Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

to go and wash in the Jordan. Perhaps, when the counsel was given, it was in the summer season, when the waters of the Jordan were greatly shrunk and diminished, and the Syrian lord recalled to mind the rapid and better supplied, but less beautiful stream of Pharpar. The river Abana is no longer known under that name; it was anciently described as running into the city itself, its waters being conveyed by pipes into all the houses of distinction, as well as the market-places; while the Pharpar ran by the city walls, and watered the gardens. The present more considerable river is the Barrada, out of whose bosom issue three or four other small streams: there are altogether six streams, natural and artificial included; yet as four of these are the work of art, the original division of the waters into two branches would correspond to the mention made of the Abana and Pharpar. It is probable that the former was once the larger river.

About three hours above the village and vale of Ain Fijji, pursuing the banks of the Barrada, is a very picturesque and remarkable pass, called Souk, or Souk Barrada, where the road is narrowed by the approach of the mountains on either side of the river. In the rock on the right hand, excavations have been made in places that seem quite inaccessible without the help of a scaling-ladder, or a rope and basket. Some of the doors are formed with great care, and have buttresses on each side, and statues, not a little defaced, between them. Here the river is crossed by a bridge, and the scene is highly picturesque; two villages are here built on either side of the river, opposite to each other. The valley of the Barrada, to some distance hence, is full of fruit-trees, and, where its breadth permits, maize and wheat are sown. About an hour and half below, the vale begins to be very narrow, and, turning round a steep rock, it presents a very wild and romantic aspect To the left, in the mountain, are six chambers cut in the rock, said to be the work of Christians, to whom the greater part of the ancient structures in Syria are ascribed.

The Barrada is not fordable here; its waters are rapid and clear: the vicinity of Damascus, to some hours' distance, is peculiarly favoured in that choicest blessing to an Eastern land—abundance of excellent water: the stream is not shrunk, and scarcely diminished, in the hottest season. A little way higher up, at the termination of the valley, is a bridge, of modern erection: from the bridge the road leads up the side of the mountain, and enters, after half an hour's ride, upon a plain country, the greater part of which is highly cultivated, and is called the district of Zibdane, a clean and cheerfullooking village, large, and in a lovely situation, where we passed a night very agreeably. In this picturesque and cool retreat, several days, or even weeks, might be passed, with a few books, without ennui:—flourishing as with the richest English cultivation; shaded roads, rose-covered hedges, delicious pastures; the people friendly and hospitable, clean in their dwellings, comely in their persons; provisions abundant, and very cheap; and the religious bigotry and intolerance of Damascus, unknown in the peaceful and tempting homes of Zibdane. The mountain ballad is heard here, the tale told, and the wine of Lebanon drank; and a mild, and kind, and well-dressed circle gathers round the stranger at evening. Is not this delightful in such a land, where we once fancied mistrust and insecurity would be on every side?

The village of Souk is a little to the left of the road, and here the traveller can procure accommodation for the night; the modern houses are often raised on ancient, massive foundations: on an elevated point, which commanded a fine prospect down the valley, were fragments of large and small columns; the scheich receives strangers into his house; a small wooden door on the street opens on steps, which descend into a roofed passage, and here a high platform, on one side, was offered cheerfully for the beds and baggage. Beyond was an open court with small separate buildings on three of its sides, and on the fourth a low wall, from whence there was a fine view of the valley, and of the rushing torrent beneath, while at the end of the dormitory, a water-jug, on a small pedestal of masonry, supplied indiscriminately all who were thirsty. The houses were prettily sprinkled over the sloping sides of the valley; although small, each stood within a walled court, and all were distinguished by a certain air of neatness, as if they belonged to little landed proprietors, rather than needy peasants: none of the inhabitants are meanly dressed, and all are civil and obliging. During the summer the families sleep in the open air; in the sides of the courts are elevated terraces, spread with mats, over which are often laid good mattresses and pillows, with well-stuffed cotton quilts. There are extensive vine-gardens in this vale of Souk, which is industriously cultivated; the river is full of trout, probably never molested.

KHAN AND BRIDGE NEAR THE SOURCE OF THE DAMOUR.

This romantic scene is in the road between Beteddein and Beirout, about an hour's distance from the former, which is the palace of Emir Beshir. The greater part of this mountain-road, so convenient to travellers, was made a few years since by this prince of the Druses. The valley in which the Damour flows is deep; the road descends into and crosses it; the mountain is here overgrown with fine firs. The traveller descended to this resting-place in the evening, and never enjoyed coolness and fresh springs more highly. These are the head-waters of the Damour, a stream that flows winding into the sea, which it enters through the plain of Sidon. The stream rushes rapidly over a rocky bed, and is crossed by a stone bridge; the valley is every where most romantic; convents, villages, &c. seen in beautiful situations. To come at once from the palace of the powerful and cruel Emir, who has felt the dark vicissitudes of ambition, to this lone and hushed retreat, seems to realize the lines of Schiller:

Oh! well is he and blest his condition,

Who in his native vale's sweet rest,
Far from the mazes of life's wild transition

Sleeps like a child on nature's breast.

[graphic]
« AnteriorContinuar »