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LEBANON.—GENERAL VIEW OF THE CEDARS.
The site of these noble trees is a very unsheltered one—on a ridge, near the highest part of Lebanon, encompassed with snow several feet deep during half the year; open to the wildest mountain winds and storms. The small forest in the plate includes a great number of young cedars, and the whole can be walked round in half an hour. Pococke says, "that the great cedars, at some distance, look like large spreading oaks: the bodies of the trees are short, dividing at bottom into three or four, some of which, growing up together for about ten feet, appear something like those gothic columns which seem to be composed of several pillars."
The oldest cedars in our own country do not date above a hundred and fifty years back: they are supposed to reach their maturity in less than three centuries. In the back ground are seen the snowy summits of Lebanon: under the trees on the right some Arabs had lighted a fire, which reflected on their figures, as they were seated in a wild group around it: the glare of the flame was cast at intervals on the trunks of the trees, that seemed to stand like some of the aged columns of Egyptian ruins, around which the Bedouins encamp in the desert There was no danger of a conflagration of any part of the cedars, from the flying sparks or half-extinguished embers, for the Arabs regard them with superstitious reverence, and would rather fire their own dwellings than one of these sacred trees. "I went to see them," says Father Dandini; "they are called saints, because of their antiquity: moreover, as these trees are but few in number, they esteem it a miracle that they cannot be reckoned exactly. I counted twenty-three, and another of my companions twenty-one: they never fell them, to make boards. They affirm that certain Turks, who fed their flocks thereabouts, having been so impious and so hardy as to cut down one of these trees they call saints, were punished forthwith with the utter loss of their beasts. One may also see there the spring of a rivulet, which the inhabitants call the holy river, for that it takes its source from the mountain whereon grow the cedar saints, in a very hidden and delicious place, and from it descends along the valley, running with little murmuring streams among flint stones." The ascent from Eden to the cedars is about five miles, allowing for the windings of the road, which is very rugged, passing over hill and glen: the time occupied depends on the season of the year: Lamartine was three hours on the way, in June, and could then only survey them at a distance of many hundred yards, in the deep snow. "At first," says a traveller, "they appeared like a dark spot on the mountain, and afterwards like a clump of dwarfish shrubs, that possessed neither dignity nor beauty: in about an hour and a half we reached them. They are large, and tall, and beautiful, the most picturesque productions of the vegetable world: there are in this grove two generations of trees: the oldest are large and massy, rearing their heads to an enormous height, and spreading their branches afar." The young cedars in this grove are not easily known from pines, which it will be perceived they greatly resemble: a few pines are also found among them. In ancient
s times they probably extended over the heights and vales nearer to the village of Eden, which was then celebrated as the region of the finest trees: the forests that supplied during so many ages so great a demand, must have covered an extensive tract of ground, and the trees stood closely, as now, together.
The cedar of this species is not found on the other parts of Lebanon, being confined to this consecrated spot: walnut, mulberry, oak, pine, abound all over the mountain: the vast and beautiful sycamores, of a size to shelter a small caravan (men, horses, and camels of thirty persons) beneath its branches, are found at intervals in the plain, at the edge of the mountains. The Arabs, a group of whom had kindled the large fire beneath the cedar, are often found wandering on Lebanon during the summer months, in search of pasture: they remain for a time in the fertile spots with their cattle, and then strike their tents to seek a fresh pasturage. Some of the districts of the mountain resemble those of the Alps in this respect; being covered with grass, and the numerous springs, together with the heavy dews which fall during the summer months, produce a verdure, richer and of a deeper tint than in less favoured parts. The Arabs come up hither, and wander about for five months in the year: in winter they descend to the more sheltered valleys, or pass the winter months on the sea shore about Tripoli and Tartous. "I was astonished," says Burckhardt, "at seeing so high in the mountain, numerous camels and Arab huts. Though, like the Bedouins, they have no fixed habitations, their features are not of the true Bedouin cast; and their dialect, though different from that of the peasants, is not a pure Bedouin dialect They are tributary to the Turkish governors, and at peace with all the country people; but they have the character of having a great propensity to thieving: their property, besides camels, consists in horses, cows, sheep, and goats." The words, "O inhabitant of Lebanon, that makest thy nest in the cedars," can now apply only to these wandering Bedouins, or to the Sheich and his little tribe, who come in summer and dwell beneath their shadow. The party sat long, partaking of a rude repast, and conversing around the large fire, the materials of which the forest afforded: a few had risen, and were moving among the trees, in their long coarse robe and turban.
A spectacle beheld by a missionary, of numerous fires on Lebanon, was far more picturesque. "Standing off the coast of Saide and Beirout, we had a brilliant view of the illuminations which take place on the mountain, on the eve of the festival of the Holy Cross. From north to south, there was, in a crescent form, an exhibition of lights, which increased in brilliancy as the darkness of evening came on. Some of them rose to a very considerable height above the horizon, marking the great elevation of the mountains: I counted fifty. These large fires were lighted by the monasteries and churches; and throughout the whole of Mount Lebanon, from Tripoli to Tyre, and in various other parts, this ceremony would take place. Considering that our view was partial, we may calculate, that not fewer perhaps than five hundred such fires were lighted."