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THE PASS OF BEILAN,—MOUNT AMANUS.
ON THE APPROACH FROM ANTIOCH.
About six hours from Antioch, and in the caravan road to that town and Aleppo, is the town of Beilan, in the gorge of Mount Amanus. When yet about three hours distant, the traveller comes to the Khan of the Black Myrtle, so called from the quantity of that shrub in the neighbourhood, where there is a narrow pass, and a hamlet of mountaineers, who claim a tribute from every traveller or caravan that passes. A little beyond the Khan of the Black Myrtle is a castle on the top of a precipice to the left of the road, in a most romantic situation; half an hour hence is a paved way to Beilan— but for which, in winter, the road would be, from the nature of the soil and the rains, impassable. Beilan is situated on either side of a deep, narrow, and elevated valley: a stream from the mountains rushes through the middle of the town, and three or four aqueducts cross the valley, of ancient construction, and they are still in use. The houses almost climb up the sides of the fine descents, or stand boldly on the brink: the night was advanced, the moon was some hours risen, and shone full on the village and the declivities: it was a luxury to the wanderer to pass such a night in Beilan: as he wound slowly up the steep path, and looked on the picturesque homes, from many of whose casements the light was glancing: in a few moments his mattrass would be placed on the hospitable floor, the fire blaze bright, the cup of coffee and the pipe be put into his hand; and then—how beautiful to seek repose on the terraced roof! can his eyes close in slumber while the moon is in all her lustre on the precipices, on the groves, and on the crests of Amanus, far above his head? On the left is the cemetery of the generations of Beilan: on the right, the mosque, with its dome and minaret; the large khan is above, almost leaning against the rock, its little windows pierced by the rays: the ancient aqueduct crosses the ravine, and a mountain rivulet is beneath its arch. The charm of an asylum in a wild and weary region was felt by the writer in a similar night in Palestine: the guide had lost the way, and each step seemed to lead farther from every thing like a roof, and the heath and the rock were gathering faster on every side—when the bark of a dog, far to the left, induced us to turn in that direction; and soon, kind and mingled voices bade us welcome: the young women of the family prepared and served the supper, and afterwards the mountain song, in its native wildness, broke on the night There was excellent wine, as at Beilan: the girls were tall and well made, with fresh complexions, and dark hair that hung on their shoulders in plaited tresses. How quickly the feeling of home gathers round the heart, amidst kind words and attentions, looks of welcome and mercy! The blazing wood-fire—the soul-felt ballad of the mountaineer—the neatness and comfort of his home—his interesting family,—were so sweet a contrast to the friendless world around us, that as the flame glanced over roof and wall, they looked as if they "were our own, and we had long dwelt in this strange land." After a few hours, we resolved to sleep, not beside the warm hearth, but in the brilliant moonlight on the terraced roof, where lake and valley, mountain and convent, were as distinct as in the day—a vivid yet visionary scene.
The little cemetery of Beilan had none of the gloom of an Eastern burial-place: the light was full on its bosom, broken by the shadows of its rude monuments, whose inscriptions told not of the faith or hope of Christ: yet its hushed and pastoral character might well recall the exquisite lines of Wilson on a purer scene.
How sweet and solemn, all alone,
With reverend step, from stone to stone,
O'er intervening flowers to move—
And hear, in the calm air above,
Time onwards, softly flying;
To meditate, in Christian love,
Upon the dead and dying!
Across the silence seem to go
With dream-like motion, wavery, slow,
And shrouded in their folds of snow,
The friends we loved long, long ago!
And while we gaze, how dim appears
This world's life, through a mist of tears!
Vain hopes! wild sorrows! needless fears!
Such is the scene around me now i
A little church-yard, on the brow
Of the wild Alpine hill:
And loudly, here, is heard the flow
Of the lone mountain-rill.
What lulling sound, and shadow cool,
Hangs half the dark sepulchres o'er,
From thy green depths, so beautiful,
Thou gorgeous sycamore!
HOUSE OF GIRGIUS ADEEB, AT ANTIOCH.
Hospitality to the stranger was the virtue of the East in ancient times, when it derived from the pastoral life of the patriarchs a charm, a simplicity, and a picturesqueness which is rarely found at present, save among the Arab tribes, who dwell in tents amidst their flocks and pastures. It seems to be the heritage of this people, even from the earliest tradition of their existence, even from the days of Esau: they are kind to the stranger who halts at their door; a repast is set before him, a lodging for the night is offered. The writer, when crossing an extensive plain in Syria, was obliged to put to the proof the hospitality of these people, whose encampment stood most invitingly in the way, the only habitations in the wilderness, if the expression may be applied to a vast tract of wild and rich pasture land. The tents were pitched on a long line, near a small and rapid stream; the numerous flocks and herds were grazing on every side. Since day-break we had travelled five or six hours, and had begun to look wistfully