« PreviousContinue »
which there was ample space for the concealment of David and bis four hundred followers—but more particularly of the desert of St. Sabba. This sterile tract cannot have been far distant from the settlements of the ancient Essenes, which it would be curious to trace. But not even their monastic industry could have forced that savage wilderness into fertility.
* Follow me now into the most dismal desert that the eye of traveller has ever witnessed, the desert of St. Sabba, on the south-east of Bethlehem, at the distance of four leagues. To arrive at the Greek monastery of St. Sabba, it is necessary to pass yellow and bald mountains, which one might suppose hills of sand, an arid soil, which produces (enfante) nothing but stones; an accursed soil, where life is extinct, and the birds of heaven cannot discover a blade of grass ; a region forgotten by men, and which God himself seems to remember no more. The black tents of the Bedouins,at a distance like mourning garments spread over a desolated land, add to the sadness of the place. In such a soli. tude, a solitude without a flower, without verdure, without water, mind seems overwhelmed ; it seems as if death was striking you with his cold wings.'
On the skirt of this wilderness is the convent of St. Sabba. Among the pale inhabitants of this melancholy, though rather splendid convent, were five Russians. One of these was anxious to hear some news about his country, and put many questions to M. Poujoulat on the politics of Europe. He might have answered the Muscovite caloyer in the words of M. Chateaubriand, on a similar occasion, to a monk of the same monastery, Alas, father! where will
do not find it here?' M. Poujoulat was accompanied by an honest friar of the convent of St. Saviour in Jerusalem. Brother Antony's charitable compassion for the anchorites of St. Sabba is characteristic enough :
· Signor mio! since you have brought me to the monastery of St. Sabba, inhabited by seventeen schismatic Greeks, devoted to penitence and the severest austerities, one thought saddens and oppresses my heart--and that is, that such maceration and so great sacrifices should be all lost to these unhappy schismatics, for, notwithstanding all, it is impossible that they should get to heaven!'
Ascalon and Gaza threw back M. Poujoulat among his more stirring associations with the knights of the Crusades, but he sometimes reverts to modern times. The following anecdote of Buonaparte is new to us, and does credit to his heart. M. Poujoulat was hospitably received by the Arab sheik of Ibna :
• This sheik,' says the traveller, ‘related to me that Buonaparte, on his march from Gaza to Joppa, ordered the sheik of the village to furnish a hundred head of cattle, a hundred loads of corn, and a hundred measures of meal. The sheik, compelled to obey, humbly delivered what the French general demanded. Already the knife was lifted over the head of several of the oxen, when the Arab, bursting into tears, at the sight of his oxen so near being put to death, said to Buonaparte, “ Sultan, look what your soldiers are doing.” Touched by his tears, and by these few words, Buonaparte gave back to the sheik his cattle, his corn, and his meal ; he contented himself with receiving hospitality from him. This sheik was the father of the one who related to me this anecdote. Singular rencounter! I stop for an evening in the cabins of the ancient country of the Philistines, and, lo, I have for my host the son of the host of Buonaparte !
The Mutselim of Gaza talked likewise about Bounabartè Sultan Kebir. The same dignitary put some perplexing questions to the loyal Carlist about the revolution of July; and M. Poujoulat seems to have orientalized with considerable success in his answers, using a noble profusion of sounding words, with as little meaning as was convenient
"“ I cannot comprehend this revolution,” said the Mussulman. “Excellence! no more can I," replied the European; “to comprehend revolutions, we must know why it sometimes happens that the winds bellow in the sky, that the sea is agitated in its profoundest depths, that the mountains are rent by the fires of the volcano. It is the will of God that human societies should never live or die in peace; it is a punishment to which the world must submit, as it submits to maladies and miseries, the sad companions of life." Though but a young man,” said the Turk, “you speak with the wisdom of age !
The disturbed state of the country, and the dread of the plague, prevented M. Poujoulat from visiting Galilee and Samaria. To fill this void some letters are inserted by M. Gillot de Kerhardene. He gives some sketches of the country of Galilee quite worthy of these volumes, and some curious particulars of the wild inhospitable character of the Samaritans, unchanged, it should seem, since the time when they refused to admit the Son of Man into their village. But M. Kerhardène appears to have adapted his information to the taste and feeling of his correspondents; the most remarkable passage in his letters relates to the field of the battle of Tiberias, as it is called by the Christian historians—the battle of Hittim, as it is named by the Arabian authors. This was the fatal defeat which crushed the Christian kingdom of Jerusalem, the victory which rendered Saladin master of Palestine. We extract the passage chiefly on account of the singular circumstance stated at the close, which had escaped the notice both of M. Michaud and of Wilken. We will not severely examine into the authority on which the mountain, to which M. Kerhardene alludes, is called that of the Beatitudes: it is sufficient if it is hallowed under that name by general tradition.
' You have related in your history of the Crusades the battle of Tiberias; I would recall to your remembrance some of the details, in
order that the localities of the scene may be better understood. Saladin had taken Tiberias; but the citadel in which the wife of the Count of Tripoli had shut herself up still resisted, in the expectation of succour. This citadel, to the left of Tiberias, on a round hill which commands the shores, now serves for the Seraglio of the Mutselim. The Christian army, which set out in the morning from the fountain of Sepphoris, suddenly appeared in the plain between Loubi and Hittim ; Guy of Lusignan, who knew the encampment of Saladin on the shores of the lake, wished not to give battle, but to encamp at Hittim, on account of its fountain ; if the Christian army had succeeded in seizing that position, Saladin would have been in a critical situation. The Sultan was not ignorant of this ; therefore, on the approach of the king of Jerusalem he also broke
пр in order to take up his position at Hittim, and to occupy the heights called the Two Horns of Hittim. Master of the fountain, he awaited the Crusaders, who had to traverse a country without water; the Franks, anticipated by the Mahometans, and thus forced to encamp in a dry place, halted in the plain. The two arınies were drawn up front to front all the night between Friday and Saturday. Saladin watched in his tent; on the break of day, when the sun had risen above the lake, the Saracens were ready for battle. The Franks, who suffered from want of water, (for they were still at a distance from the lake and the fountain,) prepared for the battle; it was heard said among them, " To-morrow we must find water with our swords."
• Saturday the 14th July, 1187, the Franks, in their desperation, made a furious attack on the Mussulmen. As the battle took place in the territory of the Count of Tripoli, it was he who, according to feudal custom, commenced the onset. The slaughter became horrible; Saladin was everywhere. The Count of Tripoli, whom the Chroniclers have made a traitor, though he was only a skilful politician, having dashed at the left of the enemy, opened himself a way to the valley of Hittim. Guy of Lusignan remained alone with the centre of the Christian army, the right wing having fled. But before the engagement of the two armies, a conflagration had been kindled on the right of the Franks, to the south-east ; the Mahometans had set fire to the harvest; clouds of smoke and flames running under the feet of the horses, aggravated the dismal situation of the Crusaders, surrounded on all sides by their enemies and by the conflagration. Blood flowed in streams, mingling itself with the pure water of the Fountain of the Five Loaves, which, like that of Hittim, was in the power of the Saracens. The only Christian body of troops which remained engaged with the enemy, took by assault the Mountain of the Beatitudes; there the Templars, the Hospitallers, and other knights, rallied round the king ; the combat was awful; the Bishop of St. Jean d'Acre lifted the true Cross as a standard, in the very place where Christ, showing himself to the multitude, said to them, Whosoever shall smile thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. The true Cross fell into the hands of the Mussulmen; the bishop was slain. King Guy had not more than a hundred and fifty warriors with him : three times this little troop repelled the enemy to the foot of the hill; three times the Saracens returned to the charge. After some moments of respite, the attack recommenced with new fury; the king was taken and disarmed; none remained but the slain and prisoners; an army of 22,000 Christians had yielded to an army of 80,000 Mahometans.'
more ment, what
With this extract we close our notice of these pleasant volumes. We have, of late, paid so much attention to Egyptian antiquities, that M. Michaud must excuse us if we decline to follow him into that country. We will only observe, that the reader whose curiosity concerning that inexhaustible subject is still unsated, will find in M. Michaud's Letters a great deal of easy and agreeable description, and many lively sketches of manners. He will derive much amusement and some instruction.
Art. V.—Letters of J. Downing, Major, Downingville Militia,
Second Brigade. New York. 1 2mo. 1834. SINCE SINCE Washington Irving's delightful genius first revealed
itself in the Knickerbocker, we have met with few specimens of native American humour calculated to make any very favourable impression on this side the Atlantic; with none, in our humble opinion, approaching, by many degrees, to the merit of this thoroughly homespun production. The · Letters of Major Downing' appeared originally in the New York Advertiser, at the time when General Jackson's grand experiment on the banking system of the United States was exciting throughout the chief provinces of that republic an interest hardly, if at all, inferior to what was among ourselves concentrated in 1831 upon the question of Parliamentary Reform. They produced a powerful effect, and were presently collected into a volume, adorned with a variety of woodcuts, which, though very rudely executed, are not without indications of the same odd humour that characterizes the text. Edition has followed edition, until they are no longer enumerated on the title-page ; and the author, Mr. Davis, of the respectable mercantile house of Brookes and Davis, New York, has fairly established a formidable reputation among the politicians of the western world—by what the European reader, unenlightened as to the topics, and indifferent as to the persons, discussed and satirized by his imaginary Militia Major, may be apt to consider merely as a handful of grotesque drolleries,-a local and ephemeral jeu d'esprit.
We certainly shall not affect to hang a dissertation concerning American political economy, and the merits of the Jackson Government, upon a performance of this description. Mr. Coleridge, however, has laid it down that every man of humour is more or less a man of genius,—and, whether that be or be not so, few will dispute that all really effective humour must be bottomed upon a substratum of strong good sense. If, therefore, our readers derive any solid aliment for their minds from the extracts which we are about to submit, we shall be well pleased ; but the primary object with us is to illustrate the merits of the author as a humourist, and more especially to call attention to what we think by far the most amusing, as it must be allowed to be the most authentic, specimen that has as yet reached Europe, of the actual colloquial dialect of the Northern States. It will be manifest that the representations of this gibberish, for which Mr. Mathews, Mrs. Trollope, and other strangers have been so severely handled by the American critics, were, in fact, chargeable with few sins except those of omission. The most astounding and incredible of their Americanisnis occur, passim, in the work of Major Downing; but it is as obvious that the wealth and prodigal luxury of his vocabulary put the poverty of theirs to shame, as that he applies the particular flowers and gems of republican rhetoric which had caught their fancy, with a native ease and felicity altogether beyond the reach of any superficial and transitory admirer not to the manner born.'
The French author, whose Tableau des Mæurs Américaines has already edified our readers, says, at p. 351 of his first volume,
• The rivalry which exists between the English and the Americans is not solely that of commerce and industry. The two nations have a common language, and each asserts that it is better spoken on her side of the Atlantic than on the other. I believe they are both in the right. In England, the superior classes possess a delicacy of language which is unknown in America, except in a small number of salons, which can at best make an exception: but in the United States, where there is neither a really upper class, nor a positively low one, the entire population speak English less purely indeed than the aristocracy of England, but as well as her middle orders, and infinitely better than her populace.' We shall see : in the meanwhile, another author, already reviewed in this Number, may save us some trouble in supplying a fit preface to our extracts from the classic of Downingville :
“The interest of these letters lies partly in the simple and blunt, yet forcible, and not unfrequently convincing manner, with which certain intricate questions, of much importance to the nation, are treated in them; partly in the peculiar compound of the bluntness and shrewd. ness of a country Yankee, being personified in Major Jack Downing, the pretended author of the Letters ; partly, also, in the impudence of the real author, who, sans facon, makes the Major tell long stories of