The Papyrus-Bordered Anapo.
Rowing Up The Anapo.
I must confess to being deeply moved in the presence of these last survivors of that once invaluable plant, which not alone suggested to Egyptian architects a graceful form of columns for their temples, but has brought down to us the treasures of Egyptian, Hebrew, Greek, and Roman thought. Papyrus rolls are represented on the walls of some of the oldest of Egyptian tombs; and many of the scrolls themselves have been discovered in the mummied hands of men who read them by the Nile five thousand years ago. For we must not forget that libraries existed many centuries before the invention of printing. In all the foremost cities of antiquity there were enormous libraries, containing hundreds of thousands of papyrus rolls, - frail barks in which the learning of the world had been confided to the stream of Time. All of the poetry that we prize, from Homer's time to that of Horace, was traced on this material. Papyrus also held the writings of Thucydides and Xenophon, the books of Livy and the commentaries of Cæsar; while even the gospels, with their precious record of the life and words of Christ, were copied and recopied on the substance furnished by this very plant, whose silken threads now rustle only in the breeze that steals across the Syracusan bay.
Where Papyri Are Found.
About a mile from the entrance of the river, the tufted stalks of the papyrus parted, and we found ourselves upon the surface of a deep and limpid pool. It was the classic Fountain of Cyane.
No spot in Sicily is my thologically more romantic, or more inseparably linked with Grecian gods; for here it was that Pluto cleft the earth, and carried fair Persephone down into the nether world; and here too, Cyane, the pretty nymph and playmate of the stolen girl, so mourned her loss, that she was mercifully transformed into the fountain, whose lustrous waters represent her tears. In such a charming spot, apparently consecrated to the Muses; beneath an exquisitely azure sky; surrounded by papyrus plants, and near the site of one of the most splendid temples of the past, - the famous Shrine of Jupiter, which Cicero described as one of the three most beautiful in the world, - who can be blamed for yielding to the fascinating spell of that old, classic age of myth and poetry, when on the brilliant loom of Nature men wove lovingly a golden-threaded veil of legend and romance, and when each natural force suggested to them the existence of a secret soul? Certainly, as I floated reminiscently upon this charming fountain, - the source of the papyrus-bordered river, Cyane, perchance the instinct of some previous incarnation gave me a subtle yearning for those days of spiritual buoyancy and joy in life which marked the youth of the Hellenic world; and basking in the amber radiance of the
The Fountain Of Cyane.
Sicilian sun, I felt inclined to murmur to the solar deity, Stupendous Source of life and light ! As in thy warmth my pulses thrill, Before thy glory and thy might I feel myself a Pagan still, And in my spirit's inmost shrine I half adore thee as divine.
The greater part of Sicily's impressive ruins and historic cities lie on or near the coast. In all of them the sea - serene and lovely in its azure amplitude - forms the inseparable background of Trinacria's relics of the past. Hence, when we left it for a journey through the centre of the island from Syracuse to Girgenti, I felt the loss of something beautiful which had become for me an indispensable adjunct to Sicilian scenery. Another notable feature of the landscape on this journey was a lack of forests. The blame for this is due, however, not to nature, but to man, who has improvidently cut down millions of fine trees which formerly abounded here, until Sicilian woodlands constitute but three per cent. of the island's total area. In fact, except upon the flanks of Etna, there are few forests now in Sicily, and even these are being ruthlessly destroyed. In 1850, in the vicinity of Palermo, there were more than twenty thousand acres of good woodland. At present the same region has but five thousand acres. As a result of this reckless spoliation, the traveler crosses countless river beds, which during most of the year are merely arid wastes of sand or channels of rough boulders, yet which are sometimes capable of becoming suddenly seething torrents of destruction.