite conceal the water, and flows
with an average breadth of some ten feet down to the seashore, on
either side of it bare, dusty fields, and a few hoary olives.

The Galaesus?--the river beloved by Horace; its banks pasturing a
famous breed of sheep, with fleece so precious that it was protected
by a garment of skins? Certain it is that all the waters of Magna
Graecia have much diminished since classic times, but (unless there
have been great local changes, due, for example, to an earthquake)
this brook had always the same length, and it is hard to think of
the Galaesus as so insignificant. Disappointed, brooding, I followed
the current seaward, and upon the shore, amid scents of mint and
rosemary, sat down to rest.

There was a good view of Taranto across the water; the old town on
its little island, compact of white houses, contrasting with the
yellowish tints of the great new buildings which spread over the
peninsula. With half-closed eyes, one could imagine the true
Tarentum. Wavelets lapped upon the sand before me, their music the
same as two thousand years ago. A goatherd came along, his flock
straggling behind him; man and goats were as much of the old world
as of the new. Far away, the boats of fishermen floated silently. I
heard a rustle as an old fig tree hard by dropped its latest leaves.
On the sea-bank of yellow crumbling earth lizards flashed about me
in the sunshine. After a dull morning, the day had passed into
golden serenity; a stillness as of eternal peace held earth and sky.

"Dearest of all to me is that nook of earth which yields not to
Hymettus for its honey, nor for its olive to green Venafrum; where
heaven grants a long springtime and warmth in winter, and in the
sunny hollows Bacchus fosters a vintage noble as the Falernian----"
The lines of Horace sang in my head; I thought, too, of the praise
of Virgil, who, tradition has it, wrote his _Eclogues_ hereabouts.
Of course, the country has another aspect. in spring and early
summer; I saw it at a sad moment; but, all allowance made for
seasons, it is still with wonder that one recalls the rapture of the
poets. A change beyond conception must have come upon these shores
of the Ionian Sea. The scent of rosemary seemed to be wafted across
the ages from a vanished world.

After all, who knows whether I have seen the Galaesus? Perhaps, as
some hold, it is quite another river, flowing far to the west of
Taranto into the open gulf. Gialtrezze may have become Galeso merely
because of the desire in scholars to believe that it was the classic
stream; in other parts of Italy names have been so imposed. But I
shall not give ear to such discouraging argument. It is little
likely that my search will ever be renewed, and for me the Galaesus
--"dulce Galaesi flumen"--is the stream I found and tracked,
whose waters I heard mingle with the Little Sea. The memory has no
sense of disappointment. Those reeds which rustle about the hidden
source seem to me fit shelter of a Naiad; I am glad I could not see
the water bubbling in its spring, for there remains a mystery.
Whilst I live, the Galaesus purls and glistens in the light of that
golden afternoon, and there beyond, across the blue still depths,
glimmers a vision of Tarentum.

Let Taranto try as it will to be modern and progressive, there is a
retarding force which shows little sign of being overcome--the
profound superstition of the people. A striking episode of street
life reminded me how near akin were the southern Italians of to-day
to their predecessors in what are called the dark ages; nay, to
those more illustrious ancestors who were so ready to believe that
an ox had uttered an oracle, or that a stone had shed blood.
Somewhere near the swing-bridge, where undeniable steamships go and
come between the inner and the outer sea, I saw a crowd gathered
about a man who was exhibiting a picture and expounding its purport;
every other minute the male listeners doffed their hats, and the
females bowed and crossed themselves. When I had pressed near enough
to hear the speaker, I found he was just finishing a wonderful
story, in which he himself might or might not have faith, but which
plainly commanded the credit of his auditors. Having closed his
narrative, the fellow began to sell it in printed form--little
pamphlets with a rude illustration on the cover. I bought the thing
for a soldo, and read it as I walked away.

A few days ago--thus, after a pious exordium, the relation began
--in that part of Italy called Marca, there came into a railway
station a Capuchin friar of grave, thoughtful, melancholy aspect,
who besought the station-master to allow him to go without ticket by
the train just starting, as he greatly desired to reach the
Sanctuary of Loreto that day, and had no money to pay his fare The
official gave a contemptuous refusal, and paid no heed to the
entreaties of the friar, who urged all manner of religious motives
for the granting of his request. The two engines on the train (which
was a very long one) seemed about to steam away--but, behold, _con
grande stupore di tutti_, the waggons moved not at all! Presently a
third engine was put on, but still all efforts to start the train
proved useless. Alone of the people who viewed this inexplicable
event, the friar showed no astonishment; he remarked calmly, that so
long as he was refused permission to travel by it, the train would
not stir. At length _un ricco signore_ found a way out of the
difficulty by purchasing the friar a third-class ticket; with a
grave reproof to the station-master, the friar took his seat, and
the train went its way.

But the matter, of course, did not end here. Indignant and amazed,
and wishing to be revenged upon that _frataccio_, the station-master
telegraphed to Loreto, that in a certain carriage of a certain train
was travelling a friar, whom it behoved the authorities to arrest
for having hindered the departure of the said train for fifteen
minutes, and also for the offense of mendicancy within a railway
station. Accordingly, the Loreto police sought the offender, but, in
the compartment where he had travelled, found no person; there,
however, lay a letter couched in these terms: "He who was in this
waggon under the guise of a humble friar, has now ascended into the
arms of his _Santissima Madre Maria_. He wished to make known to the
world how easy it is for him to crush the pride of unbelievers, or
to reward those who respect religion."

Nothing more was discoverable; wherefore the learned of the Church
--_i dotti della chiesa_--came to the conclusion that under the
guise of a friar there had actually appeared "_N. S. G. C._" The
Supreme Pontiff and his prelates had not yet delivered a judgment in
the matter, but there could be no sort of doubt that they would
pronounce the authenticity of the miracle. With a general assurance
that the good Christian will be saved and the unrepentant will be
damned, this remarkable little pamphlet came to an end. Much
verbiage I have omitted, but the translation, as far as it goes, is
literal. Doubtless many a humble Tarentine spelt it through that
evening, with boundless wonder, and thought such an intervention of
Providence worthy of being talked about, until the next stabbing
case in his street provided a more interesting topic.

Possibly some malevolent rationalist might note that the name of the
railway station where this miracle befell was nowhere mentioned. Was
it not open to him to go and make inquiries at Loreto?



For two or three days a roaring north wind whitened the sea with
foam; it kept the sky clear, and from morning to night there was
magnificent sunshine, but, none the less, one suffered a good deal
from cold. The streets were barer than ever; only in the old town,
where high, close walls afforded a good deal of shelter, was there a
semblance of active life. But even here most of the shops seemed to
have little, if any, business; frequently I saw the tradesman asleep
in a chair, at any hour of daylight. Indeed, it must be very
difficult to make the day pass at Taranto. I noticed that, as one
goes southward in Italy, the later do ordinary people dine; appetite
comes slowly in this climate. Between _colazione_ at midday and
_pranzo_ at eight, or even half-past, what an abysm of time! Of
course, the Tarantine never reads; the only bookshop I could
discover made a poorer display than even that at Cosenza--it was
not truly a bookseller's at all, but a fancy stationer's. How the
women spend their lives one may vainly conjecture. Only on Sunday
did I see a few of them about the street; they walked to and from
Mass, with eyes on the ground, and all the better-dressed of them
wore black.

When the weather fell calm again, and there was pleasure in walking,
I chanced upon a trace of the old civilization which interested me
more than objects ranged in a museum. Rambling eastward along the
outer shore, in the wilderness which begins as soon as the town has
disappeared, I came to a spot as uninviting as could be imagined,
great mounds of dry rubbish, evidently deposited here by the
dust-carts of Taranto; luckily, I continued my walk beyond this
obstacle, and after a while became aware that I had entered upon a
road--a short piece of well-marked road, which began and ended in
the mere waste. A moment's examination, and I saw that it was no
modern by-way. The track was clean-cut in living rock, its smooth,
hard surface lined with two parallel ruts nearly a foot deep; it
extended for some twenty yards without a break, and further on I
discovered less perfect bits. Here, manifestly, was the seaside
approach to Tarentum, to Taras, perhaps to the Phoenician city which
came before them. Ages must have passed since vehicles used this
way; the modern high road is at some distance inland, and one sees
at a glance that this witness of ancient traffic has remained by
Time's sufferance in a desert region. Wonderful was the preservation
of the surface: the angles at the sides, where the road had been cut
down a little below the rock-level, were sharp and clean as if
carved yesterday, and the profound ruts, worn, perhaps, before Rome
had come to her power, showed the grinding of wheels with strange
distinctness. From this point there is an admirable view of Taranto,
the sea, and the mountains behind.

Of the ancient town there remains hardly anything worthy of being
called a ruin. Near the shore, however, one can see a few remnants
of a theatre--perhaps that theatre where the Tarentines were
sitting when they saw Roman galleys, in scorn of treaty, sailing up
the Gulf.

My last evenings were brightened by very beautiful sunsets; one in
particular remains with me; I watched it for an hour or more from
the terrace-road of the island town. An exquisite after-glow seemed
as if it would never pass away. Above thin, grey clouds stretching
along the horizon a purple flush melted insensibly into the dark
blue of the zenith. Eastward the sky was piled with lurid rack,
sullen-tinted folds edged with the hue of sulphur. The sea had a
strange aspect, curved tracts of pale blue lying motionless upon a
dark expanse rippled by the wind. Below me, as I leaned on the
sea-wall, a fisherman's boat crept duskily along the rocks, a splash
of oars soft-sounding in the stillness. I looked to the far
Calabrian hills, now scarce distinguishable from horizon cloud, and
wondered what chances might await me in the unknown scenes of my
further travel.

The long shore of the Ionian Sea suggested many a halting-place.
Best of all, I should have liked to swing a wallet on my shoulder
and make the whole journey on foot; but this for many reasons was
impossible. I could only mark points of the railway where some sort
of food or lodging might be hoped for, and the first of these
stoppages was Metaponto.

Official time-bills of the month marked a train for Metaponto at
4.56 A.M., and this I decided to take, as it seemed probable that I
might find a stay of some hours sufficient, and so be able to resume
my journey before night. I asked the waiter to call me at a quarter
to four. In the middle of the night (as it seemed to me) I was
aroused by a knocking, and the waiter's voice called to me that, if
I wished to leave early for Metaponto, I had better get up at once,
as the departure of the train had been changed to 4.15--it was now
half-past three. There ensued an argument, sustained, on my side,
rather by the desire to stay in bed this cold morning than by any
faith in the reasonableness of the railway company. There must be a
mistake! The _orario_ for the month gave 4.56, and how could the
time of a train be changed without public notice? Changed it was,
insisted the waiter; it had happened a few days ago, and they had
only heard of it at the hotel this very morning. Angry and
uncomfortable, I got my clothes on, and drove to the station, where
I found that a sudden change in the time-table, without any regard
for persons relying upon the official guide, was taken as a matter
of course. In chilly darkness I bade farewell to Taranto.

At a little after six, when palest dawn was shimmering on the sea, I
found myself at Metaponto, with no possibility of doing anything for
a couple of hours. Metaponto is a railway station, that and nothing
more, and, as a station also calls itself a hotel, I straightway
asked for a room, and there dozed until sunshine improved my humour
and stirred my appetite. The guidebook had assured me of two things:
that a vehicle could be had here for surveying the district, and
that, under cover behind the station, one would find a little
collection of antiquities unearthed hereabout. On inquiry, I found
that no vehicle, and no animal capable of being ridden, existed at
Metaponto; also that the little museum had been transferred to
Naples. It did not pay to keep the horse, they told me; a stranger
asked for it only "once in a hundred years." However, a lad was
forthcoming who would guide me to the ruins. I breakfasted (the only
thing tolerable being the wine), and we set forth.

It was a walk of some two or three miles, by a cart road, through
fields just being ploughed for grain. All about lay a level or
slightly rolling country, which in winter becomes a wilderness of
mud; dry traces of vast slough and occasional stagnant pools showed
what the state of things would be a couple of months hence. The
properties were divided by hedges of agave--huge growths, grandly
curving their sword-pointed leaves. Its companion, the spiny cactus,
writhed here and there among juniper bushes and tamarisks. Along the
wayside rose tall, dead thistles, white with age, their great
cluster of seed-vessels showing how fine the flower had been. Above
our heads, peewits were wheeling and crying, and lizards swarmed on
the hard, cracked ground.

We passed a few ploughmen, with white oxen yoked to labour.
Ploughing was a fit sight at Metapontum, famous of old for the
richness of its soil; in token whereof the city dedicated at Delphi
its famous Golden Sheaf. It is all that remains of life on this part
of the coast; the city had sunk into ruin before the Christian era,
and was never rebuilt. Later, the shore was too dangerous for
habitation. Of all the cities upon the Ionian Sea, only Tarentum and
Croton continued to exist through the Middle Ages, for they alone
occupied a position strong for defence against pirates and invaders.
A memory of the Saracen wars lingers in the name borne by the one
important relic of Metapontum, the _Tavola de' Paladini_; to this my
guide was conducting me.

It is the ruin of a temple to an unknown god, which stood at some
distance north of the ancient city; two parallel rows of columns,
ten on one side, five on the other, with architrave all but entire,
and a basement shattered. The fine Doric capitals are well
preserved; the pillars themselves, crumbling under the tooth of
time, seem to support with difficulty their noble heads. This
monument must formerly have been very impressive amid the wide
landscape; but, a few years ago, for protection against peasant
depredators, a wall ten feet high was built close around the
columns, so that no good view of them is any longer obtainable. To
the enclosure admission is obtained through an iron gateway with a
lock. I may add, as a picturesque detail, that the lock has long
been useless; my guide simply pushed the gate open. Thus, the ugly
wall serves no purpose whatever save to detract from the beauty of
the scene.

Vegetation is thick within the temple precincts; a flowering rose
bush made contrast of its fresh and graceful loveliness with the
age-worn strength of these great carved stones. About their base
grew luxuriantly a plant which turned my thoughts for a moment to
rural England, the round-leaved pennywort. As I lingered here, there
stirred in me something of that deep emotion which I felt years ago
amid the temples of Paestum. Of course, this obstructed fragment
holds no claim to comparison with Paestum's unique glory, but here,
as there, one is possessed by the pathos of immemorial desolation;
amid a silence which the voice has no power to break, nature's
eternal vitality triumphs over the greatness of forgotten men.

At a distance of some three miles from this temple there lies a
little lake, or a large pond, which would empty itself into the sea
but for a piled barrier of sand and shingle. This was the harbour of

I passed the day in rambling and idling, and returned for a meal at
the station just before train-time. The weather could not have been
more enjoyable; a soft breeze and cloudless blue. For the last
half-hour I lay in a hidden corner of the eucalyptus grove--trying
to shape in fancy some figure of old Pythagoras. He died here (says
story) in 497 B.C.--broken-hearted at the failure of his efforts
to make mankind gentle and reasonable. In 1897 A.D. that hope had
not come much nearer to its realization. Italians are yet familiar
with the name of the philosopher, for it is attached to the
multiplication table, which they call _tavola pitagorica_. What, in
truth, do we know of him? He is a type of aspiring humanity; a sweet
and noble figure, moving as a dim radiance through legendary Hellas.
The English reader hears his name with a smile, recalling only the
mention of him, in mellow mirth, by England's greatest spirit. "What
is the opinion of Pythagoras concerning wild fowl?" Whereto replies
the much-offended Malvolio: "That the soul of our grandam might
haply inhabit a bird." He of the crossed garters disdains such
fantasy. "I think nobly of the soul, and no way approve his

I took my ticket for Cotrone, which once was Croton. At Croton,
Pythagoras enjoyed his moment's triumph, ruling men to their own
behoof. At Croton grew up a school of medicine which glorified Magna
Graecia. "Healthier than Croton," said a proverb; for the spot was
unsurpassed in salubrity; beauty and strength distinguished its
inhabitants, who boasted their champion Milon. After the fall of
Sybaris, Croton became so populous that its walls encircled twelve
miles. Hither came Zeuxis, to adorn with paintings the great temple
of Hera on the Lacinian promontory; here he made his picture of
Helen, with models chosen from the loveliest maidens of the city. I
was light-hearted with curious anticipation as I entered the train
for Cotrone.

While daylight lasted, the moving landscape held me attentive. This
part of the coast is more varied, more impressive, than between
Taranto and Metaponto. For the most part a shaggy wilderness, the
ground lies in strangely broken undulations, much hidden with shrub
and tangled boscage. At the falling of dusk we passed a
thickly-wooded tract large enough to be called a forest; the great
trees looked hoary with age, and amid a jungle of undergrowth,
myrtle and lentisk, arbutus and oleander, lay green marshes, dull
deep pools, sluggish streams. A spell which was half fear fell upon
the imagination; never till now had I known an enchanted wood.
Nothing human could wander in those pathless shades, by those dead
waters. It was the very approach to the world of spirits; over this
woodland, seen on the verge of twilight, brooded a silent awe, such
as Dante knew in his _selva oscura_.

Of a sudden the dense foliage was cleft; there opened a broad alley
between drooping boughs, and in the deep hollow, bordered with sand
and stones, a flood rolled eastward. This river is now called Sinno;
it was the ancient Sins, whereon stood the city of the same name. In
the seventh century before Christ, Sins was lauded as the richest
city in the world; for luxury it outrivalled Sybaris.

I had recently been reading Lenormant's description of the costumes
of Magna Graecia prior to the Persian wars. Sins, a colony from
Ionia, still kept its Oriental style of dress. Picture a man in a
long, close-clinging tunic which descended to his feet, either of
fine linen, starched and pleated, or of wool, falling foldless,
enriched with embroidery and adorned with bands of gay-coloured
geometric patterns; over this a wrap (one may say) of thick wool,
tight round the bust and leaving the right arm uncovered, or else a
more ample garment, elaborately decorated like the long tunic.
Complete the picture with a head ornately dressed, on the brow a
fringe of ringlets; the long hair behind held together by gold wire
spirally wound; above, a crowning fillet, with a jewel set in the
front; the beard cut to a point, and the upper lip shaven. You
behold the citizen of these Hellenic colonies in their stately

Somewhere in that enchanted forest, where the wild vine trails from
tree to tree, where birds and creatures of the marshy solitude haunt
their ancient home, lie buried the stones of Sins.



Night hid from me the scenes that followed. Darkling, I passed again
through the station called Sybaris, and on and on by the sea-shore,
the sound of breakers often audible. From time to time I discerned
black mountain masses against a patch of grey sky, or caught a
glimpse of blanching wave, or felt my fancy thrill as a stray gleam
from the engine fire revealed for a moment another trackless wood.
Often the hollow rumbling of the train told me that we were crossing
a bridge; the stream beneath it bore, perhaps, a name in legend or
in history. A wind was rising; at the dim little stations I heard it
moan and buffet, and my carriage, where all through the journey I
sat alone, seemed the more comfortable. Rain began to fall, and
when, about ten o'clock, I alighted at Cotrone, the night was loud
with storm.

There was but one vehicle at the station, a shabby, creaking,
mud-plastered sort of coach, into which I bundled together with two
travellers of the kind called commercial--almost the only species
of traveller I came across during these southern wanderings. A long
time was spent in stowing freightage which, after all, amounted to
very little; twice, thrice, four, and perhaps five times did we make
a false start, followed by uproarious vociferation, and a jerk which
tumbled us passengers all together. The gentlemen of commerce rose
to wild excitement, and roundly abused the driver; as soon as we
really started, their wrath changed to boisterous gaiety. On we
rolled, pitching and tossing, mid darkness and tempest, until,
through the broken window, a sorry illumination of oil-lamps showed
us one side of a colonnaded street. "Bologna! Bologna!" cried my
companions, mocking at this feeble reminiscence of their fat
northern town. The next moment we pulled up, our bruised bodies
colliding vigorously for the last time; it was the _Albergo

A dark stone staircase, yawning under the colonnade; on the first
landing an open doorway; within, a long corridor, doors of bedrooms
on either side, and in a room at the far end a glimpse of a
tablecloth. This was the hotel, the whole of it. As soon as I
grasped the situation, it was clear to me why my fellow travellers
had entered with a rush and flung themselves into rooms; there
might, perchance, be only one or two chambers vacant, and I knew
already that Cotrone offered no other decent harbourage. Happily I
did not suffer for my lack of experience; after trying one or two
doors in vain, I found a sleeping-place which seemed to be
unoccupied, and straightway took possession of it. No one appeared
to receive the arriving guests. Feeling very hungry, I went into the
room at the end of the passage, where I had seen a tablecloth; a
wretched lamp burned on the wall, but only after knocking, stamping,
and calling did I attract attention; then issued from some
mysterious region a stout, slatternly, sleepy woman, who seemed
surprised at my demand for food, but at length complied with it. I
was to have better acquaintance with my hostess of the _Concordia_
before I quitted Cotrone.

Next morning the wind still blew, but the rain was over; I could
begin my rambles. Like the old town of Taranto, Cotrone occupies the
site of the ancient acropolis, a little headland jutting into the
sea; above, and in front of the town itself, stands the castle built
by Charles V., with immense battlements looking over the harbour.
From a road skirting the shore around the base of the fortress one
views a wide bay, bounded to the north by the dark flanks of Sila (I
was in sight of the Black Mountain once more), and southwards by a
long low promontory, its level slowly declining to the far-off point
where it ends amid the waves. On this Cape I fixed my eyes,
straining them until it seemed to me that I distinguished something,
a jutting speck against the sky, at its farthest point. Then I used
my field-glass, and at once the doubtful speck became a clearly
visible projection, much like a lighthouse. It is a Doric column,
some five-and-twenty feet high; the one pillar that remains of the
great temple of Hera, renowned through all the Hellenic world, and
sacred still when the goddess had for centuries borne a Latin name.
"Colonna" is the ordinary name of the Cape; but it is also known as
_Capo di Nau_, a name which preserves the Greek word _naos_

I planned for the morrow a visit to this spot, which is best reached
by sea. To-day great breakers were rolling upon the strand, and all
the blue of the bay was dashed with white foam; another night would,
I hoped, bring calm, and then the voyage! _Dis aliter visum_.

A little fleet of sailing vessels and coasting steamers had taken
refuge within the harbour, which is protected by a great mole. A
good haven; the only one, indeed, between Taranto and Reggio, but it
grieves one to remember that the mighty blocks built into the
sea-barrier came from that fallen temple. We are told that as late
as the sixteenth century the building remained all but perfect, with
eight-and-forty pillars, rising there above the Ionian Sea; a guide
to sailors, even as when AEneas marked it on his storm-tossed
galley. Then it was assailed, cast down, ravaged by a Bishop of
Cotrone, one Antonio Lucifero, to build his episcopal palace. Nearly
three hundred years later, after the terrible earthquake of 1783,
Cotrone strengthened her harbour with the great stones of the temple
basement. It was a more legitimate pillage.

Driven inland by the gale, I wandered among low hills which overlook
the town. Their aspect is very strange, for they consist entirely--
on the surface, at all events--of a yellowish-grey mud, dried
hard, and as bare as the high road. A few yellow hawkweeds, a few
camomiles, grew in hollows here and there; but of grass not a blade.
It is easy to make a model of these Crotonian hills. Shape a solid
mound of hard-pressed sand, and then, from the height of a foot or
two, let water trickle down upon it; the perpendicular ridges and
furrows thus formed upon the miniature hill represent exactly what I
saw here on a larger scale. Moreover, all the face of the ground is
minutely cracked and wrinkled; a square foot includes an
incalculable multitude of such meshes. Evidently this is the work of
hot sun on moisture; but when was it done? For they tell me that it
rains very little at Cotrone, and only a deluge could moisten this
iron soil. Here and there I came upon yet more striking evidence of
waterpower; great holes on the hillside, generally funnel-shaped,
and often deep enough to be dangerous to the careless walker. The
hills are round-topped, and parted one from another by gully or
ravine, shaped, one cannot but think, by furious torrents. A
desolate landscape, and scarcely bettered when one turned to look
over the level which spreads north of the town; one discovers
patches of foliage, indeed, the dark perennial verdure of the south;
but no kindly herb clothes the soil. In springtime, it seems, there
is a growth of grass, very brief, but luxuriant. That can only be on
the lower ground; these furrowed heights declare a perpetual

What has become of the ruins of Croton? This squalid little town of
to-day has nothing left from antiquity. Yet a city bounded with a
wall of twelve miles circumference is not easily swept from the face
of the earth. Bishop Lucifer, wanting stones for his palace, had to
go as far as the Cape Colonna; then, as now, no block of Croton
remained. Nearly two hundred years before Christ the place was
forsaken. Rome colonized it anew, and it recovered an obscure life
as a place of embarkation for Greece, its houses occupying only the
rock of the ancient citadel. Were there at that date any remnants of
the great Greek city?--still great only two centuries before. Did
all go to the building of Roman dwellings and temples and walls,
which since have crumbled or been buried?

We are told that the river AEsarus flowed through the heart of the
city at its prime. I looked over the plain, and yonder, towards the
distant railway station, I descried a green track, the course of the
all but stagnant and wholly pestilential stream, still called Esaro.
Near its marshy mouth are wide orange orchards. Could one but see in
vision the harbour, the streets, the vast encompassing wall! From
the eminence where I stood, how many a friend and foe of Croton has
looked down upon its shining ways, peopled with strength and beauty
and wisdom! Here Pythagoras may have walked, glancing afar at the
Lacinian sanctuary, then new built.

Lenormant is eloquent on the orange groves of Cotrone. In order to
visit them, permission was necessary, and presently I made my way to
the town hall, to speak with the Sindaco (Mayor) and request his aid
in this matter. Without difficulty I was admitted. In a
well-furnished office sat two stout gentlemen, smoking cigars, very
much at their ease; the Sindaco bade me take a chair, and
scrutinized me with doubtful curiosity as I declared my business.
Yes, to be sure he could admit me to see his own orchard; but why
did I wish to see it? My reply that I had no interest save in the
natural beauty of the place did not convince him; he saw in me a
speculator of some kind. That was natural enough. In all the south
of Italy, money is the one subject of men's thoughts; intellectual
life does not exist; there is little even of what we should call
common education. Those who have wealth cling to it fiercely; the
majority have neither time nor inclination to occupy themselves with
anything but the earning of a livelihood which for multitudes
signifies the bare appeasing of hunger.

Seeing the Sindaco's embarrassment, his portly friend began to
question me; good-humouredly enough, but in such a fat bubbling
voice (made more indistinct by the cigar he kept in his mouth) that
with difficulty I understood him. What was I doing at Cotrone? I
endeavoured to explain that Cotrone greatly interested me. Ha!
Cotrone interested me? Really? Now what did I find interesting at
Cotrone? I spoke of historic associations. The Sindaco and his
friend exchanged glances, smiled in a puzzled, tolerant,
half-pitying way, and decided that my request might be granted. In
another minute I withdrew, carrying half a sheet of note-paper on
which were scrawled in pencil a few words, followed by the proud
signature "Berlinghieri." When I had deciphered the scrawl, I found
it was an injunction to allow me to view a certain estate "_senza
nulla toccare_"--without touching anything. So a doubt still
lingered in the dignitary's mind.

Cotrone has no vehicle plying for hire--save that in which I
arrived at the hotel. I had to walk in search of the orange orchard,
all along the straight dusty road leading to the station. For a
considerable distance this road is bordered on both sides by
warehouses of singular appearance. They have only a ground floor,
and the front wall is not more than ten feet high, but their low
roofs, sloping to the ridge at an angle of about thirty degrees,
cover a great space. The windows are strongly barred, and the doors
show immense padlocks of elaborate construction. The goods
warehoused here are chiefly wine and oil, oranges and liquorice. (A
great deal of liquorice grows around the southern gulf.) At certain
moments, indicated by the markets at home or abroad, these stores
are conveyed to the harbour, and shipped away. For the greater part
of the year the houses stand as I saw them, locked, barred, and
forsaken: a street where any sign of life is exceptional; an odd
suggestion of the English Sunday in a land that knows not such

Crossing the Esaro, I lingered on the bridge to gaze at its green,
muddy water, not visibly flowing at all. The high reeds which half
concealed it carried my thoughts back to the Galaesus. But the
comparison is all in favour of the Tarentine stream. Here one could
feel nothing but a comfortless melancholy; the scene is too squalid,
the degradation too complete.

Of course, no one looked at the _permesso_ with which I presented
myself at the entrance to the orchard. From a tumbling house, which
we should call the lodge, came forth (after much shouting on my
part) an aged woman, who laughed at the idea that she should be
asked to read anything, and bade me walk wherever I liked. I strayed
at pleasure, meeting only a lean dog, which ran fearfully away. The
plantation was very picturesque; orange trees by no means occupied
all the ground, but mingled with pomegranates and tamarisks and many
evergreen shrubs of which I knew not the name; whilst here and there
soared a magnificent stone pine. The walks were bordered with giant
cactus, now and again so fantastic in their growth that I stood to
wonder; and in an open space upon the bank of the Esaro (which
stagnates through the orchard) rose a majestic palm, its leaves
stirring heavily in the wind which swept above. Picturesque,
abundantly; but these beautiful tree-names, which waft a perfume of
romance, are like to convey a false impression to readers who have
never seen the far south; it is natural to think of lovely nooks,
where one might lie down to rest and dream; there comes a vision of
soft turf under the golden-fruited boughs--"places of nestling
green for poets made." Alas! the soil is bare and lumpy as a
ploughed field, and all the leafage that hangs low is thick with a
clayey dust. One cannot rest or loiter or drowse; no spot in all the
groves where by any possibility one could sit down. After rambling
as long as I chose, I found that a view of the orchard from outside
was more striking than the picture amid the trees themselves. _Senza
nulla toccare_, I went my way.



The wind could not roar itself out. Through the night it kept
awaking me, and on the morrow I found a sea foamier than ever;
impossible to reach the Colonna by boat, and almost so, I was
assured, to make the journey by land in such weather as this.
Perforce I waited.

A cloudless sky; broad sunshine, warm as in an English summer; but
the roaring _tramontana_ was disagreeably chill. No weather could be
more perilous to health. The people of Cotrone, those few of them
who did not stay at home or shelter in the porticoes, went about
heavily cloaked, and I wondered at their ability to wear such
garments under so hot a sun. Theoretically aware of the danger I was
running, but, in fact, thinking little about it, I braved the wind
and the sunshine all day long; my sketch-book gained by it, and my
store of memories. First of all, I looked into the Cathedral, an
ugly edifice, as uninteresting within as without. Like all the
churches in Calabria, it is white-washed from door to altar, pillars
no less than walls--a cold and depressing interior. I could see no
picture of the least merit; one, a figure of Christ with hideous
wounds, was well-nigh as repulsive as painting could be. This vile
realism seems to indicate Spanish influence. There is a miniature
copy in bronze of the statue of the chief Apostle in St. Peter's at
Rome, and beneath it an inscription making known to the faithful
that, by order of Leo XIII. in 1896, an Indulgence of three hundred
days is granted to whosoever kisses the bronze toe and says a
prayer. Familiar enough this unpretentious announcement, yet it
never fails of its little shock to the heretic mind. Whilst I was
standing near, a peasant went through the mystic rite; to judge from
his poor malaria-stricken countenance, he prayed very earnestly, and
I hope his Indulgence benefited him. Probably he repeated a mere
formula learnt by heart. I wished he could have prayed spontaneously
for three hundred days of wholesome and sufficient food, and for as
many years of honest, capable government in his heavy-burdened

When travelling, I always visit the burial-ground; I like to see how
a people commemorates its dead, for tombstones have much
significance. The cemetery of Cotrone lies by the sea-shore, at some
distance beyond the port, far away from habitations; a bare hillside
looks down upon its graves, and the road which goes by is that
leading to Cape Colonna. On the way I passed a little ruined church,
shattered, I was told, by an earthquake three years before; its
lonely position made it interesting, and the cupola of coloured
tiles (like that of the Cathedral at Amalfi) remained intact, a
bright spot against the grey hills behind. A high enclosing wall
signalled the cemetery; I rang a bell at the gate and was admitted
by a man of behaviour and language much more refined than is common
among the people of this region; I felt sorry, indeed, that I had
not found him seated in the Sindaco's chair that morning. But as
guide to the burial-ground he was delightful. Nine years, he told
me, he had held the post of custodian, in which time, working with
his own hands, and unaided, he had turned the enclosure from a
wretched wilderness into a beautiful garden. Unaffectedly I admired
the results of his labour, and my praise rejoiced him greatly. He
specially requested me to observe the geraniums; there were ten
species, many of them of extraordinary size and with magnificent
blossoms. Roses I saw, too, in great abundance; and tall
snapdragons, and bushes of rosemary, and many flowers unknown to me.
As our talk proceeded the gardener gave me a little light on his own
history; formerly he was valet to a gentleman of Cotrone, with whom
he had travelled far and wide over Europe; yes, even to London, of
which he spoke with expressively wide eyes, and equally expressive
shaking of the head. That any one should journey from Calabria to
England seemed to him intelligible enough; but he marvelled that I
had thought it worth while to come from England to Calabria. Very
rarely indeed could he show his garden to one from a far-off
country; no, the place was too poor, accommodation too rough; there
needed a certain courage, and he laughed, again shaking his head.

The ordinary graves were marked with a small wooden cross; where a
head-stone had been raised, it generally presented a skull and
crossed bones. Round the enclosure stood a number of mortuary
chapels, gloomy and ugly. An exception to this dull magnificence in
death was a marble slab, newly set against the wall, in memory of a
Lucifero--one of that family, still eminent, to which belonged the
sacrilegious bishop. The design was a good imitation of those noble
sepulchral tablets which abound in the museum at Athens; a figure
taking leave of others as if going on a journey. The Lucifers had
shown good taste in their choice of the old Greek symbol; no better
adornment of a tomb has ever been devised, nor one that is half so
moving. At the foot of the slab was carved a little owl (civetta), a
bird, my friend informed me, very common about here.

When I took leave, the kindly fellow gave me a large bunch of
flowers, carefully culled, with many regrets that the lateness of
the season forbade his offering choicer blossoms. His simple
good-nature and intelligence greatly won upon me. I like to think of
him as still quietly happy amid his garden walls, tending flowers
that grow over the dead at Cotrone.

On my way back again to the town, I took a nearer view of the ruined
little church, and, whilst I was so engaged, two lads driving a herd
of goats stopped to look at me. As I came out into the road again,
the younger of these modestly approached and begged me to give him a
flower--by choice, a rose. I did so, much to his satisfaction and
no less to mine; it was a pleasant thing to find a wayside lad
asking for anything but soldi. The Calabrians, however, are
distinguished by their self-respect; they contrast remarkedly with
the natives of the Neapolitan district. Presently, I saw that the
boy's elder companion had appropriated the flower, which he kept at
his nose as he plodded along; after useless remonstrance, the other
drew near to me again, shamefaced; would I make him another present;
not a rose this time, he would not venture to ask it, but "_questo
piccolo_"; and he pointed to a sprig of geranium. There was a grace
about the lad which led me to talk to him, though I found his
dialect very difficult. Seeing us on good terms, the elder boy drew
near, and at once asked a puzzling question: When was the ruined
church on the hillside to be rebuilt? I answered, of course, that I
knew nothing about it, but this reply was taken as merely evasive;
in a minute or two the lad again questioned me. Was the rebuilding
to be next year? Then I began to understand; having seen me
examining the ruins, the boy took it for granted that I was an
architect here on business, and I don't think I succeeded in setting
him right. When he had said good-bye he turned to look after me with
a mischievous smile, as much as to say that I had naturally refused
to talk to him about so important a matter as the building of a
church, but he was not to be deceived.

The common type of face at Cotrone is coarse and bumpkinish; ruder,
it seemed to me, than faces seen at any point of my journey
hitherto. A photographer had hung out a lot of portraits, and it was
a hideous exhibition; some of the visages attained an incredible
degree of vulgar ugliness. This in the town which still bears the
name of Croton. The people are all more or less unhealthy; one meets
peasants horribly disfigured with life-long malaria. There is an
agreeable cordiality in the middle classes; business men from whom I
sought casual information, even if we only exchanged a few words in
the street, shook hands with me at parting. I found no one who had
much good to say of his native place; every one complained of a lack
of water. Indeed, Cotrone has as good as no water supply. One or two
wells I saw, jealously guarded: the water they yield is not really
fit for drinking, and people who can afford it purchase water which
comes from a distance in earthenware jars. One of these jars I had
found in my bedroom; its secure corking much puzzled me until I made
inquiries. The river Esaro is all but useless for any purpose, and
as no other stream flows in the neighbourhood, Cotrone's washerwomen
take their work down to the beach; even during the gale I saw them
washing there in pools which they had made to hold the sea water;
now and then one of them ventured into the surf, wading with legs of
limitless nudity and plunging linen as the waves broke about her.

It was unfortunate that I brought no letter of introduction to
Cotrone; I should much have liked to visit one of the better houses.
Well-to-do people live here, and I was told that, in fine weather,
"at least half a dozen" private carriages might be seen making the
fashionable drive on the Strada Regina Margherita. But it is not
easy to imagine luxury or refinement in these dreary, close-packed
streets. Judging from our table at the _Concordia_, the town is
miserably provisioned; the dishes were poor and monotonous and
infamously cooked. Almost the only palatable thing offered was an
enormous radish. Such radishes I never saw: they were from six to
eight inches long, and more than an inch thick, at the same time
thoroughly crisp and sweet. The wine of the country had nothing to
recommend it. It was very heady, and smacked of drugs rather than of
grape juice.

But men must eat, and the _Concordia_, being the only restaurant,
daily entertained several citizens, besides guests staying in the
house. One of these visitants excited my curiosity; he was a
middle-aged man of austere countenance; shabby in attire, but with
the bearing of one accustomed to command. Arriving always at exactly
the same moment, he seated himself in his accustomed place, drew his
hat over his brows, and began to munch bread. No word did I hear him
speak. As soon as he appeared in the doorway, the waiter called out,
with respectful hurry, "Don Ferdinando!" and in a minute his first
course was served. Bent like a hunchback over the table, his hat
dropping ever lower, until it almost hid his eyes, the Don ate
voraciously. His dishes seemed to be always the same, and as soon as
he had finished the last mouthful, he rose and strode from the room.

Don is a common title of respect in Southern Italy; it dates of
course from the time of Spanish rule. At a favourable moment I
ventured to inquire of the waiter who Don Ferdinando might be; the
only answer, given with extreme discretion, was "A proprietor." If
in easy circumstances, the Don must have been miserly, his diet was
wretched beyond description. And in the manner of his feeding he
differed strangely from the ordinary Italian who frequents
restaurants. Wonderful to observe, the representative diner. He
always seems to know exactly what his appetite demands; he addresses
the waiter in a preliminary discourse, sketching out his meal, and
then proceeds to fill in the minutiae. If he orders a common dish,
he describes with exquisite detail how it is to be prepared; in
demanding something out of the way he glows with culinary
enthusiasm. An ordinary bill of fare never satisfies him; he plays
variations upon the theme suggested, divides or combines, introduces
novelties of the most unexpected kind. As a rule, he eats enormously
(I speak only of dinner), a piled dish of macaroni is but the
prelude to his meal, a whetting of his appetite. Throughout he
grumbles, nothing is quite as it should be, and when the bill is
presented he grumbles still more vigorously, seldom paying the sum
as it stands. He rarely appears content with his entertainment, and
often indulges in unbounded abuse of those who serve him. These
characteristics, which I have noted more or less in every part of
Italy, were strongly illustrated at the _Concordia_. In general,
they consist with a fundamental good humour, but at Cotrone the tone
of the dining-room was decidedly morose. One man--he seemed to be
a sort of clerk--came only to quarrel. I am convinced that he
ordered things which he knew the people could not cook just for the
sake of reviling their handiwork when it was presented. Therewith he
spent incredibly small sums; after growling and remonstrating and
eating for more than an hour, his bill would amount to seventy or
eighty centesimi, wine included. Every day he threatened to withdraw
his custom; every day he sent for the landlady, pointed out to her
how vilely he was treated, and asked how she could expect him to
recommend the _Concordia_ to his acquaintances. On one occasion I
saw him push away a plate of something, plant his elbows on the
table, and hide his face in his hands; thus he sat for ten minutes,
an image of indignant misery, and when at last his countenance was
again visible, it showed traces of tears.

I dwell upon the question of food because it was on this day that I
began to feel a loss of appetite and found myself disgusted with the
dishes set before me. In ordinary health I have the happiest
qualification of the traveller, an ability to eat and enjoy the
familiar dishes of any quasi-civilized country; it was a bad sign
when I grew fastidious. After a mere pretence of dinner, I lay down
in my room to rest and read. But I could do neither; it grew plain
to me that I was feverish. Through a sleepless night, the fever
manifestly increasing, I wished that illness had fallen on me
anywhere rather than at Cotrone.



In the morning I arose as usual, though with difficulty. I tried to
persuade myself that I was merely suffering from a violent attack of
dyspepsia, the natural result of _Concordia_ diet. When the waiter
brought my breakfast I regarded it with resentful eye, feeling for
the moment very much like my grumbling acquaintance of the dinner
hour. It may be as well to explain that the breakfast consisted of
very bad coffee, with goat's milk, hard, coarse bread, and goat's
butter, which tasted exactly like indifferent lard. The so-called
butter, by a strange custom of Cotrone, was served in the emptied
rind of a spherical cheese--the small _caccio cavallo_, horse
cheese, which one sees everywhere in the South. I should not have
liked to inquire where, how, when, or by whom the substance of the
cheese had been consumed. Possibly this receptacle is supposed to
communicate a subtle flavour to the butter; I only know that, even
to a healthy palate, the stuff was rather horrible. Cow's milk could
be obtained in very small quantities, but it was of evil flavour;
butter, in the septentrional sense of the word, did not exist.

It surprises me to remember that I went out, walked down to the
shore, and watched the great waves breaking over the harbour mole.
There was a lull in the storm, but as yet no sign of improving
weather; clouds drove swiftly across a lowering sky. My eyes turned
to the Lacinian promontory, dark upon the turbid sea. Should I ever
stand by the sacred column? It seemed to me hopelessly remote; the
voyage an impossible effort.

I talked with a man, of whom I remember nothing but his piercing
eyes steadily fixed upon me; he said there had been a wreck in the
night, a ship carrying live pigs had gone to pieces, and the shore
was sprinkled with porcine corpses.

Presently I found myself back at the _Concordia_, not knowing
exactly how I had returned. The dyspepsia--I clung to this
hypothesis--was growing so violent that I had difficulty in
breathing: before long I found it impossible to stand.

My hostess was summoned, and she told me that Cotrone had "a great
physician," by name "Dr. Scurco." Translating this name from dialect
into Italian, I presumed that the physician's real name was Sculco,
and this proved to be the case. Dr. Riccardo Sculco was a youngish
man, with an open, friendly countenance. At once I liked him. After
an examination, of which I quite understood the result, he remarked
in his amiable, airy manner that I had "a touch of rheumatism"; as a
simple matter of precaution, I had better go to bed for the rest of
the day, and, just for the form of the thing, he would send some
medicine. Having listened to this with as pleasant a smile as I
could command, I caught the Doctor's eye, and asked quietly, "Is
there much congestion?" His manner at once changed; he became
businesslike and confidential. The right lung; yes, the right lung.
Mustn't worry; get to bed and take my quinine in _dosi forti_, and
he would look in again at night.

The second visit I but dimly recollect. There was a colloquy between
the Doctor and my hostess, and the word _cataplasma_ sounded
repeatedly; also I heard again "_dosi forti_." The night that
followed was perhaps the most horrible I ever passed. Crushed with a
sense of uttermost fatigue, I could get no rest. From time to time a
sort of doze crept upon me, and I said to myself, "Now I shall
sleep"; but on the very edge of slumber, at the moment when I was
falling into oblivion, a hand seemed to pluck me back into
consciousness. In the same instant there gleamed before my eyes a
little circle of fire, which blazed and expanded into immensity,
until its many-coloured glare beat upon my brain and thrilled me
with torture. No sooner was the intolerable light extinguished than
I burst into a cold sweat; an icy river poured about me; I shook,
and my teeth chattered, and so for some minutes I lay in anguish,
until the heat of fever re-asserted itself, and I began once more to
toss and roll. A score of times was this torment repeated. The sense
of personal agency forbidding me to sleep grew so strong that I
waited in angry dread for that shock which aroused me; I felt myself
haunted by a malevolent power, and rebelled against its cruelty.

Through the night no one visited me. At eight in the morning a knock
sounded at the door, and there entered the waiter, carrying a tray
with my ordinary breakfast. "The Signore is not well?" he remarked,
standing to gaze at me. I replied that I was not quite well; would
he give me the milk, and remove from my sight as quickly as possible
all the other things on the tray. A glimpse of butter in its
cheese-rind had given me an unpleasant sensation. The goat's milk I
swallowed thankfully, and, glad of the daylight, lay somewhat more
at my ease awaiting Dr. Sculco.

He arrived about half-past nine, and was agreeably surprised to find
me no worse. But the way in which his directions had been carried
out did not altogether please him. He called the landlady, and
soundly rated her. This scene was interesting, it had a fine flavour
of the Middle Ages. The Doctor addressed mine hostess of the
_Concordia_ as "thou," and with magnificent disdain refused to hear
her excuses; she, the stout, noisy woman, who ruled her own
underlings with contemptuous rigour, was all subservience before
this social superior, and whined to him for pardon. "What water is
this?" asked Dr. Sculco, sternly, taking up the corked jar that
stood on the floor. The hostess replied that it was drinking water,
purchased with good money. Thereupon he poured out a little, held it
up to the light, and remarked in a matter-of-fact tone, "I don't
believe you."

However, in a few minutes peace was restored, and the Doctor
prescribed anew. After he had talked about quinine and cataplasms,
he asked me whether I had any appetite. A vision of the dining-room
came before me, and I shook my head. "Still," he urged, "it would be
well to eat something." And, turning to the hostess, "He had better
have a beefsteak and a glass of Marsala." The look of amazement with
which I heard this caught the Doctor's eye. "Don't you like
_bistecca_?" he inquired. I suggested that, for one in a very high
fever, with a good deal of lung congestion, beefsteak seemed a
trifle solid, and Marsala somewhat heating. "Oh!" cried he, "but we
must keep the machine going." And thereupon he took his genial

I had some fear that my hostess might visit upon me her resentment
of the Doctor's reproaches; but nothing of the kind. When we were
alone, she sat down by me, and asked what I should really like to
eat. If I did not care for a beefsteak of veal, could I eat a
beefsteak of mutton? It was not the first time that such a choice
had been offered me, for, in the South, _bistecca_ commonly means a
slice of meat done on the grill or in the oven. Never have I sat
down to a _bistecca_ which was fit for man's consumption, and, of
course, at the _Concordia_ it would be rather worse than anywhere
else. I persuaded the good woman to supply me with a little broth.
Then I lay looking at the patch of cloudy sky which showed above the
houses opposite, and wondering whether I should have a second
fearsome night. I wondered, too, how long it would be before I could
quit Cotrone. The delay here was particularly unfortunate, as my
letters were addressed to Catanzaro, the next stopping-place, and
among them I expected papers which would need prompt attention. The
thought of trying to get my correspondence forwarded to Cotrone was
too disturbing; it would have involved an enormous amount of
trouble, and I could not have felt the least assurance that things
would arrive safely. So I worried through the hours of daylight, and
worried still more when, at nightfall, the fever returned upon me as
badly as ever.

Dr. Sculco had paid his evening visit, and the first horror of
ineffectual drowsing had passed over me, when my door was flung
violently open, and in rushed a man (plainly of the commercial
species), hat on head and bag in hand. I perceived that the
_diligenza_ had just arrived, and that travellers were seizing upon
their bedrooms. The invader, aware of his mistake, discharged a
volley of apologies, and rushed out again. Five minutes later the
door again banged open, and there entered a tall lad with an armful
of newspapers; after regarding me curiously, he asked whether I
wanted a paper. I took one with the hope of reading it next morning.
Then he began conversation. I had the fever? Ah! everybody had fever
at Cotrone. He himself would be laid up with it in a day or two. If
I liked, he would look in with a paper each evening--till fever
prevented him. When I accepted this suggestion, he smiled
encouragingly, cried "_Speriamo_!" and clumped out of the room.

I had as little sleep as on the night before, but my suffering was
mitigated in a very strange way. After I had put out the candle, I
tormented myself for a long time with the thought that I should
never see La Colonna. As soon as I could rise from bed, I must flee
Cotrone, and think myself fortunate in escaping alive; but to turn
my back on the Lacinian promontory, leaving the cape unvisited, the
ruin of the temple unseen, seemed to me a miserable necessity which
I should lament as long as I lived. I felt as one involved in a
moral disaster; working in spite of reason, my brain regarded the
matter from many points of view, and found no shadow of solace. The
sense that so short a distance separated me from the place I desired
to see, added exasperation to my distress. Half-delirious, I at
times seemed to be in a boat, tossing on wild waters, the Column
visible afar, but only when I strained my eyes to discover it. In a
description of the approach by land, I had read of a great precipice
which had to be skirted, and this, too, haunted me with its terrors:
I found myself toiling on a perilous road, which all at once
crumbled into fearful depths just before me. A violent shivering fit
roused me from this gloomy dreaming, and I soon after fell into a
visionary state which, whilst it lasted, gave me such placid
happiness as I have never known when in my perfect mind. Lying still
and calm, and perfectly awake, I watched a succession of wonderful
pictures. First of all I saw great vases, rich with ornament and
figures; then sepulchral marbles, carved more exquisitely than the
most beautiful I had ever known. The vision grew in extent, in
multiplicity of detail; presently I was regarding scenes of ancient
life--thronged streets, processions triumphal or religious, halls
of feasting, fields of battle. What most impressed me at the time
was the marvellously bright yet delicate colouring of everything I
saw. I can give no idea in words of the pure radiance which shone
from every object, which illumined every scene. More remarkable,
when I thought of it next day, was the minute finish of these
pictures, the definiteness of every point on which my eye fell.
Things which I could not know, which my imagination, working in the
service of the will, could never have bodied forth, were before me
as in life itself. I consciously wondered at peculiarities of
costume such as I had never read of; at features of architecture
entirely new to me; at insignificant characteristics of that by-gone
world, which by no possibility could have been gathered from books.
I recall a succession of faces, the loveliest conceivable; and I
remember, I feel to this moment the pang of regret with which I lost
sight of each when it faded into darkness.

As an example of the more elaborate visions that passed before me, I
will mention the only one which I clearly recollect. It was a
glimpse of history. When Hannibal, at the end of the second Punic
War, was confined to the south of Italy, he made Croton his
head-quarters, and when, in reluctant obedience to Carthage, he
withdrew from Roman soil, it was at Croton that he embarked. He then
had with him a contingent of Italian mercenaries, and, unwilling
that these soldiers should go over to the enemy, he bade them
accompany him to Africa. The Italians refused. Thereupon Hannibal
had them led down to the shore of the sea, where he slaughtered one
and all. This event I beheld. I saw the strand by Croton; the
promontory with its temple; not as I know the scene to-day, but as
it must have looked to those eyes more than two thousand years ago.
The soldiers of Hannibal doing massacre, the perishing mercenaries,
supported my closest gaze, and left no curiosity unsatisfied. (Alas!
could I but see it again, or remember clearly what was shown tome!)

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