National Geographic : 1919 Sep
THE ISLE OF CAPRI An Imperial Residence and Probable Wireless Station of Ancient Rome BY JOHN A. KINGMAN IN NO part of Italy is the natural scenery more astonishing and de lightful than in the Bay of Naples. The Italian travel literature of the last hundred and fifty years is rich in at tempts to describe the picturesqueness of the district; but in the old days the tour usually ended at Naples, and by that time the fatigued diarists had pretty much run out of adjectives. Symonds, one of the best of the English writers on Italy, has done well by the locality; our Fenimore Cooper has written some agreeable bits about it, and the half-for gotten American poet, Willis, epitomized all descriptions when he called it a col lection of beauties which seems more like a miracle than an accident of nature. Owing to the striking contrasts caused by the meeting of mountains, sea, and mountain islands, much of the charm of the bay can be caught by the camera. The painter has little advantage over a machine which reproduces the sculptured forms exactly, whereas the colors and curious quality of the atmosphere are be yond both. Many lovers of Italy feel that a coun try like Tuscany, with its softer color ings and gentler contours, is more rest ful and somehow more wholesome to live with, and that the Neapolitan scenery is too much like theater cur tains come to life. Nevertheless, every person who arrives at Naples under fair skies and beholds this littoral for the first time cannot help being affected by its loveliness. A SIREN LAND CHARGED WITH CLASSICAL MEMORIES Many of the visitors feel something deeper than admiration; for them all of the coast scenery from Miseno to Sa lerno has a strange and lasting fascina- tion. Then there are the siren wor shipers who have heard the mystic song and are content to let body and soul rest here forever; and to such willing victims of the picturesque, Naples is not a noisy, nerve-racking modern city, full of beg gars and rogues and fleas; it is the old "new city"-Neapolis. In the Bay of Naples the very at mosphere, to such Neapolitan specialists, seems more bland and limpid than else where on the peninsula, lending to the distances a more magical and haunting charm; the curving shore is picked out and decorated with countless beauties, and high mountains descend abruptly to a tideless sea streaked with color, in which are set ethereal lilac-tinted islands. This southern Siren Land, in addition to its gorgeous aspect, is so charged through and through with classical mem ories that it has much of the glory of Greece and the grandeur of Rome. From this rare vintage is expressed a heady beverage esteemed by siren wor shipers and lotus-eaters, numbers of whom have lived hereabout for genera tions and who have found a particularly choice place of residence on one of its fairest spots-the mountain island of Capri, the Capreae of the great em perors, Augustus and Tiberius. AN ESTHETIC WONDER OF THE WORLD Viewed from Naples, Capri is a con spicuous object in the seascape twenty miles to the south. Its profile resembles the storm-tossed waves, or a sphinx, or a vast heap of clouds brooding at sea, or a sarcophagus, or a crocodile-depend ing on whether your viewpoint is that of Lord Byron, or Richter, or Willis, or Gregorovius, or Colonel Mackowen. Thus is seen the futility of description.