« AnteriorContinuar »
interesting information. The notices of foreign customs and heathen society, are furnished by individuals who have themselves resided abroad, or engaged in Missionary pursuits, and who have been, for the most part, eye-witnesses of what they describe. Among the papers of this class are “ Infanticide in Madagascar,' by the Rev. D. Jones; “Hindoo Shrines in Gu
jerat,' by the Rev. A. Fyvie; Missionary Perils, by the Rev. John Williams; and Traits of the Aborigines of New South Wales, by the Rev. L. E. Threlkeld. Among the lighter pieces, the most brilliant contribution, unquestionably, is that which Mr. Ellis has discreetly placed in front of the collection. We had but glanced at a paragraph or two, when we referred to it in our last month's notice, but we now can have no doubt as to the author of this splendid legend. If our readers are unable to find it out from the following extract, we cannot compliment their discernment.
• The great sandy desert of Shur, which divides Egypt from the land of Canaan, stretches from the Mediterranean to the forks of the Red Sea. On its eastern side, a chain of mountains, now called Jebel Tor, extends from the Lake Asphaltitis to the Elanitic, or eastern gulf of the Red Sea. This chain forms the western limit of Arabia Petræa, and its central portion is called in Scripture Mount Hor, and Mount Seir, it having been conquered from the Horites by Esau and his descendants, his eldest being Seir. Mount Hor, to which the Arabs still pay homage, as the burial-place of Aaron, has been visited within these few years by Burckhardt and Laborde, the latter of whom has given the design of the accompanying plate.
In his memoir, he says:-On leaving the road by which we had arrived, to our right, and ascending to a little plain on the south, we saw a lofty mountain which overlooks all the surrounding hills, and of which tradition has preserved remembrances of extreme antiquity. In my researches relative to the route of the Israelites through the wilderness, I have found remarkable coincidences between this mountain and the Mount Hor of the Scriptures. The Arabs, who are so constant in their traditions, venerate at this day the summit of the mount as the burial-place of the Prophet Haroun (Aaron). Burckhardt adopted the pretext of a vow to sacrifice a goat to this holy man's memory, to attempt the journey from Wady Mousa. But his guide refused to lead him any further than this plain, and he was compelled to perform his ceremony within view of the hill, probably at the point given in the design. An old Arab, who acts as a protector to the sacred spot, lives high up among the rocks, and receives the people of Gaza and the Fellahs of Wady-Mousa, who come here sometimes with a religious object, but oftener to cultivate the frag
ments of garden ground, which the terraees of the mountains offer in these regions of sterility. (Laborde’s Description.)
Why shall the children doubt the wisdom of the fathers ? Have they not seen ; have they not heard ? Have not the secrets of the desert been opened to them? Have they not heard the voice of the winds, when they bring the sounds of Paradise down to the ears of men? Have they not read the leaves of the palm-trees on the hills, when they are written with the pen of the watching angels ? Have they not looked night by night upon the stars, when they mark in fire upon the vault of heaven the fates of nations ? Listen, then, sons of the wilderness, to your father. Listen, bold riders of steeds swift as the wind. Listen, wielders of the lance that never fails, and shooters of the arrow that flies like thought. A hundred years are on my
head ; my hair is white and thin; I leave my lance and bow to the sons of
My head is bowed down, as one who sees nothing but the grave. But I once was a warrior. I once rode at the head of horsemen, swift as the clouds of the desert, and fearless as the whirlwind. I shall ride at their head no more. Never again shall I bring home the spoil from the Syrian. Night is around me. I hear the voices of the tomb. My brothers call me to sleep their sleep. But I have seen mighty things. Shall the grave close upon them? Shall not my lips tell their wonders ? Shall not the feeble light that still lingers in my soul shine upon my children's children? Then, Beni Harmah, hear the last words of Chemash, the son of Arnon, the son of Abarina.
• Arad, King of the tribes of our fathers, whose name had reached to the extremities of the desert, was fierce, splendid, and a conqueror. While he ruled over the wilderness as thou goest from Kadesh to Elath, his was the pleasant land by Jareer to Ashdod and the borders of Ascalon. He had fought the giants of Hebron; he had taken spoil from the Amorite; Midian shook when his name was heard in her tents; and at the sound of his trumpet, the princes of Moab turned pale and threw dust on their heads. Arad gave a feast to his lords on the day when the image of Ashtaroth was first placed in her temple. The image was brought from Sidon—such was its beauty that all eyes were dazzled.
Gold, ivory, and precious stones covered it with radiance. All the chief warriors of the tribes, the priests, the ancient divines, and the princes, were assembled in the temple; and when the altar blazed, and the incense rose in clouds, all cried out:
6 Worthy is Ashtaroth to be the queen of heaven!"
Evening fell, and all was feasting; the Sidonian minstrels filled the air with harmony; the most beautiful of the daughters of the land, the priestesses of the temple, with their raven locks wreathed with roses, and their naked arms bound with gems, striking harps and timbrels, or scattering perfume from Sidonian urns, danced before the king. The chief priestess stood on the steps of the altar, gazing into the cloudless blue of the heavens, for the coming of Ashtaroth on the
From time to time, waving a golden wand bound with myrtle, she stood uttering her incantation, in a sweet low voice that thrilled through all the sounds of feasting and dance, and thrilled to the soul. At length her wand pointed to the horizon. All was silent as death.
The priests prostrated themselves; the dance ceased. Ascending to the topmost step of the vast altar, the enchantress poured her golden censer on the fame. It flashed a broad illumination on every countenance. The spell was wound; in the next moment the horn of the crescent was seen rising in silvery splendour above the horizon. “Ashtaroth, Ashtaroth,” was the chorus of the rich voices of the minstrels. ar Ashtaroth was the shout of the adoring priests, princes, and warriors in the temple. “ Ashtaroth” was the roar of the mighty multitude on the plain beneath. “ Ashtaroth," was the echo of the thousands on every hill, till it was heard rolling away through the twilight land, doubling and redoubling in distant thunder.
• The king was descending from his throne to pour the last offering from his cup on the altar, when the tramp of horses feet struck on his
Arad heard it with strange terror. I saw his cheek grow deadly pale. “ It comes from the desert,” were his faint words. But it's rapid sounds told that the rider came in haste and fear. The king fung the cup from him, and grasped, but with a trembling hand, his sword. His gesture caught the general eye, and the princes crowded eagerly round him. The assembly gazed in wonder. Arad stood like a man of stone. But the moon was already above the horizon when the rider appeared ; so quick had his ear heen. He had rode since the day-dawn, and was worn out with fatigue. Mattaniah, son of Mahaliel,” murmured the impious king, “ what are thy tidings?” He could say no more ; pain had fixed his features, and his
looked vaguely, as if he saw the spirit of the dead. “King of niy fathers and their sons,' was the answer of the fainting horseman, “ I come from the South, and my tidings are strange. A nation fierce and terrible, a people many and strong, tribes that roll over the land like the waters of the ocean, and that destroy all things, like the wing and the tooth of the locust, are come.” The king was silent; he drew his turban over his brow, and continued gazing on the ground. But his nature was daring and violent; he suddenly unsheathed his sword, and exclaiming, “ I must dream no more," ordered that the trumpets should sound through the land, that every warrior should take up arms; and that the diviners should be summoned to inquire of Baal, Ashtaroth, and Dagon, by what means he was to repel this most terrible of all enemies.
• The night came in storm. The sky was covered with sudden clouds, as if in omen of the coming fates of Canaan. Thunder pealed through the hills, lightning ran along the ground, and set the forests in flame. No man could slumber during that dreadful night. I stood by the king's feet in his chamber. At midnight he sprang from his couch : “ Evil is come,” said he, in a hurried voice. are helpless. Our oracles are dumb. The stars of heaven refuse to give us their light. The days of Canaan are numbered.” The storm at this moment seemed to answer his gloomy thoughts in tenfold gloom. All was the rage of the whirlwind :—the palace shook ; ancient trees were torn up by their roots, and sent flying through the air; the heavens poured down torrents. While the king stood bewildered, gazing at the flashes which tore their way through the world of clouds, and then left the earth in indescribable darkness, I
« Our gods dared to ask him, if he knew the name or powers of the invader.
Egypt well knows their names,” he answered, with wild impatience. “ It is written deep in her sepulchres. It will live while the waters of her sea cover her kings, her princes, and her warriors. But of their powers, who can tell? All is mysterious, strange, and mighty. In the days of the past generations, they struck the blow on Egypt, a single blow, more dreadful than a long course of ruin: a blow which in a moment extinguished the whole soldiery of the land. “ They then plunged into the heart of the wilderness. Through that wilderness the Arab flies, lest he should perish of thirst or famine. The soil naked of all fruits, the wells few and bitter, the mountains wild rocks, the valleys beds of sand, the lion dares not cross it, the vulture will not wing the air. The serpent alone, the feeder on the dust, lives in the soil. All is barrenness, fire, tempest, and death.” “ Madness alone," said I, “ could have led them into that accursed land. But my king must have been deceived. I have traversed the borders of the desert, at the head of my horsemen, when I marched with the caravan from Egypt to the shores of the great western waters. None dared to enter the fiery region that lay between the gulfs of the Red Sea. They gazed on it from the flowery skirts of Canaan, as on a furnace where none can tread and live. The nation which entered that desert, must have instantly covered it with their bones.” “ In that furnace,” said Arad solemnly, and with a countenance of terror and wonder, o that nation has lived forty years.”
He saw my look of incredulity: “ Yes," said he, with growing fury, “ the slaves of Egypt have lived there, till they have learned to be the conquerors of Canaan. More than human power must have done this. By what incantations they have made the elements their ministers; by what knowledge, superior to all the wisdom of Egypt, they have lived where the solitary Arab dies of hunger ; by what command of beings whom it is awful to name, the dark kings of the regions below the world, or the princes of the stars, they have made man and nature, time and space, life and death, do their bidding ; who shall tell?”.... The sun stood on the verge of the wilderness. The vapours rose up and were dissolved. The host of the strangers suddenly spread before the eye. What words of man shall tell the grandeur of that sight? As far as the eye could reach, the wilderness was covered with life. Countless masses of warriors, each of which would have made an army, were in motion. The symmetry of their encampments filled the eye with the sense of beauty; the vastness of their numbers overwhelmed it with the sense of power. In the centre of each of their hosts rose a standard, of colossal size, waving to the air, and glittering with the emblem of the tribe. Hundreds and thousands of smaller banners, of every
rich colour of earth and sky, shone among the tents, and the moving lines of spears, numberless as the ears of the harvest corn, flashed to the sun : all was life, splendour, and power. But in the centre of all stood an object on which, even distant as it was, I could not glance without an involuntary and indescribable awe. It was a large and lofty tent, separated from all the others by a wide interval. As the sunlight struck upon it, I could see that its workmanship was worthy of princes ; that its curtains were of royal dyes, and its pillars of gold. At length, a slight smoke ascended from the summit of this magnificent tabernacle. It was the incense of the morning altar; and instantly the whole mighty multitude burst out into a hymn of transcendent harmony. Its words were simple and sublime. They told of the unwearied mercy which had brought the people from the dungeons of Egypt, of the resistless power which had vanquished man and nature before their steps, and of the boundless love which had bestowed on the sons of their Father Abraham the inheritance of a land of peace, a career of endless triumph, and the promise of blessings in which all the nations of the earth were yet to own the victory of the King of Israel.'
The account of Leang Afa, by the Editor, is interesting in the highest degree, but will not admit of extract. There is a very pleasing historico-romantic sketch, entitled “ The Mission of Telemachus," from the elegant and graphic pen of the Rev. Charles B. Tayler. But the paper which we wish more especially to recommend to the attention of our readers, as possessing an interest above fiction, and the unaffected pathos of fact and nature, is City Missions,” by the Author of “ Pictures of " Private Life." We should gladly insert the whole paper, but it is too long for our limits, and will not admit of being abridged without injury. We must confine ourselves to one more extract from the present volume, and having already spoken in commendation of the merit and beauty of the engravings, shall then dismiss it with our cordial recommendation, and the thanks of our family circle to the Editor. The devout spirit of the following stanzas, and the name of the much estermed writer, combine to recommend it to selection.
Replenished from the stores divine,
" It is the Saviour's out-stretched hand,
That bows thy will to His command,