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.
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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