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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Light
By Edmondo De Amicis (1846–1908)
From ‘Constantinople’

AND first of all, the light! One of my dearest delights at Constantinople was to see the sun rise and set, standing upon the bridge of the Sultana Validé. At dawn, in autumn, the Golden Horn is almost always covered by a light fog, behind which the city is seen vaguely, like those gauze curtains that descend upon the stage to conceal the preparations for a scenic spectacle. Scutari is quite hidden; nothing is to be seen but the dark uncertain outline of her hills. The bridge and the shores are deserted, Constantinople sleeps; the solitude and silence render the spectacle more solemn. The sky begins to grow golden behind the hills of Scutari. Upon that luminous strip are drawn, one by one, black and clear, the tops of the cypress trees in the vast cemetery, like an army of giants ranged upon the heights; and from one cape of the Golden Horn to the other there shines a tremulous light, faint as the first murmur of the awakening city. Then behind the cypresses of the Asiatic shore comes forth an eye of fire, and suddenly the white tops of the four minarets of Saint Sophia are tinted with deep rose. In a few minutes, from hill to hill, from mosque to mosque, down to the end of the Golden Horn, all the minarets, one after the other, turn rose color; all the domes, one by one, are silvered, the flush descends from terrace to terrace, the tremulous light spreads, the great veil melts, and all Stamboul appears, rosy and resplendent upon her heights, blue and violet along the shores, fresh and young, as if just risen from the waters.  1
  As the sun rises, the delicacy of the first tints vanishes in an immense illumination, and everything remains bathed in white light until toward evening. Then the divine spectacle begins again. The air is so limpid that from Galata one can see clearly every distant tree, as far as Kadi-Kioi. The whole of the immense profile of Stamboul stands out against the sky with such a clearness of line and rigor of color, that every minaret, obelisk, and cypress-tree can be counted, one by one, from Seraglio Point to the cemetery of Eyub. The Golden Horn and the Bosphorus assume a wonderful ultramarine color; the heavens, the color of amethyst in the East, are afire behind Stamboul, tinting the horizon with infinite lights of rose and carbuncle, that make one think of the first day of the creation; Stamboul darkens, Galata becomes golden, and Scutari, struck by the last rays of the setting sun, with every pane of glass giving back the glow, looks like a city on fire.  2
  And this is the moment to contemplate Constantinople. There is one rapid succession of the softest tints, pallid gold, rose and lilac, which quiver and float over the sides of the hills and the water, every moment giving and taking away the prize of beauty from each part of the city, and revealing a thousand modest graces of the landscape that have not dared to show themselves in the full light. Great melancholy suburbs are lost in the shadow of the valleys; little purple cities smile upon the heights; villages faint as if about to die; others die at once like extinguished flames; others, that seemed already dead, revive, and glow, and quiver yet a moment longer under the last ray of the sun. Then there is nothing left but two resplendent points upon the Asiatic shore,—the summit of Mount Bulgurlu, and the extremity of the cape that guards the entrance to the Propontis; they are at first two golden crowns, then two purple caps, then two rubies; then all Constantinople is in shadow, and ten thousand voices from ten thousand minarets announce the close of the day.  3

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