« AnteriorContinuar »
adise was entered ; but they found it not, whose virtue lay in the slaughter of their enemies, and whose foes could not meet them in a dauntless spirit like their own. They DESIRED death, in whose fancy it was enhanced with all the pleasures that they loved ; but death fled from them for whom it had no terror, and against whom none could then stand on equal terms for a moment. Their spirits were on edge, like the swords of Damascus, and fearless of death, and estimating their virtue by the numbers of slaughtered enemies, death fled from them.
And the shapes of the locusts were like unto HORSES PREPARED UNTO BATTLE.
“ Arabia, in the opinion of the naturalist, is the genuine and original country of the horse; the climate most propitious, not indeed to the size, but to the spirit and swiftness of that generous animal. The merit of the Barb, the Spanish and the English breed, is derived from a mixture of the Arabian blood; the Bedouins preserve with superstitious care the honours and the memory of the purest race. These horses are educated in the tents, among the children of the Arabs, with a tender familiarity, which trains them in the habits of gentleness and attachment. They are accustomed only to walk and to gallop: their sensations are not blunted by the incessant use of the spur and the whip; their powers are reserved for the moments of flight and pursuit; but no sooner do they feel the touch of the hand or the stirrup, than they DART AWAY with the swiftness of the wind."*
The Arabian horse takes the lead throughout the world; and skill in horsemanship is the art and science of Arabia. And the barbed Arabs, swift as locusts and armed like scorpions, ready to dart away in a moment, were ever prepared unto battle.
And on their heads were, as it were, crowns like gold. When Mahomet entered Medina, (A. D. 622), and was first received as its prince, “ a turban was unfurled before him to supply the deficiency of a standard.”+ The turbans of the Saracens, like unto
* Gibbon, vol. ix. pp. 224, 225. c. 50. 4 Ib. p. 292.
a coronet, were their ornament and their boast. The rich booty abundantly supplied and frequently renewed them. To assume the turban, is proverbially to turn Mussulman. And the Arabs were anciently distinguished by the mitres which they wore.*
And their faces were as the faces of men. “ The gravity and firmness of the mind of the Arab is conspicuous in his outward demeanour, -his only gesture is that of stroking his beard, the venerable symbol of manhood.” 66 The honour of their beards is most easily wounded.”'f
And they had hair as the hair of women. Long hair is esteemed an ornament by women. The Arabs, unlike to other men, had their hair as the hair of women, or uncut, as their practice is recorded by Pliny and others. But there was nothing effeminate in their character, for, as denoting their ferocity and strength to devour, their teeth were as the teeth of lions.
And they had breastplates as it were breastplates of iron, ver. 9. The cuirass (or breastplate) was in use among the Arabs in the days of Mahomet. In the battle of Ohud (the second which Mahomet fought,) with the Koreish of Mecca, (A. D. 624) - seven hundred of them were armed with cuirasses."S And in his next victory over the Jews, “ three hundred cuirasses, five hundred pikes, a thousand lances, composed the most useful portion of the spoil.” After the defeat of the imperial army of seventy thousand men, on the plain of Aiznadin, (A. D. 633,) the spoil taken by the Saracens “ was inestimable ; many banners and crosses of gold and silver, precious stones, silver and gold chains, and innumerable suits of the richest armour and apparel. The seasonable supply of arms became the instrument of new victories."|| * Gibbon's Hist. vol. ix. p. 238. + Ib.
Nat. Hist. lib. vi. cap. 28. See Note by Bishop Newton. Ś Gibbon's Hist. vol. ix. p. 300. 1 Ibid. p. 304, 391.
And the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle, ver. 9. “ The charge of the Arabs was not like that of the Greeks and Romans, the efforts of a firm and compact infantry: their military force was chiefly formed of cavalry and archers, and the engagement was often interrupted, and often renewed by single combats and flying skirmishes, &c. The periods of the battle of Cadesia were distinguished by their peculiar appellations. The first, from the well-timed appearance of six thousand of the Syrian brethren, was denominated the day of succour. The day of concussion might express the disorder of one, or perhaps of both the contending armies. The third, a nocturnal tumult, received the whimsical name of the night of barking, from the discordant clamours, which were compared to the inarticulate sounds of the fiercest animals. The morning of the succeeding day determined the fate of Persia."* With a touch of the hand the Arab horses dart away with the swiftness of the wind. The sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle. Their conquests were marvellous both in rapidity and extent, and their attack was instantaneous. Nor was it less successful against the Romans than the Persians.—" A religion of peace was incapable of withstanding the fanatic cry of • Fight, fight! Paradise, paradise !' that re-echoed in the ranks of the Saracens."of
And they had tails like unto scorpions ; and there were stings in their tails ; and their power was to hurt men five months. - The authority of the companions of Mahomet expired with their lives; and the chiefs or emirs of the Arabian tribes left behind in the desert the spirit of equality and independence.
The legal and sacerdotal characters were united in the successors of Mahomet; and if the Koran was the rule of their actions, they were the supreme judges and interpreters of that divine book. They reigned by the right of conquest over the nations of the east, to whom the name of liberty was unknown, and who were accustomed to applaud in their tyrants the acts of violence and severity that were exercised at their own expense."*
It was out of the smoke that they came upon the earth. The pestilential vapour of a false religion accompanied them wherever they went; and the sting which they inflicted left its venom behind it. To propagate their religion was their pretence, if not their purpose ; and after the establishment of their dominion, the regal and sacerdotal characters were united in the successors of Mahomet, and the emirs continued to be tyrants, after the caliphs had been conquerors. The Mahometans did not amalgamate with the Christian population, as other conquerors are wont to do, after the career of conquest has ceased, and the irritation or animosity of foes gives way before the interests of a common country. The woe altered its form, but did not cease. It continued to hurt, where before it had tormented.
It is first said, (ver. 5,) in describing their progress and rise, to them it was given that they should not kill men, but that they should be tormented five months; and after describing the sting which they would continue to inflict, or that they had stings in their tails, it is again added, and their power was to hurt men five months. The double period of five months amounts, in the usual prophetic phraseology designative of time, to three hundred yearst each
* Gibbon's Hist. vol. ix. p. 501, c. 51. + Or two hundred and ninety-five years.
day for a year.” The first period of an hundred and fifty years denotes the term of the progress of their conquests, and the consolidation and establishment of their empire from its commencement to its height; and the second marks the consequent duration of their reign, during which period the sting that was left behind continued to hurt.
The foundations of Bagdad were laid in the hundred and forty-fifth year of the Hegira. And Gibbon describes in pompous strains “ the magnificence of the caliphs,” after that city became the seat of their empire ; and he incidentally shews the change in the character of the woe. - The luxury of the caliphs relaxed the nerves and terminated the progress of the Arabian empire. Temporal and spiritual conquest had been the sole occupation of Mahomet; and after supplying themselves with the necessaries of life, the whole revenue was scrupulously devoted to that salutary work. The Abassides," (who first ascended the throne of the caliphs about the middle of the eighth century) 6 were impoverished by the multitude of their wants and their contempt of economy. Instead of pursuing the great object of ambition, their leisure, their affections, the powers of their mind were directed by pomp and pleasure; the rewards of valour were embezzled by women and eunuchs, and the royal camp was encumbered by the luxury of the palace. A similar temper was diffused among the subjects of the caliph. Their stern enthusiasm was softened by time and prosperity. And war was no longer the passion of the Saracens.”* They did not longer torment men. The period of their warlike character was passed ; but for an equal length of time they continued to hurt them. Violence and severity were exercised by the