H. C. (Hans Christian) Andersen.

A poet's bazaar : a picturesque tour in Germany, Italy, Greece, and the Orient online

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amongst the Danes through whom Denmark is most known
abroad ; Tycho is our most famed countryman and him we
exiled ! Denmark is great as a mother, but she is often no
good mother toward her best children.

Now, in the middle of the day, we could still see Malta ;
but of Sicily we only saw snow-clad Etna ; yet large and dis-
tinct, it shone as if it were a pyramid of white sunlit marble.
There was not the least swell in the sea ; it was like gliding
through the air. An enormous dolphin, larger than any horse,
rolled several times quite close to the ship ; the sun shone on
its wet, glistening back. Melodies from " La Dame Blanche "
sounded from the piano in the cabin to us on deck, and the
merry sailor boys hung in the shrouds and sang : " Quel plai-
sir d'etre matelot ! "

The whistle sounded ; the sailors went through their ma-
neuvers. The dinner-bell rang. While we were drinking our
coffee, the sun went down large and red, and the sea shone
like fire.

The sun was set ; the stars broke forth with a brilliancy
such as I cannot express ! What a firmament ! what radiance !
Venus shone as if she were the moon herself ; her rays cast a
long stripe over the sea, which moved in a gentle swell, as if
the sea breathed softly. Low in the horizon, over the coast
of Africa, stood a star shining red like fire ! Under this star
the Bedouin was at this moment speeding on his wild horse ;
under this star the caravan was passing through the glowing

" How delightful to sit under the tent with Africa's daugh-
ter ! " The stars shot flames through the blood ! I sat by the
gunwale, and looked over the sea's surface ! Phosphoric
gleams shot through the water! It was as if beings walked
with torches at the bottom of the ocean, and these suddenly
shone through the water ; they appeared and vanished, as if
these flames were the variably visible respiration of the ocean

I was in my hammock by nine o'clock, and at once fell
asleep, whilst the ship continued its unchanging course onward



When I again stood upon deck early in the morning, they were
cleaning it ; all hands were in motion, and the deck soon shone
white and clean, so that it was a pleasure to look at it. Where
the anchors and cables lay, the sailors had their washing-place,
and it was quite original. They washed their trousers there,
and spread them out on deck ; then poured sea-water over
them, and swept or rather scrubbed them with a common
birch-broom which was somewhat worn, and with a piece of
soap between the sticks.

Two brisk young cabin-boys, quite little fellows, but as
lively as squirrels, and full of mischief, killed poultry, and
before each slaughter they made a humorous speech to the
hens, which always ended with a "Voila!" and then the
knife was drawn across their throat.

We perceived some movement in the sea : but as the sun
rose higher, it became calm as the day before ; no river-sailing
could be likened to this in stillness ; here and there, but at a
distance, some dark-blue spots on the extended sunlit surface
of the sea showed that a breeze curled the watery mirror.
Malta was no longer visible ; but Etna stood clear and distinct
in the horizon. Toward the northeast we discerned the
white sails of a ship ; it was the first vessel we had seen since
we left Malta.

The sailors had their breakfast in the stern of the vessel,
and each got his ration of wine, bread, and onions. They were
all as merry as could be ; they had their man of wit, and one
on whom they played their jests.

The Persian in the green caftan, and with a white shawl
turban, sat ever alone and played with his ear-rings, or his
sabre. No one spoke to him, and he spoke to no one : but
now and then a smile played around his mouth, as if pleasant
remembrances passed through his mind ; or perhaps he
thought of his arrival at home, and of all he had to tell of
land and sea. I passed him, and he seized my arm, said some
words in Persian, which I did not understand ; but he laughed,
nodded, and pointed to the side of the deck. He returned my
friendly morning greeting, by drawing my attention to a little
incident on our passage over the sea. A little bird had
alighted on the shrouds, quite tired, and had languidly flut-


tered down to the deck. It was so exhausted that it could no
longer lift its wings. It had soon a number of spectators ;
and I was quite angry with the priest from Rome, because he
would have it roasted directly, for, he said, " it must taste
so good."

" Our little winged pilgrim shall not be eaten ! " said I.
One of the lieutenants took it under his protection, put it up
on the sail that was spread like a tent over the quarter-deck,
gave it a plate with bread crumbs and water, and the bird was
our guest for the whole day and night too. Next day it Hew
away from the ship, and twittered in its flight, as if it would
say, " Thank you for good treatment."

It was a great event for us all, yet we soon sought our sev-
eral occupations again : one at the piano, another over a book ;
some played cards, and others promenaded up and down.
The Bedouin sat on the coal sacks, silent as a ghost ; the eyes
sparkled in that brown face, under the white burnoose, and his
naked, dark-brown legs stuck out ; the Persian played with his
large sabre, clapped his pistols, or turned the silver rings in
his dark brown ears ; the Captain copied a picture by Marstand
out of my album : " Only a Fiddler." It now hangs in the Cap-
tain's cabin, and " the fiddler " sails yearly between Marseilles
and Constantinople, in the proud ship Lconidas. I myself
read German with one of the French officers ; he translated
Schiller's " Die Theilung der Erde."

The time went on delightfully ; joy and mirth reigned at the
dinner-table. The sunsets were extremely beautiful. The
stars streamed forth so clear and bright ! It was not possi-
ble to perceive the course of the ship but by fixing the eye on
the shrouds and the stars ; it was as if the starry heavens turned
round, and the ship stood still.

There was something so elevated, so poetic on these even-
ings on the quiet, boundless sea, that I want expression for it
This quiet around reflected itself in my soul. My northern
home has granted me but a few minutes in my life so delight-
ful as I enjoyed here for whole hours.

We still discerned Etna, like a white pyramid, in the north-
west ; all else around was the unlimited sea ; but at midnight
a white spot showed itself in the northeast ; it could not be a
ship, it was too broad for that, but possibly a cloud. I thought


it was the Greek coast, and asked the Captain about it He
shook his head and said that we should first see Greece the next
day, but that it certainly lay in the direction where I thought I
had seen land. Neither he nor any of the passengers could
see anything.

After dinner, shortly before sunset, when I sought for the
same point as before, it shone just as clear as Etna now ! No,
it could not be a cloud, it had not changed its form, it yet lay
in the same direction as it did three hours ago.

The Captain took his best telescope and cried, " Land ! "
It was the coast of Greece ! it was a mountain's top near Nav-
arino, covered with snow, and it shone in the clear air. I had
discovered Greece the first of them all.

" I have never before heard," said the Captain, " that any
one could see both Etna and the coast of Greece at the same
time, with the naked eye ! It is remarkable ! "

When I afterward related this at Athens, a learned man
there said that, in a critique upon an English work, which he
had lately read, the same remark was made, but the critic very
strongly doubted it.

Yet it is the case : I have seen it myself. Snow on Etna
and snow on the Greek mountains make it possible, in clear
sunshine, to see land both in the east and west.

Greece! I saw then before me this great father-land of
spirits ! Under yonder mountain lay the beautiful Arcadian
vales ! A thousand thoughts, one different from the other, flew
toward that shining mountain, like a flock of migratory birds !
but the sun sank, and my thoughts retired from the reminis-
cences of earth to the majesty of heaven.

Next morning I was up before the sun ; it was on the
twentieth of March. The sun rose so blood-red, and so singu-
larly oval as I have never before seen it ; the day streamed
forth over the calm, silent sea, and before us, to the right, lay,
clear and distinct, but far, far distant, the coast of Morea. It
was ancient Lacedemon we saw.

A steep rock descended perpendicularly into the sea, and
on land rose snow-covered, picturesque mountains! O, how
my heart exulted !

I see shininj air ! I see waves like fleece !

And the mountain coast yonder 's the land of Greece.




WE approached Morea: the mulberry land, as its name
imports, and which it has received from its appearance, which
is like that of a mulberry leaf. There streams forth Eurotas,
there lies ancient Sparta, and there is Agamemnon's grave !
These rocky contours, with the same sunlight and long shad-
ows as we now see them, were seen by the Phoenicians and
Pelasgians ; the billows rolled here at that time, the same as
now. The whole scene is unchanged. We sailed close in,
under Cape Matapan's rocky wall ; the whole coast seemed
naked, and without vegetation ; heavy billows broke against
the rocks, where there was no mountain goat climbing, no
shepherd or hunter to be seen. Yet even in this naked wil-
derness, each spot had an interest far greater than that we
often feel for the richest landscape, for it was Greece we saw.
The warm violet that we preserve in our psalm book, is of
greater worth to us than the fresh, scented rose ; remem-
brance gives colors and odor, such as we do not find in the
living flower.

We passed the extreme point of the Mainot's land the
Mainots, 1 that Spartan race, which as yet has never been
subdued, a people, brave and courageous, rude and wild, but
hospitable as in the times of Lycurgus.

After some hours' sailing, there lay on our right side the
island of Cerigo.

" Cythera ! " cried our lively Frenchman ; " it was from
these cliffs that Venus flew in her car, drawn by doves ! I have
a suspicion that some of her race are here still ! Here are
the genuine Grecian marble, the real Grecian roses and
both pass into flesh and blood ! Let us cast anchor, and pay
homage to the goddess, who has yet an altar in every one's
breast ! "

Our steamer flew past. The sea was rough, and it blew
from the mountain. Morea stretched its naked Cape Malio

1 The name Mai not is derived from the Greek word Mono, rage, and
ignifics the wiMness with which they attack their enemies.



out into the foaming breakers. How wild and solitary was
this scene ! and yet here was a human dwelling, a hermit's
cave, quite shut out from the world, surrounded by screaming
sea-fowl, and close by the roaring sea. It was impossible, even
with the assistance of a glass, to discover a pathway among
the rocks that could conduct persons down to the hermit.

The dwelling was low and small ; it had a hole for a door
and window ; close by it was seen a man moving about ; it
was the hermit on Cape Malio, the first human being we saw
on the coast of Greece ! Who was he ? What had driven
him out into this wild solitude ? No one answered our ques-
tion. He and his cabin had been seen there for many years.
Ships with their little world of beings glide past ; he looks on
them as on visions ; he regards them as he regards the
white sea gulls. He reads his morning and evening prayer,
when the sea is calm, and when it sings its mighty chorus in
the storm.

We receded farther and farther from him. Toward north-
west the Belle Poule, a gigantic helmet-shaped rock, lifts its
head from the foaming waves : the evening sun colored it
with its red rays. I regarded it as the advanced guard of the
Cyclades ; but it was not before it was late in the evening
that we approached them.

By the dawn of day I was on deck again. Some sailing
vessels cruised close past us, looking like gigantic sea-birds
that would strike our shrouds with their white wings.

Naked stone masses towered aloft from the water : it was
the island of Melos which is excavated by fire and water : it
was Sipphanto, Serpho and Thermia : we sailed as in a canal
between the last two. Under the stones are magnet mines,
and above them scented roses ; but the traveller sees none of
these : the coast is bare and wild.

The sun rose behind the island of Mycone's mountains ;
it shone on Paros and Anti-Paros ; but no marble rock shone
there. The gray cliff lay dead and heavy in the water ; there
was nothing to give us sign of its grand stalactite grotto with
its marvels. We saw the rocks of Naxos where Ariadne wept ;
where the Menades, with loose, hanging hair over their beauti-
ful shoulders, danced in the clear starlit night, and sang their


hymns to Bacchus ; but high rocks concealed the fruitful vine-
covered dales from our sight ; Dia, Zeus's holy mountain,
pointed sternly toward that heaven from whence mankind has
chased the old gods.

In our school-days we called the classics " dry ; " the
classic islands appear still more dry ! yet it is with the most
of them as it is with those authors : we have only to penetrate
them, and then we see the vine-rows sling their juicy branches
over the sunlit vale ; we then see the monuments of olden
time like great imaginings in a poet's work ; beautiful women
greet us, and the greeting of beauty is like the melodies of
our dearest songs.

The vessel steered toward a very small island, where there
stood a slender, white light-house ; and as we passed it, the
barbor of Syra lay before us. Bent like a horse-shoe around
the bay, there lay a town with shining white houses, as if it
were a camp of tents on the gray mountain side. It was a
little life-like Naples ; the bishop's palace here, on the top of
the mountain, reminded us of St. Elmo. I had pictured to
myself the Greek towns as but ruins and clay huts ; but the
town of Syra was quite inviting and picturesque.

A whole flock of Greek boats rowed out to us, and lay in
shelter under the side of our vessel, although they every mo-
ment struck against each other, as the sea ran strong. I let
my luggage glide down into one of the nearest, and then
sprang into it myself; a farewell sounded to me from the
friends I had made on board the steamer, and whom I should
probably never see again in this world and I became sor-

The rowers set the oars in motion toward land, but we were
far out. The waves rocked our boat as if it had been an
orange peel ; it had almost upset in the heavy swell ; the waves
dashed over us ; at length we came into the harbor where ship
lay beside ship, and one boat close by the other.

The whole quay was filled with Greeks, in tight jackets,
white trousers, and the red cap on their heads ; there was such
a shouting and screaming! An old fellow stretched his hand
out to me and I stood on Greek land. Gratitude toward
God, joy at being here, and yet a certain feeling of desolation,
took possession of me at this moment.


At the office of the French steamer I learned that it would
be seven days before the Austrian steam-packet would arrive ;
the Greek line was broken up, but there was one conveyance
for me the same day if I could be contented to commence my
arrival at Piraeus with a few days' quarantine. The French
war-steamer Lycurgus, which had come from Alexandria, where
the plague just then raged, had lain for several weeks at Syra
with the quarantine flag on board ; it was to sail that even-
ing for Piraeus and end its quarantine there in three days.
I took a boat immediately, and set out on the troubled
sea toward the Lycurgus, where the green flag waved. My
luggage was thrown into an empty boat which hung by a rope
near the gangway ; the sailors hauled it up ; my things were
on board, and I could now begin my wanderings about the

Close to the quay lay an open wooden shop with a clay floor*
and rough beams supporting a ceiling, which, however, only
extended over half the room ; the other half had only the roof
for covering. This was a cafe', in which Greeks and strangers
at round about little wooden tables. The coffee-pot stood
over the fire ; a fine Greek boy stirred it with a stick ; he
turned it with both hands, so that the coffee might be of an
equal thickness, and poured it out boiling into the cups. 1
Two Russian sailors danced to a horrible violin, played by an
old Greek.

I went further into the town ; the streets were extremely
small, and in the principal one which winds round the bay, was
shop after shop, each like an inverted chest. Here they sold
clothes, fez, morocco shoes, fruits, and edibles of all kinds.

Before the hotel " della Grecia " sat Greeks and others in
oriental costume, smoking long pipes in the parti-colored
wooden balconies. I only met one Frank, and he was a
Russian, who at once asked me what I was doing in that
cursed land amongst these men.

1 The coffee in Greece and the East is excellent, nay, so superb that
the traveller who comes from that land, will not soon accommodate his
taste to that which is prepared in the usual European method. They
drink the sediment with it, but the coffee is quite smooth, and there are no
coffee-grounds ; it is ground to a powder, quite like chocolate.


" They are all scoundrels," said he ; "as well as those writ-
ers and Lamartines who describe these countries so that one
feels a desire to visit them. I wish I had one of the fellows
here ; I would break his bones ! I come from Constantino-
ple ; I have made the tour by land along the coast, and have
been plundered by the Albanians ; they have taken eveiy
farthing from me j they have killed my servants, and I lie here
money-bound, waiting for a letter of credit ! It is a vile, ab-
ject land, and bad people! What the deuce did you come
here into the East for ? "

This was very pleasant ! However, I hied me away to the
nearest barber, and sat up on the wooden bench against the
wall, amongst the other Greeks. A leather strap which was
made fast to the wall was fastened round my neck ; the sharp
razor flew as light as a feather over the whole face, which was
afterwards sprinkled with eau de Cologne.

The barber asked me if I was an Englishman ; and when
I said I was Danish, he pressed me to his heart and shouted :
" Bravi Americanil" I assured him that I was not an Amer-
ican, but a Dane ; he nodded quite pleased, laid his hand on
his heart, and said, as far as I could make out, how dear the
Americans were to all Greeks, from the time of their struggle
for liberty, when the American ships brought them provisions.

I strolled through the streets, which were thronged with
men, but not a single Greek woman did I see. The windows
in all the houses were covered with long curtains, or Venetian
blinds inside. I soon reached the more empty streets, which
lay higher up on the side of the mountain. Before most of
the houses here was a sort of entrance-hall with a large arbor
of a single vine. Flower-pots stood on the walls, and on the
flat roofs of the houses ; the street before some of the build-
ings was paved in mosaic ; the stones formed stars and scroll
work. I went into the principal church, which, in comparison
with those I had seen in Italy, was small and insignificant
but, compared with the churches in Greece, was of a respecta-
ble size.

The walls around the altar-stone were bright with gilding
and holy pictures. A few little boys were playing there. My
Wind and thoughts were disposed to devotion. God was the


only One I knew here. I could have bent my knee, and sub-
mitted myself to his holy will, and in my thoughts I did so.

In the highest part of the town, the buildings were not
completed. The street appeared to go through a stone quarry :
there lay blocks and fragments of rocks, where the houses
were being built ; but the view over the town and harbor to
the little island with its white and slender light-house was
splendid. On the opposite side of the bay lay the quarantine
station. I saw the islands of Tenos, Delos, Naxos, and the top
of Andros. As I fixed my eye on these islands, a steam -ves-
sel passed by. I knew the flag ! it was the Leonidas ; it dis-
appeared under the coast of Delos. " Farewell ! farewell ! "
shouted I ; but no one heard me ; the ship was gone I saw
but the smoke, which still lay like a cloud between the islands.

Toward evening 1 went on board the Lycurgus. The sea
was running high; two merry Greeks rowed, and at every
stroke of the oar the waves lifted the boat so that we were
nearly upset, yet they shouted joyfully. Strange faces met
me on board. We weighed anchor at sunset, and the vessel
steered northeast of Syra, where we came into low water.
It was a beautiful starlight night. I had not, as yet, made ac-
quaintance with any one. I sat on the gun-carriage, and
looked at the sky above and around ; a foreigner in oriental
costume sat with his back toward me. I looked at him and
he looked again at me, nodded in a friendly manner, and
put his hand up to his turban. It was the Persian with whom
I had sailed from Naples ! We two were the only old compan-
ions from the Leonidas ; he appeared to be glad at our meet-
ing, as I also was. He was going to Athens, and from thence
home. He offered me some fruit, and I offered him some
again ; but neither of us could understand each other by
words. I pointed toward the beautiful starry firmament, and
he touched his turban. I thought that I must say some-
thing, if only a quotation from a language that was similar to
his own; and what more of this did I know than the first
line of Genesis in Hebrew : one helps one's self as well as
one can. I pointed to the stars and said.

" Bereschit Barah Elohim Et Haschamaim Veet Ha-aretz ! "

And he smiled, nodded, and in return gave me all he knew
.>f a language that he thought was mine :


" Yes, sir ! verily ! verily ! "

This was the whole of our conversation. Neither of us
knew more ; but we were good friends.



EARLY in the morning I heard the men casting anchoi. I
went upon deck ; we lay in the Bay of Piraeus. It looked like
a small lake. The island of ^Egina, over whose mountains
the still higher mountains of Morea rose boldly one above the
other, looked somewhat insignificant. Two floating casks
are used for landmarks, and in the evening each bears a lantern.
I counted about one hundred houses in Piraeus ; behind these,
and behind a stony yellow soil and gray-green olive-trees,
rose Lycabettus and the Acropolis, which is in a lower situa-
tion ; the mountains Hymettus and Pentelicon closed the land-
scape, which has a hard, stony appearance, " that stony At-
tica," said the old writers.

To the left lay a little peninsula, with some bushes, a wind-
mill, and the new quarantine building ; to the right extended a
bare, stony plain to the heights of Parnassus, whose partly
undulating, and partly broken lines had a very picturesque

In this bay, where Themistocles had sixty galleys launched
annually, there now lay but a few small Greek vessels and a
boat ; but there was a number of large English, French, and
Austrian vessels, as well as two steam-vessels, besides ours.
Smart Greeks rowed past us ; and during the day came a boat
with Danes, who wished me welcome ! There was much to
hear, and much to answer I Danish tongues expressed their
love for Denmark, and enthusiasm for Greece ; but we could
only speak at a distance, for our ship lay under quarantine,
and could not be released before the third day.

The day went swiftly on, and in the evening a scene began
which I cannot describe. The mountains Hymettus and Pen-
telicon, which by daylight had a grayish appearance, became


red at sunset, as if they were formed of all the roses in Greece.
The whole valley had a pale red tinge, yet not as if we saw
the valley through a rose-colored veil ; no, it was no airy mist ;
every object was so clear, so strangely nigh, and yet the eye
felt that it was miles distant. ^Egina and the mountains on
Morea had more of a lilac color ; the one range of mountains
which rose behind the other gradually changed its tone from

Online LibraryH. C. (Hans Christian) AndersenA poet's bazaar : a picturesque tour in Germany, Italy, Greece, and the Orient → online text (page 14 of 31)