There is nouniversal term for it—for the elegant, un-complaining angle at which Leigh Fermor and his kind stand in relation to the world—although, ﬁttingly, the best approximation is in Greek. The word leventiá, he writes in *Roumeli*, “comprises the dash and ﬁre of youth, a cheerful temperament, courage, speed, quick reactions, good looks, skill in singing, dancing, marksmanship, capacity for wine-drinking and fun, often accompanied by meraklidilíki, its sartorial expression.”
Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.
Mark Twain said of Tom Sawyer that it ‘is simply a hymn, put into prose form to give it a wordly air.’ He might have said the same, and with even more reason, of Huckleberry Finn, which is a hymn to an older America forever gone, an America which had its great national faults, which was full of violence and even of cruelty, but which still maintained its sense of reality, for it was not yet enthralled by money, the father of ultimate illusion and lies. Against the money-god stands the river-god, whose comments are silent—sunlight, space, uncrowded time, stillness, and danger. It was quickly forgotten once its practical usefulness had passed, but, as Mr. Eliot’s poem says, ‘The river is within us….’
But even if there had been less to like, I would have felt warmly towards them: I was abroad at last, far from my familiar habitat and separated by sea from the tangles of the past; and all this, combined with the wild and growing exhileration of the journey, shed a golden radiance.