Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

PREFACE.

IMMUTABILITY is the most striking characteristic of the East: from the ancient strife of Cain and Abel, to the

present struggle between the Crescent and the Cross, its people remain in their habits of thought and action less changed than the countries they inhabit. The fertile Vale of Siddim has become the coffin of the Dead Sea, and the barriers of the Nile have rolled down from Æthiopia to the Delta ; but the patriarch still “sits at the door of his tent on the Plain of Mamré,” and the Egyptian still cultivates his river-given soil in the manner practised by the subjects of the Pharaohs.

Elsewhere, we can but dimly discern the actors and the scenery of the Elder World through the curtain of obscurity drawn over it by Time ; but here, the Past is so faithfully reflected in the Present, that the drama of ancient life seems never interrupted. While we look upon the very scenes wherein Paradise was Lost and was Regainedwhere the Pyramids and Karnac rose, and still vindicate their early fame—we find that scenery still peopled by the Ishmaelite: and the stranger still received by Sheikhs of Abraham's fashion, who feast him on the fare that was set before the Angels.

This identity of the Present with the Past lends a solemnity to the former, and a vitality to the latter, that no other country can inspire ; while the contrasted tumult and fever

of European life, with the silence and repose of the East, resembles that which we experience in passing from the gay and turbulent thoroughfares of Naples to the desolate beauty of Pompeii. The transition strikes forcibly on the imagination, and invests Oriental travel with a peculiar charm.

Nor is it only antiquity, piety, or scholastic lore that lends to the East so powerful an interest : the variety that strikes upon the senses—the delicious climate, scarcely obtained in our conservatories—the wild animals, only known to our menageries, and the wayside flowers, that rival our most choice exotics-all these are pleasant incidents in the pastoral mode of life. In the cities there is that appearance of something secret and suppressed, which stimulates curiosity and adventure—there is the mystery that envelopes woman—the romance of every-day life—the masquerading-looking population-politics and manners of the time of Moses, Saracen society, cloudless days, and Arabian nights.

By such experiences, the traveller will probably find his perceptions excited, and his faculties developed ; while his sympathies are expanded, and awakened

“ To all that is enjoyed where'er he goes,

And all that is endured."

The best of all this is, that he becomes, perhaps, more catholic-hearted ; and the worst is, that perhaps he turns author, and finds a difficulty in accounting to his readers for assuming such a character: for we seem to have writers on the East sufficient in number, and of all descriptions; from the high-born lady to the hardy Burkhardtfrom the massive prose of Robinson, to the genial poetry

« НазадПродовжити »