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ANTIOCH, FROM THE WEST.
Is this Antioch, the queen of the East, the glory of the monarch, the joy of the evangelist? brought down even to the dust, she shall no more be called the lady of kingdoms. On every side is the silence of ruin, and the dimness of despair: yet how beautiful and exulting is the face of nature: she sitteth not solitary, with the tears on her cheek, but dwells, as of old, in her loved valley of the Orontes. The soil is rank with the violet, the anemone, the rose, the myrtle: that exquisite shroud covers the slain of many nations, who fell around the walls of Antioch: the Persian, the Saracen, the Roman, and the Christian hosts are there; did the earth no longer cover their hope and the dry bones live, what an exceeding great army would fill the valley!" there is Egypt and all her company delivered to the sword; there is Persia and all her multitude round about her graves: whom dost thou pass in beauty? the sons of the north, who came from afar; they are gone down with their weapons of war, and they have laid their swords under their heads: they were the terror of the mighty." No sound comes up the hill from the lost city, of the merchants and their companies, and their going to and fro. Antioch was formerly the great mart of the East, when "Syria occupied her fairs with purple and broidered work and fine linen, and Judah and Israel were her merchants; and her walls shook at the noise of the horsemen and the chariots which entered her gates." The remains of those gates and walls are on the sides of the hill, and on the bank of the stream. About a century since, this wall on the hill, which was built by Seleucus, one of Alexander's successors, had not the least breach in it, nor a sign of any; and from this, one may judge how beautiful all the walls must have been. It was at least sixty feet high, and was built along the heights, which to the south are very steep, and are here divided by a ravine, into which the passengers are entering. On these walls there were no battlements, but there was a walk on the top, on which the circuit of the city might be made with the greatest ease, along the steep precipices (where all is now in ruins) down to the plain, and along the river's side. But though built on a rock, and with the utmost art, they could not withstand the shocks of so many great earthquakes that have happened. However, on the west side of the western hill, the wall has resisted both time and earthquake: it is exceedingly strong, and well built of stone, with beautiful square towers, about seventy paces apart
Such was the appearance of these walls a century since r even in the present day their fragments climb the hill which they still grasp and enclose even in ruin. On the side of this hill, on one of these fragments, it is impressive to rest a while, ere the traveller enters the city, which is stretched "silent and in darkness" at his feet: domes, minarets, masses of ruin, low ill-built homes, with thin tiled roofs—how dull and heavily they lie! it is better to sit here, and listen to the camel-bell of the little caravans coming over the plain, than hasten down to some mean home of ignorant and unfeeling people. Were the homes of such men as the Christians of old still there, did a few even of their descendants still survive, how beautiful would it be to seek their roof,—to talk of the time when Antioch was called the City of God; still later, when it contained 360 convents, and its numerous churches were the finest in the world! Church, convent, home of the faithful, all are gone. There is a place where a few worship, in a cave in the hill about half a mile from the town: by night, by the taper's light, the little group of Christians partake of the eucharist there, and pray and chant according to the Greek rituaL Surely those who seek comfort and strength in this desolate place are not sent empty away. This little church in the wilderness is a timid and persecuted one, and dares not seek a temple within the walls.
The only moving thing of life and gaiety in the scene is the Orontes: the sun, sinking behind the heights, is on its golden wave, and on the gardens which stretch beyond: to the east is the great plain of Antioch, with its lake, bounded by distant mountains; nearer are the high mountains of Beilan: to the left, in all its majesty, is the lofty Mount Casius, of a conical form, its breast and summit red with the splendour that fills the whole heavens above it Such is the magnificent view from the highest part of the rocks above Antioch; such is the hour also when a peculiar glory is on every part of its territory, but not on itself: never again "shall its garments be white, or wet with the dew of the morning." Many parts of the environs are very attractive: the irregular valley, covered with vineyards, behind the heights; Beit-el-ma, supposed to be the site of the ancient Daphne•, is about five miles south-west, in a romantic situation: there are some vestiges of ruins, and fine cascades. The ancient shrine is also supposed to have stood in a spot seven miles distant, on the declivity of the mountains, where several streams, flowing through a meadow shaded with luxuriant bay-trees, walnut-trees, and groves of myrtle, unite and form a small river, which afterwards is lost in the Orontes. The latter river, after passing Antioch, takes its course between some low mountains north of Mount Casius, and enters the sea about six leagues from the city.
Yet the foot turns with joy from these isolated scenes of beauty, of vale or grove, to the massive bridge that enters the ruined city; and would turn from even Daphne• in its glory, amid forests of laurel and myrtle—to these hoary heights and noble towers, which have a voice to the ear of enthusiasm, not of sweet music, but "as the sound of many waters." And dear and lasting are the things thus learned: in after life, when sorrows threaten us, when troubles are nigh, it will be beautiful to sit beneath our own roof, by our own fireside, and to remember Antioch! and listen again to the voice that spoke to us there, and bade us never to despair: for there shall be unto us, as to her, a covering of wo, yet of immortality!