Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[graphic]

forget the howling desert he has traversed, as well as the distant home, to which he is bound. In Damascus some of the best reciters are to be found; and the peculiar luxury and situation of its coffee-houses aid very much the effect of their narrations. In Cairo, the want of water, the burning heat, and the gloomy and dusty streets, are, as well as the desert that spreads on every side, great foes to the imagination. In Constantinople the beauty of the external scenery, of the Bosphorus and its enchanting shores, cannot be surpassed; but the scantiness of water in the interior of the city, diminishes very much the luxuries of its people, who love beyond every thing the sight and sound of falling water in their apartments. But in Damascus, almost all the coffee-houses have splendid fountains, that are thrown up, some of them to the height of six or seven feet; and it is delightful to recline on one of the soft seats near them, and listen to their ceaseless rush and fall. The abundance of water from the five streams that flow around the city is incredible. The Assyrians might well complain, in their inroads into the Promised Land, of the scarcity of its rivers, and boast that there was nothing like their own Abana and Pharpar. In some of these houses of recreation, whose latticed windows, thrown open, admit the air, the wealthier people form dinner-parties, of men only. Seated in a circle on the carpet, with the various dishes on low tables before them, they eat slowly and carelessly, conversing at intervals, without any of the gout or joviality that wine inspires. Every good private dwelling in Damascus has its fountain, and this is invariably in the best apartment, it being a luxury, or rather a necessity, that few inhabitants care to do without; an Englishman would as soon live in an uncarpeted house. And round the marble basin, or in the divan just beyond it, the host at evening receives his friends; and they sit and smoke, and calmly converse the hours away: this is the time when the wealthier families sometimes send for a celebrated story-teller to amuse the party; and when the latter knows he is to be handsomely paid, it is a more recherche opportunity than the public companies afford. It is the sultry hour of noon, perhaps, when the burning rays are on the water, the trees, and green banks that surround the public cafe of Damascus: the light roof, supported by the slender pillars, casts a shade on the peopled floor, on which the well and variously dressed Turks recline, some in small wickered chairs, others on long and softer benches, covered and backed with carpets and cushions. These seats are placed close to the river's edge; and earth has nothing more indulgent than to sit here, in the cool of the day, or in the still hour of night, and listen to the rush of the waters, and gaze on the gleaming of the cataract; then put the amber-tipped and scented pipe to the lips, or turn to the throng of many nations around, all silently enjoying the hour. It is sweet to such a people to have their feelings violently excited, to have the monotony of their thoughts thus broken wildly by the vivid descriptions of the speaker. It is a pleasure so easily enjoyed also; the head need not be raised from its recumbent position, nor the eye turned from the faint twilight falling on the foaming river, nor the hand moved from its gentle grasp on the chibouque. The favourite storyteller watches his moment, and comes forward into the middle of the floor, and raises his hand: the lips of the Damascene, the Cairene, the Arab, and the Persian, that were before busy, perhaps conversing on the few themes that occupy an Oriental mind, are instantly hushed. The hands of those whose faces are turned towards the speaker are laid significantly on their flowing beards, or count their beads with unconscious and mechanical motion. The waiters, who replenish continually the often-drained coffee-cups, tread stealthily over the floor. If a guest enters, his eye detects instantly the nature of the scene, and he walks with quick steps to the nearest vacant seat, and signs to the attendant to bring him the refreshment he desires. Amidst the sound of the falling waters, the voice of the story-teller alone is heard; and each tone falls as distinct and clear as that of the angel who shall proclaim at the day of account the sins of the people. It is beautiful to see a proud and half-barbarous people thus chained by the power of imagination; listening, with the earnestness and simplicity of children, to the fictitious narration, melted at the tenderness of some of the passages, and their dark eyes kindling at the powerful painting of others. THE CILICIAN GATES. This ruin, as it may be called, appears to be of Roman construction, and forms a very picturesque object, being approached through a wild valley, a little way from the Gulf of Issus: beyond it are bleak and uncultivated downs. Few passengers are met with in this direction. The poor habitations are thinly scattered; scarcely a hovel is to be seen throughout a territory so famous in ancient history: where the empire of Asia was contested by Darius and Alexander—all is now desolate. PART OF RHODES, THE CHANNEL, &c. This view is the one looking over the lower part of the town, where the consular houses are situated. More delightful abodes cannot be imagined; on the slope without the walls, in the midst of gardens, their windows looking on the shore, the channel, and the coast of Asia Minor opposite. The situation of consul in this isle is rather an enviable one, if a man can make up his mind to live with very little society; he will not, perhaps, find it a very hard matter to do this, but there is a chance that his wife will be thinking, too often for her peace, of the friends and comforts of her native home. All the ladies of the consuls whom I knew in these regions, were of this mind—discontented, contrasting the unsocial, dull, and monotonous people and manners around them, with those they had left behind. Not one was reconciled to, or happy in, her situation, whether it was in Egypt, Syria, or Turkey. This dissatisfaction is the characteristic of English women in the East; for the French and Italian ladies who have homes in these lands, soon reconcile themselves to most things around them, are cheerful, and suffer little from ennui or repining. Surely theirs is the wisest part . Is not this a scene, in one of the gardens, beneath the trees, in which to listen to an Eastern tale? The best

« AnteriorContinuar »