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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
The Greeks Us / Greece in West  

Mark Twain, Approaching the most renowned of cities

From The Innocents Abroad

ELPENOR EDITIONS IN PRINT

Icon of the Christ and New Testament Reader

     AT SEVEN in the evening, with the western horizon all golden from the sunken sun, and specked with distant ships, the full moon sailing high overhead, the dark blue of the sea under foot, and a strange sort of twilight affected by all these different lights and colors around us and about us, we sighted superb Stromboli. With what majesty the monarch held his lonely state above the level sea! Distance clothed him in a purple gloom, and added a veil of shimmering mist that so softened his rugged features that we seemed to see him through a web of silver gauze. His torch was out; his fires were smoldering; a tall column of smoke that rose up and lost itself in the growing moonlight was all the sign he gave that he was a living Autocrat of the Sea and not the specter of a dead one.

At two in the morning we swept through the Straits of Messina, and so bright was the moonlight that Italy on the one hand and Sicily on the other seemed almost as distinctly visible as though we looked at them from the middle of a street we were traversing. The city of Messina, milk-like, and starred and spangled all over with gaslights, was a fairy spectacle. A great party of us were on deck smoking and making a noise, and waiting to see famous Scylla and Charybdis. And presently the Oracle stepped out with his eternal spy-glass and squared himself on the deck like another Colossus of Rhodes. It was a surprise to see him abroad at such an hour. Nobody supposed he cared anything about an old fable like that of Scylla and Charybdis. One of the boys said:

"Hello, doctor, what are you doing up here at this time of night?- What do you want to see this place for?"

"What do I want to see this place for? Young man, little do you know me, or you wouldn't ask such a question. I wish to see all the places that's mentioned in the Bible."

"Stuff! This place isn't mentioned in the Bible."

"It ain't mentioned in the Bible!- this place ain't- well now, what place is this, since you know so much about it?"

"Why it's Scylla and Charybdis."

"Scylla and Cha- confound it, I thought it was Sodom and Gomorrah!"

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Cf. W. Davis, A Day in Old Athens

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