POPULAR LITERATURE AND SCIENCE.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1877, by J. B. Lippincott & Co., in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
Transcriber's notes: Minor typos have been corrected. Table of contents has been generated for HTML version.
A MONTH IN SICILY.
CAPTURED BY COSSACKS.
DAYS OF MY YOUTH.
A LAW UNTO HERSELF.
A KENTUCKY DUEL.
FOLK-LORE OF THE SOUTHERN NEGROES.
ENGLISH DOMESTICS AND THEIR WAYS.
OUR MONTHLY GOSSIP.
LITERATURE OF THE DAY.
A MONTH IN SICILY.
Early on the morning of the first of February we stood on the deck of the steamer for Palermo, watching the sun rise over the water. Far away in the south the blue edge of the sea began to grow bluer with the rising of the distant land. A fresh breeze blew from the shore—not a pleasant feature in February weather at home, but suggesting comparisons with the warmest morning of a New England May. With the swift advance of the steamer the blue line in the south rapidly rose above the level of the sea into the definite shape of a rugged mountain-range: gradually the blueness of distance changed to rich shades of brown and red on the jagged, treeless summits, and to deepest green where long orange-farms border the bases of the mountains.
Who has not longed to see Sicily? Every one who loves poetry, romance or the history of ancient civilization must often turn in thought to this beautiful and famous Mediterranean island. To the most ancient poets it was a mysterious land, where dwelt the monster Charybdis and the bloody Læstrigones; where Ulysses met the Cyclops; where the immortal gods waged battles with the giant sons of Earth, and bound Enceladus in his eternal prison. No doubt it was the terrific natural phenomena of Sicily—the earthquakes and the outbursts of Etna—which rendered it so much a land of horrors to the early Greek imagination. But in that far-distant age it was not only the terrors of the place that had worked upon the imaginative Greeks: the almost tropical luxuriance of the country, the unrivalled scenery, the brilliancy of the sky, made it a fitting ground for the adventures of nymphs, heroes and gods. In the fountain of Sicilian Ortygia dwelt Arethusa, the nymph dear to the poets; beside the Lake of Enna, where rich vegetation overran the lips of the extinct volcano, was the spot called in mythology the meeting-place of Pluto and Proserpine—the power of darkness and the springing plant personified; and so through all the country places were found made sacred by the presence of the great divinities, and temples were erected in their honor.
When the age of fable had passed away, far back in the early dawn of European history begins authentic knowledge about Sicily. While wicked Ahaz reigned in the kingdom of Judah, and Isaiah had not ceased to utter his prophecies, the Greek colonization of Sicily began. Seven hundred and thirty-five years before Christ, Theocles with his band of Greeks from Eubœa founded Naxos on the coast, hard by the fertile slopes of Etna. Within three centuries from that time the whole Sicilian coast had been studded with Greek cities, and to such wealth, power and splendor of art had they attained that all succeeding epochs of the island's history seem degenerate times when compared with that early golden age.
It has been truly said that "there is not a nation which has materially influenced the destinies of European civilization that has not left distinct traces of its activity in this island." Phœnicians, Greeks, Romans, Saracens, Normans, Spaniards, French and English have successively occupied the island, and noble monuments of the varied civilizations are standing to this day. Scattered through the island, their architectural remains crown the mountain-tops or lie in confusion along the Mediterranean shore, a series of ruins extending through twenty-five centuries, unmatched in any other country for variety of age and style.
At ten o'clock our steamer entered the Gulf of Palermo, passing near the base of Monte Pellegrino, a wild promontory which towers up two thousand feet from the sea. On the day before I had entered for the first time the famous Bay of Naples, but with less delight than I now looked upon the beauties of this Sicilian gulf. Flanked with lofty mountains, colored with the matchless blue of the Mediterranean, studded with picturesque lateen sails, the bay is a fitting entrance to this fair historic island: a more beautiful approach could hardly be imagined even to the Islands of the Blessed.
The Italians call Palermo la felice ("the happy"). It is most happy in its climate, its situation and its noble streets and gardens. Below the city lies the lovely bay: behind it stretches back for miles, between converging mountain-chains, the fruit-producing level of the Golden Shell (La Conca d'Oro). The plain is one vast orchard of