DE VERE'S SKETCHES OF GREECE AND TURKEY. * MR. AUBREY DE
VERE has published some poems, but he is chiefly known for a rhetorical pamphlet on "English Misrule and Irish Misdeeds." It is his poetical feeling and his rhetorical power, con- joined with the yeuthful scholar's enthusiasm in favour of Gteeoe, that give the principal attraction to these volumes. A steam- boat trip through the Ionian Islands, a visit to Athens, Smyrna, and Constantinople, even with the addition of an exploring tour' in leas frequented parts of Greece, are too common in them- selves to excite much attention to a book without some qualities in the writer: and some qualities Mr. De Vere possesses. Be has a critically discerning eye for the beauties of nature, which enables him toperceive their distinctive features ; his poetical feeling
into nto his descriptions a genial glow, -which widely separates them from the inventorial accounts of scenery. He has also read and thought about ancient Greece ; and the same poetical feeling that animates his landscapes sublimates his retrospection beyond boyish or conventional enthusiasm. This higher, and more, this reasonable association with antiquity, is combined with a traveller's enterprise, and took Mr. De Vere into places and through routes not customary with mere bookmaking tourists. He has a frank and pleasant spirit, that adapts itself to circumstances and makes the best of men and occurrences. His style, though sufficiently verbose, is animated and Picturesque, without being so uniform a representation of his own mind, imtinged by the subjects on which it is occupied, as is generally the case with the rhetorical school.
It is true there is a reverse to this. Mere description soft gets tedious unless it is in some wily, however remotety, associated with human interests; and description is in Mr. De Tere's volumes a shade overdone. Antiquities, especiaHy in a field so rich' in remains and associations as Greece, are likely to lead a rhetorical genius into rhapsody, to induce reflections that partake of the col- lege theme, and descriptions of that which has 'often been described before. Some of this triteness Will be found in the accounts of ancient buildings, especially at Athens, and of reflections there-' • Picturesque Sketches of Greene ,and Turkey. Si Aubrey Do Vere. In two, volumes. Published by Bentley. upon. But even when these drawbacks are taken into account; the book must be received as giving one of the most picturesque. sketches of Greece that has appeared. In a general point of view—in presenting the impressions of things as they now are, not in reviving them by science and drawings as they once were—we think Mr.
De Vere's book the best we have met. A part of the visit to Delphi may be taken as a specimen of his picturesque description combined with historical reference and reflection.
"As we ascended, the air was refreshed with cooler gales from the regions of snow and with the narrowing glen the shadows grew more dense. Con- trasted, indeed, with the white rocks at the opposite side, and with the small white cloud which was occasionally blown into our ravine from a neighbour- ing glen, (for each glen has its own breeze, which wanders through it as through the tube of a musical instrument,) those shadows, dim and watery in all places, lay beneath the projecting ledge, dark as a raven's wing. Here and there we passed chambers excavated in the cliff, with what intent it is hard to say. The larger looked like rock temples ; the smaller were appa- rently vaults for the purpose of interment, constructed perhaps before the Greeks began to burn the bodies of the dead. These small chapels are all of them perfectly symmetrical and almost quite dark. The roof of each con- sists of an arch in the rock : opposite to the entrance, and at each end, is an oblong hollow, excavated out of the stone, and resembling a sarcophagus; and over each sarcophagus the rock is vaulted so as to form a sort of pall. As we drew nearer to the Delphic shrine these monumental chapels became more numerous ; and we passed also many cells carved in the rock, and plainly intended for votive offerings. Here and there we came upon blocks of hewn stones, and the substructions of mighty walls; as if the platforms had once been crowned with temples, or as if sonic race passed away, taking the hint from nature, had converted the symmetrical terraces of mountain and cliff into a more regular architecture.
"An hour after we had entered the glen we an-wed at the village of Cas- tel, built in the neighbourhood, if not on the site of Delphi. The ancient city breaks up here and there through the new village like round stones in a road gradually displacing the gravel with which they had been covered, or seine indestructible religion forcing its way back through younger supersti- tions. Wandering among its narrow streets, I frequently came upon a gi- gantic capital pointing its polished traceries through the weeds that bad
=Iover it, or a fragment of a cornice carved as delicately as if it had an altar. In many places, indeed, the houses were half new and half old; the lower portions of the walls, or at least the foundations, consisting of the ancient masonry, upon which was piled a modern superstructure of pebbles, mud, wood, and straw. The effect was singular, and reminded me that thus also the whole of the domestic and social system of Greece had ap- parently rested upon the foundation of its great religious ideas ; a circum- stance, however, by no means peculiar to the Grecian, or indeed to any an- cient polity. The situation of Castri, thug nested high among its rocks, much resembles that of a Swiss village seated on some aerial elevation amid its grey ledges and its grassy slopes. The difference, however, is as striking as the similarity, and consists in that marvellous union of luxuriance with sublimity which characterizes Greek scenery. Around Castri, in place of mallards white with apple-blossoms and rough with knotted sprays, was the green and golden lemon grove, with pale yellow fruit and smooth leaves, the younger of them translucid. The little lawns amid the cliffs were waving with anemones, (the thinnest floral texture almost that can sustain the weight of colour,) not set in orderly array with flax and peas. The breeze, heavy from the orange bower, was met by the healthier sea-scented gale, which snatched a blossom from the almond-tree, or dropped a feather from an eagle's wing upon the breast of the myrtle thicket.
"A very short distance further on is the sacred cleft, close to which stood the oracular shrine, and out of which issued that intoxicating vapour upon which Apollo once scattered, as was deemed, the might of inspiration. 'I' he cleft is a narrow chasm in the rocks, which in this place very nearly ap- proach each other, and are quite smooth. Its length is considerable ; gra- dually its breadth diminishes ; and it is so lofty that the sky seen above it looks like a strip of purple riband. Adjoining this cleft was the temple of Apollo ; the face of the rock, at right angles with the chasm, was the inner wall of that temple, and not only retains the mark of the chisel, but is also different in colour from the rest. Its vast tablet is still sacred from weather stains and from vegetation ; but its summit and its edges are fringed with yellow flowers, of a kind which I have not seen elsewhere, and of which I carried away a handful as relics. "No other trace of the oracular temple remains. It is gone, with all its sacred treasures and mysteries. We look in vain for the mystic tripod, from which the Pythia, who had breathed the inspiring vapour, sth. flung oad her
prophecies in agonistic ecstasies that terrified the priests who beheld her, and sometimes deprived her of life. Its shrine no longer contains the gifts of kings, Asiatic or European, or the trembling elliptical stone, supposed to have been the centre of the earth, the spot at which met the two doves which Jupiter had loosed from the opposite extremities of the world. As vainly do we look for the triple serpent of brain, found in the Persian camp after the battle of Marathon, and deposited here for centuries. Yet Delphi has stall it memorials, though when you seek the oracular temple, (the heart of the Greek religion,) you find, as on the site of the Eleusinian mysteries, a blank. Such a blank is perhaps not to be regretted : the ardent desire that a visible memorial existed, is in itself a spiritual memorial ; and the chief ssmetuaries of ancient religion, if obliterated, have at least escaped a worse profanation. That fano, the opening of whose gates each spring shook the ancient world with hope and fear, and sent a tremor of expectation through the hearts of kings, fell, and no one knows when—it slid from its basis into oblivion without a sound, like the nest of the bird that built amid Its eaves."
The account of the ruins of Mycense is another specimen of Mr. De Vere's descriptive power, less elaborate, but as impressively picturesque.
" After a ride of some hours, we arrived at the ruins of Mycenre, the lite ancient, and in their size and architecture the most wonderful Of all Greek remains. The citadel of Myeense stood on the platform of a All], about a thousand feet in length, and five hundred in breadth at the summit ; that hill being formed by the converging roots of the moun- tains as they descend into the plain, and being almost islanded by two Mountain streams, which rush from their rocky sources and clasp its base. The walls which eaeompaes the summit of this eminence are composed of stones so enormous that how they were ever plated on that height I cannot imatrine ; nor was it until I bad carefully examined them and observed the scientific precision with which they were fittedlogether that I could convince myself that they were other than rocks shaped with a singular degree of regularity. One of them which I measured was fifteen feet square, another was eighteen feet by twelve. These prodigiutts remains embrace an ample 'Skean, and vary much in their height, which is commonly inconsider- able. The ruins of two gateways also remain, one of which sustains above its portal the most ancient piece of sculpture known in Greece—two lions carved in low relief on a block of green basalt. These lions are apparently the only memorials of an extinct school of art, as Homer's two great epios are of slog world of poetry. In a positionnearly erect they lean against each other, !tepae. rated by a broken pillar. Whether they had any remoter meaning, or simply expressed the royal power of the Atndse, we cannot learn. When we look upon structures which were ruins in the days of Thucydides we must be con- tent with seeing as much as he saw, and knowing as httle. There stood those lions ages before the first stone of the Parthenon was laid, and before Pei- sistratus had collected the poems which celebrated the King of Men; and. there, too, lay around them' even at that time, like gods dethroned and wounded on the battle-field, the Titan fragments which we still behold."
Nature, or the remains and associations of the past, are not the only things in Mr. De Vere's volumes. In the Islands, at Athena, and at Constantinople, he mixed in society ; and throughout his journey men formed a continual subject of his observation and his pen,—the Greeks, the author's countrymen in Greece, his adven- tures and experiences in the Levant steamers, the Franks at Con- stantinople, and in short whosoever fell in his way. This is a. lively but exaggerated sketch of the English in Greece.
"From Zante I sailed for Patina in an English steamer ; and have seldom been more amused than by the contrast between English man- uers and those of the islanders among whom I had been lately sojourn- ing. The unceremonious vivacity of the Greeks makes even a lively Frenchman look dull by comparison, judge, then, of my astonishment when I found myself in the midst of Englishmen, and of Englishmen re- cently come from home. I could never sufficiently admire their sublime tranquillity, or, rather, that wonderful vie inertise, which seemed sufficknt of itself to keep the ship steady in a storm, and which would, no doubt, have made even sea-sickness a dignified condition. I gazed almost with awe at their smooth-brushed hats, which the Egean breezes hardly dared to ruffle, —their unblemished coats, and immaculate boots, on which several of them gazed more attentively than they would have done at the Leucaclian rock. Happen what might, their magnanimous indifference to all chances and changes, not connected with business or duty, preserved them from all as. tonishment.' Had a whale risen close beside us and spouted its foam in their faces, they would, I believe, have contented themselves with observing that it was not in good taste.' To one of them I spoke, by way of experi- ment, of Sappho's leap and the Leucadian rock.Yes' he rephed, I have heard that it was the scene of a distressing accident.' I must say, however, in justice to my new acquaintances, that they appeared thorough gentlemen. In antiquities they were far indeed from being versed ; but in the principles, ancient but ever young, of patriotic duty and honour, they bad, probably, little to "
There may be some exaggeration, too, in this specimen of Grecian frankness,—that is, the generality of Greek ladies may not be so open; but it indicates the odd medley of ideas in.. society at Athens.
"Among the women of Athens beauty is not a frequent gift, although where met it is beauty of the highest and most intellectual order. On the other hand, Greek women have a naive frankness and simplicity that is very charming. 'Do you like Madame — as much as all the world seems to do ?' I asked one of them, at a large party. I not like her much,' was the answer : what for her beauty to me ? I not a man. I much not like her, for she never ask me to her house.' Many misunderstandings, at least among us, would be prevented if people spoke as frankly."
This story of the "Turkish solders, full of sin," may match any Christian humourist on a throne.
"An incident which occurred soon after the accession of the present Sultan, shows that in some respects, at least, he is not indisposed to follow • up the strong traditions of his race. At the beginning of his reign, the Illema was resolved, if possible, to prevent the new Sultan from carrying on those reforms which had ever been so distasteful to the Turks, grating at once against their religious associations and their pride of race, and which recent events had certainly proved not to be productive of those good results anticipated by Sultan Mahmoud. To attain this object, the Muftis adopted the expedient of working on the religious fears of the youthful prince. One day as he was praying, according to his custom, at his father's tomb he heard a voice from beneath reiterating in a stifled tone the words I burn.' The next time that he prayed there the same words assailed his ears. burn' was repeated again and again, and no word beside. He applied to the chief of the Imams to know what this prodigy might mean ; and was informed in reply, that his father, though a great man, had also been, unfortunately, a great reformer, and that as such it was but too much to be feared that he bad a terrible penance to undergo in the other world. The Sultan sent his brother-in-law to pray at the same place, and afterwards several others of his household ; and on each occasion the OWN portentous words were heard.
"One day he announced his intention of going in state to his father's tomb,. and was attended thither by a splendid retinue including the chief doctors of the Mahometan law. Again during his devotions were heard the words burn,' and all except the Sultan trembled. Rising from his prayer-car- pet, he called in his guards, and commanded them to dig up the pavement and remove the tomb. It was in vain that the Muftis interposed, repro- bating so great a profanation, and uttering dreadful warnings as to its con- sequences. The Sultan persisted. The foundations of the tomb were laid bare, and in a cavity skilfully left among them was found—not a burning Sultan but a Dervise. The young Monarch regarded him for a time fixedly and in silence, and then said, without any further remark or the slightest expression of anger, Yon burn ? We must cool you in the Bosphonie.' In a few minutes more the Dervise was in a bag, and the bag immediately after was in the Bosphorus."