ASHORE AT GENOA
The pride of Americans in their native scenery is brought down almost to the level of the South Shore of Long Island in arriving home from the Mediterranean voyage to Europe. The last thing one sees in Europe is the rock of Gibraltar, but before that there have been the snow-topped Maritime Alps of Italy and the gray-brown, softly rounded, velvety heights of Spain; and one has to think very hard of the Palisades above the point where they have been blasted away for road-making material if one wishes to keep up one's spirits. The last time I came home the Mediterranean way I had a struggle with myself against excusing our sandy landscape, when we came in sight of it, with its summer cottages for the sole altitudes, to some Italian fellow-passengers who were not spellbound by its grandeur. I had to remember the Rocky Mountains, which I had never seen, and all the moral magnificence of our life before I could withhold the words of apology pressing to my lips. I was glad that I succeeded; but now, going back by the same route, I abandoned myself to transports in the beauty of the Mediterranean coast which I hope were not untrue to my country. Perhaps there is no country which can show anything like that beauty, and America is no worse off than the rest of the world; but I am not sure that I have a right to this consolation. Again there were those
"Silent pinnacles of aged snow,"
flushed with the Southern sun; in those sombre slopes of pine; again the olives climbing to their gloom; again the terraced vineyards and the white farmsteads, with villages nestling in the vast clefts of the hills, and all along the sea-level the blond towns and cities which broidei the hem of the land from Marseilles to Genoa. One is willing to brag; one must be a good American; but, honestly, have we anything like that to show the arriving foreigner? For some reason our ship was abating the speed with which she had crossed the Atlantic, and now she was swimming along the Mediterranean coasts so slowly and so closely that it seemed as if we could almost have cast an apple ashore, though probably we could not. We were at least far enough off to mistake Nice for Monte Carlo and then for San Remo, but that was partly because our course was so leisurely, and we thought we must have passed Nice long before we did. It did not matter; all those places were alike beautiful under the palms of their promenades, with their scattered villas and hotels stretching along their upper levels, and the ranks of shops and dwellings solidly forming the streets which left the shipping of their ports to climb to the gardens and farms beyond the villas. Cannes, Mentone, Ventimiglia, Ospedeletti, Bordighera, Taggia, Alassio: was that their fair succession, or did they follow in another order? Once more it did not matter; what is certain is that the golden sun of the soft January afternoon turned to crimson and left the last of them suffused in dim rose before we drifted into Genoa and came to anchor at dusk beside a steamer which had left New York on the same day as ours. By her vast size we could measure our own and have an objective perception of our grandeur. We had crossed in one of the largest ships afloat, but you cannot be both spectacle and spectator; and you must match your magnificence with some rival magnificence before you can have a due sense of it. That was what we now got at Genoa, and we could not help pitying the people on that other ship, who must have suffered shame from our overwhelming magnitude; the fact that she was of nearly the same tonnage as our own ship had nothing to do with the case.
After the creamy and rosy tints of those daughters of climate along the Riviera, it was pleasant to find a many-centuried mother of commerce like Genoa of the dignified gray which she wears to the eye, whether it looks down on her from the heights above her port or up at her from the thickly masted and thickly funnelled waters of the harbor. Most European towns have red tiled roofs, which one gets rather tired of putting into one's word paintings, but the roofs of Genoa are gray tiled, and gray are her serried house walls, and gray her many churches and bell-towers. The sober tone gratifies your eye immensely, and the fact that your eye has noted it and not attributed the conventional coloring of southern Europe to the city is a flattery to your pride which you will not refuse. It is not a setting for opera like Naples; there is something businesslike in it which agrees with your American mood if you are true to America, and recalls you to duty if you are not.
I had not been in Genoa since 1864 except for a few days in 1905, and I saw changes which I will mostly not specify. Already at the earlier date the railway had cut through the beautiful and reverend Doria garden and left the old palace some scanty grounds on the sea-level, where commerce noisily encompassed it with trains and tracks and lines of freight-cars. But there had remained up to my last visit that grot on the gardened hill-slope whence a colossal marble Hercules helplessly overlooked the offence offered by the railroad; and now suddenly here was the lofty wall of some new edifice stretching across in front of the Hercules and wholly shutting him from view; for all I know it may have made him part of its structure.