RECOLLECTIONS OF THE EAST. *
The subject of this lecture is Egypt and Palestine. But do not mistake me,— I do not mean the Egypt and Palestine about which you have heard so much, and upon which it is so eminently proper to deliver lectures. That is very commonly an ideal Egypt and Palestine. The subject of my lecture is only the Egypt and Palestine that I saw. Cicero says that "the eye sees only that which it brings with it the power of seeing," and such as I have I give you, — namely, a few personal Recollections of the East. I shall not imitate a former townsman of mine, who began his history of Rochester with an account of the glacial epoch, nor shall I follow the example of Knickerbocker's History of New York, which commences with the Creation. I shall take yon at once to the gates of the Orient. I shall claim the privilege of being as uninstructive as I please. If any of you have ever read Mr. Kinglake's Eothen, that rose-colored but fascinating book of Eastern travel, you have not forgotten the solemn strain in which the author warns his readers, in the preface, that from all useful information, from all valuable statistics, and from all moral and religious reflections, his work will be thoroughly free. I am half inclined to begin my lecture with a like warning. I wish, at least, to bar all disappointment, by premising that I am to give, not an elaborate and logical and scientific account of Egypt and the Holy Land, but simply a few jottings of what I saw, and how I felt, as I wandered through those regions of ancient story.
Very early one morning, in the latter part of March, the Frenchman who occupied the lower berth of the state-room woke me with the words: "Alexandre,— Alexandrie!" We had been steaming it all the way from Naples and Malta for the last four days, and I had got quite a sufficient idea of the extent of the Mediterranean. I needed no second call, and in a few moments was on deck. During the night we had anchored in the harbor, and now, as the sun rose and the morning breeze played upon the surface of the water, I took my first view of Alexandria. The picture-books were all true, and more than true. Unmista,kably Egyptian was the long low shore-line of yellow sand, and the long yellow line of city houses. Here and there an isolated palm tree seemed like an emerald in a golden setting, while on the outskirts of the city were patches of green grass and groves of palms whose trunks looked like slender columns of a temple, supporting a roof of Gothic fan-work. The golden glow of the East was over all. The morning was warm, but bright and cloudless — a perfect Egyptian spring morning. In four days I had journeyed from April to June. I began to realize how that person
* A Lecture before the Roblnson Rhetorical Society of the Rochester Theological Seminary, February 25, 1878.
must feel who is knocked into the middle of next week. One can live in a perpetual spring, if he will only chase it wherever it flies. Yet I must confess to something like a smiting of conscience, as I stood on the deck of Her Majesty's steamer and remembered how I had cast contempt on the almanac, and substituted one long May for December, January, February, and March.
The sun had hardly emerged above the horizon, before a dozen boats, manned by natives, put out from shore to welcome us. And what a welcome! Such yelling and gesticulation! I once thought that American hotel-runners could get up as perfect an extempore Babel as any set of mortals, but I believe now that they must yield the palm to these Egyptians. An overwhelming torrent of Arabic jargon, bearing on its bosom the disjecta membra of murdered French, English, and Italian words! With voices keyed at the highest pitch, and with faces apparently frantic with excitement, each one of these swarthy creatures begged, besought, implored you, to take his boat. We looked on as placidly as possible for awhile; but alas, the harbor was shallow; the steamer could not get nearer shore; we had come to see Egypt; we must leave the vessel; we could not swim ashore; we were shut up to taking a boat; and so, after driving the best bargain we could, we committed ourselves to the mercies of half a dozen stalwart tatterdemalions, with much the same feelings that one would have on resigning himself to a lot of Comauches, to be scalped or to be set up as a mark for juvenile savages to shoot at. Once in the boat, the uproar quieted down so much that we began to think our tribulations over. As we approached the shore, however, I lifted my eyes, and to my dismay beheld a regiment of Arab donkey-drivers, the only hackmen of the East, lining the whole shore where we were to land, and stretching out their arms towards us, while they uttered such ominous cries as "Mosu! Mosu! want a donkey?" Here my French friend was invaluable. I had seen him, a number of times on the voyage, affectionately fondling a good stout shillalah. I had asked him what the purpose of the stick was, but he had only replied that he had a little grudge to settle with the donkey-boys at Alexandria. Now I saw the admirable results of living on the maxim: "Forewarned, forearmed,"—for, no sooner had the Frenchman leaped on shore, than he began to lay about him like mad, right and left, front and rear, till the donkey-boys fell back in utter confusion, and he led us in trinmph through the routed host.
We next fell into the clutches of the Custom House Inspector, an officer whose chief end is to collect "baksheesh," or tribute-money, for not examining baggage. We propitiated His Excellency with a sixpence, and escaped scot-free. Then a lot of Arab porters surrounded us. The moment the Custom House Examiner signified that the baggage was all right, half a dozen squalid wretches made a dive for each separate article, and in less time than it takes to tell it, our baggage was scattered to the four winds, and nothing was to be heard but yells of "Mosu! hotel?" It was a flank movement on the Frenchman, for his back was turned at the moment. It was only a temporary reverse however, for the thick stick came to the rescue. It brought the most obstinate to terms, and sent the rest flying. In a few minutes, we were hurrying after two or three Arabs who contracted to serve as baggage-wagons, and who succeeded, to our surprise, in shouldering all our trunks, hat-boxes, and valises. When we reached the hotel we found it completely full. On seeking another, we discovered the case to be the same there. A host of English passengers were in town on their way to India, via Suez. It was on toward noon before we succeeded in getting breakfast, and the crowd so completely destroyed all comfort that we concluded to take the railway that afternoon to Cairo.
That railway ride gave us a fine chance to see the Egyptian landscape. The country is very flat. Nothing like a hill is to be seen. Meadows clothed in the most beautiful verdure alternate with sandy plains and desolate yellow mounds — the only remains perhaps of ancient cities,— but mounds on which are now clustered the mud-huts of the modern Egyptians. Now and then a grove of palms varied the monotony of the scene, and twice between Cairo and Alexandria the railway crosses the Nile. I shall never forget the awe with which I first looked upon this mighty and mysterious river, on whose banks early idolatry built its temples and the first great empire of the earth arose. Here was the source of Greek mythology, and the home of the oldest science and civilization. Wonderful river ! emblematic of the history and influence of the land through which it flows. With sources lost in distance, and fertilizing vast spaces of otherwise desert land, it leaves its home at last, and mingling with the sea bears Egyptian waters to Greece and Italy. The Nile was very low, but its current was swift aud brond, and even in crossing it by railway we could see that it was oue of the grandest of rivers. Railroading in Egypt never exceeds fifteen miles an hour, and long before we reached Cairo at midnight, we had lost all recollections of our breakfast. We did what we could to console ourselves with oranges, which the Arab boys sold at three for a penny. When we reached the great Hotel of Cairo, all was dark. Just inside the door a great stout negro porter was lying in true eastern fashion across the threshold, fast asleep. After kicking him about like a foot-ball for a few minutes, we managed to wake him, and it was not long before a number of tired howadji were slumbering safely inside the mosquito-nets.
Two days in Cairo — and two days only,— for the season was late, aud Palestine was before us. We had to see the greatest amount possible in the smallest possible time. So, at seven o'clock the next morning, we started for the pyramids. My dragoman Selim, as is invariably the case, was the prince of interpreters and guides. Each sf us mounted a stout donkey, and behind the donkeys followed the inevitable donkey-boy, armed with a long stick. Wo had no more to do with the running of the donkeys than a passenger has to do with the running of a railway train,— the donkey-boy was both engineer and conductor. Our business was simply to hold on, and to let the animals run. They were sometimes disinclined to go faster than a walk, and then the donkey-boy's stick was very efficacious. Though you may scarcely believe it, Ave rode the donkeys and the donkey-boy ran behind, thirty-six miles that day, in twelve hours, including at least an hour and a half of stoppages. That day I visited the pyramids, the Apis-Cemetery of Sakknra, and the remains of Memphis, and returned at night to Cairo, the sorest mortal that ever dismounted from a donkey.
The ride for the first few hours was very delightful. Every step showed something new in Oriental life or customs or scenery. The narrow and dirty streets of Cairo, sometimes roofed over with matting to exclude the sun, the bazaars, with a sober, squatting, cross-legged Egyptian smoking his chibouk at the entrance of every little shop, the women with faces half-covered after the eastern custom, but with sharp black eyes that still glanced at the Frank over the edges of the dark veil, the Arab jargon of quarreling ferrymen, the camels with their long necks and ungainly strut and enormous burdens, taking up the whole street as they walked, the noble gateways adorned with Arabesques and inscriptions from the Koran, which now and then appeared among the squalid and ugly habitations of the poor, — all these were new to me. I was in the midst of the Orient. I saw dozens of boys who might have served for excellent Aladdins, and it was no small task at times to repress the fancy that I was some personage of the Arabian Nights, and living "in the days of good Haroun al Raschid." All round me were sights and sounds utterly different from the sights and sounds of Europe; it was all a new world and a new age,— no, not that,— it was the old world and the old age, which we moderns have so far, far outgrown.
Outside the city the road wound through endless groves of palm and tamarisk and cassia. The grass was green and fresh, but the flowers were all of novel shape and hue,— everywhere the brilliant and luxurious vegetation of the tropics. So, until we stood almost under the solemn shadow of the Pyramids, the morning's ride was a continual succession of beauties and surprises. Then came a change. In a few minutes, we had passed from greenness and tropical beauty to long tracts of desert sand. The Pyramids stand on the very edge of the desert. As you toil up the steep sand-covered bank on which they are built, they seem to rise before you as giant warders of that vast region of sterility and death.
The ascent of the great Pyramid was rather comical. As we passed the last straggling collection of mud-huts on our way to them, two or three Arabs from each village started up from the ground where they had been lying in the sun, and followed us, as persistently as hounds would follow a hare. When we arrived at the foot of the great Pyramid, we had about twenty of them about us, as rascally a set in appearance as one often sees. The regular charge of the Sheikh for ascending the Pyramid and exploring the interior is five English shillings, and for this sum he is compelled to furnish three stout Arabs to assist and guide each traveler. A dozen others, however, always beset you with offers of aid and demands of "baksheesh," and their importunities are not so easy to resist, especially when they have you completely in their power, as they do at some stages of your explorations. Determining in my own mind that I would yield to no such demands, and leaving all superfluous clothing and all my money behind me for safe keeping with the dragoman, I gave each hand to a lank Arab, who looked as if he would gladly cut my throat for a sixpence, and began the ascent. A third Arab followed, and furnished the "boosts" from behind. All this assistance is very necessary,—for the outside of the Pyramid, though it was originally smooth, is now a series of rough steps about three feet high.
With the help of the Arabs, the ascent at first seemed quite novel and amusing. As they pulled me up they sang a sort of chant together, the words of which were of all languages, and ran somewhat as follows : "Mosu good — hard work — no 'fraid — Jack and Jill — baksheesh ; — Mas'r rest — take care — not far — Mosu good — hard work — baksheesh." They saug it over and over again, with all sorts of variations, but I noticed that the most enthusiastic part of the song was always the "baksheesh." As we neared the half-way station, the chorus ou " baksheesh " became quite overpowering. When I sat down on a stone to rest, the Arab rascals surrounded me, stuck their fists nearly into my face, and demanded a donation. Whereupon I smiled very graciously, and told them I was ready to go on again. It was not so graciously that they consented, but fiually, consent they did, and in a few minutes I was upon the summit of the Great Pyramid of Cheops, four hundred and fifty feet above the plain below.
Of course I meditated more or less,— as much as the hot day and the fatiguing ascent and the bothersome Arabs would allow. Beneath my feet was the monument of one of earth's oldest dynasties — the appropriate record of a crushing despotism that fortunately ceased to curse the world as many as forty centuries ago. And yet what a monument it is — this great stonemountain on the sandy plain! There is a science exhibited in its construction, which has never been surpassed. It is the recorded verdict of competent engineers, "that, with all the progress of modern knowledge, it would be even in our days a problem difficult to solve, to construct as did these Egyptian architects of the fourth dynasty, in such a mass as that of the Pyramid, chambers and passages which, in spite of the seven millions of tons pressing upon them, have for four thousand years preserved their original shape without crack or flaw." But what shall be said of the new from the summit? It certainly reveals to you the vanity of human ambition. The vast pile that was once reared in the midst of life and beauty now stands alone in the desert. The encroaching sands have flowed in, till aronnd this mausoleum of Egypt's greatest monarch, all is now a solitude. The dreary yellow plain stretches away ou one side, as far as the eye can reach. But while on one side all is silent and desolate as the grave, on the other side the distant prospect is as bright and beautiful as ever presented itself to Moses upon Pisgah. There is the soft green of meadow and field, of waving wheat and stately palm, all growing by the banks of the unfailing river, while the minarets of Cairo shine in the sunlight miles away. Who could help making the one side a picture of the end of earthly greatness, and the other a picture of the life and beauty that shall perpetually abide upon the banks of the river of the water of life on high?
Why should we ever come down from Pisgah? Why should there be such tribulations as Arab guides? The rest of my meditations are not recorded, because there were none. The three cut-throat-looking rascals became too obstreperous. They demanded "baksheesh." There was no escape but in starting down again — the Arabs looking daggers enough, though they did not go so far as to show any. And I found my account in not yielding to them. When we came to the narrow passage-way more than half-way down, which leads you into the very heart of the Pyramid, I was relieved of the company of a dozen or more supernumerary savages who were waiting there for the opportunity of entering with me. Woe to the man to whom that happens! Woe to the man who has to witness an Arab dauce in the King's Chamber, through the stifling dust kicked up by a score of naked feet, and then has to pay for it roundly or submit to have his lights blown out, and be left to find his way to the open air alone! Such things have been. Upon this occasion, however, only two Arabs accompanied me. I saw the interior of the Pyramid under quite favorable circumstances. I confess that I have no desire ever to see it again. Of all places in the world detestable to sensitive knees and nostrils, commend me to the passages of the great Pyramid. The entrance-passage is only four feet high, and as we held our candles in our hands and went bending half double all the way, through an air in which seemed concentrated all the heat of Egypt's suns and all the choking dnst of Egypt's deserts, the impressions we received were, to say the least, not wholly agreeable. On reaching the bottom of the first passage, which inclines downward for sixty feet or so, a turn to the right brings you to a place where you are obliged to ascend a perpendicular wall for a little distance, by putting your feet into the crevices of the stones. This brings you to the second passage, which takes you up a steep incline a hundred and twenty feet long, and as low and fatiguing as the first. Here you pass the entrance to what was once called the great well of the Pyramid — a well that was said to penetrate far below its foundation and to connect with the Nile, but which more recent investigations have shown to lead to a subterranean chamber, and which, with the chamber itself, is above the highest level of the overflow of the river. After this comes a third low horizontal passage-way which conducts yon to the King's Chamber, a room thirty-four feet loug by seventeen broad and nineteen in height. Lighted only by a couple of candles, this apartment seemed dusky enough. The air was thick and heavy, and, though it was a relief to stand upright once more, the gloom and undefined extent of this dark and silent chamber were quite oppressive. I was scarcely in it before I should have been glad to be out. At one end are still the remains of a sarcophagus, hacked and hammered at by tourists, in which a king of Egypt lay undisturbed so many centuries. The first plunderers of the Pyramids doubtless stole the wooden coffin, with the mummy and treasures it contained, and thus prevented it from gracing the shelf of some foreign Museum. Old Sir Thomas Brown said well: "In vain do men hope for preservation below the moon. Mummy has become merchandise, and Pharaoh is sold for balsams."
But, not to describe the exit from the Pyramid and the hot ride over the scorching sand to Sakkara and Memphis, let me simply say that it was quite late when we got back to Cairo. The sun went down in a cloudless sky, and yet the sunset was peculiarly deep and glowing. The air itself seemed tinged with yellow and crimson, and the whole west was radiant with golden fight. There was no twilight. Scarcely had the sun set, when it was already dark and cold. The stars came out, with that intense and piercing lustre that is never seen save in an Eastern clime. I could not wonder that Astronomy was first of sciences, or that the wandering tribes who watched their flocks by night could gaze upon these stars in their long walks through the sky, and could imagine that they had peculiar and intimate relations with all human fortunes. I could have looked at them myself till they paled before the rising day. We made a trinmphal entry into Cairo after the successful accomplishment of that day's tour,— an entry that deserves to be commemorated. The donkey-boy, after his thirty-six miles' run, kept the donkeys still at full speed, and trotted behind, panting like a dog, and belaboring the beasts as he went. The streets of Cairo were crowded with men, women and children,— many of them with what looked like Chinese paper lanterns in their hands. It was a regulation of the police, in fact, that no person should walk the streets at night without one. But police were not worth much in Cairo. There was no gas, and many of the streets, especially the less important and more narrow of them, though full of human beings, were wrapped in the blackest darkness. I first understood that evening what "dark as Egypt "meant. Down these streets our donkey-boy propelled the donkeys at full gallop. Commanding us to let go the reins, and flourishing his big stick, he ran behind us, yelling at the top of his lungs to all who valued their lives to get out of the way. How many fathers and mothers of families we ran over, in that headlong race, I cannot say. I know we did run over some, and were followed by deluges of Arabic curses, as we swept through the dark and narrow streets. Bnt what possibility was there of resistance? what use of remonstrance? The donkey-boy was evidently out of his head. Spite of all our appeals to him, nothing could stop his yells and his slashing of the beasts, and we had to resign ourselves to a ride that seemed like the mythical gallop by the side of the Black Huntsman. The donkey-boy certainly did not make his appearance next day. Whether he ever survived his long run, and still preserved the use of his faculties after acting so like mad that night, has remained a most profound mystery until this very day.
But enough for Egypt. Two days after, we sailed from Alexandria in a steamer of the Austrian Lloyds. Another two days of windy weather brought us to Beyrout, where our journey in the Holy Land was to begin. Few cities of the world are more beautifully situated. The majestic mass of snow-crowned Lebanon was in full view, and the yellow houses of merchants and missionaries scattered amoug the groves and gardens, on the slopes of the bay, gave the town an air of unusual elegance and prosperity. The weather was delightfully warm, clear and bright, with comfortable nights and cloudless blue skies. On the flat roof of the hotel we walked up and do wn, in the moonlight evening, and laid our plans for the journey before us. Some delay was necessary before our arrangements were perfected. The first essential was to secure a good dragoman, for on the possession of a competent and experienced interpreter, steward and guide, all your comfort and security depend. We engaged a man at last who agreed to furnish horses, baggage-mules, tents, servants, cook, and all the requisites of a good living on the way. The contract was that he was to pay all expenses of every sort, taking us wherever we pleased to go, for an English pound a day for each person. There was a time when the traveler had to rough it in Palestine. Except at Beyrout, Jaffa, Jerusalem and Damascus, there are no such things as hotels. You must carry tents with you, and buy and cook your own provisions on the way. But modern science has reduced all this to a system. The dragoman surprises you with a set of beautif ully embroidered and ornamented tents — a sleeping-tent, a dining-tent, and a cooking-tent. The flrst two are furnished with Persian carpets, and the sleeping-tent is provided with light iron bedsteads, mattresses and linen, camp-stools and all the ordinary apparatus for performing the toilet. You can have five courses for your dinner, got up by your French cook, if you desire it and are willing to pay for it,— and so you may fare, though you camp in the desert. And you will have appetite enough to eat through all the five, if your experience is like mine. A ride of thirty miles on one of those Arab horses will give a keen relish when you sit down to dinner at seven o'clock in the evening. The horseback riding is indeed the great benefit to health, of a tour in Palestine. The horses may not be remarkable for beauty, but if they are of real Arab blood, they will show an amount of spirit and fire that will delight you. An Arab horse before starting may seem a tame and homely creature. After the start he seems to have changed his nature. At the least touch of the whip, he flies like the wind. Remember that there are no roads in Palestine. Mountain mule-tracks are the only approach to them. The Arab horse has never traveled except under the saddle,— the very sight of a wagon or carriage is so novel that it frightens him,— but his kindness and gentleness are beyond all praise. His step is proud and elastic, and he will go up and do wn places in those rocky mountain-paths where the rider holds his breath. Sharp-sighted and sure-footed, he will carry you ten hours a day, and look as well at the end of a month's journey as he did at the beginning.
It takes no long time to see the chief things of note in Palestine. We often form quite an erroneous notion of the extent of the Holy Land. A narrow region a hundred and fifty miles in length by fifty miles in breadth includes all the celebrated spots of sacred story. It is doubtful whether our Savior, during his public ministry, ever traversed an extent of territory as large as the State of Connecticut or New Hampshire. The whole of Pnlestine could be put between Rochester and Albany, and you would still have fifty miles to spare. From three or four elevations you can see the whole of it,—and, if there were any lofty mountain near the centre of the country, you could see the whole land from one single point of view. But, while Palestine is a small land, it is so situated as to be a meeting-place for other lands. The great caravan-route between Egypt and Assyria passed up her western coast and south of Lebanon through Damascus. In times of peace, Palestine was a thoroughfare for the traffic of the world; in times of war, the great heathen monarchies on either side of her contended for the possession of her territory, as a strategic point from which to conduct their military operations. So far from being true is the old notion that Palestine was a country chosen by God as a place of seclusion for his people,— it is rather true that it was a converging-point for the influences of civilization — a sort of highway of the nations.
I do not mean that every inhabitant of Palestine lived a public life, but I do mean that the land itself was so shaped at the beginning as to draw into it the currents of the world's trade—hence the wealth of Solomon and Hezekiah; so shaped as to give out religious and moral influence — hence the Hebrew culture of Alexandria and of Babylon. Palestine was a narrow land — and yet the only practicable and easy path for land-travel between the east and the west. Bounded on the west by the Great Sea, the modern Mediterranean, and on the east by the desolate table-lands of Bashan and Perea,— with the great mountain ranges of Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon at the north, and the Arabian desert at the south, it might at first seem as if it were a land separated from all other lands. But no, there were loopholes through which trade could pass and did pass,— and through these loop-holes ran the only practicable avenue for commerce. Jerusalem lay among the hills to the east of tins traffic, and usually was not disturbed by it; but Jerusalem was too near not to feel its influence. No one can study the surroundings of Palestine in connection with its history, without being convinced that God formed the land at the creation, not only to be the theatre of a divine revelation, but also to be the centre from which that revelation should be disseminated through the world. God called Abraham out from among the heathen, and in this land educated him and his descendants to the belief in the divine unity, spirituality, and holiness, so that he might in this way be prepared to communicate the blessings of true religion to the whole earth. The interest we have in Palestine to-day is this, that it constitutes the school-house where the teachers of the world were taught; the stage upon which the mightiest scenes of human history were acted out; the presence-chamber where God revealed himself to patriarchs, kings and prophets; the sacred soil which Jesus' feet once trod, and on which the cross was erected for the redemption of mankind ; the startingpoint from which the apostles of the gospel of peace set forth for the conquest of the world.
How wonderfully fitted Palestine was for all these purposes of divine revelation, yon can hardly realize till you travel over it from end to end. For it is not only a small land, and a meeting-place for other lands,— it is, besides, as Isaac Taylor has said, a sample-land of all lands. Every traveler can find the climate and scenery of his own country in Palestine. The Hebrew poet found near at hand the materials which the poet of other lands must seek by distant travel. Follow the course of the Jordan from the spot where it springs from the rocks, a full-grown river, until it empties into the Dead Sea, and you pass from the Arctic cold of Hermon's glaciers to the torrid heats of the plains of Jericho, where in summer it is hotter than in any other place on earth except Aden. There are mountain and plain, stream and forest, thunders and floods, lakes and flowers. The sun flares up from behind the mountain-wall of Edom, rejoicing as a bridegroom, and that same sun sets in the Great Sea. Surrounded with this wonderfully transparent air, and under the brightness of these stars, the writers of the Bible lived and thought and prayed. This wonderful variety of scenery and imagery renders the Bible intelligible and vivid in its descriptions to the inhabitants of all other lands. "Think," says the writer we have quoted, "what the Bible would be, if it had been written in Iceland," and how much of it would be impossible for us to understand,— and you will begin to admire the wisdom of God in selecting Palestine as the theatre for his revelation.
Our first route was along the shore of the Mediterranean, abnost the whole length of the land to Jaffa, the ancient Joppa. Compared with the common route through the interior which we were afterwards to traverse, the ride was one of considerable sameness, and yet how strong and deep were the feelings which wore called forth by the broken columns of Sidon and Tyre, of Csasarea and Joppa! And then Mount Carmel by the sea, with the spot of Elijah's sacrifice, and Sarepta, a city of Sidon, where the prophet dwelt with the poor widow, and whither Christ himself once came. Our track lay along the very margin of the sea, so that now and then our horses* Tioofs were bathed in the foam of the Mediterranean waves. Then, for a number of miles, we would leave the smooth but dreary sand, and cut off some promontory by going inland. In climbing the Tyrian ladder, our horses carried us over a steep and frightful path cut in the edge of the rocky precipice where it projects over the sea, so that, while we stumbled up the giddy steps, the hoarse waves sounded from the rocky caverns beneath our feet. We generally succeeded in reaching a village by nightfall, and in finding a good camping-place in the vicinity. At Sidon we camped on the edge of a Mohammedan graveyard. By common report the graveyard was haunted by Ghouls. We heard jackals howling there all night with long and piteous cries. In the morning, dozens of Mohammedan women came to the grave, as Mary and Martha did of old, to weep there. And a mournful noise they made ; though, after the weeping was concluded, they came over to the edge of our camp and gazed at our breakfast preparations for a half hour together. As we got further south, leaving Acca and Carmel behind us, our company was enlarged by the addition of two other parties, who joined us for safety. Our retinue was rather an imposing one. It consisted of twenty ladies and gentlemen, half a dozen dragomans and servants, and some sixty baggage-mules and horses. The coast here was swarming with Bedouin robbers, and the travel was as dangerous as in any part of Palestine. A merciless set they were. Only the day before our arrival, a German gentleman straying from his party was plundered and stripped by the Arabs, and reached the convent on Carmel entirely naked. The gentlemen of our party were almost all armed with revolvers, however, and we were quite equal to any attack.
The ruins of CsBsarea are the most extensive and striking of any in Palestine. The scene is one of perfect desolation. Not a house or hut exists within miles of the place. The remains of the ancient city are colossal. Immense fragments of the old mole, into which are built splendid granite columns of earlier edifices, lie heaped one upon another, while the shore is strewn with a wreck of marble pillars and massive walls. Caesarea is full of interest, even in its utter solitude. Here lived Cornelins, and here first the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the Gentiles. Here Herod met his terrible death, in the city which he deemed the most splendid monument of his greatness. Here Paul was imprisoned two long years, made his noble defense before Felix and Agrippa, and from this very port he set out on his eventful voyage to Rome. The wild flowers are growing now amid the ruins of Caesarea's temples, the waves are dashing over the remains of its ancient wealth and glory, and Paul and his judges have long, long ago been summoned before another and a grander tribunal.
So we passed on to Jaffa, the ancient Joppa, and the next day we climbed the steep, rugged, barren road that leads up and up to the summit of the great rocky water-shed of Palestine, and then over its crest to Jerusalem, the Holy City. No one who has not seen Palestine with his own eyes can comprehend the excessively mountainous character of the country. There are only a few square miles of level land from one end of it to the other. Everlasting masses of yellow limestone hills succeed one another as you go, for the most part devoid of all appearance of greenness or beauty, except where here and there you light upon a lot of straggling gray olive trees. After a long ride under a hot sun, the approach to any city would have roused our enthusiasm, but what shall I say of the approach to Jerusalem? It will live in memory, as long as memory lasts. In our anxiety to catch the first glimpse of the Holy City, we had pushed our horses on far ahead of the baggagemules, and one or two of us, more eager than the rest, and unable any longer to endure a slow trot, galloped on alone to the last ridge which separated us from the city to which so many for ages have made pilgrimage. A moment more and the domes and minarets and battlemented walls of Jerusalem lay before us, and beyond, the long yellow mass of the Mount of Olives, dotted here and there with the trees from which it takes its name. One has not from this side the finest or even a fine view of the city, and yet the feelings with which we approached it were not renewed in their freshness and fullness when we gazed on it afterwards, from other points of view. Even here, as we saw the hills that shut it in on every side, it was easy to feel the force of David's words: "As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people." Zion and Moriah, the western and eastern mounts on which the city is built, and the dome of the Mosque of Omar, which stands on the site of the ancient temple, were all clearly visible, and over walls and ramparts and towers, as well as over the whole city enclosed within them, lay a warm, golden sunshine, so silent and calm that, as we looked down upon it from a distance, it almost seemed deserted, like a city of the dead. Imagination was busy, however, and it was easy to picture it out in its ancient magnificence, as it was when he, whose feet trod these very paths, lived and taught within it.
The sublime and the ridiculous lie very close together. Our meditations were disturbed by the performances of a crowd of pilgrims near us. They too had pressed on to catch the first glimpse of the Holy City. They were a carious set — men, women and children. Every man had a donkey, but not every man rode his beast. This seemed reserved for the women and children. And the method of loading the animals was curious. Over the back of the creature was slung what looked like an enormous pair of saddlebags. In one side the wife and mother curled herself up, while half a dozen children, more or less, big or little, were thrown in on the other side, as a makeweight to balance her. Imagine the scene, when every man, woman and child was alive with excitement, and each wanted to be first in bowing the knees at first sight of the city, and crying out "El Khuds! El Kkuds!" "the Holy, the Holy!" Such a tumbling head over heels out of saddlebags, and such an indiscriminate mess of children, women, men and donkeys, alas! I shall never see again. And what had all these pilgrims come for? Most of them had come to spend Holy Week, and to attend the ceremonies in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. What these were, we understood better a few days afterwards, when we witnessed them ourselves. On the evening of Good Friday, the church was filled with an ignorant and fanatical crowd, whom even the guard of Turkish soldiers could scarcely keep in order. An image of the Savior, half the size of life, a shriveled, shrunken, puny figure of wax, was nailed to a cross, exposed, carried in procession, taken from the cross, anointed and laid in the sepulchre, in presence of a dense multitude of noisy fanatics, who worshiped it as a fetich is worshiped in the south of Africa. The whole performance was a sickening one, and all that was impressive about it was the singing of a company of monks and the responses of a choir of boys. It was the grand, solemn chant of an Italian composer, the pathos of which not even the grating voices nor the stupid indifference of the singers could entirely obscure.
One soon gets enough of holy places at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Most of them are evidently mere figments of the imagination. It was more convenient for the monks who showed them to have them close together, and so, they have put them close together. It was better for their pockets to have many of them for which to charge an admission-fee, and so, many of them were invented. They not only show the sepulchre where Christ was laid, but the spot of the Crucifixion and the holes in the rock into which the three crosses were thrust that day. And yet the whole Chapel where these are shown is an upper chamber, standing on no rock at all! A little further on you see the Chapel of Adam, where the monks say his skull first leaped out of the earth; then the tomb of Melchisedek; and again, the very spot where the cock stood when he crowed to Peter. A little experience in the hands of the monks convinces you that the less confidence you put in their stories, the more apt you will be to lear n the truth. Our religion gives little heed to special places, and it is a merciful ordering of God that none of the spots where the great events of Jesus' life occurred can be certainly identified, for the history of Palestine abundantly demonstrates that, if they could be certainly identified, they would just as certainly be the objects of idolatrous worship. The object of a journey to Palestine is not to identify these sites, but rather to fix in mind the general features of the land and the character of its scenery. The hills about Jerusalem, and those on which the city is built, remain just as they were, and though there is at first a feeling of disappointment at the wretchedness and misery that now meet your eye on every side, and especially at the lying and superstition of those who inhabit this once favored land, still the great events of Scripture all fit wonderfully into the scenes before your eyes, and you leave the country more thoroughly convinced of the truth of the Bible, and with far more vivid conceptions of its narratives, than you could possibly have had before you came.
After a few days' sojourn in the City, we went through the Wilderness of Judea to the Jordan and the Dead Sea. The hills and valleys where John preached and Christ was tempted are melancholy wastes. Scarcely a blade of grass grows upon them, and the bronze-colored mountain-sides reflect upon you with tenfold heat the rays of a burning sun. Down, down we went, a long and desolate ride, till we stood by the ruins of Jericho, and drank of the brook which the prophet healed. There we encamped for the night, near a large party of pilgrims who had come to wash in the Jordan. Long before light next morning we set off for the river, and an hour after our arrival at the narrow, rushing stream, the pilgrims came trooping after us. Then followed a scene that baffles all description. Men, women and children, draped and undraped, rushed to the water to plunge themselves three times beneath the surface. Many were clad in the grave-clothes which they had purchased long before the time, and had come to consecrate by a wetting in the Jordan. Fathers ducked their wives and children, while the wives shrieked fearfully and the children yelled. All was excitement and confusion, and a source of no small amusement to the howadji who was looking on. By and by the sun rose, and we pushed on over the level, sandy plain to the Dead Sea. The landscape about it was deathlike. The sea was motionless. Complete silence reigned. Not a living thing, beast or bird or fish, was visible. The mountains rose steep, bare and yellow, from both sides, and when the sun got high, the whole region was hot as a furnace. The water was more bitter and disgusting to the taste than one can previously conceive. Sea-water is very palatable compared with it. On the shore we sat down and breakfasted, after six hours riding, and then prepared to ascend the mountains to Mar Saba, on our way back to Jerusalem.
All that day we rode under a scorching sun, over a succession of yellow hills, whose leafless desolation was like death itself — a horrible country. Bare cliffs of rock alternated with rounded hills, covered thick with yellow stones. No sign of water or life — not a blade of grass, not a breath of air, — only a stagnant atmosphere seven times heated. Our horses grew faint, and we grew sick, long before we reached our camping-place. Yet all day long our Arab guards seemed strangely frightened. Now and then we saw straggling Bedouin posted on the heights above our road, and these, they told us, were spies. We saw no cause for alarm, however, until after we reached our camping-place at the bottom of a deep valley, and dusk came on. Then we saw numbers of Bedouin horsemen filing along on the edges of the hills far above us. Our muleteers had taken off the horses and mules to a spring, some distance up the side of one of the hills, in order to give them water. Suddenly, as evening came on, we heard numerous reports of guns in that direction, and saw frequent flashes through the darkness. A man comes flying to the camp with the intelligence that a large party of Bedouin have seized upon our mules and horses, and have run away with them to the mountains. The men-servants catch up all the arms they can lay hands on, and rush off up the hill to help their comrades. The gentlemen are requested to get their pistols ready in case of emergency. Soon flashes and reports again on the hills — here a flash and there a flash, bang! bang ! — till the hill-side seems to be the scene of quite a battle. All of a sudden our dragoman gallops into the camp in a state of the wildest excitement, exclaiming that the Bedouin have beaten our muleteers, and that there is great danger of their making a descent upon us in the camp. "Ladies to the tents !" and in an instant, having obtained a supply of ammunition, our heroic commander gallops off again into the darkness. The half dozen ladies crouch together in one of the tents, in no very peaceful state of mind, while the gentlemen of the party exert themselves to calm them, and at the same time load all the guns and revolvers within reach. While this is going on, one of them shoots himself accidentally through the hand. Then the ladies in the presence of real suffering come to their senses, and, while the doctor extracts the ball, they lend all their aid and sympathy. A muleteer comes in with his head broken in with a stone, another with his hand fractured, another with a wound in his arm. The scene by this time becomes sufficiently exciting. The firing on the hills has not ceased, but it is not so frequent. A messenger soon comes to tell us that our men have fought most bravely, have recovered the animals, and are now leading them back in safety to the camp. Nobody is killed, though some are slightly injured.
It seems amusing to look back upon, and yet I should hardly care to pass that night again. No one knew that the Bedouin would not come down upon us in the darkness. No one could be certain that in their anger they would not fire into our tents from the rocks above us. Yet wo stationed a strong guard, and all of us slept soundly. No attack was made, and we rose in the morning very thankful that all was safe. For several hours after starting from the night's camping ground we saw companies of Bedouin posted on the tops of the hills about us, but they did not dare to attack us. They looked ugly enough, however, with their Arab horses and their long guns. They were greatly superior to us in numbers, and, if they had been only a little less afraid of Frank arms, we might have had more trouble. As it was, their caution was very well advised, for we all had revolvers, and their long match-locks would have been almost worthless in a combat with foreigners. All this country through which we passed before we reached Jerusalem again is celebrated for the robberies and murders which have been perpetrated by the lawless Bedouin. In fact it has an ancient reputation of this sort, for it was this very wilderness of Judea that the man whom the good Samaritan relieved, passed through, when he went down to Jericho and fell among thieves.
On our way back to Jerusalem we visited Bethlehem. It is pleasant to find such places as Bethlehem and Nazareth, so far superior to the ordinary eastern towns in cleanliness and decency. The inhabitants of both are almost all Christians, and both are distinguished in Syria for the beauty of the women. The grotto of the nativity at Bethlehem, with its golden lamps and silken hangings, did not interest me half so much as the sight of the hillsides where David tended his father's flocks, and the shepherds saw the multitude of the heavenly host on the night that Christ was born. The grotto is probably an imposture, but the hills and valleys about are the same that we read of in most ancient story. That same evening we made our way northward, past the spot where Rachel died, and where her tomb now stands, until the Holy City lay spread out before us on the opposite heights, and we felt the truth of the Psalmist's words, "Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth is Mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King." Down the deep vale of Hinnom, and through the Valley of Jehoshaphat,— until we crossed over and pitched our tents for the night upon the Mount of Olives.
Memorable evening! It was the Mohammedan feast of Ramadan, and at the firing of the sunset gun, circlets of lamps were lit, upon the minarets of all the mosques, that shone through the growing darkness like crowns of glory. Beneath our feet was the sacred city,— where David reigned, and where Jesus taught. Somewhere in this lowly valley the Savior passed that last most bitter night of agony in the garden,—up that steep path he was taken to his trial,— on one of those mounds outside the walls he hung those six long hours, parched with thirst and quivering with intensest pain, under the blazing noon-day sun. Who could lie down to sleep without most solemn and grateful thoughts that night? And when the morning dawned and all the splendor of the great temple enclosure dawned upon us, who could help being half intoxicated with the imaginations of the hour? There, across the valley, was the place where the cloud of glory descended upon the temple, and Solomon dedicated to God the courts of the house of the Lord. The great open area of these courts now occupies a space of fifteen hundred feet in length by a thousand feet in breadth, and contains thirty-four acres. The temple of God has given place to a Mohammedan mosque, but the broad courts are beautiful still. The massive and lofty walls, the mosaic pavements, alternating with plots of fresh, green grass, the dark olives, the tapering cypresses, the marble fountains, the broad, elevated platform encircled by airy arches, the richly carved pulpits and prayer-niches and miniature cupolas, the great mosque with its noble dome glittering with enameled tiles, in arabesques of rainbow-hues, the secluded, sacred air that seemed to belong to all, the white figures of veiled women stealing from one mass of foliage to another, the turbaned heads bowed low in prayer,— all this was deeply impressive. But what must it have been, when these enclosing walls were hid by triple rows of marble columns a hundred and twenty feet in height and a thousand feet in length, forming arched colonnades grander than those of the grandest cathedral of modern days! What must it have been when, in place of this mosque, stood the magnificent structure of the temple, with its lofty portico towering above all the. rest! What must it have been, when a hundred thousand worshipers joined in the solemn chants of the sanctuary— a multitude whose voice was like the sound of many waters, and which furnished John in the Apocalypse with his imagery, when he described the worship of the temple on high! Ah, Jerusalem is beautiful, but the beauty of the past has gone forever. Only in the heavenly Jerusalem, and in the song of the multitude that no man can number, will it ever be restored.
But time would fail me to tell the whole. Jerusalem must be left behind us. Northward, past Mizpeh and Gibeon, through Bethel and Shiloh, to Jacob's well, and Sychar, a city of Samaria. Here, at the foot of Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, and between them both, we passed a quiet Sabbath day. We joined in worship with a number of parties encamped near us. Before we left the place, we visited the small, plain, white-washed chamber which constitutes the Samaritan Synagogue, and gazed from a respectful distance upon the great roll containing the precious Samaritan Pentateuch, which, though not written, as they relate, by the grandson or great-grandson of Aaron, may yet date back to the beginning of the Christian era. Then we clambered to the top of Gerizim, and inspected the pit and the stones where the passover-lambs are killed and roasted every spring, and where twelve men, in white surplices and turbans, representing the twelve tribes of Israel, still from year to year maintain the ancestral Samaritan worship. Then, descending, we made our way northward, by way of Samaria and Dothan, to Jezreel and Shunem, Nain and Endor, all situated at the east of that great plain of Megiddo or Esdraelon, which we saw three weeks before, in all its grandeur and desolation, from Mount Carmel. Thence we climbed the hill and stood in Nazareth, the scene of thirty years of Jesus' life.
The appearance of the little town is very pleasing, with its dazzling white walls embosomed in a green framework of cactus-hedges, and of fig and olive trees. The House of the Virgin we were not able to see, because, as tradition relates, the sacred dwelling was carried off in the thirteenth century by angels, in order to prevent its desecration by the Moslems. This may be regarded as authentic, for during the Pontificate of Paul II, that infallible head of the Church, this miracle was solemnly confirmed and vouched for by the Papal See. For reasons which may be imagined as well as they can be described, we neglected to visit the workshop of Joseph, although the right was offered us at so low a price as three piastres. But two things we did see which were much better worth seeing,—first, the spring outside the village, with its many maidens drawing water, much as Laban's daughters did of old; and, secondly, the hill to the sonthwest of the town which, from a height of eighteen hundred feet, commands a lovely view of the vale of Nazareth, together with the distant prospect of Carmel and the great, wide sea beyond. To this spring where the women gathered, Mary the Virgin must have often led the steps of her infant Son, and from that summit the youthful Jesus must often have looked off toward the horizon which marked for him the farthest limit of the visible world, while he pondered upon the work for the world's deliverance, which even then began to spread out like this grand panorama before him.
From Nazareth we passed on to Mount Tabor and the Lake of Galilee, and past the ruins of the cities on which the curse of Jesus rested because they repented not. Then to Safed, Caesarea-Philippi, and Damascus. And with Damascus we must close our journey. It is a fitting close. The famous view of Damascus, from the ridge north of the city, has been celebrated by every traveler, yet it has never been praised enough. It is the most beautiful vision that strikes the eye of the traveler in the east. The plain of Damascus is covered with foliage, as far as the eye can reach. The endless orchards of fig, pomegranate, mulberry, almond, apricot, orange and olive, form an unbroken sea of green, that surrounds the city and washes its very walls. The minarets and domes of Damascus rise in slender and swelling beauty from the midst of the green, and no language can do justice to the exquisite contrast between the white spires and the verdure that surrounds them. This plain of waving leaves is bounded by high and barren mountains. The snowy crest of goodly Hermon, and its subject hills, fill all the north and west. It is a legend of the Moslems that Mohammed, the prophet, never entered Damascus, exclaiming as he passed by, "Man can have but one Paradise,— I will not take mine on earth." Alas, that the beauty of the outside show is so belied by squalor and wretchedness within! But so it is with all the land of Palestine. The prospect often pleases,— and only man is vile. Neither Damascus nor Jerusalem can satisfy. And there was no lesson that I learned in the Holy Land, more impressive and lasting than this: There is no earthly city, however famed in story or sacred from associations of the past, where the soul can rest and say, Here I will abide, here I will dwell forever. If we would find rest, it must be, not in the earthly but in the heavenly Canaan, not in the Holy City where prophets spake and Jesus walked while here in mortal flesh, but only in that city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. It was only this common feeling of us all that the old mediaeval poet expressed, in those most sweet and sacred lines:
"O, mother dear, Jerusalem!
When shall I come to thee?
When shall my sorrows have an end?
Thy joys when shall I see?
"O, happy harbor of God's saints!
O, sweet and pleasant soil 1
In thee no sorrow can bo found,
Nor grief, nor pain, nor toil!"