by Robert Hichens.
|Parthenon at Athens|
What Greece is like in spring, I do not know, when rains have fallen round Athens and the country is green, when the white dust perhaps does not whirl through Constitution Square and over the garden about the Zappeion, when the intensity of the sun is not fierce on the road to the bare Acropolis, and the guardians of the Parthenon, in their long coats the color of a dervish's hat, do not fall asleep in the patches of shade cast on the hot ground by Doric columns. I was there at the end of the summer, and many said to me, "You should come in spring, when it is green."
Greece must be very different then, but can it be much more beautiful?
Disembark at the Piraeus at dawn, take a carriage, and drive by Phalerum, the bathing-place of the Athenians, to Athens at the end of the summer, and though for just six months no rain has fallen, you will enter a bath of dew. The road is dry and dusty, but there is no wind, and the dust lies still. The atmosphere is marvelously clear, as it is, say, at Ismailia in the early morning. The Hellenes, when they are talking quite naturally, if they speak of Europe, always speak of it as a continent in which Greece is not included. They talk of "going to Europe." They say to the English stranger, "You come to us fresh from Europe." And as you drive toward Athens you understand.
This country is part of the East, although the Greeks were the people who saved Europe from being dominated by the races of Asia. All about you—you have not yet reached Phalerum—you see country that looks like the beginning of a desert that holds a fascination of the desert. The few trees stand up like carved things. The small, Eastern-looking houses, many of them with flat roofs, earth-colored, white, or tinted with mauve and pale colors, scattered casually and apparently without any plan over the absolutely bare and tawny ground, look from a distance as if they, too, were carved, as if they were actually a part of the substance of their environment, not imposed upon it by an outside force. The moving figure of a man, wearing the white fustanelle, has the strange beauty of an Arab moving alone in the vast sands. And yet there is something here that is certainly not of Europe, but that is not wholly of the East —something very delicate, very pure, very sensitive, very individual, free from the Eastern drowsiness, from the heavy Eastern perfume which disposes the soul of man to inertia.
It is the exquisite, vital, one might almost say intellectual, freshness of Greece which, between Europe and Asia, preserves its eternal dewdrops—those dewdrops which still make it the land of the early morning.
|Acropolis with a view of the |
Aeropagus and Mount Hymettus
Your carriage turns to the right, and in a moment you are driving along the shore of a sea without wave or even ripple. In the distance, across the purple water, is the calm mountain of the island of Aegina. Over there, along the curve of the sandy bay, are the clustering houses of old Phalerum. This is new Phalerum, with its wooden bath-houses, its one great hotel, its kiosks and cafes, its shadeless plage, deserted now except for one old gentleman who, like almost every Greek all over the country, is at this moment reading a newspaper in the sun.
Is there any special charm in new Phalerum, bare of trees, a little cockney of aspect, any exceptional beauty in this bay? When you have bathed there a few times, when you have walked along the shore in the quiet evening, breathing the exquisite air, when you have dined in a cafe of old Phalerum built out into the sea, and come back by boat through the silver of a moon to the little tram station whence you're turn to Athens, you will probably find that there is. And from what other bay can you see the temple of the Parthenon as you see it from the bay of Phalerum?
You have your first vision of it now, as you look away from the sea, lifted very high on its great rock of the Acropolis as on a throne. Though far off, nevertheless its majesty is essentially the same, casts the same tremendous influence upon you here as it does when you stand at the very feet of its mighty columns. At once you know, not because of the legend of greatness attaching to it, or because of the historical associations clinging about it, but simply because of the feeling in your own soul roused by its white silhouette in this morning hour, that the soul of Greece -- eternal majesty, supreme greatness, divine calm, and that remoteness from which, perhaps, no perfect thing, either God-made or, because of God's breath in him, man-made, is wholly exempt—is lifted high before you under the cloudless heaven of dawn.
You may even realize at once and forever, as you send on your carriage and stand for a while quite alone on the sands, gazing, that to you the soul of Greece must always seem to be Doric. From afar the Doric conquers.
The ancient Hellenes, divided, at enmity, incessantly warring among themselves, were united in one sentiment: they called all the rest of the nations "barbarians." The Parthenon gives them reason. "Unintelligible folk" to this day must acknowledge it, using the word "barbarian" strictly in our modern sense.
|Temple of Athene Nike at Athens|
But the sun is higher, the morning draws on; you must be gone to Athens. Down the long, straight, new road, between rows of pepper-trees, passing a little church which marks the spot where a miscreant tried to assassinate King George, and always through beautiful, bare country like the desert, you drive. And presently you see a few houses, like the houses of a quiet village; a few great Corinthian columns rising up in a lonely place beyond an arch tawny with old gold; a public garden looking new but pleasant,—not unlike a desert garden at the edge of the Suez Canal,—with a white statue (it is the statue of Byron) before it; then a long, thick tangle of trees stretching far, and separated from the road and a line of large apartment-houses only by an old and slight wooden paling; a big square with a garden sunken below the level you are on, and on your right a huge, bare white building rather like a barracks. You are in Athens, and you have seen already the Olympieion, the Arch of Hadrian, the Zappeion garden, Constitution Square, and the garden and the palace of the king.
Coming to Athens for the first time by this route, it is difficult to believe one is in the famous capital, even though one has seen the Acropolis. And I never quite lost the feeling there that I was in a delightful village, containing a cheery, bustling life, some fine modern buildings, and many wonders of the past. Yet Athens is large and is continually growing. One of the best and most complete views of it is obtained from the terrace near the Acropolis Museum, behind the Parthenon. Other fine views can be had from Lycabettus, the solitary and fierce-looking hill against whose rocks the town seems almost to surge, like a wave striving to overwhelm it, and from that other hill, immediately facing the Acropolis, on which stands the monument of Philopappos.
It is easy to ascend to the summit of the Acropolis, even in the fierce heat of a summer day. A stroll up a curving road, the mounting of some steps, and you are there, five hundred and ten feet only above the level of the sea. But on account of the solitary situation of the plateau of rock on which the temples are grouped and of its precipitous sides, it seems very much higher than it is. Whenever I stood on the summit of the Acropolis I felt as if I were on the peak of a mountain, as if from there one must be able to see all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them.
What one does see is marvelously, almost ineffably beautiful. Herodotus called this land, with its stony soil and its multitudes of bare mountains, the "rugged nurse of liberty." Though rugged, and often naked, nevertheless its loveliness—and that soft word must be used—is so great and so pure that, as we give to Greek art the crown of wild olive, so we must give it surely also to the scenery of Greece. It is a loveliness of outline, of color, and above all of light.
Almost everywhere in Greece you see mountains, range upon range, closing about you or, more often, melting away into far distances, into outlines of shadows and dreams. Almost everywhere, or so it seemed to me, you look upon the sea. And as the outlines of the mountains of Greece are nearly always divinely calm, so the colors of the seas of Greece are magically deep and radiant and varied. And over mountains and seas fall changing wonders of light, giving to outline eternal meanings, to color the depth of a soul.
When you stand upon the Acropolis you see not only ruins which, taking everything into consideration, are perhaps the most wonderful in the world, but also one of the most beautiful views of the world. It is asserted as a fact by authorities that the ancient Greeks had little or no feeling for beauty of landscape. One famous writer on things Greek states that "a fine view as such had little attraction for them," that is, the Greeks. It is very difficult for those who are familiar with the sites the Greeks selected for their great temples and theaters, such as the rock of the Acropolis, the heights at Sunium and at Argos, the hill at Taormina in Sicily, etc., to feel assured of this, however lacking in allusion to the beauty of nature, unless in connection with supposed animating intelligences, Greek literature may be. It is almost impossible to believe it as you stand on the Acropolis.
All Athens lies beneath you, pale, almost white, with hints of mauve and yellow, gray and brown, with its dominating palace, its tiny Byzantine churches, its tiled and flat roofs, its solitary cypress-trees and gardens. Lycabettus stands out, small, but bold, almost defiant. Beyond, and on every side, stretches the calm plain of Attica. That winding river of dust marks the Via Sacra, along which the great processions used to pass to Eleusis by the water. There are the dark groves of Academe, a place of rest in a bare land. The marble quarries gleam white on the long flanks of Mount Pentelicus, and the great range of Parnes leads on to Aegaleos. Near you are the Hill of the Nymphs, with its observatory; the rocky plateau from which the apostle Paul spoke of Christ to the doubting Athenians; the new plantation at the foot of Philopappos which surrounds the so-called "Prison of Socrates." Honey-famed Hymettus, gray and patient, stretches toward the sea—toward the shining Saronic Gulf and the bay of Phalerum. And there, beyond Phalerum, are the Piraeus and Salamis. Mount Elias rules over the midmost isle of Aegina. Beneath the height of Sunium, where the Temple of Poseidon still lifts blanched columns above the passing mariners who have no care for the sea-god's glory, lies the islet of Gaidaronisi, and the mountains of Megara and of Argolis lie like dreaming shadows in the sunlight. Very pure, very perfect, is this great view. Nature here seems purged of all excesses, and even nature in certain places can look almost theatrical, though never in Greece. The sea shines with gold, is decked with marvelous purple, glimmers afar with silver, fades into the color of shadow. The shapes of the mountains are as serene as the shapes of Greek statues. Though bare, these mountains are not savage, are not desolate or sad. Nor is there here any suggestion of that "oppressive beauty" against which the American painter-poet Frederic Crowninshield cries out in a recent poem—of that beauty which weighs upon, rather than releases, the heart of man.
|The Academy, Mount Lycebettus in the background|
From this view you turn to behold the Parthenon. A writer who loved Greece more than all other countries, who was steeped in Greek knowledge, and who was deeply learned in archaeology, has left it on record that on his first visit to the Acropolis he was aware of a feeling of disappointment. His heart bled over the ravages wrought by man in this sacred place—that Turkish powder-magazine in the Parthenon which a shell from Venetians blew up, the stolen lions which saw Italy, the marbles carried to an English museum, the statues by Phidias which clumsy workmen destroyed.
But so incomparably noble, so majestically grand is this sublime ruin, that the first near view of it must surely fill many hearts with an awe which can leave no room for any other feeling. It is incomplete, but not the impression it creates.
The Parthenon, as it exists today, shattered, almost entirely roofless, deprived of its gilding and color, its glorious statues, its elaborate and wonderful friezes, its lions, its golden oil-jars, its Athene Parthenos of gold and ivory, the mere naked shell of what it once was, is stupendous. No memory of the gigantic ruins of Egypt, however familiarly known, can live in the mind, can make even the puniest fight for existence, before this Doric front of Pentelic marble, simple, even plain, but still in its devastation supreme. The size is great, but one has seen far greater ruins. The fluted columns, lifted up on the marble stylobate which has been trodden by the feet of Pericles and Phidias, are huge in girth, and rise to a height of between thirty and forty feet. The architrave above their plain capitals, with its projecting molding, is tremendously massive. The walls of the cella, or sanctuary of the temple, where they still remain, are immense. But now, where dimness reigned, —for in the days when the temple was complete no light could enter it except through the doorway,—the sunlight has full possession. And from what was once a hidden place the passing traveler can look out over land and sea.
Some learned men have called the Parthenon severe. It is wonderfully simple, so simple that it is not easy to say exactly why it produces such an overpowering impression of sublimity and grandeur. But it is not severe, for in severity there is something repellent, something that frowns. It seems to me that the impression created by the Parthenon as a building is akin to that created by the Sphinx as a statue. It suggests—seems actually to send out like an atmosphere—a tremendous calm, far beyond the limits of any severity.
The whole of the Parthenon, except the foundations, is of Pentelic marble. And this marble is so beautiful a substance now after centuries of exposure on a bare height to the fires of the sun, to the sea-winds and the rains of winter that it is impossible to wish it gilded, and painted with blue and crimson. From below in the plain, and from a long distance, the temple looks very pale in color, often indeed white. But when you stand on the Acropolis, you find that the marble holds many hues, among then pale yellow, cocoa color, honey color, and old gold. I have seen the columns at noonday, when they were bathed by the rays of the sun, glow with something of the luster of amber, and look almost transparent. I have seen them, when evening was falling, look almost black.
The temple, which is approached through the colossal marble Propylaea, or state entrance, with Doric colonnades and steps of marble and black and deep-blue Eleusinian stone, is placed on the very summit of the Acropolis, at the top of a slope, now covered with fragments of ruin, scattered blocks of stone and marble, sections of columns, slabs which once formed parts of altars, and broken bits of painted ceiling, but which was once a place of shrines and of splendid statues, among them the great statue of Athena Promachos, in armor, and holding the lance whose glittering point was visible from the sea. The columns are all fluted, and all taper gradually as they rise to the architrave. And the flutes narrow as they draw nearer and nearer to the capitals of the columns. The architrave was once hung with wreaths and decorated with shields. The famous frieze of the cella, which represented in marble a great procession, and which ran round the external wall of the sanctuary, is now in pieces, some of which are in the British Museum, and some in Athens. A portion of this frieze may still be seen on the west front of the temple. The cella had a ceiling of painted wood. On one of its inner walls I saw traces of red Byzantine figures, one apparently a figure of the Virgin. These date from the period when the Parthenon was used as a Christian church, and was dedicated to Mary the mother of God, before it became a mosque, and, later, a Turkish powder-magazine. The white marble floor, which is composed of great blocks perfectly fitted together, and without any joining substance, contrasts strongly with the warm hues of the inner flutes of the Doric columns. Here and there in the marble walls may be seen fragments of red and of yellow brick. From within the Parthenon, looking out between the columns, you can see magnificent views of country and sea.
Two other temples form part of the Acropolis, with the Propylaea and the Parthenon, the Temple of Athene Nike and the Erechtheum. They are absolutely different from the profoundly masculine Parthenon, and almost resemble two beautiful female attendants upon it, accentuating by their delicate grace its majesty.
The Temple of Nike is very small. It stands on a jutting bastion just outside the Propylaea, and has been rebuilt from the original materials, which were dug up out of masses of accumulated rubbish. It is Ionic, has a colonnade, is made of Pentelic marble, and was once adorned with a series of winged victories in bas-relief.
|The Aeropagus (Mar’s Hill). On this rock St. Paul spoke to the Athenians|
Ionic like the Temple of Nike, but much larger, the Erechtheum stands beyond the Propylaea, and not far from the Parthenon, at the edge of the precipice beneath which lies the greater part of Athens. A marvelously personal element attaches to it and makes it unique, giving it a charm which sets it apart from all other buildings. To find this you must go to the southwest, to the beautiful Porch of the Caryatids, which looks toward the Parthenon.
There are six of these caryatids, or maidens standing upon a high parapet of marble and supporting a marble roof. Five of them are white, and one is a sort of yellowish black in color, as if she had once been black, but, having been singled out from her fellows, had been kissed for so many years by the rays of the sun that her original hue had become changed, brightened by his fires. Four of the maidens stand in a line. Two stand behind, on each side of the portico. They wear flowing draperies, their hair flows down over their shoulders, and they support their burden of marble with a sort of exquisite submissiveness, like maidens choosing to perform a grateful and an easy task that brings with it no loss of self-respect.
I once saw a great English actress play the part of a slave girl. By her imaginative genius she succeeded in being more than a slave: she became a poem of slavery. Everything ugly in slavery was eliminated from her performance. Only the beauty of devoted service, the willing service of love,—and slaves have been devoted to their masters,—was shown in her face, her gestures, her attitudes. Much of what she imagined and reproduced is suggested by these matchlessly tender and touching figures; so soft that it is almost incredible that they are made of marble, so strong that no burden, surely, would be too great for their simple, yet almost divine, courage. They are watchers, these maidens, not alertly, but calmly watchful of something far beyond our seeing. They are alive, but with a restrained life such as we are not worthy to know, neither fully human nor completely divine. They have something of our wistfulness and something also of that attainment toward which we strive. They are full of that strange and eternal beauty that is in all the greatest things of Greece, from which the momentary is banished, in which the perpetual is enshrined. Contemplation of them only seems to make more deep their simplicity, more patient their strength, and more touching their endurance. Retirement from them does not lessen, but almost increases, the enchantment of their very quiet, very delicate spell. Even when their faces can no longer be distinguished and only their outlines can be seen, they do not lose one ray of their soft and tender vitality. They are among the eternal things in art, lifting up more than marble, setting free from bondage, if only for a moment, many that are slaves by their submission.
About two years ago this temple was carefully cleaned, and it is very white, and looks almost like a lovely new building not yet completed. Here and there the white surface is stained with the glorious golden hue which beautifies the Parthenon, the Propylaea, the Odeum of Herodes, the Temple of Theseus, the Arch of Hadrian, and the Olympieion. The interior of the temple is full of scattered blocks of marble. In the midst of them, and as it were faithfully protected by them, I found a tiny tree carefully and solemnly growing, with an air of self-respect. Above the doorway of the north front is some very beautiful and delicate carving. This temple was once adorned with a frieze of Eleusinian stone and with white marble sculpture. Its Ionic columns are finely carved, and look almost strangely slender, if you come to them immediately after you have been among the columns of the Parthenon. Majesty and charm are supremely expressed in these two temples, the Erechtheum and the Parthenon, the smaller of which is on a lower level than the greater. One thinks again of the happy slave who loves her master.
The group of magnificent, gold-colored Greco-Roman columns which is called the Olympieion stands in splendid isolation on a bare terrace at the edge of the charming Zappeion garden. In this garden, full of firs and pepper-trees, acacias, palms, convolvulus, and pink oleanders, I saw many Greek soldiers, wearied out with preparations for the Balkan war against Turkey, which was declared while I was in Athens, sleeping on the wooden seats, or even stretched out at full-length on the light, yellow soil. For there is no grass there. Beyond the Olympieion there is a stone trough in which I never saw one drop of water. This trough is the riverbed of the famous Ilissus!
The columns are very splendid, immense in height, singularly beautiful in color,—they are made of Pentelic marble, —and with Corinthian capitals, nobly carved. Those which are grouped closely together are raised on a platform of stone. But there are two isolated columns which look even grander and more colossal than those which are united by a heavy architrave. The temple of which they are the remnant was erected in the reign of Hadrian to the glory of Zeus, and was one of the most gigantic buildings in the world.
From the Zappeion garden you can see in the distance the snow-white marble Stadium where the modern Olympic and Pan-Hellenic games take place. It is gigantic. When full, it can hold over fifty thousand people. The seats, the staircases, the pavements are all of dazzling-white marble, and as there is of course no roof, the effect of this vastness of white, under a bright-blue sky, and bathed in golden fires, is almost blinding. All round the Stadium cypress-trees have been planted, and their dark-green heads rise above the outer walls, like long lines of spearheads guarding a sacred enclosure. Two comfortable arm-chairs for the king and queen face two stelae of marble and the far-off entrance. The earthen track where ' the sports take place is divided from the spectators by a marble barrier about five feet high, and till you descend into it, it looks small, though it is really very large. The entrance is a prophylaeum. It is a great pity that immediately outside this splendid building the hideous panorama should be allowed to remain, cheap, vulgar, dusty, and despicable. I could not help saying this to a Greek acquaintance. He thoroughly agreed with me, but told me that the Athenians were very fond of their panorama.
In a straight line with the beautiful Arch of Hadrian, and not far off, is the small and terribly defaced, but very graceful, Monument of Lysicrates, a circular chamber of marble, with small Corinthian columns, an architrave, and a frieze. It is surrounded by a railing, and stands rather forlornly in the midst of modern houses.
|The Acropolis at Athens in early morning|
The Temple of Theseus, or more properly of Hercules, on the other side of the town, is a beautifully preserved building, lovely in color, very simple, very complete. It is small, and is strictly Doric and very massive. Many people have called it tremendously impressive, and have even compared it with the Parthenon. It seems to me that to do this is to exaggerate, to compare the very much less with the very much greater. There really is something severe in great massiveness combined with small proportions, and I find this temple, noble though it is, severe.
Athens contains several very handsome modern buildings, and one that I think really beautiful, especially on a day of fierce sunshine or by moonlight. This is the Academy, which stands in the broad and airy University Street, at whose mouth are the two cafes which Athenians call "the Dardanelles." It is in a line with the university and the national library, is made of pure white marble from Pentelicus, and is very delicately and discreetly adorned with a little bright gold, the brilliance of which seems to add to the virginal luster of the marble. The central section is flanked by two tall and slender detached columns crowned with statues. Ionic colonnades relieve the classical simplicity of the facade, with some marble and terra-cotta groups of statuary. The general effect is very calm, pure, and dignified, and very satisfying. The Athenians are proud, and with reason, of this beautiful building, which they owe to the generosity of one of their countrymen.
Modern Athens, despite its dust, is a delightful city to dwell in. Nobody in it looks rich,—that dreadful look!—and scarcely anybody looks poor. The king and the princes stroll casually about the streets, or may be met on the Acropolis or walking by the sea at Phalerum. I was allowed to wander all over the palace gardens, which are full of palms and great trees, and which resemble a laid-out wood. A Rumanian friend of mine told me that one day when he was in the garden, on turning a corner he came upon the king and queen, with the crown-princess, who had just come down from the terrace in front of the royal apartments. All the center of the palace was burned out more than a year ago, and is now being slowly rebuilt. Greece is the home of genuine democrats, but democracy is delightful in Greece. Nobody thinks about rank, and everybody behaves like a gentleman. The note of Athens is a perfectly decorous liveliness, which is never marred by vulgarity. The stranger is welcomed and treated with the greatest possible courtesy, and he is never bothered by objectionable people such as haunt many of the cities of Italy, and of other lands where travelers are numerous. Athens indeed is one of the most simpatica of cities, wonderfully cheerful, simply gay, of a perfect behavior, yet quite unceremonious.
I have said that the Greeks are democrats. Nevertheless, like certain other democrats of whom one has heard, there are Greeks who love to think that they are not quite as all other Greeks. America, I am informed, has her "four hundred." Greece has her "fifty-two." In New York the "four hundred" consider themselves the advance-guard of fashion, if not of civilization. In Athens the "fifty-two" rejoice in a similar conviction. They do daring things sometimes. There is a card-game beloved of the Greeks called "Mouse." The fifty-two have introduced bridge and despise "Mouse." In Athens they frequent one another's houses. In the summer they "remove" to Cephissia in the pine-woods, where there are many pleasant, and some very fantastic, villas, and where picnics, tennis, and card-parties, theatrical performances and dances, fleet the hours, which are always golden, away. They are sometimes criticized by the "outsiders," for even gods are subject to criticism. People say now and then, "What will the fifty-two do next?" or, "Really there is no end to the folly of the fifty-two!" But have not similar remarks been heard even at Newport or upon Fifth Avenue pavements? Nevertheless, despite the fifty-two, you have only to look at the thin and decrepit palings of King George's garden to realize that at last you have found the true democracy and a democracy sensible enough to understand the advantage of possessing a royal family. Every society needs a leader, and royalty leads far more effectively than anyone else, however self-assured, however glittering. The Greeks are not without wisdom.
Their manners are charming and excellent. I had an unusual opportunity of putting them to the test. I was in Athens just before and just after the declaration of war against Turkey, when spies were everywhere, when a Turkish spy was discovered in Athens disguised as a Greek priest, and a woman was caught near Lycabettus in the act of poisoning the water-supply of the city. One morning early, when I was on the sea near Salamis in a small boat with a Greek fisherman, I was arrested on suspicion of being a spy, and was brought before the admiral in supreme command of the fleet. My passport was in Athens at my hotel, the admiral evidently disbelieved my explanations, and I was handed over to the police at the Piraeus, accompanied by a report from the admiral in which, as was afterward made known to me, he stated that I was "a very suspicious character." And now to the test of Hellenic good manners.
Eventually a guard of police carrying rifles was sent to convey me from the Piraeus to Athens, and in the middle of the afternoon I was obliged to walk as a prisoner through the streets of the Piraeus, to take the tram to Phalerum, to get out there and wait for half an hour at a railway-station, and to travel in the train to Athens. In Athens I was made to walk three times, always guarded closely, through the principal streets and squares of the city, and twice past my hotel in the Constitution Square during the most busy hour of the day. Eventually, at night, I was released. Now, the Hellenes are considered by many people to be very inquisitive. During my public exposure as a prisoner I met with no really disagreeable curiosity from the crowd. Many people discreetly inquired of my guards who I was and what I had done, and naturally a great many more stared at me. But nobody followed me and my attendants as we marched on our way from one police station to another, to the War Office, etc. There was no pushing or jostling, such as there would certainly have been in an English town if a prisoner with guards was exposed to the public gaze. Curiosity was, as a rule, almost carefully dissembled, and inquiries were made with a charming discretion. I confess I felt grateful to the Greeks that day, though not to the admiral who had me arrested, or to the police who put me to so much inconvenience. And I was grateful for one thing more, that I was released just in time to see King George's arrival in Athens on the eve of the war.
The Hellenes are not an enthusiastic people, as a rule. They are critical, intellectual, sometimes rather cynical. But that night they gave way to emotion. Great crowds were lined up in Constitution Square, and were massed on the brow of the hill before the palace, when at length the police let me go. Darkness had long since fallen, but the square was illuminated brightly. All the balconies were packed with people. The terrace before the Grande Bretagne was black with sight-seers. And everywhere in the forefront were rows of eager, vivacious Greek children, many of them the soldiers of the future.
We had to wait for a very long time. But at last the king came in an open carriage, driving with "the Diadochos," as the crown-prince is always called in Greece. Both were in uniform. There was no ceremonial escort, so the people formed an un-ceremonial one. They ran with the carriage, shouting, waving their hats and handkerchiefs, cheering till they were hoarse, and crying, "War! War!" The great square rang with the clapping of thousands of hands. "Never before," said a Greek to me, "has the king had such a reception." When the carriages containing the rest of the royal family and the ministers had gone by, we ran in our thousands to the palace. Above the great entrance porch there is a balcony, and after a short time slim King George stepped out, rather cautiously, I thought, upon it, followed by all the princes and princesses. It was very dark, but a footman accompanied his Majesty, holding an electric light, and we had our speech.
The king read the first part of it in a loud, unemotional voice, bending sometimes to the light. But at the close he spoke a few words extempore, commending the Hellenic cause, if war should come, to the mercy of God. And then, again with precaution, he retired into the palace amid a storm of cheers.
I was afterward told that, with the whole of the royal family, His Majesty had been standing upon some loose planks which spanned an abyss. The royal palace, owing to the disastrous fire, is not yet what it seems. Fortunately, the Greek army has proved more solid, and the God of battles, so solemnly invoked by their king, has been favorable to the arms of the Greeks. No one, I think, who was in Greece during that time of acute tension, who saw the feverish preparations, the devotion of the toiling soldiers, the ardor of the volunteers; no one who witnessed, as I did, the return to Athens of the "American Greeks," who gave up everything and crossed the ocean to fight for their little, splendid country, could wish it otherwise.
The descendants of those who made the Parthenon have shown something of that Doric soul which is surely the soul of Greece.
From The Century Magazine – April 1913.