« EdellinenJatka »
isthmus of Corinth to Athens. Of his first feelings in the ancient cradle of taste and genius, he gives the following beautiful description :
“Overwhelmed with fatigue, I slept for some time without interruption, when I was at length awakened by the sound of Turkish music, proceeding from the summits of the Propyleum. At the same moment a Mussulman priest from one of the mosques called the faithful to pray in the city of Minerva. I cannot describe what I felt at the sound ; that Iman had no need to remind one of the lapse of time; his voice alone in these scenes announced the revolution of ages.
" This fluctuation in human affairs is the more remarkable from the con. trast which it affords to the unchangeableness of nature. As if to insult the instability of human affairs, the animals and the birds experience no change in their empires, nor alterations in their habits. I saw, when sitting on the hill of the Muses, the storks form themselves into a wedge, and wing their flight towards the shores of Africa. For two thousand years they have made the same voyage--they have remained free and happy in the city of Solon, as in that of the chief of the black eunuchs. From the height of their nests, wiiich the revolutions below bave not been able to reach, they have seen the races of men disappear; while impious generations have arisen on the tombs of their religious parents, the young stork has never ceased to nourish its aged parent. I involuntarily fell into these reflections, for the stork is the friend of the traveller : it knows the seasons of heaven.' These birds were frequently my companions in the solitudes of America ; I have often seen them perched on the wigwams of the savage; and when I saw them rise from another species of desert, from the ruins of the Parthenon, I could not avoid recognising a companion in the desolation of empires.
"The first thing which strikes a traveller in the monuments of Athens is their lovely colour. In our climate, where the heavens are charged with smoke and rain, the whitest stone soon becomes tinged with black and green. It is not thus with the atmosphere of the city of Theseus. The clear sky and brilliant sun of Greece have shed over the marble of Paros and Pentelicus a golden hue, comparable only to the finest and most fleeting tints of autumn.
“Before I saw these splendid, remains, I had fallen into the ordinary error concerning them. I conceived they were perfect in their details, but that they wanted grandeur. But the first glance at the originals is sufficient to show that the genius of the architects has supplied, in the magnitude of proportion, what was wanting in size; and Athens is accordingly filled with stupendous edifices. The Athenians, a people far from rich, few in number, have succeeded in moving gigantic masses ; the blocks of stone in the Pnyx and the Propyleum are literally quarters of rock. The slabs which stretch from pillar to pillar are of enormous dimensions : the columns of the Temple of Jupiter Olympius are above sixty feet in height, and the walls of Athens, including those which stretched to the Piræus, extended over nine leagues, and were so broad that two chariots could drive on them abreast. The Romans never erected more extensive fortifications,
“By what strange fatality has it happened that the chefs d'æuvre of antiquity, which the moderns go so far to admire, have owed their destruction chiefly to the moderns themselves? The Parthenon was entire in 1687 ; the Christians at first converted it into a church, and the Turks into a mosque. The Venetians, in the middle of the light of the seventeenth century, bombarded the Acropolis with red-hot shot; a shell fell on the Parthenon, pierced the roof, communicated to a few barrels of powder, and blew into the air great part of the edifice, which did less honour to the gods No one
of antiquity than the genius of man. No sooner was the town captured, than Morosini, in the design of embellishing Venice with its spoils, took down the statues from the front of the Temple ; and another modern has completed, from love for the arts, that which the Venetian had begun. The invention of firearms has been fatal to the monuments of antiquity. Had the barbarians been acquainted with the use of gunpowder, not a Greek or Roman edifice would have survived their invasion; they would have blown up even the Pyramids in the search for bidden treasures. One year of war in our times will destroy more than a century of combats among the ancients. Everything among the moderns seems opposed to the perfection of art ; their country, their manners, their dress, even their discoveries." — Vol. i. 136, 145.
These observations are perfectly well founded. can have visited the monuments of the Greeks on the shores of the Mediterranean, without perceiving that they were thoroughly masters of an element of grandeur hitherto but little understood among the moderns—that arising from gigantic masses of stone. The feeling of sublimity which they produce is indescribable ; it equals that of Gothic edifices of a thousand times the size. Every traveller must have felt this upon looking at the immense masses which rise in solitary magnificence on the plains at Stonehenge. The great
block in the tomb of Agamemnon at Argos; those in the Cyclopean Walls of Volterra, and in the ruins of Agrigentum in Sicily, strike the beholder with a degree of astonishment bordering on awe.
To have moved such enormous masses seems the work of a race of mortals superior in thought and power to this degenerate age ; it is impossible
, in visiting them, to avoid the feeling that you are beholding the work of giants. It is to this cause, we are persuaded, that the extraordinary impression produced by the Pyramids, and all the works of the Cyclopean age in architecture, is to be ascribed ; and as it is an element of sublimity within the reach of all who have considerable funds at their command, it is earnestly to be hoped that it will not be overlooked by our architects. Strange that so powerful an ingredient in the sublime should have been lost sight of in proportion to the ability of the age to produce it, and that the monuments raised in the infancy of the mechanical art, should still be those in which alone it is to be seen to perfection!
We willingly translate the description of the unrivalled scene viewed from the Acropolis by the same poetical hand; a description so glowing, and yet so true, that it almost recalls, after the lapse of years, the fading tints of the original on the memory.
" To understand the view from the Acropolis, you must figure to yourself all the plain at its foot; bare and clothed in a dusky heath, intersected here and there by woods of olives, squares of barley, and ridges of vines; you must conceive the heads of columns, and the ends of ancient ruins, emerging from the midst of that cultivation; Albanian women washing their clothes at the fountain or the scanty streams ; peasants leading their asses, laden with provisions, into the modern city: those ruins so celebrated, those isles, those seas, whose names are engraven on the memory, illumined by a resplendent light. I have seen from the rock of the Acropolis the sun rise between the two summits of Mount Hymettus : the ravens, which nestle round the citadel, but never fly over its summit, floating in the air beneath, their glossy wings reflecting the rosy tints of the morning : columns of light smoke ascending from the villages on the sides of the neighbouring mountains marked the colonies of bees on the far-famed Hymettus ; and the ruins of the Parthenon were illuminated by the finest tints of pink and violet. The sculptures of Phidias, struck by a horizontal ray of gold, seemed to start from their marble bed by the depth and mobility of their shadows : in the distance, the sea and the Piræus were resplendent with light, while on the verge of the western horizon, the citadel of Corinth, glittering in the rays of the rising sun, shone like a rock of purple and fire.”—Vol. i. 149.
These are the colours of poetry; but beside this brilliant passage of French description, we willingly place the equally correct and still more thrilling lines of our own poet.
“Slow sinks, more beauteous ere his race be run,
Behind his Delphian cliff he sinks to sleep." The columns of the temple of Jupiter Olympius produced the same effects on the enthusiastic mind of Chateaubriand as they do on every traveller. But he has added some reflections highly descriptive of the peculiar turn of his mind.
“At length we came to the great isolated columns placed in the quarter which is called the city of Adrian. On a portion of the architrave which unites two of the columns, is to be seen piece of masonry, once the abode of a hermit. It is impossible to conceive how that building, which is still
entire, could have been erected on the summit of one of these prodigious columns, whose height is above sixty feet. Thus this vast temple, at which the Athenians toiled for seven centuries, which all the kings of Asia laboured to finish, which Adrian, the ruler of the world, had first the glory to complete, has sunk under the hand of time, and the cell of a hermit has remained undecayed on its ruins. A miserable cabin is borne aloft on two columns of marble, as if fortune had wished to exhibit, on that magnificent pedestal, a monument of its triumph and its caprice.
"These columns, though twenty feet higher than those of the Parthenon, are far from possessing their beauty. The degeneracy of taste is apparent in their construction ; but isolated and dispersed as they are, on a naked and desert plain, their effect is imposing in the highest degree. I stopped at their feet to hear the wind whistle through the Corinthian foliage on their summits ; like the solitary palms which rise here and there amidst the ruins of Alexandria. When the Tarks are threatened by any calamity, they bring a lamb into this place, and constrain it to bleat, with its face turned to heaven. Being anable to find the voice of innocence among men, they have recourse to the new-born lamb to mitigate the anger of heaven."— Vol. i. 152, 153.
He followed the footsteps of Chandler along the Long Walls to the Piræus, and found that profound solitude in that once busy and animated scene, which is felt to be so impressive by every traveller.
" If Chandler was astonished at the solitude of the Piræus, I can safely assert that I was not less astonished than he. We had made the circuit of that desert shore ; three harbours had met our eyes, and in all that space we had not seen a single vessel! The only spectacle to be seen was the rains and the rocks on the shore-the only sounds that could be heard were the cry of the seafowl, and the murmur of the wave, which, breaking on the tomb of Themistocles, drew forth a perpetual sigh from the abode of eternal silence. Borne away by the sea, the ashes of the conqueror of Xerxes repose beneath the waves, side by side with the bones of the Persians. In vain I sought the Temple of Venus, the long gallery, and the symbolical statue which represented the Athenian people; the image of that implacable democracy was for ever fallen, beside the walls where the exiled citizens came to implore a return to their country. Instead of those superb arsenals, of those Agoræ resounding with the voice of the sailors ; of those edifices which rivalled the beauty of the city of Rhodes, I saw nothing but a ruined convent and a solitary magazine. A single Turkish sentinel is perpetually seated on the coast; months and years revolve without a bark presenting itself to his sight. Such is the deplorable state into which these ports, once so famous, have now fallen. Who has overturned so many monuments of gods and men ? The hidden power which overthrows everything, and is itself subject to the Unknown God whose altar St Paul beheld at Phalera."-Vol. i. 157, 158.
The fruitful theme of the decay of Greece has called forth many of the finest apostrophes of our moralists and poets. On this subject Chateaubriand offers the following striking observations :
"One would imagine that Greece itself announced, by its mourning, the misfortunes of its children. In general, the country is uncultivated, the soil bare, rough, savage, of a brown and withered aspect. There are no rivers, properly so called, but little streams and torrents, which become dry in summer. No farm-houses are to be seen on the farms; no labourers, no chariots, no oxen, or horses of agriculture. Nothing can be figured so melancholy as to see the track of a modern wheel, where you can still trace in the worn parts of the rock the track of ancient wheels. Coast along that shore, bordered by a sea hardly more desolate ; place on the summit of a rock a ruined tower, an abandoned convent ; figure a minaret rising up in the midst of the solitude as a badge of slavery—a solitary flock feeding on a cape, surmounted by ruined columns--the turban of a Turk scaring the few goats which browse on the hills, and you will obtain a just idea of modern Greece.
“On the eve of leaving Greece, at the Cape of Sunium, I did not abandon myself alone to the romantic ideas which the beauty of the scene was fitted to inspire. I retraced in my mind the history of that country; I strove to discover in the ancient prosperity of Athens and Sparta the cause of their present misfortunes, and in their present situation the germ of future glory. The breaking of the sea, which insensibly increased against the rocks at the foot of the Cape, at length reminded me that the wind had risen, and that it was time to resume my voyage. We descended to the vessel, and found the sailors already prepared for our departure. We pushed out to sea, and the breeze, which blew fresh from the land, bore us rapidly towards Zea. As we receded from the shore, the columns of Sunium rose more beautiful above the waves : their pure white appeared well defined in the dark azure of the distant sky. We were already far from the Cape ; but we still heard the murmur of the waves, which broke on the cliffs at its foot, the whistle of the winds through its solitary pillars, and the cry of the sea-birds which wheel round the stormy promontory; they were the last sounds which I heard on the shores of Greece."— Vol. i. 196.
“ The Greeks did not excel less in the choice of the site of their edifices than in the forms and proportions. The greater part of the promontories of Peloponnesus, Attica, and Ionia, and the Islands of the Archipelago, are marked by temples, trophies, or tombs. These monuments, surrounded as they generally are with woods and rocks, beheld in all the changes of light and shadow, sometimes in the midst of clouds and lightning, sometimes by the light of the moon, sometimes gilded by the rising sun, sometimes flaming in his setting beams, throw an indescribable charm over the shores of Greece. The earth, thus decorated, resembles the old Cybele, who, crowned and seated on the shore, commanded her son Neptune to spread the waves beneath her feet.
Christianity, to which we owe the sole architecture in unison with our manners, has also taught how to place our true monuments : our chapels, our abbeys, our monasteries, are dispersed on the summits of hills; not that the choice of the site was always the work of the architect, but that an art which is in unison with the feelings of the people, seldom errs far in what is really beautiful. Observe, on the other hand, how wretchedly almost all our edifices copied from the antique are placed. Not one of the heights around Paris is ornamented with any of the splendid edifices with which the city is filled. The modern Greek edifices resemble the corrupted language which they speak at Sparta and Athens : it is in vain to maintain that it is the language of Homer and Plato; a mixture of uncouth words, and of foreign constructions, betrays at every instant the invasion of the barbarians.
“ To the loveliest sunset in nature succeeded a serene night. The firmament, reflected in the waves, seemed to sleep in the midst of the sea. The evening star, my faithful companion in my journey, was ready to sink beneath the horizon; its place could only be distinguished by the rays of light which it occasionally shed upon the water, like a dying taper in the distance. At intervals, the perfumed breeze from the islands which we