« AnteriorContinuar »
"in their mansions, reclining and lolling on their soft carpets, under the shade of the broad canvass awning stretched above the windows, on a hot summer's day, supported by soft cushions and pillows under their arm-pits, gurgling the kaleon, or sipping the acid sherbet, † regaled by the fragrance of the flowergarden, and the chirping and cooing of birds in their cages, suspended from the shrubbery, or skipping free in its branches, my early conceptions of an eastern paradise have seemed to be realized. When, however, we remember the corroding apprehensions that incessantly prey upon their minds, in the uncertain tenure of their wealth, and the peril of their lives in that land of despotism, ‡ the burning passions that war in their bosoms, and the poignant stings of a buffeting conscience for their illgotten gains, if for no worse crime, which embitter the sweetest cups of their luxury, and implant thorns on their pillows of down,
* A pipe, by which the smoking tobacco is drawn through an attached vase containing water, by which it is cooled before reaching the mouth.
† Drinks, made like lemonade, of the juices of fruits, mixed with water and sugar.
Of this the reader may obtain information from the volume on "The Court of Persia," in the present Monthly Series.
there is little in such a paradise to covet or
This is true. The constant feeling of insecurity of property and life in the east, and particularly in Persia, is, except to very reckless tempers, a terrible drawback to all enjoyment of, and comfort in, the happiest external circumstances, although it might be a useful discipline to those who know how to lay up treasure in heaven, and to have their hearts, along with their treasures, there. It tends to generate that living for the hour, which is the characteristic of the Persians, beyond all the nations of the earth, and which is well expressed in the sentiment, "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die."
What may be called the middle class of houses in Persia, are often plastered with a simple mixture of mud and chopped straw, the same as is used on the outside; and the floors are, of course, spread with carpets of an inferior quality. The pavements of the courts are also rude, or of the naked earth, and a small open rill, taken from the larger canals, supplies the place of fountains.
The roofs of the houses in Persia are flat, and terraced over with earth. Stout timbers
are first laid across the walls, about two feet apart. These are covered over with split sticks of wood, at intervals of perhaps three inches, on which are spread rush mats; then succeeds a thick layer of a rank, thorny weed, which grows abundantly on the mountains, in a bushy globular form, about a foot or two in diameter. This weed is so resinous as not soon to decay, is an excellent article of light fuel, and is much used for burning brick, heating ovens, etc. may be "the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven," as mentioned by our Saviour. Upon the thick layer of this mud is spread a coat of claymortar, which is trodden down; and next, a stratum of dry earth, six or eight inches deep, over which is plastered a layer of the same mixed straw and mud which is so much used in facing the walls. An occasional depression on the back edge of the roof, furnished with a spout, a few feet long, conducts off the
The soil is so tenacious in all parts of Persia, that there is little danger that a roof thus constructed will be pervious to the rain, if kept in a state of good repair. It is annually plastered over with the straw and mud, except
in the driest parts of the country; and, in the northern parts, the roofs are rolled over after heavy rains, and snow is thrown off with a shovel as soon as it falls. These flat roofs are pleasant resorts to the inhabitants of the houses during the cool of the evening. The people sleep on them during the heat of summer, on account of the cool air and the freedom from vermin. The excessive dryness of the atmosphere prevents any danger from this practice, and it is said to be harmless even where the dews are heavy, as upon the shores of the Persian Gulf. The roofs are secured by battlement," not only to prevent accidents, as enjoined by the law of Moses, but that one family may not gaze upon another's premises; for which reason the "battlement," or top wall, is generally higher than a man on the side towards neighbouring houses. This is important, because Persian custom sanctions the shooting or stoning, without trial or mercy, of any indiscreet gazer into the neighbouring premises; and we may say that we have lived for years in oriental houses, repairing daily to the housetop, without once daring to raise our head above the parapet, lest a bullet should be sent through it. The reader will recollect the con
formity of these facts with usages of the roof mentioned in Scripture; and he will call to mind the sad sin and calamities into which David fell, in consequence of indulging in an idle curiosity, while walking upon the housetop.
It remains to notice the third or lowest class of dwellings, inhabited by the peasantry. The wall of these are built not even of unburned bricks, but of layers of mud, like the "cobwalls" of Devonshire cottages. They are of but one story, and that is commonly low. The soil is so strong in most parts of Persia, that water has only to be conducted upon almost any spot to form tenacious mortar, which is dug up by the spade, and slightly worked by the feet of men, and then laid into a wall, piece being laid upon piece by hand, four feet thick, and three feet high. This is allowed to harden and dry a few days, when another layer, of similar dimensions, but a little thinner, is laid upon it, and the same process is repeated till the wall is carried up to the desired elevation. These walls, when thoroughly dried, are very hard, and, if kept perfectly dry, by being plastered over with the universal plaster of mud and chopped straw, may last for generations. Such,