« AnteriorContinuar »
In forming our estimate of the Greek character, although we cannot set aside the testimony of those Philhellenes who speak from intimate knowledge and deliberate judgmentas, for one, Colonel Mure appears to do-as the mere voice of unreasoning enthusiasm in their favour, yet we must allow that many of their partisans have been bitterly disappointed in them-Lord Byron amongst the number, whom their selfish divisions and general unmanageableness probably worried to death. These men went to Greece prepared to find the Greeks everything they wishedpure, honest, upright, as well as heroic and seem unconsciously forgetful of the two thousand years of slavery that had passed over their heads. The nation at large has judged them according to the measure of the disappointment of the disgusted Philhellenes. Other travellers have appeared to dislike them and their country from the first, having found neither, when they came, exactly what they expected. Yet, when they adhere to fact, we find much in what they say inadvertently to corroborate our hopeful opinion of the Greeks. It must be noticed that we do not say the Greeks are everything that, or indeed in any great degree what, they should be we only mean to surmise that, if left to regenerate themselves, they still possess in them the elements of a great nation.
M. About, who appears to have resided for some time at Athens, and to have acquired a pretty accurate knowledge of the language and inhabitants of Greece proper, presents us* with a picture of facts which he uses in a much more unfavourable light than we do; at least he draws deductions from those facts much more unfavourable to the expectations of amendment in the Greeks than those we are inclined to draw. The facts themselves appear to be given with sufficient fidelity. Above all, he lays great stress on the existence of that brigandage and piracy which forms so considerable a fea
ture in Greek social life. But it must be considered that in every country which has been conquered by a foreign invader, no refuge is left for those who prefer the woods and caves to servitude, except the plunder of the conqueror. The Saxon Robin Hood harries the Norman abbot and knight. To abstain from doing so would be starvation. As time proceeds, natural mistakes in the persons are made; and as the principle of plunder has been admitted as fair towards the national oppressor, the practice of plunder goes on until it becomes indiscriminate, and its principle is forgotten. The existence of brigandage in Greece is easily accounted for; but it would appear that there would be little difficulty in putting down its practice if the government was only strong enough, and the practice once put down, better principles would not fail to establish themselves. That agrarian crime should sometimes have shown itself in its most savage aspect, as instanced in the murder of some resident English families in Negropont and Corfu, is not marvellous; but it is so that such cases should not be more numerous. What would the state of England be in a week if the terrors of the law were withdrawn?-and even in Ireland, with the finest police in the world, only the other day a lady was brutally murdered in open day, and almost under the eyes of her tenantry. No case has occurred in semi-savage Greece much worse than that murder of Miss Hinds in the British homeempire. It will never be just to take a solitary instance of ruffianism here and there as evidence of the character of a nation. But let us listen to M. About himself, a Greek-hater, as to the sobriety of the Greeks :
"The food of an English labourer would be enough in Greece for a family of six persons. The rich are well satisfied with a dish of vegetables for their meal; the poor with a handful of olives or a piece of salt fish. The entire population eats meat at Easter for the whole year. I do not believe a Greek ever died of
* Greece and the Greeks. By E. ABOUT. Translated by authority. Published by Constable, Edinburgh.
Greece and Italy.
indigestion. Drunkenness, so common
must be deeply sunk in their souls
houses of Athens are full of people, and
a tavern, it is to chatter. The coffee-storming of Tripolitza and the superhuman defence of Missolonghi, and the repetitions of Thermopylae which were enacted in the nineteenth century in many a mountain pass, under the leadership of such men as Botzaris and Diakos. Indeed, the latter leader acted over again the part of Leonidas almost to the letter. He was less fortunate in being taken alive while fighting with equal valour. We refer to M. Tricoupi.*
in the streets, and I believe it would be easy to count all the drunkards in the kingdom. It may be said that the Greek people have no inclination for any kind of excesses, and that they take all their pleasures with equal sobriety."
This sobriety naturally explains the fact that insanity is rare in Greece. "Madness also is a malady excessively rare in the kingdom. An hos pital for the blind has just been constructed in Athens: it will never be necessary to build one for madmen." Then the Greeks are intelligent.
"They have intelligence, as much so as any nation; and there is, so to say, no intellectual labour of which they are incapable. They understand quickly and well. They learn with wonderful facility all that they please to learn—that is, all it is their interest to know. Greek workmen learn in a few months a trade even when difficult; young commercial men rapidly fit themselves for speaking five or six languages; students of law, medicine, and theology, acquire in a short time the knowledge necessary for their profession." And this love of study in the Greeks, which M. About thinks chiefly prompted by the love of gain, is strikingly illustrated by Colonel Mure's account of the extraordinary diligence in study, and self-denial in the midst of privations, shown by some poor Greek boys who lodged in an adjoining room to him at a country inn. And M. About is struck with their manly independence. Every intelligent man is proud of being a man, and jealous of his freedom. The love of liberty
"In fact when his adopted son, seeing
-is recognised, surrounded, and cap-
Their courage has never seriously been disputed, even by those who give them credit for no other virtue; but one of M. About's reasons for vilipending their courage is, that they use the word kapdía instead of avopeta to designate it, forgetting that the equivalent word "coeur" is used in the same sense by his own countrymen, who are not generally accounted the least brave of mankind. In describing the useful Agoyat or Greek guide, who is the universal servant on a journey, he mentions one interesting trait, which is to address as "brother every one he mects on the road. He shouts out, for instance, to a peasant on the top
* ‘Ιστορία τῆς ̔Ελληνικῆς ἐπαναστάσειος. Τομος Α. κεφ. ΙΔ.
of a hill he is passing, "Brother, we are going to such a place, is this the road? This word brother is still in universal use as in the good days of Christian charity ;" and, he might have added, it is perhaps a sign that, in spite of all subsequent corruption, the seed sown by the Apostle Paul took root in that land, appearing after such a lapse of time in the language of common conversation, perhaps to produce fruit hereafter, even as the grain of wheat which had been laid up in the case of an Egyptian mummy has been planted and produced its hundredfold fruit after a period of still longer slumber.
Although M. About is not in love with the scenery of Greece, and says that Mycena looked like what it was -a den of dreadful reprobates-yet he cannot help breaking out into poetry in his description of many scenes. "If you look south and west you discover an horizon as smiling, fresh, and young as the image of Iphigenia." This was in Argolis; and of the country of Lacedæmon he says: "Paris must have been very beautiful for Helen to have consented to leave behind such a domain." In fact his book, taken as a whole, although written in prejudice against the Greeks and Greece, by its inadvertent admissions furnishes strong evidence in their favour. It may be thought superfluous at this time to recapitulate the ancient arguments for sympathy with Greece, as we are not called upon by the present position of affairs to interfere actively in their favour; but at no time in history has the question of the regeneration of Greece, for other reasons, assumed a more prominent importance; and as the Greeks appear to have to a certain degree, in consequence of their playing into the hands of our enemies and giving us trouble, lost the good opinion of England, which they appear to have possessed at the beginning of this century, it may not be amiss to urge that the reasons that existed for befriending them then exist now with as great force as ever. We did not befriend the Greeks then because we owed them any obligations in later times; we befriended them because their fathers were the instructors of
our world in its youth, and because they themselves showed qualities not entirely unworthy of those fathers. It must be remembered that it is not the Greek nation which has acted against us on the late occasion, nor its more distinguished men, who have seen throughout that the cause of the Western Powers was that of freedom and civilisation, and that the only hope for Greece lay in the success of their arms; but that fraction of it which is bound by interest or fanaticism to the car of. Russia, which must be taken as, if the more numerous, yet the less enlightened and less advanced portion of the nation. Above all, the court of Greece, which we set up ourselves, is most to blame. Having no interests separate from those of Russia, it has made political capital of the desecrated watchwords of Hellenic antiquity; and there is small cause for wonder that, holding out such a bait, it has drawn the ignorant enthusiasm of the Greeks into a complication with the Allied Powers. If France and England wish well to Greece, or wish to earn the respect of the Greeks, the first thing they will do is to send King Otho and his excitable lady back to Bavaria, with the whole host of German officials at their heels, and then let the Greeks choose a government for themselves, promising if it is a sensible one, whether monarchical or republican, to furnish it with material and moral aid until it has found its feet. If they wish ill to Greece, and desire to be avenged on her for her Russian partisanship at their own expense, they will maintain Otho in his position of royalty in leading-strings, and an army of occupation by his side, just to keep up the prejudice of the people against Western policy, and their partiality in favour of Russian. The presence of a foreign armed force would alienate the affections of a people from the purest and holiest cause, unless they had made it their own from the beginning. The Porte has not improbably signed the deathwarrant of the Ottoman Empire in the deed which emancipates and arms its Christian subjects. The Greeks of the north, of Anatolia, of the islands, will undoubtedly rise and
seek to be united to their brethren in the south as one people, but certainly not to pass under the rule of a King Log and a Queen Stork. It will be our part to watch this movement; and woe be to us if we attempt to meddle with the dispensations of Providence, to direct the struggle into some conventional diplomatic channel, or perhaps seek to sacrifice, with reckless indifference, the noble impulse of every Christian heart, to that monstrous hallucination of redtapists, the integrity of the Ottoman Empire.
Pass we from Greece into Italy. Corfu lies in our road with the Septinsular republic. Our duty in this direction is not so obscure. These islands are not united to us in such a way that we have a right to call them part of the British dominions. At present we shield them from conquest and oppression, as our greenhouses shield from winter and spring frost our tender exotics. They must be treated with some delicacy, not quite as we would treat Kafirs; and should Greece ever rise again, we dare not carry our tutelage so far as to prevent their reunion with their brethren. We need never fear to lose them if we retain our maritime supremacy,-and if we do not, we shall be lost ourselves; but we may lose their affections through ignorance of the difference between the Anglo-Saxon and that Hellenic temper which, in these islands, is mingled with the Italian. But after all, some will say, Greece owes us money still, and has not paid us. We grant that she is our debtor, if money is the most valuable of all human possessions: if not, her debt to us being still withheld by the dishonesty of inability to pay, to use the language of commerce, a considerable balance, to our thinking, remains in her favour.
To ancient Italy we are perhaps less indebted than to ancient Greece. The civilisation of ancient Italy was in great measure the same as that of ancient Greece, and derived from her, although part of it may have been derived from common sources. But if the language of Greece gave us Christianity, the sword of Rome opened the road by which it was to arrive to us. We will not so much
insist on this as a motive of gratitude to Italy, as that sword of Rome was a blind agent in the hand of Providence. But to medieval Italy we owe more than to medieval Greece. To her we owe the preservation, through the rude middle ages, of the glorious bequests of the classical Nine. We owe to her instructions in the highest of the Fine Arts, such as never would have come to us from any other source-inspirations of light reflected from Raffael and Michael Angelo. And in poetry, our debt to medieval Italy is unbounded. We owe the education of a Milton through a Dante, of a Spenser through an Ariosto, of a Shakespeare through her dramatists. Whatever we owe to France in the way of civilisation, we owe to Italy also, for French civilisation is entirely Italian in origin. If we do not owe her chivalry, we owe her all the grace and courtesies of chivalry; if we do not owe her manhood, we owe her all the gentleness of manhood. And if our national spirit of independence, and love of civil and religious liberty, revolts against the spiritual chains that an Italian bishop has imposed upon us, and is still plotting to impose, we must ever recollect that the weight and power of those chains, and indeed the whole of that character which makes them formidable, is derived from the paramount claims which Italian art, Italian thought, and Italian learning, ever possess on our attention and regard; that love of the Beautiful, which is innate in all noble natures, being the strongest bait by which the system of the Vatican seeks to allure votaries to itself among the rugged children of the north. If England and France are the hands, Italy and Greece are still, as they were ages ago, the eyes of Europe; and it is not without the deepest pain that any of us, who appreciate the blessings that we derive from these twin fountains of European light, can bear to see either or both of these eyes darkened or extinguished. How gladly would we see Greece, freed by any fair means from her long eclipse of barbarian domination, shining out once more great, glorious, and independent, strong in arts and arms as of yore, and beautiful in
resuscitated youth, as that divine Aphrodite, the offspring of the imagination of her antique poets, rose a living and luminous perfection from the bosom of her glowing gean! And how gladly would we see Italy, once more bounded by her native boundaries, and governed by native dynasties, reasserting her old empire over the hearts and imaginations of men at the expense of that usurped empire over their souls, sitting once more in her pride of place on the throne of beauty which she has once filled so gloriously. Even now there is a sunrise of hope in her northwestern angle. Piedmont has already shown that Italians can do more than paint, and carve, and put mosaics together. Piedmont has shown that Italians can display in war all the manly virtues of the north, and in peace a yet greater achievement, displaying, in the face of frightful difficulties, the spectacle of a wellgoverned, self-respecting, constitutional state. But let us dismiss sentiment and go to facts. Except in that land of Goshen of Piedmont there is Egyptian darkness over the rest of Italy, and the clouds of that darkness roll menacingly round the frontiers of Piedmont herself, and threaten to put out even her light.
As we accepted the help of Piedmont in our war with Russia, and as she did us good service in that war, so France and England are bound by every tie of natural duty and national honour to stand by her in the hour of danger, whether it arise from internal difficulties or from external foes, whether from an insane revolutionary propaganda, or from more stealthy and covert machinations of the Jesuits, or from the aggressive policy of that anomalous power, the Empire of Austria. And if France looks coldly upon Italy in her hour of need, this will not excuse us, unless we are ready to confess a weakness tantamount to abdicating our position as one of the great powers of Europe. As the interests of nations must be assumed as the fairest criterions of their intentions, we are justified in assuming that the worst France would do, should matters take a grave turn between
Austria and Piedmont, would be to sit still and fold her arms. If France were actually to assist Austria, she would assist in converting the Mediterranean, as the Adriatic is now, into an Áustrian lake, and consolidating a new empire on her southeastern frontier nearly equal in power to herself. And our part would be to give no false hopes, but to be ready to defend the integrity of Piedmont. Austria would never drive matters so far as a rupture with England she is too weak within to take strong measures without. "At the first rumour of English intervention she would only be too happy not only to withdraw her forces from the Piedmontese frontiers, but to give guarantees that her future government of Lombardy should be more in accordance with the interests and happiness of the Lombard Italians than it appears at present to be. Besides the noble spectacle that Piedmont at present shows forth to the world, we see yet another source of hope, derived from a change that is apparently taking place in the Italian character. M. Manin, the man who conducted the defence of Venice in the revolutionary war with so much courage, energy, and ability, has put forth a manifesto, in which he tells his countrymen the plain but bitter truth that no foreign enemy has proved such a curse to Italy as the wicked dogma of the extreme revolutionary party, acted upon so often, and with such lamentable consequences to her freedom, "that a good cause justifies secret assassination," and that the poniard may be fairly resorted to by the hand from which the musket and the sword have been stricken. There is no doubt but that a majority of his more intelligent countrymen think and feel with M. Manin, and have now made up their minds, that if the national cause is to prosper, that prosperity must arise either by peaceful and constitutional means, or by some opportunity being given to the nation to assert itself in honourable and civilised warfare. This view is quite in accordance with that of the historian of the Peninsular War, and we believe with that of the great Duke himself, who held that it was not justifiable to arm a peasantry