« AnteriorContinuar »
Rachel, "sweet Syrian shepherdess," and of Absalom's tomb which he built to preserve his name, than of where the royal ashes lie in our own land. Many a humble scholar, untaught in other history, is learned in the ancient wars of Israel, and apprehends Moab, and Edom, and Assyria with a stronger sense of reality than he can apprehend the Russian hordes embattled against ourselves; and sees Pi-ha-hiroth shut in with its mountains, Egypt behind and the sea before, as no description, however vivid, will ever make him see the marshes of the Danube, though he have a son or a brother militant on that disastrous shore to-day. Strong security has God taken for the universal remembrance of that beloved country, blessed by His own Divine preference: while there is a Bible, there must be a Judea; the landscape in all its glorious tints is associated for ever with the wonderful artist's name; and neither its wretched population nor its beathen rulers, nor all its melancholy meanness and desolation, existing now, can make Christendom forget that this discrowned city is the city over which fell the tears of the Lord.
We have no Crusaders in these days; all that remains of our ancient chivalry finds holier work at home than that impossible redemption of the Holy Land, which God reserves for His own time, and His own hands; nor do we need to depend on the vagabond saint of antique times, the hero of scallop-shell and pilgrim-staff, for our knowledge of Palestine. Neither travellers nor reports are wanting, and we are by no means afflicted with monotony of tone or sameness of aspect in the revelations of our modern pilgrimages. weary man of fashion who loiters over Palestine in search of a new sensation-the curt and business-like Divine who goes thither professionally on a mission of verification and proof-the wandering litterateur who has a book to make-the accomplished savant and man of science, follow each other in rapid succession. Dreamy speculation-decisions of bold rapidity, made at a glance-accurate topography, slow and careful-each do
their devoir in making known to us this country of universal interest. Nor does even the lighter portraiture of fiction shrink from the Holy Land, though here our novelist is a statesman, as much beyond the range of ordinary novelists, as the locality of that last brilliant romance which it has pleased him "to leave half told," differs from the English village or Scottish glen of common story-telling. To follow Disraeli and Warburton is no easy task, neither is it quite holiday work to go over the ground after Robinson and De Saulcy. Lieut. C. W. N. Van de Velde, the latest traveller of this storied soil, is neither a born poet, nor an accomplished bookmaker, nor a great divine; but whosoever receives his book into their household, receives a social visitor, distinct and tangible—a real man. It is impossible not to clothe the historian with an imagined person-not to see him sitting down to his extempore writingtable compounding his letters-not to form a good guess of the measures of his paces, of perhaps now and then a little puff of Dutch impatience, curiously wrought into a large amount of phlegm. From his first offset he comes clearly out from among the shadows-we are at no loss to keep the thread of personal identity, and are never dubious, in picture number two, about the hero of picture number one. A most recognisable and characteristic personage, we yet stand in no dread of our pilgrim. He makes nothing of his cockle-hat and staff, or his sandal shoon. Instead of calling to his reverent disciples to follow, he offers his arm to any good neighbour who will make the tour with him. You may help to set up the Aneroid, or level the telescope, if you will, but you cannot doubt for a moment that Lieut. Van de Velde takes the angle of yonder nameless villages as a conscientious duty, and when he makes his survey of a bare hillside or Arab desert, does it with the full-hearted and devout conviction that this is his highest capability of serving God; for you ascertain immediately that this is not an expedition of the pleasure-seeker, or a pilgrimage of the devotee. Surveying Palestine is the work of the travellerhis special end and object—and he sets
about it simply as his vocation, an enterprise which gives consistence and necessity to all his travel.
One disadvantage of this accurate survey, as indeed of all scientific expeditions, is the bare chronicle of unknown villages, a confusion of barren names, and brief descriptions which take the life out of many pages of this narrative. Lieut. Van de Velde has a very pretty talent for making pictures in words, but to make a map in words is one of the driest and least profitable operations of literature. Toil after him as we may, it is impossible to keep in mind this long course which finds no track, and leaves none a mere piece of elaborate geography, with only the point, here and there, of a hospitable sheikh, or a hastily-sketched interior, to reward us for the toilsome interval of road. This, however, is not a fault peculiar to M. Van de Velde, but belongs alike to all the more serious explorers of Palestine, to whom every fallen stone has, or ought to have, its separate history.
And notwithstanding this, which, indeed, is a necessary feature of the conscientious and painstaking mind visible in these pages, there is much of the picturesque in the travels of Lieut. Van de Velde. If his sketches are as graphic and clear as his descriptions, it is very much to be regretted that they are not added to this work, for we have nowhere seen more rapid and vivid landscapes with so little pretension on the part of the artist. We speak much of the poetic merit of transferring one's own mind and individuality into the scenery described, and it is a poetic necessitynevertheless, once in a way, remembering that the real poet who can do this is not a very common tourist, it is a refreshment to have the landscape without the traveller-the hills and the valleys as they lie, without Mr Brown in the corner taking their likeness. In these volumes our honest traveller offers to your view what he saw, sometimes in an honest fervour of admiration; but you cannot fail to be aware that his eye is on the landscape as he draws it, and not upon the central figure I which overshadows the scene. From first to last, indeed, Lieut. Van de Velde never
sees his own shadow between himself and the sunshine, never is oppressed by his own claims to be looked at-in fact, is not troubled whether you look at him at all, but demands of you, most distinctly, to look at his picture, and claims from you an interest in it equal to his own. With strong religious feelings, and a mind deeply leavened with Gospel truths, and the Gospel history of which this soil is redolent, our pilgrim travels onward, not without perturbations, yet full of confidence in the special protection of God, and everywhere, a single-hearted Christian, seeks his own "edification," and to promote the edification of others. We have said that his is not the pilgrimage of a devotee, yet it is undeniable that though too orthodox to expect any miraculous influence from these holy places, he yet looks for impressions," for a more vivid realisation of those great events to which our faith looks back, and a brighter apprehension of the Divine teachings which were first delivered in this favoured land. Here is an instance of one profane interruption of his devout meditations; he is seated by Jacob's well:
"I placed myself in the same position, and could well figure to myself the woman with her pitcher on her head coming down out of the valley. He who knows all things, and whose free sovereign love has chosen His own to eternal life from the foundation of the worldHe beheld her, the poor sinner, for whose preservation He had come down from heaven. He saw her as she came along under the olive trees, long before she was she saw Him, she hesitated, perhaps aware of His being there. And when whether she should approach Him, perceiving that he was a Jew. But what should she be afraid of, she the lost, who had lost all, for whom there seemed to be nothing but despair? Therefore she came on, and
"Thus was I musing with myself, as I sat alone at the side of the well, and had just begun to read the fourth chapter of John, when I was suddenly roused by the blustering voice of a gigantic Arab, him, and addressed me thus, with all the who had come up without my observing characteristic repulsiveness and loathsomeness of the Arabs :
"Marhhabah chawadja! baksheesh, baksheesh!'
"Baksheesh, baksheesh!' he roared, and sat himself down at the well-side, opposite me, at the same time taking out his pipe and lighting it with such
composure as to convince me that he had not the smallest intention to leave me for some time at least.
"And before five minutes had elapsed, half-a-dozen of his fellows appeared, who forthwith placed themselves all round me in a very social circle, so that I had to abandon all thoughts of proceeding with my meditations on the favourite chapter.
"A chorus of baksheesh!' with all sorts of variations on the same theme, was now raised about my ears. I asked them through Philip on what pretence they wanted a baksheesh, begging at the same time that they would withdraw. Their answer was to this effect: The land and the well belong to us, and no foreigner has any right to come here without paying us a baksheesh. Would you like to go down into the well? Here is a rope that we have brought with that view. We will let you safely down; you can see the well from within, and on coming up again pay us a baksheesh.
"But what makes you suppose that I want to examine your well? I know quite the appearance of the well from within, and thus have no need to go down into it. Be, then, so good as to take your rope home again, and leave me alone.'
"I had almost added, then I will give you a baksheesh;' but I thought if these rogues see that a baksheesh is earned by merely allowing a stranger to be left alone at the well, then there is every chance that, as soon as they are gone, another similar party will come down to me, and give me still more molestation than these.
"If the Chawadja will not go down into the well, then will we go down instead of him, and tell him how it looks on our return; but anyhow, we must have a baksheesh.'
A sore trial to the righteous soul of our traveller is at all times this demand for "baksheesh;" and he com
plains feelingly of the extravagant example of former travellers who have encouraged the Arab, only too willing to be encouraged, in his shameless exactions. No small grievance this for the pilgrim of duty or science who must economise; but, from railway porters to Bedouin chiefs, human nature is the same. We suspect the London cabman, compelled to take his legal fare, would turn out as troublesome as Abu Dahuk, if it were not for the terror of the police magistrate; and where there is no such heaven - appointed institution guardian angel in blue coat and leaden buttons-no Mr Commissioner Mayne-it is scarcely to be expected that your master of conveyances in the desert-your grand representative of railway and public roads for the district of the Dead Sea-should content himself with the polite information of what "a real gentleman " content to do. would offer, as your cabman must be
Reaching by Smyrna and Beyrout the land of his destination, and rising with serious enthusiasm to hail the first glimpse of Lebanon, Lieutenant Van de Velde wanders for some time along "the coasts of Tyre and Sidon," stepping aside now and then to a mission station on the skirts of Lebanon, or to a native village, where, Catholics, of Greek Catholics, and of among discordant patches of Roman Mahommedans, he finds nothing but strife and bitter animosities, with not so much as a shadow of the religion for whose name, a vain badge, they hold each other in the direst hatred. Druse and Maronite and Moslem, Greek and Latin and unbeliever, every village hates its neighbour heartily and with a will; and though the Druse patronises the English Protestant, and the Maronite takes the French Catholic under his protection, Christianity vainly seeks a resting-place with either: but, where all cherish the natural intolerance of another faith than their own, the Greek Church, ignorant and bigoted, carries this evil principle farthest. Brutal violence and legal injury are alike the fate of every unfortunate convertite who ventures to embrace the somewhat different gospel preached by the missionaries of the Evangelical
churches in these coasts, so long the habitation of the Gentiles. The first instance which strikes the traveller is the state of the persecuted missionary churches at Hâsbeiya, whose history he thus relates :
"Hasbeiya has a population of 6000 souls, of whom about three-fourths belong to the Greek Church of the remainder, 1500 are Druses, about 500 Maronites, about 100 Jews of the class called Sephardim, and as many Mahommedans belonging to the court of the Emir Sad-Ed-Din-Shepebi, with some few Anzairies. Mr Bird, one of the American missionaries, was the first who attempted, twenty-five years ago, to diffuse the gospel here. He established a school, and obtained a native teacher; but his effort met with no success, and the school dwindled away. In 1842 the brethren sent a colporteur from Beirut to Hâsbeiya with tracts; and it was from this man that the people first learned to attach to the name Protestant the meaning it bears among them-a true Christian.
The books he left behind him
would perhaps have had a good effect, if the Greek priests-like all priests who dispute with the only High Priest, Jesus Christ, his right to supremacy over the souls of men-had not found means, in their hatred of the gospel, to get possession of the books and burn them.
"It was about this time that the Emir imposed certain new taxes, which caused great dissatisfaction. These taxes fell particularly hard upon the poor, who had no protector; and the thought occurred to them, We may possibly find protection from the missionaries; they are merciful men.' In this hope, fortyfive of them went to the brethren at Beirut, to enrol themselves, as Protestants, under their protection.
"The missionaries did not, of course, interfere with regard to the tax, but they 'expounded to them the way of God more perfectly; showing them, at the same time, how much true faith in the Son of God differs from such nominal Protestantism as has its origin in mere secular
motives. The brethren then sent them back to Hâsbeiya with bibles and tracts, promising to give them spiritual help, if their future conduct should attest the sincerity of their wishes. Shortly after the missionaries found an opportunity of sending two native teachers to Hâsbeiya, who had, in a few days, a hundred and fifty people in attendance on them, desirous of receiving instruction. This was too much for the priests. The bishop threatened to excommunicate all who
should adopt the Protestant heresies; but, seeing that this threat had no effect, he had recourse to that powerful weapon, by which, in the East, justice and right are so constantly assailed.
"The head of the Greeks of Hâsbeiya is the Patriarch of Damascus, a certain
Mathodios, who, as also the Emir of Hâsbeiya, is subject to the Pasha of Damascus. The Bishop of Hâsbeiya had no difficulty, through his superior in Damascus, in purchasing from the Pasha an order to the Emir, to the effect that the heretics should be brought back by force to the Greek Church. The Emir obeyed but too willingly. The new converts had to endure the bitterest persecutions. They were pelted with stones, and spit upon in the bazaars; they were beaten and insulted in their houses, as well as in the public places; they were no longer safe anywhere, and were debarred all social intercourse. Many attempts were made even upon their lives; and so severe was the persecution to which they were exposed, that, at one time, all but three, who remained faithful, drew back; but around those three, forty others soon gathered. After consultation, they agreed that it was best to disperse, and quitted Hâsbeiya to take up their residence at Abeyh, or elsewhere in Lebanon. In this attempt, however, they failed; the means of earning their bread were wanting, and, after a few months, they were compelled to return to Hâsbeiya. Then arose, in the silent night, from their closed dwellings, many a heartfelt and united prayer to the Lord of the Church; eagerly and trustfully His promises were sought out from His holy Word; and, like the phoenix rising from the flames, the youthful Christian congregation lifted its head anew. Persecution had no longer any terrors for them. At the request of the Patriarch, the Emir ordered his janissaries to drive them with scourges to the church; but his wrath was unable to
compel them to kiss or worship the images. A certain Chalil-Chouri, himself the son of a priest, but now converted to Christ, was sent by his family to Constantinople; here, by the help of the American consul, he obtained a firman from the Sultan, granting freedom to the Protestants of Hâsbeiya. Some amelioration in their lot was the happy result, but only to a certain degree; for the artful Mathodios managed, during five weary years, to bribe the Pasha of Da
mascus to assail them with all kinds of secret social persecutions."
While this is the state of the Greek Church, and these the difficulties which all the labours of a purer faith
must encounter among our so-called Christian brethren in the East, Lieutenant Van de Velde does not share in the popular idea of the greater liberality of the dominant religion. "Mahommedans," he says, "have been hitherto, by the very laws of the Koran, inaccessible to the gospel. The Sultan is the faithful assertor of these laws, and punishes with decapitation every Mussulman who abandons the doctrines of the Prophet. It is not three years since a respectable young man was beheaded in the streets of Constantinople for having abjured Islamism. Think, then, what is implied in a Mahommedan's even giving an attentive ear to the gospel." If this statement is correct, as we presume it to be, it throws rather a singular romance of disinterestedness upon the present services of the most prominent nations in Christendom to this empire of heathenesse.
Notwithstanding the discouragements, almost amounting to impossibilities, which beset him on every hand, M. Van de Velde's friend and travelling companion, Dr Kalley, does not fail, with unceasing devotion, to proclaim to the thronging hosts of invalids who surround the Hakim at every resting-place, the unchanged faith which, eighteen hundred years ago, proceeded from this very soil. The scene is thoroughly Oriental, and strangely reminds us of many a sacred scene. Crowds of the sick and helpless throng to the door where the wandering physician sits with his medicine-chest. A high compliment to the beneficent science of healing is in the eagerness of these mendicant patients. They believe in a man who goes from village to village for no other purpose than to alleviate their pains and heal their distresses, but they find it extremely hard to believe in one who comes with no medicine-chest, but only with outlandish instruments of science, and have no faith in topography. It may be that the popular imagination has a far-off traditionary remembrance of that sublime Traveller, under whose touch and at whose voice the very dead arose; but it is certain, that while they do not understand travelling for pleasure, nor travelling for discovery, nor any other kind of expeditionary enterprise, the wander
ing hakim has but to disclose his errand to secure their perfect faith and most respectful welcome. Poor children of Ishmael, materialism is too strong for spirituality with them. They may gape at the antiquary with the scorn of ignorance, but the physician, to those who have so much need of him, is half divine.
At Hâsbeiya an untoward accident arrests our traveller. During a short excursion, the house which he had taken there is robbed, and all his valuables lost. Appeal to the Emir proves fruitless, and M. Van de Velde almost resigns himself to returning home. This, however, is fortunately prevented by letters of encouragement and promises of help; and with a less ambitious retinue he sets forth again undismayed, keeping his way along the coast of the Mediterranean from the Lebanon towards Carmel, from which place he strikes farther inland through the fallen remains of royal Samaria to Jerusalem.
It is not possible to follow our author through his course-this unknown country, sprinkled with names that are familiar to us as household words-nor can we pause to point out how many pictures he makes by the way, how fine an eye this unostentatious artist has for colour, and how even these pale pen-and-ink sketches brighten and glow with the rich tints of Oriental landscape; neither can we do justice to his interiors, with their smoky haze, and wild Arab figures, and primitive hospitality. These are by the way-but as he comes into a country which is distinctly historical, and not only hazy, like one of these same desert castles, with a mist of antiquity, the results of his careful examination become more apparent. Your charlatan is your most universal cosmopolitan, and with an indefatigable hand has he dotted over this sacred territory. Not disposed, however, to receive with blind faith the spot pointed out by the Carmelites (whose monastic order was instituted by Elijah!) as the true scene of Elijah's sacrifice, M. Van de Velde and Dr Kalley set about examining for themselves, and the very interesting result of their examination, guided by the traditions of the Arabs and not of the Church, is as follows: