baby still more economically clad, was stooping down to blow the smudge into a flame. The smoke, some of it, went over our heads out at the door. We boiled the eggs. We desired salt; and the woman brought us pepper in the berry. We insisted on salt, and at length got the rock variety, which we pounded on the rocks. We ate our eggs and drank our milk on the terrace, with the entire family interested spectators. The men were the hardest-looking ruffians we had met yet: they were making a bit of road near by, but they seemed capable of turning their hands to easier money-getting; and there couldn't be a more convenient place than this. When our repast was over, and I had drunk a glass of wine with the proprietor, I offered to pay him, tendering what I knew was a fair price in this region. With some indignation of gesture, he refused it, intimating that it was too little. He seemed to be seeking an excuse for a quarrel with us; so I pocketed the affront, money and all, and turned away. He appeared to be surprised, and going indoors presently came out with a bottle of wine and glasses, and followed us down upon the rocks, pressing us to drink. Most singular conduct; no doubt drugged wine; travelers put into deep sleep; robbed; thrown over precipice; diplomatic correspondence, flattering, but no compensation to them. Either this, or a case of hospitality. We declined to drink, and the brigand went away. We sat down upon the jutting ledge of a precipice, the like of which is not in the world: on our left, the rocky, bare side of St. Angelo, against which the sunshine dashes in waves; below us, sheer down two thousand feet) the city of Positano, a nest of brown houses, thickly clustered on a conical spur, and lying along the shore, the home of three thousand people,--with a running jump I think I could land in the midst of it,--a pygmy city, inhabited by mites, as we look down upon it; a little beach of white sand, a sailboat lying on it, and some fishermen just embarking; a long hotel on the beach; beyond, by the green shore, a country seat charmingly situated amid trees and vines; higher up, the ravine-seamed hill, little stone huts, bits of ruin, towers, arches. How still it is! All the stiller that I can, now and then, catch the sound of an axe, and hear the shouts of some children in a garden below. How still the sea is! How many ages has it been so? Does the purple mist always hang there upon the waters of Salerno Bay, forever hiding from the gaze Paestum and its temples, and all that shore which is so much more Grecian than Roman? After all, it is a satisfaction to turn to the towering rock of St. Angelo; not a tree, not a shrub, not a spire of grass, on its perpendicular side. We try to analyze the satisfaction there is in such a bald, treeless, verdureless mass. We can grasp it intellectually, in its sharp solidity, which is undisturbed by any ornament: it is, to the mind, like some complete intellectual performance; the mind rests on it, like a demonstration in Euclid. And yet what a color of beauty it takes on in the distance! When we return, the bandits have all gone to their road-making: the suspicious landlord is nowhere to be seen. We call the woman from the field, and give her money, which she seemed not to expect, and for which she shows no gratitude. Life appears to be indifferent to these people. But, if these be brigands, we prefer them to those of Naples, and even to the innkeepers of England. As we saunter home in the pleasant afternoon, the vesper-bells are calling to each other, making the sweetest echoes of peace everywhere in the hills, and all the piano is jubilant with them, as we come down the steeps at sunset. "You see there was no danger," said the giant to his wife that evening at the supper-table. "You would have found there was danger, if you had gone," returned the wife of the giant significantly. THE MYTH OF THE SIRENS I like to walk upon the encircling ridge behind Sorrento, which commands both bays. From there I can look down upon the Isles of the Sirens. The top is a broad, windy strip of pasture, which falls off abruptly to the Bay of Salerno on the south: a regular embankment of earth runs along the side of the precipitous steeps, towards Sorrento. It appears to be a line of defence for musketry, such as our armies used to throw up: whether the French, who conducted siege operations from this promontory on Capri, under Murat, had anything to do with it, does not appear. Walking there yesterday, we met a woman shepherdess, cowherd, or siren--standing guard over three steers while they fed; a scantily- clad, brown woman, who had a distaff in her hand, and spun the flax as she watched the straying cattle, an example of double industry which the men who tend herds never imitate. Very likely her ancestors so spun and tended cattle on the plains of Thessaly. We gave the rigid woman good-morning, but she did not heed or reply; we made some inquiries as to paths, but she ignored us; we bade her good-day, and she scowled at us: she only spun. She was so out of tune with the people, and the gentle influences of this region, that we could only regard her as an anomaly,--the representative of some perversity and evil genius, which, no doubt, lurks here as it does elsewhere in the world. She could not have descended from either of the groups of the Sirens; for she was not fascinating enough to be fatal. I like to look upon these islets or rocks of the Sirens, barren and desolate, with a few ruins of the Roman time and remains of the Middle-Age prisons of the doges of Amalfi; but I do not care to dissipate any illusions by going to them. I remember how the Sirens sat on flowery meads by the shore and sang, and are vulgarly supposed to have allured passing mariners to a life of ignoble pleasure, and then let them perish, hungry with all unsatisfied longings. The bones of these unfortunates, whitening on the rocks, of which Virgil speaks, I could not see. Indeed, I think any one who lingers long in this region will doubt if they were ever there, and will come to believe that the characters of the Sirens are popularly misconceived. Allowing Ulysses to be only another name for the sun-god, who appears in myths as Indra, Apollo, William Tell, the sure-hitter, the great archer, whose arrows are sunbeams, it is a degrading conception of him that he was obliged to lash himself to the mast when he went into action with the Sirens, like Farragut at Mobile, though for a very different reason. We should be forced to believe that Ulysses was not free from the basest mortal longings, and that he had not strength of mind to resist them, but must put himself in durance; as our moderns who cannot control their desires go into inebriate asylums. Mr. Ruskin says that "the Sirens are the great constant desires, the infinite sicknesses of heart, which, rightly placed, give life, and, wrongly placed, waste it away; so that there are two groups of Sirens, one noble and saving, as the other is fatal." Unfortunately we are all, as were the Greeks, ministered unto by both these groups, but can fortunately, on the other hand, choose which group we will listen to the singing of, though the strains are somewhat mingled; as, for instance, in the modern opera, where the music quite as often wastes life away, as gives to it the energy of pure desire. Yet, if I were to locate the Sirens geographically, I should place the beneficent desires on this coast, and the dangerous ones on that of wicked Baiae; to which group the founder of Naples no doubt belonged. Nowhere, perhaps, can one come nearer to the beautiful myths of Greece, the springlike freshness of the idyllic and heroic age, than on this Sorrentine promontory. It was no chance that made these coasts the home of the kind old monarch Eolus, inventor of sails and storm-signals. On the Telegrafo di Mare Cuccola is a rude signal-apparatus for communication with Capri,--to ascertain if wind and wave are propitious for entrance to the Blue Grotto,--which probably was not erected by Eolus, although he doubtless used this sightly spot as one of his stations. That he dwelt here, in great content, with his six sons and six daughters, the Months, is nearly certain; and I feel as sure that the Sirens, whose islands were close at hand, were elevators and not destroyers of the primitive races living here. It seems to me this must be so; because the pilgrim who surrenders himself to the influences of these peaceful and sun-inundated coasts, under this sky which the bright Athena loved and loves, loses, by and by, those longings and heart-sicknesses which waste away his life, and comes under the dominion, more and more, of those constant desires after that which is peaceful and enduring and has the saving quality of purity. I know, indeed, that it is not always so; and that, as Boreas is a better nurse of rugged virtue than Zephyr, so the soft influences of this clime only minister to the fatal desires of some: and such are likely to sail speedily back to Naples. The Sirens, indeed, are everywhere; and I do not know that we can go anywhere that we shall escape the infinite longings, or satisfy them. Here, in the purple twilight of history, they offered men the choice of good and evil. I have a fancy, that, in stepping out of the whirl of modern life upon a quiet headland, so blessed of two powers, the air and the sea, we are able to come to a truer perception of the drift of the eternal desires within us. But I cannot say whether it is a subtle fascination, linked with these mythic and moral influences, or only the physical loveliness of this promontory, that lures travelers hither, and detains them on flowery meads.
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