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Eothen by A. W. Kinglake

Part 1 out of 5

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Transcribed from the 1898 George Newnes edition by David Price,
email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk



At Semlin I still was encompassed by the scenes and the sounds of
familiar life; the din of a busy world still vexed and cheered me;
the unveiled faces of women still shone in the light of day. Yet,
whenever I chose to look southward, I saw the Ottoman's fortress--
austere, and darkly impending high over the vale of the Danube--
historic Belgrade. I had come, as it were, to the end of this
wheel-going Europe, and now my eyes would see the splendour and
havoc of the East.

The two frontier towns are less than a cannon-shot distant, and yet
their people hold no communion. The Hungarian on the north, and
the Turk and Servian on the southern side of the Save are as much
asunder as though there were fifty broad provinces that lay in the
path between them. Of the men that bustled around me in the
streets of Semlin there was not, perhaps, one who had ever gone
down to look upon the stranger race dwelling under the walls of
that opposite castle. It is the plague, and the dread of the
plague, that divide the one people from the other. All coming and
going stands forbidden by the terrors of the yellow flag. If you
dare to break the laws of the quarantine, you will be tried with
military haste; the court will scream out your sentence to you from
a tribunal some fifty yards off; the priest, instead of gently
whispering to you the sweet hopes of religion, will console you at
duelling distance; and after that you will find yourself carefully
shot, and carelessly buried in the ground of the lazaretto.

When all was in order for our departure we walked down to the
precincts of the quarantine establishment, and here awaited us a
"compromised" {1} officer of the Austrian Government, who lives in
a state of perpetual excommunication. The boats, with their
"compromised" rowers, were also in readiness.

After coming in contact with any creature or thing belonging to the
Ottoman Empire it would be impossible for us to return to the
Austrian territory without undergoing an imprisonment of fourteen
days in the odious lazaretto. We felt, therefore, that before we
committed ourselves it was important to take care that none of the
arrangements necessary for the journey had been forgotten; and in
our anxiety to avoid such a misfortune, we managed the work of
departure from Semlin with nearly as much solemnity as if we had
been departing this life. Some obliging persons, from whom we had
received civilities during our short stay in the place, came down
to say their farewell at the river's side; and now, as we stood
with them at the distance of three or four yards from the
"compromised" officer, they asked if we were perfectly certain that
we had wound up all our affairs in Christendom, and whether we had
no parting requests to make. We repeated the caution to our
servants, and took anxious thought lest by any possibility we might
be cut off from some cherished object of affection:- were they
quite sure that nothing had been forgotten--that there was no
fragrant dressing-case with its gold-compelling letters of credit
from which we might be parting for ever?--No; all our treasures lay
safely stowed in the boat, and we were ready to follow them to the
ends of the earth. Now, therefore, we shook hands with our Semlin
friends, who immediately retreated for three or four paces, so as
to leave us in the centre of a space between them and the
"compromised" officer. The latter then advanced, and asking once
more if we had done with the civilised world, held forth his hand.
I met it with mine, and there was an end to Christendom for many a
day to come.

We soon neared the southern bank of the river, but no sounds came
down from the blank walls above, and there was no living thing that
we could yet see, except one great hovering bird of the vulture
race, flying low, and intent, and wheeling round and round over the
pest-accursed city.

But presently there issued from the postern a group of human
beings--beings with immortal souls, and possibly some reasoning
faculties; but to me the grand point was this, that they had real,
substantial, and incontrovertible turbans. They made for the point
towards which we were steering, and when at last I sprang upon the
shore, I heard, and saw myself now first surrounded by men of
Asiatic blood. I have since ridden through the land of the
Osmanlees, from the Servian border to the Golden Horn--from the
Gulf of Satalieh to the tomb of Achilles; but never have I seen
such ultra-Turkish looking fellows as those who received me on the
banks of the Save. They were men in the humblest order of life,
having come to meet our boat in the hope of earning something by
carrying our luggage up to the city; but poor though they were, it
was plain that they were Turks of the proud old school, and had not
yet forgotten the fierce, careless bearing of their once victorious

Though the province of Servia generally has obtained a kind of
independence, yet Belgrade, as being a place of strength on the
frontier, is still garrisoned by Turkish troops under the command
of a Pasha. Whether the fellows who now surrounded us were
soldiers, or peaceful inhabitants, I did not understand: they wore
the old Turkish costume; vests and jackets of many and brilliant
colours, divided from the loose petticoat-trousers by heavy volumes
of shawl, so thickly folded around their waists as to give the
meagre wearers something of the dignity of true corpulence. This
cincture enclosed a whole bundle of weapons; no man bore less than
one brace of immensely long pistols, and a yataghan (or cutlass),
with a dagger or two of various shapes and sizes; most of these
arms were inlaid with silver, and highly burnished, so that they
contrasted shiningly with the decayed grandeur of the garments to
which they were attached (this carefulness of his arms is a point
of honour with the Osmanlee, who never allows his bright yataghan
to suffer from his own adversity); then the long drooping
mustachios, and the ample folds of the once white turbans, that
lowered over the piercing eyes, and the haggard features of the
men, gave them an air of gloomy pride, and that appearance of
trying to be disdainful under difficulties, which I have since seen
so often in those of the Ottoman people who live, and remember old
times; they seemed as if they were thinking that they would have
been more usefully, more honourably, and more piously employed in
cutting our throats than in carrying our portmanteaus. The
faithful Steel (Methley's Yorkshire servant) stood aghast for a
moment at the sight of his master's luggage upon the shoulders of
these warlike porters, and when at last we began to move up he
could scarcely avoid turning round to cast one affectionate look
towards Christendom, but quickly again he marched on with steps of
a man, not frightened exactly, but sternly prepared for death, or
the Koran, or even for plural wives.

The Moslem quarter of a city is lonely and desolate. You go up and
down, and on over shelving and hillocky paths through the narrow
lanes walled in by blank, windowless dwellings; you come out upon
an open space strewed with the black ruins that some late fire has
left; you pass by a mountain of castaway things, the rubbish of
centuries, and on it you see numbers of big, wolf-like dogs lying
torpid under the sun, with limbs outstretched to the full, as if
they were dead; storks, or cranes, sitting fearless upon the low
roofs, look gravely down upon you; the still air that you breathe
is loaded with the scent of citron, and pomegranate rinds scorched
by the sun, or (as you approach the bazaar) with the dry, dead
perfume of strange spices. You long for some signs of life, and
tread the ground more heavily, as though you would wake the
sleepers with the heel of your boot; but the foot falls noiseless
upon the crumbling soil of an Eastern city, and silence follows you
still. Again and again you meet turbans, and faces of men, but
they have nothing for you--no welcome--no wonder--no wrath--no
scorn--they look upon you as we do upon a December's fall of snow--
as a "seasonable," unaccountable, uncomfortable work of God, that
may have been sent for some good purpose, to be revealed hereafter.

Some people had come down to meet us with an invitation from the
Pasha, and we wound our way up to the castle. At the gates there
were groups of soldiers, some smoking, and some lying flat like
corpses upon the cool stones. We went through courts, ascended
steps, passed along a corridor, and walked into an airy,
whitewashed room, with an European clock at one end of it, and
Moostapha Pasha at the other; the fine, old, bearded potentate
looked very like Jove--like Jove, too, in the midst of his clouds,
for the silvery fumes of the narghile {2} hung lightly circling
round him.

The Pasha received us with the smooth, kind, gentle manner that
belongs to well-bred Osmanlees; then he lightly clapped his hands,
and instantly the sound filled all the lower end of the room with
slaves; a syllable dropped from his lips which bowed all heads, and
conjured away the attendants like ghosts (their coming and their
going was thus swift and quiet, because their feet were bare, and
they passed through no door, but only by the yielding folds of a
purder). Soon the coffee-bearers appeared, every man carrying
separately his tiny cup in a small metal stand; and presently to
each of us there came a pipe-bearer, who first rested the bowl of
the tchibouque at a measured distance on the floor, and then, on
this axis, wheeled round the long cheery stick, and gracefully
presented it on half-bended knee; already the well-kindled fire was
glowing secure in the bowl, and so, when I pressed the amber up to
mine, there was no coyness to conquer; the willing fume came up,
and answered my slightest sigh, and followed softly every breath
inspired, till it touched me with some faint sense and
understanding of Asiatic contentment.

Asiatic contentment! Yet scarcely, perhaps, one hour before I had
been wanting my bill, and ringing for waiters, in a shrill and busy

In the Ottoman dominions there is scarcely any hereditary influence
except that which belongs to the family of the Sultan, and wealth,
too, is a highly volatile blessing, not easily transmitted to the
descendant of the owner. From these causes it results that the
people standing in the place of nobles and gentry are official
personages, and though many (indeed the greater number) of these
potentates are humbly born and bred, you will seldom, I think, find
them wanting in that polished smoothness of manner, and those well-
undulating tones which belong to the best Osmanlees. The truth is,
that most of the men in authority have risen from their humble
station by the arts of the courtier, and they preserve in their
high estate those gentle powers of fascination to which they owe
their success. Yet unless you can contrive to learn a little of
the language, you will be rather bored by your visits of ceremony;
the intervention of the interpreter, or dragoman as he is called,
is fatal to the spirit of conversation. I think I should mislead
you if I were to attempt to give the substance of any particular
conversation with Orientals. A traveller may write and say that
"the Pasha of So-and-so was particularly interested in the vast
progress which has been made in the application of steam, and
appeared to understand the structure of our machinery--that he
remarked upon the gigantic results of our manufacturing industry--
showed that he possessed considerable knowledge of our Indian
affairs, and of the constitution of the Company, and expressed a
lively admiration of the many sterling qualities for which the
people of England are distinguished." But the heap of commonplaces
thus quietly attributed to the Pasha will have been founded perhaps
on some such talking as this:-

Pasha.--The Englishman is welcome; most blessed among hours is
this, the hour of his coming.

Dragoman (to the traveller).--The Pasha pays you his compliments.

Traveller.--Give him my best compliments in return, and say I'm
delighted to have the honour of seeing him.

Dragoman (to the Pasha).--His lordship, this Englishman, Lord of
London, Scorner of Ireland, Suppressor of France, has quitted his
governments, and left his enemies to breathe for a moment, and has
crossed the broad waters in strict disguise, with a small but
eternally faithful retinue of followers, in order that he might
look upon the bright countenance of the Pasha among Pashas--the
Pasha of the everlasting Pashalik of Karagholookoldour.

Traveller (to his dragoman).--What on earth have you been saying
about London? The Pasha will be taking me for a mere cockney.
Have not I told you ALWAYS to say that I am from a branch of the
family of Mudcombe Park, and that I am to be a magistrate for the
county of Bedfordshire, only I've not qualified, and that I should
have been a deputy-lieutenant if it had not been for the
extraordinary conduct of Lord Mountpromise, and that I was a
candidate for Goldborough at the last election, and that I should
have won easy if my committee had not been bought. I wish to
Heaven that if you DO say anything about me, you'd tell the simple

Dragoman [is silent].

Pasha.--What says the friendly Lord of London? is there aught that
I can grant him within the Pashalik of Karagholookoldour?

Dragoman (growing, sulky and literal).--This friendly Englishman--
this branch of Mudcombe--this head-purveyor of Goldborough--this
possible policeman of Bedfordshire, is recounting his achievements,
and the number of his titles.

Pasha.--The end of his honours is more distant than the ends of the
earth, and the catalogue of his glorious deeds is brighter than the
firmament of heaven!

Dragoman (to the traveller).--The Pasha congratulates your

Traveller.--About Goldborough? The deuce he does!--but I want to
get at his views in relation to the present state of the Ottoman
Empire. Tell him the Houses of Parliament have met, and that there
has been a speech from the throne, pledging England to preserve the
integrity of the Sultan's dominions.

Dragoman (to the Pasha).--This branch of Mudcombe, this possible
policeman of Bedfordshire, informs your Highness that in England
the talking houses have met, and that the integrity of the Sultan's
dominions has been assured for ever and ever by a speech from the
velvet chair.

Pasha.--Wonderful chair! Wonderful houses!--whirr! whirr! all by
wheels!--whiz! whiz! all by steam!--wonderful chair! wonderful
houses! wonderful people!--whirr! whirr! all by wheels!--whiz!
whiz! all by steam!

Traveller (to the dragoman).--What does the Pasha mean by that
whizzing? he does not mean to say, does he, that our Government
will ever abandon their pledges to the Sultan?

Dragoman.--No, your Excellency; but he says the English talk by
wheels, and by steam.

Traveller.--That's an exaggeration; but say that the English really
have carried machinery to great perfection; tell the Pasha (he'll
be struck with that) that whenever we have any disturbances to put
down, even at two or three hundred miles from London, we can send
troops by the thousand to the scene of action in a few hours.

Dragoman (recovering his temper and freedom of speech).--His
Excellency, this Lord of Mudcombe, observes to your Highness, that
whenever the Irish, or the French, or the Indians rebel against the
English, whole armies of soldiers, and brigades of artillery, are
dropped into a mighty chasm called Euston Square, and in the biting
of a cartridge they arise up again in Manchester, or Dublin, or
Paris, or Delhi, and utterly exterminate the enemies of England
from the face of the earth.

Pasha.--I know it--I know all--the particulars have been faithfully
related to me, and my mind comprehends locomotives. The armies of
the English ride upon the vapours of boiling caldrons, and their
horses are flaming coals!--whirr! whirr! all by wheels!--whiz!
whiz! all by steam!

Traveller (to his dragoman).--I wish to have the opinion of an
unprejudiced Ottoman gentleman as to the prospects of our English
commerce and manufactures; just ask the Pasha to give me his views
on the subject.

Pasha (after having received the communication of the dragoman).--
The ships of the English swarm like flies; their printed calicoes
cover the whole earth; and by the side of their swords the blades
of Damascus are blades of grass. All India is but an item in the
ledger-books of the merchants, whose lumber-rooms are filled with
ancient thrones!--whirr! whirr! all by wheels!--whiz! whiz! all by

Dragoman.--The Pasha compliments the cutlery of England, and also
the East India Company.

Traveller.--The Pasha's right about the cutlery (I tried my
scimitar with the common officers' swords belonging to our fellows
at Malta, and they cut it like the leaf of a novel). Well (to the
dragoman), tell the Pasha I am exceedingly gratified to find that
he entertains such a high opinion of our manufacturing energy, but
I should like him to know, though, that we have got something in
England besides that. These foreigners are always fancying that we
have nothing but ships, and railways, and East India Companies; do
just tell the Pasha that our rural districts deserve his attention,
and that even within the last two hundred years there has been an
evident improvement in the culture of the turnip, and if he does
not take any interest about that, at all events you can explain
that we have our virtues in the country--that we are a truth-
telling people, and, like the Osmanlees, are faithful in the
performance of our promises. Oh! and, by-the-bye, whilst you are
about it, you may as well just say at the end that the British
yeoman is still, thank God! the British yeoman.

Pasha (after hearing the dragoman).--It is true, it is true: --
through all Feringhistan the English are foremost and best; for the
Russians are drilled swine, and the Germans are sleeping babes, and
the Italians are the servants of songs, and the French are the sons
of newspapers, and the Greeks they are weavers of lies, but the
English and the Osmanlees are brothers together in righteousness;
for the Osmanlees believe in one only God, and cleave to the Koran,
and destroy idols, so do the English worship one God, and abominate
graven images, and tell the truth, and believe in a book, and
though they drink the juice of the grape, yet to say that they
worship their prophet as God, or to say that they are eaters of
pork, these are lies--lies born of Greeks, and nursed by Jews!

Dragoman.--The Pasha compliments the English.

Traveller (rising).--Well, I've had enough of this. Tell the Pasha
I am greatly obliged to him for his hospitality, and still more for
his kindness in furnishing me with horses, and say that now I must
be off.

Pasha (after hearing the dragoman, and standing up on his divan).
{3}--Proud are the sires, and blessed are the dams of the horses
that shall carry his Excellency to the end of his prosperous
journey. May the saddle beneath him glide down to the gates of the
happy city, like a boat swimming on the third river of Paradise.
May he sleep the sleep of a child, when his friends are around him;
and the while that his enemies are abroad, may his eyes flame red
through the darkness--more red than the eyes of ten tigers!

Dragoman.--The Pasha wishes your Excellency a pleasant journey.

So ends the visit.


In two or three hours our party was ready; the servants, the Tatar,
the mounted Suridgees, and the baggage-horses, altogether made up a
strong cavalcade. The accomplished Mysseri, of whom you have heard
me speak so often, and who served me so faithfully throughout my
Oriental journeys, acted as our interpreter, and was, in fact, the
brain of our corps. The Tatar, you know, is a government courier
properly employed in carrying despatches, but also sent with
travellers to speed them on their way, and answer with his head for
their safety. The man whose head was thus pledged for our precious
lives was a glorious-looking fellow, with the regular and handsome
cast of countenance which is now characteristic of the Ottoman
race. {4} His features displayed a good deal of serene pride,
self-respect, fortitude, a kind of ingenuous sensuality, and
something of instinctive wisdom, without any sharpness of
intellect. He had been a Janissary (as I afterwards found), and
kept up the odd strut of his old corps, which used to affright the
Christians in former times--that rolling gait so comically pompous,
that a close imitation of it, even in the broadest farce, would be
looked upon as a very rough over-acting of the character. It is
occasioned in part by dress and accoutrements. The weighty bundle
of weapons carried upon the chest throws back the body so as to
give it a wonderful portliness, and moreover, the immense masses of
clothes that swathe his limbs force the wearer in walking to swing
himself heavily round from left to right, and from right to left.
In truth, this great edifice of woollen, and cotton, and silk, and
silver, and brass, and steel is not at all fitted for moving on
foot; it cannot even walk without frightfully discomposing its fair
proportions; and as to running--our Tatar ran ONCE (it was in order
to pick up a partridge that Methley had winged with a pistol-shot),
and really the attempt was one of the funniest misdirections of
human energy that wondering man ever saw. But put him in his
stirrups, and then is the Tatar himself again: there he lives at
his pleasure, reposing in the tranquillity of that true home (the
home of his ancestors) which the saddle seems to afford him, and
drawing from his pipe the calm pleasures of his "own fireside," or
else dashing sudden over the earth, as though for a moment he felt
the mouth of a Turcoman steed, and saw his own Scythian plains
lying boundless and open before him.

It was not till his subordinates had nearly completed their
preparations for their march that our Tatar, "commanding the
forces," arrived; he came sleek and fresh from the bath (for so is
the custom of the Ottomans when they start upon a journey), and was
carefully accoutred at every point. From his thigh to his throat
he was loaded with arms and other implements of a campaigning life.
There is no scarcity of water along the whole road from Belgrade to
Stamboul, but the habits of our Tatar were formed by his ancestors
and not by himself, so he took good care to see that his leathern
water-flask was amply charged and properly strapped to the saddle,
along with his blessed tchibouque. And now at last he has cursed
the Suridgees in all proper figures of speech, and is ready for a
ride of a thousand miles; but before he comforts his soul in the
marble baths of Stamboul he will be another and a lesser man; his
sense of responsibility, his too strict abstemiousness, and his
restless energy, disdainful of sleep, will have worn him down to a
fraction of the sleek Moostapha that now leads out our party from
the gates of Belgrade.

The Suridgees are the men employed to lead the baggage-horses.
They are most of them gipsies. Their lot is a sad one: they are
the last of the human race, and all the sins of their superiors
(including the horses) can safely be visited on them. But the
wretched look often more picturesque than their betters; and though
all the world despise these poor Suridgees, their tawny skins and
their grisly beards will gain them honourable standing in the
foreground of a landscape. We had a couple of these fellows with
us, each leading a baggage-horse, to the tail of which last another
baggage-horse was attached. There was a world of trouble in
persuading the stiff angular portmanteaus of Europe to adapt
themselves to their new condition and sit quietly on pack-saddles,
but all was right at last, and it gladdened my eyes to see our
little troop file off through the winding lanes of the city, and
show down brightly in the plain beneath. The one of our party that
seemed to be most out of keeping with the rest of the scene was
Methley's Yorkshire servant, who always rode doggedly on in his
pantry jacket, looking out for "gentlemen's seats."

Methley and I had English saddles, but I think we should have done
just as well (I should certainly have seen more of the country) if
we had adopted saddles like that of our Tatar, who towered so
loftily over the scraggy little beast that carried him. In taking
thought for the East, whilst in England, I had made one capital hit
which you must not forget--I had brought with me a pair of common
spurs. These were a great comfort to me throughout my horseback
travels, by keeping up the cheerfulness of the many unhappy nags
that I had to bestride; the angle of the Oriental stirrup is a very
poor substitute for spurs.

The Ottoman horseman, raised by his saddle to a great height above
the humble level of the back that he bestrides, and using an
awfully sharp bit, is able to lift the crest of his nag, and force
him into a strangely fast shuffling walk, the orthodox pace for the
journey. My comrade and I, using English saddles, could not easily
keep our beasts up to this peculiar amble; besides, we thought it a
bore to be FOLLOWED by our attendants for a thousand miles, and we
generally, therefore, did duty as the rearguard of our "grand
army"; we used to walk our horses till the party in front had got
into the distance, and then retrieve the lost ground by a gallop.

We had ridden on for some two or three hours; the stir and bustle
of our commencing journey had ceased, the liveliness of our little
troop had worn off with the declining day, and the night closed in
as we entered the great Servian forest. Through this our road was
to last for more than a hundred miles. Endless, and endless now on
either side, the tall oaks closed in their ranks and stood gloomily
lowering over us, as grim as an army of giants with a thousand
years' pay in arrear. One strived with listening ear to catch some
tidings of that forest world within--some stirring of beasts, some
night-bird's scream, but all was quite hushed, except the voice of
the cicalas that peopled every bough, and filled the depths of the
forest through and through, with one same hum everlasting--more
stifling than very silence.

At first our way was in darkness, but after a while the moon got
up, and touched the glittering arms and tawny faces of our men with
light so pale and mystic, that the watchful Tatar felt bound to
look out for demons, and take proper means for keeping them off:
forthwith he determined that the duty of frightening away our
ghostly enemies (like every other troublesome work) should fall
upon the poor Suridgees, who accordingly lifted up their voices,
and burst upon the dreadful stillness of the forest with shrieks
and dismal howls. These precautions were kept up incessantly, and
were followed by the most complete success, for not one demon came
near us.

Long before midnight we reached the hamlet in which we were to rest
for the night; it was made up of about a dozen clay huts, standing
upon a small tract of ground hardly won from the forest. The
peasants that lived there spoke a Slavonic dialect, and Mysseri's
knowledge of the Russian tongue enabled him to talk with them
freely. We took up our quarters in a square room with white walls
and an earthen floor, quite bare of furniture, and utterly void of
women. They told us, however, that these Servian villagers lived
in happy abundance, but that they were careful to conceal their
riches, as well as their wives.

The burthens unstrapped from the pack-saddles very quickly
furnished our den: a couple of quilts spread upon the floor, with
a carpet-bag at the head of each, became capital sofas--
portmanteaus, and hat-boxes, and writing-cases, and books, and
maps, and gleaming arms soon lay strewed around us in pleasant
confusion. Mysseri's canteen too began to yield up its treasures,
but we relied upon finding some provisions in the village. At
first the natives declared that their hens were mere old maids and
all their cows unmarried, but our Tatar swore such a grand sonorous
oath, and fingered the hilt of his yataghan with such persuasive
touch, that the land soon flowed with milk, and mountains of eggs

And soon there was tea before us, with all its unspeakable
fragrance, and as we reclined on the floor, we found that a
portmanteau was just the right height for a table; the duty of
candlesticks was ably performed by a couple of intelligent natives;
the rest of the villagers stood by the open doorway at the lower
end of the room, and watched our banqueting with grave and devout

The first night of your first campaign (though you be but a mere
peaceful campaigner) is a glorious time in your life. It is so
sweet to find one's self free from the stale civilisation of
Europe! Oh my dear ally, when first you spread your carpet in the
midst of these Eastern scenes, do think for a moment of those your
fellow-creatures, that dwell in squares, and streets, and even (for
such is the fate of many!) in actual country houses; think of the
people that are "presenting their compliments," and "requesting the
honour," and "much regretting,"--of those that are pinioned at
dinner-tables; or stuck up in ballrooms, or cruelly planted in
pews--ay, think of these, and so remembering how many poor devils
are living in a state of utter respectability, you will glory the
more in your own delightful escape.

I am bound to confess, however, that with all its charms a mud
floor (like a mercenary match) does certainly promote early rising.
Long before daybreak we were up, and had breakfasted; after this
there was nearly a whole tedious hour to endure whilst the horses
were laden by torch-light; but this had an end, and at last we went
on once more. Cloaked, and sombre, at first we made our sullen way
through the darkness, with scarcely one barter of words, but soon
the genial morn burst down from heaven, and stirred the blood so
gladly through our veins, that the very Suridgees, with all their
troubles, could now look up for an instant, and almost seem to
believe in the temporary goodness of God.

The actual movement from one place to another, in Europeanised
countries, is a process so temporary--it occupies, I mean, so small
a proportion of the traveller's entire time--that his mind remains
unsettled, so long as the wheels are going; he may be alive enough
to external objects of interest, and to the crowding ideas which
are often invited by the excitement of a changing scene, but he is
still conscious of being in a provisional state, and his mind is
constantly recurring to the expected end of his journey; his
ordinary ways of thought have been interrupted, and before any new
mental habits can be formed he is quietly fixed in his hotel. It
will be otherwise with you when you journey in the East. Day after
day, perhaps week after week and month after month, your foot is in
the stirrup. To taste the cold breath of the earliest morn, and to
lead, or follow, your bright cavalcade till sunset through forests
and mountain passes, through valleys and desolate plains, all this
becomes your MODE OF LIFE, and you ride, eat, drink, and curse the
mosquitoes as systematically as your friends in England eat, drink,
and sleep. If you are wise, you will not look upon the long period
of time thus occupied in actual movement as the mere gulf dividing
you from the end of your journey, but rather as one of those rare
and plastic seasons of your life from which, perhaps, in after
times you may love to date the moulding of your character--that is,
your very identity. Once feel this, and you will soon grow happy
and contented in your saddle-home. As for me and my comrade,
however, in this part of our journey we often forgot Stamboul,
forgot all the Ottoman Empire, and only remembered old times. We
went back, loitering on the banks of Thames--not grim old Thames of
"after life," that washes the Parliament Houses, and drowns
despairing girls--but Thames, the "old Eton fellow," that wrestled
with us in our boyhood till he taught us to be stronger than he.
We bullied Keate, and scoffed at Larrey Miller, and Okes; we rode
along loudly laughing, and talked to the grave Servian forest as
though it were the "Brocas clump."

Our pace was commonly very slow, for the baggage-horses served us
for a drag, and kept us to a rate of little more than five miles in
the hour, but now and then, and chiefly at night, a spirit of
movement would suddenly animate the whole party; the baggage-horses
would be teased into a gallop, and when once this was done, there
would be such a banging of portmanteaus, and such convulsions of
carpet-bags upon their panting sides, and the Suridgees would
follow them up with such a hurricane of blows, and screams, and
curses, that stopping or relaxing was scarcely possible; then the
rest of us would put our horses into a gallop, and so all shouting
cheerily, would hunt, and drive the sumpter beasts like a flock of
goats, up hill and down dale, right on to the end of their journey.

The distances at which we got relays of horses varied greatly; some
were not more than fifteen or twenty miles, but twice, I think, we
performed a whole day's journey of more than sixty miles with the
same beasts.

When at last we came out from the forest our road lay through
scenes like those of an English park. The green sward unfenced,
and left to the free pasture of cattle, was dotted with groups of
stately trees, and here and there darkened over with larger masses
of wood, that seemed gathered together for bounding the domain, and
shutting out some "infernal" fellow-creature in the shape of a
newly made squire; in one or two spots the hanging copses looked
down upon a lawn below with such sheltering mien, that seeing the
like in England you would have been tempted almost to ask the name
of the spend-thrift, or the madman who had dared to pull down "the
old hall."

There are few countries less infested by "lions" than the provinces
on this part of your route. You are not called upon to "drop a
tear" over the tomb of "the once brilliant" anybody, or to pay
your "tribute of respect" to anything dead or alive. There are no
Servian or Bulgarian litterateurs with whom it would be positively
disgraceful not to form an acquaintance; you have no staring, no
praising to get through; the only public building of any interest
that lies on the road is of modern date, but is said to be a good
specimen of Oriental architecture; it is of a pyramidical shape,
and is made up of thirty thousand skulls, contributed by the
rebellious Servians in the early part (I believe) of this century:
I am not at all sure of my date, but I fancy it was in the year
1806 that the first skull was laid. I am ashamed to say that in
the darkness of the early morning we unknowingly went by the
neighbourhood of this triumph of art, and so basely got off from
admiring "the simple grandeur of the architect's conception," and
"the exquisite beauty of the fretwork."

There being no "lions," we ought at least to have met with a few
perils, but the only robbers we saw anything of had been long since
dead and gone. The poor fellows had been impaled upon high poles,
and so propped up by the transverse spokes beneath them, that their
skeletons, clothed with some white, wax-like remains of flesh,
still sat up lolling in the sunshine, and listlessly stared without

One day it seemed to me that our path was a little more rugged than
usual, and I found that I was deserving for myself the title of
Sabalkansky, or "Transcender of the Balcan." The truth is, that,
as a military barrier, the Balcan is a fabulous mountain. Such
seems to be the view of Major Keppell, who looked on it towards the
east with the eye of a soldier, and certainly in the Sophia Pass,
which I followed, there is no narrow defile, and no ascent
sufficiently difficult to stop, or delay for long time, a train of
siege artillery.

Before we reached Adrianople, Methley had been seized with we knew
not what ailment, and when we had taken up our quarters in the city
he was cast to the very earth by sickness. Adrianople enjoyed an
English consul, and I felt sure that, in Eastern phrase, his house
would cease to be his house, and would become the house of my sick
comrade. I should have judged rightly under ordinary
circumstances, but the levelling plague was abroad, and the dread
of it had dominion over the consular mind. So now (whether dying
or not, one could hardly tell), upon a quilt stretched out along
the floor, there lay the best hope of an ancient line, without the
material aids to comfort of even the humblest sort, and (sad to
say) without the consolation of a friend, or even a comrade worth
having. I have a notion that tenderness and pity are affections
occasioned in some measure by living within doors; certainly, at
the time I speak of, the open-air life which I have been leading,
or the wayfaring hardships of the journey, had so strangely blunted
me, that I felt intolerant of illness, and looked down upon my
companion as if the poor fellow in falling ill had betrayed a want
of spirit. I entertained too a most absurd idea--an idea that his
illness was partly affected. You see that I have made a
confession: this I hope--that I may always hereafter look
charitably upon the hard, savage acts of peasants, and the
cruelties of a "brutal" soldiery. God knows that I strived to melt
myself into common charity, and to put on a gentleness which I
could not feel, but this attempt did not cheat the keenness of the
sufferer; he could not have felt the less deserted because that I
was with him.

We called to aid a solemn Armenian (I think he was) half
soothsayer, half hakim, or doctor, who, all the while counting his
beads, fixed his eyes steadily upon the patient, and then suddenly
dealt him a violent blow on the chest. Methley bravely dissembled
his pain, for he fancied that the blow was meant to try whether or
not the plague were on him.

Here was really a sad embarrassment--no bed; nothing to offer the
invalid in the shape of food save a piece of thin, tough, flexible,
drab-coloured cloth, made of flour and mill-stones in equal
proportions, and called by the name of "bread"; then the patient,
of course, had no "confidence in his medical man," and on the
whole, the best chance of saving my comrade seemed to lie in taking
him out of the reach of his doctor, and bearing him away to the
neighbourhood of some more genial consul. But how was this to be
done? Methley was much too ill to be kept in his saddle, and wheel
carriages, as means of travelling, were unknown. There is,
however, such a thing as an "araba," a vehicle drawn by oxen, in
which the wives of a rich man are sometimes dragged four or five
miles over the grass by way of recreation. The carriage is rudely
framed, but you recognise in the simple grandeur of its design a
likeness to things majestic; in short, if your carpenter's son were
to make a "Lord Mayor's coach" for little Amy, he would build a
carriage very much in the style of a Turkish araba. No one had
ever heard of horses being used for drawing a carriage in this part
of the world, but necessity is the mother of innovation as well as
of invention. I was fully justified, I think, in arguing that
there were numerous instances of horses being used for that purpose
in our own country--that the laws of nature are uniform in their
operation over all the world (except Ireland)--that that which was
true in Piccadilly, must be true in Adrianople--that the matter
could not fairly be treated as an ecclesiastical question, for that
the circumstance of Methley's going on to Stamboul in an araba
drawn by horses, when calmly and dispassionately considered, would
appear to be perfectly consistent with the maintenance of the
Mahometan religion as by law established. Thus poor, dear, patient
Reason would have fought her slow battle against Asiatic prejudice,
and I am convinced that she would have established the possibility
(and perhaps even the propriety) of harnessing horses in a hundred
and fifty years; but in the meantime Mysseri, well seconded by our
Tatar, put a very quick end to the controversy by having the horses
put to.

It was a sore thing for me to see my poor comrade brought to this,
for young though he was, he was a veteran in travel. When scarcely
yet of age he had invaded India from the frontiers of Russia, and
that so swiftly, that measuring by the time of his flight the broad
dominions of the king of kings were shrivelled up to a dukedom and
now, poor fellow, he was to be poked into an araba: like a
Georgian girl! He suffered greatly, for there were no springs for
the carriage, and no road for the wheels; and so the concern jolted
on over the open country with such twists, and jerks, and jumps, as
might almost dislocate the supple tongue of Satan.

All day the patient kept himself shut up within the lattice-work of
the araba, and I could hardly know how he was faring until the end
of the day's journey, when I found that he was not worse, and was
buoyed up with the hope of some day reaching Constantinople.

I was always conning over my maps, and fancied that I knew pretty
well my line, but after Adrianople I had made more southing than I
knew for, and it was with unbelieving wonder, and delight, that I
came suddenly upon the shore of the sea. A little while, and its
gentle billows were flowing beneath the hoofs of my beast, but the
hearing of the ripple was not enough communion, and the seeing of
the blue Propontis was not to know and possess it--I must needs
plunge into its depth and quench my longing love in the palpable
waves; and so when old Moostapha (defender against demons) looked
round for his charge, he saw with horror and dismay that he for
whose life his own life stood pledged was possessed of some devil
who had driven him down into the sea--that the rider and the steed
had vanished from earth, and that out among the waves was the
gasping crest of a post-horse, and the ghostly head of the
Englishman moving upon the face of the waters.

We started very early indeed on the last day of our journey, and
from the moment of being off until we gained the shelter of the
imperial walls we were struggling face to face with an icy storm
that swept right down from the steppes of Tartary, keen, fierce,
and steady as a northern conqueror. Methley's servant, who was the
greatest sufferer, kept his saddle until we reached Stamboul, but
was then found to be quite benumbed in limbs, and his brain was so
much affected, that when he was lifted from his horse he fell away
in a state of unconsciousness, the first stage of a dangerous

Our Tatar, worn down by care and toil, and carrying seven heavens
full of water in his manifold jackets and shawls, was a mere weak
and vapid dilution of the sleek Moostapha, who scarce more than one
fortnight before came out like a bridegroom from his chamber to
take the command of our party.

Mysseri seemed somewhat over-wearied, but he had lost none of his
strangely quiet energy. He wore a grave look, however, for he now
had learnt that the plague was prevailing at Constantinople, and he
was fearing that our two sick men, and the miserable looks of our
whole party, might make us unwelcome at Pera.

We crossed the Golden Horn in a caique. As soon as we had landed,
some woebegone looking fellows were got together and laden with our
baggage. Then on we went, dripping, and sloshing, and looking very
like men that had been turned back by the Royal Humane Society as
being incurably drowned. Supporting our sick, we climbed up
shelving steps and threaded many windings, and at last came up into
the main street of Pera, humbly hoping that we might not be judged
guilty of plague, and so be cast back with horror from the doors of
the shuddering Christians.

Such was the condition of our party, which fifteen days before had
filed away so gaily from the gates of Belgrade. A couple of fevers
and a north-easterly storm had thoroughly spoiled our looks.

The interest of Mysseri with the house of Giuseppini was too
powerful to be denied, and at once, though not without fear and
trembling, we were admitted as guests.


Even if we don't take a part in the chant about "mosques and
minarets," we can still yield praises to Stamboul. We can chant
about the harbour; we can say, and sing, that nowhere else does the
sea come so home to a city; there are no pebbly shores--no sand
bars--no slimy river-beds--no black canals--no locks nor docks to
divide the very heart of the place from the deep waters. If being
in the noisiest mart of Stamboul you would stroll to the quiet side
of the way amidst those cypresses opposite, you will cross the
fathomless Bosphorus; if you would go from your hotel to the
bazaars, you must go by the bright, blue pathway of the Golden
Horn, that can carry a thousand sail of the line. You are
accustomed to the gondolas that glide among the palaces of St.
Mark, but here at Stamboul it is a 120 gun ship that meets you in
the street. Venice strains out from the steadfast land, and in old
times would send forth the chief of the State to woo and wed the
reluctant sea; but the stormy bride of the Doge is the bowing slave
of the Sultan. She comes to his feet with the treasures of the
world--she bears him from palace to palace--by some unfailing
witchcraft she entices the breezes to follow her {5} and fan the
pale cheek of her lord--she lifts his armed navies to the very
gates of his garden--she watches the walls of his serai--she
stifles the intrigues of his ministers--she quiets the scandals of
his courts--she extinguishes his rivals, and hushes his naughty
wives all one by one. So vast are the wonders of the deep!

All the while that I stayed at Constantinople the plague was
prevailing, but not with any degree of violence. Its presence,
however, lent a mysterious and exciting, though not very pleasant,
interest to my first knowledge of a great Oriental city; it gave
tone and colour to all I saw, and all I felt--a tone and a colour
sombre enough, but true, and well befitting the dreary monuments of
past power and splendour. With all that is most truly Oriental in
its character the plague is associated; it dwells with the faithful
in the holiest quarters of their city. The coats and the hats of
Pera are held to be nearly as innocent of infection as they are
ugly in shape and fashion; but the rich furs and the costly shawls,
the broidered slippers and the gold-laden saddle-cloths, the
fragrance of burning aloes and the rich aroma of patchouli--these
are the signs that mark the familiar home of plague. You go out
from your queenly London--the centre of the greatest and strongest
amongst all earthly dominions--you go out thence, and travel on to
the capital of an Eastern Prince, you find but a waning power, and
a faded splendour, that inclines you to laugh and mock; but let the
infernal Angel of Plague be at hand, and he, more mighty than
armies, more terrible than Suleyman in his glory, can restore such
pomp and majesty to the weakness of the Imperial city, that if,
WHEN HE IS THERE, you must still go prying amongst the shades of
this dead empire, at least you will tread the path with seemly
reverence and awe.

It is the firm faith of almost all the Europeans living in the East
that Plague is conveyed by the touch of infected substances, and
that the deadly atoms especially lurk in all kinds of clothes and
furs. It is held safer to breathe the same air with a man sick of
the plague, and even to come in contact with his skin, than to be
touched by the smallest particle of woollen or of thread which may
have been within the reach of possible infection. If this be a
right notion, the spread of the malady must be materially aided by
the observance of a custom prevailing amongst the people of
Stamboul. It is this; when an Osmanlee dies, one of his dresses is
cut up, and a small piece of it is sent to each of his friends as a
memorial of the departed--a fatal present, according to the opinion
of the Franks, for it too often forces the living not merely to
remember the dead man, but to follow and bear him company.

The Europeans during the prevalence of the plague, if they are
forced to venture into the streets, will carefully avoid the touch
of every human being whom they pass. Their conduct in this respect
shows them strongly in contrast with the "true believers": the
Moslem stalks on serenely, as though he were under the eye of his
God, and were "equal to either fate"; the Franks go crouching and
slinking from death, and some (those chiefly of French extraction)
will fondly strive to fence out destiny with shining capes of

For some time you may manage by great care to thread your way
through the streets of Stamboul without incurring contact, for the
Turks, though scornful of the terrors felt by the Franks, are
generally very courteous in yielding to that which they hold to be
a useless and impious precaution, and will let you pass safe if
they can. It is impossible, however, that your immunity can last
for any length of time if you move about much through the narrow
streets and lanes of a crowded city.

As for me, I soon got "compromised." After one day of rest, the
prayers of my hostess began to lose their power of keeping me from
the pestilent side of the Golden Horn. Faithfully promising to
shun the touch of all imaginable substances, however enticing, I
set off very cautiously, and held my way uncompromised till I
reached the water's edge; but before my caique was quite ready some
rueful-looking fellows came rapidly shambling down the steps with a
plague-stricken corpse, which they were going to bury amongst the
faithful on the other side of the water. I contrived to be so much
in the way of this brisk funeral, that I was not only touched by
the men bearing the body, but also, I believe, by the foot of the
dead man, as it hung lolling out of the bier. This accident gave
me such a strong interest in denying the soundness of the contagion
theory, that I did in fact deny and repudiate it altogether; and
from that time, acting upon my own convenient view of the matter, I
went wherever I chose, without taking any serious pains to avoid a
touch. It seems to me now very likely that the Europeans are
right, and that the plague may be really conveyed by contagion; but
during the whole time of my remaining in the East, my views on this
subject more nearly approached to those of the fatalists; and so,
when afterwards the plague of Egypt came dealing his blows around
me, I was able to live amongst the dying without that alarm and
anxiety which would inevitably have pressed upon my mind if I had
allowed myself to believe that every passing touch was really a
probable death-stroke.

And perhaps as you make your difficult way through a steep and
narrow alley, shut in between blank walls, and little frequented by
passers, you meet one of those coffin-shaped bundles of white linen
that implies an Ottoman lady. Painfully struggling against the
obstacles to progression interposed by the many folds of her clumsy
drapery, by her big mud-boots, and especially by her two pairs of
slippers, she works her way on full awkwardly enough, but yet there
is something of womanly consciousness in the very labour and effort
with which she tugs and lifts the burthen of her charms. She is
closely followed by her women slaves. Of her very self you see
nothing except the dark, luminous eyes that stare against your
face, and the tips of the painted fingers depending like rose-buds
from out of the blank bastions of the fortress. She turns, and
turns again, and carefully glances around her on all sides, to see
that she is safe from the eyes of Mussulmans, and then suddenly
withdrawing the yashmak, {6} she shines upon your heart and soul
with all the pomp and might of her beauty. And this, it is not the
light, changeful grace that leaves you to doubt whether you have
fallen in love with a body, or only a soul; it is the beauty that
dwells secure in the perfectness of hard, downright outlines, and
in the glow of generous colour. There is fire, though, too--high
courage and fire enough in the untamed mind, or spirit, or whatever
it is, which drives the breath of pride through those scarcely
parted lips.

You smile at pretty women--you turn pale before the beauty that is
great enough to have dominion over you. She sees, and exults in
your giddiness; she sees and smiles; then presently, with a sudden
movement, she lays her blushing fingers upon your arm, and cries
out, "Yumourdjak!" (Plague! meaning, "there is a present of the
plague for you!") This is her notion of a witticism. It is a very
old piece of fun, no doubt--quite an Oriental Joe Miller; but the
Turks are fondly attached, not only to the institutions, but also
to the jokes of their ancestors; so the lady's silvery laugh rings
joyously in your ears, and the mirth of her women is boisterous and
fresh, as though the bright idea of giving the plague to a
Christian had newly lit upon the earth.

Methley began to rally very soon after we had reached
Constantinople; but there seemed at first to be no chance of his
regaining strength enough for travelling during the winter, and I
determined to stay with my comrade until he had quite recovered; so
I bought me a horse, and a "pipe of tranquillity," {7} and took a
Turkish phrase-master. I troubled myself a great deal with the
Turkish tongue, and gained at last some knowledge of its structure.
It is enriched, perhaps overladen, with Persian and Arabic words,
imported into the language chiefly for the purpose of representing
sentiments and religious dogmas, and terms of art and luxury,
entirely unknown to the Tartar ancestors of the present Osmanlees;
but the body and the spirit of the old tongue are yet alive, and
the smooth words of the shopkeeper at Constantinople can still
carry understanding to the ears of the untamed millions who rove
over the plains of Northern Asia. The structure of the language,
especially in its more lengthy sentences, is very like to the
Latin: the subject matters are slowly and patiently enumerated,
without disclosing the purpose of the speaker until he reaches the
end of his sentence, and then at last there comes the clenching
word, which gives a meaning and connection to all that has gone
before. If you listen at all to speaking of this kind your
attention, rather than be suffered to flag, must grow more and more
lively as the phrase marches on.

The Osmanlees speak well. In countries civilised according to the
European plan the work of trying to persuade tribunals is almost
all performed by a set of men, the great body of whom very seldom
do anything else; but in Turkey this division of labour has never
taken place, and every man is his own advocate. The importance of
the rhetorical art is immense, for a bad speech may endanger the
property of the speaker, as well as the soles of his feet and the
free enjoyment of his throat. So it results that most of the Turks
whom one sees have a lawyer-like habit of speaking connectedly, and
at length. Even the treaties continually going on at the bazaar
for the buying and selling of the merest trifles are carried on by
speechifying rather than by mere colloquies, and the eternal
uncertainty as to the market value of things in constant sale gives
room enough for discussion. The seller is for ever demanding a
price immensely beyond that for which he sells at last, and so
occasions unspeakable disgust in many Englishmen, who cannot see
why an honest dealer should ask more for his goods than he will
really take! The truth is, however, that an ordinary tradesman of
Constantinople has no other way of finding out the fair market
value of his property. The difficulty under which he labours is
easily shown by comparing the mechanism of the commercial system in
Turkey with that of our own country. In England, or in any other
great mercantile country, the bulk of the things bought and sold
goes through the hands of a wholesale dealer, and it is he who
higgles and bargains with an entire nation of purchasers by
entering into treaty with retail sellers. The labour of making a
few large contracts is sufficient to give a clue for finding the
fair market value of the goods sold throughout the country; but in
Turkey, from the primitive habits of the people, and partly from
the absence of great capital and great credit, the importing
merchant, the warehouseman, the wholesale dealer, the retail
dealer, and the shopman, are all one person. Old Moostapha, or
Abdallah, or Hadgi Mohamed waddles up from the water's edge with a
small packet of merchandise, which he has bought out of a Greek
brigantine, and when at last he has reached his nook in the bazaar
he puts his goods BEFORE the counter, and himself UPON it; then
laying fire to his tchibouque he "sits in permanence," and
patiently waits to obtain "the best price that can be got in an
open market." This is his fair right as a seller, but he has no
means of finding out what that best price is except by actual
experiment. He cannot know the intensity of the demand, or the
abundance of the supply, otherwise than by the offers which may be
made for his little bundle of goods; so he begins by asking a
perfectly hopeless price, and then descends the ladder until he
meets a purchaser, for ever

"Striving to attain
By shadowing out the unattainable."

This is the struggle which creates the continual occasion for
debate. The vendor, perceiving that the unfolded merchandise has
caught the eye of a possible purchaser, commences his opening
speech. He covers his bristling broadcloths and his meagre silks
with the golden broidery of Oriental praises, and as he talks,
along with the slow and graceful waving of his arms, he lifts his
undulating periods, upholds and poises them well, till they have
gathered their weight and their strength, and then hurls them
bodily forward with grave, momentous swing. The possible purchaser
listens to the whole speech with deep and serious attention; but
when it is over HIS turn arrives. He elaborately endeavours to
show why he ought not to buy the things at a price twenty times
larger than their value. Bystanders attracted to the debate take a
part in it as independent members; the vendor is heard in reply,
and coming down with his price, furnishes the materials for a new
debate. Sometimes, however, the dealer, if he is a very pious
Mussulman, and sufficiently rich to hold back his ware, will take a
more dignified part, maintaining a kind of judicial gravity, and
receiving the applicants who come to his stall as if they were
rather suitors than customers. He will quietly hear to the end
some long speech that concludes with an offer, and will answer it
all with the one monosyllable "Yok," which means distinctly "No."

I caught one glimpse of the old heathen world. My habits for
studying military subjects had been hardening my heart against
poetry; for ever staring at the flames of battle, I had blinded
myself to the lesser and finer lights that are shed from the
imaginations of men. In my reading at this time I delighted to
follow from out of Arabian sands the feet of the armed believers,
and to stand in the broad, manifest storm-track of Tartar
devastation; and thus, though surrounded at Constantinople by
scenes of much interest to the "classical scholar," I had cast
aside their associations like an old Greek grammar, and turned my
face to the "shining Orient," forgetful of old Greece and all the
pure wealth she left to this matter-of-fact-ridden world. But it
happened to me one day to mount the high grounds overhanging the
streets of Pera. I sated my eyes with the pomps of the city and
its crowded waters, and then I looked over where Scutari lay half
veiled in her mournful cypresses. I looked yet farther and higher,
and saw in the heavens a silvery cloud that stood fast and still
against the breeze: it was pure and dazzling white, as might be
the veil of Cytherea, yet touched with such fire, as though from
beneath the loving eyes of an immortal were shining through and
through. I knew the bearing, but had enormously misjudged its
distance and underrated its height, and so it was as a sign and a
testimony, almost as a call from the neglected gods, and now I saw
and acknowledged the snowy crown of the Mysian Olympus!


Methley recovered almost suddenly, and we determined to go through
the Troad together.

My comrade was a capital Grecian. It is true that his singular
mind so ordered and disposed his classic lore as to impress it with
something of an original and barbarous character--with an almost
Gothic quaintness, more properly belonging to a rich native ballad
than to the poetry of Hellas. There was a certain impropriety in
his knowing so much Greek--an unfitness in the idea of marble
fauns, and satyrs, and even Olympian gods, lugged in under the
oaken roof and the painted light of an odd, old Norman hall. But
Methley, abounding in Homer, really loved him (as I believe) in all
truth, without whim or fancy; moreover, he had a good deal of the
practical sagacity

"Of a Yorkshireman hippodamoio,"

and this enabled him to apply his knowledge with much more tact
than is usually shown by people so learned as he.

I, too, loved Homer, but not with a scholar's love. The most
humble and pious among women was yet so proud a mother that she
could teach her firstborn son no Watts' hymns, no collects for the
day; she could teach him in earliest childhood no less than this,
to find a home in his saddle, and to love old Homer, and all that
old Homer sung. True it is, that the Greek was ingeniously
rendered into English, the English of Pope even, but not even a
mesh like that can screen an earnest child from the fire of Homer's

I pored over the Odyssey as over a story-book, hoping and fearing
for the hero whom yet I partly scorned. But the Iliad--line by
line I clasped it to my brain with reverence as well as with love.
As an old woman deeply trustful sits reading her Bible because of
the world to come, so, as though it would fit me for the coming
strife of this temporal world, I read and read the Iliad. Even
outwardly, it was not like other books; it was throned in towering
folios. There was a preface or dissertation printed in type still
more majestic than the rest of the book; this I read, but not till
my enthusiasm for the Iliad had already run high. The writer
compiling the opinions of many men, and chiefly of the ancients,
set forth, I know not how quaintly, that the Iliad was all in all
to the human race--that it was history, poetry, revelation; that
the works of men's hands were folly and vanity, and would pass away
like the dreams of a child, but that the kingdom of Homer would
endure for ever and ever.

I assented with all my soul. I read, and still read; I came to
know Homer. A learned commentator knows something of the Greeks,
in the same sense as an oil-and-colour man may be said to know
something of painting; but take an untamed child, and leave him
alone for twelve months with any translation of Homer, and he will
be nearer by twenty centuries to the spirit of old Greece; HE does
not stop in the ninth year of the siege to admire this or that
group of words; HE has no books in his tent, but he shares in vital
counsels with the "king of men," and knows the inmost souls of the
impending gods; how profanely he exults over the powers divine when
they are taught to dread the prowess of mortals! and most of all,
how he rejoices when the God of War flies howling from the spear of
Diomed, and mounts into heaven for safety! Then the beautiful
episode of the Sixth Book: the way to feel this is not to go
casting about, and learning from pastors and masters how best to
admire it. The impatient child is not grubbing for beauties, but
pushing the siege; the women vex him with their delays, and their
talking; the mention of the nurse is personal, and little sympathy
has he for the child that is young enough to be frightened at the
nodding plume of a helmet; but all the while that he thus chafes at
the pausing of the action, the strong vertical light of Homer's
poetry is blazing so full upon the people and things of the Iliad,
that soon to the eyes of the child they grow familiar as his
mother's shawl; yet of this great gain he is unconscious, and on he
goes, vengefully thirsting for the best blood of Troy, and never
remitting his fierceness till almost suddenly it is changed for
sorrow--the new and generous sorrow that he learns to feel when the
noblest of all his foes lies sadly dying at the Scaean gate.

Heroic days are these, but the dark ages of schoolboy life come
closing over them. I suppose it is all right in the end, yet, by
Jove, at first sight it does seem a sad intellectual fall from your
mother's dressing-room to a buzzing school. You feel so keenly the
delights of early knowledge; you form strange mystic friendships
with the mere names of mountains, and seas, and continents, and
mighty rivers; you learn the ways of the planets, and transcend
their narrow limits, and ask for the end of space; you vex the
electric cylinder till it yields you, for your toy to play with,
that subtle fire in which our earth was forged; you know of the
nations that have towered high in the world, and the lives of the
men who have saved whole empires from oblivion. What more will you
ever learn? Yet the dismal change is ordained, and then, thin
meagre Latin (the same for everybody), with small shreds and
patches of Greek, is thrown like a pauper's pall over all your
early lore. Instead of sweet knowledge, vile, monkish, doggerel
grammars and graduses, dictionaries and lexicons, and horrible odds
and ends of dead languages, are given you for your portion, and
down you fall, from Roman story to a three-inch scrap of
"Scriptores Romani,"--from Greek poetry down, down to the cold
rations of "Poetae Graeci," cut up by commentators, and served out
by schoolmasters!

It was not the recollection of school nor college learning, but the
rapturous and earnest reading of my childhood, which made me bend
forward so longingly to the plains of Troy.

Away from our people and our horses, Methley and I went loitering
along by the willow banks of a stream that crept in quietness
through the low, even plain. There was no stir of weather
overhead, no sound of rural labour, no sign of life in the land;
but all the earth was dead and still, as though it had lain for
thrice a thousand years under the leaden gloom of one unbroken

Softly and sadly the poor, dumb, patient stream went winding and
winding along through its shifting pathway; in some places its
waters were parted, and then again, lower down, they would meet
once more. I could see that the stream from year to year was
finding itself new channels, and flowed no longer in its ancient
track, but I knew that the springs which fed it were high on Ida--
the springs of Simois and Scamander!

It was coldly and thanklessly, and with vacant, unsatisfied eyes
that I watched the slow coming and the gliding away of the waters.
I tell myself now, as a profane fact, that I did stand by that
river (Methley gathered some seeds from the bushes that grew
there), but since that I am away from his banks, "divine Scamander"
has recovered the proper mystery belonging to him as an unseen
deity; a kind of indistinctness, like that which belongs to far
antiquity, has spread itself over my memory, of the winding stream
that I saw with these very eyes. One's mind regains in absence
that dominion over earthly things which has been shaken by their
rude contact. You force yourself hardily into the material
presence of a mountain, or a river, whose name belongs to poetry
and ancient religion, rather than to the external world; your
feelings wound up and kept ready for some sort of half-expected
rapture are chilled, and borne down for the time under all this
load of real earth and water; but let these once pass out of sight,
and then again the old fanciful notions are restored, and the mere
realities which you have just been looking at are thrown back so
far into distance, that the very event of your intrusion upon such
scenes begins to look dim and uncertain, as though it belonged to

It is not over the plain before Troy that the river now flows; its
waters have edged away far towards the north, since the day that
"divine Scamander" (whom the gods call Xanthus) went down to do
battle for Ilion, "with Mars, and Phoebus, and Latona, and Diana
glorying in her arrows, and Venus the lover of smiles."

And now, when I was vexed at the migration of Scamander, and the
total loss or absorption of poor dear Simois, how happily Methley
reminded me that Homer himself had warned us of some such changes!
The Greeks in beginning their wall had neglected the hecatombs due
to the gods, and so after the fall of Troy Apollo turned the paths
of the rivers that flow from Ida and sent them flooding over the
wall, till all the beach was smooth and free from the unhallowed
works of the Greeks. It is true I see now, on looking to the
passage, that Neptune, when the work of destruction was done,
turned back the rivers to their ancient ways:

" . . . [Greek verse],"

but their old channels passing through that light pervious soil
would have been lost in the nine days' flood, and perhaps the god,
when he willed to bring back the rivers to their ancient beds, may
have done his work but ill: it is easier, they say, to destroy
than it is to restore.

We took to our horses again, and went southward towards the very
plain between Troy and the tents of the Greeks, but we rode by a
line at some distance from the shore. Whether it was that the lay
of the ground hindered my view towards the sea, or that I was all
intent upon Ida, or whether my mind was in vacancy, or whether, as
is most like, I had strayed from the Dardan plains all back to
gentle England, there is now no knowing, nor caring, but it was not
quite suddenly indeed, but rather, as it were, in the swelling and
falling of a single wave, that the reality of that very sea-view,
which had bounded the sight of the Greeks, now visibly acceded to
me, and rolled full in upon my brain. Conceive how deeply that
eternal coast-line, that fixed horizon, those island rocks, must
have graven their images upon the minds of the Grecian warriors by
the time that they had reached the ninth year of the siege!
conceive the strength, and the fanciful beauty, of the speeches
with which a whole army of imagining men must have told their
weariness, and how the sauntering chiefs must have whelmed that
daily, daily scene with their deep Ionian curses!

And now it was that my eyes were greeted with a delightful
surprise. Whilst we were at Constantinople, Methley and I had
pored over the map together. We agreed that whatever may have been
the exact site of Troy, the Grecian camp must have been nearly
opposite to the space betwixt the islands of Imbros and Tenedos,

"[Greek verse],"

but Methley reminded me of a passage in the Iliad in which Neptune
is represented as looking at the scene of action before Ilion from
above the island of Samothrace. Now Samothrace, according to the
map, appeared to be not only out of all seeing distance from the
Troad, but to be entirely shut out from it by the intervening
Imbros, which is a larger island, stretching its length right
athwart the line of sight from Samothrace to Troy. Piously
allowing that the dread Commoter of our globe might have seen all
mortal doings, even from the depth of his own cerulean kingdom, I
still felt that if a station were to be chosen from which to see
the fight, old Homer, so material in his ways of thought, so averse
from all haziness and overreaching, would have MEANT to give the
god for his station some spot within reach of men's eyes from the
plains of Troy. I think that this testing of the poet's words by
map and compass may have shaken a little of my faith in the
completeness of his knowledge. Well, now I had come; there to the
south was Tenedos, and here at my side was Imbros, all right, and
according to the map, but aloft over Imbros, aloft in a far-away
heaven, was Samothrace, the watch-tower of Neptune!

So Homer had appointed it, and so it was; the map was correct
enough, but could not, like Homer, convey THE WHOLE TRUTH. Thus
vain and false are the mere human surmises and doubts which clash
with Homeric writ!

Nobody whose mind had not been reduced to the most deplorable
logical condition could look upon this beautiful congruity betwixt
the Iliad and the material world and yet bear to suppose that the
poet may have learned the features of the coast from mere hearsay;
now then, I believed; now I knew that Homer had PASSED ALONG HERE,
that this vision of Samothrace over-towering the nearer island was
common to him and to me.

After a journey of some few days by the route of Adramiti and
Pergamo we reached Smyrna. The letters which Methley here received
obliged him to return to England.


Smyrna, or Giaour Izmir, "Infidel Smyrna," as the Mussulmans call
it, is the main point of commercial contact betwixt Europe and
Asia. You are there surrounded by the people, and the confused
customs of many and various nations; you see the fussy European
adopting the East, and calming his restlessness with the long
Turkish "pipe of tranquillity"; you see Jews offering services, and
receiving blows; {8} on one side you have a fellow whose dress and
beard would give you a good idea of the true Oriental, if it were
not for the gobe-mouche expression of countenance with which he is
swallowing an article in the National; and there, just by, is a
genuine Osmanlee, smoking away with all the majesty of a sultan,
but before you have time to admire sufficiently his tranquil
dignity, and his soft Asiatic repose, the poor old fellow is
ruthlessly "run down" by an English midshipman, who has set sail on
a Smyrna hack. Such are the incongruities of the "infidel city" at
ordinary times; but when I was there, our friend Carrigaholt had
imported himself and his oddities as an accession to the other and
inferior wonders of Smyrna.

I was sitting alone in my room one day at Constantinople, when I
heard Methley approaching my door with shouts of laughter and
welcome, and presently I recognised that peculiar cry by which our
friend Carrigaholt expresses his emotions; he soon explained to us
the final causes by which the fates had worked out their wonderful
purpose of bringing him to Constantinople. He was always, you
know, very fond of sailing, but he had got into such sad scrapes
(including, I think, a lawsuit) on account of his last yacht, that
he took it into his head to have a cruise in a merchant vessel, so
he went to Liverpool, and looked through the craft lying ready to
sail, till he found a smart schooner that perfectly suited his
taste. The destination of the vessel was the last thing he thought
of; and when he was told that she was bound for Constantinople, he
merely assented to that as a part of the arrangement to which he
had no objection. As soon as the vessel had sailed, the hapless
passenger discovered that his skipper carried on board an enormous
wife, with an inquiring mind and an irresistible tendency to impart
her opinions. She looked upon her guest as upon a piece of waste
intellect that ought to be carefully tilled. She tilled him
accordingly. If the dons at Oxford could have seen poor
Carrigaholt thus absolutely "attending lectures" in the Bay of
Biscay, they would surely have thought him sufficiently punished
for all the wrongs he did them whilst he was preparing himself
under their care for the other and more boisterous University. The
voyage did not last more than six or eight weeks, and the
philosophy inflicted on Carrigaholt was not entirely fatal to him;
certainly he was somewhat emaciated, and for aught I know, he may
have subscribed somewhat too largely to the "Feminine-right-of-
reason Society"; but it did not appear that his health had been
seriously affected. There was a scheme on foot, it would seem, for
taking the passenger back to England in the same schooner--a
scheme, in fact, for keeping him perpetually afloat, and
perpetually saturated with arguments; but when Carrigaholt found
himself ashore, and remembered that the skipperina (who had
imprudently remained on board) was not there to enforce her
suggestions, he was open to the hints of his servant (a very sharp
fellow), who arranged a plan for escaping, and finally brought off
his master to Giuseppini's Hotel.

Our friend afterwards went by sea to Smyrna, and there he now was
in his glory. He had a good, or at all events a gentleman-like,
judgment in matters of taste, and as his great object was to
surround himself with all that his fancy could dictate, he lived in
a state of perpetual negotiation. He was for ever on the point of
purchasing, not only the material productions of the place, but all
sorts of such fine ware as "intelligence," "fidelity," and so on.
He was most curious, however, as the purchaser of the "affections."
Sometimes he would imagine that he had a marital aptitude, and his
fancy would sketch a graceful picture, in which he appeared
reclining on a divan, with a beautiful Greek woman fondly couched
at his feet, and soothing him with the witchery of her guitar.
Having satisfied himself with the ideal picture thus created, he
would pass into action; the guitar he would buy instantly, and
would give such intimations of his wish to be wedded to a Greek, as
could not fail to produce great excitement in the families, of the
beautiful Smyrniotes. Then again (and just in time perhaps to save
him from the yoke) his dream would pass away, and another would
come in its stead; he would suddenly feel the yearnings of a
father's love, and willing by force of gold to transcend all
natural preliminaries, he would issue instructions for the purchase
of some dutiful child that could be warranted to love him as a
parent. Then at another time he would be convinced that the
attachment of menials might satisfy the longings of his
affectionate heart, and thereupon he would give orders to his
slave-merchant for something in the way of eternal fidelity. You
may well imagine that this anxiety of Carrigaholt to purchase not
only the scenery, but the many dramatis personae belonging to his
dreams, with all their goodness and graces complete, necessarily
gave an immense stimulus to the trade and intrigue of Smyrna, and
created a demand for human virtues which the moral resources of the
place were totally inadequate to supply. Every day after breakfast
this lover of the good and the beautiful held a levee, which was
often exceedingly amusing. In his anteroom there would be not only
the sellers of pipes and slippers and shawls, and such like
Oriental merchandise, not only embroiderers and cunning workmen
patiently striving to realise his visions of Albanian dresses, not
only the servants offering for places, and the slave-dealer
tendering his sable ware, but there would be the Greek master,
waiting to teach his pupil the grammar of the soft Ionian tongue,
in which he was to delight the wife of his imagination, and the
music-master, who was to teach him some sweet replies to the
anticipated sounds of the fancied guitar; and then, above all, and
proudly eminent with undisputed preference of entree, and fraught
with the mysterious tidings on which the realisation of the whole
dream might depend, was the mysterious match-maker, {9} enticing
and postponing the suitor, yet ever keeping alive in his soul the
love of that pictured virtue, whose beauty (unseen by eyes) was
half revealed to the imagination.

You would have thought that this practical dreaming must have soon
brought Carrigaholt to a bad end, but he was in much less danger
than you would suppose; for besides that the new visions of
happiness almost always came in time to counteract the fatal
completion of the preceding scheme, his high breeding and his
delicately sensitive taste almost always came to his aid at times
when he was left without any other protection; and the efficacy of
these qualities in keeping a man out of harm's way is really
immense. In all baseness and imposture there is a coarse, vulgar
spirit, which, however artfully concealed for a time, must sooner
or later show itself in some little circumstance sufficiently plain
to occasion an instant jar upon the minds of those whose taste is
lively and true. To such men a shock of this kind, disclosing the
UGLINESS of a cheat, is more effectively convincing than any mere
proofs could be.

Thus guarded from isle to isle, and through Greece, and through
Albania, this practical Plato with a purse in his hand, carried on
his mad chase after the good and the beautiful, and yet returned in
safety to his home. But now, poor fellow! the lowly grave, that is
the end of men's romantic hopes, has closed over all his rich
fancies, and all his high aspirations; he is utterly married! No
more hope, no more change for him--no more relays--he must go on
Vetturini-wise to the appointed end of his journey!

Smyrna, I think, may be called the chief town and capital of the
Grecian race, against which you will be cautioned so carefully as
soon as you touch the Levant. You will say that I ought not to
confound as one people the Greeks living under a constitutional
government with the unfortunate Rayahs who "groan under the Turkish
yoke," but I can't see that political events have hitherto produced
any strongly marked difference of character. If I could venture to
rely (which I feel that I cannot at all do) upon my own
observation, I should tell you that there was more heartiness and
strength in the Greeks of the Ottoman Empire than in those of the
new kingdom. The truth is, that there is a greater field for
commercial enterprise, and even for Greek ambition, under the
Ottoman sceptre, than is to be found in the dominions of Otho.
Indeed the people, by their frequent migrations from the limits of
the constitutional kingdom to the territories of the Porte, seem to
show that, on the whole, they prefer "groaning under the Turkish
yoke" to the honour of "being the only true source of legitimate
power" in their own land.

For myself, I love the race; in spite of all their vices, and even
in spite of all their meannesses, I remember the blood that is in
them, and still love the Greeks. The Osmanlees are, of course, by
nature, by religion, and by politics, the strong foes of the
Hellenic people, and as the Greeks, poor fellows! happen to be a
little deficient in some of the virtues which facilitate the
transaction of commercial business (such as veracity, fidelity,
&c.), it naturally follows that they are highly unpopular with the
European merchants. Now these are the persons through whom, either
directly or indirectly, is derived the greater part of the
information which you gather in the Levant, and therefore you must
make up your mind to hear an almost universal and unbroken
testimony against the character of the people whose ancestors
invented virtue. And strange to say, the Greeks themselves do not
attempt to disturb this general unanimity of opinion by an dissent
on their part. Question a Greek on the subject, and he will tell
you at once that the people are traditori, and will then, perhaps,
endeavour to shake off his fair share of the imputation by
asserting that his father had been dragoman to some foreign
embassy, and that he (the son), therefore, by the law of nations,
had ceased to be Greek.

"E dunque no siete traditore?"

"Possibile, signor, ma almeno Io no sono Greco."

Not even the diplomatic representatives of the Hellenic kingdom are
free from the habit of depreciating their brethren. I recollect
that at one of the ports in Syria a Greek vessel was rather
unfairly kept in quarantine by order of the Board of Health, which
consisted entirely of Europeans. A consular agent from the kingdom
of Greece had lately hoisted his flag in the town, and the captain
of the vessel drew up a remonstrance, which he requested his consul
to present to the Board.

"Now, IS this reasonable?" said the consul; "is it reasonable that
I should place myself in collision with all the principal European
gentlemen of the place for the sake of you, a Greek?" The skipper
was greatly vexed at the failure of his application, but he
scarcely even questioned the justice of the ground which his consul
had taken. Well, it happened some time afterwards that I found
myself at the same port, having gone thither with the view of
embarking for the port of Syra. I was anxious, of course, to elude
as carefully as possible the quarantine detentions which threatened
me on my arrival, and hearing that the Greek consul had a brother
who was a man in authority at Syra, I got myself presented to the
former, and took the liberty of asking him to give me such a letter
of introduction to his relative at Syra as might possibly have the
effect of shortening the term of my quarantine. He acceded to this
request with the utmost kindness and courtesy; but when he replied
to my thanks by saying that "in serving an Englishman he was doing
no more than his strict duty commanded," not even my gratitude
could prevent me from calling to mind his treatment of the poor
captain who had the misfortune of NOT being an alien in blood to
his consul and appointed protector.

I think that the change which has taken place in the character of
the Greeks has been occasioned, in great measure, by the doctrines
and practice of their religion. The Greek Church has animated the
Muscovite peasant, and inspired him with hopes and ideas which,
however humble, are still better than none at all; but the faith,
and the forms, and the strange ecclesiastical literature which act
so advantageously upon the mere clay of the Russian serf, seem to
hang like lead upon the ethereal spirit of the Greek. Never in any
part of the world have I seen religious performances so painful to
witness as those of the Greeks. The horror, however, with which
one shudders at their worship is attributable, in some measure, to
the mere effect of costume. In all the Ottoman dominions, and very
frequently too in the kingdom of Otho, the Greeks wear turbans or
other head-dresses, and shave their heads, leaving only a rat's-
tail at the crown of the head; they of course keep themselves
covered within doors as well as abroad, and they never remove their
head-gear merely on account of being in a church; but when the
Greek stops to worship at his proper shrine, then, and then only,
he always uncovers; and as you see him thus with shaven skull and
savage tail depending from his crown, kissing a thing of wood and
glass, and cringing with base prostrations and apparent terror
before a miserable picture, you see superstition in a shape which,
outwardly at least, is sadly abject and repulsive.

The fasts, too, of the Greek Church produce an ill effect upon the
character of the people, for they are not a mere farce, but are
carried to such an extent as to bring about a real mortification of
the flesh; the febrile irritation of the frame operating in
conjunction with the depression of the spirits occasioned by
abstinence, will so far answer the objects of the rite, as to
engender some religious excitement, but this is of a morbid and
gloomy character, and it seems to be certain, that along with the
increase of sanctity, there comes a fiercer desire for the
perpetration of dark crimes. The number of murders committed
during Lent is greater, I am told, than at any other time of the
year. A man under the influence of a bean dietary (for this is the
principal food of the Greeks during their fasts) will be in an apt
humour for enriching the shrine of his saint, and passing a knife
through his next-door neighbour. The moneys deposited upon the
shrines are appropriated by priests; the priests are married men,
and have families to provide for; they "take the good with the
bad," and continue to recommend fasts.

Then, too, the Greek Church enjoins her followers to keep holy such
a vast number of saints' days as practically to shorten the lives
of the people very materially. I believe that one-third out of the
number of days in the year are "kept holy," or rather, KEPT STUPID,
in honour of the saints; no great portion of the time thus set
apart is spent in religious exercises, and the people don't betake
themselves to any such animating pastimes as might serve to
strengthen the frame, or invigorate the mind, or exalt the taste.
On the contrary, the saints' days of the Greeks in Smyrna are
passed in the same manner as the Sabbaths of well-behaved
Protestant housemaids in London--that is to say, in a steady and
serious contemplation of street scenery. The men perform this duty
AT THE DOORS of their houses, the women AT THE WINDOWS, which the
custom of Greek towns has so decidedly appropriated to them as the
proper station of their sex, that a man would be looked upon as
utterly effeminate if he ventured to choose that situation for the
keeping of the saints' days. I was present one day at a treaty for
the hire of some apartments at Smyrna, which was carried on between
Carrigaholt and the Greek woman to whom the rooms belonged.
Carrigaholt objected that the windows commanded no view of the
street. Immediately the brow of the majestic matron was clouded,
and with all the scorn of a Spartan mother she coolly asked
Carrigaholt, and said, "Art thou a tender damsel that thou wouldst
sit and gaze from windows?" The man whom she addressed, however,
had not gone to Greece with any intention of placing himself under
the laws of Lycurgus, and was not to be diverted from his views by
a Spartan rebuke, so he took care to find himself windows after his
own heart, and there, I believe, for many a month, he kept the
saints' days, and all the days intervening, after the fashion of
Grecian women.

Oh! let me be charitable to all who write, and to all who lecture,
and to all who preach, since even I, a layman not forced to write
at all, can hardly avoid chiming in with some tuneful cant! I have
had the heart to talk about the pernicious effects of the Greek
holidays, to which I owe some of my most beautiful visions! I will
let the words stand, as a humbling proof that I am subject to that
immutable law which compels a man with a pen in his hand to be
uttering every now and then some sentiment not his own. It seems
as though the power of expressing regrets and desires by written
symbols were coupled with a condition that the writer should from
time to time express the regrets and desires of other people; as
though, like a French peasant under the old regime, one were bound
to perform a certain amount of work UPON THE PUBLIC HIGHWAYS. I
rebel as stoutly as I can against this horrible, corvee. I try not
to deceive you--I try to set down the thoughts which are fresh
within me, and not to pretend any wishes, or griefs, which I do not
really feel; but no sooner do I cease from watchfulness in this
regard, than my right hand is, as it were, seized by some false
angel, and even now, you see, I have been forced to put down such
words and sentences as I ought to have written if really and truly
I had wished to disturb the saints' days of the beautiful

Which, Heaven forbid! for as you move through the narrow streets of
the city at these times of festival, the transom-shaped windows
suspended over your head on either side are filled with the
beautiful descendants of the old Ionian race; all (even yonder
empress that sits throned at the window of that humblest mud
cottage) are attired with seeming magnificence; their classic heads
are crowned with scarlet, and loaded with jewels or coins of gold,
the whole wealth of the wearers; {10} their features are touched
with a savage pencil, which hardens the outline of eyes and
eyebrows, and lends an unnatural fire to the stern, grave looks
with which they pierce your brain. Endure their fiery eyes as best
you may, and ride on slowly and reverently, for facing you from the
side of the transom, that looks long-wise through the street, you
see the one glorious shape transcendant in its beauty; you see the
massive braid of hair as it catches a touch of light on its jetty
surface, and the broad, calm, angry brow; the large black eyes,
deep set, and self-relying like the eyes of a conqueror, with their
rich shadows of thought lying darkly around them; you see the thin
fiery nostril, and the bold line of the chin and throat disclosing
all the fierceness, and all the pride, passion, and power that can
live along with the rare womanly beauty of those sweetly turned
lips. But then there is a terrible stillness in this breathing
image; it seems like the stillness of a savage that sits intent and
brooding, day by day, upon some one fearful scheme of vengeance,
but yet more like it seems to the stillness of an Immortal, whose
will must be known, and obeyed without sign or speech. Bow down!--
Bow down and adore the young Persephonie, transcendent Queen of


I sailed from Smyrna in the Amphitrite, a Greek brigantine, which
was confidently said to be bound for the coast of Syria; but I knew
that this announcement was not to be relied upon with positive
certainty, for the Greek mariners are practically free from the
stringency of ship's papers, and where they will, there they go.
However, I had the whole of the cabin for myself and my attendant,
Mysseri, subject only to the society of the captain at the hour of
dinner. Being at ease in this respect, being furnished too with
plenty of books, and finding an unfailing source of interest in the
thorough Greekness of my captain and my crew, I felt less anxious
than most people would have been about the probable length of the
cruise. I knew enough of Greek navigation to be sure that our
vessel would cling to earth like a child to its mother's knee, and
that I should touch at many an isle before I set foot upon the
Syrian coast; but I had no invidious preference for Europe, Asia,
or Africa, and I felt that I could defy the winds to blow me upon a
coast that was blank and void of interest. My patience was
extremely useful to me, for the cruise altogether endured some
forty days, and that in the midst of winter.

According to me, the most interesting of all the Greeks (male
Greeks) are the mariners, because their pursuits and their social
condition are so nearly the same as those of their famous
ancestors. You will say, that the occupation of commerce must have
smoothed down the salience of their minds; and this would be so
perhaps if their mercantile affairs were conducted according to the
fixed businesslike routine of Europeans; but the ventures of the
Greeks are surrounded by such a multitude of imagined dangers (and
from the absence of regular marts, in which the true value of
merchandise can be ascertained), are so entirely speculative, and
besides, are conducted in a manner so wholly determined upon by the
wayward fancies and wishes of the crew, that they belong to
enterprise rather than to industry, and are very far indeed from
tending to deaden any freshness of character.

The vessels in which war and piracy were carried on during the
years of the Greek Revolution became merchantmen at the end of the
war; but the tactics of the Greeks, as naval warriors, were so
exceedingly cautious, and their habits as commercial mariners are
so wild, that the change has been more slight than you might
imagine. The first care of Greeks (Greek Rayahs) when they
undertake a shipping enterprise is to procure for their vessel the
protection of some European power. This is easily managed by a
little intriguing with the dragoman of one of the embassies at
Constantinople, and the craft soon glories in the ensign of Russia,
or the dazzling Tricolor, or the Union Jack. Thus, to the great
delight of her crew, she enters upon the ocean world with a flaring
lie at her peak, but the appearance of the vessel does no discredit
to the borrowed flag; she is frail indeed, but is gracefully built,
and smartly rigged; she always carries guns, and in short, gives
good promise of mischief and speed.

The privileges attached to the vessel and her crew by virtue of the
borrowed flag are so great, as to imply a liberty wider even than
that which is often enjoyed in our more strictly civilised
countries, so that there is no pretence for saying that the
development of the true character belonging to Greek mariners is
prevented by the dominion of the Ottoman. These men are free, too,
from the power of the great capitalist, whose sway is more
withering than despotism itself to the enterprises of humble
venturers. The capital employed is supplied by those whose labour
is to render it productive. The crew receive no wages, but have
all a share in the venture, and in general, I believe, they are the
owners of the whole freight. They choose a captain, to whom they
entrust just power enough to keep the vessel on her course in fine
weather, but not quite enough for a gale of wind; they also elect a
cook and a mate. The cook whom we had on board was particularly
careful about the ship's reckoning, and when under the influence of
the keen sea-breezes we grew fondly expectant of an instant dinner,
the great author of pilafs would be standing on deck with an
ancient quadrant in his hands, calmly affecting to take an
observation. But then to make up for this the captain would be
exercising a controlling influence over the soup, so that all in
the end went well. Our mate was a Hydriot, a native of that island
rock which grows nothing but mariners and mariners' wives. His
character seemed to be exactly that which is generally attributed
to the Hydriot race; he was fierce, and gloomy, and lonely in his
ways. One of his principal duties seemed to be that of acting as
counter-captain, or leader of the opposition, denouncing the first
symptoms of tyranny, and protecting even the cabin-boy from
oppression. Besides this, when things went smoothly he would begin
to prognosticate evil, in order that his more light-hearted
comrades might not be puffed up with the seeming good fortune of
the moment.

It seemed to me that the personal freedom of these sailors, who own
no superiors except those of their own choice, is as like as may be
to that of their seafaring ancestors. And even in their mode of
navigation they have admitted no such an entire change as you would
suppose probable. It is true that they have so far availed
themselves of modern discoveries as to look to the compass instead
of the stars, and that they have superseded the immortal gods of
their forefathers by St. Nicholas in his glass case, {11} but they
are not yet so confident either in their needle, or their saint, as
to love an open sea, and they still hug their shores as fondly as
the Argonauts of old. Indeed, they have a most unsailor-like love
for the land, and I really believe that in a gale of wind they
would rather have a rock-bound coast on their lee than no coast at
all. According to the notions of an English seaman, this kind of
navigation would soon bring the vessel on which it might be
practised to an evil end. The Greek, however, is unaccountably
successful in escaping the consequences of being "jammed in," as it
is called, upon a lee-shore.

These seamen, like their forefathers, rely upon no winds unless
they are right astern or on the quarter; they rarely go on a wind
if it blows at all fresh, and if the adverse breeze approaches to a
gale, they at once fumigate St. Nicholas, and put up the helm. The
consequence of course is that under the ever-varying winds of the
Aegean they are blown about in the most whimsical manner. I used
to think that Ulysses with his ten years' voyage had taken his time
in making Ithaca, but my experience in Greek navigation soon made
me understand that he had had, in point of fact, a pretty good
"average passage."

Such are now the mariners of the Aegean: free, equal amongst
themselves, navigating the seas of their forefathers with the same
heroic, and yet child-like, spirit of venture, the same half-
trustful reliance upon heavenly aid, they are the liveliest images
of true old Greeks that time and the new religions have spared to

With one exception, our crew were "a solemn company," {12} and yet,
sometimes, when all things went well, they would relax their
austerity, and show a disposition to fun, or rather to quiet
humour. When this happened, they invariably had recourse to one of
their number, who went by the name of "Admiral Nicolou." He was
an amusing fellow, the poorest, I believe, and the least thoughtful
of the crew, but full of rich humour. His oft-told story of the
events by which he had gained the sobriquet of "Admiral" never
failed to delight his hearers, and when he was desired to repeat it
for my benefit, the rest of the crew crowded round with as much
interest as if they were listening to the tale for the first time.
A number of Greek brigs and brigantines were at anchor in the bay
of Beyrout. A festival of some kind, particularly attractive to
the sailors, was going on in the town, and whether with or without
leave I know not, but the crews of all the craft, except that of
Nicolou, had gone ashore. On board his vessel, however, which
carried dollars, there was, it would seem, a more careful, or more
influential captain, who was able to enforce his determination that
one man, at least, should be left on board. Nicolou's good nature
was with him so powerful an impulse, that he could not resist the
delight of volunteering to stay with the vessel whilst his comrades
went ashore. His proposal was accepted, and the crew and captain
soon left him alone on the deck of his vessel. The sailors,
gathering together from their several ships, were amusing
themselves in the town, when suddenly there came down from betwixt
the mountains one of those sudden hurricanes which sometimes occur
in southern climes. Nicolou's vessel, together with four of the
craft which had been left unmanned, broke from her moorings, and
all five of the vessels were carried out seaward. The town is on a
salient point at the southern side of the bay, so that "that
Admiral" was close under the eyes of the inhabitants and the shore-
gone sailors when he gallantly drifted out at the head of his
little fleet. If Nicolou could not entirely control the manoeuvres
of the squadron, there was at least no human power to divide his
authority, and thus it was that he took rank as "Admiral." Nicolou
cut his cable, and thus for the time saved his vessel; for the rest
of the fleet under his command were quickly wrecked, whilst "the
Admiral" got away clear to the open sea. The violence of the
squall soon passed off, but Nicolou felt that his chance of one day
resigning his high duties as an admiral for the enjoyments of
private life on the steadfast shore mainly depended upon his
success in working the brig with his own hands, so after calling on
his namesake, the saint (not for the first time, I take it), he got
up some canvas, and took the helm: he became equal, he told us, to
a score of Nicolous, and the vessel, as he said, was "manned with
his terrors." For two days, it seems, he cruised at large, but at
last, either by his seamanship, or by the natural instinct of the
Greek mariners for finding land, he brought his craft close to an
unknown shore, that promised well for his purpose of running in the
vessel; and he was preparing to give her a good berth on the beach,
when he saw a gang of ferocious-looking fellows coming down to the
point for which he was making. Poor Nicolou was a perfectly
unlettered and untutored genius, and for that reason, perhaps, a
keen listener to tales of terror. His mind had been impressed with
some horrible legend of cannibalism, and he now did not doubt for a
moment that the men awaiting him on the beach were the monsters at
whom he had shuddered in the days of his childhood. The coast on
which Nicolou was running his vessel was somewhere, I fancy, at the
foot of the Anzairie Mountains, and the fellows who were preparing
to give him a reception were probably very rough specimens of
humanity. It is likely enough that they might have given
themselves the trouble of putting "the Admiral" to death, for the
purpose of simplifying their claim to the vessel and preventing
litigation, but the notion of their cannibalism was of course
utterly unfounded. Nicolou's terror had, however, so graven the
idea on his mind, that he could never afterwards dismiss it.
Having once determined the character of his expectant hosts, the
Admiral naturally thought that it would he better to keep their
dinner waiting any length of time than to attend their feast in the
character of a roasted Greek, so he put about his vessel, and
tempted the deep once more. After a further cruise the lonely
commander ran his vessel upon some rocks at another part of the
coast, where she was lost with all her treasures, and Nicolou was
but too glad to scramble ashore, though without one dollar in his
girdle. These adventures seem flat enough as I repeat them, but
the hero expressed his terrors by such odd terms of speech, and
such strangely humorous gestures, that the story came from his lips
with an unfailing zest, so that the crew, who had heard the tale so
often, could still enjoy to their hearts' content the rich fright
of the Admiral, and still shuddered with unabated horror when he
came to the loss of the dollars.

The power of listening to long stories (for which, by-the-bye, I am
giving you large credit) is common, I fancy, to most sailors, and
the Greeks have it to a high degree, for they can be perfectly
patient under a narrative of two or three hours' duration. These
long stories are mostly founded upon Oriental topics, and in one of
them I recognised with some alteration an old friend of the
"Arabian Nights." I inquired as to the source from which the story
had been derived, and the crew all agreed that it had been handed
down unwritten from Greek to Greek. Their account of the matter
does not, perhaps, go very far towards showing the real origin of
the tale; but when I afterwards took up the "Arabian Nights," I
became strongly impressed with a notion that they must have sprung
from the brain of a Greek. It seems to me that these stories,
whilst they disclose a complete and habitual KNOWLEDGE of things
Asiatic, have about them so much of freshness and life, so much of
the stirring and volatile European character, that they cannot have
owed their conception to a mere Oriental, who for creative purposes
is a thing dead and dry--a mental mummy, that may have been a live
king just after the Flood, but has since lain balmed in spice. At
the time of the Caliphat the Greek race was familiar enough to
Baghdad: they were the merchants, the pedlars, the barbers, and
intriguers-general of south-western Asia, and therefore the
Oriental materials with which the Arabian tales were wrought must
have been completely at the command of the inventive people to whom
I would attribute their origin.

We were nearing the isle of Cyprus when there arose half a gale of
wind, with a heavy chopping sea. My Greek seamen considered that
the weather amounted not to a half, but to an integral gale of wind
at the very least, so they put up the helm, and scudded for twenty
hours. When we neared the mainland of Anadoli the gale ceased, and
a favourable breeze sprung up, which brought us off Cyprus once
more. Afterwards the wind changed again, but we were still able to
lay our course by sailing close-hauled.

We were at length in such a position, that by holding on our course
for about half-an-hour we should get under the lee of the island
and find ourselves in smooth water, but the wind had been gradually
freshening; it now blew hard, and there was a heavy sea running.

As the grounds for alarm arose, the crew gathered together in one
close group; they stood pale and grim under their hooded capotes
like monks awaiting a massacre, anxiously looking by turns along
the pathway of the storm and then upon each other, and then upon
the eye of the captain who stood by the helmsman. Presently the
Hydriot came aft, more moody than ever, the bearer of fierce
remonstrance against the continuing of the struggle; he received a
resolute answer, and still we held our course. Soon there came a
heavy sea, that caught the bow of the brigantine as she lay jammed
in betwixt the waves; she bowed her head low under the waters, and
shuddered through all her timbers, then gallantly stood up again
over the striving sea, with bowsprit entire. But where were the
crew? It was a crew no longer, but rather a gathering of Greek
citizens; the shout of the seamen was changed for the murmuring of
the people--the spirit of the old Demos was alive. The men came
aft in a body, and loudly asked that the vessel should be put
about, and that the storm be no longer tempted. Now, then, for
speeches. The captain, his eyes flashing fire, his frame all
quivering with emotion--wielding his every limb, like another and a
louder voice, pours forth the eloquent torrent of his threats and
his reasons, his commands and his prayers; he promises, he vows, he
swears that there is safety in holding on--safety, IF GREEKS WILL
BE BRAVE! The men hear and are moved; but the gale rouses itself
once more, and again the raging sea comes trampling over the
timbers that are the life of all. The fierce Hydriot advances one
step nearer to the captain, and the angry growl of the people goes
floating down the wind, but they listen; they waver once more, and
once more resolve, then waver again, thus doubtfully hanging
between the terrors of the storm and the persuasion of glorious
speech, as though it were the Athenian that talked, and Philip of
Macedon that thundered on the weather-bow.

Brave thoughts winged on Grecian words gained their natural mastery
over terror; the brigantine held on her course, and reached smooth
water at last. I landed at Limasol, the westernmost port of
Cyprus, leaving the vessel to sail for Larnaka, where she was to
remain for some days.


There was a Greek at Limasol who hoisted his flag as an English
vice-consul, and he insisted upon my accepting his hospitality.
With some difficulty, and chiefly by assuring him that I could not
delay my departure beyond an early hour in the afternoon, I induced
him to allow my dining with his family instead of banqueting all
alone with the representative of my sovereign in consular state and
dignity. The lady of the house, it seemed, had never sat at table
with an European. She was very shy about the matter, and tried
hard to get out of the scrape, but the husband, I fancy, reminded
her that she was theoretically an Englishwoman, by virtue of the
flag that waved over her roof, and that she was bound to show her
nationality by sitting at meat with me. Finding herself inexorably
condemned to bear with the dreaded gaze of European eyes, she tried
to save her innocent children from the hard fate awaiting herself,
but I obtained that all of them (and I think there were four or
five) should sit at the table. You will meet with abundance of
stately receptions and of generous hospitality, too, in the East,
but rarely, very rarely in those regions (or even, so far as I
know, in any part of southern Europe) does one gain an opportunity
of seeing the familiar and indoor life of the people.

This family party of the good consul's (or rather of mine, for I
originated the idea, though he furnished the materials) went off
very well. The mamma was shy at first, but she veiled the
awkwardness which she felt by affecting to scold her children, who
had all of them, I think, immortal names--names too which they owed
to tradition, and certainly not to any classical enthusiasm of
their parents. Every instant I was delighted by some such phrases
as these, "Themistocles, my love, don't fight."--"Alcibiades, can't
you sit still?"--"Socrates, put down the cup."--"Oh, fie! Aspasia,
don't. Oh! don't be naughty!" It is true that the names were
pronounced Socrahtie, Aspahsie--that is, according to accent, and
not according to quantity--but I suppose it is scarcely now to be
doubted that they were so sounded in ancient times.

To me it seems, that of all the lands I know (you will see in a

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