« AnteriorContinuar »
sauntering about the shores. The tents of the women, closely curtained, were pitched in the rear, no less than six being occupied by the harem and its numerous attendants. The inmates had travelled across the deserts in houdas, a covered or open divan, placed on the back of the camel, and either rudely or luxuriously furnished. The writer met, one day, in the deserts east of the Red Sea, a Turkish gentleman of Cairo, returning, quite alone, from Mecca: he was seated in a houdah; his solitary camel, seen from afar, the rider reclining as on a sopha, musing indolently, had a droll appearance in so desolate a scene: the little clouds of smoke that rose at intervals from his pipe into the pure air, told of his progress accurately: it was by no means unlike the slow movement of a small steam-carriage over the sands, save that no sound came forth: the Arab guide, walking at the head of the camel, was as silent as his master: even his melancholy song was hushed. But the Ottoman ladies, who had walked nine times round the adored Tomb, kissed the black and miraculous stone of the Caaba, and drank of the well Zemzem—will be marked and envied beings for the rest of their lives: in the divans, the baths, the promenades of the city—the words of the fair Hadges will be received as oracles: and companies will hang as greedily upon them, and even more so, than their lords on those of the Arab story-tellers, for they will have the charm of truth. No gainsaying or scepticism can be feared from other ladies, who have never strayed from the banks of the Bosphorus, or heard more awful sounds than the murmur of its waves, or their own fountains.
The Mahometans, from the tomb of their prophet—halting on the ruins of Antioch, presented a mournful comment on the decline of the power and glory of this world, as well as on that of the pure and earliest church of God. The two greatest of the Apostles preached, Ignatius taught, and offered himself as a martyr in Antioch : and great was the prosperity and the joy, during many ages, of its Christian people.
And now—the lofty minarets of the mosques were seen above the broken walls of the ancient city: there are some remains of a church, said to be that of Chrysostom: there are tombs also, beneath the shade of the trees, but they do not contain the ashes of the early Christians: the stone shaft carved, and turban, shew them to be the sepulchres of the Turks. The valley of the Orontes is very partially cultivated, save in the immediate vicinity of the river: the range of Mount Amanus, the Amana of Scripture, rises boldly beyond: far to the right, at a few hours' distance, is the pass in this mountain, through which Darius marched his mighty army from the plains of Assyria to the coasts of Cilicia, a few days before the battle of Issus.
To the course of the Orontes new interest is now imparted by the enterprise of Colonel Chesney, who begins his overland communication with India at Suadeah, where this ancient river falls into the sea. From this first footstep on the lonely shore, covered with the ruins of Seleucia, what a career of industry, intelligence, and prosperity may be expected to arise! Steam navigation and rail-roads traverse the silent plains and the famous but forsaken rivers : not Cleopatra in her bark of purple and gold on the Cydnus, excited more surprise than will follow the first steam-boat on the Orontes,—the herald