Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

Indeed, we should long since have noticed, that the general course of his writing bears a character of unaffected independence and intrepidity, which greatly contributes to the life and interest of the work, and is perfectly in unison with the spirit practically evinced in his researches and rovings.

• An observation has before been made, that every principal city of Greece occupies its peculiar plain, surrounded in a most remarkable manner by a natural wall of mountains; and too much stress cannot be laid on this fact, because it will enable the reader to take, as it were, a mental survey of the country; and the mere name of any Grecian city, by this circumstance of association, will convey with it, whenever it is mentioned, a correct, though an imaginary picture of its appearance and situation; especially to the minds of travellers who have once seen any similar instance. The country is naturally distributed into a series of distinct craters, each containing a spacious and level area, admirably adapted to the purposes of maintaining and defending as many different colonies. Among the mountains that thus surround the Plain of Thebes, the snow-clad ridges of Parna88118, and of Helicon are particularly conspicuous. It may easily be imagined, without much description, what scenes for a painter such a country must afford,—what subjects for poetry it must contain: heaven and earth seem to be brought together; the mountain tops appear shining above the clouds, in regions of ineffable light, as thrones for immortal beings; and the clouds collected into stupendous volumes of inconceivable splendour, and of every possible form, come rolling round the basis of the mountains, as if bringing the majesty of their celestial conductors towards the earth. Under the influence of so many sublime impressions, the human mind becomes gifted as by inspiration, and is by nature file led with poetical ideas. The muses have ever made such scenes their favourite abode; and it is upon this account that they have haunted Helicon and Parna 88U8, and all the heights and the depths, the vales and the rocks, and the woods and the waters of Greece: nor can an example be adduced where, in any country, uniformly flat and monophanous, like Scythia or Belgium, the fire of imagi. nation has ever kindled. It is not that Greece owed its celebrity to an Orpheus or a Pindar, and the long list of poets it produced, as it is, that those illustrious bards owed the bent of their genius to the scenes of nature wherein they were born and educated. Even Homer himself, if he had been a native of oriental Tartary, and had been cradled and brought up under the impressions made by such scenery, and under the influence of such a climate, would never have been a poet.' Vol. IV.p. 48.

It is easy to admit the whole of this creed as to the effect of the dead flats of the earth;-it is probable enough that Belgium or Tartary would have put an effectual negative on any attempt of nature to make there a Homer; but on the other hand, when she decided there should be but one Homer, it was in vain

reece, even inAnd whate Fulgence oth

that all the charms and splendours of the Grecian scenery and climate conspired to multiply the number. The great and unquestionable power of such a noble and most enviable state of the material world, to develop and enrich native genius, confessed its limits, and its total inability to create genius, in the innumerable beings of ordinary faculty in ancient Greece, even in the period when so many other mighty causes co-operated. And what does it do now? The identical Greece remains, in that effulgence of elemental glory which so justly enraptured our author; but what are its men!

The enthusiasm inspired at Athens, was not likely to languish on the plain of Marathon, which is finely illustrated, in every sense; several beautiful plates assisting the minute and perspicuous topographical description. The investigator could not doubt that he distinguished, in a conspicuous tumulus, the tomb of the Athenians; and he very clearly and strikingly explains, in surveying the scene of action in the vicinity of the marsh, how a prodigious multitude of the Persians would inevitably be ingulfed in it. He had narrowly missed seeing the cave of Pan, in approaching Marathon, on the road from Athens. In crossing the territory of the ancient Tanagra, he observes that it is,

"a plain of such extraordinary beauty, extent, and fertility, that the sight of it alone is sufficient to explain all the ancient authors have written concerning the contests maintained for its possession, between the inhabitants of Attica and of Bæotia.'

The site of Tanagra was first ascertained by Mr. Hawkins, and a letter from him is inserted, describing some curious exhibitions there of the ridiculous superstition of the Greek peasants, which frustrated his attempt to get on board his vessel a beautiful Ionic capital of white marble. The aspect of Thebes, when first beheld, at the distance of several miles, was very striking; its fine position giving a grand effect to the prodigious ramparts, and high mounds, of a very artificial form, which appear upon the outside of it.' 'A deep fosse surrounds it, and the traces of its old walls may yet be discerned;' but

having suffered more than any other city of Greece, it has little within its walls worth notice. A most industrious investigation was made of its scanty remains; and our author is confident tható a very correct topography of the city might be composed from traces still discernible;' the situation of its seven gates might be ascertained. A number of inscriptions were transcribed; and in the church of St. Demetrius there may be seen,

“the rarest specimens of architecture in Greece: namely, several beautiful capitals of that chaste and ancient pattern of the Corin. chian order, which is entirely without volute for the corners, and has

'

a single wreath of the simplest Acanthus foliage to crown its base. There is not in Europe a single instance of this most elegant variety of the Corinthi.in in any modern structure. In fact, it is only known to those persons who have seen the very few examples of it that exist among the ruins of the Grecian cities. There is no trace of it among the ruins of Rome; yet, in point of taste, it is so exceedingly superior to the more ornamented and crowded capi. tal which was afterwards introduced, that both the rival connoscenti of Athens, Lusieri, and Fauvel, have designed and modelled it, and they have spoken of its discovery as forming an epocha in the history of the art.'

A still finer and more perfect specimen occurred afterwards among the ruins of Lebadea. We wish the form that deserves such applauses had been conveyed in a drawing. Dr. C. is of opinion that, denuded as Thebes appears of the beauties of ancient art, there must be many of its antiquities lying conceal. ed from observation, within the mosques, baths, and dwellings of its present inhabitants, and, above all, beneath the soil now occupied by the town and the suburbs:' and there he is willing to anticipate it may not be long before they will be detected. Among the few visible relics, he observed beneath a ruined tower, a massive soros of one entire block of marble, serving as a cistern beneath a fountain. Upon this soros there appeared a very curious bus-relief, representing, in rude and most ancient sculpture, the figure of a phænix, perched upon the pinnacle of an obelisk.' This combination recalls to mind a notice in Pausanias, answering in some points of the description, and instantly the tomb of Hector is before our author's eyes. • The remarkable representation of a phenix upon an obelisk of the sun, as having risen from its ashes, seems to be peculiarly adapted to the story of the removal of Hector's ashes, in obedience to the oracle, from the Trojan grave, to become an object of reverence in the city of Cadmus.' His fancy, always full of living fire, comes upon us here with one of those coruscations which evince his genuine kindred to the ancient Greeks.

Perhaps it may be doubted whether, in any part of Greece, there could be found a nobler association of sublime and dignified objects than was here collected into one view: the living fountain -the speaking sepulchre-the Cadmean citadel-the Oxygian plain-overwhelming the mind with every recollection that has been made powerful by genius, and consecrated by inspiration; where every zephyr, breathing from Helicon, and Parnassus, over the mouldering fabrics of Thebes, seems to whisper, as it passes, the names of Epaminondas and Pindar, and Homer and Orpheus.'

The ruins of Platæa, Leuctra, and perhaps Thespia, were visited on the way to mount Helicon: where the traveller's exemplary inquisitiveness, enterprise, and careful study of the Greek geographers, were rewarded in a very gratifying manner. The usual modern route has been round the base of the mountain to Lebadea; but he was confident there must have been in ancient times, a road across the mountain itself by Ascra to Lebadea. He therefore brought under interrogation a number of the Albanian peasants, whose character, manners, domestic habits, and comparative intelligence, he takes this among many other occasions of describing with much commendation; and he was delighted to receive from them information of the existence of an old, partly destroyed, and quite deserted road, ascending through the elevated passes of the mountain. This was eagerly entered upon, and it led to the most romantic and interesting solitary scenes, in which it is every thing but an absolute certainty, that the adventurer found the fountains Aganippe and Hippocrene, and the precise spot where the games sacred to the Muses were celebrated. Proceeding forward, he entered a deep valley surrounded by walls of lofty rugged rocks, and containing a village called Zagara, which he accumulates a great number and force of reasons for assuming to be the modern representative of the native town of Hesiod.

The halt at Lebadea gives occasion for a minute and curious description of the social customs, especially at meals, in the houses of the Greeks of distinction; and truly it tends to show how much in vain it is to pretend to speculate, beforehand, on what can, or cannot, be compatible with a state claiming to be called civilization, and enforcing that claim by a most complicated, punctilious, and aristocratical etiquette, in which the important concern of precedency is regulated with a scrupulous formality, not to be excelled by the most polished courts. It is a matter of earnest study and ambition, to display the costliest habiliments; and dirt and vermin form no deduction from the effect of the show. Music is indispensable to the repasts of ceremony; and so little of the spirit of ancient Greece has descended, that the Greek music is pronounced by Dr. C. to be the worst in Europe, excepting perhaps that of Lapland.

Lebadea was not to be quitted without an earnest though unsuccessful attempt to penetrate the adytum of Trophonius, every sign and circumstance, however, in whose precincts was severely scrutinized, and with all the aid of the author's learning, and of his remarkable facility and ingenuity of explanation and conjecture.

VOL. IX.

An excursion was made to Chæronea and Orchomenus, bes fore setting forward to encounter the enchantments of Delpbi, and all Parnassus, the sublimities of which were continually haunting the sight, and with an effect on the imagination so much more commanding than that of the infinitely grander object, the luminary whose radiance those proud and snow-crowned eminences reflected;--but an object beheld without emotion, because it may be beheld every day and every where.

In descending towards Delphi, through some of the defiles of Parnassus, after having surmounted the highest part of the road, the traveller felt how admirably adapted such an avenue must have been to make the previous impressions on the minds, already dismayed, of the pilgrims of superstition. · "This descent continues uninterruptedly for four hours, through the boldest scenery in the world. The rocks are tremendous in magnitude and height. Precipices every where surround the traveller, except where the view extends through valleys and broken cliffs towards Delphi; giving that powerful solemnity to those scenes of nature, which formerly impressed with religious fear the minds of votaries journeying from the most distant parts of Greece, and here approaching the awful precincts of the Pythian god."

It would be quite in vain to attempt, in our now diminutive remainder of room, any kind of abstract or account of this emi. nently interesting portion of the fourth volume. It is full of bold description and classical ardour. Our author investigated all the principal remains of the ancient city, placed in a grand theatrical semicircle hollowed out by nature in the side of the mountain, amid a transcendently noble combination of scenery; and he then ascended to the summit of Parnassus, to contemplate in one vast panorama the greatest part of all Greece.

The next lofty position was the summit of a part of mount Eta, passed on the way to the straits of Thermopylæ; the first remarkable object at the entrance of which was a tumulus. After a few remarks on the appearance and situation of this monument, Dr. C. proceeds:

It is hardly necessary to allege any additional facts to prove to whom this tomb belonged: being the only one that occurs in the whole of this defile, and corresponding precisely, as to its situation by the military way, with the accounts given by ancient authors, there can be no doubt that this was the place of burial alluded to by Herodotus, where those heroes were interred who fell in the action of Thermopylæ; and that the tumulus itself is the Polyandrium mentioned by Strabo, whereon were placed the five stelæ; one of which contained that thrilling epitaph, yet speaking to the hearts of all who love their country.'

« AnteriorContinuar »