11 JUNE 1937, Page 10



A T the end of my former article I said that during 'my • first wanderings in Greece my mind was entirely occupied with the ghosts of her ancient past, and I took little notice of her present conditions or politics. But in 1895 Abdul Hamid began his massacres of the Armenians, and in the next year the' Cretan Greeks rose in rebellion against their Turkish oppressors. A small Greek force was sent to their assistance, and feeling in England was considerably stirred. Meetings were held, and good resolutions were passed ; for many think a resolution equals a deed. Some also trusted to the encouraging text, "Vengeance is mine ; I will repay saith the Lord " and to leave action to a Higher Power seethed pious, a sound security, and cheap.

After various vain appeals to authorities, I stood up on my chair at a vast meeting of "Liberal Forwards" in the Queen's Hall, and proposed the formation of a British Legion for the assistance of Greece. Of course, I Was &wiled down, for action is always troublesome ; but, in spite of the Foreign Enlistment Act, a small British Legion Was actually enrolled, H. N. Brailsford, my colleague in so many subsequent conflicts, being among the ranks. I happened to Meet H. W. Massingham, the great editor of the Daily Chronicle, just before I set out to join them in Athens, and On arrival I found a telegram appointing me his war-correspondent till Charlie Williams, "the old warhorse," and hero of fifteen campaigns, could arrive. Meantiine, I Was to move along the northern frontier of Thessaly, and, if passible, to cross the range of Pindus to the other front in Epirus. The instructions appeared tO 'ine sensible, for they, agreed With my own inclinations.

War seemed certain. From the balcony of his flat-faced palace in Athens, George I of Greece harangued his chosen body of Evzones, telling them he would. lead tern into Thessaly and die with them there if needs must, though in fact he remained in the palace, being reserved for a more terrible fate at Salonika sixteen years later. In his place he sent his son Constantine (the" Tino " of later years) to command in Thessaly, being accompanied with large stores of provisions and an elegant dancer as Chief of Staff.- I have fully described that disastrous campaign in The hirty Days' ,War and elsewhere, so that now for the most part I may return to the ghosts of that dear land, as in my title.

A small troopship took me along the coast past the marbled height of Sunium and through the Euripus.at Chalcis, where the sea, though nearly tideless, rushes quickly to and fro as a symbol of man's and woman's inconstancy. Thin ghosts fluttered round me like last year's leaves—Persians and Spartans at Thermopylae, Thebans and Philip's Macedonians at Chaeronea, Caesar's Romans. and Pompey's Romans mixed with Asiatics at Pharsalia. As the train _moved north- west from Volo to Larissa, the Greek headquarters, I could see Pelion with all its woods, and lOssa, both. of which the Titans hoped to pile upon snowy Olympus, for thus they thought they could scale heaven itself. But, as Browning's Paracelsus said :

We get so near—so very, very near !

'Tis an old tale : Jove strikes the Titans down. Not when they set about their mountain piling

" But when' another rock would crown the work."

Leaving the confused headqUatters at Larissa, where T.419 " was soon to receive his baptism of flight, I made for the frontier over the plain of Thessaly, once the haunt of strange witchcraft, as Apuleius tells, and so I came to Tempe, the natural shrine of beauty, still in those days undefiled by a railway. It was the birthplace of Apollo's laurel, the same that crowns all laureates, even Pye, Southey and Alfred Austin. The Peneus was naturally sacred to Greeks, for it always runs with water, so rare in their country, and is about half as broad as the Severn at Shrewsbury, though far from translucent in spring. A sacred path led to Tempe from -Delphi, because here Apollo found the corpse of the Python w-hom he had shot with his arrows beside his future oracle. Alexander, too, came here on his way to conquer the world. But more poignant to me was the ghost of Pompey the Great, who drank here of the river after the overwhelming rout at Pharsalia. Perhaps the enormous plane trees still standing at the entrance to the vale may have seen him there in their youth. Down the narrow-defile I came to the delta and the sea, across which I looked towards Salonika,. where Cicero found a brief refuge in the utter misery of exile from Rome, and where St. Paul came only about a century later, "to turn the world upside down," as certain lewd fellows of the baser sort protested, being wiser than they knew.

Turning west from Tempe, I followed the Greco-Turkish frontier till I came to Tymovos, at the end of the Melouna pass, through which Xerxes probably sent the main body of his Persians, and the Turks were soon to pour into Thessaly from their headquarters at Elassona. But I recognised no ghosts on my way, up the river, except perhaps the anchorite monks on the Meteora above Kalabaka, whom I visited on the summits of apparently inaccessible pinnacles of black rock, so precipitous that I had to be hauled up in a net on a rope worked with a windlass by the monastic idiot. Those religious mountaineers might be called the ghosts of ascetic Christianity, for they live isolated from this wicked world, and allow nothing feminine to approach, even in the idiot's net.

Following the Peneus to its source, far up the pass to Metsovo over Pindus, I wondered whether it was by this 'difficult route that Caesar brought his army from his lines round Dyrrachium, and what he thought of Zeus and the other gods still dwelling upon snowy Olympus in front of him under the rising sun. But on my way I reached two wretched villages across the frontier, where Turkish block- houses were being attacked by desultory bodies of Greek Irregulars (Andarti) and a handful of starving Garibaldians, dressed in red shirts and little else. Knowing that open war must now be declared, I followed 'the Peneus down again to the Portals, the gloomy opening to the only other pass over Pindus. There Caesar had certainly been, for a bare mound -at the entrance was still called Gomphi, the name of a town which he destroyed and burnt on his way to Pharsalia. "War without fire is like tripe without mustard," said Great Auk in the Penguins of Anatole France.

Greeks told me that it took five days to reach Arta in fair weather, and snow and Turks now made the passage impos- sible. Certainly it proved difficult, especially at the crossing ' of the Achelbut (Aspropotamo) in high flood. But I came overon a timber raft that was drifting down stream, and from the snowy mountain-summit I looked down upon Epirus and the far Ambracian Gulf and saw the ghost of Cleopatra • sailing away from the lost battle of Actium to Egypt, while Antony in conscious shame followed her, leaving his fleet and devoted army to be destroyed by the future Augustus, master of the world. In three days I was in Arta.

There I found the Greek forces actually advancing, and I went with them far up the old road to Janina, the same by which Byron may have passed out of Albania on his first visit to Greece. The way was also haunted already by the ghost f of Clement Harris, a gallant Englishman, related to Admiral Harris, who was then in command of our ships watching Crete. Clement had joined the Corfu Andarti, and was killed at Pentepegadia (Five Wells), the extreme point of our advance, and Athens has just now been celebrating the fortieth anniversary of his sacrifice. But from that narrow pass we were forced back in a chaotic retreat by night to Arta, where one big gun commanded the road and bridge. To get in touch with the Greek censorship at Patras, I had to make my way through the forest of Acharnania and Aetolia, the Calydon region of swift-footed Atalanta, with Byrcm's death-place in the filthy village of Missolonghi close by. On my return to Arta I was present at the final battle of Gribovo, just outside the town.

Thus the unhappy Thirty Days' War ended, and I was ordered to the insurrection in Crete, where international ships and troops (mainly British) were stationed to keep the peace. I passed Candia just when Arthur Evans was cutting the first trenches or pits for his famous excavations of the Minoan temples and towns of Gnossos, and, having the good fortune to join the insurgents outside Cane.% I must among the ragged and gallant leaders have first met Venizelos, afterwards to be the greatest statesman of modern Greece. On my way back through the ' Peloponnese I crossed the Langfida pass from Kalamata, saw the mediaeval ghosts of deserted Mistra, and stood upon the desolate site of Sparta herself, that model of the " totalitarian " State, envied even by Athenian philosophers, and atrociously imitated by modern dictators, who forget that, but for Athens, whose "fairest hands took freedom first into them," only a few laborious antiquarians would now know or care that ancient Greece ever existed.