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Mount Sinai.LETTERS FROM THE EAST.
LEAVING the valley of Paran, the path led over a rocky wilderness, to render which more gloomy, the sky became clouded, and a shower of rain fell. By moonlight we as. cended the hills, and, after some hours' progress, rested for the night on the sand. The dews had fallen heavy for somo nights, and the clothes that covered us were quite wet in the morning; but, as we advanced, the dews ceased.
Our mode of life, though irregular, was quite to a wanderer's taste. We sometimes stopped for an hour, at mid-day, or, more frequently, took some bread and a draught of water on the camel's back; but we were repaid for our fatigues, when we halted for the evening, as the sun was sinking in the desert, and, having taken our supper, strolled amidst the solitudes, or spent the hours in conversation till dark.
But the bivouac* by night was the most striking, when, arriving, fatigued, long after dark, the two fires were light ed. I have frequently retired to some distance to gaze at the group of Arabs round theirs, it was so entirely in keep ing. They were sipping their coffee, and talking with ex pressive action and infinite vivacity; and, as they addressed eoch other, they often bent over the flame which glanced on their white turbans and drapery and dark countenances, and the camels stood behind, and stretched their long necks over their masters.
Having finished our repast, we wrapped ourselves in our cloaks, and lay down round the fire: and let not that couch be pitied; for it was delightful, as well as romantic, to sink to rest as you looked on that calm and glorious sky, the stars shining with a brilliancy you have no conception of in our climate. Then, in the morning, we were suddenly sum. moned to depart, and, the camels being loaded, we were soon on the march. "Jouma frequently chanted his melancholy Arab song, for at this time we were seldom disposed to con: verse, and were frequently obliged to throw a blanket over our cloak, and walk for some hours, to guard against the chillness of the air.
The sunsets in Egypt are the finest; but to see a sunrise in its glory, you must be in the desert : nothing there obscures or obstructs it. You are travelling on, chill and silent,
*Pron. be-voo-ac; an encampment for a night,
of them per
your looks bent toward the east; a variety of glowing hues appear and die away again; and, for some time, the sky is blue and clear; when the sun suddenly darts above the hori. zon, and such a splendour is thrown instantly on the wide expanse
of sand and rocks, that, if you were a Persian adorer, you would certainly break out, like the muezzin* from the minaret, in praise and blessing.
The way now became very interesting, and varied by several narrow, deep valleys, where a few stunted palms grew. The next morning, we entered a noble desert, lined on each side by lofty mountains of rock, many fectly black, with sharp and ragged summits. In the midst of the plain, which rose with a continual yet gentle ascent, were isolated rocks of various forms and colours, and over its surface were scattered a number of shrubs of a lively green. Through all the route, we had met few passengers. One or two little caravans, or a lonely wanderer with his camel, had passed at times, and given us the usual salute of
“ Peace be unto you.” *
A few hours more we got sight of the mountains round Sinai. Their appearance was magnificent; when we drew nearer, and emerged out of a deep pass, the scenery was infinitely striking, and, on the right, extended a vast range of mountains as far as the eye could reach, from the vicinity of. Sinai down to Tor. They were perfectly bare, but of grand and singular form. We had hoped to reach the convent by day-light, but the moon had risen some time, when we entered the mouth of a narrow pass, where our conductors advised us to dismount.
A gentle yet perpetual ascent, led on, mile after mile, up this mournful valley, whose aspect was terrific, yet ever varying. It was not above two hundred yards in width, and the mountains rose to an immense height on each side. The road wound at their feet along the edge of a precipice, and amidst masses of rock that had fallen from above. It was a toilsome path, generally over stones, placed like steps, probably by the Arabs; and the moonlight was of little service to us in this deep valley, as it only rested on the frown. ing summits above.
Where is Mount Sinai? was the inquiry of every one. The Arabs pointed before to Gabel Mousa, the Mount of Moses, as it is called, but we could not distinguish it. Again, and again, point after point was turned, and we saw but the same stern scenery. But what had the softness and beauty of nature to do here? Mount Sinai required an approach like this, where all seemed to proclaim the land of miracles, and to have been visited by the terrors of the Lord.
* Muezzin-one of a religious order, among the Mahommedans, whose clear and sonorous voice, from the minaret, or steeple of a mosque, answers the purpose of a bell, among Christians, to call the people to morning and evening prayers.
The scenes, as you gaze around, had an unearthly character, suited to the sound of the fearful trumpet that was once heard there. We entered at last on the more open valley, about half a mile wide, and drew near this famous mountain. Sinai is not so lofty as some of the mountains around it, and in its form there is nothing graceful or peculiar, to distin. guish it from others. *
On the third morning we set out early from the convent for the summit of Mount Sinai, with two Arab guides. The ascent was, for some time, over long and broken flights of stone steps, placed there by the Greeks. The path was often narrow and steep, and wound through lofty masses of rock on each side. In about half an hour, we came to a well of excellent water; a short distance above which is a small, ruined chapel.
About half way up was a verdant and pleasant spot, in the midst of which stood a high and solitary palm, and the rocks rose in a small and wild amphitheatre around. We were not very long now in reaching the summit, which is of limited extent, having two small buildings on it, used formerly by the Greek pilgrims, probably for worship.
But Sinai has four summits; and that of Moses stands almost in the middle of the others, and is not visible from below, so that the spot where he received the law must have been hid from the view of the multitudes around; and the smoke and flame, which, Scripture says, enveloped the entire Mount of Sinai, must have had the more awful appearance, by reason of its many summits and great extent; and the account delivered gives us reason to imagine, the summit or scene where God appeared was shrouded from the hosts around.
But what occasions no small surprise at first, is the scarcity of plains, valleys, or open places, where the children of Israel could have stood conveniently to behold the glory on the mount. From the summit of Sinai you see only in. numerable ranges of rocky mountains. One generally places, in imagination, around Sinai, extensive plains, or sandy deserts, where the camp of the hosts was placed, where the families of Israel stood at the doors of their tents, and the line was drawn round the mountain, which no one might break through on pain of death.
But it is not thus : save the valley by which we approached Sinai, about half a mile wide, and a few miles in length, and a small plain we afterwards passed through, with a rocky hill in the middle, there appear to be few open places around the mount. We did not, however, examine it on all sides. On putting the question to the superior of the convent, where he imagined the Israelites stood ; " Every where,” he replied, waving his hands about-"in the ravines, the valleys, as well as the plains."
Having spent an hour here, we descended to the place of verdure, and, after resting awhile, took our road, with one of the guides, towards the mountain of St. Catharine. The rapture of Mr. Wolf's feelings on the top of Sinai was indescribable; I expected to see him take flight for a better region. Being the son of a rabbi at Munich, the conviction of being on the scene where God visited his people, and conferred such glory on them, was almost too much for him.
After ascending again, in another direction, we came to a long and steep descent, that commanded a very noble scene, and reached, at last, a little valley at the bottom, that was to be our resting-place for the night. The mountains rose around this valley in vast precipices: a line of beautiful verdure ran along its whole extent, in the midst of which stood a deserted mon'astery. The fathers had long been driven from it by the Arabs, but its various apartments were still entire, and afforded an excellent asylum for a traveller.
This deep solitude had an exceeding and awful beauty : the palms, the loftiest I ever saw, rose moveless, and the gården and grove were desolate and neglected; the fountain in the latter was now useless, and the channel of the rivulet that ran through the valley was quite dry; the walls were in ruins, and the olive, the poplar, and other trees, grew in wild luxuriance.
Within, some old books of devotion were yet left behind. Having chosen an apartment in the upper story, which opened into the corridor, and had been one of the cells of the exiled fathers, we took possession of it at night, kindled a fire on a large stone in a corner, and made a good supper the rude provisions we had. There needed no spirit of romance in order to enjoy the situation exquisitely: few ideal
pictures ever equalled the strangeness and savagenees of this forsaken sanctuary in the retreats of Sinai.
The Summit of Mount Sinai.-MONTGOMERY.
I SEEK the mountain cleft: alone
I seem in this sequestered place :-
My Maker, face to face.
And hears his voice proclaim,
His noblest name.
LOVE is that name-for “God is Love."
Here, where, unbuilt by mortal hands
His awful temple stands,
And ashes in thy sight,
Be thou my light.
Hither, of old, the Almighty came :
Clouds were his car, his steeds the wind
And thunder rolled behind.
Like vessels, to and fro;
The gulfs below.
Borne through the wilderness in wrath,
He seemed, in power alone, a God:
For Mercy seized his rod.
Forth gushed a living stream;
Fled as a dream.