Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

CHURCH AND SCHEICH'S HOUSE, EDEN. A journey in the East is indebted for much of its interest to its continual contrasts— from a region of gloom to one of light and glory, from heat and thirst to the lonely fountain and forest . Eden is a place hard to be got at from every side; the ascents to its enchanted little territory are prolonged and painful, but when arrived there, the fruit and forest trees, the noble walnut-trees, the cascades from the mountains, the rich vegetation of the valley and the heights, the neat and picturesque dwellings—how beautiful they all look! The scheich's house, or rather castle, and the church, are conspicuous objects in the plate; the former is the refuge of the traveller, happy if he can often find a similar one in his progress. The home and reception of this chieftain little resembles those of the scheichs of other villages; there is something of the feudal days about them. The castle is strong and well built, and may be considered in Lebanon a handsome and imposing edifice: the guest is welcome to remain here for several days, which he will be tempted to do, the cleanliness and airiness of the interior are so agreeable after the dirty khans and comfortless cottages. My friend, Mr. Abbot, then consul for Beirout, breathed his last beneath the scheich's roof, to which he came from Ras-el-ain, the beautiful resting-place already described as within two miles of Balbec; death took him by surprise on this solitary height of Lebanon, yet he was thankful that he had fallen under the care and kindness of the Chief. The concern of the latter was very great at this mournful event: he attended the remains to their wild grave with much honour, walking in procession with the chief people of the village and neighbourhood. It is, however, possible, though very unusual, to meet with persecution even in Eden, as was proved by Dr. W., a friend of the writer, about two years since. He was a physician, and had resided two years at Damascus and other parts: he came to Lebanon and to Eden, with a hope of being useful to the people by inviting them to a more pure and uncorrupted religion: he distributed in the houses and hamlets copies of the Gospel of St . John and other portions of the New Testament, translated into Arabic, and printed in England. Had he known the priesthood of Lebanon better, he would have tempered his zeal with a little more discretion; experience soon taught him the bigotry and intolerance of many of these men, and their hostility to any innovations on the corrupt systems of faith which are the heritage of Lebanon. In their visits to the families, the ecclesiastics met with many copies of these gospels and tracts; intelligence was quickly carried to the great Maronite patriarch in the monastery of Canobin, that gloomy retreat . which seems to hang among the precipices between heaven and earth, where the light of the sun rarely falls. Orders were instantly issued to arrest the circulation of the books, to take away from the families the copies which they had received, and to warn the stranger to desist from his efforts under pain of excommunication. He paid little attention to this threat , and continued his daily visits, which were beneficial to the body as well as to the soul; for throughout Eden and its vicinity he visited the sick gratuitously, and relieved their complaints. His advice and remedies, and the kindness and sympathy of his manners, soon made him popular in every family. He resided in the castle of the scheich, and was a favourite of his host, who had never received so useful a guest beneath his roof. The patriarch, quickly informed of his obstinacy, actually issued the excommunication, whereby he forbade every family, under the severest penalties, to receive him into their houses, to allow him fire, bread, and water, or to hold any communication with him. On the following Sunday this sentence was thundered forth from every church of the whole region around: its effects were instantly visible; every dwelling was closed against him; no door was gladly opened as before at his approach, no voices of parent or children eagerly welcomed him; even where the sick and dying were languishing within, they dared not ask him to look on them, or approach their bed. He perceived the embarrassment of his host, yet the noble old man, when he saw him prepare to depart, entreated him to remain under his protection, and not to think of the inconveniences to which he, the scheich, would thus be exposed, for that the excommunication should occasion no change in his treatment or regard towards him. The guest declined this offer, and retired with his attendance and servants to a beautiful green spot, shaded by a few fine trees, at a short distance from the village. Here he resided two months in the most singular position imaginable, waiting for an opportunity again to do good; but that opportunity never came. In the midst of a numerous population, the sight of cottages and their families, rich men and their servants, continually before him, he was nearly as isolated as Robinson Crusoe on his lonely island. No one brought him wine, though the vineyards of Lebanon were almost at his tent-door; he saw the smoke morning and evening rising from roofs whose families he had healed, but no one gave unto him. Three tents pitched beneath the trees, on the grassy bank, constituted the residence of his party. They must all have starved, but that they found an old man of the neighbourhood who had hardihood enough to disregard the sentence of his church; with his son, who was a little boy, and his donkey, he contrived to go down the mountains twice a week to Tripoli, and brought provisions and wine back with him. He was well paid, and risked the anger of the priests and the remorse of his own conscience; the latter seemed to sit lightly on him. Every Sunday, during Dr. W.'s residence beneath the trees, the excommunication was thundered forth from every chapel, so that the people were kept in a continual state of excitation and alarm. Had he been a native, and not an Englishman, he would have shared the fate of the unfortunate Assad-ish-Shediak, who for his attempts at religious reform was immured in one of the prison-chambers of Canobin, and fed on bread and water, where, after lingering a few months, he died. But though some of the priesthood would willingly have heard of his destruction, they dared not countenance any violence against him. It was a curious circumstance, that after he had resided thus about three weeks, the people began to visit him, but not for any religious or friendly purpose; they came to ask his advice on their complaints and ailments: men, women, and children stood at his tent-door in groups; they sometimes brought the sick with them, and eagerly received his remedies. But not one of these people would have given him a bit of bread or a drink of water, or admitted him into

[ocr errors]
[graphic]
« AnteriorContinuar »