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acquiring valuable geographical knowledge which were denied to more enterprising nations, and for want of which the bones of many an ardent adventurer are now bleaching in the sands of Africa. That immense peninsula, which has so long stood in the immediate vicinity of Europe, as if only to mock and baffle those powers of enterprise which have “ put a girdle round about the earth”—of which little more than the coasts have been touched by Christian powers, with the exception of predatory slave excursions into the interior, or of rare visits from missionary labourers -Africa was penetrated by Mahommedan adventurers from the first establishment of Islam, and in fact before the death of its founder. From a more recent but still very remote period, Arabic traders have trafficked continually in the northern portions of central Africa; the Mahommedan religion, that strange freemasonry which has at one time or other bound together in a chain of common interest nearly half the old world, has long been established among the most important negro nations; and during the Moorish occupation of Spain, a Berber, or north African race, once shared the dominion with the invaders of Arabic descent. This last-mentioned tribe (the Berbers) are in many points of view by much the most interesting portion of the aboriginal inhabitants of Africa. Their language, wbich in spite of a strong admixture of Arabic in some of its dialects, is an original and marked tongue, is spoken with slight variations from the shores of the Atlantic on the west to Egypt on the east, and from the Barbary states to the great desert of Sahara; and such remnants as have been preserved of the language of the Guanches, or aborigines of the Canaries, show that they too spoke the same widely extended dialect.
From the preceding very general remarks on the Arabic geography, it will not be supposed that much reliance can be placed upon the unsupported testimony even of their most respectable writers; since credulity on the one band, and imperfect and mistaken theories on the other, disfigure the works of them all. The Arabian Nights themselves are not more fabulous than many statements gravely repeated in scientific works-and these too sometimes confirmed by a closing paragraph warning the reader against fables. Indeed, wild as are the topographical notions einbodied in the Mahommedan fictions, they are often only literal transcripts of what is taught in the writings of bearded doctors; the route of Sinbad, for instance, may be traced almost point by point on a map of eastern construction-cannibal islands, magnetic mountains and all; just as the inexplicable wanderings of one of Ariosto's knights might be laid down upon a map of the middle ages. A brief sketch of the world according to this system is worth making, as it will assist in the understandiog of some remarks which we shall afterwards have to offer upon particular geographers and their writings, and especially on the work of which the name stands at the head of this article.
The favourite oriental division, and that generally used in these works, is that of climatey; but this, though convenient for refers ence;' gives a very straggling air to their cosmogony. A climate is a zone of land and water, reaching from the extreme knowu west to the extreme known east, and varying in breadth from 3° to 7° of latitude. Of these climates there are seven, making altogether a breadth of something less than 37'. 'The immense difference between this quantity and the usually calculated extent of babitable latitude is explained by the supposition already alluded to, that the tropics, the arctic circle and all the land in the southern hemisphere, are uninhabitable--the part south of the tropic of Cancer from its intense heat and great drought, and the northern polar circle from its cold; for the Arabic astronomers appear to have supposed the increase of heat discovered on approachiug the equator to have continued after passing it, and thus to have included the south pole in the same category of barrenness and unfitness for animal life with the torrid zone. Leaving aside this division as one tending to produce confusion in a conspectus of eastern geography, by artificially dividing countries without respect either to their natural or political boundaries, and beginning with Africa, we find that, as before stated, the Arabic geographers were better acquainted with this portion of the globe than their Christian brethren of the middle ages. The Barbary coasts they could describe accurately enough; further south, nearly as far as the Guinea coast, they mark out with tolerable accuracy the situation of towns and of kingdoms, many naines of which agree curiously enough with those known in our own tiines. Egypt, so long an Arab kingdom, was necessarily well known to them, but they had much less knowledge of Abyssinia; the famous source of the Nile, so long a verata quæstio with the learned of the west, was already settled, at least to the satisfaction of the less captious Orientals, early in the middle ages, and described with as much confidence and minuteness as if the ground had been surveyed with the chain. Leaving Africa, we find the towns of Spain minutely and in general accurately enumerated, an observation which may be extended a little distance into the south of France; but as we go further north 'in this and the adjacent countries, truth mixes more and more largely with fable. England is described in some geographers (in Edrisi, for example), but of anything further north they had but a faint idea, and speak of the Teutonic and Scandinavian races, the sea kings whose strength was felt by Spain, Barbary, and probably by the extremest coasts of the Me. diterranean, by the common appellation of Majúsi. Is this an allusion borrowed from the name given to the priests of the Persian fire-worship, and pointing at a supposed general resemblance, between the two races in the one fact of their being idolaters, or is it from the word Majouj, which, in conjunction with Hajouj, is used in eastern geography to denote a race in the extreme north, of Asia and perhaps also of Europea sort of half men, half demons--the people of Gog and Magog in short, of the Hebrew, prophets? The knowledge of Edrisi on the subject of these northern countries is more extended than that of his fellow writers, as might naturally be expected from his position at the court of a Christian prince, and within reach of such geographical information as Europe afforded during the middle ages. Turning southward from Spain and France, we find Italy and Greece, as well. as the countries immediately north of the latter, well known to the writers of the best ages of Arabic learning-well known, that is, comparatively, and always making due allowance for the very singular misconceptions in which the most learned of the Arabs have indulged. "Russia and Poland, before the rise of the Turkish empire, were but little known in the east, and we might extend the remark to the west also. The relations of Persia, and the Mabommedan empire with the Tatars, gaye, a certain knowledge of their country to the Arab writers, diminishing in accuracy and distinctness with every degree of north latitude, though the conquests of Timour had early made known to the south of Asia the existence of a country where the sun was for many months beneath and as many above the horizon at one time; and where therefore (an important corollary for Moslem soldiers) it was necessary, materially to modify the laws regulating daily prayers and other observances depending upon the revolution of the sun. India eastward may be considered as the extreme limit of accurale geographical knowledge in that direction, and the adjective is used with some laxity when thus applied, but much information had been collected by Mahominedan travellers, some of them enjoying peculiar advantages, who had penetrated into that country. China was known as a country of porcelain aud perfumes, and desperate Katirs, though the eastern romances (for we are come now to the point where fact and fiction more than meet) represent the inbabitants of the celestial, empire as polished, wealthy, and ingevious.* The sea east of India is the great repository of islands full of marvels (the Arabic romancers are fond of islands, and by choice make them the scene of their stories)-marine monsters, enormous birds, and tremendous serpents. We hardly know whether an Arab topographer would class with real or fictitious existences the mountain of Kaf, the chosen abode of the Anka, Simorg, Phænix or Griffin—that “ secular bird,” which in eastern as well as western fable lives a life of many ages, aloof from all other creatures, dies on a pile of its own collecting, and leaves to a single successor its solitary and mournful grandeur. The mountain of Kaf is said to encompass the world, and in some stories a series of seven concentric Kafs is mentioned, each circle the abode of a race of Ginns, or tolerated spirits, something less dangerous than the actual demons—the Deeves or Afrits.
* China, or Sin, is the scene of one ball of the eastern romances, a princess of that country being the frequent object of the errant pursuit of a Mabommedan lover.
Lest however we should be lost in regions “ a hundred years beyond the earth,” as has happened to the heroes of some of the stories we have been alluding to, we return to our more immediate subject, the earth as described by Edrisi, an Arabic writer of the twelfth century. Such of our readers as are disposed to compare Edrisi with El Bekri may consult the excellent manuscript of the latter in the British Museum, No. 9577, and Mr. Cooley's recently published work on the Negroland of the Arabs. Edrisi's accuracy in many statements is more than disputable when compared with El Bekri. His distances of places are rectified by a comparison with El Bekri. Edrisi certainly copied from El Bekri, with some variations of his own, which are rarely accurate; and it would have been far better for his reputation to have adhered more closely to the source from whence he derived reputation. The circumstances under which this description was composed are sufficiently pointed out in the original preface, which for the information it affords, as well as for the sample it contains of our author's style, we think will be found interesting enough to justify our quotation of the whole.
“Thanks be given to God, the existence essentially great and powerful, incorporeal, endued with goodness, beneficence and long suffering, the sovereign judge who bas all power, who is clement and merciful, who possesseth infinite knowledge, who hath given perfect forms to all that he hath created, the knowledge of whom is graven in all bearts and reposes in all minds upon visible and incontestable proofs.
“His strength and his power are certain and evident indices of his glory. All tongues publisb bis goodness, which the true faith confirms. The perfect conformation of beings, enanating from his divine will, constrains us to recognize bis existence and bis eternity. Amongst the master-pieces of this will, the heavens and the earth are signs of bigh instruction for him whose mind is just and his perceptions right; first he admires the heaven, its immense elevation, the beauty of the stars and the regularity of their courses amongst them the sun and the moon
shining in the firmanent—the sun the focus of light which produces the day, the moon the torch which dissipates the darkness of the night. These miraculous signs tell bim of the march of seasons and the revolutions of ages. Then he remarks the earth of wbich this same will fixed the first site and determined the extent-from whose entrails it caused the waters to spring, the vital principles of vegetation, and the necessary food for the fruitfulness of the fields and the fertility of the meadows; the earth which it left for the delight and the dwellingplace of man, the object of preference in all the movements impressed on the celestial bodies.
- Man whom this same divine will inspired with the instinct necessary to distinguish good from evil and useful from dangerous, and granted to him the facility of transporting himself wbither he pleased, by sea or by land, across the immensity of space.—All proves tbe existence of the Creator!
“ Amongst the number of the beings formed by this divine will, the eye cannot note nor the mind imagine one more accomplished than the illustrious Roger King of Sicily, of Italy, of Lombardy and of Calabria, the Roman prince. This great king, whom beaven has crowned with glory and power, the protector of the religion of Christ, is the most celebrated and the best among all monarchs. His absolute will is the moving principle of his conduct in all affairs. He binds and unbinds according to his pleasure, he governs and judges his people with equity and impartiality, and hears their complaints with patience and attention. He has established in the administration of his estates the most admirable order and the elements of the most perfect happiness; he has carried his victorious arms from the rising of the sun to its setting-witness the countries near or distant which he has brought into obedience to him, witness the sovereigns of the same religion as himself whose pride be has humbled. He owes this astonishing success to the valour of bis armies well provided with all things to the power of his fleets, whose operations heaven protects. His glory sbines in the eyes of all men, his name fills the world, is in all mouths, sounds in all ears. What desire does he form which is not followed by the promptest accomplishment? Wbat project, difficult as it may appear, does he not succeed in executing ?
“Honours and dignities are the portion of bis partisans and his friends, ruin and bumiliation of bis antagonists and his adversaries. Of how much greatness has be not laid the foundation? The lustre with wbich he surrounds these dignities shines in the world with the brilliancy of the flowers in a parterre, and is beautiful as the verdure of the shrubs which ornament the groves.
“ This great monarch joins the good qualities of the beart to nobility of birth, purity of manners to beanty of actions, courage to elevation of sentiments, profundity of judgment to mildness of character, acuteness of inind to an admirable perception of affairs, and a penetrating glance, wbich, like a rapid arrow, goes straight to the mark and enables him to judge of every thing without error. The gates of future events, closed to others, are open to him. All the art of government has fixed itself in his person ; even the dreams of his sleep are benefits for the future, justice and impartiality are the bases of his administration; his liberalities,