Page images



The end.

Generally some one goes off into convulsions, and, foaming at the mouth like an epileptic, falls to the ground, when the zikr ceases. There goes one already. It is very kind and considerate in him to terminate the hideous performance so speedily. lle is now supposed to be in a divine trance! There is nothing in all the customs of the East so outrageously repulsive and disgusting as this zikr. The men look like demons yelling, and stamping, and foaming around the dead. If there be demoniacal possession in our day, it is seen, beyond a doubt, in this lidens (uremony.

“ noise


The be ich.

February 10th. I have been down at the castle watching the waves. They come in fast and thick, hills over hills, leaving and tussing their huge volumes against the island and the rocks of the harbour with uproar prodigious-the very of many waters,' su often siung liy llebrew poets. Now and then one mightier than the rest rolls right over everything, thunders against the old castle, overrides the causeway, and rushes headlong on the houses, and up the lower streets of the city. Sidon's molern mariners may well be thankful for their sheltered beach along that ancient wall, whereon to lay their tiny craft for the winter.

This has always been the practice, I suppose. The Phænicians never had a barbour where ships could ride in safety during the storms of winter, and hence they drew them up on shore. They could thus dispense with harbours, and could and did build towns along the coast, wherever there was a bit of sandy beach large enough for their vessels. I counter sixteen deserted sites on the shore between Sidon and Tyre--a distance of not more than twenty miles—and not one of them ever have a harbour. When spring opens, they launch their shijos, rig 11p) and re-pitch them, and prosecute their business until the next winter, when they main dismantle and haul them on shore. Nor was this custom cufined to the Phenicians. The Greeks did the same, even with their war-ships on the coast of Troy, which, by the way, is about as destitute of harhours as this of Syria. It is plain that llomer's heroes not only did so with their bary, but even built a fortification around their ships to protect them from the Trojans. Indeed, Sidonian ships were there to aid the beleaguered city. And it is a pleasing corroboration of the Biblical account of the ancient greatness of Sidon, to find her pre-eminent in commerce and in art at that early day. The "king of kings and fierce Achilles were proud to Wear Sidonian purple, and fight their battles in her polished armour. And Homer's heroines also wrayed themselves in gorgeous robes, —

“Which from soft Sidon youthful Paris bore,

With Helen, touching on the Tyrian shore."

Sidonian ships at Troy.

And from Sidon came that

" Silver bowl the largest of its kind,

The pride of kings, an l labour of i gol.

[blocks in formation]


And, if we may so judge from the story of Menelaus, in the fifteenth book of CHAPTER the Odyssey, the Sidonians were a kind of Yankee pedlers in those olden times:“A ship of Sidon anchor'd in our port,

Early mer:
Freighted with toys of every sort-

With gold and amber chains, etc. etc.
Each female eye the glittering links employ;
They turn, review, and cheapen every toy."

And the treacherous heroine of the story, “ A fair Phoenician, tall, full-sized, and skilled in works of elegance,” was from our city :-

“I too from glorious Sidon came,

Famous for wealth by dyeing earn']."


If such was Sidon’s fame before Troy was burned or Homer sang, she not only nay, but must have been “great,” when Joshua conquered at Merom.

I have noticed every morning since coming to Sidon, that women come forth Women at very early to visit the graves. They move about under the trees and among craves. the tombs in the grey dawn, wrapped up from head to foot in their white sheets, and looking for all the world like veritable ghosts. Sometimes I hear the voice of prayer, some weep and sob, while others sing or chant in a low, monotonous tone. The whole thing is very novel, and thus far deeply affecting

You do well to limit the duration of your emotion, and may safely moderate its intensity as fast as possible. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, this public manifestation is the work of that arch-tryant, custom, and nothing more. The inquiry, What will the world say if I don't go and weep? sets all your ghosts in motion ; and, unless your sympathy is directed toward the slave, it is merely thrown away. They themselves curse the tyrant they obey, as bitterly as the Moslem does the fast of Ramadan, which yet he observes. In either case, it is artificial, hypocritical, slavish. You observe that some of Weeping these performers have tents pitched above the graves which require to be wept over. These, however, afford but slight protection against this pitiless storm and piercing wind. The great majority have no cover, and the mourners go home to nurse rheumatisms and catarrhs, burn in fevers, or go blind with ophthalmia. The real weeping is in the houses. And when you further know that many of these mourners and chanters are hired, and weep, howl, beat their breast, and tear the hair according to contract, your compassion will fail fast, or take another direction, and sigh for the victims of folly and fashion.

You must not suppose, however, that there is no genuine sorrow among this people. The voice of nature is far too strong to be stiffed, even by this machinery of hypocrisy. Amid all this ostentatious parade, there are burning tears,

· [This hardly follows, as the era of Joshua was long before the siege of Troy. Joshua fought at Meroin at least 1450 years B.C. The usual date of the Trojan war is about two centuries later. -- ED.)



and hearts bursting in agony and despair. Vany a Vary still goes to the grave to weep there, and true friends follow them thither with real sympathy. But

[graphic][merged small]

where iron custom compels everybody to visit the bereaved, and to act well the part of comforters and mourners according to prescribed forms, much will, of course, be manufactured for the occasion; and so it is ad nauseam. Many of the women are admirable performers, and could put to the blush the most accomplished actress on the European stage. These customs date far back in the history of earth's sorrows. "Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.” 2 Job had his friends who came from a distance to comfort him, and many of the expressions now detailed with a glib volubility which confounds us simple Americans, are copied from those celebrated dialogues. On similar occasions lover and friend hasten from afar to mingle their condolence with the wretched, and sometimes with no kinder feelings than those of Bildad and his associates.

Even the custom of hiring mourners is very ancient. Jeremiah says, “ ConMourners. sider ye, and call for the mourning women, tliat they may come; and send for


[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]


[ocr errors]


cunning women, that they may come; and let them make haste, and take up CHAPTE B a wailing for us, that our eyes may run down with tears, and our eyelids gush out with waters.”l Every particular here alluded to is observed on funeral occasions at the present day. There are in every city and community women exceedingly cunning in this business. These are always sent for, and kept in readiness. When a fresh company of sympathizers comes in, these women “make haste” to take up a wailing, that the newly come may the more easily unite their tears with the mourners. They know the domestic history of every person, and immediately strike up an impromptu lamentation, in which they introduce the names of their relatives who have recently died, touching some tender chord in every heart ; and thus each one weeps for his own dead, and the performance, which would otherwise be difficult or impossible, comes easy and natural, and even this extemporaneous, artificial sorrow, is thereby redeemed from half its hollow-heartedness and hypocrisy. There may yet be occasions, in the politer circles of European society, when such a machinery for manufacturing tears will be a great convenience.

On the whole, I do not think the the modern customs of mourning are more extravagant, even in Syria, than the ancient.

We find allusions in old authors to the custom of collecting the tears of the Tearmourners, and preserving them in bottles. Thus Davidl prays,

" Put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book ?"? These lachrymatories are still found in great numbers on opening ancient tombs. A sepulchre lately discovered in one of the gardens of our city bad scores of them in it. They are made of thin glass, or more generally of simple pottery, often not even baked or glazed, with a slender body, a broad bottom, and a funnel-shaped top. They have nothing in them but dust at present. If the friends were expected to contribute their share of tears for these bottles, they would very much need cunning women to cause their eyelids to gush out with waters. These forms of ostentatious sorrow have ever been offensive to sensible people. Thus Tacitus says: funeral let no tokens of sorrow be seen, no pompous mockery of woe.

Crown me with chap

[ocr errors]

At my


[blocks in formation]



White washing sepul. obres.

lets, strew flowers on my grave, and let my friends erect no vain memorial to tell where my remains are lodged.”

How long do these seasons of mowning continue ?

There is no absolute law on the subject, and the duration and intensity of grief varies. The most bitter lamentations are for young men, and for father's of families. These are sometimes very extravagant and greatly prolonged. That tent under our windows covers the grave of a young mani, and, as you see, they are there every day, although he has been buried for several weeks. There are, however, certain days on which the regular business of mourning is renewed. A curious and rather pretty custom is very commonly practised by the Moslems, connected, however, with superstitious notions in regard to the state of the departed. On the eve preceding any great festival, the relatives, generally the women, go to the graves and fill small holes, left purposely at the head and foot of the tomb, with fresh myrtle bushes, and sometimes palnı branches, which are watered daily to keep them green. Some do this every Thursday evening, because Friday is their sacred day. You had better read what Lane says on this subject at your leisure, for it would now be tedious to describe all their funeral customs, and equally useless. There is one, however, to which our Saviour alludes, that of white-washing the sepulchres, which should not pass unnoticed. I have been in places where this is repeated very often. The graves are kept clean and white as snow,--a very striking emblem of those painted hypocrites, the Pharisees, beautiful without, but full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness within. "So ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” 1

Is there anything in modern usage which explains Deut. xxvi. 14: “I have not eaten thereof in my mourning, neither have I taken away ought thereof for any unclean use, nor given ought thereof for the dead?”

Yes; this passage is made sufficiently plain by an acquaintance with modern funeral customs. What you have just read is part of that protestation which the devout Jew was required to make at the close of the third year, “which is the year of tithing." He was to come before the Lord and say, “ I have brought away the hallowed things out of my house, and also have given them unto the Levite and unto the stranger, to the fatherless and to the widow, according to all thy commandments. I have not eaten thereof in my mourning, neither have I taken away ought thereof for any unclean use, nor given ought thereof for the dead.” This was the strongest possible protestation that he had dealt faithfully in the matter of tithing and consecrated things, and in charities to the poor. He had not allowed himself to divert anything to other uses, not even by the most pressing and unforeseen emergencies. It is here assumed, or rather implied, that times of mourning “ for the dead” were expensive, and also that the stern law of custom obliged the bereaved to defray those expenses however onerous.

The same thing lies at the basis of that excuse for not fol


Expense of fune. rals.

1 Matt. xxiii. 27, 28.

« PreviousContinue »