Charm Of Corfu, originally published 1913
A sea of brilliant, luminous blue; an atmosphere whose perfect transparency suggests some interior of pearl and alabaster; the very faintest hint of golden light in the crystal air, and cliffs of richest violet, rose-shadowed, rising against the sky, - a country in which, as Euripides pictured, one is "ever delicately tripping through the pellucid air; " an areal country, whose valleys and defiles are all aglow with pink of oleander blooms, and where the fragrance of orange-blossoms burdens the breeze. This is Corfu!
The Mediterranean voyage, if it does not, in-deed, abound in enchantment, offers the voyager renewed pageantry of beauty; wonderful Algiers, a city of sun-flushed marble, on emerald hills, overlooking the resplendent waters; Taormina, a dream of loveliness seen against the snow-crowned peaks of Mount Etna, across a sapphire sea; Amalfi. Naples, from whose terraced heights the view over the incomparable combination of sea and sky and islands and peaks that arrest the sunset splendors, is the marvel of a lifetime; these and other of the dreams of beauty the traveler knows; and still, with his first view of Corfu, new visions arise.
The Ionian Islands are five in number: Corfu, Leucis, Ithaca, Cephalonia, and Zante, aggregating a territory of more than a thousand square miles, with a population of some three hundred thousand, which in winter receives some accessions by the foreign visitors to Corfu. The precipitate white cliff which is the fabled scene of Sappho's leap is some eight miles from the town, whose narrow streets and lofty houses, with a royal palace of white Malta stone, and extensive gardens surrounding almost every villa, are singularly attractive to the tourist.
There are some twenty thousand inhabitants, two or three good hotels, and drives and walks of exceeding charm. A Greek necropolis was discovered in 1843 near the coast, and the tomb of Menecrates identified. The entire region is Homeric in associations; and sauntering about in the sunshine, encompassed by Homeric legend and song.
As a resort Corfu is easily accessible from continental Europe, and the sail from Trieste is a charming voyage of only some thirty-six hours. From Marseilles, down the Mediterranean, through the Straits of Messina, and around the foot of Italy into the Adriatic, is as alluring a sail as one could ask; or, making port at Naples, the voyager may cross to Brindisi, about eight hours by rail, and sail from there, in some twelve hours more, to Corfu. From whatever direction the island is approached, it is equally beautiful, with the mountainous heights rising in irregular and picturesque masses; with its myriads of valleys covered with the luxuriant verdure of vines, and the gray-green olive-trees. Corfu is enshrined in legend and romance. It is the land where Ulysses sought safety after his disastrous voyage from the island of Calypso, and where he encountered Nausicaa and her maidens, who befriended him. The fabled gardens of King Alcinous, the father of the Princess Nausicaa, still exist in the imagination of the visitor; nor is it difficult to identify them with the entrancing gardens of the present, with their tropical luxuriance of magnolias, which seem to be in perpetual bloom, and the stately palms, the eucalyptus, the orange and lemon trees whose blossoms make the air all fragrance, the papyrus, fig, and olive trees. And if the sojourner is of a sceptical turn of mind and disinclined to accept all the myth and legend that invest Corfu, how can he be but convinced when he is taken in a fairy boat over to the little island of Pontikonisi, which was originally the Phoenician ship that brought Ulysses, and which was instantly changed into stone by the irate Poseidon. The virtues of Penelope found favor in the eyes of the avenging gods, and with the island before one's eyes, and under one's feet, who can continue in doubt of the impressive story?
If there is any possession that the traveler should cherish and guard above all others, it is his store of illusions. Money and luggage and various other impedimenta, if lost, can be replaced; but to lose one's illusions is to be poor indeed. No possession is so invaluable. Illusions are like a magic veil that one may fling over any point, always adjustable, and always ensuring the maximum degree of enchantment. Now enchantment is really what one travels for. It is, like beauty, its " own excuse for being." As for knowledge, - an encyclopedia and an atlas will supply knowledge anywhere. It is not necessary to sail the high seas for this acquirement. To get the most out of one's saunterings about this planet, one wants to believe in the impossible, and to travel with a liberal outfit of illusions. They are, indeed, the only order of impedimenta that afford an unmixed joy, for the reason that even to the supernatural vision, the absolute second sight of a custom-house officer, they will pass undetected. They are the one thing you need not "declare." The one thing, too, which, undeclared, does not subject you to imprisonment for life, or to capital punishment, according to the law of the celebrated land of the brave and the free. There was an American gentleman whose occupation in life was to travel in Europe, and who was equipped, among other felicitous acquirements, with a wide familiarity with the languages of the several countries in which he variously sojourned; but whenever offering any counsel as to ways and means of travel, which many of his less experienced con frère$ constantly sought from him, he always gave advice quite the reverse of that of the wise man who is on record as favoring the getting of understanding. This wary American voyager commended in the highest terms the advantages of ignorance. If by any chance you were the unfortunate possessor of knowledge, he advised its concealment. When he himself, at the various European ports, was asked by the Angel with the Flaming Sword that guards the customs, as to what he conveyed about with him, he always, he said, affected to be utterly ignorant of the tongue in which the interrogation was made, and assuming a vacant and dejected expression of countenance, he would simply clutch the front lapels of his coat and exclaim, "Roba! roba!" On this the Angel lowered his flaming sword, assumed an expression of pitying tolerance, and the apparently ignorant and forlorn traveler was passed through without further ceremony. It is not, however, intended to suggest this attitude as one that could be assured of success in the port of New York.
To return to illusions. These must not, by the way, be confounded with delusions, than which there is nothing more pernicious. But the illusion is an innocent and harmless article, which is capable, under encouraging treatment, of affording incalculable enjoyment.
Of all places to which the adventurous may journey while on this sublunary sphere, Corfu is the one of all others where illusions are the most desirable, not to say necessary, of possessions. There is not only the island which the angry god turned into stone, and the lake Kalikiopoulo, on whose shore Ulysses was cast, and rescued by the philanthropic Nausicaa; but there is the promontory of Leukas, from which Sappho took her fatal leap, impelled by the despair of unrequited devotion: a bold headland, shimmering in sunset rose above a violet sea, at least to the tourist who has the happy prompting to behold it at that particular hour. Cephalonia, a neighboring isle, is the birthplace of Aphrodite. On Ithaca all the sites of the Odyssey are absolutely discovered, according to the convictions of the discoverers, who, being Dr. Schliemann and Sir William Gell, hold undisputed authority; even the stone looms used by the nymphs are in actual existence, so one's illusions need not be drawn upon there; reality may be substituted. Corfu has a saint, whose body is believed to have been miraculously preserved during fifteen centuries, and which is taken from its silver casket two or three times a year and followed by a long procession of Greek clergymen about the town. Saint Spiridion heals the sick, blesses the olives and the grain, walks on the water to ensure the safety of the sailors, and performs other beneficent offices. In relation to Saint Spiridion, one's resources in illusion are not without value. This saint was a bishop in Cyprus and died under the persecutions of Diocletian. His body was taken to Constantinople, whence it was brought to Corfu and enshrined in the chapel of a church called by his name. The body, consigned to a silver sarcophagus, may be seen on occasions, privately, for a fee of forty francs, and gratuitously on holy days, when the populace throng the church from sunrise to sunset, kneeling be-fore the sarcophagus and pressing on it the most fervent kisses in attitudes of devotion. The miraculous preservation of a veritable body is one of the spectacles in Italy, also; as in Assisi, where the body of the nun, Santa Clara, in her nun's habit, is shown in the church dedicated to her name; and in Naples, in the church of San Domenico Maggiore, where the alleged body of Vittoria Colonna is shown by the sacristan, in a sarcophagus whose wooden top is partly eaten away, placed in the high balcony in the sacristy by the side of the sarcophagus containing the body of her ' husband, Fernando Francesco d'Avalos, Marchese di Pescara. Vittoria Colonna died in Rome, and her body was first entombed in the ancient church of Santa Ana, now long since destroyed. Whether the body in the sacristy in Naples alleged to be hers is so, - chi lo sa? The alleged body of Saint Spiridion is, at all events, quite as wonderfully preserved as are those shown in Assisi and Naples. It is related that Bishop Spiridion was one of the famous Council of Nice, and that he illustrated the doctrine of the Trinity by holding up an earthen pitcher and calling attention to the absolute unity of earth, fire, and water in its composition. Many are the superstitions that prevail in Corfu, and he who is a collector of these may add to his repertoire. It is, however, true that these are not taken too seriously by a larger portion of the population, but are regarded as observances that do no harm, and that may be of possible good. Corfu without her legends and myths would lose half her fascination. Yet beyond these are the authoritative historic associations.
Corfu has been the scene of great events, con-ducted by great men. Themistocles took refuge there during his exile from Greece; and Aristotle came, "and was so charmed with the island and its people that he persuaded Alexander of Epirus to join him." Among other illustrious names connected with Corfu are those of Titus, after the conquest of Jerusalem; of Caesar Augustus, the most beneficent of Roman Emperors; of Diocletian, the persecutor of Christianity, and Helena, who, on her way to Palestine in search of the true cross, landed on the island and tarried at Corfu. The Emperor Nero is known to have lingered here; Cato came, and Tibullus; and what more likely than that Cicero, who more than once visited Attica, paused on this lovely island in his journey? For the noted naval battle between Corinth and Corcyra, 657 B.C., the triremes lingered in the bays and coast indentations. And "here was passed in review that splendid armament which was destined to perish at Syracuse - the Moscow of Athenian ambition - and four hundred years Iater the waters of Actium saw a world lost and won. Here again, after the lapse of sixteen centuries, those Christian powers met while all Lepanto dealt to the Turkish fleet - so long the scourge and terror of Europe a blow from which it has never recovered." There are seven islands of the Ionian group, of which Corfu, formerly known as Corcyra, and called Scheria by Homer, is the largest and most important. Though only forty miles in length and some twenty in width, it has over seventy miles of sea-coast, so numerous are the indentations. There are now about a hundred thousand inhabitants, Greek, with a liberal proportion of Italians, and some English; besides the floating population of visitors and sojourners that include English, French, German, Austrian, and occasional Russian and American travelers. The Greeks of Corfu are of a high order of intelligence; their sons are mostly educated at the University of Athens, not unfrequently adding study in Italian and German universities, or at the Sorbonne of Paris, and occasionally at Oxford. Since the end of the British Protectorate (in 1862), Corfu has advanced in a manner to fully justify the confidence expressed by Gladstone.
The island of Corfu is peculiarly identified with the Homeric world. Odysseus sailed in one night from Ithaca to Corfu; and to the present day the Homeric poetry exercises the most ardent influence on the imagination and the minds of the Greek residents. The reverence for Homer is hardly less than that shown in classical times. The youth of to-day in Corfu may almost emu-late the example of Alexander the Great, who, when on his eastern campaigns, is said to have always carried with him a copy of Homer, placed in a rich Persian casket, and which Aristotle, his tutor in boyhood, edited for him, the edition being thus one of unusual value.
The history of Corfu has been singularly eventful. The battle with Corinth in 432 B.c. led to the Peloponnesian war; the Romans took possession of it in 229 B.C.; in 1295 A.D., when the Crusaders divided the Byzantine Empire, Corfu came under the rule of the Venetians; these were succeeded by the kings of Naples and later by the powers of Epirus, who held the island till 1797. After that it was occupied by the French until 1815, when, at a treaty made in Paris, in November of that year, the entire seven islands were united in the Heptanesos, or seven-isled state, under the name of the United States of the Ionian Islands, and were placed under the immediate protection of Great Britain. This government lasted, with increasing dissatisfaction, for forty-eight years; and in November of 1863 the islands were incorporated into the kingdom of Greece. This final consummation, so joyfully hailed by the Ionians, was largely, if not wholly, due to the wisdom and far-seeing spirit of Mr. Gladstone.
When the treaty of 1815 was signed in Paris, the Powers were not especially concerned either in the welfare of the Ionian islands or in any particular advantage accruing to Great Britain, but rather to preserve the islands from falling under more objectionable rule. The Ionian States were to govern their own internal organization, with a "Lord High Commissioner" from England to adorn the Governor's palace and act as the general head of affairs. The impressive title of this nominal head of affairs was abbreviated by the Greeks to the designation of "the Lord High." The Duke of Wellington regarded all this arrangement as a dubious one; he declared it would prove "a tough and unprofitable job," and so it turned out. Various "Lords High" came and went, and mostly - went. Their going was apparently the only popular act of their administration. "My honorable lord, I will most humbly take my leave of you," said Polonius to Hamlet. "You cannot, sir, take from me anything that I will more willingly part withal, " returned the Dane, and the people of Corfu would have united in sympathy with the sentiments of Hamlet. This order maintained itself, however, after a fashion, until 1849, when there came a decided outbreak of demand that the Turks be driven out of Greece and the English out of the Ionian confederation. Sir Charles Napier, who was living in Cephalonia about 1820, during the last days of Byron in Greece, described the people as being, among the richer classes, lively and agreeable, the women possessing not a little beauty and native wit, though without much education; the poorer people hardy and industrious, and withal intelligent, full of pleasant humor and vivacity. The higher classes were then mainly Italian in origin. But during the succeeding thirty years or so, things steadily grew worse. Roads, aqueducts, piers, and other essential works were falling to pieces without repair or renewal. There was a large deficit in the revenue. The official class scrambled for the petty offices.
Sir John Morley, in his biography of Glad-stone, relates that a senate of six members was chosen, drawn by the High Commissioner from the assembly. "The forty-two members of the assembly met below galleries that held a thousand persons," continues Sir John, "and nothing made their seats and salaries so safe as round declamations from the floor, to the audience above, on the greatness of the Hellenic race and the need for union with the Greek kingdom." It is told that even the municipal officer in charge of education used to set as a copy for the children a prayer that pan-Hellenic concord might succeed in driving the English away.
In the autumn of 1859 a proposition was laid before Mr. Gladstone to undertake a special mission to the Ionian islands. Sir Bulwer Lytton was one to suggest that Mr. Gladstone's fame as both scholar and statesman might not inharmoniously blend with such a service to the Crown. Sir Bulwer wrote to him on the matter a letter (appearing in full in the Gladstone biography), urging that "to reconcile a race that speaks the Greek language to the science of practical liberty" seemed a task "that might well be a noble episode" in Mr. Gladstone's career. The life-long interest that Mr. Glad-stone had manifested in Homer, and in all that pertained to Grecian history, now gave rise to some facetious discussion. Sir John Morley remarks that Lord Aberdeen did not share the picturesque view of Sir Bulwer. "It is clear," wrote Lord Aberdeen, "that Bulwer has sought to allure you with vague declarations and the attractions of Homeric propensities. I doubt if Homer will be a cheval de battaille sufficiently strong to carry you safely through the intricacies of this enterprise." Mr. Gladstone's biographer, however, declares that "the wanderings of Ulysses, and the geography of Homer, prevailed in his mind," and notwithstanding various and varied parliamentary counsels from his confrères, Mr. Gladstone, accompanied by his wife, set off in the late autumn for Corfu. This winter of 1858-1859 is still memorable in the island for Mr. Gladstone's sojourn. To what degree the English lover of Homer was haunted by the shades of Thucydides and Xenophon does not appear; but it does appear from Sir John's narration that Mr. Gladstone's landing at Corfu was invested with elaborate ceremony, a salute of seventeen guns being fired in his honor, and the particular "Lord High" then in power (Sir John Young) with his staff met him personally at the pier. Apparently the Greeks from the first regarded Mr. Gladstone in the light of their heaven-sent benefactor. Sir John Morley notes that Mr. Gladstone first of all made a cruise entirely around all the Ionian islands, and says :
"This shook him a good deal with respect to two of the points, Corfu and Ithaca, on which it has been customary to dwell as proving Homer's precise local knowledge. The rain poured in torrents for most of the time, but it cleared up for a space to reveal the loveliness of Ithaca. In the island of Ulysses and Penelope he danced at a ball given in his honor. In Cephalonia he was received by a tremendous mob of a thousand persons, whom neither the drenching rains nor the unexpected manner of his approach across the hills could baffle. They greeted him with incessant cries for union with Greece, thrust disaffected papers into his carriage, and here and there indulged in cries of `Down with the Protectorate! Down with the tyranny of fifty years! '
The great statesman could not but recognize what evil had been wrought in the half-century, nearly, of bad government. He realized, however, and made due allowances for the state of excitement of the popular mind. Age and infirmity prevented the archbishop from coming to pay his respects to the eminent British statesman, so after his levee Mr. Glad-stone with his suite repaired to the ecclesiastical palace. In the Gladstone biography this inter-view is described as being exceedingly picturesque. The archbishop seems to have been in-vested with his full splendors of ecclesiastical robes, in gorgeous hues, and he was attended by all his clergy in their priestly vestments. He was an old man, with the flowing white beard so frequently met with among the clergy of Greece; and his grace and dignity of manner made a strong impression upon Mr. Gladstone. The archbishop's special desire was to urge the wish of Cephalonia to be united to Greece, "and there was something very affecting," says the narrator, "in the tremulous tones of the old man saying over and over again, `questa infelice isola, questa isola infelice,' as the tears streamed down his silvery beard."
Later Mr. Gladstone made a journey to Zante; the occasion was made a festa, and the people came out in masses, with bands of music playing and flags flying in the wind, and all the bells ringing vociferously. Boat-loads of people filled the harbor; and Sir John Morley, reverting to the wonderful scene, notes that the very air was vocal with enthusiastic shouts, from a people wrought up to intense feeling, of "Long live Gladstone! Long live the Philhellene!"
There was another scene vividly pictured by Mr. Gladstone's secretary, which Sir John includes in this great biography: the scene of the reception given to Mr. Gladstone at the palace of the Commissioner, which is thus related : "Every room and passage was thronged. The excitement was great. . and as soon as Mr. Gladstone had taken his place, in swept Gerasimus, the Bishop, followed by scores of priests in their picturesque black robes, and tendered to him the people's petition for union with Greece. But before he could deliver it, Gladstone stopped him and addressed to the Bishop and the assembled throng a speech in excellent Italian. Never did his beautiful voice ring out more clear or more thrillingly than when he said `Ecco l'inganno. . . . The priests, with eye and hand and gesture, expressed in lively pantomime to each other the effect produced by each sentence, in what we should think a most exaggerated way, like a chorus on the stage, but the effect was most picturesque."
A brilliant banquet was given to Mr. Glad-stone the next night; again, a special performance at the theater; and after four days in Corfu he sailed for Athens and visited the university, where the students immediately presented him with a petition praying for the union of the Hellenic kingdom.
Mr. Gladstone was, of course, profoundly impressed. In his diary he wrote: "The whole impression is saddening. It is all indolence, decay, stagnation. The image of God seems as if it were nowhere. But there is much of the wild and picturesque." Mr. Gladstone did not underrate this problem. "While you seem," he said, "to be dealing only with a few specks on the map of Europe, you are really engaged in solving a problem as delicate and difficult as if it arose on a more conspicuous stage." He recognized how eminently gifted were the Greek people. He did not underrate their earnestness. Finally he offered (and this was at a sacrifice which all familiar with English history of that time will estimate at its true value) to serve as commissioner him-self for the limited time he felt that office would be required. Already, it would seem, he agreed with the general demand of the people of Corfu and the other islands for union with their own country. He certainly realized its justice and sympathized with its spirit. The reply from England ran: "The Queen accepts. Your commission is being made out." The English press published mocking articles about Mr. Gladstone's admiration for the countrymen of Miltiades, and compared his journey to those of Ulysses and Alcinous. The satirists suggested that he be made king of the Ionian islands.
Many complications ensued which are full of interest to the Greeks in their enthusiasm for recalling their eventful history during the nineteenth century. Mr. Gladstone's characteristically judicial attitude did not lead him to enter into fantastic demands, while yet his sympathies were largely with the populace of Corfu and the other Ionian islands. At that time Sir Peter Braila, who afterwards served as Minister from Greece to England; and two brothers, bearing the renowned name of Themistocles, were residents of Corfu, and they were among the most influential advisers for the cause of in-dependence from British control and for union with Greece. There were influential statesmen in England, however, opposed to this, Lord Palmerston being one; and the Queen, in reply to the appeal made to her, could not then see her way to abandon the obligations she felt she had incurred; but the tumult and turmoil came to an end at last, like all earthly things, and the final result was that Corfu gained her persistent demand, and was united to the main country in a bond that has not, apparently, ever been lessened.
Napoleon declared that Corfu has the most beautiful situation in the world. It is not difficult to agree with him. The white city climbs the hillside, with towers and balconies silhouetted against the bluest of skies. At the summit of the highest hill, on the colossal rock, is the citadel, crowning the town, and itself seen against San Salvatore, a peak three thousand feet high. The intense coloring that flames all over these picturesque ranges is rendered still more beautiful by the wonderful hues on the surrounding seas. Towards sunset, mountain and defile and town are bathed in a soft, golden light. The crests of the hills are touched with rose color, and the myriad palms are shadowy in their dark outlines. Far on the horizon rise other peaks on islands in the sea that seem a dim mirage.
From the balconies of the hotel Belle Venise, which is charmingly located in a picturesque place on terraced hills, the scene is one of the most beautiful in all Europe. There are several comfortable hotels and pensions in Corfu, the rates being about the same as those of Naples, Capri, and Amalfi; but the Belle Venise quite justifies its name and is a favorite with Parisians, who have discovered the charm of Corfu for a winter's stay. The drives are most attractive. In contrast to all the rest of Greece, Corfu is provided with splendid roads, which signal attraction is due to the English occupation. Cabs are numerous and very moderate in price, well-appointed, and with drivers who, for the most part, are remarkably obliging, and are as intelligent as they are courteous. One may drive all over the island. The walks are also alluring to the saunterer, the vistas always disclosing some new beauty. The temperature is so delightful that a stay in Corfu is one of the best means of physical invigoration. The mail service is much better than at Athens, as the Lon-don mail reaches Trieste within two days, and there are steamers almost daily from Trieste or Brindisi. Mail from London and Paris, sent by rail to Brindisi, is due there within three days, and twelve more hours brings it to Corfu.
It is said there are not less than four million olive-trees on the island. Orange, lemon, and fig trees abound, and produce fruit of the finest flavor. The table supply therefore, of hotels and pensions, is among the best to be found in Southern Europe.
One can regale himself with all sorts of classic excursions, on foot, by carriage, or boat, to Homeric haunts. The adventurous, whose earthly paradise it is to climb mountains, will find the ascent of Monte San Salvatore, of Monte Ercole, and the Pylides, sufficiently ex-citing. The views from all these heights are in-comparable. There are various old castles, half ruined convents, and ruins, rocks, and rivers in general, all over the island. Among other attractions is the Villa Achilleion, built for Elizabeth, the Empress of Austria, in the Italian renaissance style, in 1890. After her death in 1898, it was purchased by the German emperor, who is very hospitable in admitting visitors to the luxuriant gardens and the extensive park, which descends in terraces to the sea, and contains much sculpture in fountains, marble stairs, and pergolas, and decorative designs in rare plants.
The esplanade of the town is adorned with a monumental group in honor of John Capo d'Istria, a native of Corfu, who was one of the most notable leaders in the Greek Revolution. But he shared the common fate of the hero, and was assassinated in 1831, and honored by a monument sixty years later. The figure is a noble work of art, draped in the folds of a long cloak, and placed on a high pedestal, whose inscription records the gratitude of the succeeding generation, who apparently understood his efforts far more truly than did his immediate contemporaries.
The esplanade in Corfu is a spacious and pleasant piazza, with an avenue of trees, and winding walks; one shaded road leads to Mon Repos, the summer resort of the King of Greece. The former residence of the "Lords High," then known as Government House, is now used as the municipio. There is, too, a very beautiful, sea view from one part of the esplanade, and beyond one finds a stately arcade with shops, after the manner of Milan and Naples. The church of Saint Spiridion is the most notable one, though it has no particular beauty of art to commend it; there are other Greek churches and an attractive English chapel, Holy Trinity, with a resident rector. The streets are narrow, but clean; and on the hills about there are numerous private villas with lovely grounds. Almost all languages are spoken. Italian and English are as prevalent as Greek, and French is almost universal. Corfu has her own university, and schools abound. Corfu has much of the sunny gayety that so signally characterizes Naples, and of which one feels the absence in Athens. The people are boundlessly hospitable; they are temperate, moderately industrious, and not without enterprise. The well-to-do visit Athens, go frequently to Italy, and even so far afield as France, England, and the United States. They are particularly fond of Paris, in which taste they are by no means alone. The poorer people among the Greeks have no such thrift as the contadini of Tuscany and northern Italy, and which so essentially characterizes the French and the Swiss. The Greek reads his newspaper and sighs for other realms to conquer than his vineyard or olive orchard.
Fruits and flowers abound in the utmost pro-fusion on the island. Besides the olives and grapes, the yield is large of peaches, pears, melons, almonds, - everything, almost, except currants, which grow with such abundance in Zante, and will not thrive in Corfu. The flora, too, is the paradise of the botanist. There are the most unusual varieties of plants, hardly found at all elsewhere. And the flowering luxuriance of roses, myrtle, jessamine, oleander, magnolia, clematis, violets, cyclamen, and a thousand others exceeds description. The royal family are much beloved, and their visits are greeted with simple and fervent joy by all the populace. The designation of "royalty" is almost a misnomer in the simple and unostentatious household that King George and Queen Olga graced, and which will lack nothing of the same refined simplicity under the present sovereigns, King Constantine and Queen Sophia. In the early years of the decade of 1870-1880, Hon. Charles K. Tuckerman was the United States Minister to Greece. Visiting Corfu, Mr. Tuckerman wrote:
"The church of Saint Spiridion is frequently the scene of ceremonials which are attended by the Royal Family. Here Te Deums are sung on the `name days' of their majesties, and in. celebration of the birth of the princes. On these occasions the King and Queen, aides-de-camp, and ladies of honor, stand within the choir facing the bishops and priests at the altar, while the standing stalls are occupied on one side by the chief officials of the State, and on the other by the members of the corps diplomatique. The nave of the church is filled by the military and the public. Not the least interesting portion of this glittering assembly is the group of officiating priests, chanting the service, their long hair, high black caps, and stiff brocaded vestments of rich and diverse colors, thrown shawl-like over the shoulder, forming a peculiar picture. The body of Saint Spiridion, enclosed in a massive silver sarcophagus, lies within a side chapel dimly lighted by a swinging lamp that is never extinguished. . . . It is a curious sight for the bystander to observe the worshipers; the tattered beggar, the great lady, as they glide, self-absorbed, into the somber little chapel, murmur their prayers over the inspired relic, and cover the sarcophagus with fervent kisses."
The processions of the Greek priests are frequent in Corfu, and form one of the most picturesque spectacles. In their richly-embroidered robes, holding aloft the cross and other insignia, carrying flaming candles, and accompanied by martial music, the procession is far more impressive than any of the religious observances that survive in Italy. On ordinary days the priests wear simply the black robe and tall. round hat, always seen in the priesthood of Athens.
The archaeologists seem eager to deprive the inoffensive tourist of as many of his legitimate joys as possible; and the learned Dr. Dorpfeld would persuade one, if he could, that the promontory of Leukas is not the one from which Sappho took her fatal leap; M. Victor Berard. would further curtail the felicities of the visitor to Corfu by convincing him that the palace of Alcinous, and the entire Homeric scene of Ulysses and Nausicaa, was on some other part of the island than that with which one has associated it. Yet, after all, why should life be reduced to the level of the iconoclastic? Why should it not be adjusted to the simple and delightful basis of believing everything that is agreeable and picturesque, in wanderings and. contacts, and refusing credence to all that is of a contrary nature? The witty Gail Hamilton declares that, as to her religious convictions, she adopted one invariable rule; she was a Calvinist; she did n't in the least know what Calvin believed, but if he could stand it, she could ! This basis seems to appeal to one as a felicitous manner of disposing of the general perplexities incident to life. At all events, the erudite have not, as yet, fortunately, interfered with the joy of cheerful excursions to the tomb of Menekrates. However much his life may, or may not, have contributed to the joy of nations, it is certain that his tomb is an object of exhilarating pilgrimages. When one of the Venetian forts on the coast, a few miles outside Corfu, was destroyed in 1843, the soldiers came upon an ancient Greek cemetery, with funeral urns, and various relics, and a tomb formed of large blocks of stone, with a low dome, and an inscription that Menekrates, of Eanthus, lost his life by drowning; that he was the representative of his town at Corcyra; that he was the friend of the people; and that his brother and friends had erected this monument. The date is that of five hundred years before the Christian era. How long, however, the illustrious scholars of the world will leave us in peace to believe we are at the tomb of Menekrates is a question. They may not only abolish his last resting-place, but even demonstrate to us that there never was any Menekrates at all. When the Futurists succeed in reducing all human experience to right-angled triangles, what will be left of the will to live? Could even William James solve for us this problem?
In the meantime, before these modern iconoclasts fall upon Corfu, tooth and nail, and divest her of all her harmless and enticing romances, it is well to make sure of one's visit to this entrancing island. The charm of Corfu can as little be captured and distilled into language as the perfume of a rose, or the shining of a star. It is the Isle of Enchantment. It is the romance of Europe. To fare forth to Corfu is to "leave the sordid earth," and "flit to those ancient gods," with the unerring conviction that thus one shall sail the Fortunate Seas, and touch the Happy Isles.
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