The Lands of the Saracen
Bayard Taylor

Part 2 out of 6

Valley of Jehosaphat; the ancient gate yet looketh towards Damascus, and
of the Palace of Herod, there is a tower which Time and Turk and Crusader
have spared.

Jerusalem is built on the summit ridge of the hill-country of Palestine,
just where it begins to slope eastward. Not half a mile from the Jaffa
Gate, the waters run towards the Mediterranean. It is about 2,700 feet
above the latter, and 4,000 feet above the Dead Sea, to which the descent
is much more abrupt. The hill, or rather group of small mounts, on which
Jerusalem stands, slants eastward to the brink of the Valley of
Jehosaphat, and the Mount of Olives rises opposite, from the sides and
summit of which, one sees the entire city spread out like a map before
him. The Valley of Hinnon, the bed of which is on a much higher level than
that of Jehosaphat, skirts the south-western and southern part of the
walls, and drops into the latter valley at the foot of Mount Zion, the
most southern of the mounts. The steep slope at the junction of the two
valleys is the site of the city of the Jebusites, the most ancient part of
Jerusalem. It is now covered with garden-terraces, the present wall
crossing from Mount Zion on the south to Mount Moriah on the east. A
little glen, anciently called the Tyropeon, divides the mounts, and winds
through to the Damascus Gate, on the north, though from the height of the
walls and the position of the city, the depression which it causes in the
mass of buildings is not very perceptible, except from the latter point,
Moriah is the lowest of the mounts, and hangs directly over the Valley of
Jehosaphat. Its summit was built up by Solomon so as to form a
quadrangular terrace, five hundred by three hundred yards in dimension.
The lower courses of the grand wall, composed of huge blocks of gray
conglomerate limestone, still remain, and there seems to be no doubt that
they are of the time of Solomon. Some of the stones are of enormous size;
I noticed several which were fifteen, and one twenty-two feet in length.
The upper part of the wall was restored by Sultan Selim, the conqueror of
Egypt, and the level of the terrace now supports the great Mosque of Omar,
which stands on the very site of the temple. Except these foundation
walls, the Damascus Gate and the Tower of Hippicus, there is nothing left
of the ancient city. The length of the present wall of circumference is
about two miles, but the circuit of Jerusalem, in the time of Herod, was
probably double that distance.

The best views of the city are from the Mount of Olives, and the hill
north of it, whence Titus directed the siege which resulted in its total
destruction. The Crusaders under Godfrey of Bouillon encamped on the same
hill. My first walk after reaching here, was to the summit of the Mount of
Olives. Not far from the hotel we came upon the Via Dolorosa, up which,
according to Catholic tradition, Christ toiled with the cross upon his
shoulders. I found it utterly impossible to imagine that I was walking in
the same path, and preferred doubting the tradition. An arch is built
across the street at the spot where they say he was shown to the populace.
(_Ecce Homo_.) The passage is steep and rough, descending to St. Stephen's
Gate by the Governor's Palace, which stands on the site of the house of
Pontius Pilate. Here, in the wall forming the northern part of the
foundation of the temple, there are some very fine remains of ancient
workmanship. From the city wall, the ground descends abruptly to the
Valley of Jehosaphat. The Turkish residents have their tombs on the city
side, just under the terrace of the mosque, while thousands of Jews find a
peculiar beatitude in having themselves interred on the opposite slope of
the Mount of Olives, which is in some places quite covered with their
crumbling tombstones. The bed of the Brook Kedron is now dry and stony. A
sort of chapel, built in the bottom of the valley, is supposed by the
Greeks to cover the tomb of the Virgin--a claim which the Latins consider
absurd. Near this, at the very foot of the Mount of Olives, the latter
sect have lately built a high stone wall around the Garden of Gethsemane,
for the purpose, apparently, of protecting the five aged olives. I am
ignorant of the grounds wherefore Gethsemane is placed here. Most
travellers have given their faith to the spot, but Dr. Robinson, who is
more reliable than any amount of mere tradition, does not coincide with
them. The trees do not appear as ancient as some of those at the foot of
Mount Carmel, which are supposed to date from the Roman colony established
by Titus. Moreover, it is well known that at the time of the taking of
Jerusalem by that Emperor, all the trees, for many miles around, were
destroyed. The olive-trees, therefore, cannot be those under which Christ
rested, even supposing this to be the true site of Gethseniane.

The Mount of Olives is a steep and rugged hill, dominating over the city
and the surrounding heights. It is still covered with olive orchards, and
planted with patches of grain, which do not thrive well on the stony soil.
On the summit is a mosque, with a minaret attached, which affords a grand
panoramic view. As we reached it, the Chief of the College of Dervishes,
in the court of the Mosque of Omar, came out with a number of attendants.
He saluted us courteously, which would not have been the case had he been
the Superior of the Latin Convent, and we Greek Monks. There were some
Turkish ladies in the interior of the mosque, so that we could not gain
admittance, and therefore did not see the rock containing the foot-prints
of Christ, who, according to Moslem tradition, ascended to heaven from
this spot. The Mohammedans, it may not be generally known, accept the
history of Christ, except his crucifixion, believing that he passed to
heaven without death, another person being crucified in his stead. They
call him the _Roh-Allah,_ or Spirit of God, and consider him, after
Mahomet, as the holiest of the Prophets.

We ascended to the gallery of the minaret. The city lay opposite, so
fairly spread out to our view that almost every house might be separately
distinguished. It is a mass of gray buildings, with dome-roofs, and but
for the mosques of Omar and El Aksa, with the courts and galleries around
them, would be exceedingly tame in appearance. The only other prominent
points are the towers of the Holy Sepulchre, the citadel, enclosing
Herod's Tower, and the mosque on mount Zion. The Turkish wall, with its
sharp angles, its square bastions, and the long, embrasured lines of its
parapet, is the most striking feature of the view. Stony hills stretch
away from the city on all sides, at present cheered with tracts of
springing wheat, but later in the season, brown and desolate. In the
south, the convent of St. Elias is visible, and part of the little town of
Bethlehem. I passed to the eastern side of the gallery, and looking
thence, deep down among the sterile mountains, beheld a long sheet of blue
water, its southern extremity vanishing in a hot, sulphury haze. The
mountains of Ammon and Moab, which formed the background of my first view
of Jerusalem, leaned like a vast wall against the sky, beyond the
mysterious sea and the broad valley of the Jordan. The great depression of
this valley below the level of the Mediterranean gives it a most
remarkable character. It appears even deeper than is actually the case,
and resembles an enormous chasm or moat, separating two different regions
of the earth. The _khamseen_ was blowing from the south, from out the
deserts of Edom, and threw its veil of fiery vapor over the landscape. The
muezzin pointed out to me the location of Jericho, of Kerak in Moab, and
Es-Salt in the country of Ammon. Ere long the shadow of the minaret
denoted noon, and, placing his hands on both sides of his mouth, he cried
out, first on the South side, towards Mecca, and then to the West, and
North, and East: "God is great: there is no God but God, and Mohammed is
His Prophet! Let us prostrate ourselves before Him: and to Him alone be
the glory!"

Jerusalem, internally, gives no impression but that of filth, ruin,
poverty, and degradation. There are two or three streets in the western or
higher portion of the city which are tolerably clean, but all the others,
to the very gates of the Holy Sepulchre, are channels of pestilence. The
Jewish Quarter, which is the largest, so sickened and disgusted me, that I
should rather go the whole round of the city walls than pass through it a
second time. The bazaars are poor, compared with those of other Oriental
cities of the same size, and the principal trade seems to be in rosaries,
both Turkish and Christian, crosses, seals, amulets, and pieces of the
Holy Sepulchre. The population, which may possibly reach 20,000, is
apparently Jewish, for the most part; at least, I have been principally
struck with the Hebrew face, in my walks. The number of Jews has increased
considerably within a few years, and there is also quite a number who,
having been converted to Protestantism, were brought hither at the expense
of English missionary societies for the purpose of forming a Protestant
community. Two of the hotels are kept by families of this class. It is
estimated that each member of the community has cost the Mission about
L4,500: a sum which would have Christianized tenfold the number of English
heathen. The Mission, however, is kept up by its patrons, as a sort of
religious luxury. The English have lately built a very handsome church
within the walls, and the Rev. Dr. Gobat, well known by his missionary
labors in Abyssinia, now has the title of Bishop of Jerusalem. A friend of
his in Central Africa gave me a letter of introduction for him, and I am
quite disappointed in finding him absent. Dr. Barclay, of Virginia, a most
worthy man in every respect, is at the head of the American Mission here.
There is, besides, what is called the "American Colony," at the village of
Artos, near Bethlehem: a little community of religious enthusiasts, whose
experiments in cultivation have met with remarkable success, and are much
spoken of at present.

Whatever good the various missions here may, in time, accomplish (at
present, it does not amount to much), Jerusalem is the last place in the
world where an intelligent heathen would be converted to Christianity.
Were I cast here, ignorant of any religion, and were I to compare the
lives and practices of the different sects as the means of making my
choice--in short, to judge of each faith by the conduct of its
professors--I should at once turn Mussulman. When you consider that in the
Holy Sepulchre there are _nineteen_ chapels, each belonging to a different
sect, calling itself Christian, and that a Turkish police is always
stationed there to prevent the bloody quarrels which often ensue between
them, you may judge how those who call themselves followers of the Prince
of Peace practice the pure faith he sought to establish. Between the Greek
and Latin churches, especially, there is a deadly feud, and their
contentions are a scandal, not only to the few Christians here, but to the
Moslems themselves. I believe there is a sort of truce at present, owing
to the settlement of some of the disputes--as, for instance, the
restoration of the silver star, which the Greeks stole from the shrine of
the Nativity, at Bethlehem. The Latins, however, not long since,
demolished, _vi et armis_, a chapel which the Greeks commenced building on
Mount Zion. But, if the employment of material weapons has been abandoned
for the time, there is none the less a war of words and of sounds still
going on. Go into the Holy Sepulchre, when mass is being celebrated, and
you can scarcely endure the din. No sooner does the Greek choir begin its
shrill chant, than the Latins fly to the assault. They have an organ, and
terribly does that organ strain its bellows and labor its pipes to drown
the rival singing. You think the Latins will carry the day, when suddenly
the cymbals of the Abyssinians strike in with harsh brazen clang, and, for
the moment, triumph. Then there are Copts, and Maronites, and Armenians,
and I know not how many other sects, who must have their share; and the
service that should be a many-toned harmony pervaded by one grand spirit
of devotion, becomes a discordant orgie, befitting the rites of Belial.

A long time ago--I do not know the precise number of years--the Sultan
granted a firman, in answer to the application of both Jews and
Christians, allowing the members of each sect to put to death any person
belonging to the other sect, who should be found inside of their churches
or synagogues. The firman has never been recalled, though in every place
but Jerusalem it remains a dead letter. Here, although the Jews freely
permit Christians to enter their synagogue, a Jew who should enter the
Holy Sepulchre would be lucky if he escaped with his life. Not long since,
an English gentleman, who was taken by the monks for a Jew, was so
severely beaten that he was confined to his bed for two months. What worse
than scandal, what abomination, that the spot looked upon by so many
Christians as the most awfully sacred on earth, should be the scene of
such brutish intolerance! I never pass the group of Turkish officers,
quietly smoking their long pipes and sipping their coffee within the
vestibule of the Church, without a feeling of humiliation. Worse than the
money-changers whom Christ scourged out of the Temple, the guardians of
this edifice make use of His crucifixion and resurrection as a means of
gain. You may buy a piece of the stone covering the Holy Sepulchre, duly
certified by the Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem, for about $7. At Bethlehem,
which I visited this morning, the Latin monk who showed us the manger, the
pit where 12,000 innocents were buried, and other things, had much less to
say of the sacredness or authenticity of the place, than of the injustice
of allowing the Greeks a share in its possession.

The native Jewish families in Jerusalem, as well as those in other parts
of Palestine, present a marked difference to the Jews of Europe and
America. They possess the same physical characteristics--the dark, oblong
eye, the prominent nose, the strongly-marked cheek and jaw--but in the
latter, these traits have become harsh and coarse. Centuries devoted to
the lowest and most debasing forms of traffic, with the endurance of
persecution and contumely, have greatly changed and vulgarized the
appearance of the race. But the Jews of the Holy City still retain a noble
beauty, which proved to my mind their descent from the ancient princely
houses of Israel The forehead is loftier, the eye larger and more frank in
its expression, the nose more delicate in its prominence, and the face a
purer oval. I have remarked the same distinction in the countenances of
those Jewish families of Europe, whose members have devoted themselves to
Art or Literature. Mendelssohn's was a face that might have belonged to
the House of David.

On the evening of my arrival in the city, as I set out to walk through the
bazaars, I encountered a native Jew, whose face will haunt me for the rest
of my life. I was sauntering slowly along, asking myself "Is this
Jerusalem?" when, lifting my eyes, they met those of Christ! It was the
very face which Raphael has painted--the traditional features of the
Saviour, as they are recognised and accepted by all Christendom. The
waving brown hair, partly hidden by a Jewish cap, fell clustering about
the ears; the face was the most perfect oval, and almost feminine in the
purity of its outline; the serene, child-like mouth was shaded with a
light moustache, and a silky brown beard clothed the chin; but the
eyes--shall I ever look into such orbs again? Large, dark, unfathomable,
they beamed with an expression of divine love and divine sorrow, such as I
never before saw in human face. The man had just emerged from a dark
archway, and the golden glow of the sunset, reflected from a white wall
above, fell upon his face. Perhaps it was this transfiguration which made
his beauty so unearthly; but, during the moment that I saw him, he was to
me a revelation of the Saviour. There are still miracles in the Land of
Judah. As the dusk gathered in the deep streets, I could see nothing but
the ineffable sweetness and benignity of that countenance, and my friend
was not a little astonished, if not shocked, when I said to him, with the
earnestness of belief, on my return: "I have just seen Christ."

I made the round of the Holy Sepulchre on Sunday, while the monks were
celebrating the festival of the Invention of the Cross, in the chapel of
the Empress Helena. As the finding of the cross by the Empress is almost
the only authority for the places inclosed within the Holy Sepulchre, I
went there inclined to doubt their authenticity, and came away with my
doubt vastly strengthened. The building is a confused labyrinth of
chapels, choirs, shrines, staircases, and vaults--without any definite
plan or any architectural beauty, though very rich in parts and full of
picturesque effects. Golden lamps continually burn before the sacred
places, and you rarely visit the church without seeing some procession of
monks, with crosses, censers, and tapers, threading the shadowy passages,
from shrine to shrine It is astonishing how many localities are assembled
under one roof. At first, you are shown, the stone on which Christ rested
from the burden of the cross; then, the place where the soldiers cast lots
for His garments, both of them adjoining the Sepulchre. After seeing this,
you are taken to the Pillar of Flagellation; the stocks; the place of
crowning with thorns; the spot where He met His mother; the cave where the
Empress Helena found the cross; and, lastly, the summit of Mount Calvary.
The Sepulchre is a small marble building in the centre of the church. We
removed our shoes at the entrance, and were taken by a Greek monk, first
into a sort of ante-chamber, lighted with golden lamps, and having in the
centre, inclosed in a case of marble, the stone on which the angel sat.
Stooping through a low door, we entered the Sepulchre itself. Forty lamps
of gold burn unceasingly above the white marble slab, which, as the monks
say, protects the stone whereon the body of Christ was laid. As we again
emerged, our guide led us up a flight of steps to a second story, in which
stood a shrine, literally blazing with gold. Kneeling on the marble floor,
he removed a golden shield, and showed us the hole in the rock of Calvary,
where the cross was planted. Close beside it was the fissure produced by
the earthquake which followed the Crucifixion. But, to my eyes, aided by
the light of the dim wax taper, it was no violent rupture, such as an
earthquake would produce, and the rock did not appear to be the same as
that of which Jerusalem is built. As we turned to leave, a monk appeared
with a bowl of sacred rose-water, which he sprinkled on our hands,
bestowing a double portion on a rosary of sandal-wood which I carried But
it was a Mohammedan rosary, brought from Mecca, and containing the sacred
number of ninety-nine beads.

I have not space here to state all the arguments for and against the
localities in the Holy Sepulchre, I came to the conclusion that none of
them were authentic, and am glad to have the concurrence of such
distinguished authority as Dr. Robinson. So far from this being a matter
of regret, I, for one, rejoice that those sacred spots are lost to the
world. Christianity does not need them, and they are spared a daily
profanation in the name of religion. We know that Christ has walked on the
Mount of Olives, and gone down to the Pool of Siloam, and tarried in
Bethany; we know that here, within the circuit of our vision, He has
suffered agony and death, and that from this little point went out all the
light that has made the world greater and happier and better in its later
than in its earlier days.

Yet, I must frankly confess, in wandering through this city--revered
alike by Christians, Jews and Turks as one of the holiest in the world--I
have been reminded of Christ, the Man, rather, than of Christ, the God. In
the glory which overhangs Palestine afar off, we imagine emotions which
never come, when we tread the soil and walk over the hallowed sites. As I
toiled up the Mount of Olives, in the very footsteps of Christ, panting
with the heat and the difficult ascent, I found it utterly impossible to
conceive that the Deity, in human form, had walked there before me. And
even at night, as I walk on the terraced roof, while the moon, "the balmy
moon of blessed Israel," restores the Jerusalem of olden days to my
imagination, the Saviour who then haunts my thoughts is the Man Jesus, in
those moments of trial when He felt the weaknesses of our common humanity;
in that agony of struggle in the garden of Gethsemane, in that still more
bitter cry of human doubt and human appeal from the cross: "My God, my
God, why hast Thou forsaken me!" Yet there is no reproach for this
conception of the character of Christ. Better the divinely-inspired Man,
the purest and most perfect of His race, the pattern and type of all that
is good and holy in Humanity, than the Deity for whose intercession we
pray, while we trample His teachings under our feet. It would be well for
many Christian sects, did they keep more constantly before their eyes the
sublime humanity of Christ. How much bitter intolerance and persecution
might be spared the world, if, instead of simply adoring Him as a Divine
Mediator, they would strive to walk the ways He trod on earth. But
Christianity is still undeveloped, and there is yet no sect which
represents its fall and perfect spirit.

It is my misfortune if I give offence by these remarks. I cannot assume
emotions I do not feel, and must describe Jerusalem as I found it. Since
being here, I have read the accounts of several travellers, and in many
cases the devotional rhapsodies--the ecstacies of awe and reverence--in
which they indulge, strike me as forced and affected. The pious writers
have described what was expected of them, not what they found. It was
partly from reading such accounts that my anticipations were raised too
high, for the view of the city from the Jaffa road and the panorama from
the Mount of Olives are the only things wherein I have been pleasantly

By far the most interesting relic left to the city is the foundation wall
of Solomon's Temple. The Mosque of Omar, according to the accounts of the
Turks, and Mr. Gather wood's examination, rests on immense vaults, which
are believed to be the substructions of the Temple itself. Under the dome
of the mosque there is a large mass of natural rock, revered by the
Moslems as that from which Mahomet mounted the beast Borak when he visited
the Seven Heavens, and believed by Mr. Catherwood to have served as part
of the foundation of the Holy of Holies. No Christian is allowed to enter
the mosque, or even its enclosure, on penalty of death, and even the
firman of the Sultan has failed to obtain admission for a Frank. I have
been strongly tempted to make the attempt in my Egyptian dress, which
happens to resemble that of a mollah or Moslem priest, but the Dervishes
in the adjoining college have sharp eyes, and my pronunciation of Arabic
would betray me in case I was accosted. I even went so far as to buy a
string of the large beads usually carried by a mollah, but unluckily I do
not know the Moslem form of prayer, or I might carry out the plan under
the guise of religious abstraction. This morning we succeeded in getting a
nearer view of the mosque from the roof of the Governor's palace.
Francois, by assuming the character of a Turkish _cawass,_ gained us
admission. The roof overlooks the entire enclosure of the Haram, and gives
a complete view of the exterior of the mosque and the paved court
surrounding it. There is no regularity in the style of the buildings in
the enclosure, but the general effect is highly picturesque. The great
dome of the mosque is the grandest in all the Orient, but the body of the
edifice, made to resemble an octagonal tent, and covered with blue and
white tiles, is not high enough to do it justice. The first court is paved
with marble, and has four porticoes, each of five light Saracenic arches,
opening into the green park, which occupies the rest of the terrace. This
park is studded with cypress and fig trees, and dotted all over with the
tombs of shekhs. As we were looking down on the spacious area, behold! who
should come along but Shekh Mohammed Senoosee, the holy man of Timbuctoo,
who had laid off his scarlet robe and donned a green one. I called down to
him, whereupon he looked up and recognised us. For this reason I regret
our departure from Jerusalem, as I am sure a little persuasion would
induce the holy man to accompany me within the mosque.

We leave to-morrow for Damascus, by way of Nazareth and Tiberius. My
original plan was to have gone to Djerash, the ancient Geraza, in the land
of Gilead, and thence to Bozrah, in Djebel Hauaran. But Djebel Adjeloun,
as the country about Djerash is called, is under a powerful Bedouin shekh,
named Abd-el Azeez, and without an escort from him, which involves
considerable delay and a fee of $150, it would be impossible to make the
journey. We are therefore restricted to the ordinary route, and in case we
should meet with any difficulty by the way, Mr. Smith, the American
Consul, who is now here, has kindly procured us a firman from the Pasha of
Jerusalem. All the travellers here are making preparations to leave, but
there are still two parties in the Desert.

Chapter VI.

The Hill-Country of Palestine.

Leaving Jerusalem--The Tombs of the Kings--El Bireh--The
Hill-Country--First View of Mount Hermon--The Tomb of Joseph--Ebal and
Gerizim--The Gardens of Nablous--The Samaritans--The Sacred Book--A
Scene in the Synagogue--Mentoi and Telemachus--Ride to Samaria--The
Ruins of Sebaste--Scriptural Landscapes--Halt at Genin--The Plain of
Esdraelon--Palestine and California--The Hills of
Nazareth--Accident--Fra Joachim--The Church of the Virgin--The Shrine of
the Annunciation--The Holy Places.

"Blest land of Judea! thrice hallowed of song,
Where the holiest of memories pilgrim-like throng:
In the shade of thy palms, by the shores of thy sea,
On the hills of thy beauty, my heart is with thee!"

J. G. Whittier.

Latin Convent, Nazareth, _Friday May_ 7, 1852.

We left Jerusalem by the Jaffa Gate, because within a few months neither
travellers nor baggage are allowed to pass the Damascus Gate, on account
of smuggling operations having been carried on there. Not far from the
city wall there is a superb terebinth tree, now in the full glory of its
shining green leaves. It appears to be bathed in a perpetual dew; the
rounded masses of foliage sparkle and glitter in the light, and the great
spreading boughs flood the turf below with a deluge of delicious shade. A
number of persons were reclining on the grass under it, and one of them, a
very handsome Christian boy, spoke to us in Italian and English. I
scarcely remember a brighter and purer day than that of our departure.
The sky was a sheet of spotless blue; every rift and scar of the distant
hills was retouched with a firmer pencil, and all the outlines, blurred
away by the haze of the previous few days, were restored with wonderful
distinctness. The temperature was hot, but not sultry, and the air we
breathed was an elixir of immortality.

Through a luxuriant olive grove we reached the Tombs of the Kings,
situated in a small valley to the north of the city. Part of the valley,
if not the whole of it, has been formed by quarrying away the crags of
marble and conglomerate limestone for building the city. Near the edge of
the low cliffs overhanging it, there are some illustrations of the ancient
mode of cutting stone, which, as well as the custom of excavating tombs in
the rock, was evidently borrowed from Egypt. The upper surface of the
rocks, was first made smooth, after which the blocks were mapped out and
cut apart by grooves chiselled between them. I visited four or five tombs,
each of which had a sort of vestibule or open portico in front. The door
was low, and the chambers which I entered, small and black, without
sculptures of any kind. The tombs bear some resemblance in their general
plan to those of Thebes, except that they are without ornaments, either
sculptured or painted. There are fragments of sarcophagi in some of them.
On the southern side of the valley is a large quarry, evidently worked for
marble, as the blocks have been cut out from below, leaving a large
overhanging mass, part of which has broken off and fallen down. Some
pieces which I picked up were of a very fine white marble, somewhat
resembling that of Carrara. The opening of the quarry made a striking
picture, the soft pink hue of the weather-stained rock contrasting
exquisitely with the vivid green of the vines festooning the entrance.

From the long hill beyond the Tombs, we took our last view of Jerusalem,
far beyond whose walls I saw the Church of the Nativity, at Bethlehem. The
Jewish synagogue on the top of the mountain called Nebbee Samwil, the
highest peak in Palestine, was visible at some distance to the west.
Notwithstanding its sanctity, I felt little regret at leaving Jerusalem,
and cheerfully took the rough road northward, over the stony hills. There
were few habitations in sight, yet the hill-sides were cultivated,
wherever it was possible for anything to grow. The wheat was just coming
into head, and the people were at work, planting maize. After four hours'
ride, we reached El Bireh, a little village on a hill, with the ruins of a
convent and a large khan. The place takes its name from a fountain of
excellent water, beside which we found our tents already pitched. In the
evening, two Englishmen, an ancient Mentor, with a wild young Telemachus
in charge, arrived, and camped near us. The night was calm and cool, and
the full moon poured a flood of light over the bare and silent hills.

We rose long before sunrise, and rode off in the brilliant morning--the
sky unstained by a speck of vapor. In the valley, beyond El Bireh, the
husbandmen were already at their ploughs, and the village boys were on
their way to the uncultured parts of the hills, with their flocks of sheep
and goats. The valley terminated in a deep gorge, with perpendicular walls
of rock on either side. Our road mounted the hill on the eastern side, and
followed the brink of the precipice through the pass, where an enchanting
landscape opened upon us. The village of Yebrood crowned a hill which rose
opposite, and the mountain slopes leaning towards it on all sides were
covered with orchards of fig trees; and either rustling with wheat or
cleanly ploughed for maize. The soil was a dark brown loam, and very rich.
The stones have been laboriously built into terraces; and, even where
heavy rocky boulders almost hid the soil, young fig and olive trees were
planted in the crevices between them. I have never seen more thorough and
patient cultivation. In the crystal of the morning air, the very hills
laughed with plenty, and the whole landscape beamed with the signs of
gladness on its countenance.

The site of ancient Bethel was not far to the right of our road. Over
hills laden with the olive, fig, and vine, we passed to Ain el-Haramiyeh,
or the Fountain of the Bobbers. Here there are tombs cut in the rock on
both sides of the valley. Over another ridge, we descended to a large,
bowl-shaped valley, entirely covered with wheat, and opening eastward
towards the Jordan. Thence to Nablous (the Shechem of the Old and Sychar
of the New Testament) is four hours through a winding dell of the richest
harvest land; On the way, we first caught sight of the snowy top of Mount
Hermon, distant at least eighty miles in a straight line. Before reaching
Nablous, I stopped to drink at a fountain of clear and sweet water, beside
a square pile of masonry, upon which sat two Moslem dervishes. This, we
were told, was the Tomb of Joseph, whose body, after having accompanied
the Israelites in all their wanderings, was at last deposited near
Shechem. There is less reason to doubt this spot than most of the sacred
places of Palestine, for the reason that it rests, not on Christian, but
on Jewish tradition. The wonderful tenacity with which the Jews cling to
every record or memento of their early history, and the fact that from
the time of Joseph a portion of them have always lingered near the spot,
render it highly probable that the locality of a spot so sacred should
have been preserved from generation to generation to the present time. It
has been recently proposed to open this tomb, by digging under it from the
side. If the body of Joseph was actually deposited here, there are, no
doubt, some traces of it remaining. It must have been embalmed, according
to the Egyptian custom, and placed in a coffin of the Indian sycamore, the
wood of which is so nearly incorruptible, that thirty-five centuries would
not suffice for its decomposition. The singular interest of such a
discovery would certainly justify the experiment. Not far from the tomb is
Jacob's Well, where Christ met the Woman of Samaria. This place is also
considered as authentic, for the same reasons. If not wholly convincing to
all, there is, at least, so much probability in them that one is freed
from that painful coldness and incredulity with which he beholds the
sacred shows of Jerusalem.

Leaving the Tomb of Joseph, the road turned to the west, and entered the
narrow pass between Mounts Ebal and Gerizim. The former is a steep, barren
peak, clothed with terraces of cactus, standing on the northern side of
the pass. Mount Gerizim is cultivated nearly to the top, and is truly a
mountain of blessing, compared with its neighbor. Through an orchard of
grand old olive-trees, we reached Nablous, which presented a charming
picture, with its long mass of white, dome-topped stone houses, stretching
along the foot of Gerizim through a sea of bowery orchards. The bottom of
the valley resembles some old garden run to waste. Abundant streams,
poured from the generous heart of the Mount of Blessing, leap and gurgle
with pleasant noises through thickets of orange, fig, and pomegranate,
through bowers of roses and tangled masses of briars and wild vines. We
halted in a grove of olives, and, after our tent was pitched, walked
upward through the orchards to the Ras-el-Ain (Promontory of the
Fountain), on the side of Mount Gerizim. A multitude of beggars sat at the
city gate; and, as they continued to clamor after I had given sufficient
alms, I paid them with "_Allah deelek_!"--(God give it to you!)--the
Moslem's reply to such importunity--and they ceased in an instant. This
exclamation, it seems, takes away from them the power of demanding a
second time.

From under the Ras-el-Ain gushes forth the Fountain of Honey, so called
from the sweetness and purity of the water. We drank of it, and I found
the taste very agreeable, but my companion declared that it had an
unpleasant woolly flavor. When we climbed a little higher, we found that
the true source from which the fountain is supplied was above, and that an
Arab was washing a flock of sheep in it! We continued our walk along the
side of the mountain to the other end of the city, through gardens of
almond, apricot, prune, and walnut-trees, bound each to each by great
vines, whose heavy arms they seemed barely able to support. The interior
of the town is dark and filthy; but it has a long, busy bazaar extending
its whole length, and a cafe, where we procured the best coffee in Syria.

Nablous is noted for the existence of a small remnant of the ancient
Samaritans. The stock has gradually dwindled away, and amounts to only
forty families, containing little more than a hundred and fifty
individuals. They live in a particular quarter of the city, and are
easily distinguished from the other inhabitants by the cast of their
features. After our guide, a native of Nablous, had pointed out three or
four, I had no difficulty in recognising all the others we met. They have
long, but not prominent noses, like the Jews; small, oblong eyes, narrow
lips, and fair complexions, most of them having brown hair. They appear to
be held in considerable obloquy by the Moslems. Our attendant, who was of
the low class of Arabs, took the boys we met very unceremoniously by the
head, calling out: "Here is another Samaritan!" He then conducted us to
their synagogue, to see the celebrated Pentateuch, which is there
preserved. We were taken to a small, open court, shaded by an
apricot-tree, where the priest, an old man in a green robe and white
turban, was seated in meditation. He had a long grey beard, and black
eyes, that lighted up with a sudden expression of eager greed when we
promised him backsheesh for a sight of the sacred book. He arose and took
us into a sort of chapel, followed by a number of Samaritan boys. Kneeling
down at a niche in the wall, he produced from behind a wooden case a piece
of ragged parchment, written with Hebrew characters. But the guide was
familiar with this deception, and rated him so soundly that, after a
little hesitation, he laid the fragment away, and produced a large tin
cylinder, covered with a piece of green satin embroidered in gold. The
boys stooped down and reverently kissed the blazoned cover, before it was
removed. The cylinder, sliding open by two rows of hinges, opened at the
same time the parchment scroll, which was rolled at both ends. It was,
indeed, a very ancient manuscript, and in remarkable preservation. The
rents have been carefully repaired and the scroll neatly stitched upon
another piece of parchment, covered on the outside with violet satin. The
priest informed me that it was written by the son of Aaron; but this does
not coincide with the fact that the Samaritan Pentateuch is different from
that of the Jews. It is, however, no doubt one of the oldest parchment
records in the world, and the Samaritans look upon it with unbounded faith
and reverence. The Pentateuch, according to their version, contains their
only form of religion. They reject everything else which the Old Testament
contains. Three or four days ago was their grand feast of sacrifice, when
they made a burnt offering of a lamb, on the top of Mount Gerizim. Within
a short time, it is said they have shown some curiosity to become
acquainted with the New Testament, and the High Priest sent to Jerusalem
to procure Arabic copies.

I asked one of the wild-eyed boys whether he could read the sacred book.
"Oh, yes," said the priest, "all these boys can read it;" and the one I
addressed immediately pulled a volume from his breast, and commenced
reading in fluent Hebrew. It appeared to be a part of their church
service, for both the priest and _boab_, or door-keeper, kept up a running
series of responses, and occasionally the whole crowd shouted out some
deep-mouthed word in chorus. The old man leaned forward with an expression
as fixed and intense as if the text had become incarnate in him, following
with his lips the sound of the boy's voice. It was a strange picture of
religious enthusiasm, and was of itself sufficient to convince me of the
legitimacy of the Samaritan's descent. When I rose to leave I gave him the
promised fee, and a smaller one to the boy who read the service. This was
the signal for a general attack from the door-keeper and all the boys who
were present. They surrounded me with eyes sparkling with the desire of
gain, kissed the border of my jacket, stroked my beard coaxingly with
their hands, which they then kissed, and, crowding up with a boisterous
show of affection, were about to fall on my neck in a heap, after the old
Hebrew fashion. The priest, clamorous for more, followed with glowing
face, and the whole group had a riotous and bacchanalian character, which
I should never have imagined could spring from such a passion as avarice.

On returning to our camp, we found Mentor and Telemachus arrived, but not
on such friendly terms as their Greek prototypes. We were kept awake for a
long time that night by their high words, and the first sound I heard the
next morning came from their tent. Telemachus, I suspect, had found some
island of Calypso, and did not relish the cold shock of the plunge into
the sea, by which Mentor had forced him away. He insisted on returning to
Jerusalem, but as Mentor would not allow him a horse, he had not the
courage to try it on foot. After a series of altercations, in which he
took a pistol to shoot the dragoman, and applied very profane terms to
everybody in the company, his wrath dissolved into tears, and when we
left, Mentor had decided to rest a day at Nablous, and let him recover
from the effects of the storm.

We rode down the beautiful valley, taking the road to Sebaste (Samaria),
while our luggage-mules kept directly over the mountains to Jenin. Our
path at first followed the course of the stream, between turfy banks and
through luxuriant orchards. The whole country we overlooked was planted
with olive-trees, and, except the very summits of the mountains, covered
with grain-fields. For two hours our course was north-east, leading over
the hills, and now and then dipping into beautiful dells. In one of these
a large stream gushes from the earth in a full fountain, at the foot of a
great olive-tree. The hill-side above it was a complete mass of foliage,
crowned with the white walls of a Syrian village. Descending the valley,
which is very deep, we came in sight of Samaria, situated on the summit of
an isolated hill. The sanctuary of the ancient Christian church of St.
John towers high above the mud walls of the modern village. Riding between
olive-orchards and wheat-fields of glorious richness and beauty, we passed
the remains of an acqueduct, and ascended the hill The ruins of the church
occupy the eastern summit. Part of them have been converted into a mosque,
which the Christian foot is not allowed to profane. The church, which is
in the Byzantine style, is apparently of the time of the Crusaders. It had
originally a central and two side-aisles, covered with groined Gothic
vaults. The sanctuary is semi-circular, with a row of small arches,
supported by double pillars. The church rests on the foundations of some
much more ancient building--probably a temple belonging to the Roman

Behind the modern village, the hill terminates in a long, elliptical
mound, about one-third of a mile in length. We made the tour of it, and
were surprised at finding a large number of columns, each of a single
piece of marble. They had once formed a double colonnade, extending from
the church to a gate on the western side of the summit. Our native guide
said they had been covered with an arch, and constituted a long market or
bazaar--a supposition in which he may be correct. From the gate, which is
still distinctly marked, we overlooked several deep valleys to the west,
and over them all, the blue horizon of the Mediterranean, south of
Caesarea. On the northern side of the hill there are upwards of twenty more
pillars standing, besides a number hurled down, and the remains of a
quadrangular colonnade, on the side of the hill below. The total number of
pillars on the summit cannot be less than one hundred, from twelve to
eighteen feet in height. The hill is strewn, even to its base, with large
hewn blocks and fragments of sculptured stone. The present name of the
city was given to it by Herod, and it must have been at that time a most
stately and beautiful place.

We descended to a valley on the east, climbed a long ascent, and after
crossing the broad shoulder of a mountain beyond, saw below us a landscape
even more magnificent than that of Nablous. It was a great winding valley,
its bottom rolling in waves of wheat and barley, while every hill-side, up
to the bare rock, was mantled with groves of olive. The very summits which
looked into this garden of Israel, were green with fragrant plants--wild
thyme and sage, gnaphalium and camomile. Away to the west was the sea, and
in the north-west the mountain chain of Carmel. We went down to the
gardens and pasture-land, and stopped to rest at the Village of Geba,
which hangs on the side of the mountain. A spring of whitish but delicious
water gushed out of the soil, in the midst of a fig orchard. The women
passed us, going back and forth with tall water-jars on their heads. Some
herd-boys brought down a flock of black goats, and they were all given
drink in a large wooden bowl. They were beautiful animals, with thick
curved horns, white eyes, and ears a foot long. It was a truly Biblical
picture in every feature.

Beyond this valley we passed a circular basin, which has no outlet, so
that in winter the bottom of it must be a lake. After winding among the
hills an hour more, we came out upon the town of Jenin, a Turkish village,
with a tall white minaret, at the head of the great plain of Esdraelon. It
is supposed to be the ancient Jezreel, where the termagant Jezebel was
thrown out of the window. We pitched our tent in a garden near the town,
under a beautiful mulberry tree, and, as the place is in very bad repute,
engaged a man to keep guard at night. An English family was robbed there
two or three weeks ago. Our guard did his duty well, pacing back and
forth, and occasionally grounding his musket to keep up his courage by the
sound. In the evening, Francois caught a chameleon, a droll-looking little
creature, which changed color in a marvellous manner.

Our road, next day, lay directly across the Plain of Esdraelon, one of the
richest districts in the world. It is now a green sea, covered with fields
of wheat and barley, or great grazing tracts, on which multitudes of sheep
and goats are wandering. In some respects it reminded me of the Valley of
San Jose, and if I were to liken Palestine to any other country I have
seen, it would be California. The climate and succession of the seasons
are the same, the soil is very similar in quality, and the landscapes
present the same general features. Here, in spring, the plains are covered
with that deluge of floral bloom, which makes California seem a paradise.
Here there are the same picturesque groves, the same rank fields of wild
oats clothing the mountain-sides, the same aromatic herbs impregnating the
air with balm, and above all, the same blue, cloudless days and dewless
nights. While travelling here, I am constantly reminded of our new Syria
on the Pacific.

Towards noon, Mount Tabor separated itself from the chain of hills before
us, and stood out singly, at the extremity of the plain. We watered our
horses at a spring in a swamp, were some women were collected, beating
with sticks the rushes they had gathered to make mats. After reaching the
mountains on the northern side of the plain, an ascent of an hour and
a-half, through a narrow glen, brought us to Nazareth, which is situated
in a cul-de-sac, under the highest peaks of the range. As we were passing
a rocky part of the road, Mr. Harrison's horse fell with him and severely
injured his leg. We were fortunately near our destination, and on reaching
the Latin Convent, Fra Joachim, to whose surgical abilities the
traveller's book bore witness, took him in charge. Many others besides
ourselves have had reason to be thankful for the good offices of the Latin
monks in Palestine. I have never met with a class more kind, cordial, and
genial. All the convents are bound to take in and entertain all
applicants--of whatever creed or nation--for the space of three days.

In the afternoon, Fra Joachim accompanied me to the Church of the Virgin,
which is inclosed within the walls of the convent. It is built over the
supposed site of the house in which the mother of Christ was living, at
the time of the angelic annunciation. Under the high altar, a flight of
steps leads down to the shrine of the Virgin, on the threshold of the
house, where the Angel Gabriel's foot rested, as he stood, with a lily in
his hand, announcing the miraculous conception. The shrine, of white
marble and gold, gleaming in the light of golden lamps, stands under a
rough arch of the natural rock, from the side of which hangs a heavy
fragment of a granite pillar, suspended, as the devout believe, by divine
power. Fra Joachim informed me that, when the Moslems attempted to
obliterate all tokens of the holy place, this pillar was preserved by a
miracle, that the locality might not be lost to the Christians. At the
same time, he said, the angels of God carried away the wooden house which
stood at the entrance of the grotto; and, after letting it drop in
Marseilles, while they rested, picked it up again and set it down in
Loretto, where it still remains. As he said this, there was such entire,
absolute belief in the good monk's eyes, and such happiness in that
belief, that not for ten times the gold on the shrine would I have
expressed a doubt of the story. He then bade me kneel, that I might see
the spot where the angel stood, and devoutly repeated a paternoster while
I contemplated the pure plate of snowy marble, surrounded with vases of
fragrant flowers, between which hung cressets of gold, wherein perfumed
oils were burning. All the decorations of the place conveyed the idea of
transcendent purity and sweetness; and, for the first time in Palestine, I
wished for perfect faith in the spot. Behind the shrine, there are two or
three chambers in the rock, which served as habitations for the family of
the Virgin.

A young Christian Nazarene afterwards conducted me to the House of Joseph,
the Carpenter, which is now inclosed in a little chapel. It is merely a
fragment of wall, undoubtedly as old as the time of Christ, and I felt
willing to consider it a genuine relic. There was an honest roughness
about the large stones, inclosing a small room called the carpenter's
shop, which I could not find it in my heart to doubt. Besides, in a quiet
country town like Nazareth, which has never knows such vicissitudes as
Jerusalem, much more dependence can be placed on popular tradition. For
the same reason, I looked with reverence on the Table of Christ, also
inclosed within a chapel. This is a large, natural rock, about nine feet
by twelve, nearly square, and quite flat on the top. It is said that it
once served as a table for Christ and his Disciples. The building called
the School of Christ, where he went with other children of his age, is now
a church of the Syrian Christians, who were performing a doleful mass, in
Arabic, at the time of my visit. It is a vaulted apartment, about forty
feet long, and only the lower part of the wall is ancient. At each of
these places, the Nazarene put into my hand a piece of pasteboard, on
which was printed a prayer in Latin, Italian, and Arabic, with the
information that whoever visited the place, and made the prayer, would be
entitled to seven years' indulgence. I duly read all the prayers, and,
accordingly, my conscience ought to be at rest for twenty-one years.

Chapter VII.

The Country of Galilee.

Departure from Nazareth--A Christian Guide--Ascent of Mount
Tabor--Wallachian Hermits--The Panorama of Tabor--Ride to Tiberias--A
Bath in Genesareth--The Flowers of Galilee--The Mount of
Beatitude--Magdala--Joseph's Well--Meeting with a Turk--The Fountain of
the Salt-Works--The Upper Valley of the Jordan--Summer Scenery--The
Rivers of Lebanon--Tell el-Kadi--An Arcadian Region--The Fountains of

"Beyond are Bethulia's mountains of green,
And the desolate hills of the wild Gadarene;
And I pause on the goat-crags of Tabor to see
The gleam of thy waters, O dark Galilee!"--Whittier.

Banias (Caesarea Philippi), _May_ 10, 1852.

We left Nazareth on the morning of the 8th inst. My companion had done so
well under the care of Fra Joachim that he was able to ride, and our
journey was not delayed by his accident. The benedictions of the good
Franciscans accompanied us as we rode away from the Convent, past the
Fountain of the Virgin, and out of the pleasant little valley where the
boy Jesus wandered for many peaceful years. The Christian guide we engaged
for Mount Tabor had gone ahead, and we did not find him until we had
travelled for more than two hours among the hills. As we approached the
sacred mountain, we came upon the region of oaks--the first oak I had seen
since leaving Europe last autumn. There are three or four varieties, some
with evergreen foliage, and in their wild luxuriance and the
picturesqueness of their forms and groupings, they resemble those of
California. The sea of grass and flowers in which they stood was sprinkled
with thick tufts of wild oats--another point of resemblance to the latter
country. But here, there is no gold; there, no sacred memories.

The guide was waiting for us beside a spring, among the trees. He was a
tall youth of about twenty, with a mild, submissive face, and wore the
dark-blue turban, which appears to be the badge of a native Syrian
Christian. I found myself involuntarily pitying him for belonging to a
despised sect. There is no disguising the fact that one feels much more
respect for the Mussulman rulers of the East, than for their oppressed
subjects who profess his own faith. The surest way to make a man
contemptible is to treat him contemptuously, and the Oriental Christians,
who have been despised for centuries, are, with some few exceptions,
despicable enough. Now, however, since the East has become a favorite
field of travel, and the Frank possesses an equal dignity with the Moslem,
the native Christians are beginning to hold up their heads, and the return
of self-respect will, in the course of time, make them respectable.

Mount Tabor stands a little in advance of the hill-country, with which it
is connected only by a low spur or shoulder, its base being the Plain of
Esdraelon. This is probably the reason why it has been fixed upon as the
place of the Transfiguration, as it is not mentioned by name in the New
Testament. The words are: "an high mountain apart," which some suppose to
refer to the position of the mountain, and not to the remoteness of Christ
and the three Disciples from men. The sides of the mountain are covered
with clumps of oak, hawthorn and other trees, in many places overrun with
the white honeysuckle, its fingers dropping with odor of nutmeg and
cloves. The ascent, by a steep and winding path, occupied an hour. The
summit is nearly level, and resembles some overgrown American field, or
"oak opening." The grass is more than knee-deep; the trees grow high and
strong, and there are tangled thickets and bowers of vines without end.
The eastern and highest end of the mountain is covered with the remains of
an old fortress-convent, once a place of great strength, from the
thickness of its walls. In a sort of cell formed among the ruins we found
two monk-hermits. I addressed them in all languages of which I know a
salutation, without effect, but at last made out that they were
Wallachians. They were men of thirty-five, with stupid faces, dirty
garments, beards run to waste, and fur caps. Their cell was a mere hovel,
without furniture, except a horrid caricature of the Virgin and Child, and
four books of prayers in the Bulgarian character. One of them walked about
knitting a stocking, and paid no attention to us; but the other, after
giving us some deliciously cold water, got upon a pile of rubbish, and
stood regarding us with open mouth while we took breakfast. So far from
this being a cause of annoyance, I felt really glad that our presence had
agitated the stagnant waters of his mind.

The day was hazy and sultry, but the panoramic view from Mount Tabor was
still very fine. The great Plain of Esdraelon lay below us like a vast
mosaic of green and brown--jasper and verd-antique. On the west, Mount
Carmel lifted his head above the blue horizon line of the Mediterranean.
Turning to the other side, a strip of the Sea of Galilee glimmered deep
down among the hills, and the Ghor, or the Valley of the Jordan,
stretched like a broad gash through them. Beyond them, the country of
Djebel Adjeloun, the ancient Decapolis, which still holds the walls of
Gadara and the temples and theatres of Djerash, faded away into vapor,
and, still further to the south, the desolate hills of Gilead, the home of
Jephthah. Mount Hermon is visible when the atmosphere is clear but we were
not able to see it.

From the top of Mount Tabor to Tiberias, on the Sea of Galilee, is a
journey of five hours, through a wild country, with but one single
miserable village on the road. At first we rode through lonely dells,
grown with oak and brilliant with flowers, especially the large purple
mallow, and then over broad, treeless tracts of rolling land, but
partially cultivated. The heat was very great; I had no thermometer, but
should judge the temperature to have been at least 95 deg. in the shade. From
the edge of the upland tract, we looked down on the Sea of Galilee--a
beautiful sheet of water sunk among the mountains, and more than 300 feet
below the level of the Mediterranean. It lay unruffled in the bottom of
the basin, reflecting the peaks of the bare red mountains beyond it.
Tiberias was at our very feet, a few palm trees alone relieving the
nakedness of its dull walls. After taking a welcome drink at the Fountain
of Fig-trees, we descended to the town, which has a desolate and forlorn
air. Its walls have been partly thrown down by earthquakes, and never
repaired. We found our tents already pitched on the bank above the lake,
and under one of the tottering towers.

Not a breath of air was stirring; the red hills smouldered in the heat,
and the waters of Genesareth at our feet glimmered with an oily
smoothness, unbroken by a ripple. We untwisted our turbans, kicked off our
baggy trowsers, and speedily releasing ourselves from the barbarous
restraints of dress, dipped into the tepid sea and floated lazily out
until we could feel the exquisite coldness of the living springs which
sent up their jets from the bottom. I was lying on my back, moving my fins
just sufficiently to keep afloat, and gazing dreamily through half-closed
eyes on the forlorn palms of Tiberias, when a shrill voice hailed me with:
"O Howadji, get out of our way!" There, at the old stone gateway below our
tent, stood two Galilean damsels, with heavy earthen jars upon their
heads. "Go away yourselves, O maidens!" I answered, "if you want us to
come out of the water." "But we must fill our pitchers," one of them
replied. "Then fill them at once, and be not afraid; or leave them, and we
will fill them for you." Thereupon they put the pitchers down, but
remained watching us very complacently while we sank the vessels to the
bottom of the lake, and let them fill from the colder and purer tide of
the springs. In bringing them back through the water to the gate, the one
I propelled before me happened to strike against a stone, and its fair
owner, on receiving it, immediately pointed to a crack in the side, which
she declared I had made, and went off lamenting. After we had resumed our
garments, and were enjoying the pipe of indolence and the coffee of
contentment, she returned and made such an outcry, that I was fain to
purchase peace by the price of a new pitcher. I passed the first hours
of-the night in looking out of my tent-door, as I lay, on the stars
sparkling in the bosom of Galilee, like the sheen of Assyrian spears, and
the glare of the great fires kindled on the opposite shore.

The next day, we travelled northward along the lake, passing through
continuous thickets of oleander, fragrant with its heavy pink blossoms.
The thistles were more abundant and beautiful than ever. I noticed, in
particular, one with a superb globular flower of a bright blue color,
which would make a choice ornament for our gardens at home. At the
north-western head of the lake, the mountains fall back and leave a large
tract of the richest meadow-land, which narrows away into a deep dell,
overhung by high mountain headlands, faced with naked cliffs of red rock.
The features of the landscape are magnificent. Up the dell, I saw plainly
the Mount of Beatitude, beyond which lies the village of Cana of Galilee.
In coming up the meadow, we passed a miserable little village of thatched
mud huts, almost hidden by the rank weeds which grew around them. A
withered old crone sat at one of the doors, sunning herself. "What is the
name of this village?" I asked. "It is Mejdel," was her reply. This was
the ancient Magdala, the home of that beautiful but sinful Magdalene,
whose repentance has made her one of the brightest of the Saints. The
crystal waters of the lake here lave a shore of the cleanest pebbles. The
path goes winding through oleanders, nebbuks, patches of hollyhock,
anise-seed, fennel, and other spicy plants, while, on the west, great
fields of barley stand ripe for the cutting. In some places, the Fellahs,
men and women, were at work, reaping and binding the sheaves. After
crossing this tract, we came to the hill, at the foot of which was a
ruined khan, and on the summit, other undistinguishable ruins, supposed by
some to be those of Capernaum. The site of that exalted town, however, is
still a matter of discussion.

We journeyed on in a most sweltering atmosphere over the ascending hills,
the valley of the Upper Jordan lying deep on our right. In a shallow
hollow, under one of the highest peaks, there stands a large deserted
khan; over a well of very cold; sweet water, called _Bir Youssuf_ by the
Arabs. Somewhere near it, according to tradition, is the field where
Joseph was sold by his brethren; and the well is, no doubt, looked upon by
many as the identical pit into which he was thrown. A stately Turk of
Damascus, with four servants behind him, came riding up as we were resting
in the gateway of the khan, and, in answer to my question, informed me
that the well was so named from Nebbee Youssuf (the Prophet Joseph), and
not from Sultan Joseph Saladin. He took us for his countrymen, accosting
me first in Turkish, and, even after I had talked with him some time in
bad Arabic, asked me whether I had been making a pilgrimage to the tombs
of certain holy Moslem saints, in the neighborhood of Jaffa. He joined
company with us, however, and shared his pipe with me, as we continued our
journey. We rode for two hours more over hills bare of trees, but covered
thick with grass and herbs, and finally lost our way. Francois went ahead,
dashing through the fields of barley and lentils, and we reached the path
again, as the Waters of Merom came in sight. We then descended into the
Valley of the Upper Jordan, and encamped opposite the lake, at Ain
el-Mellaha (the Fountain of the Salt-Works), the first source of the
sacred river. A stream of water, sufficient to turn half-a-dozen mills,
gushes and gurgles up at the foot of the mountain. There are the remains
of an ancient dam, by which a large pool was formed for the irrigation of
the valley. It still supplies a little Arab mill below the fountain. This
is a frontier post, between the jurisdictions of the Pashas of Jerusalem
and Damascus, and the _mukkairee_ of the Greek Caloyer, who left us at
Tiberias, was obliged to pay a duty of seven and a half piastres on
fifteen mats, which he had bought at Jerusalem for one and a half piastres
each. The poor man will perhaps make a dozen piastres (about half a
dollar) on these mats at Damascus, after carrying them on his mule for
more than two hundred miles.

We pitched our tents on the grassy meadow below the mill--a charming spot,
with Tell el-Khanzir (the hill of wild boars) just in front, over the
Waters of Merom, and the snow-streaked summit of Djebel esh-Shekh--the
great Mount Hermon--towering high above the valley. This is the loftiest
peak of the Anti-Lebanon, and is 10,000 feet above the sea. The next
morning, we rode for three hours before reaching the second spring of the
Jordan, at a place which Francois called Tell el-Kadi, but which did not
at all answer with the description given me by Dr. Robinson, at Jerusalem.
The upper part of the broad valley, whence the Jordan draws his waters, is
flat, moist, and but little cultivated. There are immense herds of sheep,
goats, and buffaloes wandering over it. The people are a dark Arab tribe,
and live in tents and miserable clay huts. Where the valley begins to
slope upward towards the hills, they plant wheat, barley, and lentils. The
soil is the fattest brown loam, and the harvests are wonderfully rich. I
saw many tracts of wheat, from half a mile to a mile in extent, which
would average forty bushels to the acre. Yet the ground is never manured,
and the Arab plough scratches up but a few inches of the surface. What a
paradise might be made of this country, were it in better hands!

The second spring is not quite so large as Ain el-Mellaha but, like it,
pours out a strong stream from a single source The pool was filled with
women, washing the heavy fleeces of their sheep, and beating the dirt out
of their striped camel's hair abas with long poles. We left it, and
entered on a slope of stony ground, forming the head of the valley. The
view extended southward, to the mountains closing the northern cove of the
Sea of Galilee. It was a grand, rich landscape--so rich that its
desolation seems forced and unnatural. High on the summit of a mountain to
the west, the ruins of a large Crusader fortress looked down upon us. The
soil, which slowly climbs upward through a long valley between Lebanon and
Anti-Lebanon, is cut with deep ravines. The path is very difficult to
find; and while we were riding forward at random, looking in all
directions for our baggage mules, we started up a beautiful gazelle. At
last, about noon, hot, hungry, and thirsty, we reached a swift stream,
roaring at the bottom of a deep ravine, through a bed of gorgeous foliage.
The odor of the wild grape-blossoms, which came up to us, as we rode along
the edge, was overpowering in its sweetness. An old bridge of two arches
crossed the stream. There was a pile of rocks against the central pier,
and there we sat and took breakfast in the shade of the maples, while the
cold green waters foamed at our feet. By all the Naiads and Tritons, what
a joy there is in beholding a running stream! The rivers of Lebanon are
miracles to me, after my knowledge of the Desert. A company of Arabs,
seven in all, were gathered under the bridge; and, from a flute which one
of them blew, I judged they were taking a pastoral holiday. We kept our
pistols beside us; for we did not like their looks. Before leaving, they
told us that the country was full of robbers, and advised us to be on the
lookout. We rode more carefully, after this, and kept with our baggage on
reaching it, An hour after leaving the bridge, we came to a large
circular, or rather annular mound, overgrown with knee-deep grass and
clumps of oak-trees. A large stream, of a bright blue color, gushed down
the north side, and after half embracing the mound swept off across the
meadows to the Waters of Merom. There could be no doubt that this was Tell
el-Kadi, the site of Dan, the most northern town of ancient Israel. The
mound on which it was built is the crater of an extinct volcano. The
Hebrew word _Dan_ signifies "judge," and Tell el-Kadi, in Arabic, is "The
Hill of the Judge."

The Anti-Lebanon now rose near us, its northern and western slopes green
with trees and grass. The first range, perhaps 5,000 feet in height, shut
out the snowy head of Hermon; but still the view was sublime in its large
and harmonious outlines. Our road was through a country resembling
Arcadia--the earth hidden by a dense bed of grass and flowers; thickets of
blossoming shrubs; old, old oaks, with the most gnarled of trunks, the
most picturesque of boughs, and the glossiest of green leaves; olive-trees
of amazing antiquity; and, threading and enlivening all, the clear-cold
floods of Lebanon. This was the true haunt of Pan, whose altars are now
before me, graven on the marble crags of Hermon. Looking on those altars,
and on the landscape, lovely as a Grecian dream, I forget that the lament
has long been sung:

"Pan, Pan is dead!"

In another hour, we reached this place, the ancient Caesarea Philippi, now
a poor village, embowered in magnificent trees, and washed by glorious
waters. There are abundant remains of the old city: fragments of immense
walls; broken granite columns; traces of pavements; great blocks of hewn
stone; marble pedestals, and the like. In the rock at the foot of the
mountain, there are several elegant niches, with Greek inscriptions,
besides a large natural grotto. Below them, the water gushes up through
the stones, in a hundred streams, forming a flood of considerable size. We
have made our camp in an olive grove near the end of the village, beside
an immense terebinth tree, which is inclosed in an open court, paved with
stone. This is the town-hall of Banias, where the Shekh dispenses justice,
and at the same time, the resort of all the idlers of the place. We went
up among them, soon after our arrival, and were given seats of honor near
the Shekh, who talked with me a long time about America. The people
exhibit a very sensible curiosity, desiring to know the extent of our
country, the number of inhabitants, the amount of taxation, the price of
grain, and other solid information.

The Shekh and the men of the place inform us that the Druses are infesting
the road to Damascus. This tribe is in rebellion in Djebel Hauaran, on
account of the conscription, and some of them, it appears, have taken
refuge in the fastnesses of Hermon, where they are beginning to plunder
travellers. While I was talking with the Shekh, a Druse came down from the
mountains, and sat for half an hour among the villagers, under the
terebinth, and we have just heard that he has gone back the way he came.
This fact has given us some anxiety, as he may have been a spy sent down
to gather news and, if so, we are almost certain to be waylaid. If we were
well armed, we should not fear a dozen, but all our weapons consist of a
sword and four pistols. After consulting together, we decided to apply to
the Shekh for two armed men, to accompany us. I accordingly went to him
again, and exhibited the firman of the Pasha of Jerusalem, which he read,
stating that, even without it, he would have felt it his duty to grant our
request. This is the graceful way in which the Orientals submit to a
peremptory order. He thinks that one man will be sufficient, as we shall
probably not meet with any large party.

The day has been, and still is, excessively hot. The atmosphere is
sweltering, and all around us, over the thick patches of mallow and wild
mustard, the bees are humming with a continuous sultry sound. The Shekh,
with a number of lazy villagers, is still seated under the terebinth, in a
tent of shade, impervious to the sun. I can hear the rush of the fountains
of Banias--the holy springs of Hermon, whence Jordan is born. But what is
this? The odor of the velvety weed of Shiraz meets my nostrils; a
dark-eyed son of Pan places the narghileh at my feet; and, bubbling more
sweetly than the streams of Jordan, the incense most dear to the god dims
the crystal censer, and floats from my lips in rhythmic ejaculations. I,
too, am in Arcadia!

Chapter VIII.

Crossing the Anti-Lebanon.

The Harmless Guard--Caesarea Philippi--The Valley of the Druses--The
Sides of Mount Hermon--An Alarm--Threading a Defile--Distant view of
Djebel Hauaran--Another Alarm--Camp at Katana--We Ride into Damascus.

Damascus, _May_ 12, 1852.

We rose early, so as to be ready for a long march. The guard came--a
mild-looking Arab--without arms; but on our refusing to take him thus, he
brought a Turkish musket, terrible to behold, but quite guiltless of any
murderous intent. We gave ourselves up to fate, with true
Arab-resignation, and began ascending the Anti-Lebanon. Up and up, by
stony paths, under the oaks, beside the streams, and between the
wheat-fields, we climbed for two hours, and at last reached a comb or
dividing ridge, whence we could look into a valley on the other side, or
rather inclosed between the main chain and the offshoot named Djebel
Heish, which stretches away towards the south-east. About half-way up the
ascent, we passed the ruined acropolis of Caesarea Philippi, crowning the
summit of a lower peak. The walls and bastions cover a great extent of
ground, and were evidently used as a stronghold in the Middle Ages.

The valley into which we descended lay directly under one of the peaks of
Hermon and the rills that watered it were fed from his snow-fields. It was
inhabited by Druses, but no men were to be seen, except a few poor
husbandmen, ploughing on the mountain-sides. The women, wearing those
enormous horns on their heads which distinguish them from the Mohammedan
females, were washing at a pool below. We crossed the valley, and slowly
ascended the height on the opposite side, taking care to keep with the
baggage-mules. Up to this time, we met very few persons; and we forgot the
anticipated perils in contemplating the rugged scenery of the
Anti-Lebanon. The mountain-sides were brilliant with flowers, and many new
and beautiful specimens arrested our attention. The asphodel grew in
bunches beside the streams, and the large scarlet anemone outshone even
the poppy, whose color here is the quintessence of flame. Five hours after
leaving Banias, we reached the highest part of the pass--a dreary volcanic
region, covered with fragments of lava. Just at this place, an old Arab
met us, and, after scanning us closely, stopped and accosted Dervish. The
latter immediately came running ahead, quite excited with the news that
the old man had seen a company of about fifty Druses descend from the
sides of Mount Hermon, towards the road we were to travel. We immediately
ordered the baggage to halt, and Mr. Harrison, Francois, and myself rode
on to reconnoitre. Our guard, the valiant man of Banias, whose teeth
already chattered with fear, prudently kept with the baggage. We crossed
the ridge and watched the stony mountain-sides for some time; but no spear
or glittering gun-barrel could we see. The caravan was then set in motion;
and we had not proceeded far before we met a second company of Arabs, who
informed us that the road was free.

Leaving the heights, we descended cautiously into a ravine with walls of
rough volcanic rock on each side. It was a pass where three men might have
stood their ground against a hundred; and we did not feel thoroughly
convinced of our safety till we had threaded its many windings and emerged
upon a narrow valley. A village called Beit Jenn nestled under the rocks;
and below it, a grove of poplar-trees shaded the banks of a rapid stream.
We had now fairly crossed the Anti-Lebanon. The dazzling snows of Mount
Hermon overhung us on the west; and, from the opening of the valley, we
looked across a wild, waste country, to the distant range of Djebel
Hauaran, the seat of the present rebellion, and one of the most
interesting regions of Syria. I regretted more than ever not being able to
reach it. The ruins of Bozrah, Ezra, and other ancient cities, would well
repay the arduous character of the journey, while the traveller might
succeed in getting some insight into the life and habits of that singular
people, the Druses. But now, and perhaps for some time to come, there is
no chance of entering the Hauaran.

Towards the middle of the afternoon, we reached a large village, which is
usually the end of the first day's journey from Banias. Our men wanted to
stop here, but we considered that to halt then would be to increase the
risk, and decided to push on to Katana, four hours' journey from Damascus.
They yielded with a bad grace; and we jogged on over the stony road,
crossing the long hills which form the eastern base of the Anti-Lebanon.
Before long, another Arab met us with the news that there was an
encampment of Druses on the plain between us and Katana. At this, our
guard, who had recovered sufficient spirit to ride a few paces in advance,
fell back, and the impassive Dervish became greatly agitated. Where there
is an uncertain danger, it is always better to go ahead than to turn back;
and we did so. But the guard reined up on the top of the first ridge,
trembling as he pointed to a distant hill, and cried out: _"Aho, aho
henak!"_ (There they are!) There were, in fact, the shadows of some rocks,
which bore a faint resemblance to tents. Before sunset, we reached the
last declivity of the mountains, and saw far in the dusky plain, the long
green belt of the gardens of Damascus, and here and there the indistinct
glimmer of a minaret. Katana, our resting-place for the night, lay below
us, buried in orchards of olive and orange. We pitched our tents on the
banks of a beautiful stream, enjoyed the pipe of tranquillity, after our
long march, and soon forgot the Druses, in a slumber that lasted unbroken
till dawn.

In the morning we sent back the man of Banias, left the baggage to take
care of itself, and rode on to Damascus, as fast as our tired horses could
carry us. The plain, at first barren and stony, became enlivened with
vineyards and fields of wheat, as we advanced. Arabs were everywhere at
work, ploughing and directing the water-courses. The belt of living green,
the bower in which the great city, the Queen of the Orient, hides her
beauty, drew nearer and nearer, stretching out a crescent of foliage for
miles on either hand, that gradually narrowed and received us into its
cool and fragrant heart. We sank into a sea of olive, pomegranate, orange,
plum, apricot, walnut, and plane trees, and were lost. The sun sparkled in
the rolling surface above; but we swam through the green depths, below
his reach, and thus, drifted on through miles of shade, entered the city.

Since our arrival, I find that two other parties of travellers, one of
which crossed the Anti-Lebanon on the northern side of Mount Hermon, were
obliged to take guards, and saw several Druse spies posted on the heights,
as they passed. A Russian gentleman travelling from here to Tiberias, was
stopped three times on the road, and only escaped being plundered from the
fact of his having a Druse dragoman. The disturbances are more serious
than I had anticipated. Four regiments left here yesterday, sent to the
aid of a company of cavalry, which is surrounded by the rebels in a valley
of Dejebel Hauaran, and unable to get out.

Chapter IX.

Pictures of Damascus.

Damascus from the Anti-Lebanon--Entering the City--A Diorama of
Bazaars--An Oriental Hotel--Our Chamber--The Bazaars--Pipes and
Coffee--The Rivers of Damascus--Palaces of the Jews--Jewish Ladies--A
Christian Gentleman--The Sacred Localities--Damascus Blades--The Sword
of Haroun Al-Raschid--An Arrival from Palmyra.

"Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the
waters of Israel?"--2 Kings, v. 12.

Damascus, _Wednesday, May_ 19, 1852.

Damascus is considered by many travellers as the best remaining type of an
Oriental city. Constantinople is semi-European; Cairo is fast becoming so;
but Damascus, away from the highways of commerce, seated alone between the
Lebanon and the Syrian Desert, still retains, in its outward aspect and in
the character of its inhabitants, all the pride and fancy and fanaticism
of the times of the Caliphs. With this judgment, in general terms, I
agree; but not to its ascendancy, in every respect, over Cairo. True, when
you behold Damascus from the Salahiyeh, the last slope of the
Anti-Lebanon, it is the realization of all that you have dreamed of
Oriental splendor; the world has no picture more dazzling. It is Beauty
carried to the Sublime, as I have felt when overlooking some boundless
forest of palms within the tropics. From the hill, whose ridges heave
behind you until in the south they rise to the snowy head of Mount Hermon,
the great Syrian plain stretches away to the Euphrates, broken at
distances of ten and fifteen miles, by two detached mountain chains. In a
terrible gorge at your side, the river Barrada, the ancient Pharpar,
forces its way to the plain, and its waters, divided into twelve different
channels, make all between you and those blue island-hills of the desert,
one great garden, the boundaries of which your vision can barely
distinguish. Its longest diameter cannot be less than twenty miles. You
look down on a world of foliage, and fruit, and blossoms, whose hue, by
contrast with the barren mountains and the yellow rim of the desert which
incloses it, seems brighter than all other gardens in the world. Through
its centre, following the course of the river, lies Damascus; a line of
white walls, topped with domes and towers and tall minarets, winding away
for miles through the green sea. Nothing less than a city of palaces,
whose walls are marble and whose doors are ivory and pearl, could keep up
the enchantment of that distant view.

We rode for an hour through the gardens before entering the gate. The
fruit-trees, of whatever variety---walnut, olive, apricot, or fig--were
the noblest of their kind. Roses and pomegranates in bloom starred the
dark foliage, and the scented jasmine overhung the walls. But as we
approached the city, the view was obscured by high mud walls on either
side of the road, and we only caught glimpses now and then of the fragrant
wilderness. The first street we entered was low and mean, the houses of
clay. Following this, we came to an uncovered bazaar, with rude shops on
either side, protected by mats stretched in front and supported by poles.
Here all sorts of common stuns and utensils were sold, and the street was
filled with crowds of Fellahs and Desert Arabs. Two large sycamores shaded
it, and the Seraglio of the Pasha of Damascus, a plain two-story building,
faced the entrance of the main bazaar, which branched off into the city.
We turned into this, and after passing through several small bazaars
stocked with dried fruits, pipes and pipe-bowls, groceries, and all the
primitive wares of the East, reached a large passage, covered with a steep
wooden roof, and entirely occupied by venders of silk stuffs. Out of this
we passed through another, devoted to saddles and bridles; then another,
full of spices, and at last reached the grand bazaar, where all the
richest stuffs of Europe and the East were displayed in the shops. We rode
slowly along through the cool twilight, crossed here and there by long
pencils of white light, falling through apertures in the roof, and
illuminating the gay turbans and silk caftans of the lazy merchants. But
out of this bazaar, at intervals, opened the grand gate of a khan, giving
us a view of its marble court, its fountains, and the dark arches of its
storerooms; or the door of a mosque, with its mosaic floor and pillared
corridor. The interminable lines of bazaars, with their atmospheres of
spice and fruit and fragrant tobacco, the hushed tread of the slippered
crowds; the plash of falling fountains and the bubbling of innumerable
narghilehs; the picturesque merchants and their customers, no longer in
the big trowsers of Egypt, but the long caftans and abas of Syria; the
absence of Frank faces and dresses--in all these there was the true spirit
of the Orient, and so far, we were charmed with Damascus.

At the hotel in the Soog el-Harab, or Frank quarter, the illusion was not
dissipated. It had once been the house of some rich merchant. The court
into which we were ushered is paved with marble, with a great stone basin,
surrounded with vases of flowering plants, in the centre. Two large lemon
trees shade the entrance, and a vine, climbing to the top of the house,
makes a leafy arbor over the flat roof. The walls of the house are painted
in horizontal bars of blue, white, orange and white--a gay grotesqueness
of style which does not offend the eye under an eastern sun. On the
southern side of the court is the _liwan_, an arrangement for which the
houses of Damascus are noted. It is a vaulted apartment, twenty feet high,
entirely open towards the court, except a fine pointed arch at the top,
decorated with encaustic ornaments of the most brilliant colors. In front,
a tesselated pavement of marble leads to the doors of the chambers on each
side. Beyond this is a raised floor covered with matting, and along the
farther end a divan, whose piled cushions are the most tempting trap ever
set to catch a lazy man. Although not naturally indolent, I find it
impossible to resist the fascination of this lounge. Leaning back,
cross-legged, against the cushions, with the inseparable pipe in one's
hand, the view of the court, the water-basin, the flowers and lemon trees,
the servants and dragomen going back and forth, or smoking their
narghilehs in the shade--all framed in the beautiful arched entrance, is
so perfectly Oriental, so true a tableau from the times of good old Haroun
Al-Raschid, that one is surprised to find how many hours have slipped away
while he has been silently enjoying it.

Opposite the _liwan_ is a large room paved with marble, with a handsome
fountain in the centre. It is the finest in the hotel, and now occupied
by Lord Dalkeith and his friends. Our own room is on the upper floor, and
is so rich in decorations that I have not yet finished the study of them.
Along the side, looking down on the court, we have a mosaic floor of
white, red, black and yellow marble. Above this is raised a second floor,
carpeted and furnished in European style. The walls, for a height of ten
feet, are covered with wooden panelling, painted with arabesque devices in
the gayest colors, and along the top there is a series of Arabic
inscriptions in gold. There are a number of niches or open closets in the
walls, whose arched tops are adorned with pendent wooden ornaments,
resembling stalactites, and at the corners of the room the heavy gilded
and painted cornice drops into similar grotesque incrustations. A space of
bare white wall intervenes between this cornice and the ceiling, which is
formed of slim poplar logs, laid side by side, and so covered with paint
and with scales and stripes and network devices in gold and silver, that
one would take them to be clothed with the skins of the magic serpents
that guard the Valley of Diamonds. My most satisfactory remembrance of
Damascus will be this room.

My walks through the city have been almost wholly confined to the bazaars,
which are of immense extent. One can walk for many miles, without going
beyond the cover of their peaked wooden roofs, and in all this round will
find no two precisely alike. One is devoted entirely to soap; another to
tobacco, through which you cough and sneeze your way to the bazaar of
spices, and delightedly inhale its perfumed air. Then there is the bazaar
of sweetmeats; of vegetables; of red slippers; of shawls; of caftans; of
bakers and ovens; of wooden ware; of jewelry---a great stone building,
covered with vaulted passages; of Aleppo silks; of Baghdad carpets; of
Indian stuffs; of coffee; and so on, through a seemingly endless variety.
As I have already remarked, along the line of the bazaars are many khans,
the resort of merchants from all parts of Turkey and Persia, and even
India. They are large, stately buildings, and some of them have superb
gateways of sculptured marble. The interior courts are paved with stone,
with fountains in the centre, and many of them are covered with domes
resting on massive pillars. The largest has a roof of nine domes,
supported by four grand pillars, which inclose a fountain. The mosques,
into which no Christian is allowed to enter, are in general inferior to
those of Cairo, but their outer courts are always paved with marble,
adorned with fountains, and surrounded by light and elegant corridors. The
grand mosque is an imposing edifice, and is said to occupy the site of a
former Christian church.

Another pleasant feature of the city is its coffee shops, which abound in
the bazaars and on the outskirts of the gardens, beside the running
streams. Those in the bazaars are spacious rooms with vaulted ceilings,
divans running around the four walls, and fountains in the centre. During
the afternoon they are nearly always filled with Turks, Armenians and
Persians, smoking the narghileh, or water-pipe, which is the universal
custom in Damascus. The Persian tobacco, brought here by the caravans from
Baghdad, is renowned for this kind of smoking. The most popular
coffee-shop is near the citadel, on the banks and over the surface of the
Pharpar. It is a rough wooden building, with a roof of straw mats, but the
sight and sound of the rushing waters, as they shoot away with arrowy
swiftness under your feet, the shade of the trees that line the banks,
and the cool breeze that always visits the spot, beguile you into a second
pipe ere you are aware. _"El ma, wa el khodra, wa el widj el
hassan_--water, verdure and a beautiful face," says an old Arab proverb,
"are three things which delight the heart," and the Syrians avow that all
three are to be found in Damascus. Not only on the three Sundays of each
week, but every day, in the gardens about the city, you may see whole
families (and if Jews or Christians, many groups of families) spending the
day in the shade, beside the beautiful waters. There are several gardens
fitted up purposely for these picnics, with kiosks, fountains and pleasant
seats under the trees. You bring your pipes, your provisions and the like
with you, but servants are in attendance to furnish fire and water and
coffee, for which, on leaving, you give them a small gratuity. Of all the
Damascenes I have yet seen, there is not one but declares his city to be
the Garden of the World, the Pearl of the Orient, and thanks God and the
Prophet for having permitted him to be born and to live in it. But, except
the bazaars, the khans and the baths, of which there are several most
luxurious establishments, the city itself is neither so rich nor so purely
Saracenic in its architecture as Cairo. The streets are narrow and dirty,
and the houses, which are never more than two low stories in height, are
built of sun-dried bricks, coated with plaster. I miss the solid piles of
stone, the elegant doorways, and, above all, the exquisite hanging
balconies of carved wood, which meet one in the old streets of Cairo.
Damascus is the representative of all that is gay, brilliant, and
picturesque, in Oriental life; but for stately magnificence, Cairo, and, I
suspect, Baghdad, is its superior.

We visited the other day the houses of some of the richest Jews and
Christians. Old Abou-Ibrahim, the Jewish servant of the hotel, accompanied
and introduced us. It is customary for travellers to make these visits,
and the families, far from being annoyed, are flattered by it. The
exteriors of the houses are mean; but after threading a narrow passage, we
emerged into a court, rivalling in profusion of ornament and rich contrast
of colors one's early idea of the Palace of Aladdin. The floors and
fountains are all of marble mosaic; the arches of the _liwan_ glitter with
gold, and the walls bewilder the eye with the intricacy of their
adornments. In the first house, we were received by the family in a room
of precious marbles, with niches in the walls, resembling grottoes of
silver stalactites. The cushions of the divan were of the richest silk,
and a chandelier of Bohemian crystal hung from the ceiling. Silver
narghilehs were brought to us, and coffee was served in heavy silver
_zerfs_. The lady of the house was a rather corpulent lady of about
thirty-five, and wore a semi-European robe of embroidered silk and lace,
with full trowsers gathered at the ankles, and yellow slippers. Her black
hair was braided, and fastened at the end with golden ornaments, and the
light scarf twisted around her head blazed with diamonds. The lids of her
large eyes were stained with _kohl_, and her eyebrows were plucked out and
shaved away so as to leave only a thin, arched line, as if drawn with a
pencil, above each eye. Her daughter, a girl of fifteen, who bore the
genuine Hebrew name of Rachel, had even bigger and blacker eyes than her
mother; but her forehead was low, her mouth large, and the expression of
her face exceedingly stupid. The father of the family was a middle-aged
man, with a well-bred air, and talked with an Oriental politeness which
was very refreshing. An English lady, who was of our party, said to him,
through me, that if she possessed such a house she should be willing to
remain in Damascus. "Why does she leave, then?" he immediately answered:
"this is her house, and everything that is in it." Speaking of visiting
Jerusalem, he asked me whether it was not a more beautiful city than
Damascus. "It is not more beautiful," I said, "but it is more holy," an
expression which the whole company received with great satisfaction.

The second house we visited was even larger and richer than the first, but
had an air of neglect and decay. The slabs of rich marble were loose and
broken, about the edges of the fountains; the rich painting of the
wood-work was beginning to fade; and the balustrades leading to the upper
chambers were broken off in places. We were ushered into a room, the walls
and ceilings of which were composed entirely of gilded arabesque
frame-work, set with small mirrors. When new, it must have had a gorgeous
effect; but the gold is now tarnished, and the glasses dim. The mistress
of the house was seated on the cushions, dividing her time between her
pipe and her needle-work. She merely made a slight inclination of her head
as we entered, and went on with her occupation. Presently her two
daughters and an Abyssinian slave appeared, and took their places on the
cushions at her feet, the whole forming a charming group, which I
regretted some of my artist friends at home could not see. The mistress
was so exceedingly dignified, that she bestowed but few words on us. She
seemed to resent our admiration of the slave, who was a most graceful
creature; yet her jealousy, it afterwards appeared, had reference to her
own husband, for we had scarcely left, when a servant followed to inform
the English lady that if she was willing to buy the Abyssinian, the
mistress would sell her at once for two thousand piastres.

The last visit we paid was to the dwelling of a Maronite, the richest
Christian in Damascus. The house resembled those we had already seen,
except that, having been recently built, it was in better condition, and
exhibited better taste in the ornaments. No one but the lady was allowed
to enter the female apartments, the rest of us being entertained by the
proprietor, a man of fifty, and without exception the handsomest and most
dignified person of that age I have ever seen. He was a king without a
throne, and fascinated me completely by the noble elegance of his manner.
In any country but the Orient, I should have pronounced him incapable of
an unworthy thought: here, he may be exactly the reverse.

Although Damascus is considered the oldest city in the world, the date of
its foundation going beyond tradition, there are very few relics of
antiquity in or near it. In the bazaar are three large pillars, supporting
half the pediment, which are said to have belonged to the Christian Church
of St. John, but, if so, that church must have been originally a Roman
temple. Part of the Roman walls and one of the city gates remain; and we
saw the spot where, according to tradition, Saul was let down from the
wall in a basket. There are two localities pointed out as the scene of his
conversion, which, from his own account, occurred near the city. I visited
a subterranean chapel claimed by the Latin monks to be the cellar of the
house of Ananias, in which the Apostle was concealed. The cellar is,
undoubtedly, of great antiquity; but as the whole quarter was for many
centuries inhabited wholly by Turks, it would be curious to know how the
monks ascertained which was the house of Ananias. As for the "street
called Straight," it would be difficult at present to find any in Damascus
corresponding to that epithet.

The famous Damascus blades, so renowned in the time of the Crusaders, are
made here no longer. The art has been lost for three or four centuries.
Yet genuine old swords, of the true steel, are occasionally to be found.
They are readily distinguished from modern imitations by their clear and
silvery ring when struck, and by the finely watered appearance of the
blade, produced by its having been first made of woven wire, and then
worked over and over again until it attained the requisite temper. A droll
Turk, who is the _shekh ed-dellal,_ or Chief of the Auctioneers, and is
nicknamed Abou-Anteeka (the Father of the Antiques), has a large
collection of sabres, daggers, pieces of mail, shields, pipes, rings,
seals, and other ancient articles. He demands enormous prices, but
generally takes about one-third of what he first asks. I have spent
several hours in his curiosity shop, bargaining for turquoise rings,
carbuncles, Persian amulets, and Circassian daggers. While looking over
some old swords the other day, I noticed one of exquisite temper, but with
a shorter blade than usual. The point had apparently been snapped off in
fight, but owing to the excellence of the sword, or the owner's affection
for it, the steel had been carefully shaped into a new point. Abou-Anteeka
asked five hundred piastres, and I, who had taken a particular fancy to
possess it, offered him two hundred in an indifferent way, and then laid
it aside to examine other articles. After his refusal to accept my offer,
I said nothing more, and was leaving the shop, when the old fellow called
me back, saying: "You have forgotten your sword,"--which I thereupon took
at my own price. I have shown it to Mr. Wood, the British Consul, who
pronounced it an extremely fine specimen of Damascus steel; and, on
reading the inscription enamelled upon the blade, ascertains that it was
made in the year of the Hegira, 181, which corresponds to A.D. 798. This
was during the Caliphate of Haroun Al-Raschid, and who knows but the sword
may have once flashed in the presence of that great and glorious
sovereign--nay, been drawn by his own hand! Who knows but that the Milan
armor of the Crusaders may have shivered its point, on the field of
Askalon! I kiss the veined azure of thy blade, O Sword of Haroun! I hang
the crimson cords of thy scabbard upon my shoulder, and thou shalt
henceforth clank in silver music at my side, singing to my ear, and mine
alone, thy chants of battle, thy rejoicing songs of slaughter!

Yesterday evening, three gentlemen of Lord Dalkeith's party arrived from a
trip to Palmyra. The road thither lies through a part of the Syrian Desert
belonging to the Aneyzeh tribe, who are now supposed to be in league with
the Druses, against the Government. Including this party, only six persons
have succeeded in reaching Palmyra within a year, and two of them, Messrs.
Noel and Cathcart, were imprisoned four days by the Arabs, and only
escaped by the accidental departure of a caravan for Damascus. The present
party was obliged to travel almost wholly by night, running the gauntlet
of a dozen Arab encampments, and was only allowed a day's stay at Palmyra.
They were all disguised as Bedouins, and took nothing with them but the
necessary provisions. They made their appearance here last evening, in
long, white abas, with the Bedouin _keffie_ bound over their heads, their
faces burnt, their eyes inflamed, and their frames feverish with seven
days and nights of travel. The shekh who conducted them was not an
Aneyzeh, and would have lost his life had they fallen in with any of that

Chapter X.

The Visions of Hasheesh.

"Exulting, trembling, raging, fainting,
Possessed beyond the Muse's painting."


During my stay in Damascus, that insatiable curiosity which leads me to
prefer the acquisition of all lawful knowledge through the channels of my
own personal experience, rather than in less satisfactory and less
laborious ways, induced me to make a trial of the celebrated
_Hasheesh_--that remarkable drug which supplies the luxurious Syrian with
dreams more alluring and more gorgeous than the Chinese extracts from his
darling opium pipe. The use of Hasheesh--which is a preparation of the
dried leaves of the _cannabis indica_--has been familiar to the East for
many centuries. During the Crusades, it was frequently used by the Saracen
warriors to stimulate them to the work of slaughter, and from the Arabic
term of "_Hashasheen,"_ or Eaters of Hasheesh, as applied to them, the
word "assassin" has been naturally derived. An infusion of the same plant
gives to the drink called "_bhang_," which is in common use throughout
India and Malaysia, its peculiar properties. Thus prepared, it is a more
fierce and fatal stimulant than the paste of sugar and spices to which the
Turk resorts, as the food of his voluptuous evening reveries. While its
immediate effects seem to be more potent than those of opium, its
habitual use, though attended with ultimate and permanent injury to the
system, rarely results in such utter wreck of mind and body as that to
which the votaries of the latter drug inevitably condemn themselves.

A previous experience of the effects of hasheesh--which I took once, and
in a very mild form, while in Egypt--was so peculiar in its character,
that my curiosity, instead of being satisfied, only prompted me the more
to throw myself, for once, wholly under its influence. The sensations it
then produced were those, physically, of exquisite lightness and
airiness--of a wonderfully keen perception of the ludicrous, in the most
simple and familiar objects. During the half hour in which it lasted, I
was at no time so far under its control, that I could not, with the
clearest perception, study the changes through which I passed. I noted,
with careful attention, the fine sensations which spread throughout the
whole tissue of my nervous fibre, each thrill helping to divest my frame
of its earthy and material nature, until my substance appeared to me no
grosser than the vapors of the atmosphere, and while sitting in the calm
of the Egyptian twilight, I expected to be lifted up and carried away by
the first breeze that should ruffle the Nile. While this process was going
on, the objects by which I was surrounded assumed a strange and whimsical
expression. My pipe, the oars which my boatmen plied, the turban worn by
the captain, the water-jars and culinary implements, became in themselves
so inexpressibly absurd and comical, that I was provoked into a long fit
of laughter. The hallucination died away as gradually as it came, leaving
me overcome with a soft and pleasant drowsiness, from which I sank into a
deep, refreshing sleep.

My companion and an English gentleman, who, with his wife, was also
residing in Antonio's pleasant caravanserai--agreed to join me in the
experiment. The dragoman of the latter was deputed to procure a sufficient
quantity of the drug. He was a dark Egyptian, speaking only the _lingua
franca_ of the East, and asked me, as he took the money and departed on
his mission, whether he should get hasheesh "_per ridere, a per dormire?_"
"Oh, _per ridere_, of course," I answered; "and see that it be strong and
fresh." It is customary with the Syrians to take a small portion
immediately before the evening meal, as it is thus diffused through the
stomach and acts more gradually, as well as more gently, upon the system.
As our dinner-hour was at sunset, I proposed taking hasheesh at that time,
but my friends, fearing that its operation might be more speedy upon fresh
subjects, and thus betray them into some absurdity in the presence of the
other travellers, preferred waiting until after the meal. It was then
agreed that we should retire to our room, which, as it rose like a tower
one story higher than the rest of the building, was in a manner isolated,
and would screen us from observation.

We commenced by taking a tea-spoonful each of the mixture which Abdallah
had procured. This was about the quantity I had taken in Egypt, and as the
effect then had been so slight, I judged that we ran no risk of taking an
over-dose. The strength of the drug, however, must have been far greater
in this instance, for whereas I could in the former case distinguish no
flavor but that of sugar and rose leaves, I now found the taste intensely
bitter and repulsive to the palate. We allowed the paste to dissolve
slowly on our tongues, and sat some time, quietly waiting the result. But,
having been taken upon a full stomach, its operation was hindered, and
after the lapse of nearly an hour, we could not detect the least change in
our feelings. My friends loudly expressed their conviction of the humbug
of hasheesh, but I, unwilling to give up the experiment at this point,
proposed that we should take an additional half spoonful, and follow it
with a cup of hot tea, which, if there were really any virtue in the
preparation, could not fail to call it into action. This was done, though
not without some misgivings, as we were all ignorant of the precise
quantity which constituted a dose, and the limits within which the drug
could be taken with safety. It was now ten o'clock; the streets of
Damascus were gradually becoming silent, and the fair city was bathed in
the yellow lustre of the Syrian moon. Only in the marble court-yard below
us, a few dragomen and _mukkairee_ lingered under the lemon-trees, and
beside the fountain in the centre.

I was seated alone, nearly in the middle of the room, talking with my
friends, who were lounging upon a sofa placed in a sort of alcove, at the
farther end, when the same fine nervous thrill, of which I have spoken,
suddenly shot through me. But this time it was accompanied with a burning
sensation at the pit of the stomach; and, instead of growing upon me with
the gradual pace of healthy slumber, and resolving me, as before, into
air, it came with the intensity of a pang, and shot throbbing along the
nerves to the extremities of my body. The sense of limitation---of the
confinement of our senses within the bounds of our own flesh and
blood--instantly fell away. The walls of my frame were burst outward and
tumbled into ruin; and, without thinking what form I wore--losing sight
even of all idea of form--I felt that I existed throughout a vast extent
of space. The blood, pulsed from my heart, sped through uncounted leagues
before it reached my extremities; the air drawn into my lungs expanded
into seas of limpid ether, and the arch of my skull was broader than the
vault of heaven. Within the concave that held my brain, were the
fathomless deeps of blue; clouds floated there, and the winds of heaven
rolled them together, and there shone the orb of the sun. It was--though I
thought not of that at the time--like a revelation of the mystery of
omnipresence. It is difficult to describe this sensation, or the rapidity
with which it mastered me. In the state of mental exaltation in which I
was then plunged, all sensations, as they rose, suggested more or less
coherent images. They presented themselves to me in a double form: one
physical, and therefore to a certain extent tangible; the other spiritual,
and revealing itself in a succession of splendid metaphors. The physical
feeling of extended being was accompanied by the image of an exploding
meteor, not subsiding into darkness, but continuing to shoot from its
centre or nucleus--which corresponded to the burning spot at the pit of my
stomach--incessant adumbrations of light that finally lost themselves in
the infinity of space. To my mind, even now, this image is still the best
illustration of my sensations, as I recall them; but I greatly doubt
whether the reader will find it equally clear.

My curiosity was now in a way of being satisfied; the Spirit (demon, shall
I not rather say?) of Hasheesh had entire possession of me. I was cast
upon the flood of his illusions, and drifted helplessly whithersoever they
might choose to bear me. The thrills which ran through my nervous system
became more rapid and fierce, accompanied with sensations that steeped my
whole being in unutterable rapture. I was encompassed by a sea of light,
through which played the pure, harmonious colors that are born of light.
While endeavoring, in broken expressions, to describe my feelings to my
friends, who sat looking upon me incredulously--not yet having been
affected by the drug--I suddenly found myself at the foot of the great
Pyramid of Cheops. The tapering courses of yellow limestone gleamed like
gold in the sun, and the pile rose so high that it seemed to lean for
support upon the blue arch of the sky. I wished to ascend it, and the wish
alone placed me immediately upon its apex, lifted thousands of feet above
the wheat-fields and palm-groves of Egypt. I cast my eyes downward, and,
to my astonishment, saw that it was built, not of limestone, but of huge
square plugs of Cavendish tobacco! Words cannot paint the overwhelming
sense of the ludicrous which I then experienced. I writhed on my chair in
an agony of laughter, which was only relieved by the vision melting away
like a dissolving view; till, out of my confusion of indistinct images and
fragments of images, another and more wonderful vision arose.

The more vividly I recall the scene which followed, the more carefully I
restore its different features, and separate the many threads of sensation
which it wove into one gorgeous web, the more I despair of representing
its exceeding glory. I was moving over the Desert, not upon the rocking
dromedary, but seated in a barque made of mother-of-pearl, and studded
with jewels of surpassing lustre. The sand was of grains of gold, and my
keel slid through them without jar or sound. The air was radiant with
excess of light, though no sun was to be seen. I inhaled the most
delicious perfumes; and harmonies, such as Beethoven may have heard in
dreams, but never wrote, floated around me. The atmosphere itself was
light, odor, music; and each and all sublimated beyond anything the sober
senses are capable of receiving. Before me--for a thousand leagues, as it
seemed--stretched a vista of rainbows, whose colors gleamed with the
splendor of gems--arches of living amethyst, sapphire, emerald, topaz, and
ruby. By thousands and tens of thousands, they flew past me, as my
dazzling barge sped down the magnificent arcade; yet the vista still
stretched as far as ever before me. I revelled in a sensuous elysium,
which was perfect, because no sense was left ungratified. But beyond all,
my mind was filled with a boundless feeling of triumph. My journey was
that of a conqueror--not of a conqueror who subdues his race, either by
Love or by Will, for I forgot that Man existed--but one victorious over
the grandest as well as the subtlest forces of Nature. The spirits of
Light, Color, Odor, Sound, and Motion were my slaves; and, having these, I
was master of the universe.

Those who are endowed to any extent with the imaginative faculty, must
have at least once in their lives experienced feelings which may give them
a clue to the exalted sensuous raptures of my triumphal march. The view of
a sublime mountain landscape, the hearing of a grand orchestral symphony,
or of a choral upborne by the "full-voiced organ," or even the beauty and
luxury of a cloudless summer day, suggests emotions similar in kind, if
less intense. They took a warmth and glow from that pure animal joy which
degrades not, but spiritualizes and ennobles our material part, and which
differs from cold, abstract, intellectual enjoyment, as the flaming
diamond of the Orient differs from the icicle of the North. Those finer
senses, which occupy a middle ground between our animal and intellectual
appetites, were suddenly developed to a pitch beyond what I had ever
dreamed, and being thus at one and the same time gratified to the fullest
extent of their preternatural capacity, the result was a single harmonious
sensation, to describe which human language has no epithet. Mahomet's
Paradise, with its palaces of ruby and emerald, its airs of musk and
cassia, and its rivers colder than snow and sweeter than honey, would have
been a poor and mean terminus for my arcade of rainbows. Yet in the
character of this paradise, in the gorgeous fancies of the Arabian Nights,
in the glow and luxury of all Oriental poetry, I now recognize more or
less of the agency of hasheesh.

The fulness of my rapture expanded the sense of time; and though the whole
vision was probably not more than five minutes in passing through my mind,
years seemed to have elapsed while I shot under the dazzling myriads of
rainbow arches. By and by, the rainbows, the barque of pearl and jewels,
and the desert of golden sand, vanished; and, still bathed in light and
perfume, I found myself in a land of green and flowery lawns, divided by
hills of gently undulating outline. But, although the vegetation was the
richest of earth, there were neither streams nor fountains to be seen; and
the people who came from the hills, with brilliant garments that shone in
the sun, besought me to give them the blessing of water. Their hands were
full of branches of the coral honeysuckle, in bloom. These I took; and,
breaking off the flowers one by one, set them in the earth. The slender,
trumpet-like tubes immediately became shafts of masonry, and sank deep
into the earth; the lip of the flower changed into a circular mouth of
rose-colored marble, and the people, leaning over its brink, lowered their
pitchers to the bottom with cords, and drew them up again, filled to the
brim, and dripping with honey.

The most remarkable feature of these illusions was, that at the time when
I was most completely under their influence, I knew myself to be seated in
the tower of Antonio's hotel in Damascus, knew that I had taken hasheesh,
and that the strange, gorgeous and ludicrous fancies which possessed me,
were the effect of it. At the very same instant that I looked upon the
Valley of the Nile from the pyramid, slid over the Desert, or created my
marvellous wells in that beautiful pastoral country, I saw the furniture
of my room, its mosaic pavement, the quaint Saracenic niches in the walls,
the painted and gilded beams of the ceiling, and the couch in the recess
before me, with my two companions watching me. Both sensations were
simultaneous, and equally palpable. While I was most given up to the
magnificent delusion, I saw its cause and felt its absurdity most clearly.
Metaphysicians say that the mind is incapable of performing two operations
at the same time, and may attempt to explain this phenomenon by supposing
a rapid and incessant vibration of the perceptions between the two states.
This explanation, however, is not satisfactory to me; for not more clearly
does a skilful musician with the same breath blow two distinct musical
notes from a bugle, than I was conscious of two distinct conditions of
being in the same moment. Yet, singular as it may seem, neither conflicted
with the other. My enjoyment of the visions was complete and absolute,
undisturbed by the faintest doubt of their reality, while, in some other
chamber of my brain, Reason sat coolly watching them, and heaping the
liveliest ridicule on their fantastic features. One set of nerves was
thrilled with the bliss of the gods, while another was convulsed with
unquenchable laughter at that very bliss. My highest ecstacies could not
bear down and silence the weight of my ridicule, which, in its turn, was
powerless to prevent me from running into other and more gorgeous
absurdities. I was double, not "swan and shadow," but rather, Sphinx-like,
human and beast. A true Sphinx, I was a riddle and a mystery to myself.

The drug, which had been retarded in its operation on account of having
been taken after a meal, now began to make itself more powerfully felt.
The visions were more grotesque than ever, but less agreeable; and there
was a painful tension throughout my nervous system--the effect of
over-stimulus. I was a mass of transparent jelly, and a confectioner
poured me into a twisted mould. I threw my chair aside, and writhed and
tortured myself for some time to force my loose substance into the mould.
At last, when I had so far succeeded that only one foot remained outside,
it was lifted off, and another mould, of still more crooked and intricate
shape, substituted. I have no doubt that the contortions through which I
went, to accomplish the end of my gelatinous destiny, would have been
extremely ludicrous to a spectator, but to me they were painful and
disagreeable. The sober half of me went into fits of laughter over them,
and through that laughter, my vision shifted into another scene. I had
laughed until my eyes overflowed profusely. Every drop that fell,
immediately became a large loaf of bread, and tumbled upon the shop-board
of a baker in the bazaar at Damascus. The more I laughed, the faster the
loaves fell, until such a pile was raised about the baker, that I could
hardly see the top of his head. "The man will be suffocated," I cried,
"but if he were to die, I cannot stop!"

My perceptions now became more dim and confused. I felt that I was in the
grasp of some giant force; and, in the glimmering of my fading reason,
grew earnestly alarmed, for the terrible stress under which my frame
labored increased every moment. A fierce and furious heat radiated from my
stomach throughout my system; my mouth and throat were as dry and hard as
if made of brass, and my tongue, it seemed to me, was a bar of rusty iron.
I seized a pitcher of water, and drank long and deeply; but I might as
well have drunk so much air, for not only did it impart no moisture, but
my palate and throat gave me no intelligence of having drunk at all. I
stood in the centre of the room, brandishing my arms convulsively, an
heaving sighs that seemed to shatter my whole being. "Will no one," I
cried in distress, "cast out this devil that has possession of me?" I no
longer saw the room nor my friends, but I heard one of them saying, "It
must be real; he could not counterfeit such an expression as that. But it
don't look much like pleasure." Immediately afterwards there was a scream
of the wildest laughter, and my countryman sprang upon the floor,
exclaiming, "O, ye gods! I am a locomotive!" This was his ruling
hallucination; and, for the space of two or three hours, he continued to
pace to and fro with a measured stride, exhaling his breath in violent
jets, and when he spoke, dividing his words into syllables, each of which
he brought out with a jerk, at the same time turning his hands at his
sides, as if they were the cranks of imaginary wheels, The Englishman, as
soon as he felt the dose beginning to take effect, prudently retreated to
his own room, and what the nature of his visions was, we never learned,
for he refused to tell, and, moreover, enjoined the strictest silence on
his wife.

By this time it was nearly midnight. I had passed through the Paradise of
Hasheesh, and was plunged at once into its fiercest Hell. In my ignorance
I had taken what, I have since learned, would have been a sufficient
portion for six men, and was now paying a frightful penalty for my
curiosity. The excited blood rushed through my frame with a sound like the
roaring of mighty waters. It was projected into my eyes until I could no
longer see; it beat thickly in my ears, and so throbbed in my heart, that
I feared the ribs would give way under its blows. I tore open my vest,
placed my hand over the spot, and tried to count the pulsations; but there
were two hearts, one beating at the rate of a thousand beats a minute, and
the other with a slow, dull motion. My throat, I thought, was filled to
the brim with blood, and streams of blood were pouring from my ears. I
felt them gushing warm down my cheeks and neck. With a maddened, desperate
feeling, I fled from the room, and walked over the flat, terraced roof of
the house. My body seemed to shrink and grow rigid as I wrestled with the
demon, and my face to become wild, lean and haggard. Some lines which had
struck me, years before, in reading Mrs. Browning's "Rhyme of the Duchess
May," flashed into my mind:--

"And the horse, in stark despair, with his front hoofs poised in air,
On the last verge, rears amain;
And he hangs, he rocks between--and his nostrils curdle in--
And he shivers, head and hoof, and the flakes of foam fall off;
And his face grows fierce and thin."

That picture of animal terror and agony was mine. I was the horse,
hanging poised on the verge of the giddy tower, the next moment to be
borne sheer down to destruction. Involuntarily, I raised my hand to feel
the leanness and sharpness of my face. Oh horror! the flesh had fallen
from my bones, and it was a skeleton head that I carried on my shoulders!
With one bound I sprang to the parapet, and looked down into the silent
courtyard, then filled with the shadows thrown into it by the sinking
moon. Shall I cast myself down headlong? was the question I proposed to
myself; but though the horror of that skeleton delusion was greater than
my fear of death, there was an invisible hand at my breast which pushed me
away from the brink.

I made my way back to the room, in a state of the keenest suffering. My
companion was still a locomotive, rushing to and fro, and jerking out his
syllables with the disjointed accent peculiar to a steam-engine. His mouth
had turned to brass, like mine, and he raised the pitcher to his lips in
the attempt to moisten it, but before he had taken a mouthful, set the
pitcher down again with a yell of laughter, crying out: "How can I take
water into my boiler, while I am letting off steam?"

But I was now too far gone to feel the absurdity of this, or his other
exclamations. I was sinking deeper and deeper into a pit of unutterable
agony and despair. For, although I was not conscious of real pain in any
part of my body, the cruel tension to which my nerves had been subjected
filled me through and through with a sensation of distress which was far
more severe than pain itself. In addition to this, the remnant of will
with which I struggled against the demon, became gradually weaker, and I
felt that I should soon be powerless in his hands. Every effort to
preserve my reason was accompanied by a pang of mortal fear, lest what I
now experienced was insanity, and would hold mastery over me for ever. The
thought of death, which also haunted me, was far less bitter than this
dread. I knew that in the struggle which was going on in my frame, I was
borne fearfully near the dark gulf, and the thought that, at such a time,
both reason and will were leaving my brain, filled me with an agony, the
depth and blackness of which I should vainly attempt to portray. I threw
myself on my bed, with the excited blood still roaring wildly in my ears,
my heart throbbing with a force that seemed to be rapidly wearing away my
life, my throat dry as a pot-sherd, and my stiffened tongue cleaving to
the roof of my mouth--resisting no longer, but awaiting my fate with the
apathy of despair.

My companion was now approaching the same condition, but as the effect of
the drug on him had been less violent, so his stage of suffering was more
clamorous. He cried out to me that he was dying, implored me to help him,
and reproached me vehemently, because I lay there silent, motionless, and
apparently careless of his danger. "Why will he disturb me?" I thought;
"he thinks he is dying, but what is death to madness? Let him die; a
thousand deaths were more easily borne than the pangs I suffer." While I
was sufficiently conscious to hear his exclamations, they only provoked my
keen anger; but after a time, my senses became clouded, and I sank into a
stupor. As near as I can judge, this must have been three o'clock in the
morning, rather more than five hours after the hasheesh began to take
effect. I lay thus all the following day and night, in a state of gray,
blank oblivion, broken only by a single wandering gleam of consciousness.
I recollect hearing Francois' voice. He told me afterwards that I arose,
attempted to dress myself, drank two cups of coffee, and then fell back
into the same death-like stupor; but of all this, I did not retain the
least knowledge. On the morning of the second day, after a sleep of thirty
hours, I awoke again to the world, with a system utterly prostrate and
unstrung, and a brain clouded with the lingering images of my visions. I
knew where I was, and what had happened to me, but all that I saw still
remained unreal and shadowy. There was no taste in what I ate, no
refreshment in what I drank, and it required a painful effort to
comprehend what was said to me and return a coherent answer. Will and
Reason had come back, but they still sat unsteadily upon their thrones.

My friend, who was much further advanced in his recovery, accompanied me
to the adjoining bath, which I hoped would assist in restoring me. It was
with great difficulty that I preserved the outward appearance of
consciousness. In spite of myself, a veil now and then fell over my mind,
and after wandering for years, as it seemed, in some distant world, I
awoke with a shock, to find myself in the steamy halls of the bath, with a
brown Syrian polishing my limbs. I suspect that my language must have been
rambling and incoherent, and that the menials who had me in charge
understood my condition, for as soon as I had stretched myself upon the
couch which follows the bath, a glass of very acid sherbet was presented
to me, and after drinking it I experienced instant relief. Still the spell
was not wholly broken, and for two or three days I continued subject to
frequent involuntary fits of absence, which made me insensible, for the
time, to all that was passing around me. I walked the streets of Damascus
with a strange consciousness that I was in some other place at the same
time, and with a constant effort to reunite my divided perceptions.

Previous to the experiment, we had decided on making a bargain with the
shekh for the journey to Palmyra. The state, however, in which we now
found ourselves, obliged us to relinquish the plan. Perhaps the excitement
of a forced march across the desert, and a conflict with the hostile
Arabs, which was quite likely to happen, might have assisted us in
throwing off the baneful effects of the drug; but all the charm which lay
in the name of Palmyra and the romantic interest of the trip, was gone. I
was without courage and without energy, and nothing remained for me but to
leave Damascus.

Yet, fearful as my rash experiment proved to me, I did not regret having
made it. It revealed to me deeps of rapture and of suffering which my
natural faculties never could have sounded. It has taught me the majesty
of human reason and of human will, even in the weakest, and the awful
peril of tampering with that which assails their integrity. I have here
faithfully and fully written out my experience, on account of the lesson
which it may convey to others. If I have unfortunately failed in my
design, and have but awakened that restless curiosity which I have
endeavored to forestall, let me beg all who are thereby led to repeat the
experiment upon themselves, that they be content to take the portion of
hasheesh which is considered sufficient for one man, and not, like me,
swallow enough for six.

Chapter XI.

A Dissertation on Bathing and Bodies.

"No swan-soft woman, rubbed with lucid oils,
The gift of an enamored god, more fair."


We shall not set out from Damascus--we shall not leave the Pearl of the
Orient to glimmer through the seas of foliage wherein it lies
buried--without consecrating a day to the Bath, that material agent of
peace and good-will unto men. We have bathed in the Jordan, like Naaman,
and been made clean; let us now see whether Abana and Pharpar, rivers of
Damascus, are better than the waters of Israel.

The Bath is the "peculiar institution" of the East. Coffee has become
colonized in France and America; the Pipe is a cosmopolite, and his blue,
joyous breath congeals under the Arctic Circle, or melts languidly into
the soft airs of the Polynesian Isles; but the Bath, that sensuous elysium
which cradled the dreams of Plato, and the visions of Zoroaster, and the
solemn meditations of Mahomet, is only to be found under an Oriental sky.
The naked natives of the Torrid Zone are amphibious; they do not bathe,
they live in the water. The European and Anglo-American wash themselves
and think they have bathed; they shudder under cold showers and perform
laborious antics with coarse towels. As for the Hydropathist, the Genius
of the Bath, whose dwelling is in Damascus, would be convulsed with
scornful laughter, could he behold that aqueous Diogenes sitting in his


Back to Full Books