« ÎnapoiContinuați »
flesh spite of Graham ; let them eat as much of it (being careful to masticate slowly) as their stomachs crave, spite of Hitchcock's vagaries and prescriptions.
Art. V.- Incidents of Travel in Egypt, Arabiu Petræa,
and the Holy Land. By an AMERICAN. New-York, Harper & Brothers. 1837. 2 vols. 12mo.
MR. Stephens has here given us two volumes of more than ordinary interest-written with a freshness of manner, and evincing a manliness of feeling, both worthy of high consideration. Although in some respects deficient, the work too presents some points of moment to the geographer, to the antiquarian, and more especially to the theologian. Viewed only as one of a class of writings whose direct tendency is to throw light upon the Book of Books, it has strong claims upon the attention of all who read. While the vast importance of critical and philological research in dissipating the obscurities and determining the exact sense of the Scriptures, cannot be too readily conceded, it may be doubted whether the collateral illustration derivable from records of travel be not deserving at least equal consideration. Certainly, the evidence thus afforded, exerting an enkindling influence upon the popular imagination, and so taking palpable hold upon the popular understanding, will not fail to become in time a most powerful because easily available instrument in the downfal of unbelief. Infidelity itself has often afforded unwilling and unwitting testimony to the truth. It is surprising to fod with what unintentional precision both Gibbon and Volney (among others) have used, for the purpose of description, in their accounts of nations and countries, the identical phraseology employed by the inspired writers when foretelling the most improbable events. In this manner scepticism has been made the root of belief, and the providence of the Deity has been no less remarkable in the extent and nature of the means for bringing to light the evidence of his accomplished word, than in working the accomplishment itself.
Of late days, the immense stores of biblical elucidation derivable from the East have been rapidly accumulating in the hands of the student. When the “ Observations” of Harmer were given to the public, he had access to few other works than the travels of Chardin, Pococke, Shaw, Maundrell, Pitts,
and D'Arvieux, with perhaps those of Nau and Troilo, and Russell's “ Natural History of Aleppo." We have now a vast accession to our knowledge of Oriental regions. Intelligent and observing men, impelled by the various motives of Christian zeal, military adventure, the love of gain, and the love of science, have made their way, often at imminent risk, into every land rendered holy by the words of revelation. Through the medium of the pencil, as well as of the pen, we are even familiarly acquainted with the territories of the Bible. Valuable books of eastern travel are abundant-of which the labours of Niebuhr, Mariti, Volney, Porter, Clarke, Chateaubriand, Burckhardt, Buckingham, Morier, Seetzen, De Lamartine, Laborde, Tournefort, Madden, Maddox, Wilkinson, Arundell, Mangles, Leigh and Hogg, besides those already mentioned, are merely the principal, or the most extensively known. As we have said, however, the work before us is not to be lightly regarded: highly agreeable, interesting, and instructive, in a general view, it also has, in the connexion now adverted to, claims to public attention possessed by no other book of its kind.
In an article prepared for this journal some months ago, we had traced the route of Mr. Stephens with a degree of minuteness not desirable now, when the work has been so long in the hands of the public. At this late day we must be content with saying, briefly, in regard to the earlier portion of the narrative, that, arriving at Alexandria in December, 1835, he thence passed up the Nile as far as the Lower Cataracts. One or two passages from this part of the tour may still be noted for observation. The annexed speculations, in regard to the present city of Alexandria, are well worth attention.
“ The present city of Alexandria, even after the dreadful ravages made by the plague last year, is still supposed to contain more than 50,000 inhabitants, and is decidedly growing. It stands outside the Delta in the Libyan Desert, and, as Volney remarks, It is only by the canal which conducts the waters of the Nile into the reser. voirs in the time of inundation, that Alexandria can be considered as connected with Egypt.'_ Founded by the great Alexander, to secure his conquests in the East, being the only safe harbour along the coast of Syria or Africa, and possessing peculiar commercial advantages, it soon grew into a giant city. Fiftcen miles in cir. cumference, containing a population of 300,000 citizens and as many slaves, one magnificent street 2000 feet broad ran the whole length of the city, from the Gate of the Sea to the Canopie Gate, commanding a view, at each end, of the shipping, either in the Me. diterranean or in the Mareotic Lake, and another of equal length intersected it at right angles; a spacious circus without the Cano.
pie Gate, for chariot-races, and on the east a splendid gymnasium, more than six hundred feet in length, with theatres, baths, and all that could make it a desirable residence for a luxurious people. When it fell into the hands of the Saracens, according to the report of the Saracen general to the Calif Omar, it was impossible to enumerate the variety of its riches and beauties ;' and it is said to • have contained four thousand palaces, four thousand baths, four hundred theatres or public edifices, twelve thousand shops, and forty thousand tributary Jews.' From that time, like every thing else which falls in the hands of the Mussulman, it has been going to ruin, and the discovery of the passage to India by the Cape of Good Hope gave the death.blow to its commercial greatness. At present it stands a phenomenon in the history of a Turkish domi. nion. It appears once more to be raising its head from the dust. It remains to be seen whether this rise is the legitimate and permanent effect of a wise and politic government, combined with natural ad. vantages, or whether the pacha is not forcing it to an unnatural elevation, at the expense, if not upon the ruins, of the rest of Egypt. It is almost presumptuous, on the threshold of my entrance into Egypt, to speculate upon the future condition of this interesting country ; but it is clear that the pacha is determined to build up the city of Alexandria if he can : his fleet is here, his army, his arsenal, and his forts are here ; and he has forced and centred here a com. merce that was before divided between several places. Rosetta has lost more than two thirds of its population. Damietta has become a mere nothing, and even Cairo the Grand has become tributary to what is called the regenerated city.” Vol. I. pp. 21, 22.
We see no presumption in this attempt to speculate upon the future condition of Egypt. Its destinies are matter for the attentive consideration of every reader of the Bible. No words can be more definitive, more utterly free from ambiguity, than the prophecies concerning this region. No events could be more wonderful in their nature, nor more impossible to have been foreseen by the eye of man, than the events foretold concerning it. With the earliest ages of the world its line of monarchs began, and the annihilation of the entire dynasty was predicted during the zenith of that dynasty's power. One of the most lucid of the biblical commentators has justly observed that the very attempt once made by infidels to show, from the recorded number of its monarchs and the duration of their reigns, that Egypt was a kingdom previous to the Mosaic era of the deluge, places in the most striking view the extraordinary character of the prophecies regarding it. During two thousand years prior to these predictions Egypt had never been without a prince of its own ; and how oppressive was its tyranny over Judea and the neighbouring nations !
It, however, was distinctly foretold that this country of kings should no longer have one of its own—that it should be laid waste by the hand of strangers—that it should be a base kingdom, the basest of the base—that it should never again exalt itself among the nations—that it should be a desolation surrounded by desolation. Two thousand years have now afforded their testimony to the infallibility of the Divine word, and the evidence is still accumulative." Its past and present degeneracy bears not a more remote resemblance to the former greatness and pride of its power, than the frailty of its mud-walled fabric now bears to the stability of its imperishable pyramids." But it should be remembered that there are other prophecies concerning it which still await their fulfilment. “The whole earth shall rejoice, and Egypt shall not be for ever base. The Lord shall smite Egypt; he shall smite and heal it; and they shall return to the Lord, and he shall be entreated of them, and shall heal them. In that day shall Isaac be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land.” Isa. xix. 19-25. In regard to the present degree of political power and importance to which the country has certainly arisen under Mohammed Aly, (an importance unknown for many centuries,) the fact, as Mr. Keith observes in his valuable Evidence of Prophecy, may possibly serve, at no distant period, to illustrate the prediction which implies, that, however base and degraded it might be throughout many generations, it would, notwithstanding, have strength sufficient to be looked to for aid or protection even at the time of the restoration of the Jews to Judea, who will seek " to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and trust in the shadow of Egypt.”. How emphatically her present feeble prosperity is, after all, but the shadow of the Egypt of the Pharaohs, we leave to the explorer of her pyramids, the wanderer among the tombs of her kings or the fragments of her Luxor and her Carnac.
At Djiddeh, formerly the capital of Upper Egypt and the largest town on the Nile, Mr. Stephens encountered two large boat-loads of slaves—probably five or six hundred—collected at Dongola and Sennaar. “In the East," he writes, “slavery exists now precisely as it did in the days of the patriarchs. The slave is received into the family of a Turk, in a relation more confidential and respectable than that of an ordinary domestic ; and when liberated, which very often happens, stands upon the same footing with a freeman. The curse does not rest upon him for ever; he may sit at the same board, dip his hand in the same dish, and, if there are no other impediments, may marry his master's daughter."
Morier says, in his Journey through Persia—“The manners of the East, amidst all the changes of government and religion, are still the same. They are living impressions from an original mould; and, at every step, some object, some idiom, some dress, or some custom of common life, reminds the traveller of ancient times, and confirms, above all, the beauty, the accuracy, and the propriety of the language and the history of the Bible.”
Sir John Chardin, also, in the Preface to his Travels in Persia, employs similar language :-“ And the learned, to whom I communicated my design, encouraged me very much by their commendations to proceed in it; and more especially when I informed them that it is not in Asia, as in our Europe, where there are frequent changes, more or less, in the form of things, as the habits, buildings, gardens, and the like In the East they are constant in all things. The habits are at this day in the same manner as in the precedent ages ; so that one may reasonably believe that, in that part of the world, the exterior forms of things (as their manners and customs) are the same now as they were two thousand years since, except in such changes as have been introduced by religion, which are, nevertheless, very inconsiderable."
Nor is such striking testimony unsupported. From all sources we derive evidence of the conformity, almost of the identity, of the modern with the ancient usages of the East. This steadfast resistance to innovation is a trait remarkably confined to the regions of biblical history, and it should not be doubted) will remain in force until it shall have fulfilled all the important purposes of biblical elucidation. Hereafter, when the ends of Providence shall be thoroughly answered, it will not fail to give way before the influence of that very Word it has been instrumental in establishing; and the tide of civilization, which has hitherto flowed continuously, from the rising to the setting sun, will be driven back, with a partial ebb, into its original channels.
Returning from the Cataracts, Mr. Stephens found himself safely at Cairo, where terminated his journeyings upon the Nile. He had passed “ from Migdol to Syene, even unto the borders of Ethiopia." In regard to the facilities, comforts, and minor enjoyments of the voyage, he speaks of them in a manner so favourable, that many of our young countrymen will be induced to follow his example. It is an amusement, he says, even ridiculously cheap, and attended with no degree of danger. A boat with ten men is procured for thirty or forty dollars a month, fowls for three piasters a pair, a sheep for a half VOL. I.-NO. II.