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to the admiring people of a new era in their condition, in knowledge, in comfort, in faith! The general diffusion of instruction among a people, from whom it has been so long, and so utterly withheld, will be the gradual but certain result of the rapid facilities of intercourse with England: the great valley of the Orontes, from the vicinity of Damascus to that of Aleppo, is full of a modern as well as ancient interest; there are several large and wealthy towns, where manufactures might be introduced, and a regular commercial intercourse established: the cultivation of some districts is excellent, and most are capable of it: but the people are a prey to indolence and apathy:—they want a new stimulus. And this stimulus will be felt when new sources of trade, of enjoyment, of energy, shall be opened to them. The improvements and changes introduced by the conqueror, Ibrahim Pasha, may benefit his coffers, not his subjects. Railroads and steam-carriages will be the greatest blessings to these rich and beautiful countries: on their rapid wheels devolve greater changes than on the march of armies. From Suadeah to the Euphrates, and down its waters to the Persian Gulf,—will no longer be the painful and interminable journey, that most undertake from necessity,— few for pleasure: in a few years, the traveller, instead of creeping on a camel at three miles an hour, wasted by sun and wind, may find himself rolling along the plains of Babylon with the speed of thought, while mounds, towers, and tumuli vanish by, like things seen in a dream: the man of science, who lingers among the dim ruins, the merchant who tarries to buy and sell,—may no longer dread the plundering Kurd or Bedouin, when his country's flag heaves in sight far over the plain, "on that ancient river Euphrates," as daringly as when
"Her march was on the mountain wave,
DAMASCUS, FROM ABOVE SALAHYEH.
The joy of the Prophet, when he first beheld Cairo, would have been exalted to rapture, had he ever looked on Damascus—had he stood where one of his followers is praying among the tombs, and mourning for the dead. A caravan of Arabs is slowly descending the hill from their distant homes: the desert behind, the desert far in front— is it any wonder that the plain of Damascus looks like the land of Beulah to the pilgrim? he stands gazing on it long and silently, he forgets all the perils and trials of the way. The ruined villa on the right, on the very brow of the descent—could not fate spare so exquisite a home? Justly might its owner, when ruin came, contemn every other resting-place on earth. The little cemetery on the left is a sweet retreat from sad and miserable thoughts: the Turk often comes to meditate here: the tomb of the Santon amidst the trees proves that it is venerated ground. The stony plains,—the
dreary hills, which gird in the delicious plain are passed,—and now the traveller slowly moves through groves of cypress, and olive, and walnut trees, and hears on every side the murmur of rivulets which he cannot see. Few passengers are met with: no stream of population, or busy hum of men, or swift passing of horses and carriages, as in the suburbs of London and Paris: you seem to be approaching a vast rural retreat of ease and luxury rather than the great mart of Asiatic commerce and wealth. The mass of gardens is so dense, that at first sight no opening can be discerned: they extend, it is said, not less than twenty miles round, and are thick set with fruit trees of all kinds, kept fresh and verdant by the numerous streams: the plain, which is of vast extent, is almost enclosed on three sides by mountains, which appear, on the right and left, very far from each other: in the farthest distance, their forms rise dim and shadowy on the horizon: the mountains above the city are very near, and, like all the rest, very bare and rugged. About half a mile from the city, tradition points out the spot where Saul was arrested in his career by the light and voice from Heaven, and fell to the earth, to rise no more the fierce persecutor but the stricken penitent, the contrite man, on whose dark dream of cruelty and error had broke the revelation of his Lord. This remarkable scene is on the side of the old road, near the ruined arch of a bridge, and near it are the tombs of some devout Christians. There is no building or memorial here, only the road turns a little aside, that the spot may be a little retired from the general passage of travellers. On entering the gate, you advance along the long and broad street still called Straight, which is probably the same in which Saul dwelt, while yet blind, in the house of Judas, "in the street which is called Straight, where he saw in a vision a man named Ananias, coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight" It must be confessed that even the interior of Damascus, like that of Constantinople, is sadly out of keeping with the excessive beauty of nature, without the walls. Very many of the streets have a mean appearance: the houses are rather low; and the interior is redeemed only by the rivers and the groups of trees, the coffee-houses and the luxurious dwellings of the rich and great It is a place of the highest antiquity, being as old as the time of the patriarch Abraham, whose confidential servant was Eliezer of Damascus. Josephus ascribes its origin to Uz, the great-grandson of Noah: his father, Aram, the son of Shem, having possessed himself of Syria, which from him received the name of Aram. It is called also the Mouth of Mecca, from its being the grand rendezvous of all the Syrian pilgrims proceeding to Mecca, and its Pasha is the conductor of the sacred caravan. This city has been more fortunate than most of its contemporaries: it never attained the elevation or celebrity of Nineveh or Babylon, nor has it ever fallen so low: it has been often captured, and several times demolished, but has always risen again to splendour and dignity, and has in all ages been celebrated as one of the most delightful situations in the world. It was conquered by David, king of Israel, who left a garrison in the place, but it revolted towards the latter part of the reign of Solomon, and was governed by its own princes till the invasion of Tiglath-pileser. After that period it shared the fate of Syria, in being transferred to successive conquerors: under the Romans, it was the capital of that part of Ccelo-Syria which was called, from it, Damascene. In the division of the country established by Constantine and his successors, it was included in Phoenicia Libanica; and when the country fell into the hands of the Arabians, it was restored to its former rank, being made the capital and residence of the Saracen monarchs of the Ommiade race, who removed to this place from Medina in the seventh century, about forty years after the death of Mohammed. It is 136 miles distant from Jerusalem, being a caravan journey of six days. Abraham is said, in Genesis, to have pursued the confederate kings, who had taken his brother Lot, unto Hobah, "which is on the left hand of Damascus."
The chief building in the middle of the city, with a large dome and two roofs, is the grand mosque, built by Christians, and now possessing so peculiarly sacred a character, that Franks are rarely permitted to enter the edifice which their predecessors reared. This cathedral is one of the finest things the zeal of the first Christians produced. The architecture, which is of the Corinthian order, is very superior in beauty and variety to that of any other mosque in the Turkish empire.
FALL OF THE RIVER CYDNUS.
This scene on the Cydnus is below the town of Tarsus; its stream passes within a short distance of the walls. Rarely can the traveller gather at once so many beautiful associations as in this vicinity, whose decay is not visible in ruinous haunts and a wasted soil: the fields are cultivated, and the groves are cool, as in the days of departed pagan and christian glory. The birth-place of St Paul, ere he was brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, was in his time "no mean city of Cilicia." All present appearances and usages are sadly at variance with the memories and feelings of the Christian: the Oriental receives him with the salutation of "Peace be with you: you are welcome among us: God send you a happy evening"—but the name of that Lord in whom Paul gloried, suffered, and died, is not mentioned here. The stranger gladly turns from its close streets, its mean dwellings, and seeks without the walls the interest which he cannot find within.
The Cjdmis is approached through groves of citron and palm, which are irrigated by branches of the river; and here the people of Tarsus love to resort, during the heats of day, and sit in groups in the shadow of the groves, conversing indolently and at intervals, or smoking in idealess abstraction, and gazing through the trees on the Cydnus, and Mount Taurus beyond. The time will surely come, and perhaps is not even now far distant, when Christianity shall again pour its flood of faith, hope, and intellect on this splendid land—when the mind as well as heart shall "awake, and put on her beautiful garments."