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SCENE IN MOUNT LEBANON,
ABOVE THE VALLEY OF THE KADESHA, OR HOLY VALLEY.
This is Lebanon, in her wild and imperishable glory: solitary, her multitudes passed away, there is no voice in the air, save that of the eagle What a prodigal luxury of nature is here! Forest, valley, precipice, cataract, almost unseen, untrodden—yet beautiful as if fresh from the Creator's hand. Did the harvest ever wave on these fields, did the vineyards ever climb these eminences, or hamlets and villages people them? there is a loneliness, a sadness, around, as if the words of the prophet were fulfilled, that "Lebanon mourneth, because the people are gone down from his shadow." There is no confusion of objects in these exquisite wilds, no alpine chaos, of enormous fragments fallen from above, of impassable and obscure abysses; the painter might have dreamed of this scene, and then made an ideal picture: each fearful declivity has its covering and graceful forest, from which the groups of granite rocks break forth at intervals. The vallies, that seem so narrow at the top, are every one accessible by winding paths, to where the stream blesses as it winds, but blesses only a wilderness. The paths require a careful eye on the mule; • the steps, either natural or cut, that form part of the way, being sometimes several feet deep in the rock, and on the verge of a tremendous precipice: it is safest to travel here on foot There is something so hushed in the solitude around: the tempest wakes terrifically here, but now it is noon-day: a summer's day. The sound of waters comes faintly from beneath; many a weary step ere the traveller rests on their bank: the heat is oppressive, and the air so transparent, that the peaks of snow look, in the dazzling beams, like so many fiery crests, on which a few thin clouds are floating, like little isles faintly peopling a lone and beautiful sea. The Syrian guards and passengers were armed; and, accustomed to the rugged path, walked as carelessly as on table-land: there is little danger to be apprehended from the bandit or the robber: the straggling soldiers are, during the quarrels and disputes of the chiefs, the most unsafe people to meet with. Many a projecting ledge, many a noble tree growing out of the clefts of the rock, invited to a few moments' pause, to gaze on the defiles beneath, or on the rich banks of wild flowers on every side. There is no fear of passing the night in the woods, or in the shepherd's hut; one of the most agreeable features of a tour in Lebanon, is the certainty of an excellent and hospitable asylum, at the close of almost every day's journey. The gate of one of the numerous convents is sure to open to the wanderer, where a clean cell a refreshing, and often luxurious repast, with the mountain wines, is soon prepared. Should it happen that no convent is within reach, the house of the Sheich of the Maronite village is a welcome, and sometimes a better, substitute—most welcome, after a weary day's march over heights, and gulfs, and savage ways. Dinner is at all times out of the question on such a journey: the traveller must be an epicure who would pause, and be at the trouble of such an occurrence, in the heart and pith of his progress: a piece of bread, and a couple of cold eggs, boiled before starting, furnish an excellent meal, and may be taken en route, or by the side of a clear mountain stream, and occasion no delay or preparation: this was our almost daily repast at noon through Syria. On the height to the left, a fire was kindled by a party of wandering mountaineers, whom it might not have been perfectly pleasant to have encountered at night: yet the glare of their fire falling on the ridges of the mountain, would then have been more picturesque: it was now miserably blended with the sun. On the edge of the descent on the left, was a convent, perched like an eagle's nest, looking down into the gloomy depths of the ravine: and were the shadows of evening falling around, the traveller would there have gladly sought a home, the strange and fantastic home of a night How wild and lone would be the peal of its bell over the abysses, the call to prayer, to meditation—where the only associations were the torrent, the cavern, the dizzy precipice, and the midnight hymn mingling with the blast Is this a place for religious joy and consolation, for hope, breaking through the veil of time into the splendours of eternity? To a sanguine temperament and stern intellect, this convent may be as dear and beneficial as a home among the loved scenes and friends of our earlier life: but the majority of monks are not of this character. A life in this monastery is, as an old writer expresses, "like the twilight going before the darkness of the grave: like a solitary shepherd's tent with no pasture around it, in a fading world." There was scarcely any room in this nook for the industry of the fathers, who have often vineyards and mulberry plantations, the produce of which is sold: they have always well-cultivated gardens; perhaps even here may reside one of the numerous bishops of the mountain, who are often wise, polite, and patriarchal men, of simple habits and tastes, exhibiting in many instances a more edifying and interesting copy of apostolic spirit and manners, than is to be found in the wealthier churches of Europe. Poverty, or rather a decent competency, is their safeguard from luxury and pride, and their mountain barriers keep out the temptations and seductions of the world: the rolling of carriage wheels, of titled or distinguished acquaintance and connexions, is never heard at their doors: no train of clerical expectants, or lovers of episcopal power and influence, is in their hall or at their table. The nobility of Lebanon is that of the spirit, shown by the faithful discharge of duties often very monotonous, and by seeking its excitements and pleasures in its sacred calling alone, for Lebanon has few others to offer; the care of the convent-land and revenue, visits to the scattered flocks and their pastors, and the cultivation of letters in the prelate's ancient library.
Is not such a condition fortunate, if contentment, a peaceful conscience, and a serene and exalted piety, be the ambition of its possessor? With few worldly cares, responsibilities or anxieties, and a life sufficiently active and influential for the exercise of the mind and the trial of faith and patience, such a man may look from his mountain walls with a smile of thankfulness, that his resting-place is free from the wave and the storm. He is not always deprived of the affections and endearments of domestic life; the Maronite bishops are permitted to marry, though they by no means always avail themselves of this privilege. A few