To make the circuit of the Mediterranean along the coasts of Asia Minor, Palestine, and Egypt, the Grecian Archipelago, the shores of Attica and Italy, the plain of Carthage, and the ill-fated island of Trinacria, is but to pass from one place to another where mighty nations have, in turn, attained the zenith of their splendor, only to sink ingloriously back into the twilight of degeneracy or the night of national annihilation. Thus if each age, at some points on our planet, has its own preeminent achievements and successes, it has at other points its retrogressions and defeats. At present we are proud of our astonishing inventions for the rapid manufacture of commodities, and the swift transportation of our thoughts, our bodies, and our merchandise from one part to another of our globe. Indeed, while engaged in writing these lines, the news has just been given me that a telegraphic signal sent from Washington has made the circuit of our earth in seven seconds, its course being meantime indicated on an enormous map by the successive lighting of electric lamps!
But, is the net result of this and many other instances of wonderful rapidity of movement a really higher type of character and a more refined mentality? In architecture, sculpture, painting, history, forensic eloquence, ethics, poetry, and the drama, is this, our twentieth century of the Christian era, superior in masterful achievements to those which marked the age of Athens and Acragas? Have we a single modern building in the Occident which, like the temple at Segesta, will outlive two thousand years, or, if it does, will then elicit admiration ? Where do we find to-day in their respective spheres the equals of Praxiteles, Phidias, Socrates, Demosthenes, Thucydides, Homer, Plato, Euripides, and Ęschylus ? What code of morals is nobler than that of Marcus Aurelius? What character in history surpasses in perfection that of Antoninus Pius? Such thoughts occur to one with indescribable intensity on such a memorable site as this of old Acragas.
The Prostrate Giant In The Temple Of Jupiter.
Temple Of Castor And Pollux, Girgenti.
Head Of Jove. Syracuse Museum.
How many worshipers have pressed these sacred steps with feet long since transformed not merely into dust, but possibly by this time into the very flow-ers, which now with every passing breeze exhale their perfume toward these empty halls! How many rulers, dynasties, and races have Girgen-ti's temples seen pass brilliantly before them on this sunlit cliff, and fade away ! Yet Nature still remains the same as when the Greeks adored her manifold phenomena. Demeter, it is true, no longer haunts her hallowed home; Jove, Hercules, and Juno are no more; and their magnificent abodes are now but empty shells. But Spring, - the enchanting Spring of Sicily, - whose praises the Sicilian bard, Theocritus, sang more than twenty centuries ago, returns to-day with the same youth and beauty it has always worn. Day after day the sun still smiles upon these broken columns; night after night the moon in silvery silence steals along these lonely corridors, and softens their austerity; and over their deserted altars rise and set against the background of eternity the faithful stars. I never shall forget the last sweet moments of seclusion at Girgenti, when, lingering among its stately proteges of Time, I gazed in calm, delicious reverie through their steadfast arches toward the sapphire sea. It was the time of sunset - .the hour of poetry and romantic sentiment. Across the purpling plateau the Angelus came stealing toward the radiant temples, calling the followers of the faith which has succeeded that of Greece and Rome to join in uttering that touching prayer which signals the declining sun around the world, and marks the solemn closing of the day. Below me lay the tranquil sea, sweeping in opalescent splendor from this legend-land of Grecian gods toward the mysterious continent, on whose unseen shore Gir-genti's ancient enemy, Carthage, now lies buried in a shroud of sand. The marvelous beauty and impressiveness of my surroundings hushed my voice and filled my eyes with tears; for the enchanting landscape and its ruined temples together formed the pure quintessence of the two great charms of Sicily, - the smile of Nature and the culture of the Greeks, - that is to say, the two best things that God and man have given to the world.
Demeter, With Torch Lit At Etna.
Farewell To Sicily.