« PreviousContinue »
ney.; so that he has no occasion to be at much expence in providing for what may be wanting in the desert. · However this is only advancing sums of money, which he takes care to repay at his return. Accordingly, that he may not be duped by this interested kind of generosity, he keeps an exact register of all the presents that have been made him, that he may make a return precisely of the same value, and no more, to those from whom he received them.
It is certain that there can be little virtue in such an intercourse, however it may be customary, and therefore hardly worthy of the notice of this very moral Jewish writer. I would therefore set down the following paragraph, which it is to be imagined better coincides with what the son of Sirach had in view. - It must however be acknowledged that the Turks and the Arabs are very liberal on these occasions, and that they inspire them to act in a very noble and generous manner, which appears not to have the least of that sordid interestedness with which they are justly reproachable in every thing else. It is sufficient to be merely the neighbour of one that is going in pilgrimage to Mecca, to engage him to send a present, as soon as he is told of it. It is true also, that this present never fails of having an equivalent return made, if the person survives the journey, and his circumstances will admit of it. But if he finds himself in such a state as not to be well able to do it, the least trifle, if not worth three-pence, will be received with pleasure, and they are perfectly satisfied with the smallest token of gratitude and remembrance.” This enables us very perfectly to apprehend the thought of this passage of Ecclesiasticus ; a readiness to receive every token of respect that appears to come from the heart, and to make all the return true gratitude mingled with discretion will admit of. The custom also at first might, and probably did arise from beneficence, though in time it might become little better than traffic.
OBSERVATION LXXXIII. Presents made and received, essentially necessary to
civil Intercourse in the East. Of the importance of presents, even of the smallest value, Mr. Bruce, in his Travels in Egypt, gives us the following proofs :
• Preparing to leave Metrahenny, and to be gin our voyage in earnest, an Arab arrived from my friend the Howadat, with a letter and a few dates, not amounting to one hundred. The Arab was one of the people that had been sick, and wanted to go to Kennè, in Upper Egypt. The Shekh expressed his desire that “ I would take him with me this trifle of about 250 miles ; that I would give him medicines, cure yhis disease, and maintain him all the way.” On these occasions there is nothing like ready compliance; he had offered to carry me the same journey, with all my people and baggage, without hire: I therefore answered instantly, §You shall be very welcome, upon my head be it.” Upon this, the miserable wretch, half naked, laid down a dirty cloth, containing
about ten dates, and the Shekh's servant, which had attended him, returned in triumph. I mention this trifling circumstance, to shew, how essential to human and civil intercourse presents are considered in the East; whether it be dates, or diamonds, they are so much a part of their manners, that, without them, an inferior will never be at peace in his own mind, or think that he has a hold of his superior for his favour or protection.” Travels vol. i.p. 69.
In his passage up the Nile, having come to a place called Shekh Ammer, where he met with some friendly Arabs, he observes, “ Medicines and advice being given on my part, faith and protection pledged on theirs, two bushels of wheat and seven sheep, were carried down to the boat; nor could we decline their kindness, as refusing a present in that country (however it is understood in ours) is just as great an insult, as coming into the presence of a superior with no present at all. The great people among them came, and, after joining hands, repeated a kind of prayer,' by which they declared themselves, and their children, accursed, if ever they lifted their hands against me in the Tell or field, in the desert, or in the river; or, in case that I or mine should fly to them for refuge, if they did not protect us at the risk of their lives, their families, and their fortunes; or, as they emphatically expressed it, to the death of the last male child among them. Trav. vol. i. p. 152.
6 This oath was in use among the Arabs or shepherds as early as the days of Abraham, Gen. xxi. 22, 23, 26.
END OF VOL. II. .
Heney and Haddon, Printers, 12, Tabernacle-Walk.