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Alroy - The Prince Of The Captivity
by Benjamin Disraeli
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'Towards sunsetting, when the Sabbath was now approaching, they lighted up the Sabbath lamp. Men and women were bound to have a lamp lighted up in their houses on the Sabbath, though they were never so poor—nay, though they were forced to go a-begging for oil for this purpose; and the lighting up of this lamp was a part of making the Sabbath a delight; and women were especially commanded to look to this business.'—Maimonides in Sab. par. 36.]

[Footnote 63: page 156.—The presence of the robes of honour. These are ever carried in procession, and their number denotes the rank and quality of the chief, or of the individual to whom they are offered.]

[Footnote 64: page 158.—Pressed it to his lips, and placed it in his vest. The elegant mode in which the Orientals receive presents.]

[Footnote 65: page 164.—A cap of transparent pink porcelain, studded with pearls. Thus a great Turk, who afforded me hospitality, was accustomed to drink his coffee.]

[Footnote 66: page 168.—Slippers powdered with pearls. The slippers in the East form a very fanciful portion of the costume. It is not uncommon to see them thus adorned and beautifully embroidered. In precious embroidery and enamelling the Turkish artists are unrivalled.]

[Footnote 67: page 185.—The policy of the son of Kareah. Vide Jeremiah, chap. xlii.]

[Footnote 68: page 191.—The inviting gestures and the voluptuous grace of the dancing girls of Egypt. A sculptor might find fine studies in the Egyptian Almeh.]

[Footnote 69: page 194.—Six choice steeds sumptuously caparisoned. Led horses always precede a great man. I think there were usually twelve before the Sultan when he went to Mosque, which he did in public every Friday.]

[Footnote 70: page 194.—Six Damascus sabres of unrivalled temper. But sabres are not to be found at Damascus, any more than cheeses at Stilton, or oranges at Malta. The art of watering the blade is, however, practised, I believe, in Persia. A fine Damascus blade will fetch fifty or even one hundred guineas English.]

[Footnote 71: page 195.—Roses from Rocnabad. A river in Persia famous for its bowery banks of roses.]

[Footnote 72: page 195.—Screens made of the feather of a roc. The screens and fans in the East, made of the plumage of rare birds with jewelled handles, are very gorgeous.]

[Footnote 73: page 196.—A tremulous aigrette of brilliants. Worn only by persons of the highest rank. The Sultan presented Lord Nelson after the battle of the Nile with an aigrette of diamonds.]

[Footnote 74: page 211.— To send him the whole of the next course. These compliments from the tables of the great are not uncommon in the East. When at the head-quarters of the Grand Vizir at Yanina, his Highness sent to myself and my travelling companions a course from his table, singers and dancing girls.]

[Footnote 75: page 212.—The golden wine of Mount Lebanon. A most delicious wine, from its colour, brilliancy, and rare flavour, justly meriting this title, is made on Lebanon; but it will not, unfortunately, bear exportation, and even materially suffers in the voyage from the coast to Alexandria.]

[Footnote 76: page 221.—And the company of gardeners. These gardeners of the Serail form a very efficient body of police.]

[Footnote 77: page 226.—Alroy retired to the bath. The bath is a principal scene of Oriental life. Here the Asiatics pass a great portion of their day. The bath consists of a long suite of chambers of various temperatures, in which the different processes of the elaborate ceremony are performed.]

[Footnote 78: page 232.—We are the watchers of the moon. The feast of the New Moon is one of the most important festivals of the Hebrews. 'Our year,' says the learned author of the 'Rites and Ceremonies,' 'is divided into twelve lunar months, some of which consist of twenty-nine, others of thirty days, which difference is occasioned by the various appearance of the new moon, in point of time: for if it appeared on the 30th day, the 29th was the last day of the precedent month; but if it did not appear till the 31st day, the 30th was the last day, and the 31st the first of the subsequent month; and that was an intercalary moon, of all which take the following account.

'Our nation heretofore, not only observing the rules of some fixed calculation, also celebrated the feast of the New Moon, according to the phasis or first appearance of the moon, which was done in compliance with God's command, as our received traditions inform us.

'Hence it came to pass that the first appearance was not to be determined only by rules of art, but also by the testimony of such persons as deposed before the Sanhedrim, or Great Senate, that they had seen the New Moon. So a committee of three were appointed from among the said Sanhedrim to receive the deposition of the parties aforesaid, who, after having calculated what time the moon might possibly appear, despatched some persons into high and mountainous places, to observe and give their evidence accordingly, concerning the first appearance of the moon.

'As soon as the new moon was either consecrated or appointed to be observed, notice was given by the Sanhedrim to the rest of the nation what day had been fixed for the New Moon, or first day of the month, because that was to be the rule and measure according to which they were obliged to keep their feasts and fasts in every month respectively.

'This notice was given to them in time of peace, by firing of beacons, set up for that purpose, which was looked upon as the readiest way of communication, but, in time of war, when all places were full of enemies, who made use of beacons to amuse our nation with, it was thought fit to discontinue it.']

[Footnote 79: page 263.—The women chatted at the fountain. The bath and the fountain are the favourite scenes of feminine conversation.]

[Footnote 80: page 264.—Playing chess. On the walls of the palace of Amenoph the Second, called Medeenet Abuh, at Egyptian Thebes, the King is represented playing chess with the Queen. This monarch reigned long before the Trojan war.]

[Footnote 81: page 272.—Impaled. A friend of mine witnessed this horrible punishment in Upper Egypt. The victim was a man who had secretly murdered nine persons. He held an official post, and invited travellers and pilgrims to his house, whom he regularly disposed of and plundered. I regret that I have mislaid his MS. account of the ceremony.]

[Footnote 82: page 299.—In the Germen Davidis of Gants, translated into Latin by Vorstius, Lug. 1654, is an extract from a Hebrew MS. containing an account of Alroy. I subjoin a translation of a passage respecting his death.

R. Maimonides deposes: That the Sultan asked him whether he were the Messiah, and that he answered him, "I am"; and that then the monarch inquired of him what sign he had. To this he replied that they might cut off his head and that he would return to life. Then the King commanded that his head should be cut off, and he died, having said previously to the monarch that the latter should not lack in his life the most grievous torments.

Seven years before the incident quoted above, the Israelites had serious troubles on account of a son of Belial who called himself the Messiah, so that the tetrarch and the princes were justly incensed against the Jews, to such an extent, indeed, that they sent to the latter to inquire whether they desired the reign of the Messiah. The name of this accursed troubler was David El-David, alias Alroy, who hailed from the city of Omadia, where were gathered about a thousand rich, honest, happy and decently-living families, whose tabernacle was the principal resort of those that dwelt in the neighbourhood of the river Sabbathion; and around them were gathered more than a hundred minor tabernacles.

This city was on the border of the region of Media, and the dialect used there was the Targum. Thence to the region of Golan is a journey of fifty days. It is under the rule of Persia, to which it pays a heavy tribute every fifteen years, and one golden talent in addition. Moreover, this man David El-David was educated under the Prince of the Chaldean captivity, in the care of the eminent Scholiarch, in the city of Bagdad, who was preeminently wise in the Talmud and in all foreign sciences, as well as in all books of divination, magic, and Chaldean lore; This David El-David, out of the boldness and arrogance of his heart, lifted his hand against the ruling powers, and collected those Jews who dwelt in the neighbourhood of Mount Chophtan, seducing them to follow him into battle against all the neighbouring peoples. He showed them signs-of what value they knew not: there were men, indeed, who supported him on account of his magic art and of certain things to be done; others said that his great power came from the hand of God. Those who flocked to him called him the Messiah, lauding and extolling him.

In another epoch of Persian history a certain Jew arose, calling himself the Messiah, and prospered greatly. A large part of the Israelitish population believed in him. But when the King indeed heard of all this pretender's power, and that he proposed to join battle with him, he sent to the Jews who lived thereabouts and notified them that unless they deserted this man, and came oui; from all association with him, they certainly should be slain, every one of them, with the sword, and afterward the children and the women should perish. Then the whole population of Israel assembled, and argued with this man, and threw themselves down before him on the ground, strongly supplicating him, with clamour and tears, to depart from them. Why, indeed, should he put them and others in danger? Had not the King already sworn that they should perish by the sword, and wherefore should he bring affliction upon all the Jewish inhabitants of Persia? Responding, he said: "I have come to serve you, and ye will not have me. Whom do ye fear? Who dares stand in front of me, and what doth this Persian King that he dare not oppose me and my sword?" The Jews asked him what sign he had that he was the Messiah. He answered: "My mission prospers: the Messiah needs no other sign." They answered that many had acted likewise, and that none had reached success. Then he drove them forth from his face with superb indignation.]

THE END

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