Click here for the introduction to the Round and Square series "The Accidental Ethnographer." (Coming Soon)
|[a] Calling Patmos RF|
|[b] Travelin' RF|
He wrote about it all, and he took pictures. The former is not without problem; the latter is easily his legacy. It is all a fascinating picture of an American abroad in a peculiarly resonant time in American history—from the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 to the end of World War I. This series will grow as my research does, but let's get started with Geil's own words—a little from each of his published books.
|[c] Early RF|
Then he started traveling, and it went deeply into his blood, his oratory, and—soon thereafter—his writing. His first full-length book deals with Patmos, and we will spend today's and tomorrow's posts giving a sense of his writing. I will have much to say about Geil, but let's soak in some of the early paragraphs of his earliest work.
The Isle That Is Called Patmos
William Edgar Geil (1897)
St. John saw Palestine, Epheseus, and Smyrna, before he lifted up his eyes and looked on the prison island of Patmos. Probably it was just eighteen centuries afterward, for it was Tuesday, July 14, that the writer, after having visited Mt. Nebo, in the Land of Moab; Hebron of water-skin and Abrahamic fame; the pools of Solomon and their myriads of green-backed bull-frogs; Bethlehem, the City of David; Jericho and Bethany; Mt. Calvary, without the city wall, with the old graves on its summit and a shepherd tending his sheep; Cana, Nazareth, and the beautiful Galilean Sea; Damascus, the oldest city on the planet, and the Lebanon railroad, with its cog-wheel device; the fair spot on the Beirut mountains where the magnificent Syrian gambling house is being erected; Rhodes, Cyprus, and Smyrna—took his way with Mr. McN—, an American missionary, as companion en route to St. John's place of banishement. After much deliberation as to whether I ought to tell the simple story of my journey, or use big words and arrange in more scientific forms the tale of my visit to Patmos, I have decided that, as the masses of the people are to be the readers of this book, my narrative shall be related simply, and in it shall be told the incidents of the journey.
|[d] Nearing RF|
|[e] St. John RF|
We were now in sight of Scala Nova, Asia Minor, the modern port of Ephesus. My friend retired, I remaining on deck to enjoy what of landscape might be seen at night; and what thoughts coursed through my brain! Here shall be a quotation from my note-book, written on the spot.
"At anchor, Scala Nova, Asia." 'Tis nearly 10 P.M. I have seen a hippopotamus lying with its back only above the water; so Bird Island lies like some huge monster, a dark mass against a moonless sky, and reminds me of those descriptive lines which the pen of might Milton traced on paper:
In bulk as huge
As whom the fables name of monstrous size,
Titanian, or earth-born, what warred on Jove,
Birareus, or Typhon, whom the dew
By ancient Tarsus held, or that sea-beast
Leviathan, which God of all his works
Created hugest that swam the ocean stream:
Him, haply slumbering on the Norway foam,
The pilot of some small night-foundered skiff
Deeming some island, oft, as seamen tell,
With fixed anchor in his scaly rind
Moored by his side under the lea, while night
Invests the sea, and wished morn delays.
|[f] Echo RF|
And thus the city is retiring from view, leaving, if all the candles be snuffed, but a black mass of mountain against a star-lit midsummer's night sky. It compels me to think that it was thus with the greatness and glory of Ephesus. How one by one its lights of commerce, culture, and religion disappeared, until now there is but the dark heap of ruins, black against the mountains of the past. The ship's whistle startles as with marvelous echo it rolls over the water to the shore, and then up the mountain, and then from hill to hill, finally dying away amid the wreck of the once fair Temple of Diana, causing one to meditate on how the proud city is now but an echo of a power and attraction once sufficient to call the merchandise and commerce or the world to her shore and ships.
One light continues bright and steady; it is in the lighthouse on Bird Island. The milky-way sweeps down to the middle of the village. A great rattle of chains; anchor up; helm hard a-port; we head for Samos, across the Ægean Sea to Patmos, taking much the same route that St. John must have taken. It was then the bewitching time of night; but being anxious to have an early look at "The isle that is called Patmos," I descended to the solitary first-class (?) cabin. Two berths were arranged, one above the other; thus two sides of the room were used for sleeping accommodations. After reading the first chapter of Revelation, and kneeling to thank God for blessings bestowed, I climbed into the upper shelflike bed.
William Edgar Geil, The Isle That Is Called Patmos (Philadelphia: A.J. Rowland, 1897), 3-5.
|[g] Transport RF|