By Robert Hichens
|Roman Amphitheater at Pola|
Miramar faded across the pale waters of the Adriatic, which lay like a dream at the foot of the hills when Triest seemed sleeping, all its activities stilled at the summons of peace. Beneath its tower the orange-colored sail of a fishing-boat caught the sunlight, and gleamed like some precious fabric, then faded, too, as the ship moved onward to the forgotten region of rocks and islands, of long, gray mountains, of little cities and ancient fortresses, of dim old churches, from whose campanile the medieval voices of bells ring out the angelus to a people still happily primitive, still unashamed to be picturesque. By the way of the sea we journeyed to a capital where no carriages roll through the narrow streets, where there is not a railway-station, where the citizens are content to go on foot about their business, and where three quarters of the blessings of civilization are blessedly unknown. We had still to touch at Pola, in whose great harbor the dull-green war-ships of Austria lay almost in the shadow of the vast Roman amphitheater which has lifted its white walls, touched here and there with gold, above the sea for some sixteen hundred years, curiously graceful despite its gigantic bulk, the home now of grasses and thistles, where twenty thousand spectators used to assemble to take their pleasure.
But when Pola was left behind, the ship soon entered the watery paradise. Miramar, Triest, were forgotten. Dalmatia is a land of forgetting, seems happily far away, cut off by the sea from many banalities, many active annoyances of modern life.
Places that are, or that seem to be, remote often hold a certain melancholy, a tristesse of "old, unhappy, far-off things." But Dalmatia has a serene atmosphere, a cheerful purity, a clean and a cozy gaiety which reach out hands to the traveler, and take him at once into intimacy and the breast of a home. Before entering it the ship coasts along a naked region, in which pale, almost flesh-colored hills are backed by mountains of a ghastly grayness. Flesh-color and steel are almost cruelly blended. No habitations were visible. The sea, protected on our right by lines of islands, was waveless. No birds flew above it; no boats moved on it. We seemed to be creeping down into the ultimate desolation.