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PART OF THE WALLS OF ANTIOCH, OVER A RAVINE.
In this mountain-pass we know not whether most to admire—the grandeur of nature or the grandeur of man. Daring was the genius, and skilful the hand, that could war with these mighty solitudes, and plant there everlasting bulwarks, crowning the inaccessible ridges, and closing a ravine twenty-five feet wide with a wall that was seventy feet high. Beat, during two thousand years, by the torrent, the tempest's wing, and by many a fragment falling from above—their aspect is awful, and the frame shudders as we contemplate them; the precipice above, the precipice below; still they endure—of a fearful immortality, their lichens and wild anemones wantonly waving on the brink of death. Death is a power to which they are a stranger; the shepherd beneath their arches shall ere long be laid with the clods of the valley, the traveller, pausing in their shadow, shall tell his tale, and live his brief day: all the merchants of Syria, who journey this only caravan-road, shall pass away—and then shall come the people of succeeding ages, and find these walls even as they are now.
A short distance only, and what a startling contrast! We almost hear the rushing of the Orontes in the beautiful plain beneath, and the sounds of Antioch seem to come faintly on the ear. After so much beauty, it is welcome to be thus alone with the terrors of nature: the roebuck could not find a footing on these perpendicular precipices, and the vulture could scarcely rest amid their dark gulfs, to feast his eyes on the flocks on their brink. The sun is sunk below the peaks, the tinkling of the camel bell is passed away. The traveller, while night is falling, is here a lonely being: seated on a rock, and listening to the torrent rushing below. The Arab smiles as he swiftly passes him on his gallant steed; and the trader, while he gives him his evening blessing, pronounces his Inshallah in a tone of wonder and pity. In such a scene and hour, the past and the future rush on the mind in a tide of thoughts and images that are wild, beautiful, and irresistible: the narrow and silent pass, like a ledge over the abyss, is crowded, as of old, with many a warrior, and priest, and noble, in all their multitude: the Macedonian, burning for empire; the Roman, patient unto death; the Saracen, athirst for blood and Paradise; the Crusader, loving the Sepulchre only less than gold and fame;—they all sought immortality. Alas! its only memorial is this eternal and desert wall, begun by the first and finished by the latest conqueror. Not such was the immortality sought by the first Christians, who fled to this solitude from the sword and dungeons of the city, and poured out their blood on these rocks. Martyrs of Antioch, who thus sealed your Redeemer's love—how bright, amidst such remembrances, is your destiny! And in the gloom deepening on this wilderness, where the stranger feels in a strange land, it is beautiful to think that each of these hoary caverns was then a temple of the Lord, where the hymns of praise rose even above the torrent's roar! Your brief day was quickly passed—your warfare soon over: to you, time and fame are nothing; you have bowed them beneath your feet On the mountain peaks, the ancient turrets are now like gold in the last sun-light, though all below is dark and chill: their banner of Macedon and banner of Rome is rent and gone; while, beautifully rising through the gloom, is the ensign of the Cross, girt by a little band, upheld in fear, yet in hope. In this very path is the cave where the few Christians of Antioch come to worship at evening; in a few hours their solitary lights will gleam there, and their voices be heard on the silence of the night Theirs is the worship in the wilderness, in temples not made with men's hands.
This wall is one of the most magnificent works of the kind ever seen: it is necessarily carried across the Ravine, with an arch below for the passage of the stream. It is not always safe to linger late in so rude and lonely a scene: there may be, even behind the crags, hands and eyes bent on mischief, and watching every movement of the stranger. A French traveller in Syria, a few years since, suffered miserably for the indulgence of his taste and curiosity in a similar place: he was engaged in sketching the savage and picturesque scenery around him, and then, heedless of the approach of evening, continued to sit on the rock, enjoying the tranquillity of the hour, and the balmy freshness of the air. He had long and intently been watched by some Arabs, who, from behind the neighbouring rocks, patiently observed him sketching; his papers and views were on the rock beside him; and he was wrapped in some reverie, all unsuspicious of evil, when they fired and mortally wounded him. It was a quick and dreadful transition from repose, fancy, and hope, to agony, terror, and death. They plundered him of his money and valuables; and he was soon after found weltering in his blood by some peasants of the nearest hamlet, whom the Arabs had acquainted with the deed. They conveyed him to their home, and tended him with kindness the short time he lived, which was only till the following day: his death was a loss, for he was an accomplished artist and an impassioned traveller, and had wandered a good while alone through the country, without meeting with any accident or molestation, previous to this cruel occurrence. In the poor and lone cottage of the Syrian peasant , in anguish of body and agitation of spirit, perishing suddenly and afar from his family, relatives, and friends—with what force, what love, must his native home and all its ties have rushed on his thoughts!— His papers were preserved by the people, and found their way at last to his family. He was buried near the hamlet, beneath its spreading trees. No rites of sepulture, or ceremonial of the dead, so sacred to the memory, honoured his remains; no eye that had loved to look on him in life, wept over his dust; the hand of the stranger framed his rude bier; and the names of Alia and the Prophet were mingled with the sound of the earth that fell heavy on it