Page images
PDF
EPUB

the devil generally contrives to win the whether or not this would have been the game.

case, I for one—I, who among Americans If, in the beginning of their Republic, number some of my dearest friends---do the Americans bad leen less smart—if not and cannot regret it ; do not and canthey had dealt like honorable gentlemen not regret that English poetry is hencewith English writers, thereby protecting forth forever to he strengthened and entheir own literary growths as they are at riched by American genius, and that no last by this Act trying to protect them, American can write poetry without being, what effect would this have had upon the for the time that he is occupied with his planting and fostering of the national liter- art, as truly an Englishman as I am. ature they crave ! Suppose that the young So full is America of every kind of American had been developed, not only Anglo-Saxon force, so full of literary as by means of numberless “vegetables in well as mechanical genias, that I believe season, but also by the sprouts and the great English writers of the twentieth flowers of America's own literary growth; century may well be born on American suppose that, at the founding of the Re- soil ; for I dissent entirely from the Ameri. public, a rigid Copyright Act had been can lexicographer, Mr. J. R. Bartlett, passed, not only in order to do justice to when he says that “there is in the best England, but also in order to save their authors and speakers of Great Britain a own markets from being destroyed by variety in the choice of expression, a corthat same injustice, would this act of hon- rectness in the use of the particles, and esty have so protected the literary growths an idiomatic vigor and raciness of style to of America that they would have furnished which few American writers or none can Europe not only with indigenous “ pork” attain," though he tells us that “the mentioned by Mr. Walt Whitman, but ripest scholars in America'' share his also with the indigenous poetry that a views upon the point. And this 1 know, century of effort has not enabled them to that should it actually occur that the leadproduce ?

ing English writers of the twentieth cenIf it is the fact that the protective tury are born upon American soil, the power of such an Act operating upon the greeting they will receive in the old home intellectual forces of the community dur- is foreshadowed as truly as pleasantly in ing its most plastic stages of growth would the cordial reception that has already been have given America a literature which given to writers like Washington Irving, could properly have been called Ameri- Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar can, if it would really have turned a colo- Poe, Longfellow, Prescott, J. R. Lowell

, nial poetry into a national one-then the Motley, Stedman, Wendell Holmes, Monstory of America is but another illustra- cure Conway, and the rest.–Fortnightly tion of the great truth that nothing is Review. strong but justice and fair dealing. But

HASISADRA'S ADVENTURE.

BY PROFESSOR HUXLEY.

Some thousands of years ago, there was from destruction. Hasisadra awoke, and a city in Mesopotamia called Surippak. at once acted upon the warning. A strong One night a strange dream came to a decked ship was built and her sides were dweller' therein, whose name, if rightly re- paid, inside and out, with the mineral ported, was Hasisadra. The dream fore- pitch, or bitumen, with which the country told the speedy coming of a great flood ; abounded ; the vessel's seaworthiness was and it warned Hasisadra to lose no time tested, the cargo was stowed away, and a in building a ship, in which, when notice trusty pilot or steersman appointed. was given, he, his family and friends, with The promised signal arrived. Wife and their

domestic animals and a collection of friends embarked ; Hasisadra, following, the wild creatures and seed of plants of the prudently “shut the door," or, as we land, might take refuge and be rescued should say, put on the hatches; and Nes

Hea, the pilot, was left alone on deck to though it is quite as proper, and indeed do his best for the ship. Thereupon a necessary, to act no less respectfully hurricane began to rage ; rain fell in tor- toward ourselves ; and, before professing rents; the subterranean waters burst to put implicit faith in it, to inquire what forth ; a deluge swept over the land, and claim it has to be regarded as a serious acthe wind lashed it into waves sky high ; count of an historical event. heaven and earth became mingled in cha It is of no use to appeal to contempootic gloom. For six days and seven nights rary history, although the annals of Babythe gale raged, but the good ship held out lonia, no less than those of Egypt, go until, on the seventh day, the storm lulled. much further back than 2000 B.C. AN Hasisadra ventured on deck ; and, seeing that can be said is, that the former are nothing but a waste of waters strewed with hardly consistent with the supposition that floating corpses and wreck, wept over the any catastrophe, competent to destroy all destruction of his land and people. Far the population, has befallen the land since away, the mountains of Nizir were visible ;' civilization began, and that the latter are the ship was steered for them and ran notoriously silent about deluges. In such aground upon the higher land. Yet an a case as this, however, the silence of bisother seven days passed by. On the sev- tory does not leave the inquirer wholly at enth, Hasisadra sent forth a dove, which fault. Natural science has something to found no resting place and returned ; then say when the phenomena of nature are in he liberated a swallow, which also came question. Natural science may be able to back ; finally, a raven was let loose, and show, from the nature of the country, that sagacious bird, when it found that either that such an event as that described the waters had abated, came near the ship, in the story is impossible, or at any rate but refused to return to it. Upon this, highly improbable; or, on the other hand, Hasisadra liberated the rest of the wild that it is consonant with probability. In animals, which immediately dispersed in the former case the narrative must be susall directions, while he, with his family pected or rejected ; in the latter, no such and friends, ascending a mountain hard summary verdict can be given : on the by, offered sacrifices upon its summit to contrary, it must be admitted that the the gods.

story may be true. And then, if certain

strangely prevalent canons of criticism are The story thus given in summary ab- accepted, and if the evidence that an event stract, told in an ancient Semitic dialect, might have happened is to be accepted as is inscribed in cuneiform characters upon proof that it did happen, Assyriologists a tablet of burnt clay. Many thousands will be at liberty to congratulate one anof such tablets, collected by Assurbanipal, other on the “ confirmation by modern sciKing of Assyria in the middle of the sev- ence" of the authority of their ancient enth century B.C., were stored in the books. library of his palace at Nineveh ; and, It will be interesting, therefore, to inthough in a sadly broken and mutilated quire how far the physical structure and condition, they have yielded a marvellous the other conditions of the region in which amount of information to the patient and Surippak was situated are compatible with sagacious labor which modern scholars such a flood as is described in the Assyrian have bestowed upon them. Among the record. multitude of documents of various kinds, The scene of Hasisadra's adventure is this narrative of Hasisadra's adventure has laid in the broad valley, six or seven hunbeen found in a tolerably complete state. dred miles long, and hardly anywhere less But Assyriologists agree that it is only a than a hundred miles in width, which is copy of a much more ancient work ; and traversed by the lower courses of the rivers there are weighty reasons for believing Euphrates and Tigris, and which is comthat the story of Hasisadra's food was monly known as the “Euphrates valley." well known in Mesopotamia before the Rising, at the one end, into a hill country, year 2000 B.C.

which gradually passes into the Alpine No doubt, then, we are in presence of heights of Armenia ; and, at the other, a narrative which has all the authority dipping beneath the shallow waters of the which antiquity can confer; and it is head of the Persian Gulf, which continues proper to deal respectfully with it, even in the same direction, from northwest to

southeast, for some eight hundred miles masses of sun-dried and burnt bricks, the further, the floor of the valley presents a remains of which, in the shape of huge gradual slope, from eight hundred feet artificial mounds, still testify to both the above the sea level to the depths of the magnitude and the industry of the popusouthern end of the Persian Gulf. The lation thousands of years ago.

Good boundary between sea and land, formed cement is plentiful, while the bitumen by the extremest mudflats of the delta of which wells from the rocks at Hit and the two rivers, is but vaguely defined ; elsewhere, not only answers the same purand, year by year, it advances seaward. pose, but is used to this day, as it was in On the northeastern side, the western Hasisadra's time, to pay the inside and frontier "ranges of Persia rise abruptly to the outside of boats. great heights ; on the southwestern side, In the broad lower course of the a more gradual ascent leads to a table-land Euphrates the stream rarely acquires of less elevation, which, very broad in the velocity of more than three miles an hour, south, where it is occupied by the deserts' while the lower Tigris attains double that of Arabia and of Southern Syria, narrows, rate in times of flood. The water of both northward, into the highlands of Palestine, great rivers is mainly derived from the and is continued by the ranges of the Leb- northern and eastern highlands in Armenia anon, the Antilebanon, and the Taurus, and in Kurdistan, and stands at its lowest into the highlands of Armenia.

level in early autumn and in January. But The wide and gently inclined plain, thus when the snows accumulated in the upper enclosed between the gulf and the high- basins of the great rivers, during the winlands, on each side and at its upper ex- ter, melt under the hot sunshine of spring, tremity, is distinguishable into two regions they rapidly rise,* and at length overflow of very different character, one of which their banks, covering the alluvial plain lies north, and the other south of the par with a vast inland sea, interrupted only by allel of Hit on the Euphrates. Except in the higher ridges and hummocks which the immediate vicinity of the river, the form islands in a seemingly boundless exnorthern division is stony and scantily cov

panse of water. ered with vegetation, except in spring. In the occurrence of these annual inun-' Over the southern division, on the con dations lies one of several resemblances betrary, spreads a deep alluvial soil, in which tween the valley of the Euphrates and that even a pebble is rare ; and which, though, of the Nile. But there are important under the existing misrule, mainly a waste differences. The time of the annual flood of marsh and wilderness, needs only intelli- is reversed, the Nile being highest in gent attention to become, as it was of old, autumn and winter, and lowest in spring the granary of western Asia. Except in and early summer. The periodical overthe extreme south, the rainfall is small and flows of the Nile, regulated by the great the air dry. The heat in summer is in- lake basins in the south, are usually tense, while bitterly cold northern blasts punctual in arrival, gradual in growth, and sweep the plain in winter. Whirlwinds beneficial in operation. No lakes are inare not uncommon ; and, in the intervals terposed between the mountain torrents of of the periodical inundations, the fine, the upper basins of the Tigris and the dry, powdery soil is swept even by mod. Euphrates and their lower courses. Hence erate breezes into stifling clouds, or rather heavy rain, or an unusually rapid thaw in fogs, of dust. Low inequalities, elevations the uplauds, gives rise to the sudden irruphere and depressions there, diversify the tion of a vast volume of water which not surface of the alluvial region. The latter even the rapid Tigris, still less its more are occupied by enormous marshes, while sluggish companion, can carry off in time the former support the permanent dwell- to prevent violent and dangerous overflows. ings of the present scanty and miserable Without an elaborate system of canalizapopulation.

tion, providing an escape for such sudden In antiquity, so long as the canalization of the country was properly carried out, * In May 1849 the Tigris at Bagdad rose 221 the fertility of the alluvial plain enabled feet-5 feet above its usual rise--and nearly great and prosperous nations to have their swept away the town. In 1831 a similarly

exceptional flood did immense damage, de. home in the Euphrates valley. Its abun- stroying 7000 houses. See Loftus, Chaldea and daut clay furnished the materials for the Susiana, p. 7.

excesses of the supply of water, the annual under consideration is the eleventh of a. floods of the Euphrates, and especially of series of twelve. Each of these answers the Tigris, must always be attended with to a month, and to the corresponding sign risk, and often prove harmful.

of the Zodiac. The Assyrian year began There are other peculiarities of the with the spring equinox; consequently, Euphrates valley which may occasionally the eleventh month, called “the rainy, tend to exacerbate the evils attendant on answers to our January-February, and to the inundations. It is very subject to the sign which corresponds with our Aquaseismic disturbances; and the ordinary rius. The aquatic adventure of Hasisadra, consequences of a sharp earthquake shock therefore, is not inappropriately placed. might be seriously complicated by its It is curious, however, that the season thus effects on a broad sheet of water. More- indirectly assigned to the flood is not that over, the Indian Ocean lies within the re of the present highest level of the rivers. gion of typhoons ; and if, at the height of It is too late for the winter rise and too an inundation, a hurricane from the south- early for the spring floods. east swept up the Persian Gulf, driving its I think it must be admitted that, so shallow waters upon the delta and damming far, the physical cross-examination to back the outflow, perhaps for hundreds which Hasisadra has been subjected does of miles up-stream, a diluvial catastrophe, not break down his story. On the confairly up to the mark of Hasisadra's, trary, he proves to have kept it in all esmight easily result.*

sential respects* within the bounds of Thus there seems to be no valid reason probability or possibility. However, we for rejecting Hasisadra's story on physical have not yet done with him. For the grounds. I do not gather from the nar conditions which obtained in the Euphrarative that the mountains of Nizir” were tes valley, four or five thousand years ago, supposed to be submerged, but merely that may have differed to such an extent from they came into view above the distant hori- those which now exist that we should be zon of the waters, as the vessel drove in able to convict him of having made up his their direction. Certainly the ship is not tale. But here again everything is in supposed to ground on any of their higher favor of his credibility. Indeed, he may summits, for Hasisadra has to ascend a claim very powerful support, for it does peak in order to offer his sacrifice. The not lie in the mouths of those who accept country of Nizir lay on the northeastern side the authority of the Pentateuch to deny of the Euphrates valley, about the courses that the Euphrates valley was what it is, of the two rivers Zab, which enter the even six thousand years back. According Tigris where it traverses the plain of to the book of Genesis, Phrat and HidAssyria some eight or nine hundred feet dekel—the Euphrates and the Tigris-are above the sea ; and, so far as I can judge coeval with Paradise. An edition of the from mapst and other sources of informa- Scriptures, recently published under high tion, it is possible, under the circumstances authority, with an elaborate apparatus of supposed, th t such a ship as Hasisadra's “ Helps” for the use of students and might drive before a southerly gale, over therefore, as I am bound to suppose, purged a continuously flooded country, until it of all statements that could by any possi. grounded on some of the low hills between bility mislead the young-assigns the year which both the lower and the upper Zab B.C. 4004 as the date of Adam's too brief enter upon the Assyrian plain.

residence in that locality. The tablet which contains the story But I am far from depending on this

authority for the age of the Mesopotamian * See the instructive chapter on Hasisadra's plain. On the contrary, I venture to rely, flood in Suess, Das Antlitz der Erde, Abth. I. with much more confidence, on another Only fifteen years ago a cyclone in the Bay of kind of evidence, which tends to show Bengal gave rise to a flood which covered that the age of the great rivers must be 3000 square miles of the delta of the Ganges, carried back to a date

far earlier than that 3 to 45 feet deep, destroying 100,000 people, innumerable cattle, houses, and trees. It broke inland, on the rising ground of Tipperah, * I have not cited the dimensions given to and may have swept a vessel from the sea that the ship in most translations of the story, befar, though I do not know that it did.

cause there appears to be a doubt about See Cernik's maps in Petermann's Mittheil them. Haupt (Keilinschriftliche Sindfluthungen, Ergänzungshefte 44 and 45, 1875-76. Bericht, p. 13) says that the figures are illegible.

at which our ingenuous youth is instructed carefully explored and determined to be that the earth came into existence. For, all that remains of that once great and the alluvial deposit having been brought flourishing city, “Erech the lofty.” Supdown by the rivers, they must needs be posing that the two hundred miles of alluolder than the plain it forins, as navvies vial country, which separates them from must needs antecede the embankment pain the head of the Persian Gulf at present, fully built up by the contents of their have been deposited at the very high rate wheelbarrows. For thousands of years, of four miles in a century, it will follow heat and cold, rain, snow, and frost, the that 4000 years ago, or about the year scrubbing of glaciers, and the scouring of 2100 B.O., the city of Erech still lay forty torrents laden with sand and gravel, have miles inland. Indeed, the city might have been wearing down the rocks of the upper been built nearly a thousand years earlier. basins of the rivers, over an area of many Moreover, there is plenty of independent thousand square miles ; and these materials, archeological and other evidence that in ground to fine powder in the course of the whole thousand years, 2000 to 3000 their long journey, have slowly subsided, B.C., the alluvial plain was inhabited by a as the water which carried them spread numerous people, among whom industry, out and lost its velocity in the sea. It is art, and literature had attained a very conbecause this process is still going on that siderable development. And it can be the shore of the delta constantly encroaches shown that the physical conditions and the on the head of the gulf* into which the climate of the Euphrates valley, at that two rivers are constantly throwing the waste time, must have been extremely similar to of Armenia and of Kurdistan. Hence, as what they are now. might be expected, fluviatile and marine Thus, once more, we reach the conclu. shells are common in the alluvial deposit ; sion that, as a question of physical proband Loftus found strata containing sub- ability, there is no ground for objecting to fossil marine shells of species now living in the reality of Hasisadra's adventure. It the Persian gulf, at Warka, two hundred would be unreasonable to doubt that such iniles in a straight line from the shore of a flood might have happened, and that the delta.f It follows that, if a trust- such a person might have escaped in the worthy estimate of the average rate of way described, any time during the last growth of the alluvial deposit can be 5000 years. And if the postulate of loose förmed, the lowest limit (by no means thinkers in search of scientific the bighest limit) of age of the rivers can firmations” of questionable parratives, be determined. All such estimates are proof that an event may have happened is beset with sources of error of very various evidence that it did happen—is to be ackinds ; and the best of them can only be cepted, surely Hasisadra's story is “ regarded as approximations to the truth. firmed by modern scientific investigation” But I think it will be quite safe to assume beyond all cavil. However, it may be well a maximum rate of growth of four miles to pause before adopting this conclusion, in a century for the lower half of the allu- because the original story, of which I have vial plain.

set forth only the broad outlines, contains Now, the cycle of narratives of which

a great many statements which rest upon Hasisadra's adventure forms a part contains just the same foundation as those cited, allusions not only to Surippak, the exact and yet are hardly likely to meet with genposition of which is doubtful, but to other eral acceptance. The account of the circities, such as Erech. The vast ruins at cumstances which led up to the flood, of the present village of Warka have been those under which Hasisadra's adventure

was made known to his descendant, of cer* It is probable that a slow movement of ele. tain remarkable incidents before and after vation of the land at one time contributed to the flood, are inseparably bound up with the result-perhaps does so still.

the details already given. And I am un7 At a comparatively recent period, the lit. toral margin of the Persian Gulf extended cer able to discover any justification for tainly 250 miles further to the northwest than arbitrarily picking out some of these and the present embouchure of the Shatt-el Arab, dubbing them historical verities, while reSociety, 1853, p. 251.) The actual extent of jecting the rest as legendary fictions. the marine deposit inland cannot be detined, They stand or fall together. as it is covered by later fluviatile deposits. Before proceeding to the consideration

con

con

« PreviousContinue »