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serving an ass's head, which, according to their law was an unclean animal, sold for fourscore pieces of silver; and a small quantity of that dung that was most useful to quicken vegetation, as well as to increase those productions of the earth which were so desirable in those hot climates, that- a small quantity, I say, of that substance should, in such circumstances, be sold for five such pieces. At least it is probable thus the Septuagint and Josephus understood the passage, if we should think it incredible that melons were in very common use in the days of Joram king of Israel. Josephus, in particular, says, this dung was purchased for its salt, which can hardly mean to be used, by means of some preparation, as table-salt, but as containing salt proper for manuring the earth. The Prophet Elisha, in that very age, put salt into a spring of water, to express the imparting to it the quality of making the land watered by it fruitful, which land had been before barren, 2 Kings ii. 19-22, to which event Josephus could be no stranger.
It has been objected to this interpretation : that the doves-dung was for manure, (for this interpretation is not a new one, but wanted to be better illustrated, that there could be no room for growing any kind of vegetable food within the walls of a royal city, when besieged; but has any one a right to take this for granted ? when it is known that there is a good deal of ground unbuilt upon now in the royal cities of the East; that Naboth had a vineyard in Jezreel,' a place of royal residence a few years before ; that Samaria was a new-built city ;' and that in the time of distress, every void place might naturally be made use of to raise a species of food, that with due cultivation, in our climate, is brought to perfection, from the time of its sowing, in four months, and at the same time is highly refreshing. When we reflect on these things, the supposition appears not at all improbable.
We do not know when the siege commenced, or how long it continued ; that of Jerusalem in the time of Zedekiah, lasted a year and a half; but the time that this dung was purchased, at so dear a rate, we may believe was early in the spring, for then they begin to raise melons at Aleppo, and as they were then so oppressed with want, it is probable that it was not long after that they were delivered
This explanation will appear less improbable, if we recollect the account already given, of the siege of Damiata, where some of the more delicate Egyptians pined to death, according to Vitriaco, though they had a sufficiency of corn, for the want of the food they were used to, pompions, &c. The Israelites might be willing then, had their stores been more abundant than they were found to have been, to add "1 Kings xxi, 1.
Ch. xvi. 24. • 2 Kings xxv. 1.
what they could to them, and especially of such grateful eatables, as melons, and such like.
Fine and Flowers frequent in Eastern Enter.,
They that are acquainted with the Greek and Roman Classics, and particularly with Horace, know how common it was with them to unite the fragrancy of flowers and sweetscented leaves with the pleasures of wine ; but they may not be so sensible, that it has been practised by the Eastern nations too : they. may, possibly, have supposed that they made such a free use of artificial perfumes, as to cause these natural vegetable odours to be neglected.
But a passage in the apocryphal author of the Wisdom of Solomon, who was undoubtedly an Eastern writer, shows the contrary: Let us fill ourselves with costly wine and ointments : and let no flower of the spring pass by us. Let us crown ourselves with rose-buds before they be withered. Ch. ii. 7, 8.
Here, instead of citing any passage from Western writers, I would set down the following passage from d'Herbelot: “Kessai one day
presented himself at the door of the apartment of Al Mamon," to read one of his lectures. The prince, who was then at table with his companions, wrote him a distich, upon a leaf of myrtle, the sense of which was, There is a time for study, and a time for diversion : this is a time I have destined for the enjoyment of friends, wine, roses, and myrtle. Kessai having read this distich, answered it upon the back of the same myrtle-leaf, in four lines, the meaning of them as follows. If you had understood the excellence of knowledge, you would, without doubt, have preferred the pleasure that gives, to what you at present enjoy in company: and if you knew who it is that is at your door, you would immediately rise, and come and prostrate yourself on the ground, praising and thanking God for the favour he had bestowed upon you. Al Mamon had no sooner read these verses, than he quitted his company, and came to his preceptor "
Here we see the rose and the myrtle made use of in a princely drinking bout.
In like manner one of the volumes of the Arabian Night Entertainments, mentions myrtles, sweet-basil, lilies, and jessamine, and other pleasant flowers and plants, as purchased in the time of a grand entertainment, in the days of the same khalif, Haroun al Rascheed,
• The son of the then reigoing khaliff, the celebrated Haroun al Rascheed.
* P..961, art. Kessai.
along with wine, meat, various kinds of fruit, and confections."
This confirms the propriety of the apocryphal account in general, but unluckily gives no illustration to the spring-flowers which he mentions, roses not being properly described as early flowers, they with us in England belonging to the middle of the summer, and lilies and jessamine being contemporary with the rose, or nearly so. But it is to be remembered, that roses flower in April in Judea, and consequently jessamine, &c.
What is more, among the vegetable ornaments worn by the Aleppine ladies on their heads, we find much earlier flowers made use of. Narcissuses, violets, and hyacinths, which Dr. Russell tells us, blossom in the East very early in the spring ;? and are used by the women to decorate their head-dress, along with many
, Vol. 1. No. 28.
The Persian poets are full of similar passages. So Ha. fiz, in the 11th ode, in the letter Lam,
“ I have flowers in my bosom, wine in my hand, and my
friend obsequious to my desires. And again, in almost Horatian strains,
خواه و گل فشان کی
“ Call for wine, and scatter roses around.” But examples of this kind are endless, even in this post. See Deevani Hafiz passim, and the examples in Sir William Jones's Persian Grammar. Edit. ? Vol. i. p. 70.