Music Of The Waters - online book

Sailors' Chanties, Songs Of The Sea, Boatmen's, Fishermen's,
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196             Music of the Waters.
question. But the view which has obtained most general acceptance is that which connects the word with the Latin Cymba and the Greek Kv/j,pr/, the light boat in which Charon ferried souls across the Styx. Charon's boat, as it is represented on gems and marbles, resembles the bar-chetta, and Charon himself uses a paddle to guide his boat behind. To this day, the passenger across a Venetian ferry, lays his obol on the gunwale of the gondola, much as Charon's ghostly fares were wont to do. On a moon­less silent night the waters of the Grand Canal are no mean counterfeit of that nether-world river, Lethe, the waters of oblivion." 1
The gondoliers are a deeply conservative race. Custom is their true religion—in its ordinary sense it is an affair of the women—church-going amongst them has now almost ceased to be a habit. Amongst the fishermen and sailors of the trading-ships, the case is different. Each boat has its patron saint somewhere on its bows, many with a prayer painted beneath ; and in the captain's cabin you are sure to find a picture of the Madonna wreathed with offerings of olive-branches, lemons, and Indian corn : a small light in a glass globe usually burns before this little shrine. The captain of a trading-boat on its way out to sea would hardly pass the little chapels which are built here and there on the great piles, without repeating a " Salve Regina " or a " Pater Noster," as he stands bare-headed in the wind.
The fishermen of Chioggia as they row home on a summer night while away the time, as the gondoliers pass theirs in song, with endless tales of Angelica and Orlando, Astolfo and Ruggiero, and all the pageantry of the Caro-lingian myth, and the Reali di Francia.
The stars are to the Venetians bei segreti (beautiful secrets) ; the pole star is the type of constancy and the sailors' hope.
1 Seepages 107—116, " Life on the Lagoons," by Horatio F. Brown. Kegan Paul, Trench & Co.







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