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Women and Men do not eat together in the East.
The women do not eat with the men, in the Eastern feasts : they, however, are not, forgotten; it being usual for them to feast, at the same time, by themselves.
So at the same time that Ahasuerus feasted the men, the sacred historian tells us, Vashti the queen made a feast for the women, in the royal house, Esth. i. 9. The MS. C. tells us, this is the custom of Persia, and of all the East: the women have their feasts, at the same time, but apart from the men.
And thus Maillet, after having given a most pompous and brilliant account of the extraordinary feasting at the castle of Grand Cairo, upon the circumcision of the sons of the Bashaw of Egypt, tells us at the close, that “ he was assured that the expence, which was incurred at the same time in the apartments of the women of the Bashaw, was not much less considerable than what appeared in public ; there being there the same liberalities, the same pleasures, the same abundance, the same magnificence, that appeared out of the aparta ments,"
It is, doubtless, for the same reason, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride are distinctly mentioned, Jer. xxvi. 10,
Let. x. p. 79.
and in other places the noise of mirth was heard, that is, in different apartments. There is no feast in the East, according to Sir J. Chardin's MS, without music and dances; certainly then they are not omitted in nuptial solemnities; and their noise, I presume, is what we are to understand by the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride, not their voices personally considered. The modern Eastern brides we know, at least many of them, are the occasion of making a great deal of noisy mirth ; but they themselves are remarkably silent.
The light of the candle, mentioned by the Prophet in this passage, is not, I should apprehend, to be limited to nuptial solemnities, but to be considered as expressing joy in general. Lights, however, were used in a very particular manner in their marriage festivities : this appears from the second of the Apocryphal books of Esdras, on which the MS. C. has a note that is too curious to be lost. “ This refers to the custom of the East, where there are wont to be two large wax-tapers, in the chamber of the bridegroom, where the feast is kept, which are held by his god-fathers, (for they do not put them into candlesticks) and are as high as a man. There is another of the like kind in the bride's apartment.”
I am aware that Dr. Shaw has mentioned this separation of the two sexes in the East in their feasts; but perhaps my readers may not
* Note on Luke xv. 25.
be displeased with these additional accounts, especially as they contain some circumstances not mentioned, I think, by him.
The Eastern People begin to eat very early in the
The Eastern people begin to eat as soon as it is day, though it is but a small repast they then take.
This appears in several places of our books of travels, and is expressly taken notice of by Sir J. Chardin in his MS. and applied to the illustration of a passage to which this custom has, I suppose, no relation ; but as it may, possibly, be of some use with respect to some other places, I would not omit setting down his remark.
“ The greatest part of the people of the East eat a little morsel as soon as the day breaks-but it is very little they then eat, a little cake, or a mouthful of bread; drinking a dish or two of coffee. This is very agreeable in hot countries; in cold, people eat more.
* Psalm xc, 14. & Among the poet Sady's Maxims, we find the following: " A wise man said to his son, Never leave the house in the morning till thou hast eaten something, for this has a tendency to fortify the mind : and then shouldst thou be in. sulted by any person, thou wilt find thyself more disposed to suffer patiently; for hunger dries up and disorders the brain.” As this is one of their marims, we need not wonder
If this was customary in Judea, we are not to understand the words of the Levite's fatherin-law, Judges xix. 5. Comfort thine heart with a morsel of bread, and afterwards go your way, which are nearly repeated, ver. 8, as signifying stay and breakfast, that is done, it seems, extremely early ; but the words appear to mean, stay and dine : the other circumstances of the story perfectly agree with this account."
Abstemiousness conducire to Health.
ABSTAINING from wine and from rich food is no injury to the complexion, or health, of people in those countries : what is said therefore of the effects of the abstemiousness of Daniel and his companions' might be nothing extraordinary and out of the common course of things.
So Sir J. Chardin observes, that without considering whether there was any thing miraculous in the case of Daniel, it is true and I have remarked this, that the countenances of the Kechichs are in fact more rosy and smooth than those of others, and that these, who fast much, at the custom founded on it, which, for various reasons, should be observed by those of the West, as well as by the inhabitants of the East. Edit.
h The drinking coffee is never esteemed breakfasting; for they drink coffee at any time of the night. Edit.
i Dan. i. 15.
I mean the Armenians and the Greeks, are notwithstanding very beautiful, sparkling with health, with a clear and lively countenance. He afterwards takes notice of the very great abstemiousness of the Brahmans in the Indies, who lodge on the ground, abstain from women, from music, from all sorts of agreeable smells, who go very meanly clothed, are almost always wet, either by going into water, or by rain, &c.; yet I have seen also many of them very handsome and healthful.”
There is no necessity then of supposing any thing miraculous in the case of Daniel and his associates; or that he apprehended a divine interposition requisite to save Melzar from the displeasure of the king: he knew the salutary effects of great temperance, and he did not apprehend they would be less, when united with religious care, not to incur any pollutions forbidden by the law of his ancestors; and he was not mistaken as to the event. It is very possible a little more abstemiousness in European courts would be no injury to the complexion, the health, or the sagacity of those that execute offices there, or are expecting great employments.
* He says, they are first married, and have one child, and then leave their wives.