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Let me now inform you, for your satisfaction, that, while you have been enjoying Dog River, I have completed our traveling apparatus and equipage, and our departure is definitely fixed for to-morrow morning.
V. BEIRUT TO THE DAMUR.
January 28th. ARE we to have such a tedious and noisy scene every morning with the muleteers ?
I hope not. It is generally thus, however, the first day; but, after each one has ascertained his proper load, they proceed more quietly, and with greater expedition.
Now we are fairly on the road, let us remember to commit our way unto the Lord. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths. This has been my traveling motto, roving or at rest, ever since I left the banks of our own bright Ohio for this “Land of Promise."
No sentiment can be more appropriate. We shall need the admonition at every step, and the promise thereto annexed as well. But the royal preacher has given another piece of advice to travelers. Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Turn not to
· Prov. iii. 6.
the right hand or to the left; remove thy foot from evil.' Do so now, lest you commence our journey with a practical “illustration” which will associate your name with Balaam and his much-abused ass. His path, like ours, had a wall on this side and a wall on that; the angel with drawn sword was in front, and the poor beast thrust herself against the wall and crushed the prophet's foot. Now this file of donkeys, with rough stone from the quarries on their backs, completely blocks up this narrow way, and if you attempt to force your horse past them, either on the right or the left, you will also meet with a crushed foot.
That is a fact so obvious that the dumb ass, if it could speak with man's voice as Balaam's did, might rebuke the madness of the attempt. But what are we to do?
Retreat to the next side alley, and let them pass. These stone-carrying donkeys are a great nuisance; but we are free from them at last, and you will not encounter a similar annoyance in all Syria, nor meet an equally patent illustration of Balaam's misfortune.
I shall not soon forget it. These crooked, narrow paths through the gardens of Beirût do indeed require one to observe the wise man's directions most closely. Only a few feet wide, with high walls on either side, and overshadowed by the rough arms and thorny palms of the prickly pear, the rider must keep wide awake, or he will find his face transfixed with the sharp spikes of the one, or his foot crushed against the other. I was stooping to avoid the first, when your timely warning saved me from the second.
The almanac tells me that this is the 28th of January, and yet the air is warm and bland as May. This old world and her ways are to me emphatically new. Those tall pines, with their parasol canopies spread out along the sky, are both new and beautiful, and how surpassingly glorious and majestic does Lebanon appear through and beyond them!
Those old trees were planted by Fakhr et Deen, and there are but few of them left. I saw that pretty wood beneath them sowed by Mahmood Beg, the governor of Beirút, · Prov. iv. 25, 27.
? Numb. xxii. 22-33.
twenty years ago. The smallest are only two years old. Half a century hence, the tourist will here find the fairest grove in Syria. This low, flat-roofed house on our right is a native khân-inn, or, if you please, hotel—much like those of ancient times, I suppose. We shall have some future occasion to test the accommodation which these Arab institutions offer to man and beast. Here is the guard of the custom-house, and you may as well return his polite salâm. These gentlemen are obliging or otherwise, according to circumstances. On a former occasion, one of them seized my bridle, and rudely demanded my passport. I replied that it was not customary for residents in the country to carry such documents, and that I had it not with me. This did not satisfy him. He ordered me back, swearing roundly that he would not let the Grand Vizier himself pass without his tazcara. After he had swaggered himself tired, I told him I had lived twenty years in this country, and knew the regulations of government better than he did ; that no order applicable to Franks was ever issued without official notice of the same being communicated to the consuls; and that, as no such notification in regard to passports had been made, I would not conform to it except by force. If he turned me back, I should lodge a complaint against him with the consul, who would hold him responsible for all damages. He immediately lowered his tone, bade me go in peace, and say nothing more about the matter. I did so, and have never been annoyed with a similar demand from that day to this. He had mistaken me for a stranger, and expected to extort a bakshish.
It is nine hours, you say, from Beirût to Sidon?
About twenty-seven miles, and takes six, eight, or ten hours, according to the rate of travel. But, as our object is to study the land and its customs, or, rather, to peruse the Word of God by the light which these shed upon it, we shall pay very little attention to the hours, stages, and stations of ordinary tourists.
This suits the main purpose of my visit precisely. I have no great fondness for mere sight-seeing, and much prefer to
gather instruction from the works and ways, the manners and customs of the living, than to grope for it amid the rotten ruins of the dead.
Doubtless the former is the richer field, at least in Palestine, but both should be carefully explored. In the mean while, turn a little to the left. The direct road to Sidon leads over a sandy desert, fatiguing to both the horse and his rider. The path we take lies along the eastern margin of it, through mulberry orchards and olive groves, with which we may hold pleasant and profitable converse as we pass. This broad track through the centre of the pine forest is the sultan's highway to Damascus. You can see it yonder to the southeast, winding up the face of Lebanon. When but a few days old in the country, I made trial of it, and was astonished beyond measure to find that such a villainous path was a road to any where, and, most of all, that it was the road par excellence between Beirût and Syria's celebrated capital.
Look now at those stately palm-trees, which stand here and there on the plain, like military sentinels, with feathery plumes nodding gracefully on their proud heads. The stem, tall, slender, and erect as Rectitude herself, suggests to the Arab poets many a symbol for their lady-love; and Solomon, long before them, has sung, How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love! for delights; this thy stature is like the palmtree.
Yes; and Solomon's father says, The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree. Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall bring forth fruit in old age.
The royal poet has derived more than one figure from the customs of men, and the habits of this noble tree, with which to adorn his sacred ode. The palm grows slowly, but steadily, from century to century, uninfluenced by those alternations of the seasons which affect other trees. It does not rejoice overmuch in winter's copious rain, nor does it droop under the drought and the burning sun of summer. Neither heavy weights which men place upon its head, nor Song vii. 6, 7.
? Psalm xcii. 12–14.
the importunate urgency of the wind, can sway it aside from perfect uprightness. There it stands, looking calmly down upon the world below, and patiently yielding its large clusters of golden fruit from generation to generation. They bring forth fruit in old age. The allusion to being planted in the house of the Lord is probably drawn from the custom of planting beautiful and long-lived trees in the courts of temples and palaces, and in all “high places” used for worship. This is still common; nearly every palace, and mosque, and convent in the country has such trees in the courts, and, being well protected there, they flourish exceedingly. Solomon covered all the walls of the “Holy of Holies”'l round about with palm-trees. They were thus plant
' 1 Kings vi. 29.