She was as sweet as a rose at the dawning
But somehow fate hadnt meant her for me
And though I sailed with the tide in the morning
Still my hearts on the isle of Capri
Summertime was nearly over
Blue Italian sky above
I said lady, Im a rover,
Can you spare a sweet word olove?
She whispered softly its best not to linger
And then as I kissed her hand I could see
She wore a lovely meatball on her finger
twas goodbye at the villa Capri
Thus I always felt the desire to visit Capri. Such dreams never fulfill the reality. However, recently Capri fulfilled all my dreams. I left it with great regret.
Before I had passed across the azure waters to visit it I had often stood at the veranda at our hotel and looked at the magical island set far out in the bay. We always sat there sipping wine as the sun began to decline behind the island.
First the sky was charged with rich evening light, then as the sun passed behind the island it became a silhouette. Then it merged into the darkness like a passing dream. Finally the lights came on far away on the island resting on a quiet sea. Another day had passed evenly in Capri.
I wondered who was the first Castlebar person to visit this enchanted island. A footnote from my memory mentioned the name of Michael Brennan (1839-1871) and I searched about for information.
He worked as a journalist and caricaturist with The Connaught Telegraph early in his career. He later attended art schools in Dublin and London, and became an artist of merit.
Two of his paintings are in the National Gallery of Ireland: A Vine Pergola and Church Interior at Capri. He died in Algiers in 1871 and was buried there.
His brother Louis Brennan was more famous but there is something tragic about Michael Brennan. His life was short and he died far from home in north Africa.
Now he was only one of many artists and writers attracted to that island.
In the latter half of the 19th century, Capri became a popular resort for European artists, writers and other celebrities.
John Singer Sargent and Frank Hyde are among the prominent artists who stayed on the island around the late 1870s. Sargent is known for his series of portraits featuring local model Rosina Ferrara.
The book that spawned the 19th century fascination with Capri in France, Germany and England was 'Discovery of the Blue Grotto on the Isle of Capri', by the German painter and writer August Kopisch, in which he describes his 1826 stay on Capri and his (re)discovery of the Blue Grotto.
Capri is also the setting for The Lotus Eater, a short story by Somerset Maugham. In the story, a visitor from Boston comes to Capri on a holiday and is so enchanted by the place he gives up his job and decides to spend the rest of his life in leisure at Capri.
One of the island's most famous foreign inhabitants was Norman Douglas; his novel South Wind is a thinly fictionalised description of Capri's residents and visitors,
Memoirs set on Capri include Edwin Cerio's That Capri Air, which contains a number of historical and biographical essays on the island, including a tribute to Norman Douglas; The Story of San Michele (1929) by the Swedish royal physician Axel Munthe (18571949), who built a villa of that name; An Impossible Woman: The Memoirs of Dottoressa Moor (1975) by Elisabeth Moor, who worked there as a doctor from 1926 until the 1970s; and Shirley Hazzard's Graham on Capri: A Memoir (2000), about her reminiscences of Graham Greene.
He bought a small house on Capri in 1948 and kept it for more than 40 years, returning for short visits, mostly in the spring and fall, until the very end of his life, when he became too ill to travel. The house was a rare constant in Greene's restless existence.
In 1978, Greene was made an honorary citizen of the town of Anacapri, and in a brief speech on the occasion he gave the obvious explanation for his bi-annual pilgrimage to an island. He said in four weeks I do the work of six months elsewhere.
Gracie Fields was a great singer and her life possessed its joys and its tragedies. Dame Gracie Fields, DBE (9 January 1898 - 27 September 1979), born Grace Stansfield, was an English-born, later Italian-based actress, singer and comedienne widely hailed as one of the greatest stars of both cinema and music hall.
World War II was declared while she was recovering from cervical cancer Gracie travelled to France to entertain the troops. In 1940, she married Italian-born film director Monty Banks.
However, because Banks remained an Italian citizen and would have been interned in the United Kingdom, she was forced to leave Britain for North America during the war. Although she continued to spend much of her time entertaining troops and otherwise supporting the war effort outside Britain, this led to a fall-off in her popularity at home.
She performed many times for Allied troops, travelling as far as New Guinea, where she received an enthusiastic response from Australian personnel.
In February 1979, she became Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire seven months before her death at her home on Capri, aged 81. She is buried on Capri.
Tiberius' wild debauchery
The Emperor Tiberius retired there in 27 CE. Tiberius permanently moved to Capri, running the Empire from there until his death in 37 CE.
Tiberius' moved from Rome to Capri because he was weary with the political manoeuvring in Rome and a fear of assassination. The villa is situated at a very secluded spot of the island and the quarters of Tiberius in the north and east of the palatial villa were difficult to reach and heavily guarded.
The Villa Jovis is also, at least according to Suetonius, the place where Tiberius engaged in wild debauchery. Many modern historians regard these tales as merely vicious slander by Tiberius's detractors and these historians believe in fact he lived a modest, reclusive existence on the island. This is what one said.
"In the whole 22 years of Tiberius' reign, not more than 52 two persons were accused of treason, of whom almost half escaped conviction, while the four innocent people to be condemned fell victims to the excessive zeal of the Senate, not to the Emperor's tyranny."
What Seutonius said of him in his history cannot be published in a family paper. So we will leave it at that.
The level of unpopularity Tiberius had achieved by the time of his death with both the upper and lower classes is revealed by these facts: the Senate refused to vote him divine honours, and mobs filled the streets yelling 'To the Tiber with Tiberius!' in reference to a method of disposal reserved for the corpses of criminals. Instead the body of the emperor was cremated and his ashes were quietly laid in the Mausoleum of Augustus.
It was a glorious day when we sailed to Capri. To the north Naples lay on the horizon. To the right lay Vesuvius.
I took the cable car up to the very summit of the island. On one of the chairs someone's basket of supermarket goods were being transported to the summit. Beneath me the earth was rich and everywhere vegetables and fruits grew. The soil is so fertile that the land yields four crops a year.
From the top I could look upon the beauty which had drawn people to this place. It is a lotus land and one could live pleasantly here for the rest of their lives.
But it is an expensive place in which to live because there is no crime there. Thus it is that the rich come here each summer and the finest jewellers on the planet are there to service them.
You feel undressed when you walk through one exotic street unless you are dressed by the finest tailors in the world.
The writer who attracted me most to this enchanted island was Axel Munte, who wrote an enchanting book, The Story of Saint by Axel Munthe.
Born on October 31, 1857, in Oskarshamn, Sweden, he died on February 11, 1949 (Stockholm) and was a Swedish psychiatrist, best known as the author of The Story of San Michele (1929), an autobiographical account of his work and life.
Munthe had an international character, speaking several languages (Swedish, English, French, Italian fluently, and German at least passably), growing up in Sweden, attending medical school and opening his first practice in France, being married to an English aristocrat, and spending most of his adult life in Italy.
He had a philanthropic nature, often treating the poor without charge at his medical practices, and risking his life on several occasions to help in times of war, disaster, or plague when he could have remained at a safe distance.
He was a tireless advocate of animal rights, purchasing land to create a bird sanctuary near his home in Capri, advocating bans on painful traps, and keeping pets as diverse as an owl, dogs, and a baboon.
Munthe developed an eye malady, which eventually made him virtually blind and unable to tolerate the bright Italian sunlight. At this point he returned to Sweden for a number of years and wrote The Story of San Michele, which has been translated into at least 45 languages and said to be one of the best-selling books of the 20th century.
An operation restored his sight, and he spent several more years at San Michele before returning to Sweden in 1942. He spent the final years of his life as an official guest of the King of Sweden.
His villa is the most visited place on the island. His story of San Michele has made the place immortal.
One sails from Capri with reluctance. I know how Oisín felt when he left Tír na nÓg.