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Personal Narrative of a Journey from India to England, by Bussorah,
Bagdad, the Ruins of Babylon, Curdistan, the Court of Persia,
We may say of Captain Keppel's work, that its value (or rather its merits) arise entirely from the interesting portions of his journey. As to genius or talent ---we will not do this gentleman the injustice to reproach him with any. Our opinion is, that the narrative is more calculated to compose the contents of a letter to a father and a family circle, than to meet the eye of a less interested audience. The traveller's observations are quite in the easy, colloquial style; betraying neither much discernment nor stupidity :---in fact, we are rather inclined to consider the gallant captain a man gifted with the ordinary capacities. We have taken the most interesting extract we could find, from each volume.
“ Half an hour before sunset we arrived at a village of wandering Arabs. One of the men, a wild-looking savage, on seeing us approach, ran forwards in a frantic manner, and throwing down his turban at our feet, fiercely demanded Buxis (a present). He was made to replace his turban, but continued screaming as if distracted. This fellow's noise, and our appearance, soon collected a crowd of men, women, and children ; the greater number had evidently never seen an European before. The men advanced close to us with aspects far from friendly. The commander of our guard expressed a wish that we should not enter the village ; but so ardent was our curiosity in this our first interview with the Arabs of the Desert, that we disregarded his advice. Seeing us resolved, he let us have our own way; but would not allow any of the people to approach, being doubtful of their intentions towards us.
“ The village was a collection of about fifty mat huts, with pent roofs, from thirty to sixty feet long. The frame of the huts somewhat resembled the ribs of a ship inverted. It was formed of bundles of reeds tied together; the mat covering was of the leaves of the date tree. An old Mussulman tomb stands on a mound at the south end of the village, and is the only building in which any other material than reed and date-leaves have been employed.
“ When we reached the banks of the river, we had to wait for our boat, which was tracking round a headland, and was still at some distance from us : so we stood with our backs to the water to prevent any attack from the rear. In the mean time, crowds of the inhabitants continued to press forward. As their numbers were greatly superior to ours, and their demeanour rather equivocal, we tried by our manners to show as little distrust of them as possible ; not so our guards, who, from being of the same profession as these marauders, treated them with less ceremony, and stood by us the whole time with their guns loaded and cocked, their fingers on the triggers, and the muzzles presented towards the crowd. Some of the Arabs occasionally came forward to look at our fire-arms, particularly our double-barrelled guns, but whenever they attempted to touch them, were always repulsed by our guard, who kept them at a distance. In the midst of this curious interview, the sheikh, or chief of the village, a venerable-looking old man with a long white beard, came, accompanied by two others, and brought us a present of a sheep; for which, according to custom, we gave double its value in money. The sheikh's arrival, and our pecuniary acknowledgment of his present, seemed to be an earnest of amity, as the crowd, by his directions, retired to a small distance, and formed themselves into a semicircle---himself and his two friends sitting about four yards in front.
“ The scene to us was of the most lively interest. Around us, as far as the eye could reach, was a trackless desert; to our left was the rude village of the wanderers, and
inmediately in the foreground were their primitive inhabitants, unchanged, probably, in dress, customs, or language, since the time of the wild man' Ishmael, their ancestor. There was little variety in the dress of the men---a large brown sbirt with open sleeves, extending to the knee, and bound round the loins with a leathern girdle, formed their principal, and sometimes only, habiliment; a few wore the handkerchief or turban. 'The were armed either with long spears or massive clubs. The dress of the females was also a loose shirt, but not being bound at the waist, it left the person considerably exposed. Some of the women had rings in their noses, others wore pecklaces of silver coins, and the hair of several of the girls was divided into long plaits, and completely studded with coins: they were all more or less tattooed on the face, hands, and feet, and some were marked on the ancles with punctures resembling the clock of a stocking.
“ This village is called Goomruk, and its inhabitants are notorious robbers; they are subject to the sheikh of Montefeikh. It is customary to exact a stipulated tribute from every boat that passes ; this, after some conversation, we paid, and (our people not wishing to stay) we proceeded on our voyage, having inuch better luck than a boat we left here, with borses for the Pasha of Basra, which, not being strong enough to resist the demand, was detained for an additional exaction. Five boats which had left Bussorah a week before us, had proceeded that morning on their voyage to Bagdad.
" We continued our voyage while moonlight lasted, and then anchored till daybreak. At nine in the evening we passed an Arab encampment, pitched so close to the bank that our track-rope damaged several of the tents. This occasioned an uproar from a crowd of men, women, children, and dogs. They all rushed out together to discover the cause of the disturbance. On our guard's calling out Abdillah, their chief's name, we were welcomed from the shore, as a friendly tribe, with an assurance that they would send off milk, butter, and whatever else their camp could furnish.
" March 10.---We now came in sight of the Hamerine Mountains, to the north-east. At a little before daylight, we passed a building, called Il Azer (Ezra), reported by tradition to be the tomb of that prophet
. It is surmounted by a large doom covered with glazed tiles of a turquoise color. The tomb is held in high veneration both by Jews and Mahometans, and is said to contain great riches---the offerings of pilgrims, particularly those of the former persuasion.
“ We saw numerous encampments of the wandering tribes, many of whom brought us milk, butter, and dates, and appeared to be most kindly disposed towards ourselves and crew.
“ Three of our party went out shooting in the Desert, and had excellent sport. Hares, black partridges, and snipes, were in the greatest abundance. For my own share of the game, i claim a brace of partridges, not a little proud, that nearly the first birds which ever fell by my gun, should bave been killed in the garden of Eden. Another of our party killed a hare, but the boatmen objected to our having it dressed on board, as it had not undergone the ceremony of being made hulaul (lawful). This is performed by repeating a prayer, and by cutting the throat of the animal, with the neck placed lowards the tomb of Mahomet. Yet, according to the Jewish law, from which nearly all Mahometan prohibitions respecting food are taken, the hare is an unclean animal, because he cheweth the cud, and divideth not the hoof.'
“ At two P. M., we passed the residence of Sheikh Abdillah Bin Ali, an Arab chief. As we continued our shooting excursion over a desert tract, unmarked by human habitation, we approached a boy tending cattle, who, immediately on perceiving us, set up a loud cry, and ran with all his might to a small mound, so gradually elevated, as to be scarcely perceptible to us. In an instant, like the dragon's teeth which Cadmus sowed, a large body of men, armed with spears, appeared on the brow of the hill, and seemed to have grown out from the till then unpeopled spot. The men set up a loud shout, in which they were joined by the women and children, who now made their appearance. All, with one accord, rushed impetuously towards us, demanding the nature of our intentions; they were no sooner assured of our pacific disposition, than their clavour ceased, and in two minutes we were on the most friendly terms.
“ A little after this, several women, accompanied by a host of children, brought
* " For the circumstance of the hare chewing the cud, vide Levit. chap. ti., and also the account given by Cowper of his three bares."
milk, butter, and curds, for sale, and followed the boat for some time. One of the women, from whom we received a vessel of milk, was offered a quantity of dates in return, by our servants. Not being satisfied with them, she desired to have her milk again. A piastre was thrown to her, which after taking up and examining, she ran off to a considerable distance, dancing and shouting with joy. Another very handsome young woman, with a child in her arms, asked for some cloth to cover her infant's head; we gave her a silk handkerchief, which so delighted her, that she approached the boat, and, with her right hand raised to Heaven, invoked every blessing on us in return. The handkerchief appeared to excite great curiosity, for a crowd collected round her, and it was held np and examined in every direction, seemingly with much delight.
“ The behaviour of these females formed a striking contrast with the manners of the Indian women, and still more with those of the veiled dames of Bussorah. They came to our boat with the frankness of innocence, and there was a freedom in their manners, bordering perhaps on the masculine ; nevertheless, their fine features, and well-turned limbs, presented a tout ensemble of beauty, not often surpassed, perhaps, even in the brilliant assemblies of civilized life. True it is, their complexions were of a gipsy brown; but, even on this point, there may be some who see
««• A Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt.' “ The woman who was so grateful for the handkerchief, as she stood on the edge of the bank, her beautiful eyes beaming with gratitude, would have been a fine illustration of some of the striking passages in Scott's forcible delineations of female character.”. Vol. i. p. 84.
“ At the appointed hour, Meerza Abool Hassan Khan, Major Willock, Mr. Hamilton, and myself, set out for our interview with his majesty, The Persian was in his court-dress, we were in full uniform; and we all wore green slippers, and the court boots of red cloth, without which no one can approach bis majesty.
“ The king received us in a small palace in the middle of a garden, called the Gulestan - Rose Garden. When arrived at the top of the avenue which led to it, we imitated the motions of the Meerza, and bowed several times, our hands touching our knees at each reverence. We had, at this time, a good side-view of the king, who, apparently from established etiquette, took no notice of us. We repeated our bows at intervals. When within twenty yards of the palace, we left our slippers behind us, and the king, turning towards us for the first time, called out · Bee-au-bala'— Ascend. A narrow flight of steps brought us to the presence-chamber. It is an elegant apartment, open at two opposite sides, where it is supported by spiral pillars painted white and red ; a large carpet is spread on the floor ; the walls and ceiling are coinpletely covered with looking-glass. One or two European clocks stand in different parts of the room ; but the accumulation of dust upon them shows that they are considered useless lumber.
"On entering this chamber, we walked sideways to the most remote corner from that which the king occupied. After the usual compliments of welcome, his majesty asked several questions respecting our journey, and surprised us not a little at his geographical knowledge, both with regard to the country we had quitted, and that which we purposed to visit. The audience lasted twenty minutes; his majesty was in high goodhumour, and conversed with unaffected ease on a variety of subjects. The titles used at the interview were · Kubla-hi-Aulim and Shah-in-Shahi'- Attraction of the World, and King of Kings. He was seated on his heels on some doubled nummuds, the Persians priding themselves on this hard seat, in contradiction to their enemies the Turks, whom they charge with effeminacy for their use of cushions.
“ The king had a variety of toys, which gave employment to his hands, and assisted his gestures in conversation. One of these trinkets was a Chinese ivory hand at the end of a thin stick, called by us in India a scratch-back, a name which faithfully denotes its office : another was a crutch, three feet long, the shaft of ebony, and the head of crystal. His majesty has the appearance of a younger man than he really is, but his voice, which is hollow from the loss of teeth, is a better indication of his age. I should bave known him from his strong resemblance to the prints I had seen of him in London. I think, however, they hardly do justice to his beard, which is so large that it conceals all the face but the forehead and eyes, and extends down to the girdle. He was very plainly dressed, wearing a cotton gown of a dark color, and the common sheep-skin cap. 'In his girdle was a dagger, superbly studded with jewels of an extraordinary size. “ The dress of the modern Persian has undergone so complete a change, that much
resemblance to the ancient costume is not to be expected; still there are some marks of decoration, which remind one of the ancient monarchs. The eyelids of the king, stained with surmeh, brought to our recollection the surprise of the young and hardy Cyrus, when he viewed for the first time a similar embellishment in his effeminate uncle, Astyages; and in that extraordinary chapter of Ezekiel, wherein Jerusalem is reproached for her imitation of Babylonian manners, the prophet alludes to this custom, when he says, “Thou paintedst thine eyes*,'
"A bracelet, consisting of a ruby and emerald, worn by the king on his arm, is a mark of ancient sovereignty. It will be recollected that the Amalekites brought David the bracelet found on Saul's arm, as a proof of his rank; and Herodotus mentions a bracelet of gold as a present from Cambyses, King of Persia, to the King of Ethiopia.
“I must not omit the mention of a circumstance connected with our interview, as it illustrates a piece of etiquette at the court of a despotic monarch. A few minutes before we were presented, we observed two men carrying a long pole and a bundle of sticks towards the audience chamber. Curiosity led us to ask the Meerza what was the meaning of this. “That machine,' said he,' is the bastinado; it is for you, if you misbehave.
Those men are carrying it to the king, who never grants a private audience without having • it by him, in case of accidents. The pole we saw was about eight feet long : when the punishment is inflicted, the culprit is thrown on his back, his feet are secured by cords bound round the ankles, and made fast to the pole with the soles uppermost; the pole is held by a man at both ends, and two men, one on each side, armed with sticks, strike with such force that the toe-nails frequently drop off. This punishment is inflicted by order of the king upon men of the highest rank, generally for the purpose of extorting money. If Persia was not so fond of illustrating the use of this emblem of power, she would have as much right to the 'bastinado,' as we have to the • Black Rod.'” --Vol. ij.
Head-Pieces and Tail-Pieces. By a Travelling Artist. London:
Charles Tilt. 1826. 12mo. pp. 256. There is a deal of good sense and elegant writing scattered through this interesting little volume. The author appears to be a man possessed of a sensitive and pleasing fancy. The only fault that we have to find with the tales, is their barrenness of incident ;---a fault which good writing will scarcely excuse. However, on the whole, we may conscientiously recommend Head-Pieces and Tail-Pieces as an agreeable melange to wile away an idle hour. Field Flowers: being a collection of Fugitive and other Poems. By
the Author of " Odes," « Portland Isle," fc. We should bave felt happy in quoting a piece from this volume, had our limits permitted ; as it is, we can only say,---that the author feels poetically, and frequently writes so. The “May-Morn of Life," contains several meritorious lines.
Reminiscenses of Charles Butler, Esq. of Lincoln's Inn. Vol. ij.
London: Murray. 1827. Accipe, sed facilis,” is the motto prefixed by Mr. Butler to the second volume of his Reminiscenses; and hard indeed must be that heart, which should receive or judge any thing proffered by a being so amiable as the author, with harshness or severity. But unless the taste of the public be very different from that we believe it to be, there is do occasion to apprehend but that the attraction of the work itself will make it very generally read and approved of. There are in this
Ez. xxiii. 40.
volume less “ Reminiscenses” of persons, than of the Author's observations and opinions of books and studies; to that part of the reading public who can only be excited into amusement by anecdotes of individuals, there may possibly arise some disappointment, but we confess, that we, for our own parts, are perfectly satisfied with being conducted over the often traversed field of books with which we have been acquainted from our childhood, by a guide so amiable and intelligent as the Reminiscent. It is pleasant to observe the different ways in which a man of abilities, surpassed only by his virtues, las meditated, thought, and felt, upon productions on which we have ourselves meditated, thought, and felt. Gibbon's Journal of his Studies is, on this account, of the most delightful of publications, and the Reminiscenses of Mr. Butler, though they contained nothing beyond his reflections and criticisms on subjects so familiar to the public, as the auto-biographies of the Chancellor D'Aguesseau, the Cardinal de Retz, Gibbon, Madame de Staël, &c. will certainly be not the less chosen as a companion to Gibbon's Miscellaneous Works upon the shelves of our library. But this volume contains more than this, being interspersed with reminiscenses and sayings of men of fame and rank amongst the ornaments of human kind. Porson, Pitt, Fox, and Sheridan, and Dr. Parr, have all contributed something 10 the adornment and embellishment of the Reminiscent's work.
The second chapter or division is a review of some of the autobiographers of celebrated men, with very judicious extracts and criticisms, and new anecdotes of the Author's. The next is a short account of the Southey Controversy, which we particularly recommend to attention, on account of the strong contrast which it displays in the tone of feeling of such a mind as Mr. Butler's; and that of the O'Connells and Shiels, of whom we cannot either speak or think without indignation. Had the Catholics--the great body of them, been such as Mr. Butler is, they would not now have to be contending for release from their civil disabilities.
The third chapter contains some “ Reminiscenses” relative to Pitt, Fox, Sheridan, and Burke, from which we give a few extracts.
“ The Bishop of Winchester briefly mentions, in his Memoirs, Mr. Pitt's tour to France in September, 1783. During his stay in that country, he principally resided at Paris and Rheims. Great attention was sbewn him by the archbishop of the latter city : he met, at the prelate's palace, the celebrated Talleyrand Perigord. When this distinguished personage was in England, he mentioned this circumstance to a friend of the Reminiscent; and, what many will be surprised to hear, he described Mr. Pitt as un grand aduluteur. Talleyrand was asked, if he feresaw, at that time, Mr. Pitt's future eminence. Mais,' he replied, nous le trouvions tres amiable : et d'ailleurs, son pere • nous avoit foudroyé.'
“Of the other parts of the Bishop's work, we shall say nothing, except to notice that, in his account of the bill, which was passed for the relief of the Catholics in 1791, he does not render justice to Mr. Pitt. From the first, Mr. Pitt declared himself explicitly in favor of the measure. In order to attract the attention of the public mind to it, and to prevent the effect of prejudice against it, he devised the plan of obtaining the opinions of the foreign universities upon the three points submitted to them. When the opinions were obtained, he readily declared that they satisfied him. An unfortunate division having taken place among the Roman Catholics, Mr. Pitt, so far from availing himself of it to impede, or even retard, the success of the bill, generously exerted himself to compose