Each year my wife, Anne Redmon, and I have returned to Greece, sometimes more than once. She has published a Byzantine trilogy, three novels respectively set in Patmos, Khios and Salonika. I've written articles about those and other places as we've traversed the mainland and the Aegean. We've sat on the ''Homer Stone,'' in Khios, a boulder the poet supposedly used as a school. We've roamed the remnants of the Temple of Peeping Aphrodite in Trizina in the northern Peloponnesus, and wondered if Phaedra really did pace round its columns spying on the object of her obsessive love, her stepson Hippolytus.
We've stood beneath the Portara in Naxos, the huge marble gate of an unfinished 2,year-old temple reputedly built where Theseus abandoned Ariadne. We've sat in the shell of the prison in Philippi, in northeast Greece, from which the Acts of the Apostles say Paul was freed by an earthquake. We've seen people crawling on all fours to a miracle-working icon of the Virgin in Tinos, dolphins leaping off the coast of Ikaria, and preposterously red suns setting over Andros, Paros and Kalimnos.
And we aren't finished yet. What's the continuing appeal? Let's admit that, at first, cost played a part. Indeed, Greek prices are still cheap by Western standards. But if that were an adequate explanation, we would long ago have transferred our allegiance to Turkey or maybe Bulgaria.
Again, the appeal isn't the food, which has improved in recent years but is still ''not tzatziki again! Nor is it the sun, the wildflowers, the abundant butterflies, though their British counterparts literally pale beside them. I'd like to say it's the people, for ordinary Greeks have belied their dour looks and abrupt manner with countless kindnesses: grapes thrust into my hand by a smiling farmer in Samos, local liqueur shared with a woman tending a miraculous icon in Siros, unsolicited extras in tavernas from the wine town of Naousa in the northwest to that arid peninsula of bleak crags and chunky tower houses, the Mani, in the south.
For me, there are three main attractions, three reasons I keep returning to Greece. First, it's a place where one can stretch that underused muscle, the imagination.
For ancient Greeks, a tree might be a dryad and a spring a water nymph. The sacred and miraculous were everywhere. Even now one feels the pull of legend when clambering up Mount Zeus in Naxos, looking into the dank cave where the king of the Gods was raised, or seeing the buoy that half-conceals the man-shaped rock in Patmos harbor, which is the ossified Kynops, a sorcerer turned to stone by St.
John the Theologian in A. Second, serendipity. You are my only home, my only parents, Cynthia: you, every moment of my happiness. I pleased once: at that time there was no one to touch us who could compare for loyalty in love.
We were envied. Surely a god overwhelmed me, or some herb picked from Promethean mountains shattered our bond? I am not who I was: distant journeys alter girls. How quickly love flies! Now I am forced to endure long nights alone, for the first time, and be oppressive to myself. Or he who, rejected, can change his desire: there is joy in a new slavery as well. But is it impossible for me ever to love another, or part from her. May no girl ever let you down, Gallus.
And if you must weep, do it without their seeing! You are my only home, my only parents, Cynthia: you, every moment of my happiness. Rome , favour me, the work soars up for you: citizens grant me good omens, and let a bird on the right sing at my inception! So with this and whatever you helpless lovers invent, he drowns out the dawn chorus. Sung by Virgil.
Even now with your growing reputation for deceiving them, never seeking to linger long in any passion, you begin to pale with desperation in belated love, and fall back, tripped, at the first step. No wicked rumour, or augury, told me this: I saw it: can you deny me, as a witness, I pray? Desire spurs you on. Since you are sure to die of love once and for all: no other threshold was worthy. May she be kind to you, since new madness strikes, and, whatever you wish for, may she be the one for you. Love is unable to bow down to great wealth.
For who can enjoy wealth if Love is against him? No riches for me if Venus is sullen! What comfort is dyed silken fabric? See with what trials Fortune drags me down! Alphesiboea was revenged on her own brothers for her husband Alcmaeon , and passion broke the bonds of loving blood. Yet none of these alters your existence, that you might also be known in story.
Cynthia, stop now revoking your words by lying, and refrain from provoking forgotten gods. And can you raise them to the vast sun, and not tremble, aware of your guilty sins? Who forced your pallor of shifting complexion, and drew tears from unwilling eyes? Nor can I save my lady from infamous nights, honour surrendered in obscene singing.
Nor does she repent as yet, to cease her notoriety: stop living more sinfully than this dissolute age. He never allows my columns to rest, renewing his sly insinuating song:. Why do you never unfasten and admit my desire, unable to feel or tell her my secret prayers? Will there be no end assigned to my sadness, and sleep lie, unsightly, on your cool threshold? Midnight , the stars sinking to rest, and the icy winds of chill dawn , grieve for me. Then she would never be able to check herself, and a sigh would surface amongst reluctant tears, though she were more unyielding than flint or Sicilian stones, harder than iron or steel.
But to me, threshold, you are the one, great cause of my grief, never conquered by gifts.
No petulant tongue of mine has ever offended you, used to calling out angry drunken jests, that you should make me hoarse with endless complaining, guarding the crossroads in anxious waiting. Yet I have often elicited new lines of verse for you, and printed deep kisses on your steps. How often before now have I turned from your columns, treacherous one, and with hidden hands produced the required offering.
So with this and whatever you helpless lovers invent, he drowns out the dawn chorus.
Yes, even in your absence, Cynthia , the winds promote your cause: hear what savage threats the sky sounds. Will good fortune ever come to calm the storms? Will that little beach hold my ashes?
Change your fierce complaints to something kinder, and let night and the hostile shoals be my punishment. Would you, dry-eyed, require my death, and never clasp my bones to your breast? O, perish the man, who-ever he was, who first made ships and rigging and journeyed over the reluctant deep! If the Fates had buried my grief at home, and an upright stone stood there to my last love, she would have given dear strands of hair to the fire, and laid my bones gently on soft rose-petals: she would have cried out my name over the final embers, and asked for earth to lie lightly on me.
But you, the sea-born daughters of lovely Doris , happy choir, loosen our white sails: if ever love glided down and touched your waves, spare a friend, for gentler shores. Truly this is a silent, lonely place for grieving, and the breath of the West Wind owns the empty wood. Here I can speak my secret sorrows freely, if only these solitary cliffs could be trusted. What cause shall I attribute your disdain to, my Cynthia?
Cynthia, what reason for my grief did you give me? I who but now was numbered among the joyous lovers, now am forced to look for signs of your love. Why do I merit all this? What spell turns you away from me? Is some new girl the root of your anger? You can give yourself to me again, fickle girl, since no other has ever set lovely foot on my threshold.
Is it because I show few signs of altered complexion, and my faith does not shout aloud in my face? Beech-tree and pine, beloved of the Arcadian god , you will be witnesses, if trees know these passions. Oh, how often my words echo under gentle shadows, and Cynthia is carved in your bark! How often has your injustice caused me pains that only your silent threshold knows? I am used to suffering your tyrannous orders with diffidence, without moaning about it in noisy complaints.
For this I receive sacred springs, cold rocks, and rough sleep by a wilderness track: and whatever my complaining can tell of, must be uttered alone to melodious birds. I do not fear the sad shadows, now, my Cynthia , or care about death, destined for the final fires: but this fear is harder to bear than my funeral procession, that perhaps my corpse would lack your love. Cupid has not so lightly clung to my eyelids, that my dust can be void, love forgotten.
The hero, Protesilaus , could not forget his sweet wife even in the dark region: the Thessalian came as a shade to his former home, longing with ghostly hands to touch his delight.