Old Calabria By Norman Douglas














































































 -  But his loyal
subjects had no cruisers at their disposal; they lived Turcarum
praedonibus semper obnoxii. Who shall calculate the - Page 109
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But His Loyal Subjects Had No Cruisers At Their Disposal; They Lived Turcarum Praedonibus Semper Obnoxii.

Who shall calculate the effects of this long reign of terror on the national mind?

For a thousand years - from 830 to 1830 - from the days when the Amalfitans won the proud title of "Defenders of the Faith" up to those of the sentimental poet Waiblinger (1826), these shores were infested by Oriental ruffians, whose activities were an unmitigated evil. It is all very well for Admiral de la Graviere to speak of "Gallia Victrix" - the Americans, too, might have something to say on that point. The fact is that neither European nor American arms crushed the pest. But for the invention of steam, the Barbary corsairs might still be with us.

XIX

UPLANDS OF POLLINO

It has a pleasant signification, that word "Dolcedorme": it means Sweet slumber. But no one could tell me how the mountain group came by this name; they gave me a number of explanations, all fanciful and unconvincing. Pollino, we are told, is derived from Apollo, and authors of olden days sometimes write of it as "Monte Apollino." But Barrius suggests an alternative etymology, equally absurd, and connected with the medicinal herbs which are found there. Pollino, he says, a polleo dictus, quod nobilibus herbis medelae commodis polleat. Pro-venit enim ibi, ut ab herbariis accepi, tragium dictamnum Cretense, chamaeleon bigenum, draucus, meum, nardus, celtica, anonides, anemone, peucedamum, turbit, reubarbarum, pyrethrum, juniperus ubertim, stellarla, imperatoria, cardus masticem fundens, dracagas, cythisus - whence likewise the magnificent cheeses; gold and the Phrygian stone, he adds, are also found here.

Unhappily Barrius - we all have a fling at this "Strabo and Pliny of Calabria"! So jealous was he of his work that he procured a prohibition from the Pope against all who might reprint it, and furthermore invoked the curses of heaven and earth upon whoever should have the audacity to translate it into Italian. Yet his shade ought to be appeased with the monumental edition of 1737, and, as regards his infallibility, one must not forget that among his contemporaries the more discerning had already censured his philopatria, his immoderate love of Calabria. And that is the right way to judge of men who were not so much ignorant as unduly zealous for the fair name of their natal land. To sneer at them is to misjudge their period. It was the very spirit of the Renaissance to press rhetorical learning into the service of patriotism. They made some happy guesses and not a few mistakes; and when they lied deliberately, it was done in what they held a just cause - as scholars and gentlemen.

The Calabria Illustrata of Fiore also fares badly at the hands of critics. But I shall not repeat what they say; I confess to a sneaking fondness for Father Fiore.

Marafioti, a Calabrian monk, likewise dwells on these same herbs of Pollino, and gives a long account of a medical secret which he learnt on the spot from two Armenian botanists.

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