Moving Against the Stream, by Dennis Lingwood

The impulse to believe the absurd when presented with the unknowable is called religion. Whether this is wise or unwise is the domain of doctrine. Once you understand someone's doctrine, you understand their rationale for believing the absurd. At that point, it may no longer seem absurd. You can get to both sides of this conondrum from here.

Re: Moving Against the Stream, by Dennis Lingwood

Postby admin » Sun Jul 26, 2020 8:15 am

Chapter Thirty-Seven: The Road to Delphi

Though we had gone to bed so late the previous night, Terry and I rose early, and on going on deck soon afterwards found hardly anyone about. It was a fine, clear morning, the sea could not have been more calm, and we were sailing between the mainland and some four or five small, widely separated islands. Despite the muffled hum of the ships engines, and the occasional muffled shout coming from the swimming pool, there was a breathless hush in the air, and as I gazed out over the dark blue waters it was as though time stood still, as though nothing had changed, and that I was seeing what Homer had he not been blind might have seen three thousand years ago. I felt much as D.H. Lawrence must have felt when he wrote, as he passed that way:

Now the sea is the Argonauts sea, and in the dawn
Odysseus calls the commands, as he steers past these foamy islands;
wait, wait, dont bring me the coffee yet, nor the pain grillé.
The dawn is still off the sea, and Odysseus ships
have not yet passed the islands, I must watch them still.


I don't remember if Terry and I were brought any coffee that morning or any pain grillé, but we had swallowed a cup of tea before going on deck and probably were still standing at the rail when the ferry reached Corfu, the largest of the Ionian islands, where a few passengers disembarked. Two hours later we were in Igoumenitsa, and after a delay in the customs found ourselves on the road to Yannina, the provincial capital, sixty-four miles away.

It was exciting to be in Greece at last, exciting that a dream had come true and we were actually on our way to Delphi. The countryside through which we were passing was brown and desolate, while above a certain altitude the sides of the mountains were entirely devoid of vegetation. Presently we saw a few miserable stone huts, though little evidence of any cultivation. As we approached Yannina, however, we started to see extensive fields of what I eventually recognized as tobacco, which I had not known was produced in Greece. There were also people on donkeys, and standing in a dusty yellow field, evidently just harvested, two bearded Orthodox priests in black gowns and cylindrical headgear could be seen bending and straightening up as between them they lifted bundles of what seemed to be hay on to the back of a donkey. They moved slowly and stiffly, in away that combined the laboriousness of the peasant and the dignity of the priest. The scene could well have been painted by the Millet of the Angelus, and it moved me deeply. Immemorially pastoral and immemorially patriarchal, it was reminiscent of the time when farmer, priest, and father were one and the same person, and when the powers of earth served religion and the forces of religion blessed the earth.

There was nothing pastoral about the filling station at which we stopped shortly before reaching the town, and nothing patriarchal about the voluble Shell agent we encountered there. Petrol was expensive, though whether because it was more heavily taxed in Greece than in the countries through which we had passed, or because it was a case of the wily Greek taking advantage of the innocent foreign travellers, we had no means of telling. In Yannina we parked beside an extensive lake, over the waters of which there was a view of the domes and minarets of what appeared to be a mosque. Epirus had been part of the Ottoman empire for 500 years, and Turkish cultural influence was still very much in evidence. While we were resting after lunch three inquisitive Greek boys appeared, one of whom proceeded to catch and dismember a crayfish, though whether with a view to cooking and eating it or out of sheer devilment was unclear. From the lake we drove to the town centre, where we strolled round what I could not help calling the bazaar, and where the shops were as poor and shabby as those of small-town provincial India.

In one of these shops I bought a black-and-green pottery wall plate of the head of Achilles, not realizing that in the course of our three weeks in Greece we would be seeing scores, even hundreds, of souvenir shops, and tens of thousands of cheap, mass-produced souvenirs of every kind. Achilles and the events of the Trojan War had been familiar to me since my boyhood, initially from a little book called The Story of the Iliad, which my father had given me, and later from the Iliad itself, in Chapman's translation, a second-hand copy of which I picked up in Bideford, during the War, and which I read in a state bordering on ecstasy. I was particularly delighted with the episodes in which the gods and goddesses appear, whether it was Hera whipping up the celestial horses and driving herself and Pallas Athene down from the heights of Olympus to the earth, the axle of the chariot groaning beneath the combined weight of the two goddesses, or Aphrodite being wounded in the hand by the Greek hero Diomedes as she removes her son Aeneas from the fray, or Thetis rising from the depths of the sea, stealing up to the throne of Zeus, and prevailing upon him to give victory to the Trojans until the Greeks gave due honour to her son, the valiant and glorious Achilles, who was fated to die young.

Zeus was king of the gods, and his oracle at Dodona claimed to be the eldest of the oracles of the Hellenic world. We arrived there from Yannina early in the evening, having turned off into the green, peaceful valley from the Arta road, and spent a couple of hours looking round the archaeological area, where except for the partly restored theatre there was little to be seen other than the exposed foundations of various ancient buildings. Whether on account of the bare mountains by which it was shut in, or because of the lingering influence of the feeling of awe with which visitors must have approached the sacred site, there was a strange quietness in the atmosphere of the valley, a quietness that was more than mere absence of sound. In classical times the oracle was regarded as having its seat in the leaves of an oak, the whisperings of which communicated the gods responses to the questions put to him. Originally, however, the place seems to have been the seat of a dream-oracle, the dreams coming to the attendant prophets, the Selloi, as they slept on the bare ground. There is an allusion to Dodona and the Selloi in the Iliad, in the speech in which Achilles prays to Zeus for the victory and safe return of his friend Patroclus, whom he has sent to fight against the Trojans in his place.

High Zeus, lord of Dodona, Pelasgian, living afar off,
brooding over wintry Dodona, your prophets about you living,
the Selloi who sleep on the ground with feet unwashed. Hear me.
As one time before when I prayed to you, you listened
and did me honour, and smote strongly the host of the Achaians,
so one more time bring to pass the wish that I pray for.


Within the archaeological area there stood a big old tree, more trunk than branch, that may or may not have been an oak, and may or may not have been the lineal descendant of the tree in whose leaves the oracle had had its seat. Probably because there was no wind, we heard no whisperings from the scanty foliage above our heads, neither did we see any trace of the Selloi, though at 10 o'clock the sites young Greek attendant came to lock up for the night, so to speak. He was friendly and inquisitive, as were two young Greeks who had turned up earlier and who came and visited us at the Little Bus the following morning. Such visits were to be a common feature of our journey through Greece, especially when we were in the more out-of-the-way places. No sooner had we settled down for the night, or simply stopped for a meal and a rest, than one or two young men usually two friends would appear from nowhere and approach us, sometimes after loitering for a while in our vicinity. In France and Italy such a thing had not happened even once. Communication often began with the young men smilingly asking, You have cigarette?, the question being put in a way that did not quite amount to a request but was more than just a simple enquiry. Terry and I would thereupon be forced to explain that we were non-smokers and had no cigarettes, and as our visitors had little English, usually no more than the three words already spoken, and we had no Greek, we had no alternative but to shake our heads vigorously, spread our fingers wide, and shrug our shoulders, and hope they would understand what we meant. Probably they did understand, for they never took offence at our failure to produce any cigarettes and remained as friendly as before. Their inquisitiveness was directed as much to the Little Bus as to Terry and me. They walked round it slowly and admiringly, peered through the windows, and were evidently much taken by the way it was fitted out within. One young man, after peering inside, turned to us in surprise, saying, No women? The most common enquiry, after You have cigarette? was German or English? In certain places the latter was indeed the initial enquiry, and no smiles would be forthcoming until the question of our nationality had been cleared up. The Germans had attacked and overrun Greece in 1941, and the wounds of war were taking a long time to heal. Once the young men had satisfied their curiosity they would drift away, disappearing as quietly as they had arrived on the scene. They appeared to have nothing to do, and may well have been unemployed.

Rather to my surprise, Terry seemed not to mind these intrusions upon our privacy. Sometimes he appeared almost to welcome them. This was only partly due to the obvious inoffensiveness of the intruders, if such they could really be called. It was also due to the fact that, as could be safely assumed, they were not more educated and more knowledgeable than he was and that there was no question, therefore, of his being at a disadvantage with them. Even had they happened to be more educated and knowledgeable, in the absence of a common language this would not have become apparent. Thus there was no danger of my friend being made to feel inadequate and inferior, as sometimes was the case in England, and he could meet the advances of our friendly, inquisitive young visitors in a natural, easy manner. The truth was that Terry really liked people, and became anxious, and therefore stiff and re- served, only when he felt threatened by their superior education and knowledge. There were times when I thought he felt threatened even by me, though the fact that in certain fields he was the more knowledgeable of the two should have been enough to rule out any feelings of this kind. I might know more about religion and philosophy, but he knew more about the practicalities of modern urban living. If I was to stay on in the West indefinitely, as I had now decided to do, I would need to know more about those practicalities. I already knew a little about them, thanks to Terry, and could expect that in time I would know as much as he did. In that case there would be an imbalance between us; he might feel threatened, and this could affect our friendship. But that was all in the hypothetical future, and it was best not to speculate. Now we were at Dodona, within sight of the big old tree that may or may not have been an oak. The two young Greeks had just paid their second visit, Terry seeming not to mind the intrusion, and it was time for us to leave.

We left at 10 o'clock, not without regrets, driving back through the green, peaceful valley and rejoining the highway. Many wild flowers, notes my diary. Along banks of Lauros River, through fine mountain scenery, to Arta.' Lauros! The name conjures up a vision of crystal-clear waters waters that wound their rapid way between smooth grey boulders and were half hidden by overhanging trees. So beautiful was the river, and so mysterious in its flow, that it was not difficult to believe, as an Ancient Greek would have done, that it was the haunt of nymphs and that one might, if one was lucky, catch a glimpse of two or three of them sporting in the water. In Arta we stayed only long enough for Terry to photograph some storks. We had seen storks in Yannina, nesting on the chimney tops, but here a pair of them had built their big untidy nest on the top of a tall, rather ornamental church tower, and the opportunity was too good to miss. With an eye to the lucrative travel brochure market, Terry had already taken shots of the Grand Canal in Venice, and of divers tiny figures silhouetted against a sky of ultramarine about to plunge from a huge rock on the Adriatic coast, but I suspected his heart was not really in the work, reminiscent as it was of the job he had so recently quitted. At Amphilokhia we stopped again, there being a magnificent view over the Gulf of Arta, and Terry took a few more photographs. We then headed for Stratos, the old capital of the area, which was just off the main road, in the hope of finding there a place to park during the hot afternoon hours. On the way we passed three lakes, one large and two small. Though pleasant to look at, the large lake smelt badly, and it was very windy. In Stratos our hopes of finding somewhere to park were quickly dashed. The place turned out to be no more than a tumbledown village plus a few ruins, and we decided to press on to Agrinion. Unfortunately, we missed the town, probably bypassing it, and in the end simply drove into a convenient field and parked beneath a tree.

Here for the next four hours we camped, on this occasion without any friendly, inquisitive young men intruding on our privacy. We had lunch, and I read Euripides The Madness of Herakles. In years to come the figure of this the greatest of the Greek heroes, with his lion skin and his club, was to occupy a special place in my imagination and be the subject of one of my longer poems. That Herakles (or Hercules, as he is called in the poem) was not so much the boisterous, brutal Herakles of popular legend as the altruistic Herakles whose might was at the service of right and who for centuries had been the patron saint, so to speak, of the Stoic philosophers of Greece and Rome. Traces of this altruistic Herakles were to be found even in the oldest legends. In Euripides play itself the Chorus of Theban elders, having lamented the passing of youth, breaks out in praise of Memory and of the greatness of Herakles, singing:

Proud theme hath minstrelsy, to sing mine hero's high achieving:
He is Zeus son, but deeds hath done whose glory mounts, far-leaving
The praise of birth divine behind,
Whose toils gave peace to human kind,
Slaying dread shapes that filled mans mind with terrors ceaseless-haunting.


Since Herakles toils (no doubt a reference to the famous Twelve Labours) gave peace to human kind, and thus were of an altruistic character, their glory surpasses the praise due to the hero as son of the king of the gods. Indeed, it is altruism itself that is the true divinity, and Herakles is to be praised, even worshipped, not on account of his supposed divine paternity, but as the embodiment of altruism. Embodying as he does the principle of altruism he exemplified, for the Stoics especially, a definite ideal, an ideal that may be regarded as representing, on its own ethical level and within its own Greco-Roman cultural context, the transcendental altruism that is exemplified, for Buddhists, in the idea of the infinitely wise and boundlessly compassionate Bodhisattva who, in the words of the Devotion to Tãrã, labours for the weal of all beings'.

Euripides play was still giving me food for thought when, shortly be- fore six o'clock, we struck camp and drove coastward to Missolonghi. It was in this nondescript little town that Byron had died in 1824, at the age of thirty-seven, the victim (it has been said), as he was the author, of his own legend. One of our books on Greece described Missolonghi as being situated on the edge of a wide, stagnant lagoon, only navigable by flat-bottomed boats, but we saw nothing of either the lagoon or the boats, and very little of the town itself other than the fat brown pipes of the new sewerage system. All the roads having been dug up for laying them, it was difficult to get around, and we therefore had to drive on without seeing the museum or the statue of Byron. Between Missolonghi and Naupactus, as if to compensate us for any disappointment we may have felt, there was a fine view of the Gulf of Patras to the south and west. Naupactus, renamed by the Venetians as Lepanto, was situated further along the coast, on the Gulf of Corinth. As Lepanto, the town had given its name to the great sea battle of 1571 in which the combined Christian forces under Don Juan of Austria, the half-brother of Philip II of Spain, had inflicted a crushing defeat on the forces of the Ottoman Empire. From the Christian point of view it was a famous victory, and one that G.K. Chesterton celebrates with his usual gusto in his poem Lepanto, which I had more than once encountered in anthologies of twentieth-century poetry. Since we were hoping to reach Delphi that night, we drove straight through Naupactus, as it was again being called, without stopping to see the remains of either Venetian or Turkish occupation.

For the second time that day our hopes were dashed this time in a more serious manner. Our route lay through the mountains, and we were not long out of Naupactus before we hit a fifteen-mile stretch of extremely bad road. To make matters worse night fell, and as there was no moon we had to find our way by the light of our headlamps as best we could. The road evidently was being widened. Rocks had been blasted and trees felled on either side of it; in places it was impassable, and the little detours that had been created were no more than the roughest of rough tracks. Driving was not only difficult but dangerous. More than once we found ourselves on the edge of a precipice, and more than once we had to cross what appeared to be a ravine by means of a bridge that was no more than half a dozen tree trunks laid edge to edge and covered with a layer of dirt. Progress was therefore painfully slow, and it was only after at least three hours of anxiety that we were clear of the roadworks and again on tarmac. Before long we saw in the distance the lights of the little mountain village of Mornos. The lights shone brightly, but no sound was to be heard, as though no one was living there. So many and so bright were the lights, and so profound the silence, that it was positively eerie, and I was reminded of old tales in which a wandering knight, lost in the depths of the forest, at midnight sees lights glimmering among the trees and rides towards them not knowing if they are those of a kings castle, a hermits chapel, or a sorcerers magically created palace. As there was no campsite in Mornos we drove straight through the strange little place without stopping and eventually, the road having descended, out of the mountains and into a small valley.

In this valley we spent the night the last night of the outward part of our journey. It was Delphi we had come all this way to see, and once we had seen Delphi we would be homeward bound, however wide a detour we might thereafter make and whatever else of importance or interest we might happen to see on the way back. Delphi was the perihelion of the orbit of our journey. It was the point at which we would be spiritually nearest to the mysterious force that for the Ancient Greeks was embodied in the great and glorious figure of Apollo, god of the sun, music, poetry, and prophecy.

Henry Miller wrote about Delphi within a year of his visiting the place. I am having to write about my own visit thirty-four years after it occurred, so that despite the help provided by a few diary notes there is no question of my being able to write about my impressions of the sacred site with the freshness and immediacy not to mention the genius of the author of The Colossus of Maroussi. Having passed a quiet night in the small valley, in the morning Terry and I drove over the hills into another valley in which there were tens of thousands perhaps hundreds of thousands of olive trees, all growing so close together that from a distance it was as though the floor of the valley was covered by a sea of silver-green foliage. At our approach the sea divided, so to speak, and we drove on through Bonnichora and Amphissa, after which several miles of straight road took us, through more olive groves, up to Chruson. From Chruson, which must have been several thousand feet above sea level, there was a view back over the Gulf of Corinth that my diary is content to describe as magnificent and which must have been truly so.

At 9 o'clock in the morning, on Sunday 3 July, we reached our destination.

Henry Miller had 'come upon' Delphi at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, after driving up from Athens. It was midwinter, there was a mist blowing in from the sea, and seen in that strange twilight mist the ancient sit had seemed even more sublime and awe-inspiring than he had imagined it to be. Later it rained. Terry and I arrived early in the day, at the height of summer, and instead of mist from the sea there was only a slight haze. Unlike Henry Miller, I had not imagined Delphi to be sublime and awe-inspiring or, in fact, anything else, so that whether the place exceeded my expectations or fell short of them was not a question that could arise. Such imaginings were in any case utterly irrelevant. The last bend of the road once turned, the prospect that lay before us was one in which there was a perfect harmony of the sublime and the beautiful, of the work of nature and the creations, now fragmentary and ruined, of the human brain and hand. Delphi was situated on the steep lower slope of Mount Parnassus, in a kind of natural amphitheatre, with the Phaedriades or Shining Rocks rising high above it to the north and with a view southward across the Pleistus gorge to the mountain range beyond. The sacred precinct, within whose walls the great temple of Apollo had once stood, occupied what appeared to be the centre of the amphitheatre. On the mountainside, and here and there among the ruins, grew olive, fig, and pomegranate trees, as well as slim, dark cypresses, all bathed in the calm morning sunshine beneath a sky intensely blue.

Deeply impressed though I was by the sublimity and beauty of the scene, what I felt most strongly about Delphi was that it was a holy place. I had been in holy places before, notably in Bodh Gaya, Sarnath, and Kusinara, and other Buddhist holy places of northern India. These sites were holy by virtue of their association with events in the life of the Buddha. In Bodh Gaya he had attained Supreme, Perfect Enlightenment, in Sarnath he had taught his first five disciples, and in Kusinara he had died, and each of these places had its distinctive atmosphere. That of Bodh Gaya was intense and powerful, that of Sarnath joyful and expansive, that of Kusinara solemn and mysterious, and so on. Delphi was different. It was not holy by virtue of its association with a particular event, at least not of the historical order. Delphi was itself holy. It was not a holy place simply because it was there that Apollo's temple and oracle were located. Temple and oracle were located at Delphi because Delphi was a holy place. It was as if the very earth was holy, and as if this holiness penetrated the rocks and the trees and permeated the air, so that one felt it in the warmth of the sun and drew it in with every breath. Though the temple was in ruins, and though the oracle had been silent for more than a thousand years, Delphi was still a holy place and its influence could still be felt. I certainly felt that influence during the two days Terry and I stayed there, despite the noisy tourists, of whom there were quite a few wandering among the ruins even at 9 o'clock in the morning and who arrived by the coachload throughout the day.

Our first visit was to the two temples of Athene Pronoia and the Tholos, which stood with a few smaller structures on a terrace below the road, well away from the sacred precinct. All three were, of course, in ruins, three fluted Doric columns with a section of entablature being practically all that survived, more or less intact, of the Tholos, a mysterious circular structure the purpose of which is unknown. From the sanctuary of the Marmorea, as the place was called, we made our way round to Kastri, the small town or large village adjacent to Delphi though out of sight, so far as I remember, of the sacred precinct and the other ancient sites. What we took to be the principal street was lined with souvenir shops and we spent some time looking at reproductions of the various types of ancient pottery red, red-and-white, black, and black-and-green in colour and of every imaginable size, shape, and decorative style. Almost without exception they were extraordinarily graceful, and the thought that the ancient originals were for the most part articles of everyday household use gave rise to some very Ruskinian reflections not all favourable to modern civilization. Having already bought a wall plate in Yannina, I did not buy anything, but Terry bought two hand-woven bags, one for his mother and one for Vivien. Souvenir shops not being the only ones in Kastri, we were able to buy a loaf of good Greek bread and a pot of good Greek yoghurt, both of which we had already come to appreciate, sometimes making a meal of the latter.

In the afternoon, having lunched back at the Little Bus, we visited the Castalian spring, which was situated half a mile to the east of the sacred precinct and was dedicated to Apollo and the Muses. Earlier in the day we had seen it running down the hillside and through the olive groves near the Marmorea. Now we were at its source. The cold, clear water came gushing from a deep cleft in the Phaedriades and poured into the court of an artificial grotto. Bending down, we scooped a little of it up in our hands and drank. Originally, people had purified themselves at the Castalian spring before approaching the oracle, but in later, post-classical times the waters came to be regarded as a source of poetic inspiration. Purified and inspired, or at least refreshed, we then made our way down to the ruins of the gymnasium complex, with its double running track, one indoor and one outdoor, its Greek and Roman baths, and other buildings, which stood on a terrace a little higher than that on which stood the ruins of the Marmorea. Much of the site was overgrown, besides being surrounded not so much by groves as by a whole forest of olive trees, so that few tourists ventured there. In the welcome shade of a cluster of the bushy-headed old trees, with their silver-green foliage, we sat down and read. I read an interesting but confused book on the history and mythology of Delphi, Terry a book on Zen by D.T. Suzuki, to whose writings and the Lankãvatãra Sûtra he remained faithful for much of our journey. After a while I became aware that my friend was feeling very depressed, so that I laid aside my book (he had already laid aside his) and we had what my diary terms a little talk. Apparently he was depressed because Delphi was far more crowded than we had expected it to be, depressed because some of the tour groups were quite rowdy, and depressed, most fundamentally, because our being surrounded by the remains of an ancient civilization and culture about which he knew very little served to remind him of his lack of education and thus to trigger those feelings of inferiority and inadequacy that were never far from the surface.

Just what I said to Terry I do not remember. I never attempted to argue him out of his depressions, or to convince him that since there was no reason, objectively speaking, for his depression, he ought not to be feeling depressed. Much less still did I ever urge him to snap out of it. Usually, after acknowledging that he felt depressed and empathizing with him (not having suffered from depression myself, I did not find this easy), I would gradually change the subject and start talking about something which was of interest to both of us and calculated to evoke a positive response from him. This served to divert his attention from the depression which, as he became more and more engrossed in the topic under discussion, would little by little subside of its own accord. Probably this is what happened that hot afternoon, as we sat in the shade of the olive trees, among the ruins of the gymnasium complex. In any case, as a result of our little talk, Terry regained his cheerfulness, at least for the time being, but as it was now four o'clock we repaired to the Little Bus to partake of the cups that cheer but not inebriate, generously laced with condensed milk, though in view of the classical nature of our surroundings

a beaker full of the warm South,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,


would no doubt have been more appropriate. Thus fortified, we spent the rest of the afternoon, and the early part of the evening, visiting the temple of Apollo, the theatre, and the stadium, and then the museum.

The temple was one of the glories of the ancient world. Now all that could be seen of it, apart from the numerous fragments strewn around, were the five or six weather-beaten Doric columns, only one of them of full height and with a capital, that stood on the north-eastern end of the temples rectangular plinth and had probably been put together from scattered drums by archaeologists in the late nineteenth century. The theatre, which seated 5,000 people, was situated higher up the hillside, in the north-west corner of the sacred precinct, and had for backdrop a view of the temple and the valley beyond. It was in a much better state of preservation than the temple, which being a place of pagan worship had been first vandalized and then destroyed by the Christians, and seats, staircases, and orchestra were all more or less intact. From the theatre a steep path wound through pine trees up to the stadium, the tiers of seats on the north side of which had been cut out of the hillside just below the Amphissa road. After the cluttered, uneven terraces lower down the sight of the bare, perfectly level track two hundred yards long and thirty wide on which the games had been held, and could still have been held, was strangely soothing. Unlike Henry Miller, I had no impression of charioteers driving their steeds over the ridge and into the blue, much less still did I find the atmosphere superhuman, intoxicating to the point of madness. Instead, all was silence, solitude, and peace.

The exhibits in the museum were all from Delphi and the surrounding area. Most of them belonged to the period from the seventh up to and including the fourth century BCE, and many were only fragments. There were inscriptions in Greek and Latin, mosaics, bronze dedications, metopes, Corinthian capitals, and grave goods of various kinds, from weapons to bracelets and fibulae. Above all there were the free-standing sculptured figures, of which I particularly remember the Charioteer, the Two Brothers, and the statue of Antinoüs. The Charioteer stood erect, looking a little to his right, the vertical folds of his long racing costume, the xystis, serving to accentuate the uprightness of his posture. In his right hand he grasped the reins (most of the left arm was missing); his gaze was intent but calm. Severe in youthful beauty he stood there, having won the chariot race, and being about to take part, apparently, in the triumphal parade that was held after the race.

Whereas the Charioteer was of bronze and belonged to the fifth century BCE, the colossal figures of the Two Brothers, which were of marble, must have antedated it by at least a hundred years. Cleobis and Biton were two young Argives, the sons of a priestess of Hera, who when the oxen failed to arrive and their mother was in danger of being late for a festival, harnessed themselves to the wagon and drew her from Argos all the way across the plain to the temple. For this service they were honoured above all other men by their fellow Argives and their statues, carved in the chunky style considered by some scholars to be characteristic of the Peloponnese, were set up in Delphi, where they remained until their discovery in modern times. One of them had an arm and a hand missing, and the faces of both were slightly damaged; otherwise the two colossi were more or less intact. They stood side by side in the room bearing their name, as they must have stood for centuries in the place where they were originally installed, the clenched fists of the less damaged brother suggesting that the sculptor had depicted them in the act of performing the service for which they were honoured. According to one of the books on Greece I was reading at the time, the broad faces, wide open eyes, and naked bodies of the Two Brothers were fixed in an almost Egyptian rigidity. Almost Egyptian, too, were the wig-like braids, three on either side, that hung down over their broad shoulders from be- hind their ears. What struck me most about these two massive archaic statues from the Peloponnese was not, however, their rugged strength and dignity, great as these were, so much as the fact that they had been set up in Delphi, the holiest of all the holy places of ancient Greece, by way of giving public recognition to an outstanding act of filial piety. If the Charioteer bore witness to the ancient Greeks love of sporting contests, and their enthusiastic admiration for the qualities of skill and courage such contests helped promote, the Two Brothers bore witness to the high esteem in which they held a virtue we tend to associate less with Ancient Greece than with Confucian China.

Antinoüs was the favourite of the emperor Hadrian, and after his death in mysterious circumstances the afflicted monarch caused statues of the beautiful youth to be set up even temples to be dedicated to him -- in cities throughout the Roman world. One such statue, evidently, had been set up in Delphi, where it was found, still standing, when a room in a building within the Sacred Precinct was cleared of earth and rubble in the course of excavations. Belonging as it did to the second century CE, it was in a style very different from that of the Charioteer, and still more different from that of the Two Brothers, even as Antinoüs himself represented a type of masculine beauty that differed markedly from that of either the upstanding winner of the chariot race or the hefty young Argives who had harnessed themselves to their mothers wagon. It depicted him as the divine ephebe, broad-shouldered, but with thick, luxuriant curls, and a thoughtful, almost melancholy expression. Both forearms of the statue were missing, and with them the hands, and the nose was slightly chipped. Otherwise it was complete and one could not but admire the harmonious proportions and full contours of the young favourite's magnificent physique. With his very individual physiognomy and style of beauty it indeed was Antinoüs, not Keatss Psyche, who was

the latest and the loveliest vision far
Of all Olympus faded hierarchy.


He was an unforgettable figure. I certainly did not forget him, and when we encountered busts and statues of him in Athens and other places in the course of our homeward journey I recognized him immediately.

What kind of impression the Charioteer, the Two Brothers, and the statue of Antinoüs made on Terry I cannot say. He undoubtedly felt much more at home with the art of Ancient Greece than he did with Christian art, especially as so much Greek sculpture, whether of the archaic or the classical period, was devoted to the representation of the human figure, and could be appreciated for its formal and expressive qualities without that knowledge of sacred history and religious symbolism that was often essential to a proper understanding of Christian art. Nonetheless, despite his having appeared to enjoy the sculptures in the museum, it was not long before Terry was again feeling depressed and not long, therefore, before we were having another of our little talks. We had it not sitting in the shade of the olive trees but parked beside a rubbish tip outside Kastri from which, by way of contrast, there was a fine view of the Gulf of Corinth. This time I was more successful in my efforts to cheer him up, and some days were to pass before he again felt depressed. So successful was I that in the morning, the two of us having gone down to the Tholos, he was happily taking photographs of the mysterious circular structure just as the rays of the rising sun struck the tops of the three remaining Doric columns.

That day was perhaps the best day of our holiday so far. Such is the testimony of my diary, at least. Not that we did a lot of sightseeing. In fact we did none at all. Having breakfasted we found a sheltered nook above the theatre and there spent the greater part of the day, returning to the Little Bus only in order to bring a flask of tea and something to eat up to the spot where we had established ourselves. Above our heads, there was nothing but blue sky; immediately below our feet, only the theatre descending the hillside in tier after semi-circular tier to the level on which stood the temple all around, and so far as eye could see the landscape was steeped in clear, bright, invigorating sunshine which, as the sun ascended, threw shorter and shorter blue shadows. Probably because it was a weekday, there were far fewer people than the day before, and the sounds that came up from the little groups of tourists wandering among the ruins reached our ears but faintly. In the course of the morning I read Euripides Ion. It was no coincidence that I was reading this particular play in this particular place, for the scene of the play was Delphi, in the forecourt of the very temple of Apollo on which Terry and I were then looking down, and I had deliberately postponed the reading of the work to this moment.

Ion is an attendant in the temple, at the entrance to which he was found as a baby. Now grown to manhood, he has been made treasurer of the god and steward of all trust, and when we first see him he is busy decorating the portals of the temple with garlands of bay leaves, sprinkling the pavement with water from the Castalian spring, and scaring birds away from the offerings with his bow and arrows. Among those approaching the oracle is Kreusa, Queen of Athens. She and her husband Xuthus, king-consort of Athens, are childless, and she wants to know if they will have issue. From the exchange that takes place between her and Ion we learn that she wishes to question the oracle secretly, on behalf of a friend, and that she does not want her husband to know of this. The question concerns the fate of the child whom this friend, without her fathers knowledge, bore to Apollo some years ago and then abandoned. Their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Xuthus, who has been consulting the oracle of the hero Trophonius. While not presuming to forestall the utterance of Apollo, Trophonius has assured the king that neither he nor his wife will return home from Delphi childless. Having broken the joyful news to Kreusa, Xuthus exits to the inner temple where Apollo speaks through the lips of the Pythia, leaving Ion to wonder why Kreusa should seem to rail upon the god, and Kreusa's attendant handmaids, who form the Chorus, to sing the praises of the virgin goddesses Pallas Athene and Artemis, Apollos sisters, as well as to celebrate the joy of having sons to continue the family line and inherit the ancestral wealth, and to lament the fact that the offspring of the gods by mortal women are never happy.

The sound of their voices has hardly died away before Xuthus is back (dramatic time and real time do not coincide). Apollo has spoken. He has told Xuthus that the first man he meets on leaving the inner temple is his truly-begotten son. As it happens, the first man he meets is Ion. Initially Ion refuses to believe that Xuthus is his father and angrily repulses him. But eventually he is convinced, Xuthus having admitted, under questioning, that in his younger days he had visited Delphi at the time of the nocturnal Bacchic orgies and taken part in them in the company of the local girls. Ion must be the fruit of that visit and father and son, overjoyed, fall into each others arms. Kreusa is far from overjoyed. On learning from the Chorus that Apollo has given Xuthus a son, while she remains childless, she is distraught with anger and grief, and when a loyal old servant offers to kill Ion while he and Xuthus are feasting she gives him a deadly poison with which to do the deed. On no account will she allow her husbands bastard to inherit the throne of Athens! A timely omen having frustrated the plot at the last moment, the old servant confesses everything, the rulers of Delphi condemn Kreusa to death for attempted murder within the sacred precinct, and Ion comes with a band of armed men to carry out the sentence. He finds Kreusa sitting on the altar in front of the temple, where she had taken refuge, and a fierce altercation takes place between them. At this point the Pythia enters, bearing the ark in which, as a baby, Ion was found at the entrance to the temple. Kreusa recognizes the ark, and without seeing them is able to describe the objects it contains objects which she herself once placed there. She has found her son, and Ion has found his mother. Mutual hate is transformed into mutual love, and both are beside themselves with joy. But who, Ion wants to know, is his father? Is it Apollo, as Kreusa maintains, or is it Xuthus, as Apollo himself, apparently, has declared?

He is about to go and ask the god when there appears high above the temple, in a blaze of light, an awe-inspiring figure. It is Pallas Athene in her chariot. She has come from Athens with a message from Apollo. He is indeed Apollo's son by Kreusa, she tells Ion, and Kreusa is to take him with her to Athens and seat him on the throne of her fathers. He will have four sons, who will give their names to the four Athenian tribes, the descendants of whom will spread overseas and be called Ionians. Kreusa and Xuthus, too, will have offspring, but Xuthus is to be kept in ignorance of Ions true parentage. Apollo has done all things well, the goddess tells Kreusa in conclusion. Having given her an easy delivery, he caused Ion to be brought up in his own temple, and has saved him from death by means of a timely omen. Kreusa thankfully acknowledges this, and the play ends with the Chorus hailing Zeus and Apollo and affirming their belief that those who despite adversity continue to honour the divine powers 'at last attain their right'.

Ion was an enthralling work. It was based on a story of deep human interest, and with its sudden reversals of fortune, its violent confrontations, its eloquent speeches, its dazzlingly beautiful lyric flights on the part of the Chorus (flights that could be appreciated, to an extent, even in English translation), and its daring exploration of the mystery of divine justice, it was proof that Euripides fully deserved his place as one of the three master tragedians of Ancient Greece, little as he may have been appreciated, in his own day, in comparison with his two great rivals. As I read the play that morning in our nook above the theatre, every now and then raising my eyes from the page to look down at the remains of the temple in whose forecourt the action took place, it was as though I could see the drama unfolding before me. Indeed, it was as though I saw not buskined actors but living human beings moving and speaking there. I saw Ion decorating the portals of the temple, saw the arrival first of Kreusa and then Xuthus, saw Ion repulsing and finally embracing his (supposed) father, saw Kreusa give poison to the old servant, saw her taking refuge on the altar in front of the temple, saw the Pythia enter with the ark, saw mother and son reunited at last even saw high above the temple roof, in the midst of the blue sky, the majestic figure of Pallas Athene, helmeted and carrying a spear and with her breast covered by the aegis.

In Euripides Andromache too, which I read that afternoon, the Delphic oracle plays a crucial role, though the scene of the play is the temple of Thetis in Phthia, a town of Thessaly. All the principal cities and people of Ancient Greece appear to have maintained close relations with Delphi and its presiding deity, as was evinced by the little temple-like state treasuries or their ruins that could be seen lining the Sacred Way, much of it still paved, that wound up through the Sacred Precinct to the temple. Delphi and Athens, Apollo and Pallas Athene, enjoyed particularly close relations, and it was therefore fitting that at 7 o'clock that evening, having paid a second visit to the souvenir shops without my buying anything, Terry and I should have left Delphi for Athens, following the very route via Lebadeia that Ion, Kreusa, and Xuthus had followed in the distant, legendary past.
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Re: Moving Against the Stream, by Dennis Lingwood

Postby admin » Sat Aug 01, 2020 1:18 am

Chapter Thirty-Eight: Athens and the Peloponnese

Athens was both extremely crowded and extremely hot, and instead of its ancient violet crown it wore a dun-coloured mantle of modern industrial smog. Terry and I arrived in the city shortly before midday. We had spent the night at a spot a few miles on from Labadeia, once the seat of the oracle of Trophonius, and having crossed the Boeotian plain, with its newly harvested wheatfields, had made our way over range upon range of low mountains to emerge, eventually, into the plain of Attica, where we were at once surrounded by the silver-green of the olive Pallas Athene's gift to the people of Athens. Soon we were driving past Eleusis, and as we approached the coast we could see not only a skyline disfigured by tall factory chimneys but also, through the haze, the vision of a white rock on which stood a pure white temple the Acropolis and, crowning it, the Parthenon.

Parking proved to be a matter of some difficulty, but after driving around for a while, and incidentally enjoying a view of the Parthenon from the west, we managed to find a spot. According to my diary we found it near Onomia, by which I must have meant Omonia -- or Concord Square, for my diary further records thatwe explored the area a little on foot and ate some rather sickly Greek sweetmeats. We also looked in some of the bigger souvenir shops, but to our disappointment the reproduction pottery was inferior in quality to what we had seen in Delphi. At 3 o'clock we decided to find a campsite. Unfortunately, we took the wrong road out of Athens and found ourselves down at the harbour of the Piraeus, so that, having re-entered the city and found the right road, it was 4 o'clock before we booked in at Athens Camping, as the site was called. Here we spent the rest of the day, as we felt too tired to do more than make a few purchases at the camp shop and go for a little walk.

In the same way that Delphimeant the temple and oracle of Apollo, so for me Athens meant the Parthenon, where the great chryselephantine statue of the Virgin Goddess had once dominated the inner sanctum, and the following morning Terry and I lost no time driving into the city centre through the thick haze the product less of car exhausts than of the countless smoking chimneys and then round to the western slope of the Acropolis. Here we parked the Little Bus, and having climbed up to the Boule Gate and followed the zigzag ramp through the forest of ruined Doric and Ionic columns that was the Propylae at last attained the summit of the Acropolis, 512 feet above the surrounding city. Before me, planted firmly on the highest point of the great limestone rock, with nothing behind it but the bluest of blue skies, there rose dazzlingly white in the brilliant morning sunshine the miracle that was the Parthenon. Though time, vandalism, and war had damaged the structure badly (there was nothing left of the roof, or the walls of the cella), most of the fifty or more enormous, fluted Doric columns were still standing or had been restored, and Terry and I wandered among them admiring their beautiful proportions. Except for the Erechtheum, famous for the Porch of the Caryatids, and the Sanctuary of Zeus, both of which we also explored, much of the area surrounding the Parthenon was a waste of white marble fragments from which the sunlight was reflected so dazzlingly as almost to hurt the eyes. Such sculptures and carvings as had survived more or less intact, and were not in the Berlin Staatliche Museen, the British Museum, or the Louvre, were housed in the Acropolis museum, which was situated in the south-east corner of the citadel and into whose coolness and gloom we were glad to escape from the growing heat outside. Though the rooms contained much that was memorable, I recollect only the enigmatically smiling Norai or Maidens, a Calf-bearer that could well have been the prototype of Early Christian representations of Christ as the Good Shepherd, and a calmly beautiful bas-relief of Pallas Athene leaning on her spear.

Before leaving the Acropolis we stood and gazed down for a while at the urban sea which, spreading in all directions, lapped against the tree-girt lower slopes of sharply-pointed Mount Lycabettus a mile or so away to the north-east. Beyond Lycabettus, on the horizon to the north, there extended the shadowy blue shapes of the mountains where ancient Athens had obtained the marble from which the Parthenon was built. Sweating profusely in the intense heat, we walked back to the Little Bus, and from the Little Bus to the Pnyx, the hill on which the Athenian democracy met, and then to the ancient central Agora or market-place, which were situated west and north-west, respectively, of the Acropolis. The Agora was dominated by the Doric so-called Theseum, said to be the best-preserved Greek temple in the world, it having been used, successively, as a Christian and as a Muslim place of worship. Like the bigger and slightly later Parthenon it was surrounded by a waste of white marble fragments fragments that had once been part of the various administrative and religious buildings which then occupied the area. Near the Theseum stood an Orthodox church, but although we ventured inside I remember nothing of what we saw. I do, however, recollect the little wayside chapels in themselves miniature churches that we saw here and there in the bustling modern city. Some were hardly bigger than a good-sized dolls house, but all were complete with the traditional round-arched doors and windows, triangular gables, and red-tiled domes.

On our way back to the Little Bus we decided to visit Cape Sounion, the southernmost point of the Attic peninsula. Why we decided to visit it I cannot say. Perhaps we wanted to get away from people, by whom we seemed to be always surrounded, even on the steps of the Parthenon and in the Acropolis museum. Perhaps we wanted to escape from the polluted atmosphere of twentieth-century Athens and breathe the ozone-laden air of the coast. Or perhaps, again, we simply wanted to see the famous temple of Poseidon. Whatever the reason for our decision may have been, we left for Cape Sounion straight away, driving first down to the Piraeus via Omonia, and from there following the scenic coastal road south.

We spent three days at the coast, camping one night near the fishing village of Lagonissa and one night in the vicinity of the Cape. During the day we explored the little rocky bays and inlets, where pebbles of many beautiful hues could be picked up, wandered along the fine, sandy beaches, washed clothes, brewed tea, and heated up can after can of minestrone. Terry spent a good deal of time swimming in the warm, sunlit coastal waters, the colour of which ranged from pale turquoise near the shoreline to cobalt blue farther out. While he was thus disporting himself I sat on a nearby rock reading, on different occasions, Plato's Apology of Socrates, Ion, and Meno, and Euripides Bacchae, all of which I had read before but never in such propitious surroundings. One afternoon we drove a few miles up the other side of the peninsula to a stretch of coast known, according to the guidebook, as the Green Coast. Why it was so called was a mystery. Though the view over the Saronic Gulf was a sufficient recompense for the journey, there was not a scrap of vegetation to be seen. There was only naked rock and sun, and no shade, consequently, in which to park, so that we were obliged to turn round and drive on until we found, back on the eastern side of the peninsula, a line of what I took to be tamarisk trees. Tamarisks or not, they were certainly trees, and we were glad to take advantage of their scanty shade.

The most rewarding part of our little excursion was the visit we paid to the temple of Poseidon, god of the sea, or rather, which we paid to the twelve white Doric columns that were practically all that was left of the imposing fifth-century BCE structure. The temple stood on a headland, and commanded a fine view of the Mirtoön Sea, whose calm waters were dotted, here and there, with the dim shapes of islands. According to the guidebook, Lord Byron had written his name on one of the columns. We did not see the signature, but if the noble lord had indeed committed such an act of vandalism he had set later visitors to the site a bad example.

That evening -- the evening of the day on which we paid our respects to the trident-wielding god of the sea -- Terry admitted to feeling rather depressed, which indeed was obvious. Though the attack was not a serious one, it necessitated our having a long talk and we were late getting to bed. In the morning my poor friend was still feeling depressed, but as the day wore on the dark cloud lifted and by the time we returned to Athens, in the late afternoon, he was quite cheerful. Fortunately the cloud remained lifted, and except for the occasional minor relapse he stayed cheerful for the remaining weeks of our tour.

In Athens we drove straight to the Acropolis, where Terry took photo- graphs and we watched the sunset, and from there to Athens Camping. That night we had a problem to discuss a problem that might have caused us serious inconvenience and even disrupted our travel plans. On the way back to Athens we had become aware that the Little Bus had developed engine trouble and was in danger, perhaps, of breaking down. What were we to do? We could not do anything that night, but early the following morning we drove -- very gingerly -- into Athens in search of information and advice. The Greek Automobile and Touring Club was not very helpful, but eventually, after we had walked around for two or three hours (and cashed travellers cheques, posted cards, and bought a new cylinder of Gaz), we succeeded in locating the Volkswagen repair centre. They would not be able to do anything until Monday, they told us (it was now Friday), but if we took the Little Bus in early on Monday morning they would give the engine an overhaul and with this we had to be content. Sunday was perforce a day of rest, for not wanting to risk having a breakdown on the way we did not go anywhere. Instead, we spent the whole day at the campsite, where I read Plutarch and Aeschylus and started on The Pelican History of Greece.

As we did not know what was wrong, exactly, with the Little Buss engine, nor how much time it would take to put it right, Monday was a day of some uncertainty. It was also a day of disappointment, in one respect at least. Having left the Little Bus at the repair centre we walked via Euripides Street and America Street (piquant juxtaposition!) all the way to the National Archaeological Museum, our idea being to spend the rest of the morning in its galleries. We arrived there punctually at the usual opening time, only to discover that it was closed on Mondays. Fortunately, the museum gardens were open, and still more fortunately on our way through America Street we had called in at the English book- shop and added to our stock of classical authors. Instead of spending the morning with the masterpieces of Greek sculpture, therefore, we spent it with Richard Lattimore's The Odes of Pindar, Benjamin Rogers's translation of five comedies of Aristophanes, and The Essential Works of Stoicism. Though both he and I dipped into all three volumes, Terry, I think, spent more time with the philosophers and I with the poets.

We had been told that the Little Bus might be ready for collection by 2 o'clock. Having had our fill of poets and philosophers, at least for the time being, at 11.30 we left the museum gardens and set out for the Volkswagen repair centre, stopping on the way only to buy some Greek sweetmeats and sit in one of the squares eating them. Though the Little Bus was not ready for collection by 2 o'clock, it was ready an hour or so later, and we were able to take delivery of it knowing that its engine was now in perfect working order and that there was no danger of our travel plans being disrupted by an untimely breakdown. We therefore returned to Athens Camping in high spirits high spirits not untouched by a feeling of relief. We were glad to have the Little Bus back with us. We were glad to have it back, not simply because it was our means of getting from place to place. It was also our home, at least for the duration of our tour, and if we were obliged to be without it for any length of time, as had been the case that day, we felt naked and exposed, rather like a tortoise without its shell. With his extreme sensitiveness to other people, and especially to crowds, Terry felt such exposure more than I did. He also was quite attached to his convenient, comfortable Dormobile. In fact he was quite fond of it, and in the course of our travels I, too, became fond of the particoloured vehicle, half red and half white.

Tuesday was our last day in Athens. Having decided to leave for Corinth and the Peloponnese by midday we spent the morning in the National Archaeological Museum, the doors of which now stood wide open and which was full, unfortunately, of parties of noisy tourists being shepherded from room to room by vociferous guides-cum-lecturers. Though the museum covered all the periods of ancient Greek civilization, pride of place appeared to belong to the Bronze Age treasure from Mycenae. The treasure itself was not of bronze but of gold, which probably accounted for the fact that the room in which it was displayed was the most crowded part of the museum, the majority of visitors no doubt being drawn to the artefacts less on account of their artistic refinement, which was of a high order, than because they were made of gold. Such was the crush that Terry and I caught only a glimpse of the gold masks that had covered the face of the dead, the gold bracelets and earrings and the gold cups. We had a better view of the various kouroi, once known as archaic Apollos, as well as of the famous bronze statue of Poseidon on the point of hurling his trident, the graceful Praxitelean bronze boy, his eyes inset, I seem to remember, with white stone and coloured glass, and above all -- though only a Roman copy -- the marvellously posed Discobolus or Discus-Thrower. Whether gods or mortal men, they were all represented nude, as were the other male figures in the museums collection, whereas the female figures were usually draped, and the more I contemplated them the more I was inclined to think, with Goethe, Schopenhauer, and others, that the male human form was more beautiful than the female. Hardly less impressive than the statues, in their own way, were the funeral stelae, with their reliefs of an old man and his hunter son, a girl taking incense from a small box, and other scenes of a tender, domestic nature. There was also the famous bas-relief from Eleusis, depicting the youthful Triptolemus between Demeter and her daughter Persephone. Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, was shown giving Triptolemus the first grain of corn. According to the myth, she also gave him a winged chariot harnessed with dragons, and bade him travel the world spreading the benefits of agriculture among all men.

It was in honour of Demeter and Persephone, together with Dionysus, the god of wine, that the Eleusinian Mysteries -- the most famous mysteries of antiquity -- were celebrated. They were celebrated in the Telesterion or Hall of Initiation at Eleusis, fifteen miles from Athens, and it was in Eleusis that Terry and I found ourselves half an hour after leaving the National Archaeological Museum. A small, independent city state before it came into the Athenian sphere of influence in the sixth century BCE, it was now an industrial town. Writing in the year of our own visit, one traveller described it as singularly unattractive. Not only had the Goths and time wrought their usual destruction, but the foundations of the great hall and the scattered blocks of marble were surrounded by the smoking chimneys of several factories, so that he found it hard to imagine how such a scene of desolation could once have inspired the master of irreverence, Aristophanes, who wrote:

To us alone, initiated men,
Who act aright by stranger and by friend,
The sun shines out to light us after death.


This 'sun' was the light which blazed forth when, at the supreme moment of the initiation, the doors of the Anaktoron or Kings House, which stood within the Hall of Initiation, were suddenly opened to re- veal the Hiera or Sacred Objects. On the far side of the archaeological area there was a museum. Much of the statuary in it was Roman, but it also contained small scale models of the temples and other structures that had occupied the sacred precincts, and these gave us, between them, a good idea of how ancient Eleusis must have looked. But no models, however accurate, could revive the atmosphere of the place. Though tens of thousands, perhaps millions, of people had received there the deepest spiritual experience of their lives, no trace of that atmosphere remained. Unlike Delphi, the Eleusis of the Mysteries was spiritually dead, and it was therefore with thoughts not untouched by sadness that Terry and I left the once sacred site on the next stage of the day's journey.

Corinth was situated at the foot of the isthmus connecting the Peloponnese with mainland Greece. Having joined the Italian-style motorway and driven south-west along the coast, we reached it in the middle of the afternoon. Or rather, we reached them, for there were two Corinths, the Old and the New. Our business was with Old Corinth, a quiet, pleasant little town, hardly bigger than a village, but not so small as not to have several souvenir shops, in which we looked before visiting the archaeological area and the museum that stood on its outskirts. The archaeological area was a waste of ancient ruins from the midst of which there rose, relatively intact, the seven squat, monolithic Doric columns that were all that remained of the sixth-century BCE temple of Apollo, while in the museum there was little of interest except the Roman mosaics. We then drove to the Acro-Corinth, the great rock on the south which towered to a height of some 1,800 feet above Old Corinth. Commanding as it did the approaches to the Peloponnese, the citadel had been fought over not only by Greeks and Romans but also, in more recent times, by Franks, Venetians, Byzantines, and Turks, all of whom had occupied it for a while and all of whom had left their mark on the place. Terry and I did not climb to the top, but we climbed as far as the third gate, which was flanked by high towers and from which there was a fine view of the surrounding countryside.

We spent five days in the Peloponnese, visiting Mycenae, Tiryns, Nauplia, Epidaurus, and Argos in the east, Sparta in the south, and Olympia in the west -- all of them names no less redolent of myth, legend, and history than were Dodona, Delphi, and Athens. My companion and I had not been long on the road out of Corinth, heading for Mycenae, before we noticed that there was more vegetation here than in the Attica region. A good deal of tobacco was being grown, and there were olive gardens and vineyards, as well as plenty of wild thyme, the agreeably pungent scent of which filled the air. It was beside a field of tobacco, with the scent of thyme in our nostrils, that we slept that night, and before we left in the morning I picked some of the aromatic herb. Though I had already bought an Achilles pottery plate, and was to buy a small handmade rug, the real memento of my visit to Greece was those sprigs of wild thyme, which I kept in a small pot on my desk for many years and whose fragrance served to remind me not just of the days I spent in the Peloponnese with Terry but of our whole Greek experience.

On arriving at Mycenae we were dismayed to find several coachloads of tourists already there and streaming up to the citadel. Following in their wake, we soon found ourselves standing in front of the famous Lion Gate and gazing up at the massive lintel and the triangular bas-relief above. This relief depicted two lions confronted, resting their forelegs on the edge of a low, altar-like structure on which was a pillar which stood between them. Within the gate, surrounded by a double circle of stone slabs, were the shafts of the royal tombs in which Heinrich Schliemann, in 1876, had discovered the Bronze Age gold treasure that was now in Athens. Here we sat for a while consulting our guidebooks before ascending the broad, graded road that led to the summit of the acropolis and so to the terraces on which had once stood the palace of Agamemnon the palace to which he had returned in triumph from the sack of Troy only to be murdered by his adulterous wife Clytemnestra. Ruins lay all around -- ruins not only of the palace and of the Doric temple which, more than a thousand years later, was superimposed on its remains, but also of the many houses that had surrounded the royal residence in its days of glory. From the acropolis there was a view southward over the fertile Argolis plain.

Back at the circle of stone slabs we sat down and tried to read, but the chattering tour groups and loud-voiced lecturers in French, German, and English made it impossible for us to do this, and we therefore took refuge in one of the less important of the beehive tombs outside the Lion Gate. Here I read the Agamemnon of Aeschylus, the action of which takes place in the very palace whose ruins we had just been visiting. This was the first Greek play I ever read, and its grandeur inspired me, in my fourteenth or fifteenth year, with a wholehearted admiration for the genius of the great Attic tragedians, and for Aeschylus in particular, that I was never to lose. On my finishing the work we visited the 'Tomb of Clytemnestra' and 'Aegisthus Tomb', as the two beehive structures had been known since the time of their discovery, though the period to which they belonged was not that of the adulterous queen and her paramour but a much earlier one, that of the sixteenth century BCE. The biggest of the beehive tombs was the so-called 'Treasury of Atreus', also known as the 'Tomb of Agamemnon'. According to the guidebooks this was a very grand affair, and well worth a visit, but so great was the number of people trying to get in that we decided to give it a miss and press on to Epidaurus.

Between Mycenae and Epidaurus lay Argos and Tiryns, the former being -- it was said -- the oldest continuously inhabited town in Europe. It was a pleasant little place, and apparently flourishing, even if not to the extent that it had flourished during the spacious days of the Heroic Age. We halted there only long enough to buy provisions, telling ourselves that we would see the archaeological area and museum on our way from Epidaurus to Tripoli, which for reasons I no longer recollect we failed to do. Tiryns was remarkable for its massive 'Cyclopean' walls, so called from the Cyclopes, the race of one-eyed giants who the ancient Greeks believed had built the city for the legendary king Proetus. Some of the blocks used in its construction were 17 feet long and 7 feet high, and Hercules himself could hardly have moved them from their place. Tiryns had, in fact, a close connection with Hercules. It was to Tiryns that the Delphic oracle had sent the hero to serve for twelve years under King Eurystheus, in expiation for the crime of having killed his own children in a fit of madness, and it was Eurystheus who had imposed on Hercules his famous Twelve Labours. As in Mycenae, there was an acropolis and the remains of a Bronze Age royal palace, both of which we saw, but so gloomy and oppressive was the place that we did not stay long in Tiryns. The very name of Tiryns, I thought, had a sinister sound, as if echoing down the corbelled stone galleries that ran within the thickness of the outer walls.

Dodona, Delphi, and the Parthenon to an extent, all had their distinctive atmospheres. Epidaurus, too, had its atmosphere -- one that was immediately perceptible. It was a calm, healthy, harmonious atmosphere, as though a blessing rested upon the place, and it was not surprising that for a thousand years the sanctuary of Asclepius at Epidaurus should have been renowned as a centre of physical and mental healing. Terry and I arrived there towards evening, after a pleasant drive through low, pine-clad hills, and past orange orchards and lemon orchards, and whitewashed stone dwellings half hidden by olive trees. On our arrival we parked at the edge of the archaeological area, in a grove of pines. It was a peaceful spot, and when I had read the Chosphori or 'Libation Bearers', the second part of the great trilogy of which the Agamemnon is the first, and we had eaten, the two of us set out for the ancient theatre, in which there had been accommodation for 17,000 spectators, and which Pausanius, the second-century geographer, had described as the most beautiful theatre in Greece. A rehearsal of Euripides' The Trojan Women was in progress. The play was being performed, as we soon realized, not in the original language, or even in modern Greek, but in French. Nonetheless, with a sprinkling of other visitors we sat and watched for a while, the semicircles of stone seating rising tier upon tier behind us. The tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, and the comedies of Aristophanes, were regularly performed there during the summer months, we gathered, for though nothing remained of the stage buildings, the greater part of the auditorium had survived more or less intact and had needed little in the way of restoration.

In the morning we looked round the museum, where a plaster model of the buildings that had formed the nucleus of the sanctuary enabled us to imagine what the place had been like in its heyday in the fourth century BCE. There was the temple of Asclepius, the god of healing, the much smaller temple of Artemis, the maiden goddess of the hunt and the wild, and the mysterious Tholos, with its two concentric circles of columns, an outer Doric circle and an inner Corinthian one. Most interesting of all, perhaps, was the Abaton, or Porch, where patients spent the night and where they received, in their dreams, indications as to the kind of treatment they should be given by the establishments priest-physicians. Such treatment must often have been effective. In the museum there were stelae inscribed with descriptions of miraculous cures, as well as ex votos in the form of replicas of different limbs and organs, such as we had seen in the Basilica of St Anthony in Padua. The beliefs and customs of pagan Greece had been inherited by Roman Catholic Italy. St Anthony was the direct descendant of Asclepius. To me, Asclepius was the more attractive figure of the two. Indeed, he was one of the most attractive figures in the Greek pantheon. I do not recall seeing a statue of him in the little museum (the temples famous chrys-elephantine statue had long since disappeared), but his lineaments, as represented in ancient sculpture, were in any case familiar to me. He was represented standing, dressed in a long cloak, with bare breast, and grasping a club-like staff round which coiled a serpent. Himself the son of Apollo, he was sometimes accompanied by Telephorus, the boy genius of healing, and his daughters Hygeia, the goddess of health, and Panacea. As Terry and I left the museum, and as we wandered round the archaeological area, it was not difficult for me to imagine that the benign spirit of the divine physician still brooded over his ancient sanctuary.

According to the traveller who had described Eleusis as singularly unattractive, the remains of the temple and other buildings at Epidaurus were of archaeological rather than artistic interest, and in this he was probably right. Still, it was pleasant, in the morning sunshine, to wander in and out of the great piles of marble blocks and slabs, and past the rows of truncated columns, the whiteness of which contrasted very agreeably with the green of the pines and of the slimmer, darker cypresses. It was pleasant to breathe the same thyme-scented air that we had breathed on the road to Mycenae and which was a feature, so it appeared, of much of the Peloponnese. The only remains that were readily identifiable were those of the Tholon, the beautiful carvings from which we had seen in the museum, and those of the temple of Asclepius, and once we had surveyed them we returned to the Little Bus to read our classics, eat, and write postcards. Having written our postcards, we naturally wanted to buy stamps and post them; but by then it was siesta time and everyone was either absent or asleep, and not caring to wait until they resurfaced we were soon on the road to Nauplia and Argos.

Nauplia had been a seaport since ancient times, but it was the Venetians who, in the seventeenth century, had fortified the Palamidhi rock and developed the town. Driving round the place, now very much a tourist centre, we had a fine view of the fortifications, as well as of the tiny fortified Bourtsi Island a few hundred yards out in the bay. The road between Nauplia and Argos was on the level, but from Argos our way lay over a high mountain range, which meant that we had many hairpin bends to negotiate and made a fairly rapid descent on the other side. Soon we saw large flocks of curly-horned goats and sheep, and small, irregularly shaped fields bordered by low stone walls. There were also hundreds of little piles of stones, usually three or four to a pile, and all whitewashed. What might be the significance of these rude monuments, if monuments indeed they were, we could not tell, and we were still wondering about them when we reached Tripoli. Located practically at the geographical centre of the Peloponnese as it was, Tripoli was a town of some importance, but it was a modern town, and we stopped only to buy provisions before heading south, in the direction of Sparta. By this time we were both rather tired, and half an hour after leaving Tripoli we found a place to camp. It was below the road, in a ravine in which grew an abundance of giant thistles. Here we cooked a meal, read, and slept -- in Terry's case only fitfully.

Next day we set out quite early. It was a fine morning, and having driven over a low-lying range of mountains, and crossed the thin silver trickle that was the river Eurotas, we were in Sparta by seven. The town was situated at the foot of the mighty Taygetus range, which towered to a height of 8,000 feet above it to the west. Though it occupied the site of the famous ancient city of the same name -- the city of Lycurgus and Leonidas -- Sparta, like Tripoli, was a modern town, and we therefore drove straight on, past olive gardens and orange groves, to Mistra, five miles away, and soon were in another world.

To me Greece meant ancient Greece. It meant the Greece of Hesiod and Homer, of Pindar and the Attic dramatists, of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, of Herodotus and Thucydides, Demosthenes and Pericles, Phidias and Myron. It meant, what for me was no less significant, the Greece of pagan myth and legend. It meant the Greece of Zeus, Pallas Athene, Apollo, and the rest of the immortals, and of the shrines that had been dedicated to their worship. It was this Greece I had come to see, especially what for centuries had been the spiritual centre of the Greek world the temple and oracle of Apollo at Delphi. I was not interested in modern Greece, or even, at that time, in ancient Greece's heir in certain respects, the Orthodox-Christian Byzantine Empire. Culturally and spiritually speaking, therefore, the visit Terry and I paid to Mistra that morning represented an interlude in our tour of the Peloponnese; for Mistra, perched on a spur of the Taygetus, was a Frankish and Byzantine city, and had no classical remains.

We arrived at the gate of the old city only to find it did not open until eight. We therefore made our way round the ramparts up to the gate of the thirteenth-century Frankish castle. The castle was situated on the topmost part of the spur, high above the city, and from the gate also closed -- there was a fine view over the Eurotas valley. By this time the lower gate was open, and on entering it we found ourselves in what was virtually a city of the dead. Not that it was a city of ruins only. Some of the Byzantine buildings, especially the churches and monasteries, were still standing, or had been restored recently, and one was actually inhabited. This was the fifteenth-century convent of the Pantanassa, where two or three decrepit, black-habited nuns moved noiselelssly from chapel to frescoed chapel lighting lamps in front of the icons. The atmosphere of the place, as of the other churches and monasteries we saw there, was serene and peaceful -- a serenity and peace that whitewashed walls and window-boxes of bright flowers served only to enhance. From the ruins beyond there was direct access to the interior of the castle, and before long we were surveying what was left of the buildings surrounding the vast central courtyard, where pines and a solitary cypress grew, and looking down at the red-tiled roofs and domes of the city below. In the last days of the Byzantine Empire cosmopolitan Mistra with its 40,000 inhabitants had been second only to Constantinople, the capital, in prosperity and importance. Moreover, it had been a centre of culture and intellect, as well as of freedom of thought, and it was from Mistra that, in 1438, the philosopher Gemistos Plethon, the last of the Hellenes, had travelled to Italy, there to teach Greek, pioneer the revival of Platonism, and inspire Cosimo de Medici to found the Platonic Academy at Florence, thereby contributing significantly to the Renaissance. Mistra therefore had played an important part in the cultural history of western Europe, and three centuries later perhaps it was his appreciation of this fact that had led Goethe, in the Second Part of Faust, to represent the union of Faust and Helen of Troy that union of the spirit of the Middle Ages with the spirit of ancient Greece that had given birth to Romanticism, as embodied in the figure of their child Euphorion as taking place in the richly decorated inner courtyard of the castle of Mistra.

To what extent these were my actual reflections as Terry and I looked down on the red-tiled roofs and domes of the deserted city I cannot say. Certainly I was in a thoughtful mood as we left Mistra and drove back to Sparta. After visiting the museum, in which there was a sculpture of Helen of Troy between her twin brothers Castor and Pollux, we set out for the coastal town of Kalamata, our intention being to drive from there up the western side of the Peloponnese to Olympia. To get to Kalamata we had to cross the Taygetus range. Hardly were we into it, however, than we found the road closed for repair. It would be opened at twelve, we were told, but not being sure if we could rely on this we decided to return to Tripoli via Sparta and drive to Olympia from there. Two hours later, therefore, we were in Tripoli again. This time we walked round the town, and looked into the nineteenth-century church, so that it was not until early afternoon that we were clear of Tripoli and on our way to Olympia. There were thousands of grasshoppers on the road, and however carefully Terry drove it was impossible for us to avoid crushing some of the unfortunate little creatures. Exactly halfway between Tripoli and Olympia, in a clearing on the pine-covered hillside, we found a campsite. After we had rested and eaten, and Terry had read for awhile, we walked over to the open-fronted little shop that stood opposite the campsite, on the other side of the highway. It was run by a young man in traditional dress, and was chock-full of the most beautiful handmade rugs and floor coverings we had so far seen, all made, the young man told us, by him and his mother and sister. For the equivalent of three pounds I bought myself, to use as a meditation mat, a rug with a soft green background. Later that night I read Euripides Helen, and we had a long talk with a German who was also travelling in a Dormobile, in his case alone, and who had spent two years in India.

Our journey next morning took us over a range of mountains, through lush, sometimes hilly, country, and past villages so picturesque that Terry could not resist taking a few photographs. A lot of maize was being grown, but the plants were small and stunted, and bore little resemblance to the tall, leafy specimens I was accustomed to seeing in Kalimpong. Pines and cypresses dotted the landscape, and as we approached Olympia we saw olive gardens and orange orchards. There was an abundance of wild flowers. During the last stage of our journey the road ran for a while beside the river Alpheus, or rather, beside the dried-up bed of the river, which wound its grey, rock-strewn way through scenery of exceptional beauty. At eleven we reached Olympia. It was quite hot. After buying stamps and groceries in what my diary calls the Olympic village, we drove to the campsite, which was 'pleasant, but primitive', and where a rough table and benches stood invitingly beneath a tree. Here we spent the remainder of the day, except for a brief excursion into the village for the sake of the souvenir shops, and here I finished Helen and read Aristophanes' The Clouds. What was more to the purpose, I read Pindar's Olympian Odes, in which the 'Theban eagle', as Gray calls him, celebrates, in language of great power and beauty, and with many mythological allusions and digressions, the success of various victors in the great quadrennial games that Hercules, according to legend, had instituted at the site in honour of his father Zeus.

Originally, of all the sites we visited in the Peloponnese Olympia must have been the grandest. Besides the temples of Zeus and Hera and the principal altars and votive offerings, which were all situated within the Altis or 'sacred grove of Zeus', as the sacred precinct was called, there were administrative buildings, state treasuries, guest quarters, gymnasia, and colonnades, as well, of course, as the stadium and hippodrome where the foot races and horse races, respectively, were held. Above all, in the temple of Zeus with its six frontal and thirteen lateral Doric columns, there was Phidias' chryselephantine seated statue of Zeus, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. But these had all long since disappeared, and with them Olympia's former grandeur. When Terry and I drove to the archaeological area in the morning, we saw among the pines that had been planted in an attempt, apparently, to recreate the ancient 'grove of Zeus', only rows of truncated columns, scattered drums, and immense quantities of marble fragments. On the whole it was a mournful sight, and after walking round for half an hour we were glad to visit the museum. Here our spirits were revived by the well-known statue of Hermes carrying the infant Dionysus, the work of Praxiteles, and by the quite substantial fragments of sculpture from the western pediment of the temple of Zeus. The latter represented the battle of the centaurs and Lapiths, and I was greatly struck by the upright, calmly majestic figure of Apollo, who stood with right arm outstretched and head turned in the same direction, apparently in the act of repulsing a centaur. Of that figure it has been said that it marks the final achievement of Greek sculpture before the full 'classical' naturalism of the Parthenons sculpture. Nonetheless, standing before it that morning, there in the Olympia museum, I realized that although in the transition to naturalism much had been gained, something precious had been lost, and that certain archaic and early classical sculptures possessed a quality that affected me, for one, at a deeper level than did any of the masterpieces of the fully naturalistic period.

My attention was also drawn by a terracotta group of a bearded Zeus, looking rather pleased with himself, carrying off, tucked under one arm, an unresisting Ganymede, as well as by a metope of Hercules performing one of his twelve labours that of bringing the golden apples from the garden of the Hesperides. According to one account, the hero persuaded Atlas to pick the apples for him while he, Hercules, supported the world on his shoulders, and the metope represented him doing just this. Immediately behind him, clad in a simple garment with straight folds, stood Pallas Athene, helping him take the weight with her left hand. There was a striking contrast between the bowed head and straining muscles of the hero and the calm, relaxed attitude of the goddess, who appeared to be making no effort at all. Her features, like those of the pedimental Apollo, were expressionless. Superhuman in power and beauty as they were, the immortal gods were untouched by the troubles of mortal men.

Olympia was the last ancient site we visited in the Peloponnese, and having left the museum we set out for Patras, driving through flat, well-cultivated countryside the monotony of which was relieved by a generous sprinkling of cypresses. Our intention had been to stay at the Kato Achaia campsite, but there being no sign of any such place we decided to stay -- despite its name -- at Villy's Park-Camping Bamboo, which was situated at the seaside, only a few miles from Patras. Both the beach and the water were dirty, and there were no bamboos, though there were several fine red oleanders. During the afternoon things were quiet, and I was able to read Sophocles Antigone and ?Euripides Rhesus, but from seven o'clock onwards there was so horrid a din coming from the jazz band next door that we went for a walk in order to get away from it. The road was hardly less noisy, however, as well as being dusty, and we were soon forced to return to the campsite, where the din continued unabated far into the night. The result was that neither of us slept very well, so that when morning came we were glad to pay our bill and go.

In Patras we bought a box of Turkish delight as a present for Francoise, then drove to Rion, where there was a fine view over the Gulf of Patras. It was a very hot day, and we waited half an hour in the sun before boarding the car ferry to Antirion. Fifteen minutes later we were on the mainland and heading for Missolonghi.

From Missolonghi we travelled up to Igoumenitsa, following (in reverse) the route down which we had driven three weeks earlier, passing through Agrinion (the town we had missed before), Amphilochia, Arta, and Yannina, and spending three nights on the road. In the course of the journey we watched the sun go down over the mountains, were an object of curiosity to goatherds and small boys, read Pindar and the Pelican History of Greece (me) and Suzuki on Zen (Terry), stopped for meals beneath big, shady trees, and posted the last of the cards we would be sending from Greece. In Igoumenitsa we found the shipping office closed (it was siesta time). We therefore had to return and complete the formalities in the evening, after we had booked ourselves into a campsite near the beach. Next morning we were at the quayside soon after five-thirty, embarked at six, and half an hour later were on our way to Brindisi. It was a fine, sunny day. The sea was a deep, dark blue, and very quiet. Terry and I passed the time either walking round the deck or sitting in deckchairs at the side of the ship reading. My reading was Plato (the Gorgias) and Walt Whitman, whose 'Passage to India' I had read the night before. At 4.30 we reached Brindisi. There were no formalities of any kind, and after shopping in the supermarket we drove straight to the campsite.
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Re: Moving Against the Stream, by Dennis Lingwood

Postby admin » Sat Aug 01, 2020 1:55 am

Chapter Thirty-Nine: Naples, Rome, and Florence

Terry and I spent two nights in Brindisi. During the second night there was a storm, with plenty of thunder and lightning. It also rained heavily, so that on our leaving for Taranto the following morning, in bright, clear weather, there was an agreeable freshness in the air and the olive gardens, vineyards, and tobacco fields of the flat countryside through which we passed had a rejuvenated look. Taranto, on the gulf of that name, was a modern town, and much larger than we had expected. But though it was a modern town, there were no signposts, and we found our way through it with difficulty, incidentally catching a glimpse of the sea and of the old town on its island.

Taranto behind us at last, we drove on through a number of much smaller towns -- all the time gradually ascending. At Castellanetta there was a large, gaudy monument to Rudolph Valentino, the archetypal romantic hero of the Hollywood silent films, and at Matera we found people living in what apparently were abandoned stone quarries. From Matera onwards the road became steeper. So much steeper did it become, and so numerous were the bends, that I was overcome by altitude sickness and we had to call a halt. Terry was unaffected, and while he ate a good lunch I started reading Aristotle's Ethics, which I had begun a few days before, but soon fell asleep. We then pressed on through the mountains to earthquake-prone Potenza, 2,700 feet above sea level. The scenery was very fine, and with its wooded slopes reminded me of that of Switzerland. After Potenza there were more towns on peaks, and I had another attack of altitude sickness. This time we did not stop, except to buy grapes at Eboli, our descent being in any case slowed down by all the road-widening work that was going on. Soon we were out of the mountains and driving through Campania, past the British war cemetery and past field after field of tomato plants. When we were a few miles short of Salerno we turned off the main road to the Lido di Salerno campsite, where we arrived at 7.30, having driven more than 230 miles and crossed from one side of the Italian peninsula to the other. The camp was situated within a few yards of the sea, and before retiring we went for a stroll on the beach. There was a strong wind blowing. Though the sea was a little rough, with big breakers, to me the sight was very appealing.

Salerno was famous in medieval times on account of its medical school, the earliest in Europe. Now it was a popular holiday resort, and as Terry and I drove into the modern town via the coastal road we saw that the beaches were strewn with litter. Indeed, parts of them were being used as rubbish dumps. The towns principal monument, the eleventh-century cathedral, was a building of considerable interest. In front of it there was a spacious quadrangular courtyard, the arcades surrounding which were formed of ancient Corinthian columns that no doubt once belonged to a pagan temple. The bronze doors of the cathedral were of Byzantine workmanship. At the time of our arrival a prelate, perhaps the bishop himself, was celebrating morning mass for the benefit of a very small congregation; but we were able to see the apse mosaics, where a rather naturalistic Virgin Mary was the central figure, and the two inlaid marble pulpits. From Salerno we drove to the resort of Sorrento, situated round the tip of the peninsula of that name, following the scenic coastal road, and turning aside to visit Ravello on the way. Not that we had to make much of a turn. The little town, or village, clung to the face of the cliff, almost immediately above the road, so that the climb up to it -- past orange trees and lemon trees and curious rock formations -- was a steep one. At the top of the steps stood the cathedral. Built in the eleventh century (thus our self-appointed guide) it had been 'modernized' at the end of the eighteenth, though the Corinthian columns that had then been enclosed were in process of being freed. In the shabby sacristy we found a fine, Sienese-style painting of the Virgin and Child, and some old vestments. We were not able to see the twelfth-century mosaics. Tomorrow the town would be celebrating the feast of the cathedrals patron saint, and the interior walls of the building were entirely covered with crimson draperies. Strings of coloured electric-light bulbs were still going up -- a form of decoration not at all to my taste. Like those we had seen on the way, the shops outside the cathedral were selling the local handmade pottery. In one of them we were approached for alms by an elderly, respectable-looking nun in black, the first religious mendicant we had seen. Having myself lived on alms for a while, I wanted to give her something, but before I could do so the woman shopkeeper intervened with what was evidently a scolding for bothering us and she turned silently away.

Driving on from picturesque Ravello (the hackneyed epithet is unavoidable), along the winding, rock-cut coastal road, we passed in quick succession through the no less picturesque Amalfi, Praiano, and Positano. Whitewashed houses, nestling amid orange trees and cypresses, climbed tier upon tier up the hillside on our right, and on our left fell tier upon tier down to the soft blue of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Little rocky peninsulas thrust themselves out into the calm waters, their every coign of vantage occupied by the colourful umbrellas and tiny thatched pavilions of the bathers. It was an idyllic, even a paradisaical scene, and one that in its opulent loveliness rivalled the more austere beauty of coastal Greece. But of course there was a serpent in this paradise, in the form of the slow-moving, pollutant-emitting stream of cars, coaches, and campers of which we were ourselves a part. So slowly did the stream move in the hot sun, at times crawling along bonnet to bumper, especially when we turned and crossed to the other side of the peninsula, that it was not until mid-afternoon that Terry and I reached Sorrento and found the campsite.

In the cool of the evening we went into the resort and walked round for an hour. Horse-drawn carriages were very much in evidence, and there were many souvenir shops. In one of the shops I bought two bookmarks, a copy of Axel Münthe's The Story of San Michele, and an illustrated guide to Pompeii, which we were planning to visit the following day, on our way to Naples. The Story of San Michele was a fashionable Swedish doctors account of his life in Capri in the halcyon days before the First World War, and in particular of the creation of San Michele, the villa he had built there with his own hands, incorporating into it marble fragments from the ruins of the palace of Tiberius, the old Roman emperor having spent the last years of his life on the island. I had read the book in Bombay, on the recommendation of my friend Arjundev Rashk, a Punjabi poet and scriptwriter of about my own age, and had enjoyed it greatly. That was ten years ago, and I was glad not only that I had the opportunity to read it again, but that I had come across it -- and could start reading it -- in a place so close to Capri, which geologically was an extension of the Sorrento peninsula, and which we hoped to be able to see from Naples. The illustrated guide to Pompeii, with its photographs of the excavated remains of houses, shops, and public buildings, and its artists reconstructions of what the city must have been like 2,000 years ago, helped prepare us for what we would be seeing -- and not be seeing -- on the morrow. In my own case, at least, the name of Pompeii had long been a familiar one. As a boy of eight or nine, confined to bed with what was believed to be heart disease, I had read Bulwer Lytton's The Last Days of Pompeii, and his vivid account of the city's destruction had left an indelible impression on my mind.

From Sorrento onwards the road round the peninsula was relatively uninteresting, and after Castellammare di Stabia, equidistant from Sorrento and Naples, it passed through an area of an increasingly built-up and industrialized character. Owing to the bad signposting, we experienced some difficulty finding the way to Pompeii, a way which took us, eventually, through very dirty streets and past piles of garbage. On arriving at our destination we were surprised to find, not the reconstructed pagan temple one might have expected, but a big Roman Catholic church. The church was indeed a basilica, and judging by the fact that all the shops and stalls in the vicinity were selling cheap religious souvenirs it was a centre of pilgrimage. There was also a Pontifical Institute, in whose modest museum we saw an interesting series of old prints depicting all the eruptions of Vesuvius from the seventeenth century onwards, as well as various objects recovered from beneath the layers of volcanic ash which for centuries had covered Pompeii. Thus prepared, we made our way to the excavations, and there spent more than two hours treading the pavements of the old city and seeing the remains, in some cases very extensive, of the buildings which the spade of the archaeologist had exposed to view. We saw the spacious Forum or market-place, with its lateral rows of truncated columns, the Basilica or hall of justice (some ancient churches so styled were originally public buildings of this type), the House of the Faun, named for the bronze dancing figure that had been found there and whose place was now occupied by a replica, the elegant House of Menander, in the atrium of which there were frescoes of the Sack of Troy, and the sad remains of the Temple of Isis, which I remembered as having featured prominently in the Last Days of Pompeii -- together with much else that my diary lumps together under a terse etc.

Many of the objects found at Pompeii were in private hands, but many were in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, and as we were eager to see them we drove straight from the excavations to Naples and straight to the museum. The streets through which we passed were all incredibly dirty; piles of rotting garbage rose breast-high at regular intervals, and in Naples itself -- an otherwise beautiful city, occupying one of the finest sites in the world -- the same filth was to be seen, even in the principal thoroughfares. Were the municipal dustmen all on strike, then, or was this the normal state of affairs? We had no means of knowing. The museum, unfortunately, was closed, or rather, it closed just after our arrival, either because it was siesta time or because Monday was early closing day. Taking the coastal road, we therefore drove on to Pozzuoli, which was rather cleaner, and from Pozzuoli to the campsite at Solfatara. It was a big, quiet camp, with plenty of trees, and I spent much of the evening reading The Story of San Michele.

As we discovered the following day, the National Archaeological Museum contained not only frescoes, mosaics, and encaustic portraits from Pompeii and its sister in disaster, Herculaneum, but an astonishingly rich array of Greek and Roman antiquities of every kind. On entering the building we were confronted by a perfect forest of white marble statues in which it was easy, as one wandered from room to crowded room, to get lost. Besides the Farnese Hercules, the group of the Punishment of Dirce, the bronze Hermes in Repose, and a hundred other sculptures hardly less famous, there were portrait busts of Greek philosophers and Roman emperors, elaborately carved sarcophagi, and colossal statues of river gods. The object that made the strongest impression on me, whether because of its non-naturalistic character, its warmer colouring, or its more subliminal appeal, was the rigidly hieratic statue of the Ephesian Artemis. This was not the fleet-footed virgin goddess of the Greeks, but a deity of a very different kind. Apart from her outstretched hands, her most conspicuous feature were the rows of breasts -- more recently identified as the testicles of bulls sacrificed in her honour -- that adorned the upper part of her body, and the friezes of beasts that covered the mummy-like remainder. On her head rested a square mitre, and there were more representations of beasts within the flat disc of her halo. Her attitude was reassuring, her expression benign.

On our way into Naples that morning we had enjoyed a fine view of the splendid curve of the Bay. We had also encountered roads which, while they may have been wider than those of yesterday, were no less filthy. On emerging from the museum we therefore lost no time getting on to the Autostrada del Sole and heading for Rome. This twentieth-century equivalent of the Appian Way ran through mountainous, well-wooded countryside; at one point we saw, perched on a neighbouring peak, the famed abbey of Monte Cassino -- unfortunately badly damaged during the Second World War. Three hours after leaving Naples we were in the Eternal City and looking for the Villa Ada campsite.

The first thing we did after having a meal was go to the camp shop and buy a guidebook. There was a lot to see in Rome -- perhaps more than in all the places we had so far seen put together -- and during the next five days we probably saw as much of the city and its monuments as could be comfortably seen in so short a time. Each morning we left the campsite straight after breakfast, and each day we spent the morning and much of the afternoon sightseeing. Since we did most of our sightseeing on foot, often in the open air, we were glad the weather was now cooler, and that there was an occasional sprinkling of rain. Evenings were spent at the campsite, where we cooked, washed clothes, read, studied our guide- book, and planned the following days excursion.

On the first day we saw first the Forum of Trajan and the Colosseum, then the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill. 'Walked round the whole area and saw everything,' my diary records with satisfaction, adding, 'Strong impression of greatness in size rather than in artistic conception. Everything seemed dark and heavy. None of the lightness of Greece.' We also visited the Capitoline Museum, among whose treasures were the Dying Gaul ('very fine') and the Spinarius or Boy With a Thorn. The second day began with a visit to the Pantheon (simple but grand), after which we saw St Peters in Vincula, with the famous statue of Moses by Michelangelo ('rather smaller than I thought it was'), and the Basilica of St Clement, beneath which there was a much older underground church and, what was still more interesting, a Mithraic sanctuary. From St Clements we drove to the Basilica of St John Lateran, on which my diary comments, Big and impressive, but cold. Typical papal triumphalism. Mosaics in apse beautiful, though. Sadly overpowered by rest of structure. The days excursion ended in the National Museum in the ruins (stupendous) of the Baths of Diocletian, where we saw a marble copy of the Discobolus of Myron (extraordinarily beautiful), the Pugilist at Rest, and the famous relief of the Bath of Hera.

Our third day in Rome was devoted to St Peters and to the Vatican Museums. Though I could not but agree that the dome of St Peters Michelangelo's dome -- was one of the most beautiful in the world, I was disappointed by the interior of the vast building. It was magnificent, but it was cold. Walking round the nave, we saw the bronze statue of St Peter (people were kissing its toe) and Michelangelo's Pietà. We also saw, at the foot of one of the great piers, the altar and bodily remains, apparently complete -- of St Josaphat. Could this be the Josaphat of the popular medieval legend of Barlaam and Josaphat, which scholars had shown to be based, ultimately, on a version of the life of the Buddha, Josaphat being a corrupted form of Bodhisattva and Barlaam of 'Bhagavan' or Lord? In that case the bodily remains of St Josaphat, enshrined there at the very centre of Roman Catholic power and prestige, would be, if genuine, those of Gautama the Buddha. As it happened, the accidents of history had been responsible for no such irony. Years later I discovered that the St Josaphat whose remains reposed beneath the dome of St Peters was a Polish bishop, martyred in 1623,who had devoted his life to reuniting schismatics with the Holy See. But I also discovered that both Barlaam and Josaphat had a formal place in the roll of Christian saints, and that special days in the calendar were set apart in their memory. In the Menology of the Greek Church, the commemoration of St Josaphat was on August 26 -- my own birthday.

The Vatican Museums were very much in the plural number. There were at least five separate museums, besides numerous galleries, rooms, courts, chapels, and loggias, all full of works of art of various kinds, from ancient Greek sculptures to Italian Renaissance paintings, and from Etruscan vases to medieval illuminated manuscripts. By the time Terry and I arrived the Museums had been open for an hour or more, and the tourist season being at its height the place was uncomfortably crowded. 'Tremendous crush', my diary records. Working our way through the press, we managed to visit the museums and the Vatican library, as well as the picture gallery and most of the chapels and apartments. With so many people everywhere, it was at times difficult to get a proper view of the works of art, and the only ones of which I have a distinct recollection are the Laocoön, the Apollo Belvedere ('grey with dust, especially on the shoulders'), and Raphael's School of Athens. The Sistine Chapel was particularly crowded, but we sat there for a while, gazing up at Michelangelo's frescoes of the Creation on the ceiling and at the frescoes of the Last Judgement on the wall behind the high altar.

Our next days excursion took us, initially, to the semi-rural outskirts of Rome and to the catacombs of St Domitilla and St Calixtus. The former appeared to be the less well-known of the two. At any rate, Terry and I were the only visitors, and the young man who showed us round appeared to be the only guide there was. I had not realized that these Early Christian underground cemeteries were so extensive. The catacombs of St Domitilla were on four levels. At each level there was a network of galleries, the different levels being connected by flights of steps. Excavated from the dark volcanic rock, the galleries were only a few feet in width, and the walls on either side were lined from floor to ceiling with row upon row of horizontal burial-niches. There was also a small (restored) basilica, the upper part of which had originally projected above the ground. At the catacombs of St Calixtus there were a dozen or more visitors, and our guide was a well-informed young Canadian priest. There were between twelve and fourteen miles of galleries on four levels, he told us, before we followed him down the steps into the dimly-lit passages of the labyrinth below. The principal objects of interest were the Crypt of the Popes, which contained the sarcophagi of nine third-century pontiffs, and the Crypt of St Cecilia, where there was a marble copy of Moderno's recumbent statue of the martyred patroness of music. In the afternoon, having cashed travellers' cheques in the Piazza di Spagna and looked in vain for affordable marble statuary, we drove to the Villa Borghese. It had just closed for the siesta, so taking the hint we went and had a siesta of our own back at the campsite, returning three hours later to view one of the choicest collections of sculptures and paintings we had so far encountered. There was Bernini's David, together with his Apollo and Daphne and Rape of Persephone, all of which I thought particularly fine, as well as Cranach's Venus and Cupid, Caravaggio's St Jerome, Dossi's Circe, and Titian's Sacred and Profane Love.

Our fifth and last day in Rome happened to be a Sunday, and the streets through which we drove on our way to the Church of St Ignatius -- the church of the Jesuits -- were comparatively deserted. The interior of the imposing 'Jesuit-baroque' building was highly ornate, with gilding and coloured marbles very much in evidence. Mass was still in progress, the congregation being a fairly large one in which there were many nuns, all conspicuous in the black, white, blue, or parti-coloured habits of their respective orders. Afterwards we went and looked at the sumptuous polychromemarble altar of St Ignatius -- said to be the richest monument in Rome -- and gazed up at the famous trompe l'oeil fresco of the triumph of St Ignatius in the cupola of the church. From the _____ we walked the few hundred yards to Santa Maria sopra Minerva ('extremely beautiful and impressive', says my diary), the only large Gothic church in the city. It was a church of the Dominicans, and though I did not realize it at the time, in a marble sarcophagus under the high altar lay the body of St Catherine of Siena. Having sat through mass, celebrated for the benefit of a very small congregation, we walked round the building and saw the tomb of Fra Angelico and the chapel dedicated to St Thomas Aquinas.

Our next port of call was Santa Maria in Cosmedin. In order to get there we had not only to drive along the bank of the Tiber, but also to cross the river more than once, which meant that we had a good view of the famous boat-shaped Island. Santa Maria in Cosmedin was a small church, and its ninth-century interior, unlike that of the _____,was simple to the point of austerity. Nearby stood the Temple of Vesta, where the Vestal Virgins had once tended the sacred fire. The principal object of the mornings excursion, however, was St Paul's Outside the Walls, which as its name suggested was situated beyond the walls that had surrounded the ancient city. Dating from the fourth century, this was a basilica-type church, and next to St Peter's' the biggest church in Rome. 'More truly grand than St Peter's', my diary records admiringly, 'especially the interior'. The latter consisted of a nave and four aisles. From the alabaster windows of the clerestory a soft amber light fell on the long double rows of Corinthian columns, lit up the carved and gilded ceiling and the glittering mosaics of the chancel arch, and penetrated into the apse. The overall impression was one of peace and harmony. No less peaceful were the cloisters, round which Terry and I walked as soon as the sung mass was over and the congregation had dispersed. On our way back into the city we passed the Pyramid of Caius Cestius Shelley's 'wedge sublime' -- and the Baths of Caracalla, and paid a second visit to the Colosseum,where Terry took photographs. Our last stop was at Santa Maria Maggiore, a fifth-century basilica church the interior of which my diary pronounces 'glorious', and where there was the biggest congregation we had seen that day.

During our five days in Rome, some monuments -- and some works of art -- naturally impressed me more deeply than others, but there were three monuments that must have made a particularly deep impression, inasmuch as for many years they occupied, in recollection, the forefront of my picture of Rome, everything else being relegated to the background. The three were the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and the Catacombs. In the case of the Colosseum it was not the actual building I remembered so much as the experience I had there. During which of our two visits the experience took place I do not know. Probably it was during the second, when I wandered off on my own while Terry was taking his photographs. Whichever it was, as I stood at the centre of the vast amphitheatre I became aware of all the blood that had been shed there -- of all the human beings and animals that had been 'butchered to make a Roman holiday' on that spot. I did not simply remember having read about such horrors in books. It was as though the pain and terror that had accompanied those countless dreadful deaths had left permanent traces on the atmosphere of the place and that I was picking up those traces. My memory of the Pantheon was of a very different kind. It was a memory not of the exterior of the second-century building, grand though this was, so much as its hemispherical interior. As I stood beneath the centre of the vast dome, looking up through the circular opening that was the principal source of light, it was as though I was standing on the surface of the earth and looking through a hole in the outermost crystalline sphere of the Ptolemaic universe -- the sphere of the fixed stars -- directly into the Empyrean.

If in the Pantheon I ascended in spirit to the heights, in the Catacombs I descended into the depths. The descent was as much temporal as spatial. It was a descent not only into terrene depths but into the 'dark backward and abysm of time'. From there one could see how vast was the difference between the splendour of the ornate, triumphalist structures of the Church's later days and the stark simplicity of those tomb-lined subterranean galleries. Christianity had changed radically in the course of its nineteen hundred years of history. In St Peter's one breathed a very different atmosphere, spiritually speaking, from that which one breathed in the Catacombs. Pagan temples may have been converted into places of Christian worship, but Rome was still Rome, and the Pope was the successor, in many respects, not so much of the Prince of the Apostles as of Caesar.

Back at the Villa Ada campsite we had a meal, rested, and read, and then at five o'clock left for Florence by the Autostrada del Sole. The countryside through which we passed was pleasant, but not very interesting, and except for Orvieto on its rock we saw nothing remarkable in the course of our journey. At 8.30 we reached Florence, where we soon located the International, as the campsite was called. Though it was the best campsite we had seen in Italy, very few people were staying there, and we had the olive grove in which we were parked all to ourselves. When darkness fell, we could see the lights of the Certosa -- the monastery of the Carthusians -- glittering in the distance.

Our five days in Rome had left us with a multitude of impressions to digest, and it was perhaps for this reason that in the morning neither my friend nor I felt like going anywhere. We were content, instead, to stay in the olive grove and read. For the last few days I had been reading A.H. Armstrong's An Introduction to Ancient Philosophy and Karl Jaspers' Way to Wisdom, but I now put them aside in favour of Plato's First Alcibiades and the Svetãsvatara and Kaivalya Upanishads. Why I should have wanted to read the Upanishads there in Florence, or indeed have taken a volume of these ancient Hindu scriptures with me to Italy and Greece in the first place, I do not know. Perhaps I was unconsciously preparing for my forthcoming visit to India. During my first two or three years in the East I had studied the Upanishads intensively, and the Svetãsvatara or 'White Horse' Upanishad was a great favourite of mine. I was particularly fond of its more poetical verses, such as those in which the inspired author of the Upanishad, addressing the god Rudra (a form of Shiva), exclaims, 'You are the dark blue bird, you are the green parrot with red eyes. You are the cloud with the lightning in its womb. You are the seasons and the seas.' The image of the green parrot with red eyes had stayed with me ever since.

There were no green parrots in our olive grove. In view of the Italian sportsman's penchant for shooting anything that moved, there were probably no birds there at all. Birds or no birds, the grove was very peaceful, and Terry and I spent the best part of our first day in Florence happily absorbed in our books. At four o'clock, however, having completed a few chores, we both experienced a change of mood and decided to drive into the city. Half an hour later we were in the Piazza del Duomo. The huge Cathedral with its red-tiled dome and polychrome marble facing, the tall, slim bell tower, and the octagonal Baptistery, were all looking extremely beautiful in the rays of the setting sun, and formed between them what was perhaps the most harmonious complex of buildings we had seen in Italy. The interior of the Cathedral was dimly lit and cavernous, that of the much smaller Baptistery lined with coloured marbles and Byzantine mosaics. We were particularly drawn to Ghiberti's bronze-gilt east doors of the Baptistery -- the Doors of Paradise, Michelangelo called them -- and spent some time looking at the sculptured panels depicting biblical scenes and at the statuettes of prophets and sibyls. In the streets nearby there were several good bookshops, in one of which I bought Burckhardt's Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy for myself, as well as Luigi Barzini's The Italians, and the Modern Library Philosophy of Kant for Terry, who at that time was reading Will Durant's Outlines of Philosophy. We also looked at various other shops. The level of craftsmanship was higher than anything we had found elsewhere in Italy, and Terry bought two cheap but attractive necklaces, one for Nicki and one for Vivien.

Unlike Rome, where the ancient and the modern existed in uncomfortable juxtaposition, Florence, the cradle of the Renaissance, had succeeded in relegating modern urban and industrial development to the hinterland of the old, historic city. Terry and I were made aware of this fact when we drove, the following morning, across the river Arno and up to the broad sunlit expanse of the Piazzale Michelangelo, in the centre of which there stood a monument dedicated to the great artist. As we looked from the balcony of the Piazzale, which commanded a panoramic view of practically the whole of Florence, we saw a perfect sea of red-tiled roofs out of which there rose, looking for all the world like a ship serenely riding waves made red by the rays of the sun, the great bulk of the Cathedral. Where the red sea ended there stretched the smudged grey line of the more modern part of the city, while beyond the grey line there rose, tier upon tier, the green, gently undulant Tuscan hills. For some time we stood gazing down at the scene. The sun shone, the air was completely still, and not a sound came up to us from below. I felt much as Wordsworth must have felt when, crossing Westminster Bridge in the early morning, on his way to France, as he looked from the top of the coach at the city of London,

The river glideth at its own sweet will.
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!


The Arno, no less than the Thames, may well have glided at its own sweet will, but as Terry and I quickly discovered on descending from the Piazzale and re-crossing the river, the houses of Florence were certainly not asleep that morning and its heart was far from still. Florence was a busy, bustling, crowded place, and nowhere was it more crowded than in the Uffizi Gallery, which we visited after going round the Palazzo Vecchio or Old Palace of the Signoria and looking at Cellini's Perseus and other sculptures in the arcades of the adjacent Loggia. There were more than forty rooms in the Uffizi. Only two or three of them were closed at the time, and despite the crush we managed to shoulder and squeeze our way into all the rest. How Terry felt about the paintings I do not remember, but for my part I particularly enjoyed the Botticelli Room, where the Allegory of Spring, the Birth of Venus, and other masterpieces from the hand of the same artist were on view. By the time we left the Uffizi we were both feeling rather tired, though this was due not so much to our having been so long on our feet as to the fact that the gallery had been so uncomfortably crowded. After looking at the souvenir stalls in the market-place, and buying a few provisions, we therefore headed back to our peaceful olive grove, where we spent the rest of the day by ourselves. I continued reading The Italians, while Terry made a start on Kant but did not find the philosopher very easy going.

For the remainder of our stay in Florence our daily programme followed much the same pattern. The morning was spent sightseeing, the afternoon and evening reading in the olive grove. In a way it was unfortunate that we were seeing Florence towards the end of our tour rather than at the beginning, for by this time we had seen so many cities, monuments, archaeological sites, and works of art that even I was beginning to feel fatigued and we were not, perhaps, in a position to appreciate the glories of Florence as much as we might otherwise have done. Moreover, Terry felt rather depressed after one of our forays, and one morning, on our way into the city, I felt sick and faint. Nonetheless, in the course of the next three days we visited Santa Maria Novella, San Marco, Santa Croce, and other churches, the Gallery of the Academy, and the Medici chapels, and besides sculptures by Michelangelo, including his David and various unfinished Captives, saw paintings by Fra Angelico, Botticelli, and Masaccio, as well as the tunic and girdle of St Francis, the allegedly miraculous veil of the Virgin, and in the crypt of San Miniato, situated on a hill above the Piazzale Michelangelo, what my diary describes as 'strange relics'. In the evenings we read. I finished The Italians and started on The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy; Terry continued reading Outlines of Philosophy. On our last day in Florence I read Dante's La Vita Nuova, the Penguin translation of which I had bought that morning, when Terry and I were looking for presents for our friends -- a search that took us as far as the shops on either side of the Ponte Vecchio or Old Bridge, which had been blown up by the retreating Germans in 1944 and subsequently restored. I had first read La Vita Nuova or The New Life when I was fourteen or fifteen, and it seemed fitting that I should read it again while staying in the city of the poet's birth.

Though my friend and I were not in a position to appreciate Florence as much as we might have done, the overall impression that the city left on me, at least, was a distinctive one. The predominant note of Florence was beauty, even as the predominant note of Rome was grandeur. The city as a whole was beautiful (that is, the red-roofed historic city of which the Cathedral was the centre), and it was full of beautiful things. There were beautiful churches, chapels, and palaces, and the churches, chapels, and palaces themselves were full of beautiful paintings and sculptures. Even the people seemed more beautiful than those in other parts of Italy. Certainly they were more smartly dressed, particularly the slim, elegant women, who more often than not were stylishly clad in fashion- able black and left behind them a trail of delicate perfume. At the same time, I noticed that the beauty that was Florence's predominant note was, at its best, a sober, even an austere beauty. This was especially true of the Palazzo Vecchio, whose vast square bulk and solitary corner tower dominated the square of that name, as well as of the city's numerous Renaissance palaces, some of them now museums or art galleries, the severe horizontal lines and rusticated stonework of which gave me a particularly keen thrill of aesthetic delight.

I also noticed that Florence set great store by the memory of her great men, whose names were to be met with on every side. Dante, Giotto, Masaccio, Donatello, Verrocchio, Leonardo da Vinci, Alberti, Brunelleschi, Fra Angelico, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Cosimo and Lorenzo deMedici, Savonarola, Marsilio Ficino, Galileo … the list seemed endless. Florence in fact valued her great men. She valued them because they were individuals and she valued individuality. It was therefore not surprising that Burckhardt, writing of biography in the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance and comparing the two, should have pointed out that the search for the characteristic features of remarkable men was a prevailing tendency among the Italians, and that this it was that separated them from other Western peoples, among whom the same thing happened but rarely, and in exceptional cases. What was true of the Italians of the Renaissance generally was true, it seemed, of the citizens of Florence in particular; and, as Burckhardt had gone on to observe, This keen eye for individuality belongs only to those who have emerged from the half-conscious life of the race and become themselves individuals.

Neither Terry nor I slept much that night. This may have been due to the fact that our last night in Florence was also our last night in Italy, and because we both knew that once we had left Italy our tour would be virtually over, for we did not think of Belgium and the other countries through which we had passed on our way to Italy and, eventually, to Greece, and through which we would be passing -- in reverse order -- on our way back to England, as forming part of our true itinerary. But though we had not slept much, and were feeling rather tired, we rose early, left the campsite at six o'clock as planned, and were soon on the autostrada to Milan. It was a fine, cool morning. The countryside through which we passed was at first rather hilly, with plenty of cypresses, but afterwards it became quite flat and remained flat for the rest of our journey. At Milan, which we reached four hours after leaving Florence, we picked up the autostrada to Como, where we halted for a while beside the lake, then drove on to Chiasso. Though the customs formalities took only a few seconds, so heavy was the traffic that we spent nearly an hour getting from one side of the Italian-Swiss frontier to the other. Once across, we drove on to Lugano, where we decided to halt, having by this time been on the road for nine hours. The two lakeside campsites were full, but eventually we found a site away from the town, on the bank of a small river, and there passed the night.
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Re: Moving Against the Stream, by Dennis Lingwood

Postby admin » Sat Aug 01, 2020 3:45 am

Chapter Forty: Picking up the Threads

The last time we had crossed the Alps there had been snow on each side of the road through the St Gotthard Pass. That snow had now melted, exposing the rock beneath, though the surrounding peaks glittered white and immaculate in the morning sunshine. As before, I experienced a slight nausea, and was glad when we began making the descent to Andermatt. From Andermatt, after a further descent, we drove on almost as far as Altdorf, pulling up for the night on a small side road when we were a few miles short of the town. The following day found us in Lucerne. On the way we had a fine view of the lake, which was misty, with rainbows overarching the grey waters. In Lucerne we walked around for a while, had a coffee, and did a little shopping, then drove on to Basel via Olten. By this time it was raining heavily, and shortly after three o'clock, having crossed the Franco-Swiss border, we pulled up at the side of the road beneath the sheltering eaves of a stretch of forest. Here we ate, and here, the weather continuing 'very dull and dismal' (to quote my diary), we spent the evening absorbed in our books.

For the last few days I had been reading two books. One was Ronald Segal's The Crisis of India, the other Elmer O'Brien's The Essential Plotinus, a new translation of selected treatises from the Enneads. What India's crisis was, according to Segal, I no longer remember, but now that Terry and I were now on the last lap of our homeward journey, with our forthcoming visit to India very much in prospect, I must have felt the need to start making myself better acquainted with what had been happening in the subcontinent since my departure from its shores. The need that led me to read The Essential Plotinus was of an entirely different order. Segal's book dealt with matters temporal; the Enneads were concerned with what Carlyle called the Eternities. I had been interested in Plotinus since I was sixteen or seventeen. At that time I was indebted for my knowledge of his philosophy, as of Neoplatonism in general, mainly to the writings of Dean Inge and Thomas Whittaker, for although I possessed the Bohn Select Works of Plotinus, as translated by Thomas Taylor, so abstruse was the thought of those treatises, and so unfamiliar were the terms in which that thought was expressed, that I was able to make very little of them. There was, however, one exception. This was the famous treatise 'On Beauty', which according to Porphyry, Plotinuss disciple and biographer, was the earliest of the treatises. I usually read the treatise in the translation made by the mysterious group known as the Editors of the Shrine of Wisdom, a copy of which I also possessed, and I never read the slim blue volume without experiencing a thrill of delight, such as I experienced when reading the Symposium or Shelley's Prometheus Unbound. Reading it more than twenty years later, in a new translation, I experienced that thrill again.

Chiefly beauty is visual [the treatise began]. Yet in word patterns and in music (for cadences and rhythms are beautiful) it addresses itself to the hearing as well. Dedicated living, achievement, character, intellectual pursuits are beautiful to those who are above the realm of the senses; to such ones the virtues, too, are beautiful.


Beauty was chiefly visual! This was certainly true of the beauty that was the predominant note of Florence. It was a beauty of form and colour, of symmetry and proportion, of the contrast between dark and bright, light and shade, and the fact that I had responded to that beauty so keenly told me something about myself. It told me I was a lover of beauty. But beauty was not only bodily. There was a beauty that was supersensible the kind of beauty of which the Buddha had given Nanda a glimpse when he transported him to the paradise of Indra. That beauty, too, I could see, however dimly; to that beauty, too, I responded keenly. It was this keenness of response, indeed, that had helped me to become a Buddhist, or rather, that had helped me to realize that I was, in fact, already a Buddhist and had always been one. According to Plotinus, just as it is impossible for one born blind to talk about bodily beauty, so it is impossible for one who has never seen it to talk about the beauty that is supersensible.

Seeing of this sort is done only with the eye of the soul. And, seeing thus, one undergoes a joy, a wonder, and a distress more deep than any other because here one touches truth.

Such emotionall beauty must induce an astonishment, a delicious wonderment, a longing, a love, a trembling that is all delight. It may be felt for things invisible quite as for things you see, and indeed the soul does feel it, but souls that are apt for love feel it especially.


I had experienced something of that trembling that is all delight while I was in Florence, whether looking at the harmonious complex of Cathedral, bell tower, and Baptistery, at the paintings of Botticelli, or at the sculptures of Michelangelo, and it was perhaps this feeling of delight that had led me to read The Essential Plotinus, in which the first of the representative treatises translated happened to be the treatise 'On Beauty'. Be that as it may, the fact was that I had started reading Plotinus the night after our departure from Florence, when the spell of the city was still upon me, that I had continued reading him on the road between Andermatt and Altdorf, and that I now was reading him by a stretch of forest somewhere in France, with the rain dripping from the trees on to the roof of the Little Bus.

Despite the rain, both Terry and I slept well, and at ten o'clock, my friend having made tea and I having read a little more of Plotinus, we set out for Metz. It was a warm sunny day. In the course of our journey we passed through Mulhouse, Thonn, Col de Bussang, Remiremont, Épinal, and Nancy, stopping only twice on the way, once to do shopping, and once for a snack. From Épinal onwards the countryside was increasingly industrialized. At six o'clock, when we were a few miles from Metz, we halted for the night, parking in a beautiful green meadow beside a river. Terry had been a little depressed when we arrived there, but after reading Durant's chapter on Schopenhauer he declared he was feeling better, the teachings of the so-called philosopher of pessimism having cheered him up considerably. That night I had several strange dreams. In one dream perhaps a recollection of a previous life I was attending a party in Greek or Roman times. In another I was in Gangtok with Kachu Rimpoche, one of my Tibetan teachers, from whom I had received the Padmasambhava initiation and the name Urgyen.

Whether on account of these dreams, or simply because I had slept well, when I woke in the morning -- the morning of our last full day on the Continent -- I felt quite refreshed. It was a fine, sunny morning, and the countryside from Metz onwards, while not picturesque, was sufficiently pleasing to the eye. At midday, having driven through Thionville, Luxembourg, and Neufchateau, and thus crossed into Belgium, we pulled into the side of the road for lunch. It was a beautiful spot but every seven and a half minutes the quiet was disturbed by the sharp crack like that of a rifle -- evidently fired automatically, and meant to scare the birds from the crops. Nevertheless we stayed on there, and after a meal that concluded, for once, with pastries (bought in Neufchateau), we settled down to an afternoon of reading. Before my departure from England the editor of The Middle Way, Muriel Daw, had given me a book for review. The book was K. Venkata Ramanan's Nãgãrjuna's Philosophy, As Presented in the Mahã-Prajñãpãramitã-Sãstra, and to this I now turned. As I was already familiar with the authors views, having met him more than once in India, I read the work with particular interest, though so far as I remember I never found time to re- view it. His principal concern was to set forth the basic philosophical conceptions found in the Sãstra, which unlike some scholars he believed to be a genuine work of Nãgãrjuna, and to show that those conceptions constituted, in any case, a continuation and development of the thought of the Mãdhyamika-Kãrikã and other works universally attributed to the great Mahãyãna philosopher. From this he concluded that Nãgãrjuna's philosophy was not nihilistic, as some of its critics maintained, but in its ultimate import positive and affirmative.

The main purpose of the negative arguments in the Kãrikã was to expose the self-contradictions inherent in the position of the Sarvastivãdins who clung to the determinate as ultimate, the relative as self-contained. This is the error of misplaced absoluteness. The major function of the negative arguments in the Kãrikã is to reveal the relativity of the mundane; the question of the ultimate reality constitutes a minor part. It is the error in regard to the mundane nature of things that needs to be cleared up first. With the revelation of the essentially conditioned, non- substantial, relative nature of things, the tendency to cling might again operate, tending to end in negativism. This is an error in regard to the ultimate nature of things and it is in regard to this error that the sûnyatã of sûnyatã has been taught. What is sought to be revealed thereby is the non-ultimacy of the relative in their relative nature; the conditionedness of the conditioned is not their ultimate nature. The unconditioned is again not anything apart from the conditioned. The ultimate truth about the conditioned is that it is itself the unconditioned reality, the Nirvãna. This is the basic teaching of the Mãdhyamika.


By the end of the afternoon Terry had taken in enough of Kant and Schopenhauer for the time being, and I enough of Nãgãrjuna, and feeling the need for exercise we walked a mile or two up the road in the direction of Dinant, keeping to the narrow footpath between the roadway and the fields. On returning to the Little Bus we decided to drive further that evening, and were soon on our way.

From Dinant the road followed the course of the Meuse, and it was on the banks of this pleasant river that we spent the last night of our tour. In the morning we drove on to Namur, from Namur to Brussels, and from Brussels to Ostend. At half-past three we boarded the ferry, and half an hour later it left.
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Re: Moving Against the Stream, by Dennis Lingwood

Postby admin » Sat Aug 01, 2020 3:46 am

Chapter Forty-One: Back to the Vihara

The voyage from Ostend to Dover was a rather noisy one. This was due less to the ferry's engines than to the behaviour of some of the passengers, returning holidaymakers who, having come on board already a little worse for drink, had proceeded to take full advantage of the vessels duty-free facilities. Terry and I kept as clear of them as we could. I read a little more of Nãgãrjuna's Philosophy, and from time to time we walked round the deck. At 8.30 we arrived in Dover. The customs gave us no trouble, and from Dover we drove straight to Canterbury, where we parked near the Cathedral. Whether we were as happy to be back from our travels as we were to set out on them my diary does not record and I do not remember. Perhaps we could not quite believe that we really were back from those travels, for prior to settling down for the night we went and walked round the outside of the Cathedral, as though we were still in Italy or Greece and still sightseeing. The vast Gothic pile was floodlit, and walls, roofs, buttresses and towers showed golden against the darkness of the sky. There was no one about, and a deep silence reigned. In the morning we went there again, and spent half an hour looking round the glorious interior of the building. On our way back to the Little Bus I bought a Telegraph and a New Statesman, as I liked to know what was going on in the world, and what people were thinking. (Terry never read the newspapers.) We then took the motorway to London.

During our two months away my hair had grown the longest it had been since my arrival in England in 1964, and did not look very monastic. We therefore stopped at Dartford so that I could get it cut. In India I had always shaved my head, but in England I had allowed my hair to grow a little, though not much beyond the regulation length, which was in any case a matter of dispute, or at least of disagreement in practice, among monks belonging to different schools. Even so, the length of my hair had been commented on unfavourably by some of the more rigid English Theravãdins, as I well knew, one or two of whom professed to believe that the reason I was allowing my hair to grow was that I had decided to give up the yellow robe and return to lay life. Not that all such comment was unfavourable. As I also knew, some of the people who attended my lectures and classes, both at the Vihara and at the Buddhist Society, were pleased to see me looking more human and less ascetic. George Goulstone's flirtatious wife, who occasionally attended my Sunday afternoon lectures, indeed went so far as to whisper in my ear, after one such meeting, I love your gorgeous sexy hair. I did not know quite what to make of this declaration. I had never thought of myself as being sexy in any respect, and was certainly not conscious of putting out the quasi-erotic vibes that seemed to emanate from some charismatic Buddhist and Hindu teachers. The vast majority of English Buddhists, in London and in the provinces, came not for the sake of my hair, whether long or short, sexy or otherwise, but for the sake of the Dharma. Nevertheless, I did not want to upset the Theravãdins unnecessarily, or give them too much of a handle against me, and the haircut I had in Dartford was therefore quite a short one.

Besides getting my hair cut before returning to the Vihara, I had to change back into my monastic robes. Just when I did this I do not remember, anymore than I remember at what point I changed into civilian clothes after leaving the Vihara for Greece, though I probably changed into them somewhere between Dartford and London and in the privacy of the Little Bus. For the Theravãdin Buddhists of South-East Asia it was even more reprehensible for a monk to wear civilian clothes than to let his hair grow beyond the regulation length. Indeed it was unthinkable. In their eyes a monk who wore civilian clothes, if only for a few hours, was no longer a monk. I did not share this view, any more than the majority of English Buddhists would have done, had they thought the matter worth bothering about. While not entirely agreeing with Christmas Humphreys that the true Buddhist was one who wore the yellow robe within, I certainly did not believe that it was wearing the yellow robe and shaving the head that made one a monk. I had not worn my robes for the whole two months of our tour, but I knew myself to have been no less a monk, and no less a Buddhist, when wearing civilian clothes and visiting Delphi and other ancient sites, than when wearing robes and giving lectures and leading classes in London. This did not mean that monastic robes did not have their place, or that changes that might upset people, or give rise to needless controversy, should be introduced without due preparation, and as we drove to London I was happy to get back into my own familiar robes.

The drive was both long and dreary. It was long on account of the heavy traffic and the frequent red lights, and dreary on account of the picture presented by much of the urban landscape, and I was glad when we reached central London and parked near Charing Cross Road. While I waited in the Little Bus, Terry went to Watkins and collected the copy of Wilhelm Reich's The Function of the Orgasm which he had ordered some months before, the works of the controversial Austrian psycho- analyst being then difficult to obtain. From central London we drove up to West Hampstead and to the Indo-Pak restaurant, where we had a meal and from where I telephoned Francoise at the Vihara to let her know we would soon be there. No doubt we could have eaten at the Vihara, but Terry and I were conscious that our tour was now definitely at an end, and we wanted to have a farewell meal together before we started picking up the threads of our former interests and activities. Not that we were really saying farewell. But for two months each had been the others sole company; we had shared many experiences; and although we would still be very much in contact the fact that I, in particular, would be very busy, now that we were back in London, would surely make a difference.

On our arrival at the Vihara we found Viriya and David Vial working in the little front garden. Francoise, at her desk as usual, was obviously very glad to see us, as was the ever-solicitous Thien Chau. After a cup of tea and a chat with everybody Terry and I unpacked and settled in, my friend having decided to base himself at the Vihara for a few days before going to stay with his parents in Ilford. I then telephoned Alf Vial and Mike Hookham, learned that Christmas Humphreys was away on holiday, and had a long talk with Owen Jenkins, to whom I had entrusted the leading of one of the weekly meditation classes. Things had gone well during my absence, he reported. Activities had continued as usual, exactly as I had planned they should, and although attendance at the Sunday lectures had fallen off this had not been the case with any of the classes. As if in confirmation of his words, people were now beginning to arrive and gather in the all-purpose shrine room downstairs, it being Fri- day, the day of the guided group meditation class. I did not take the class myself, but during the break I gave interviews to three or four people, one of them being Antoinette Willmott. The following day -- I saw and telephoned -- more people, all of whom were eager to hear about the tour. Ruth Walshe came in the afternoon with Phyllis, followed later by Maurice.

That evening I attended the Annual General Meeting of the Friends of the Triyana Vardhana Vihara, the informal organization I had set up as a means of providing support for my little monastery in Kalimpong while I was away in England. Alf Vial, Mike Hookham, and Jack Ireland the Vihara's Three Musketeers -- were all present, and after the meeting the four of us had what my diary describes as a good talk about the future activities of the (Hampstead) Vihara.

Thus within forty-eight hours of my return from Greece I was back in the midst of my responsibilities as incumbent of the Vihara and Head of the English Sangha. I was also being reminded, as I sat listening to Alf's report as Secretary of the Friends of the Triyana Vardhana Vihara, that Terry and I would soon be paying a visit to India and that the visit would be, for me, one of farewell.
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Re: Moving Against the Stream, by Dennis Lingwood

Postby admin » Sat Aug 01, 2020 3:47 am

Chapter Forty-Two: Journey to India

I find it difficult to say just when I decided that my future lay in the West and not, as I had hitherto supposed, in India. Perhaps it was not so much a question of a decision taken at a particular point in time as of a realization that dawned on me gradually, after I had been at the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara for a year or more. When I asked Terry, at our third or fourth meeting, whether he could drive me to India -- he having offered to drive me anywhere I liked -- the words that thus sprang unpremeditated to my lips, though they turned out to have been prophetic, were not seriously meant. At that time I had been in England for little more than six months, and though I was aware that I had already exceeded the length of time I had originally intended to stay, and though I still thought of myself as being based permanently in India, I had not yet fixed a date for my return to the subcontinent, nor decided how I should travel, whether overland or in any other way. Little by little, however, as my six months in England became a year, and my year eighteen months, my attitude had changed. I saw with increasing clarity that for the present, at least, I could work for the good of Buddhism more effectively in England than in India. By the time Terry and I left for Greece, therefore, I had decided that I would be returning to India only to pay my friends and teachers there a farewell visit, and to explain to them what my plans were. I would be leaving in mid-September, and be away for four months. Terry would be accompanying me, and we would go by air.

A number of factors contributed to my decision or gradual realization -- that my future lay in the West, and that I could work for the good of Buddhism more effectively there than in India, and I find it difficult to say which of them carried most weight with me. Before my arrival on the scene the differences that had arisen between the Buddhist Society and the Sangha Association had widened into an open breach. I had sought to resolve those differences, to heal that breach, and had succeeded to an extent; but tensions still existed below the surface, and I knew that if the process of reconciliation was to continue I would have to remain in England. One of the ways in which I had sought to resolve the differences between the Buddhist Society and the Sangha Association was by making myself available to both organizations and giving lectures and leading meditation classes not only at the Hampstead Vihara but also at the Society's premises in Eccleston Square. The result was that some of the people attending those lectures and classes had come to regard themselves as my disciples, and to look tome for guidance in their study and practice of the Dharma, and I felt it would be irresponsible of me to abandon them. Considerations of a more personal nature also contributed to my decision that my future lay in England, though none of them was of sufficient weight actually to tip the scales. I wanted to engage more with Western culture; I wanted to see a little more of my parents (or rather, to enable them to see a little more of me); and I wanted to deepen my friendship with Terry though had I decided to return permanently to India he probably would have elected to accompany me, especially as there was now little possibility of his ever seeing his daughter again.

Not that there were no disadvantages attached to my being based in England rather than in India. As I had soon discovered, my busy life as incumbent of the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara and Head of the English Sangha left me with little time for literary work, despite my having stipulated, in accepting the Trusts invitation, that my mornings should be my own. My only consolation was that The Three Jewels, the preface to which I had written the previous summer, was now in the press, and that while I was away on my travels Francoise had typed the manuscript of the work that was eventually published as The Eternal Legacy. There was also the fact that Hampstead, and even Biddulph, was no substitute for Kalimpong, and that the view I had from the window of my noisy up- stairs front room at the Vihara was very different from the one I had from the veranda of my peaceful hillside hermitage in the foothills of the eastern Himalayas. In London there were no deep blue skies. There was no sudden vision of the snows of Mount Kanchenjunga as one turned a bend in the road. But the biggest disadvantage -- not to say deprivation -- attached to my being based in England was that I would no longer be in regular personal contact with my teachers, especially Dhardo Rimpoche and Kachu Rimpoche, or with my friends in Calcutta, Bombay, Nagpur, Poona, and other places I visited from time to time. My teachers, of course, did not need me, even if I still needed them, but the friends I had made among the followers of Dr B.R. Ambedkar who had converted to Buddhism did need me, and had my work among them not reached something of an impasse due to the politicization of the conversion movement after Ambedkar's untimely death I probably would not have left them. One of the biggest concentrations of the newly converted Buddhists was in Bombay, and it was to Bombay that Terry and I would be flying. There, I hoped, I would be able to make contact with some of my friends among them and explain that although in future I would be based in England I would continue to be concerned for their welfare and would help them in whatever way I could.

But it would be six weeks before Terry and I were in Bombay, and meanwhile there was much to be done. Between the time of my arrival back at the Vihara and my departure for the Buddhist Society's Summer School two weeks later I gave lectures and led classes, saw friends like Ruth, John Hipkin, and Toby, gave interviews, checked the typescript of The Eternal Legacy, wrote and dictated letters, spent time with Thien Chau and Viriya, and received a variety of visitors, from the Indian founder of the Asian Music Circle to a Vietnamese bhikshuni who wanted to start a world organization of Buddhist nuns. I also met, at the Sinhalese Vihara in Chiswick, the famous 'political monk' Walpola Rahula who, having made Ceylon too hot for himself, was now studying in Paris. We had a lengthy discussion, and according to my diary I found him 'very liberal-minded.' At that time I had not read his Bhikshuvage Urumaya or 'The Heritage of the Buddhist Monk', the notorious essay in which, on the basis of certain historical precedents, he had argued in favour of the full participation of Buddhist monks in the political life of the Sinhalese nation. Had I then been acquainted with the work, as I was to be some years later, I might have thought that Walpola Rahula carried his liberal-mindedness rather too far, for among the historical precedents he cited were those of the sixty monks who had attempted to assassinate the king, the 'large number' who in the' decisive battle for the liberation of Buddhism and the Sinhalese' accompanied the army and encouraged the warriors to fight, and the monks who in Ceylon's 1965 general election were again in the forefront on both sides.

While I was thus occupied Terry was busy seeing Vivien, Alan, and other friends and getting the photographs he had taken developed, for though he had gone to stay with his parents in Ilford he did not, it seemed, spend much time with them. Whenever he was in town he called in at the Vihara, and on two or three occasions we were able to go out together. Once we went to the Hampstead Public Library, where Terry selected books on Spinoza, Hegel, and Schopenhauer (my own reading at the time was principally Dean Inge's The Philosophy of Plotinus), and once to Kenwood where, since it was raining, we simply sat in the Little Bus and talked. Despite staying at Ilford my friend was not only looking very well; to my great relief, he was also in a much more positive frame of mind than he had been before our tour, which on the whole seemed to have had a tonic effect on him. He said nothing about his ex-wife or about his daughter, and I thought it best not to enquire. In the course of our tour he had more than once bought presents for Fiona, and I assumed he had found a way of getting them to her, perhaps through his mother, with whom Gillian had always got on well and with whom she was probably still in touch. My only cause for concern was Terry's increasing preoccupation with the subject of dãkinîs. 'Do you think I shall meet my dãkinî in India?' he one day wanted to know. Since it was from me that he had first heard about dãkinîs, in connection with my telling him about Jamyang Khyentse Rimpoche and his dãkinî, I could hardly answer the question with a flat negative, as though dãkinîs did not exist and were therefore not to be met with, even in India. At the same time I did not want to encourage any unrealistic expectation that he would meet there that unique, magical person who, by galvanizing his dormant energies, would grant him that sense of ecstatic fulfilment which he had experienced when he saw the Pure White Light and which he so desperately wanted to recapture. I therefore replied to my friends question non-committally, saying it was not impossible that he should meet his dãkinî in India.

The Buddhist Society's Summer School began on Friday 26 August my forty-first birthday. In the morning I attended to various odd jobs, and in the afternoon, after lunching with Thien Chau and Viriya, I gave a long interview to a woman from the Observer weekend colour supplement. Terry came at four o'clock, and an hour later I left for Hoddesdon with him and Thien Chau, Viriya following with Mike Rogers, a cheerful mid-thirties bachelor who was among the more regular attenders at my lectures and meditation classes. It was my third Summer School, and as it followed much the same programme as the previous two, from Toby's opening address on the Friday evening to my own Buddhist Conversation with John Hipkin a week later, my impressions of it are even less vivid than are those of its immediate predecessors. At seven o'clock each morning, having drunk a cup of Chinese tea with Thien Chau, I went and called Terry, whose room was some distance from mine, and the two of us went for a walk in the grounds. After the walk came breakfast, and after breakfast began a continual round of devotional meetings, meditation classes, lectures, discussion groups, and personal interviews which more often than not kept me busy until quite late at night. The only intermissions were the two occasions when I went down to London for a few hours, once to give my usual Sunday afternoon lecture at the Vihara, and once, three days later, to lead the full moon day celebrations there.

Yet although my impression of that year's Summer School are so lacking in vividness, and although, in recollection, only a few individual events stand out separate from the rest, like hilltops from the surrounding mist, I nonetheless remember feeling, when Terry and I left at the end of the week, that it had all been very worthwhile. It had been worth while, from my point of view, not so much on account of the different organized events in which I had taken part, as because of the opportunity it had given me of exchanging at least a few friendly words with so many English Buddhists, most of whom I already knew. Indeed, many people were eager to speak with me -- many more than in previous years. Such was the warmth by which I was surrounded, in fact, and so much did I feel myself to be now part of the English Buddhist scene, that my third Summer School was for me the most enjoyable. In Terry's case it was his first Summer School (it was also to be his last, as it was to be mine), and although he tended to feel uneasy in large gatherings he managed to get through the week without becoming depressed, largely because he already knew several people, especially John Hipkin and Viriya, and was able to spend time with them when not attending my lectures and classes. I was therefore thankful he had been able to cope, for it was more than likely that in India we would find ourselves in the midst of gatherings not of a hundred or so Buddhists, as at the Summer School, but of thousands.

India was in fact much in my thoughts, now that the day of our departure was so near, and it was therefore not surprising that my first Sunday lecture, after my return from the Summer School, should have been on Religion and Caste in India. Among those attending the lecture were a number of Indian Buddhist friends, all followers of Dr Ambedkar, and all colleagues of some of the friends I was hoping to meet in Bombay and elsewhere. On the following Sunday I spoke on Living Buddhism, and on the next, it being the eve of my departure, I led a question-and- answer meeting and a puja. Between whiles I attended to my usual work, visited the Brighton and Hastings Buddhist groups, spent an afternoon with my mother, had two sessions with a young Harley Street dentist I had met at the Summer School, recorded a talk on Self-Denial and Self-Affirmation for the BBC, the choice of subject being theirs, and wrote an editorial for the October issue of The Buddhist, which would be appearing shortly after my departure.

In this editorial I explained that I had decided to shift my working headquarters from India to England, that I would be in India until about 1 February, and that during my absence lectures and classes would continue as usual. Ven. Thien Chau, with the assistance of Samanera Viriya, would be looking after the Vihara, besides which he would be taking the Guided Group Meditation classes, his deputies being Ruth Walshe for the classes held at the Buddhist Society, and Ruth Walshe, Jack Ireland, and Owen Jenkins for those held at the Vihara. Maurice Walshe would be in charge of the Fortnightly Discussion Group (as the speakers class had become), which would continue to meet alternately at the Vihara and at the Buddhist Society. For the Sunday afternoon lectures I had secured the cooperation of a number of well-known speakers, the names of four or five of whom I proceeded to enumerate. The Buddhist would be the joint responsibility of Mike Hookham and Jack Ireland, assisted by Francoise Strachan.

All these arrangements had been discussed thoroughly with Thien Chau and Viriya, as well as with all the other people involved, including Toby, who was pleased I had decided to stay in England and who, no doubt remembering the way in which I had kept postponing my arrival two years earlier, urged me in the strongest terms to fix the date of my return well in advance and stick to it. There was no reason, I therefore felt I could assure my readers, why the Vihara should not only consolidate its position during the coming months but make fresh gains, and I appealed to them to extend their full cooperation to Thien Chau and Viriya and help to make this period one of the most successful in the history of the movement.

The last paragraph of my editorial struck a more personal note. After my return to England, I declared, I proposed to divide my time between London and Biddulph, spending the winter and spring at the Vihara for lectures and classes, and the summer and autumn at Old Hall for meditation courses, literary work, and contact with the Midland and Northern Buddhist groups. Though I may not have realized it at the time, this must have represented a determination on my part to create for myself in England a pattern of life and work similar to the one I had followed in India, where I spent half the year studying, meditating, and writing in Kalimpong, and half travelling and lecturing in the plains, especially among the newly converted Buddhists in central and western India. Not that study and meditation, at least, had been entirely neglected during my two years in England, even though this might have been the case so far as serious literary work was concerned. Even during the busy days that succeeded my return from the Summer School I found time, according to my diary, to dip into Plotinus, Suzuki, and Jaspers, as well as to read Alan Watts Psychotherapy East and West, Colin Wilsons Beyond the Outsider ('interesting, though rather shallow'), the anonymous classic of Russian spirituality The Way of the Pilgrim, with its sequel The Pilgrim Continues His Way, and the great fourteenth-century classic of English mysticism, also anonymous, The Cloud of Unknowing. The last three titles suggest that despite my having so much to do my mind was turned as much inward as outward, and indeed my diary entry for Friday 9 September concludes, 'Spent rest of evening peacefully reading, meditating'.

On Saturday 17 September the Sangha Association held a reception at the Vihara, thus enabling members and friends to say farewell to me prior to my departure. About sixty people attended, with most of whom I managed to have at least a short conversation. Sunday was spent preparing for the morrows journey, giving final instructions to Viriya, visiting Claire Maison, and leading my last question and answer meeting and last puja, both of which were exceptionally well attended. Next morning Antoinette drove Terry and me to Victoria, where we boarded the coach for Heathrow, and where she, Thien Chau, and Viriya waved us goodbye. The plane left at ten o'clock. Two hours later, after a short stopover in Zurich, my friend and I were looking down on the Alps, through which we had driven six weeks ago. Stopovers in Rome and Cairo soon followed, after which the plane headed straight for Bombay.
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Re: Moving Against the Stream, by Dennis Lingwood

Postby admin » Mon Aug 03, 2020 6:19 am

Chapter Forty-Three: A Letter from India

Frontier Mail,
7.10.66
Dear Members and Friends,

After a very smooth and pleasant flight by Air India, Terry Delamare and I reached Bombay on Tuesday 20 September, at 4.30 am local time, the whole journey having lasted only thirteen and a half hours. Bombay is more easily accessible from London than from Kalimpong, it seems! Within hours of our arrival my old friends the ex-Untouchable Buddhists were on our doorstep, and in an amazingly short time a programme of meetings and lectures was arranged. In fact, it began the very next evening, and in six days I gave eleven lectures on different aspects of Buddhism, including one on Buddhism in England. Most of these meetings were held late at night in the chawls or slum tenements under the conditions which I have described in my lecture on What Buddhism has done for the ex-Untouchables. Others were held at the Bahujana Vihara, Parel (a branch of the Maha Bodhi Society), at the Japanese Buddhist Temple, Worli, and at the Siddharth College. Everywhere we were given a very warm reception, and my Indian friends were delighted to see, in the person of Terry, yet another English Buddhist. (Terry is making, incidentally, a photographic record of our trip from which we hope to obtain, on our return to London, a series of colour slides with which to illustrate a few lectures.) We also found time, the day after our arrival, for a trip to the famous Kanheri Caves, dating from the early centuries of the Christian era, with their hundred or more cells and assembly halls cut out of the living rock and thirty-foot-high standing images of the Buddha. As no transport was available from the nearest railway station, thirty-five miles out of Bombay, to the Caves, we had to walk the five-mile distance both ways in the sweltering heat of the late monsoon season. Within minutes, we were drenched in perspiration. However, the sight of the Caves was sufficient reward for our trouble. In fact, had we not been expected back in London Terry and I might have been tempted to stay there indefinitely, and not return to civilization at all!

From Bombay we proceeded north to Delhi, stopping one night on the way at Ahmedabad, where the local Buddhists turned out in force to receive us at the railway station with flower-garlands and bouquets. In Delhi we spent two comparatively quiet days, staying at the Buddha Vihara (another branch of the Maha Bodhi Society), where I have often lectured, and visiting the Red Fort and other places of interest. We also explored the handicraft shops for ivory and sandalwood figures of the Buddha, but with a few exceptions did not find anything of much artistic value. From Delhi we travelled still further north to Pathankot, the railhead for both Dharamsala and Dalhousie, both of which are about a thousand miles from Bombay. We were now in the hills. All the time, in fact, the landscape had been changing, from the fertile fields of Gujerat, through the arid plains of Rajasthan to the green and pleasant land of the Punjab with its long tracts of snow-white elephant grass and stretches of water starred with myriads of tiny pink waterlilies.

The main purpose of our visit to Dharamsala, of course, was to meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama, whom I had not seen for several years, though we had been in correspondence. We met him at his residence, Swargashram, on the second day after our arrival and had a long talk. In the course of conversation I told him about the progress of the Buddhist movement in England. He showed particular interest in the meditation classes and asked what methods of concentration we practised. I also told him about our Meditation Centre at Biddulph. He was very pleased, though genuinely astonished, that so many English lay Buddhists took such a serious interest in meditation and could, in the course of a weeks retreat, put in so many hours of practice. He also enquired after Mr Christmas Humphreys and was particularly glad to learn that the Buddhist Society and the Vihara were working in close collaboration. Perhaps with certain differences among his own people in mind, His Holiness emphatically declared that unity among Buddhists was absolutely essential. While in Dharamsala we also took the opportunity of meeting Ling Rimpoche, the Dalai Lamas Senior Tutor, whose mental alertness impressed us very much, and Radu Rimpoche, the head of His Holinesss personal ecclesiastical establishment, beside several old friends of mine from Kalimpong and Gangtok.

Dalhousie is not much more than a hundred miles by road from Dharamsala, but it took us the best part of a day to get there. Travelling by the ramshackle, bone-shaking public transport, we first came down to the plains to Pathankot, then climbed the 7,000 feet to Dalhousie up a dizzying succession of hairpin bends where awe-inspiring views were revealed at every turn. In Dalhousie our main objective was to meet Dorothy Carpenter, who came out last March to help the Tibetan refugees, and Keith Satterthwaite, who came out only three weeks ago. Before my departure from England eager, warm-hearted Dorothy had written several times saying that I must not think of coming to India without paying her a visit. So to Dalhousie we went. Dorothy was overjoyed to see us (our arrival took her completely by surprise), and we all had a very happy reunion. Keith, whom we had last seen at the Summer School, seemed to have learned to find his way about Dalhousie very quickly. With him for guide, we were able to make the best possible use of the one day at our disposal. Indeed, without him I do not know what we should have done, as the bungalows are scattered up and down the pine-clad mountainside at great distances from one another. Our first call was on Panggang Rimpoche, for seven years head of the Gyudto or Upper Tantric College and one of the greatest living authorities on the Vajrayãna. Next we visited the College itself, and saw Dorothy in action teaching her class consisting of about forty members of the College. By special permission of the Dalai Lama, she is the first person to teach English to this very select body of Tantric initiates a great honour for Dorothy. She also gives special lessons to Panggang Rimpoche. On my return to London I shall have much to say about Dorothy and her work (as well as slides to show, I hope). The remainder of our time was spent at the Four Sect Monastery at Kailash, originally the Young Lamas Home School, and the Mahãyãna Nunnery. There was even time, just before our bus left, for a few minutes with Khamtal Rimpoche, whom I had known quite well in Kalimpong. Everywhere in Dalhousie, in fact, I met Incarnate Lamas and monks whom I knew, or who knew me some from Kalimpong and Darjeeling, others from Gangtok. As I remarked to Terry, I felt as though I was back in Kalimpong already!

At the moment of writing we are in the Frontier Mail heading south via Delhi and Mathura for Baroda. We have already been in the train twenty-four hours and will be in it for another twelve. The weather is hot, though not very sultry, and the compartment is filled with clouds of fine dust which covers the seats, our clothes, books, and food, as well as the paper on which I am writing. From Baroda we have a two-hour journey to Ahmedabad, where our Buddhist friends are arranging a five-day lecture programme. After spending a night in Bombay, where I shall be speaking at Theosophy Hall, we shall go on to Poona for more lectures, travelling thence to Nagpur, in central India, in time for the Vijaya Dasami celebrations on 23 October. From Nagpur we shall be going up to Almora for a few days with Lama Govinda and Li Gotami and from there I hope to write my next letter.

Rather surprisingly, our tour has so far gone strictly according to schedule, and if things continue this way there is no reason why we should not be back in England punctually by the end of January. Yours in the Dharma,

(sgd.) Sangharakshita.


Such was the letter I wrote in the train and posted to Francoise in Ahmedabad, and which appeared a few weeks later in the November issue of The Buddhist. According to my diary I spent much of the day writing it, the same brief entry recording that Terry was very depressed, quite desperate, in fact, and that I felt very concerned for him.

This was not the first time since our arrival in India that my friend had felt depressed. On our journey from the airport to Victoria Terminus, through Bombay's extensive industrial suburbs, he had been shocked not only by what his own, short-lived diary terms the dirty and extremely low atmosphere but by the sight of hundreds of people sleeping on the pavements; and in the evening, when we took a stroll along Marine Drive, he had been no less shocked by the sight of much unpleasant poverty and twelve-year-old mothers begging.

In the course of my years in India I had grown accustomed to such sights, but though I deplored them I had preferred to direct my emotional energies to the task of giving practical help to the poor and oppressed, especially by putting my shoulder to the wheel of Dr Ambedkar's movement of mass conversion to Buddhism, rather than wasting them in sentimental lamentations over sufferings I was power- less to relieve. At the same time I could understand how the spectacle of so much poverty and degradation could shock the newcomer to India (it had shocked me twenty years earlier), especially if the newcomer was as sensitive as Terry and liable, as he was, to be upset and depressed by any concrete reminder of the essentially painful and unsatisfactory nature of the unenlightened human condition.

Terry had not only been shocked by the sight of hundreds of people sleeping on the pavements and twelve-year-old mothers begging. He had also been startled, on our arrival at the spacious Malabar Hill flat where we would be staying, by the unusual appearance of our host, Dr Dinshaw K. Mehta, for many years Mahatma Gandhis naturopathic physician. My old Parsee friend was then in his early sixties. Short and extremely corpulent, he was clad in flowing white garments and had a full white beard which reached almost to his waist and an abundance of white hair which fell to his shoulders and which, as I knew, he sometimes gathered up and twisted into a Buddha-like topknot. He was an impressive figure. For someone like Terry he was also an intimidating and even an alarming one. In the early fifties, shortly before I met him, he had founded an organization known as the Society of Servants of God. The activities of the Society were conducted in strict accordance with the guidance that he received in meditation. This guidance, Dr Mehta believed, came directly from God, so that it was to be accepted implicitly and acted upon to the letter. Not to accept the guidance that came for one through the Servant of Servants, as my friend styled himself, was to disobey God, and because one disobeyed God on account of the ego the ego had to be crushed. They must be made to obey! I had more than once heard him declare, when members or employees of the Society were unwilling to accept the guidance that had been given to them through him.

In the early days of my acquaintance with Dr Mehta such guidance had come for me, too; but I had declined to accept it, explaining that I was already being guided by the Buddha, through his teachings as recorded in the Buddhist scriptures, and had no need for any other guidance. Eventually, after a good deal of discussion, he had reluctantly conceded that this might be the case, and that I might indeed be guided in my own way, (on his lips a rather damning phrase), though he at the same time felt obliged to warn me that the guidance that came from scriptures was much less reliable than that which came directly from God through his chosen instrument, the Servant of Servants. Our respective positions having been thus clarified, something like a friendship developed between Dr Mehta and me. I often stayed with him when I was in Bombay, and at his invitation often lectured on Buddhism under the auspices of the Society of Servants of God. He was also warmly supportive of my work among the followers of Dr Ambedkar. His authoritative, even dictatorial ways with his disciples and dependants notwithstanding, he was fundamentally a very kind man, and over the years I had grown very fond of him. During the week that Terry and I spent as his guests the authoritarian side of his character was very much in evidence, and I soon realized that my sensitive friend was uncomfortable in Dr Mehta's presence. So uncomfortable was he, indeed, that he sometimes found meals at the flat rather an ordeal, and was glad whenever we were invited out to lunch or dinner by other, less intimidating friends of mine.

Fortunately Terry felt quite at home with the newly-converted Buddhists, some of whom were on our doorstep literally within hours of our arrival. The first to appear was Maheshkar, the sociable, enthusiastic, and hyperactive young Maharashtrian who for months together had been my travelling companion and faithful translator, and who, with his future wife, had organized scores, if not hundreds, of the lectures I gave in and around Poona in the late fifties and early sixties. The following night he was translating for me again. According to my diary there was a happy, friendly atmosphere at the meeting, which was held at Worli, in Chawl No. 86. What my diary does not record, and Terry's does, is that the meeting was held in the corridor of the chawl, and that he took many pictures and was garlanded. Terry's diary in fact shows that he was struck by much that was familiar to me and of which my own diary therefore makes no mention. Thus it records that most Bombay taxis were falling apart, and that at a meeting held in the open outside another chawl, about 150 people attended amongst chickens, pigeons and insects. At the Hampstead Vihara and the Buddhist Society I was accustomed to lecture under very different conditions: yet it was the same Dharma I was teaching. The entry for the following day speaks of our visiting a ramshackle vihara on the main road and being taken in procession to a chawl and given an elaborate lunch in badly smelling quarters dark and damp. Every doorway decorated with rice paste. Food eaten with hands. Cold rice and cold soup. 4 speeches mine included. Garland and flowers received. Entries for other days make mention of deformed beggars, red bananas, and cows that wandered on the platforms of suburban railway stations and in the streets. On our last day but one in Bombay I gave three lectures, two of them in the evening, and the difference between our respective diary entries illustrates the extent to which Terry was affected by sights which, while they were familiar to me, were totally unfamiliar to him. Two lectures worst conditions so far, his diary records. Moving through narrow alleys between shacks. My diary simply states: At 7.15 went to Worli. Gave lecture on Buddhist Meditation. Gathering slightly restless. Then to Pathan Chawl. Spoke on Five Spiritual Faculties. Good quiet audience.

In 1966 the term culture shock had not yet been invented, or at least was not yet in general circulation, but there is little doubt that during our week in Bombay, and even subsequently, Terry suffered from that feeling of disorientation experienced by a person suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture or way of life that the word signifies. His introduction to India was thus not an easy one, especially as he had to cope not only with culture shock but also with the anxiety he experienced in the presence of Dr Mehta. His diary for these days bears poignant witness to his struggles struggles of which I was not always cognizant. Bit brighter today, reads one entry. I really must make more intense effort and yet inwardly feel very reluctant and experience this void-like apathy. Sometimes he did manage to make that more intense effort, especially in connection with our meetings in the chawls, at which he was invariably called upon to 'say a few words'. Very much to his astonishment, he found it easier -- or at least less difficult -- to address a hundred or more poor, mostly illiterate Indian Buddhists than it had been for him, a year earlier, to make a farewell speech to his colleagues at the advertising agency. His speech was translated sentence by sentence (he soon learned to make a few notes on the back of an envelope beforehand), and at the end of each translated sentence there was a burst of applause that encouraged him to launch into the next. The experience of addressing a warmly appreciative audience did a lot to boost Terry's confidence, so that by the time we left Bombay for Dharamsala he was in a more positive emotional state -- at least for the time being -- than might otherwise have been the case.

The compound of Swargashram, the Dalai Lamas residence in Dharamsala, was surrounded by barbed wire, and there were soldiers on duty at the entrance, to whom we had to show our passports before being allowed inside. It was not altogether clear whether His Holiness was the honoured guest of the Government of India or its prisoner. At the time of our meeting the Tibetan hierarch was thirty-one, had lived in India as a refugee for seven years, and had not yet visited the West. It was not the first time we had met, meetings having taken place in both 1956 and 1957, when he and the Panchen Lama were in India for the 2,500th Buddha Jayanti celebrations, and subsequently, after his dramatic escape from Tibet in 1959, so that we were reasonably well acquainted already. Unfortunately my diary has no more to say about that Dharamsala meeting than does my letter from India, except that it lasted from 10.20 to 11.15 in the morning, and that besides meditation we discussed translation of Tibetan texts etc.. Afterwards Terry took photographs of us outside, and I noticed how uncomfortable the Dalai Lama was feeling in the brilliant sunshine while we posed together, how he kept mopping his brow with the corner of his thick maroon robe, and how impatient he was to get back into the cool of the bungalow.

If our diaries are to be believed, Terry was in good spirits during the five days that we spent in the two hill stations. I was all the more surprised, therefore, that for much of the thirty-six-hour journey from Pathankot to Baroda he should have been so very depressed. Perhaps he was unhappy that as the fine dust covering everything served to remind us we were on our way back to the filthy, poverty-stricken cities of the plain. Or perhaps he was disappointed that he had not met his dãkinî in the streets of the Dharamsala bazaar or among the shrines of Dalhousie, for, as I well knew, the hope of meeting that unique, miraculous being was never far from my friends thoughts.
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