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    The Saint's Afternoon and Others

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    Chapter 22
    Previous Chapter
    Before and above all was the sense that, with the narrow limits
    of past adventure, I had never yet had such an impression of what
    the summer could be in the south or the south in the summer; but
    I promptly found it, for the occasion, a good fortune that my
    terms of comparison were restricted. It was really something, at
    a time when the stride of the traveller had become as long as it
    was easy, when the seven-league boots positively hung, for
    frequent use, in the closet of the most sedentary, to have kept
    one's self so innocent of strange horizons that the Bay of Naples
    in June might still seem quite final. That picture struck me--a
    particular corner of it at least, and for many reasons--as the
    last word; and it is this last word that comes back to me, after
    a short interval, in a green, grey northern nook, and offers me
    again its warm, bright golden meaning before it also inevitably
    catches the chill. Too precious, surely, for us not to suffer it
    to help us as it may is the faculty of putting together again in
    an order the sharp minutes and hours that the wave of time has
    been as ready to pass over as the salt sea to wipe out the
    letters and words your stick has traced in the sand. Let me, at
    any rate, recover a sufficient number of such signs to make a
    sort of sense.

    I

    Far aloft on the great rock was pitched, as the first note, and
    indeed the highest, of the wondrous concert, the amazing creation
    of the friend who had offered me hospitality, and whom, more
    almost than I had ever envied anyone anything, I envied the
    privilege of being able to reward a heated, artless pilgrim with
    a revelation of effects so incalculable. There was none but the
    loosest prefigurement as the creaking and puffing little boat,
    which had conveyed me only from Sorrento, drew closer beneath the
    prodigious island--beautiful, horrible and haunted--that does
    most, of all the happy elements and accidents, towards making the
    Bay of Naples, for the study of composition, a lesson in the
    grand style. There was only, above and below, through the blue of
    the air and sea, a great confused shining of hot cliffs and crags
    and buttresses, a loss, from nearness, of the splendid couchant
    outline and the more comprehensive mass, and an opportunity--oh,
    not lost, I assure you--to sit and meditate, even moralise, on
    the empty deck, while a happy brotherhood of American and German
    tourists, including, of course, many sisters, scrambled down into
    little waiting, rocking tubs and, after a few strokes, popped
    systematically into the small orifice of the Blue Grotto. There
    was an appreciable moment when they were all lost to view in that
    receptacle, the daily "psychological" moment during which it must
    so often befall the recalcitrant observer on the deserted deck to
    find himself aware of how delightful it might be if none of them
    should come out again. The charm, the fascination of the idea is
    not a little--though also not wholly--in the fact that, as the
    wave rises over the aperture, there is the most encouraging
    appearance that they perfectly may not. There it is. There is no
    more of them. It is a case to which nature has, by the neatest
    stroke and with the best taste in the world, just quietly
    attended.

    Beautiful, horrible, haunted: that is the essence of what, about
    itself, Capri says to you--dip again into your Tacitus and see
    why; and yet, while you roast a little under the awning and in
    the vaster shadow, it is not because the trail of Tiberius is
    ineffaceable that you are most uneasy. The trail of Germanicus in
    Italy to-day ramifies further and bites perhaps even deeper; a
    proof of which is, precisely, that his eclipse in the Blue Grotto
    is inexorably brief, that here he is popping out again, bobbing
    enthusiastically back and scrambling triumphantly back. The
    spirit, in truth, of his effective appropriation of Capri has a
    broad-faced candour against which there is no standing up,
    supremely expressive as it is of the well-known "love that
    kills," of Germanicus's fatal susceptibility. If I were to let
    myself, however, incline to that aspect of the serious
    case of Capri I should embark on strange depths. The straightness
    and simplicity, the classic, synthetic directness of the German
    passion for Italy, make this passion probably the sentiment in
    the world that is in the act of supplying enjoyment in the
    largest, sweetest mouthfuls; and there is something unsurpassably
    marked in the way that on this irresistible shore it has seated
    itself to ruminate and digest. It keeps the record in its own
    loud accents; it breaks out in the folds of the hills and on the
    crests of the crags into every manner of symptom and warning.
    Huge advertisements and portents stare across the bay; the
    acclivities bristle with breweries and "restorations" and with
    great ugly Gothic names. I hasten, of course, to add that some
    such general consciousness as this may well oppress, under any
    sky, at the century's end, the brooding tourist who makes himself
    a prey by staying anywhere, when the gong sounds, "behind." It is
    behind, in the track and the reaction, that he least makes out
    the end of it all, perceives that to visit anyone's country for
    anyone's sake is more and more to find some one quite other in
    possession. No one, least of all the brooder himself, is in his
    own.

    II

    I certainly, at any rate, felt the force of this truth when, on
    scaling the general rock with the eye of apprehension, I made out
    at a point much nearer its summit than its base the gleam of a
    dizzily-perched white sea-gazing front which I knew for my
    particular landmark and which promised so much that it would have
    been welcome to keep even no more than half. Let me instantly say
    that it kept still more than it promised, and by no means least
    in the way of leaving far below it the worst of the outbreak of
    restorations and breweries. There is a road at present to the
    upper village, with which till recently communication was all by
    rude steps cut in the rock and diminutive donkeys scrambling on
    the flints; one of those fine flights of construction which the
    great road-making "Latin races" take, wherever they prevail,
    without advertisement or bombast; and even while I followed along
    the face of the cliff its climbing consolidated ledge, I asked
    myself how I could think so well of it without consistently
    thinking better still of the temples of beer so obviously
    destined to enrich its terminus. The perfect answer to that was
    of course that the brooding tourist is never bound to be
    consistent. What happier law for him than this very one,
    precisely, when on at last alighting, high up in the blue air, to
    stare and gasp and almost disbelieve, he embraced little by
    little the beautiful truth particularly, on this occasion,
    reserved for himself, and took in the stupendous picture? For
    here above all had the thought and the hand come from far away--
    even from ultima Thule, and yet were in possession
    triumphant and acclaimed. Well, all one could say was that the
    way they had felt their opportunity, the divine conditions of the
    place, spoke of the advantage of some such intellectual
    perspective as a remote original standpoint alone perhaps can
    give. If what had finally, with infinite patience, passion,
    labour, taste, got itself done there, was like some supreme
    reward of an old dream of Italy, something perfect after long
    delays, was it not verily in ultima Thule that the vow
    would have been piously enough made and the germ tenderly enough
    nursed? For a certain art of asking of Italy all she can give,
    you must doubtless either be a rare raffine or a rare
    genius, a sophisticated Norseman or just a Gabriele d' Annunzio.

    All she can give appeared to me, assuredly, for that day and the
    following, gathered up and enrolled there: in the wondrous
    cluster and dispersal of chambers, corners, courts, galleries,
    arbours, arcades, long white ambulatories and vertiginous points
    of view. The greatest charm of all perhaps was that, thanks to
    the particular conditions, she seemed to abound, to overflow, in
    directions in which I had never yet enjoyed the chance to find
    her so free. The indispensable thing was therefore, in
    observation, in reflection, to press the opportunity hard, to
    recognise that as the abundance was splendid, so, by the same
    stroke, it was immensely suggestive. It dropped into one's lap,
    naturally, at the end of an hour or two, the little white flower
    of its formula: the brooding tourist, in other words, could only
    continue to brood till he had made out in a measure, as I may
    say, what was so wonderfully the matter with him. He was simply
    then in the presence, more than ever yet, of the possible poetry
    of the personal and social life of the south, and the fun would
    depend much--as occasions are fleeting--on his arriving in time,
    in the interest of that imagination which is his only field of
    sport, at adequate new notations of it. The sense of all this,
    his obscure and special fun in the general bravery, mixed, on the
    morrow, with the long, human hum of the bright, hot day and
    filled up the golden cup with questions and answers. The feast of
    St. Antony, the patron of the upper town, was the one thing in
    the air, and of the private beauty of the place, there on the
    narrow shelf, in the shining, shaded loggias and above the blue
    gulfs, all comers were to be made free.

    III

    The church-feast of its saint is of course for Anacapri, as for
    any self-respecting Italian town, the great day of the year, and
    the smaller the small "country," in native parlance, as well as
    the simpler, accordingly, the life, the less the chance for
    leakage, on other pretexts, of the stored wine of loyalty. This
    pure fluid, it was easy to feel overnight, had not sensibly
    lowered its level; so that nothing indeed, when the hour came,
    could well exceed the outpouring. All up and down the Sorrentine
    promontory the early summer happens to be the time of the saints,
    and I had just been witness there of a week on every day of which
    one might have travelled, through kicked-up clouds and other
    demonstrations, to a different hot holiday. There had been no
    bland evening that, somewhere or other, in the hills or by the
    sea, the white dust and the red glow didn't rise to the dim
    stars. Dust, perspiration, illumination, conversation--these were
    the regular elements. "They're very civilised," a friend who
    knows them as well as they can be known had said to me of the
    people in general; "plenty of fireworks and plenty of talk--
    that's all they ever want." That they were "civilised"--on the
    side on which they were most to show--was therefore to be the
    word of the whole business, and nothing could have, in fact, had
    more interest than the meaning that for the thirty-six hours I
    read into it.

    Seen from below and diminished by distance, Anacapri makes scarce
    a sign, and the road that leads to it is not traceable over the
    rock; but it sits at its ease on its high, wide table, of which
    it covers--and with picturesque southern culture as well--as much
    as it finds convenient. As much of it as possible was squeezed
    all the morning, for St. Antony, into the piazzetta before the
    church, and as much more into that edifice as the robust odour
    mainly prevailing there allowed room for. It was the odour that
    was in prime occupation, and one could only wonder how so many
    men, women and children could cram themselves into so much smell.
    It was surely the smell, thick and resisting, that was least
    successfully to be elbowed. Meanwhile the good saint, before he
    could move into the air, had, among the tapers and the tinsel,
    the opera-music and the pulpit poundings, bravely to snuff it up.
    The shade outside was hot, and the sun was hot; but we waited as
    densely for him to come out, or rather to come "on," as the pit
    at the opera waits for the great tenor. There were people from
    below and people from the mainland and people from Pomerania and
    a brass band from Naples. There were other figures at the end of
    longer strings--strings that, some of them indeed, had pretty
    well given way and were now but little snippets trailing in the
    dust. Oh, the queer sense of the good old Capri of artistic
    legend, of which the name itself was, in the more benighted
    years--years of the contadina and the pifferaro--a bright
    evocation! Oh, the echo, on the spot, of each romantic tale! Oh,
    the loafing painters, so bad and so happy, the conscious models,
    the vague personalities! The "beautiful Capri girl" was of course
    not missed, though not perhaps so beautiful as in her ancient
    glamour, which none the less didn't at all exclude the probable
    presence--with his legendary light quite undimmed--of the
    English lord in disguise who will at no distant date marry her.
    The whole thing was there; one held it in one's hand.

    The saint comes out at last, borne aloft in long procession and
    under a high canopy: a rejoicing, staring, smiling saint, openly
    delighted with the one happy hour in the year on which he may
    take his own walk. Frocked and tonsured, but not at all
    macerated, he holds in his hand a small wax puppet of an infant
    Jesus and shows him to all their friends, to whom he nods and
    bows: to whom, in the dazzle of the sun he literally seems to
    grin and wink, while his litter sways and his banners flap and
    every one gaily greets him. The ribbons and draperies flutter,
    and the white veils of the marching maidens, the music blares and
    the guns go off and the chants resound, and it is all as holy and
    merry and noisy as possible. The procession--down to the
    delightful little tinselled and bare-bodied babies, miniature St.
    Antonys irrespective of sex, led or carried by proud papas or
    brown grandsires--includes so much of the population that you
    marvel there is such a muster to look on--like the charades given
    in a family in which every one wants to act. But it is all indeed
    in a manner one house, the little high-niched island community,
    and nobody therefore, even in the presence of the head of it,
    puts on an air of solemnity. Singular and suggestive before
    everything else is the absence of any approach to our notion of
    the posture of respect, and this among people whose manners in
    general struck one as so good and, in particular, as so
    cultivated. The office of the saint--of which the festa is but
    the annual reaffirmation--involves not the faintest attribute of
    remoteness or mystery.

    While, with my friend, I waited for him, we went for coolness
    into the second church of the place, a considerable and bedizened
    structure, with the rare curiosity of a wondrous pictured
    pavement of majolica, the garden of Eden done in large coloured
    tiles or squares, with every beast, bird and river, and a brave
    diminuendo, in especial, from portal to altar, of
    perspective, so that the animals and objects of the foreground
    are big and those of the successive distances differ with much
    propriety. Here in the sacred shade the old women were knitting,
    gossipping, yawning, shuffling about; here the children were
    romping and "larking"; here, in a manner, were the open parlour,
    the nursery, the kindergarten and the conversazione of the
    poor. This is everywhere the case by the southern sea. I remember
    near Sorrento a wayside chapel that seemed the scene of every
    function of domestic life, including cookery and others. The odd
    thing is that it all appears to interfere so little with that
    special civilised note--the note of manners--which is so
    constantly touched. It is barbarous to expectorate in the temple
    of your faith, but that doubtless is an extreme case. Is
    civilisation really measured by the number of things people do
    respect? There would seem to be much evidence against it. The
    oldest societies, the societies with most traditions, are
    naturally not the least ironic, the least blasees, and the
    African tribes who take so many things into account that they
    fear to quit their huts at night are not the fine flower.

    IV

    Where, on the other hand, it was impossible not to feel to the
    full all the charming riguardi--to use their own good
    word--in which our friends could abound, was, that
    afternoon, in the extraordinary temple of art and hospitality
    that had been benignantly opened to me. Hither, from three
    o'clock to seven, all the world, from the small in particular to
    the smaller and the smallest, might freely flock, and here, from
    the first hour to the last, the huge straw-bellied flasks of
    purple wine were tilted for all the thirsty. They were many, the
    thirsty, they were three hundred, they were unending; but the
    draughts they drank were neither countable nor counted. This boon
    was dispensed in a long, pillared portico, where everything was
    white and light save the blue of the great bay as it played up
    from far below or as you took it in, between shining columns,
    with your elbows on the parapet. Sorrento and Vesuvius were over
    against you; Naples furthest off, melted, in the middle of the
    picture, into shimmering vagueness and innocence; and the long
    arm of Posilippo and the presence of the other islands, Procida,
    the stricken Ischia, made themselves felt to the left. The grand
    air of it all was in one's very nostrils and seemed to come from
    sources too numerous and too complex to name. It was antiquity in
    solution, with every brown, mild figure, every note of the old
    speech, every tilt of the great flask, every shadow cast by every
    classic fragment, adding its touch to the impression. What was
    the secret of the surprising amenity?--to the essence of which
    one got no nearer than simply by feeling afresh the old story of
    the deep interfusion of the present with the past. You had felt
    that often before, and all that could, at the most, help you now
    was that, more than ever yet, the present appeared to become
    again really classic, to sigh with strange elusive sounds of
    Virgil and Theocritus. Heaven only knows how little they would in
    truth have had to say to it, but we yield to these visions as we
    must, and when the imagination fairly turns in its pain almost
    any soft name is good enough to soothe it.

    It threw such difficulties but a step back to say that the secret
    of the amenity was "style"; for what in the world was the secret
    of style, which you might have followed up and down the abysmal
    old Italy for so many a year only to be still vainly calling for
    it? Everything, at any rate, that happy afternoon, in that place
    of poetry, was bathed and blessed with it. The castle of
    Barbarossa had been on the height behind; the villa of black
    Tiberius had overhung the immensity from the right; the white
    arcades and the cool chambers offered to every step some sweet
    old "piece" of the past, some rounded porphyry pillar supporting
    a bust, some shaft of pale alabaster upholding a trellis, some
    mutilated marble image, some bronze that had roughly resisted.
    Our host, if we came to that, had the secret; but he could only
    express it in grand practical ways. One of them was precisely
    this wonderful "afternoon tea," in which tea only--that,
    good as it is, has never the note of style--was not to be found.
    The beauty and the poetry, at all events, were clear enough, and
    the extraordinary uplifted distinction; but where, in all this,
    it may be asked, was the element of "horror" that I have spoken
    of as sensible?--what obsession that was not charming could find
    a place in that splendid light, out of which the long summer
    squeezes every secret and shadow? I'm afraid I'm driven to plead
    that these evils were exactly in one's imagination, a predestined
    victim always of the cruel, the fatal historic sense. To make so
    much distinction, how much history had been needed!--so that the
    whole air still throbbed and ached with it, as with an
    accumulation of ghosts to whom the very climate was pitiless,
    condemning them to blanch for ever in the general glare and
    grandeur, offering them no dusky northern nook, no place at the
    friendly fireside, no shelter of legend or song.

    V

    My friend had, among many original relics, in one of his white
    galleries--and how he understood the effect and the "value" of
    whiteness!--two or three reproductions of the finest bronzes of
    the Naples museum, the work of a small band of brothers whom he
    had found himself justified in trusting to deal with their
    problem honourably and to bring forth something as different as
    possible from the usual compromise of commerce. They had brought
    forth, in especial, for him, a copy of the young resting,
    slightly-panting Mercury which it was a pure delight to live
    with, and they had come over from Naples on St. Antony's eve, as
    they had done the year before, to report themselves to their
    patron, to keep up good relations, to drink Capri wine and to
    join in the tarantella. They arrived late, while we were at
    supper; they received their welcome and their billet, and I am
    not sure it was not the conversation and the beautiful manners of
    these obscure young men that most fixed in my mind for the time
    the sense of the side of life that, all around, was to come out
    strongest. It would be artless, no doubt, to represent them as
    high types of innocence or even of energy--at the same time that,
    weighing them against some ruder folk of our own race, we
    might perhaps have made bold to place their share even of these
    qualities in the scale. It was an impression indeed never
    infrequent in Italy, of which I might, in these days, first have
    felt the force during a stay, just earlier, with a friend at
    Sorrento--a friend who had good-naturedly "had in," on his
    wondrous terrace, after dinner, for the pleasure of the gaping
    alien, the usual local quartette, violins, guitar and flute, the
    musical barber, the musical tailor, sadler, joiner, humblest sons
    of the people and exponents of Neapolitan song. Neapolitan song,
    as we know, has been blown well about the world, and it is late
    in the day to arrive with a ravished ear for it. That, however,
    was scarcely at all, for me, the question: the question, on the
    Sorrento terrace, so high up in the cool Capri night, was of the
    present outlook, in the world, for the races with whom it has
    been a tradition, in intercourse, positively to please.

    The personal civilisation, for intercourse, of the musical barber
    and tailor, of the pleasant young craftsmen of my other friend's
    company, was something that could be trusted to make. the
    brooding tourist brood afresh--to say more to him in fact, all
    the rest of the second occasion, than everything else put
    together. The happy address, the charming expression, the
    indistinctive discretion, the complete eclipse, in short, of
    vulgarity and brutality--these things easily became among these
    people the supremely suggestive note, begetting a hundred hopes
    and fears as to the place that, with the present general turn of
    affairs about the globe, is being kept for them. They are perhaps
    what the races politically feeble have still most to contribute--
    but what appears to be the happy prospect for the races
    politically feeble? And so the afternoon waned, among the mellow
    marbles and the pleasant folk---the purple wine flowed, the
    golden light faded, song and dance grew free and circulation
    slightly embarrassed. But the great impression remained and
    finally was exquisite. It was all purple wine, all art and song,
    and nobody a grain the worse. It was fireworks and conversation--
    the former, in the piazzetta, were to come later; it was
    civilisation and amenity. I took in the greater picture, but I
    lost nothing else; and I talked with the contadini about antique
    sculpture. No, nobody was a grain the worse; and I had plenty to
    think of. So it was I was quickened to remember that we others,
    we of my own country, as a race politically not weak, had
    --by what I had somewhere just heard--opened "three hundred
    'saloons'" at Manila.

    VI

    The "other" afternoons I here pass on to--and I may include in
    them, for that matter, various mornings scarce less charmingly
    sacred to memory--were occasions of another and a later year; a
    brief but all felicitous impression of Naples itself, and of the
    approach to it from Rome, as well as of the return to Rome by a
    different wonderful way, which I feel I shall be wise never to
    attempt to "improve on." Let me muster assurance to confess that
    this comparatively recent and superlatively rich reminiscence
    gives me for its first train of ineffable images those of a
    motor-run that, beginning betimes of a splendid June day, and
    seeing me, with my genial companions, blissfully out of Porta San
    Paolo, hung over us thus its benediction till the splendour had
    faded in the lamplit rest of the Chiaja. "We'll go by the
    mountains," my friend, of the chariot of fire, had said, "and
    we'll come back, after three days, by the sea"; which handsome
    promise flowered into such flawless performance that I could but
    feel it to have closed and rounded for me, beyond any further
    rehandling, the long-drawn rather indeed than thick-studded
    chaplet of my visitations of Naples--from the first, seasoned
    with the highest sensibility of youth, forty years ago, to this
    last the other day. I find myself noting with interest--and just
    to be able to emphasise it is what inspires me with these remarks
    --that, in spite of the milder and smoother and perhaps,
    pictorially speaking, considerably emptier, Neapolitan face of
    things, things in general, of our later time, I recognised in my
    final impression a grateful, a beguiling serenity. The place is
    at the best wild and weird and sinister, and yet seemed on this
    occasion to be seated more at her ease in her immense natural
    dignity. My disposition to feel that, I hasten to add, was
    doubtless my own secret; my three beautiful days, at any rate,
    filled themselves with the splendid harmony, several of the minor
    notes of which ask for a place, such as it may be, just here.

    Wondrously, it was a clean and cool and, as who should say, quiet
    and amply interspaced Naples--in tune with itself, no harsh
    jangle of forestieri vulgarising the concert. I seemed in
    fact, under the blaze of summer, the only stranger--though the
    blaze of summer itself was, for that matter, everywhere but a
    higher pitch of light and colour and tradition, and a lower pitch
    of everything else; even, it struck me, of sound and fury. The
    appeal in short was genial, and, faring out to Pompeii of a
    Sunday afternoon, I enjoyed there, for the only time I can
    recall, the sweet chance of a late hour or two, the hour of the
    lengthening shadows, absolutely alone. The impression remains
    ineffaceable--it was to supersede half-a-dozen other mixed
    memories, the sense that had remained with me, from far back, of
    a pilgrimage always here beset with traps and shocks and vulgar
    importunities, achieved under fatal discouragements. Even
    Pompeii, in fine, haunt of all the cockneys of creation,
    burned itself, in the warm still eventide, as clear as glass, or
    as the glow of a pale topaz, and the particular cockney who
    roamed without a plan and at his ease, but with his feet on Roman
    slabs, his hands on Roman stones, his eyes on the Roman void, his
    consciousness really at last of some good to him, could open
    himself as never before to the fond luxurious fallacy of a close
    communion, a direct revelation. With which there were other
    moments for him not less the fruit of the slow unfolding of time;
    the clearest of these again being those enjoyed on the terrace of
    a small island-villa--the island a rock and the villa a wondrous
    little rock-garden, unless a better term would be perhaps rock-
    salon, just off the extreme point of Posilippo and where, thanks
    to a friendliest hospitality, he was to hang ecstatic, through
    another sublime afternoon, on the wave of a magical wand. Here,
    as happened, were charming wise, original people even down to
    delightful amphibious American children, enamelled by the sun of
    the Bay as for figures of miniature Tritons and Nereids on a
    Renaissance plaque; and above all, on the part of the general
    prospect, a demonstration of the grand style of composition and
    effect that one was never to wish to see bettered. The way in
    which the Italian scene on such occasions as this seems to purify
    itself to the transcendent and perfect idea alone--idea of
    beauty, of dignity, of comprehensive grace, with all accidents
    merged, all defects disowned, all experience outlived, and to
    gather itself up into the mere mute eloquence of what has just
    incalculably been, remains for ever the secret and the
    lesson of the subtlest daughter of History. All one could do, at
    the heart of the overarching crystal, and in presence of the
    relegated City, the far-trailing Mount, the grand Sorrentine
    headland, the islands incomparably stationed and related, was to
    wonder what may well become of the so many other elements of any
    poor human and social complexus, what might become of any
    successfully working or only struggling and floundering
    civilisation at all, when high Natural Elegance proceeds to take
    such exclusive charge and recklessly assume, as it were,
    all the responsibilities.

    VII

    This indeed had been quite the thing I was asking myself all the
    wondrous way down from Rome, and was to ask myself afresh, on the
    return, largely within sight of the sea, as our earlier course
    had kept to the ineffably romantic inland valleys, the great
    decorated blue vistas in which the breasts of the mountains
    shine vaguely with strange high-lying city and castle and church
    and convent, even as shoulders of no diviner line might be hung
    about with dim old jewels. It was odd, at the end of time, long
    after those initiations, of comparative youth, that had then
    struck one as extending the very field itself of felt charm, as
    exhausting the possibilities of fond surrender, it was odd to
    have positively a new basis of enjoyment, a new gate of
    triumphant passage, thrust into one's consciousness and opening
    to one's use; just as I confess I have to brace myself a little
    to call by such fine names our latest, our ugliest and most
    monstrous aid to motion. It is true of the monster, as we have
    known him up to now, that one can neither quite praise him nor
    quite blame him without a blush--he reflects so the nature of
    the company he's condemned to keep. His splendid easy power
    addressed to noble aims makes him assuredly on occasion a purely
    beneficent creature. I parenthesise at any rate that I know him
    in no other light--counting out of course the acquaintance that
    consists of a dismayed arrest in the road, with back flattened
    against wall or hedge, for the dusty, smoky, stenchy shock of his
    passage. To no end is his easy power more blest than to that of
    ministering to the ramifications, as it were, of curiosity, or to
    that, in other words, of achieving for us, among the kingdoms of
    the earth, the grander and more genial, the comprehensive and
    complete introduction. Much as was ever to be said for our
    old forms of pilgrimage--and I am convinced that they are far
    from wholly superseded--they left, they had to leave, dreadful
    gaps in our yearning, dreadful lapses in our knowledge, dreadful
    failures in our energy; there were always things off and beyond,
    goals of delight and dreams of desire, that dropped as a matter
    of course into the unattainable, and over to which our wonder-
    working agent now flings the firm straight bridge. Curiosity has
    lost, under this amazing extension, its salutary renouncements
    perhaps; contemplation has become one with action and
    satisfaction one with desire--speaking always in the spirit of
    the inordinate lover of an enlightened use of our eyes. That may
    represent, for all I know, an insolence of advantage on which
    there will be eventual heavy charges, as yet obscure and
    incalculable, to pay, and I glance at the possibility only to
    avoid all thought of the lesson of the long run, and to insist
    that I utter this dithyramb but in the immediate flush and fever
    of the short. For such a beat of time as our fine courteous and
    contemplative advance upon Naples, and for such another as our
    retreat northward under the same fine law of observation and
    homage, the bribed consciousness could only decline to question
    its security. The sword of Damocles suspended over that
    presumption, the skeleton at the banquet of extravagant ease,
    would have been that even at our actual inordinate rate--leaving
    quite apart "improvements" to come--such savings of trouble
    begin to use up the world; some hard grain of difficulty being
    always a necessary part of the composition of pleasure. The hard
    grain in our old comparatively pedestrian mixture, before this
    business of our learning not so much even to fly (which might
    indeed involve trouble) as to be mechanically and prodigiously
    flown, quite another matter, was the element of uncertainty,
    effort and patience; the handful of silver nails which, I admit,
    drove many an impression home. The seated motorist misses the
    silver nails, I fully acknowledge, save in so far as his
    aesthetic (let alone his moral) conscience may supply him with
    some artful subjective substitute; in which case the thing
    becomes a precious secret of his own.

    However, I wander wild--by which I mean I look too far ahead; my
    intention having been only to let my sense of the merciless June
    beauty of Naples Bay at the sunset hour and on the island terrace
    associate itself with the whole inexpressible taste of our two
    motor-days' feast of scenery. That queer question of the
    exquisite grand manner as the most emphasised all of
    things--of what it may, seated so predominant in nature,
    insidiously, through the centuries, let generations and
    populations "in for," hadn't in the least waited for the special
    emphasis I speak of to hang about me. I must have found myself
    more or less consciously entertaining it by the way--since how
    couldn't it be of the very essence of the truth, constantly and
    intensely before us, that Italy is really so much the most
    beautiful country in the world, taking all things together, that
    others must stand off and be hushed while she speaks? Seen thus
    in great comprehensive iridescent stretches, it is the
    incomparable wrought fusion, fusion of human history and
    mortal passion with the elements of earth and air, of colour,
    composition and form, that constitutes her appeal and gives it
    the supreme heroic grace. The chariot of fire favours fusion
    rather than promotes analysis, and leaves much of that first June
    picture for me, doubtless, a great accepted blur of violet and
    silver. The various hours and successive aspects, the different
    strong passages of our reverse process, on the other hand, still
    figure for me even as some series of sublime landscape-frescoes--
    if the great Claude, say, had ever used that medium--in the
    immense gallery of a palace; the homeward run by Capua,
    Terracina, Gaeta and its storied headland fortress, across the
    deep, strong, indescribable Pontine Marshes, white-cattled,
    strangely pastoral, sleeping in the afternoon glow, yet stirred
    by the near sea-breath. Thick somehow to the imagination as some
    full-bodied sweetness of syrup is thick to the palate the
    atmosphere of that region--thick with the sense of history and
    the very taste of time; as if the haunt and home (which indeed it
    is) of some great fair bovine aristocracy attended and guarded by
    halberdiers in the form of the mounted and long-lanced herdsmen,
    admirably congruous with the whole picture at every point, and
    never more so than in their manner of gaily taking up, as with
    bell-voices of golden bronze, the offered wayside greeting.

    [Illustration: TERRACINA]

    There had been this morning among the impressions of our first
    hour an unforgettable specimen of that general type--the image
    of one of those human figures on which our perception of the
    romantic so often pounces in Italy as on the genius of the scene
    personified; with this advantage, that as the scene there has, at
    its best, an unsurpassable distinction, so the physiognomic
    representative, standing for it all, and with an animation, a
    complexion, an expression, a fineness and fulness of humanity
    that appear to have gathered it in and to sum it up, becomes
    beautiful by the same simple process, very much, that makes the
    heir to a great capitalist rich. Our early start, our roundabout
    descent from Posilippo by shining Baire for avoidance of the
    city, had been an hour of enchantment beyond any notation I can
    here recover; all lustre and azure, yet all composition and
    classicism, the prospect developed and spread, till after
    extraordinary upper reaches pf radiance and horizons of pearl we
    came at the turn of a descent upon a stalwart young gamekeeper,
    or perhaps substantial young farmer, who, well-appointed and
    blooming, had unslung his gun and, resting on it beside a hedge,
    just lived for us, in the rare felicity of his whole look, during
    that moment and while, in recognition, or almost, as we felt, in
    homage, we instinctively checked our speed. He pointed, as it
    were, the lesson, giving the supreme right accent or final
    exquisite turn to the immense magnificent phrase; which from
    those moments on, and on and on, resembled doubtless nothing so
    much as a page written, by a consummate verbal economist and
    master of style, in the noblest of all tongues. Our splendid
    human plant by the wayside had flowered thus into style--and
    there wasn't to be, all day, a lapse of eloquence, a wasted word
    or a cadence missed.

    These things are personal memories, however, with the logic of
    certain insistences of that sort often difficult to seize. Why
    should I have kept so sacredly uneffaced, for instance, our small
    afternoon wait at tea-time or, as we made it, coffee-time, in the
    little brown piazzetta of Velletri, just short of the final push
    on through the flushed Castelli Romani and the drop and home-
    stretch across the darkening Campagna? We had been dropped into
    the very lap of the ancient civic family, after the inveterate
    fashion of one's sense of such stations in small Italian towns.
    There was a narrow raised terrace, with steps, in front of the
    best of the two or three local cafes, and in the soft enclosed,
    the warm waning light of June various benign contemplative
    worthies sat at disburdened tables and, while they smoked long
    black weeds, enjoyed us under those probable workings of subtlety
    with which we invest so many quite unimaginably blank (I dare
    say) Italian simplicities. The charm was, as always in Italy, in
    the tone and the air and the happy hazard of things, which made
    any positive pretension or claimed importance a comparatively
    trifling question. We slid, in the steep little place, more or
    less down hill; we wished, stomachically, we had rather addressed
    ourselves to a tea-basket; we suffered importunity from unchidden
    infants who swarmed about our chairs and romped about our feet;
    we stayed no long time, and "went to see" nothing; yet we
    communicated to intensity, we lay at our ease in the bosom of the
    past, we practised intimacy, in short, an intimacy so much
    greater than the mere accidental and ostensible: the difficulty
    for the right and grateful expression of which makes the old, the
    familiar tax on the luxury of loving Italy.

    1900-1909.
    Chapter 22
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