"The convulsions were commonly called 'the jerks.' A writer, (M'Neman,) quoted by Mr Power, (Essay on the Influence of the Imagination over the Nervous System,) gives this account of their course and progress:—
"'At first appearance these meetings, exhibited nothing to the spectator but a scene of confusion, that could scarcely be put into language. They were generally opened with a sermon, near the close of which there would be an unusual outcry, some bursting out into loud ejaculations of prayer, &c.
"'The rolling exercise consisted in being cast down in a violent manner, doubled with the head and feet together, or stretched in a prostrate, manner, turning swiftly over like a dog. Nothing in nature could better represent the jerks, than for one to goad another alternately on every side with a piece of red-hot iron. The exercise commonly began in the head, which would fly backwards and forwards, and from side to side, with a quick jolt, which the person would naturally labour to suppress, but in vain. He must necessarily go on as he was stimulated, whether with a violent dash on the ground, and bounce from place to place, like a foot-ball; or hopping round with head, limbs, and trunk, twitching and jolting in every direction, as if they must inevitably fly asunder,' &c."
The following sketch is from Dow's Journal. "In the year 1805 he preached at Knoxville, Tennessee, before the governor, when some hundred and fifty persons, among whom were a number of Quakers, had the jerks."
"I have seen all denominations of religions exercised by the jerks, gentleman and lady, black and white, young and old, without exception. I passed a meeting-house, where I observed the undergrowth had been cut away for camp meetings, and from fifty to a hundred saplings were left, breast high, on purpose for the people who were jerked to hold by. I observed where they had held on, they had kicked up the earth, as a horse stamping flies."
Every one has heard of the extraordinary scenes which took place in the Cevennes at the close of the seventeenth century.
It was towards the end of the year 1688 a report was first heard, of a gift of prophecy which had shown itself among the persecuted followers of the Reformation, who, in the south of France, had betaken themselves to the mountains. The first instance was said to have occurred in the family of a glass-dealer, of the name of Du Serre, well known as the most zealous Calvinist of the neighbourhood, which was a solitary spot in Dauphine, near Mount Peyra. In the enlarging circle of enthusiasts, Gabriel Astier and Isabella Vincent made themselves first conspicuous. Isabella, a girl of sixteen years of age, from Dauphine, who was in the service of a peasant, and tended sheep, began in her sleep to preach and prophesy, and the Reformers came from far and near to hear her. An advocate, of the name of Gerlan, describes the following scene which he had witnessed. At his request she had admitted him, and a good many others, after nightfall, to a meeting at a chateau in the neighbourhood. She there disposed herself upon a bed, shut her eyes, and went to sleep; in her sleep she chanted in a low tone the Commandments and a psalm; after a short respite she began to preach in a louder voice, not in her own dialect, but in good French, which hitherto she had not used. The theme was an exhortation to obey God rather than man. Sometimes she spoke so quickly as to be hardly intelligible. At certain of her pauses, she stopped to collect herself. She accompanied her words with gesticulations. Gerlan found her pulse quiet, her arm not rigid, but relaxed, as natural. After an interval, her countenance put on a mocking expression, and she began anew her exhortation, which was now mixed with ironical reflections upon the Church of Rome. She then suddenly stopped, continuing asleep. It was in vain they stirred her. When her arms were lifted and let go, they dropped unconsciously. As several now went away, whom her silence rendered impatient, she said in a low tone, but just as if she was awake, "Why do you go away? Why do not you wait till I am ready?" And then she delivered another ironical discourse against the Catholic Church, which she closed with a prayer.
When Boucha, the intendant of the district, heard of the performances of Isabella Vincent, he had her brought before him. She replied to his interrogatories, that people had often told her that she preached in her sleep, but that she did not herself believe a word of it. As the slightness of her person made her appear younger than she really was, the intendant merely sent her to an hospital at Grenoble, where, notwithstanding that she was visited by persons of the Reformed persuasion, there was an end of her preaching,—she became a Catholic!
Gabriel Astier, who had been a young labourer, likewise from Dauphine, went in the capacity of a preacher and prophet into the valley of Bressac, in the Vivarais. He had infected his family: his father, mother, elder brother, and sweetheart, followed his example, and took to prophesying. Gabriel, before he preached, used to fall into a kind of stupor in which he lay rigid. After delivering his sermon, he would dismiss his auditors with a kiss, and the words: "My brother, or my sister, I impart to you the Holy Ghost." Many believed that they had thus received the Holy Ghost from Astier, being taken with the same seizure. During the period of the discourse, first one, then another, would fall down; some described themselves afterwards as having felt first a weakness and trembling through the whole frame, and an impulse to yawn and stretch their arms, then they fell convulsed and foaming at the mouth. Others carried the contagion home with them, and first experienced its effects, days, weeks, months afterwards. They believed—nor is it wonderful they did so—that they had received the Holy Ghost.
Not less curious were the seizures of the Convulsionnaires at the grave of the Abbe Paris, in the year 1727. These Jansenist visionaries used to collect in the church-yard of St Medard, round the grave of the deposed and deceased Deacon, and before long the reputation of the place for working miracles getting about, they fell in troops into convulsions.
Their state had more analogy to that of the Jerkers already described. But it was different. They required, to gratify an internal impulse or feeling, that the most violent blows should be inflicted upon them at the pit of the stomach. Carre de Montgeron mentions, that being himself an enthusiast in the matter, he had inflicted the blows required with an iron instrument, weighing from twenty to thirty pounds, with a round head. And as a convulsionary lady complained that he struck too lightly to relieve the feeling of depression at her stomach, he gave her sixty blows with all his force. It would not do, and she begged to have the instrument used by a tall, strong man, who stood by in the crowd. The spasmodic tension of her muscles must have been enormous; for she received one hundred blows, delivered with such force that the wall shook behind her. She thanked the man for his benevolent aid, and contemptuously censured De Montgeron for his weakness, or want of faith and timidity. It was, indeed, time for issuing the mandate, which, as wit read it, ran:
"De par le roi—Defense a Dieu, De faire miracle en ce lieu."
Turn we now to another subject:—the possessed in the middle ages,—What was their physiological condition? What was really meant then by being possessed? I mean, what were the symptoms of the affection, and how are they properly to be explained? The inquiry will throw further light upon the true relations of other phenomena we have already looked at.
We have seen that Schwedenborg thought that he was in constant communication with the spiritual world; but felt convinced, and avowed, that though he saw his visitants without and around him, they reached him first inwardly, and communicated with his understanding; and thence consciously, and outwardly, with his senses. But it would be a misapplication of the term to say that he was possessed by these spirits.
We remember that Socrates had his demon; and it should be mentioned as a prominent feature in visions generally, that their subject soon identifies one particular imaginary being as his guide and informant, to whom he applies for what knowledge he wishes. In the most exalted states of trance-waking, the guide or demon is continually referred to with profound respect by the entranced person. Now, was Socrates, and are patients of the class I have alluded to, possessed? No! the meaning of the term is evidently not yet hit.
Then there are persons who permanently fancy themselves other beings than they are, and act as such.
In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, there prevailed in parts of Europe a seizure, which was called the wolf-sickness. Those affected with it held themselves to be wild beasts, and betook themselves to the forests. One of these, who was brought before De Lancre, at Bordeaux, in the beginning of the sixteenth century, was a young man of Besancon. He avowed himself to be huntsman of the forest lord, his invisible master. He believed, that through the power of his master, he had been transformed into a wolf; that he hunted in the forest as such, and that he was often accompanied by a bigger wolf, whom he suspected to be the master he served—with more details of the same kind. The persons thus affected were called Wehrwolves. They enjoyed in those days the alternative of being exorcised or executed.
Arnold relates in his history of church and of heresy, how there was a young man in Koenigsberg, well educated, the natural son of a priest, who had the impression, that he was met near a crucifix in the wayside by seven angels, who revealed to him that he was to represent God the Father on earth, to drive all evil out of the world, &c. The poor fellow, after pondering upon this impression a long time, issued a circular commencing thus,—
"We, John Albrecht, Adelgreif, Syrdos, Amata, Kanemata, Kilkis, Mataldis, Schmalkilimundis, Sabrundis, Elioris, Overarch High-priest, and Emperor, Prince of Peace of the whole world, Overarch King of the Holy Kingdom of Heaven, Judge of the living and of the dead, God and Father, in whose divinity Christ will come on the last day to judge the world, Lord of all Lords, King of all Kings," &c.
He was thereupon thrown into prison at Koenigsberg, regarded as a most frightful heretic, and every means were used by the clergy to reclaim him. To all their entreaties, however, he listened only with a smile of pity, "that they should think of reclaiming God the Father." He was then put to the torture; and as what he endured made no alteration in his convictions, he was condemned to have his tongue torn out with red-hot tongs, to be cut in four quarters, and then burned under the gallows. He wept bitterly, not at his own fate, but that they should pronounce such a sentence on the Deity. The executioner was touched with pity, and entreated him to make a final recantation. But he persisted that he was God the Father, whether they pulled his tongue out by the roots or not; and so he was executed!
The Wehrwolves, and this poor creature, in what state were they? they were merely insane. Then we must look further.
Gmelin, in the first volume of his Contributions to Anthropology, narrates, that in the year 1789, a German lady, under his observation, had daily paroxysms, in which she believed herself to be, and acted the part of a French emigrant. She had been in distress of mind through the absence of a person she was attached to, and he was somehow implicated in the scenes of the French revolution. After an attack of fever and delirium, the complaint regulated itself, and took the form of a daily fit of trance-waking. When the time for the fit approached, she stopped in her conversation, and ceased to answer when spoken to; she then remained a few minutes sitting perfectly still, her eyes fixed on the carpet before her. Then, in evident uneasiness, she began to move her head backwards and forwards, to sigh, and to pass her fingers across her eye-brows. This lasted a minute, then she raised her eyes, looked once or twice around with timidity and embarrassment, then began to talk in French; when she would describe all the particulars of her escape from France, and, assuming the manner of a French woman, talk purer and better accented French than she had been known to be capable of talking before, correct her friends when they spoke incorrectly, but delicately and with a comment on the German rudeness of laughing at the bad pronunciation of strangers; and if led herself to speak or read German, she used a French accent, and spoke it ill; and the like.
Now, suppose this lady, instead of thus acting, when the paroxysms supervened, had cast herself on the ground, had uttered bad language and blasphemy, and had worn a sarcastic and malignant expression of countenance,—in striking contrast with her ordinary character and behaviour, and alternating with it,—and you have the picture and the reality of a person "possessed."
A person, "possessed," is one affected with the form of trance-waking called double consciousness, with the addition of being deranged when in the paroxysm, and then, out of the suggestions of her own fancy, or catching at the interpretation put on her conduct by others, believing herself tenanted by the fiend.
We may quite allowably heighten the above picture by supposing that the person in her trance, in addition to being mad, might have displayed some of the perceptive powers occasionally developed in trance; and so have evinced, in addition to her demoniacal ferocity, an "uncanny" knowledge of things and persons. To be candid, Archy, time was, when I should myself have had my doubts in such a case.
We have by this time had intercourse enough with spirits and demons to prepare us for the final subject of witchcraft.
The superstition of witchcraft stretches back into remote antiquity, and has many roots. In Europe it is partly of Druidical origin. The Druidesses were part priestesses, part shrewd old ladies, who dealt in magic and medicine. They were called all-rune, all-knowing. There was some touch of classical superstition mingled in the stream which was flowing down to us;—so an edict of a council of Treves, in the year 1310, has this injunction: "Nulla mulierum se nocturnis horis equitare cum Diana propitiatur; haec enim doemoniaca est illusio." But the main source from which we derived this superstition, is the East, and traditions and facts incorporated in our religion. There were only wanted the ferment of thought of the fifteenth century, the vigour, energy, ignorance, enthusiasm, and faith of those days, and the papal denunciation of witchcraft by the famous Bull of Innocent the VIII. in 1459, to give fury to the delusion. And from this time for three centuries, the flames, at which more than 100,000 victims perished, cast a lurid light over Europe.
One ceases to wonder at this ugly stain in the page of history, when one considers all things fairly.
The Enemy of mankind, bodily, with horns, hoofs, and tail, was believed to lurk round every corner, bent upon your spiritual, if not bodily harm. The witch and the sorcerer were not possessed by him against their will, but went out of their way to solicit his alliance, and to offer to forward his views for their own advantage, or to gratify their malignity. The cruel punishments for a crime so monstrous were mild, compared with the practice of our own penal code fifty or sixty years ago against second-class offences. And for the startling bigotry of the judges, which appears the most discreditable part of the matter, why, how could they alone be free from the prejudices of their age? Yet they did strange things.
At Lindheim, Horst reports, on one occasion six women were implicated in a charge of having disinterred the body of a child to make a witch-broth. As they happened to be innocent of the deed, they underwent the most cruel tortures before they would confess it. At length they saw their cheapest bargain was to admit the crime, and be simply burned alive and have it over. So they did so. But the husband of one of them procured an official examination of the grave; when the child's body was found in its coffin safe and sound. What said the Inquisitor? "This is indeed a proper piece of devil's work; no, no, I am not to be taken in by such a gross and obvious imposture. Luckily the women have already confessed the crime, and burned they must and shall be in honour of the Holy Trinity, which has commanded the extirpation of sorcerers and witches." The six women were burned alive accordingly.
It was hard upon them, because they were innocent. But the regular witches, as times went, hardly deserved any better fate—considering, I mean, their honest and straight-forward intentions of doing that which they believed to be the most desperate wrong achievable. Many there were who sought to be initiated in the black art. They were re-baptized with the support of responsible witch sponsors, abjured Christ, and entered to the best of their belief into a compact with the devil; and forthwith commenced a course of bad works, poisoning and bewitching men and cattle, and the like, or trying to do so.
One feature transpired in these details, that is merely pathetic, not horrifying or disgusting.
The little children of course talked witchcraft, and you may fancy, Archy, what charming gossip it must have made. Then the poor little things were sadly wrought on by the tales they told. And they fell into trances and had visions shaped by their heated fancies.
A little maid, of twelve years of age, used to fall into fits of sleep, and afterwards she told her parents, and the judge, how an old woman and her daughter, riding on a broom-stick, had come and taken her out with them. The daughter sat foremost, the old woman behind, the little maid between them. They went away through the roof of the house, over the adjoining houses and the town gate, to a village some way off. There they went down a chimney of a cottage into a room, where sat a tall black man and twelve women. They eat and drank. The black man filled their glasses from a can, and gave each of the women a handful of gold. She herself had received none; but she had eaten and drank with them.
A list of persons burned in Salzburg for participation in witchcraft between the years 1627 and 1629 in an outbreak of this frenzy, which had its origin in an epidemic among the cattle, enumerates children of 14, 12, 11, 10, 9, years of age; which in some degree reconciles one to the fate of the fourteen canons, four gentlemen of the choir, two young men of rank, a fat old lady of rank, the wife of a burgomaster, a counsellor, the fattest burgess of Wartzburg, together with his wife, the handsomest woman in the city, and a midwife of the name of Schiekelte, with whom (according to an N.B. in the original report) the whole mischief originated. To amateurs of executions in those days the fatness of the victim was evidently a point of consideration, as is shown by the specifications of that quality in some of the victims in the above list. Were men devils then? By no means; there existed then as now upon earth, worth, honour, truth, benevolence, gentleness. But there were other ingredients, too, from which the times are not yet purged. A century ago people did not know—do they now?—that vindictive punishment is a crime; that the only allowable purpose of punishment is to prevent the recurrence of the offence; and that restraint, isolation, employment, instruction, are the extreme and only means towards that end which reason and humanity justify. Alas, for human nature! Some centuries hence, the first half of the nineteenth century will be charged with having manifested no admission of principle in advance of a period, the judicial crimes of which make the heart shudder. The old lady witches had, of course, much livelier ideas than the innocent children, on the subject of their intercourse with the devils.
At Mora, in Sweden, in 1669, of many who were put to the torture and executed, seventy-two women agreed in the following avowal, that they were in the habit of meeting at a place called Blocula. That on their calling out "Come forth!" the Devil used to appear to them in a gray coat, red breeches, gray stockings, with a red beard, and a peaked hat with party-coloured feathers on his head. He then enforced upon them, not without blows, that they must bring him, at nights, their own and other peoples' children, stolen for the purpose. They travel through the air to Blocula either on beasts or on spits, or broomsticks. When they have many children with them, they rig on an additional spar to lengthen the back of the goat or their broom-stick that the children may have room to sit. At Blocula they sign their name in blood and are baptized. The Devil is a humorous, pleasant gentleman; but his table is coarse enough, which makes the children often sick on their way home, the product being the so-called witch-butter found in the fields. When the Devil is larky, he solicits the witches to dance round him on their brooms, which he suddenly pulls from under them, and uses to beat them with till they are black and blue. He laughs at this joke till his sides shake again. Sometimes he is in a more gracious mood, and plays to them lovely airs upon the harp; and occasionally sons and daughters are born to the Devil, which take up their residence at Blocula.
I will add an outline of the history, furnished or corroborated by her voluntary confession, of a lady witch, nearly the last executed for this crime. She was, at the time of her death, seventy years of age, and had been many years sub-prioress of the convent of Unterzell, near Wartzburg.
Maria Renata took the veil at nineteen years of age, against her inclination, having previously been initiated in the mysteries of witchcraft, which she continued to practise for fifty years under the cloak of punctual attendance to discipline and pretended piety. She was long in the station of sub-prioress, and would, for her capacity, have been promoted to the rank of prioress, had she not betrayed a certain discontent with the ecclesiastic life, a certain contrariety to her superiors, something half expressed only of inward dissatisfaction. Renata had not ventured to let any one about the convent into her confidence, and she remained free from suspicion, notwithstanding that, from time to time, some of the nuns, either from the herbs she mixed with their food, or through sympathy, had strange seizures, of which some died. Renata became at length extravagant and unguarded in her witch propensities, partly from long security, partly from desire of stronger excitement; made noises in the dormitory, and uttered shrieks in the garden; went at nights into the cells of the nuns to pinch and torment them, to assist her in which she kept a considerable supply of cats. The removal of the keys of the cells counteracted this annoyance; but a still more efficient means was a determined blow on the part of a nun, struck at the aggressor with the penitential scourge one night, on the morning following which Renata was observed to have a black eye and cut face. This event awakened suspicion against Renata. Then, one of the nuns, who was much esteemed, declared, believing herself upon her death-bed, that, "as she shortly expected to stand before her Maker, Renata was uncanny, that she had often at nights been visibly tormented by her, and that she warned her to desist from this course." General alarm arose, and apprehension of Renata's arts; and one of the nuns, who previously had had fits, now became possessed, and in the paroxysms told the wildest tales against Renata. It is only wonderful how the sub-prioress contrived to keep her ground many years against these suspicions and incriminations. She adroitly put aside the insinuations of the nun as imaginary or of calumnious intention, and treated witchcraft and possession of the Devil as things which enlightened people no longer believed in. As, however, five more of the nuns, either taking the infection from the first, or influenced by the arts of Renata, became possessed of devils, and unanimously attacked Renata, the superiors could no longer avoid making a serious investigation of the charges. Renata was confined in a cell alone, whereupon the six devils screeched in chorus at being deprived of their friend. She had begged to be allowed to take her papers with her; but this being refused, and thinking herself detected, she at once avowed to her confessor and the superiors, that she was a witch, had learned witchcraft out of the convent, and had bewitched the six nuns. They determined to keep the matter secret, and to attempt the conversion of Renata. And as the nuns still continued possessed, they despatched her to a remote convent. Here, under a show of outward piety, she still went on with her attempts to realise witchcraft, and the nuns remained possessed. It was decided at length to give Renata over to the civil power. She was accordingly condemned to be burned alive; but in mitigation of punishment her head was first struck off. Four of the possessed nuns gradually recovered with clerical assistance; the other two remained deranged. Renata was executed on the 21st January 1749.
Renata stated, in her voluntary confession, that she had often at night been carried bodily to witch-Sabbaths; in one of which she was first presented to the Prince of Darkness, when she abjured God and the Virgin at the same time. Her name, with the alteration of Maria into Emma, was written in a black book, and she herself was stamped on the back as the Devil's property, in return for which she received the promise of seventy years of life, and all she might wish for. She stated that she had often, at night, gone into the cellar of the chateau and drank the best wine; in the shape of a swine had walked on the convent walls; on the bridge had milked the cows as they passed over; and several times had mingled with the actors in the theatre in London.
A question unavoidably presents itself—How came witchcraft to be in so great a degree the province of women? There existed sorcerers, no doubt, but they were comparatively few. Persons of either sex and of all ages indiscriminately interested themselves in the black art; but the professors and regular practitioners were almost exclusively women, and principally old women. The following seem to have been some of the causes. Women were confined to household toils; their minds had not adequate occupation: many young unmarried women, without duties, would lack objects of sufficient interest for their yearnings; many of the old ones, despised, ill treated probably, soured with the world, rendered spiteful and vindictive, took even more readily to a resource which roused and gave employment to their imaginations, and promised to gratify their wishes. It is evident, too, that the supposed sex of the Devil helped him here. The old women had an idea of making much of him, and of coaxing, and getting round the black gentleman. But beside all this, there lies in the physical temperament of the other sex a peculiar susceptibility of derangement of the nervous system, a predisposition to all the varieties of trance, with its prolific sources of mental illusion—all tending, it is to be observed, to advance the belief and enlarge the pretensions of witchcraft.
The form of trance which specially dominated in witchcraft was trance-sleep with visions. The graduates and candidates in the faculty sought to fall into trances, in the dreams of which they realised their waking aspirations. They entertained no doubt, however, that their visits to the Devil and their nocturnal exploits were genuine; and they seem to have wilfully shut their eyes to the possibility of their having never left their beds. For, with a skill that should have betrayed to them the truth, they were used to prepare a witch-broth to promote in some way their nightly expeditions. And this they composed not only of materials calculated to prick on the imagination, but of substantial narcotics, too—the medical effects of which they no doubt were acquainted with. They contemplated evidently producing a sort of stupor.
The professors of witchcraft had thus made the singular step of artificially producing a sort of trance, with the object of availing themselves of one of its attendant phenomena. The Thamans in Siberia do the like to this day to obtain the gift of prophecy. And it is more than probable that the Egyptian and Delphic priest habitually availed themselves of some analogous procedure. Modern mesmerism is in part an effort in the same direction.
Without at all comprehending the real character of the power called into play, mankind seems to have found out by a "mera palpatio," by instinctive experiment and lucky groping in the dark, that in the stupor of trance the mind occasionally stumbles upon odds and ends of strange knowledge and prescience. The phenomenon was never for an instant suspected of lying in the order of nature. It was construed, to suit the occasion and the times, either into divine inspiration or diabolic whisperings. But it was always supernatural. So the ignorant old lemon-seller in Zschokke's Selbstschau thought his "hidden wisdom" a mystical wonder; while the enlightened and accomplished narrator of their united stories, stands alone, in striking advance ever of his own day, when he unassumingly and diffidently puts forward his seer-gift as a simple contribution to psychical knowledge. And thus, my proposed task accomplished, my dear Archy, finally yours, &c.
THE HYMN OF KING OLAF THE SAINT.
ALTERED FROM THE ICELANDIC.
Swend, king of all, In Olaf's hall Now sits in state on high; Whilst up in heaven Amidst the shriven Sits Olaf's majesty. For not in cell Does our hero dwell, But in realms of light for ever: As a ransom'd saint To heal our plaint, Be glory to thee, gold-giver!
Of raptures there He has won his share, All cleansed from taint of sin; For on earth prepared, No toil he spared That holy place to win. That he hath won Near God's dear Son Fast by the holy river— Oh, such as thine May the end be mine; Be glory to thee, gold-giver!
His sacred form Unscathed by worm, And clear as the hour he died, Lies at this day Where good men pray At morn and at eventide. His nails and his hair Are fresh and fair, With his yellow locks still growing; His cheek as red, And his flesh not dead, Though the blood hath ceased from flowing.
If you watch by night, In the dim twilight You may hear a requiem singing; And the people hear Above his bier A small bell clearly ringing. And if ye wait Until midnight late, You may hear the great bell toll: But none can tell Who tolls that bell If it sounds for Olaf's soul. With tapers clear, Which Christ holds dear, O'er the corpse so still reclining, By day and night Is the altar light And the cross of the Saviour shining. For our King did so, And all men know That washed from sin and shriven, All free from taint, A ransom'd saint, He dwells with the saints in heaven.
And thousands come, The deaf and the dumb, To the tomb of our monarch here— The sick and the blind Of every kind They throng to the holy bier. With heads all bare They breathe their prayer As they kneel on the flinty ground: God hears their sighs, And the sick men rise All whole, and healed, and sound.
Then to Olaf pray, To spare thy day From wrath, and wrong, and harm; To save thy land From the spoiler's hand, And the fell invader's arm. God's man is he, To deal to thee What is ask'd in a lowly spirit— Let thy prayer not cease, And wealth, and peace, And a blessing thou shalt inherit.
For prayers are good, If before the rood Thy beads thou tellest praying; If thou tellest on, Forgetting none Of the saints who with God are staying.
W. E. A.
FOUR SONNETS BY ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING.
The shadow of her face upon the wall May take your memory to the perfect Greek; But when you front her, you would call the cheek Too full, sir, for your models, if withal That bloom it wears could leave you critical, And that smile reaching toward the rosy streak:— For one who smiles so, has no need to speak, To lead your thoughts along, as steed to stall! A smile that turns the sunny side o' the heart On all the world, as if herself did win By what she lavished on an open mart:— Let no man call the liberal sweetness, sin,— While friends may whisper, as they stand apart, "Methinks there's still some warmer place within."
Her azure eyes, dark lashes hold in fee: Her fair superfluous ringlets, without check, Drop after one another down her neck; As many to each cheek as you might see Green leaves to a wild rose! This sign, outwardly, And a like woman-covering seems to deck Her inner nature! For she will not fleck World's sunshine with a finger. Sympathy Must call her in Love's name! and then, I know, She rises up, and brightens, as she should, And lights her smile for comfort, and is slow In nothing of high-hearted fortitude. To smell this flower, come near it; such can grow In that sole garden where Christ's brow dropped blood.
MOUNTAINEER AND POET.
The simple goatherd who treads places high, Beholding there his shadow (it is wist) Dilated to a giant's on the mist, Esteems not his own stature larger by The apparent image; but more patiently Strikes his staff down beneath his clenching fist— While the snow-mountains lift their amethyst And sapphire crowns of splendour, far and nigh, Into the air around him. Learn from hence Meek morals, all ye poets that pursue Your way still onward up to eminence! Ye are not great, because creation drew Large revelations round your earliest sense, Nor bright, because God's glory shines for you.
The poet hath the child's sight in his breast, And sees all new. What oftenest he has viewed, He views with the first glory. Fair and good Pall never on him, at the fairest, best, But stand before him, holy, and undressed In week-day false conventions; such as would Drag other men down from the altitude Of primal types, too early dispossessed. Why, God would tire of all his heavens as soon As thou, O childlike, godlike poet! did'st Of daily and nightly sights of sun and moon! And therefore hath He set thee in the midst Where men may hear thy wonder's ceaseless tune, And praise His world for ever as thou bidst.
CONSTANTINOPLE AND THE DECLINING OF THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE.
(BEING A FEW PAGES FROM MY EASTERN DIARY).
——At half-past seven in the evening, we left Smyrna by the Scamandre, a French government steamer, and were soon gliding over a sea smooth as glass. The soft tints of the twilight spread gradually around us, and to a beautiful day there succeeded one of those marvellous nights, during which one cannot bring one's-self to the determination of retiring to rest.
The dawn of day surprised me on deck. In the morning we neared the land, which presented to our view a desert plain, covered with dwarf oak. This was the site of ancient Troy; we were coasting near those famous fields, ubi Troja fuit; that stream which was throwing itself before our eyes into the sea, was formerly called the "Simois;" those two hillocks which we saw upon the coast, were the tombs of Hector and Patroclus; that huge blue mountain which in the distance raised towards the sky its three peaks covered with snow, was Ida; and behind us, from the midst of the sparkling waves, rose the island of Tenedos. All conversation between the passengers from many nations had long since ceased, and I contemplated in silence that grim desert, which, at Eton, I had dreamed of as full of movement and sound, and that calm sea which I had so often figured to myself as covered with the ships of Agamemnon, of Ulysses, and of Achilles the
"Impiger, iracundus, inexorabilis, acer."
At mid-day we entered the Dardanelles, and several hours afterwards, we cast anchor between Sestos and Abydos, before a small white town, containing no remarkable objects. Sestos and Abydos, which it must be owned would not be by any means celebrated, were it not for the enterprises which cost Leander his life and Lord Byron an ague, are two hamlets, which, like the greater portion of Turkish villages, offer in no shape whatever what it is the fashion to term the Oriental type. They are composed of an assemblage of rose-coloured houses, whose large red roofs, seen through the verdure and flowers, call to one's mind the description of a Chinese village.
Upon its arrival, the Scamandre was immediately surrounded by a multitude of caicks filled with bearded Turks, veiled women, and various coloured bales. Upon deck rose a deafening Babel of voices,—the sailors swore, the women screamed, and the porters fought, until at length quiet was restored, and one hundred and eighty-six new Mussulman passengers came on board the steamer. Amid the caicks ranged along the sides of the vessel, was one much more richly freighted than the rest; the traveller to whom it belonged was a young Arab, who, standing on a pile of bales, domineered over his boatmen by several feet. His white garments set off to advantage his dark complexion; and a cloak of black wool, profusely embroidered with gold lace, drew upon him the eyes of all. I had seldom, if ever, beheld a head more beautiful or more expressive than that of the young man. His large black eyes were full of intelligence, and in his bearing was a natural nobility and pride. As long as the confusion, described above, continued, he directed his boatmen to keep at a distance, but when all were embarked, and the Scamandre was ready to start, he hailed the vessel, and having mounted the side-ladders, gave his hand to six veiled women in succession, whose long white dominos prevented the spectators from even guessing at their age or beauty. The young man, once on board, conducted his odalisques to a fore-cabin, placed a hideous negro at the door as sentinel, and returned immediately to the deck, where another negro presented him with a narguileh (Turkish water-pipe).
Nothing can less resemble our regular fortifications than the fort of Gallipoli, (before which we soon after passed,) and the other castles of the Dardanelles, which ought to render Constantinople the most impregnable place in the world (from the sea.) The forts are large buildings of a dazzling white colour, perforated with port-holes, similar to those belonging to a ship of war, and mounted with old guns, the greater portion of which are without carriages, and served, ordinarily, by a single artillery-man, assisted in time of war by three or four peasants. In the present century, however, these batteries have shown their prowess, and against our own countrymen too. During the month of February 1807, the British government, justly irritated at the increasing influence that the French ambassador, Count Sebastiani, was obtaining at the Ottoman court, despatched Admiral Sir John Duckworth, in command of a squadron, with orders to bombard, if necessary, the Seraglio itself. Unfortunately, Sir John Duckworth's plan of acting was exactly contrary to what would have been our gallant Nelson's in the same position. After having passed without difficulty before the then disarmed castles of the Dardanelles, after having burned the Ottoman fleet off Gallipoli, while the crews were peaceably celebrating on shore the feast of Courban-Beiram, Sir John presented himself off Constantinople, and threatened to bombard that city, should the Sultan refuse to accept the conditions he offered, at the same time he allowed his Imperial Highness two days to consider the terms; Nelson would have allowed as many hours only. The folly of Admiral Duckworth's conduct fully shown in the sequel, for, at the conclusion of the forty-eight hours, the approaches to Stamboul and Galata were bristling—thanks to the delay accorded, and to the exertions of the French ambassador—with twelve hundred pieces of cannon; while, at the same time, orders having been sent to the castles of the Dardanelles to mount their batteries, the British squadron was hemmed in on all sides, as if by enchantment. The besieged now became the aggressors, and there soon remained to Admiral Duckworth no other resource than to weigh anchor and get away as fast as possible, which he accordingly did. The batteries of the Dardanelles were now, however, prepared for him. A most destructive fire was opened upon the ill-fated fleet: two corvettes were sunk off Gallipoli; the Admiral's flag-ship, the Royal George, lost her mainmast; a huge marble ball, weighing eight hundred pounds, swept away a quantity of hands from the lower deck of the Standard, while many officers and seamen wore severely wounded. It must be here observed, that the batteries of the Dardanelles owed much of the murderous effect of their cannonading to the skill of eight French engineer officers, whom Count Sebastiani, profiting by the delay accorded by Admiral Duckworth to the Sultan, had despatched to the castles.
These historical reminiscences did not prevent my thoughts occasionally reverting to the six odalisques, who formed the suite of the young Arab on board. Ever since their arrival, I had been reflecting that in all probability never would so excellent an opportunity offer itself of penetrating the secrets of a Mussulman harem, and of assuring myself of the vaunted beauty of the mysterious women of Asia. As soon as we were again in motion, I began to watch the black Argus to whose guard the fair houris were intrusted. For more than an hour I lurked without success about the fore-hatchway, for, faithful to his trust, the slave was lying at the threshold of the door that closed upon his young mistresses; and I was on the point of losing all patience, when I beheld him suddenly rise and mount rapidly on deck. He had no sooner disappeared than I glided into his place, and, having applied my eye to a large chink in the door, cast a most indiscreet glance into the cabin. In front of me two women were seated upon their heels, one of them had thrown aside her veil; and I was gazing in admiration upon a pale but beautiful face, set off by two immense black and brilliant eyes, when suddenly I heard behind me the sound of hurried steps. It was the negro returning to his post, who, on perceiving me, began to cry out most lustily. Having no desire to commence a contest with him, I proceeded to mount the hatchway and gain the deck.
The exasperated slave, however, followed me, and hurrying to his master, proceeded to inform him of my escapade, pointing at the same time to me. Two old Turks leaped immediately to their feet with fury depicted on their features; and one of them placed his hand upon the hilt of his cangiar, and pronounced in a voice half-choked with passion the word "Ghiaour," (infidel): in answer to which, I politely told him, (as I was a good Turkish scholar,) to mind his own business, and that I was rather inclined to consider him the greater infidel of the two. He looked both surprised and vexed at this, but did not attempt to retort. As to the young Arab, he proved himself to be a man of sense; for, contenting himself with smiling at his infuriated attendant, he descended to the cabin of his odalisques, from whence he did not emerge during the remainder of our voyage. I did not again see him, and never knew who was the Mussulman, so handsome and at the same time so little fanatical.
The strait through which we had navigated all day, gradually widened as we advanced; the shores as they receded were covered with opal tints; the vessel began to roll, and we entered the sea of Marmora. At sunset the Mussulmans with whom the deck was crowded collected in groups, and devoutly said their evening prayer. Their countenances were wrapped in deep devotion, and they appeared to take no notice of the satirical smiles, which the strangeness of their attitudes called forth from several unreflecting travellers, who, by wanting in respect for the usages of the countries through which they were passing, lowered themselves immensely in the estimation of the inhabitants. The irritation excited by the ill-timed railleries of such foolish persons, is no doubt one of the chief causes of the hatred in which Christians are held in Turkey. Surely nothing could be less calculated to excite mockery, than the sight of the Mussulman travellers at their evening devotions; besides, be it had in mind, that upon this Christian vessel, scarcely a Christian perhaps was thinking of his God, while not a single Mahometan was to be seen unengaged in prayer, as the sun sunk below the horizon.
The following morning I was early upon deck. The sun had not yet risen, and the air was fresh and invigorating; while upon the white, heavy, oily sea, was a slight fog, which the breeze was dispersing in flakes. Around us a quantity of porpoises were either splashing in the midst of the waves or floating like buoys upon the surface. The most profound silence reigned upon the deck of the steamer. Wet with the night-dews, the half-slumbering seamen of the watch were seated in a circle near the funnel; while numberless Turks, rolled up in their yellow coverlets striped with red, were sleeping forward beneath the netting: the steersman at the wheel and the man on the look-out were alone really wide awake. Suddenly, I perceived dawning in the east a greenish light, which became yellow as it ascended in the heavens; the low and flat shore appeared like a black line upon this luminous background, and by degrees the sea resumed its azure tint. An hour afterwards we were within cannon-shot of the Seraglio; but, alas! a thick fog covered the city. Constantinople was invisible—and I was deploring the mischance, which was depriving me of a long-anticipated pleasure, when suddenly the sun shone forth brightly, and the fog acquired as if by enchantment a wonderful transparency. The curtain was, as it were, torn to bits, and from all quarters at once there appeared to my dazzled eyes forests of minarets with gilded peaks, thousands of cupolas blazing in the light, hills covered with many-coloured houses, surrounded by verdure; an immense succession of palaces with grotesque windows, blue-roofed mosques, groves of cypress-trees and sycamores, gardens full of flowers, a port filled as far as the eye could discern with ships, masts, and flags; in a word, the whole of that enchanted city, which resembles less an immense capital than an endless succession of lovely kiosks, built in a boundless park, having lakes for docks, mountains for background, forests for thickets, fleets for boats,—in fine, an incomparable spot, and at the same time so grand and elegant, that it seems to have been designed by fairies, and executed by giants.
Several writers have compared the view of Constantinople to that of Naples. I cannot, however, agree with them. Any one can figure the latter capital, whilst, on the contrary, the City of the Sultan surpasses all that imagination can picture. Our enchantment, however, was of short duration: the vapours again became condensed, the view was gradually covered with a rosy haze, then became dim, and Constantinople disappeared from before us like a dream. The Scamandre, which had stopped for a few minutes, was again put in motion, and having rounded the Seraglio, cast anchor in the midst of the strait which separates Stamboul (the Turkish quarter) from Galata, (the European faubourg.) In a moment the deck of our vessel was one scene of confusion: the sailors were running to and fro, while the passengers were rushing one against another, vociferating after their baggage. Around the vessel there kept gliding two or three hundred black caicks, rowed by half-naked boatmen; and notwithstanding the orders to the contrary, a quantity of Maltese sailors, Turkish porters, and Levantine ciceroni came on board, and literally took us by storm, bawling out their offers of service, in almost every known language. Clouds of blue pigeons, and whitewinged albatros, flew about over our heads, uttering plaintive cries; add to these the stentorian voice of our French commander, the curiosity and impatience of the travellers demonstrated by their noisy exclamations, and one will have an idea of the spectacle offered by the deck of a steamer on its arrival at a Turkish port.
During the hauling of the vessel to the quay, I scarcely knew upon what to fix my eyes, attracted as they simultaneously were by a thousand different objects. Here was the Golden Horn with its numberless ships, the cypress-trees of Galata, and the seven hills of ancient Byzantium covered with mosques; there, the blue waves of the Propontis, and the glittering banks of Scutari. Giddy with enthusiasm, and intoxicated with admiration, I attempted, as our caick approached the landing-place, to be the first to leap upon the quay, when, just as I was in the act of springing, my foot slipped, and I fell headlong into a miry stream. Such was my entrance into Constantinople.
As soon as I gained footing, splashed with mud from head to foot, I remained a moment motionless, and almost petrified with astonishment. All was changed around me: the enchanted panorama had disappeared, and I found myself in a small filthy crossway, at the entrance of a labyrinth of narrow, damp, dark, muddy streets. The houses which surrounded me, built as they were of disjointed planks, had a miserable aspect; time and rain had diluted their primitive red colour into numberless nameless tints. One of those minarets which from afar appeared so slender and so beautiful, now that it was close to me proved to be merely a small column devoid of symmetry, while its covering of cracked plaster seemed on the point of falling to pieces. The Turkish promenaders whom from a distance I had taken for richly attired merchants, proved to be a set of miserable tatterdemalions with ragged turbans. Behind the porters who crowded to the landing-place, were butchers embowelling sheep in the open street; while the pavement was covered with bloody mire and smoking entrails, around which several score of hideous dogs, of a fallow colour, were growling and fighting. A fetid stench arose from the damp gutters, where neither air nor light have ever penetrated, where corruptions of all sorts amass, and where one is continually in danger of stepping upon a dead dog or rat. Such is without exaggeration the aspect of the greater part of the streets of Constantinople, and in particular those of Galata. This contrast between the misery of what surrounds you, and the incomparable beauty of the same spot when seen from a distance, has never yet been sufficiently remarked upon by travellers who seek to describe Constantinople. Perhaps they have been unwilling to cool the enthusiasm of their readers in dirtying with these hideous, but true details, their gold and silver-plated descriptions.
Perfectly disenchanted by this sudden change of scene, I followed the bearer of my baggage up a street, which was steep, badly paved, and so narrow that three men could scarcely have walked along it abreast. On the right and left hand were disgusting little shops, or rather booths, filled with green fruit and vegetables. Having proceeded onwards, we rounded the tower of Galata, which, from a near view resembles a handsome dove-cote, and shortly afterwards arrived at Pera, and proceeded to take up our quarters at a kind of hotel, kept by one Giusepine Vitali, where I immediately went to bed and was soon afterwards fast asleep.
At ten o'clock, A.M., I was awakened by my fellow-travellers, and accompanied them to the caravanserai of the Turning Dervishes. A somewhat lengthened residence in the northern provinces of Persia, where a Turkish idiom is spoken, had given me a tolerable fluency in that language, and I was thus enabled to act as interpreter to my friends. The cicerone of the hotel conducted us to a circular building situated in the midst of a small garden, whither was hurrying a crowd composed of Greeks, Armenians, and Turks. Having arrived at the vestibule, we took off our boots and confided them to the care of a man who kept a sort of depot for slippers, of which he hired out to each of us a pair. We then entered a large circular hall, lighted from above, in the centre of which was an oaken floor, waxed and polished with the greatest care, and protected by a balustrade. Around this arena were seated a number of spectators of all ages, country, and costumes, and exhaling a strong odour of garlic. The ceremony was commenced: for to the music of a barbarous orchestra, composed of small timbals and squeaking fifes, accompanying some nasal voices, about twenty tall, bearded young men, clad in long white robes, were waltzing gravely round an old man in a blue pelisse. These men carried on their heads a thick beaver cap, similar in form to a flower-pot turned upside down. Their white robes, made of a heavy kind of woollen stuff, were so constantly bulged out with the air that they seemed made of wood. With their arms extended in the form of a cross, the left hand being somewhat more elevated than the right, and their looks fixed upon the ceiling with a stupid stare, these Dervishes continued to turn rapidly round upon their naked feet with such regularity and impassibility that they seemed like automatons put into motion by machinery.
Suddenly the music ceased, upon which the Dervishes threw themselves simultaneously upon their knees, inclining their heads at the same time to the ground. For several minutes they remained motionless in this position, while some attendants threw a large black cloak over each, upon which they again stood up and ranged themselves in a line. Upon this the old man in the blue pelisse, who had hitherto sat motionless upon his heels, began a plaintive nasal chant, to which his subordinates responded in a roaring chorus; this finished, the crowd began to disperse, and we returned to our hotel.
Besides the Turning Dervishes, there are also at Constantinople the Howling Dervishes, who, instead of waltzing until they fall from giddiness, continue to utter the most frightful shrieks, until they fall upon the ground exhausted and foaming at the mouth. Historians have accorded different origins to these singular and absurd exercises; for my part, I am inclined to consider them as remnants of the furious dances taught by the ancient people of Asia to the Corybantes.
The day after my arrival I embarked for Stamboul, the Turkish quarter, in one of those long caicks which are as it were the hackney coaches of Constantinople. The least oscillation is sufficient to upset these light barks, which are impelled with inconceivable rapidity by two or three fine light-looking Arnaouts, dressed in silken shirts. In two minutes, having traversed the Golden Horn, passing through an immense crowd of boats of every form, and ships of every nation, we disembarked upon a landing-place even more dangerous than the caick, on account of its slipperiness and the chances thereby of falling headlong into a receptacle of filth and mud. The streets of Stamboul are still more narrow, filthy, and fetid than those of Galata and Pera. Wooden hovels, badly constructed, and worse painted; a species of cages pierced with an infinite number of trellised windows, with one story projecting over the ground floor, flank on the right and on the left hand these passages, through which hurry a motley crowd with noiseless tread. The pavement, made of little stones placed in the dust, slip from under one's feet and expose one to continual falls. Upon the boards of the first shops one passes are piled heaps of large fish, whose scales glitter in the sun, in spite of the dust. Fawn-coloured dogs, in much greater numbers than at Galata, run between your legs—and wo to whosoever should disengage himself too energetically from these hideous brutes, which are protected by Mussulman bigotry! The habits of these animals, whose number amounts to above a hundred thousand, are exceedingly singular. They belong to no one, and have no habitation; they are born, they live and they die, in the open street; at every turn one may see a litter of puppies suckled by their mother. Upon what these quadrupeds feed it would be difficult to state. The Turkish government abandons to them the clearing of the streets, and the offal and every sort of filth, together with the dead bodies of their fellows, compose their apparently ordinary nourishment. At night they wander about in the burying grounds, howling in the most frightful manner. Whatever may be their means of existence, they multiply their species with the most surprising rapidity. Some years ago, the canine race had increased to such a degree at Constantinople that it became dangerous, when, to the pious horror of the Old Mussulmans, the Sultan Mahmood, among other reforms, caused twenty thousand of these animals to be, not poisoned, he would not have dared to so greatly offend against the prejudices of the inhabitants, but transported to the isles of Marmora. In a few days they had devoured every thing in the place of exile, after which, tormented by hunger, they made such a hideous row, and uttered such plaintive howls, that pity was taken upon them, and they were brought back in triumph to Constantinople. Fortunately hydrophobia is unknown in the Levant.
The bazars of Constantinople have been so often described that it would be useless to describe them at any length. I will merely observe, therefore, that though infinitely more considerable, they do not respond, any more than those of Smyrna, to the ideas of luxury and grandeur which untravelled Europeans are apt to conceive of them. The Turkish bazars have a miserable aspect; they are nothing more than an immense labyrinth of large vaulted galleries, clumsily built, and at all times damp in the extreme. Magnificent carpets, stuffs embroidered in gold and silver, and other objects, the richness of which contrasts most singularly with the nakedness of the walls, are hung out for display on cords stretched transversely. The counter is a flat board of wood, very slightly elevated above the ground, and which serves as a divan to the seller and a seat to the buyer. From this place, which is usually covered with a mat, the Mussulman gazes in silence upon the passing foreigner, whom he rarely deigns to address by the name of Effendi; while, on the contrary, the active and loquacious Armenian even leaves his shop to run after him with some tempting object in his hand, at the same time indiscriminately giving him the title of "Signore Capitan." In the bazars are an astonishing number of articles which are often very cheap, such as tissues of silk, dressing gowns, gold embroidery, and Persian carpets, perfumery, precious stones, pieces of amber, furs, sweetmeats, pipes, morocco leather, velvet slippers, silken scarfs and Cachemire shawls cover a space extending over several leagues. In the "Besestein," a large building separated from the other bazars, one meets with in quantities those old arms, so sought after by antiquaries, carbines ornamented with coral, magnificent yataghans worn by the Janissaries before their destruction, and the famous blades of Khorasan.
The commerce of Constantinople is closely allied with that of Smyrna; and many branches of trade, such as silk and opium, being required to pay duties at the customhouse of the capital, the merchants buy them at Constantinople merely in order to pass them over to Smyrna, where they find a more advantageous market for them. In consequence, these goods are twice borne upon the registers of the Turkish customhouses, which, be it observed, are exceedingly badly kept. Wool forms the principal branch of trade at the Porte, which is abundantly furnished with that article from her nearest provinces, Roumelia, Thessaly, and Bulgaria, which, containing about five million inhabitants, feed about eight million sheep, the value of which may be estimated at about two hundred million piastres, (the Turkish piastre, is worth about 2-1/4d.) It would have been impossible for such an important object to have failed exciting the cupidity of a government constituted like that of the Ottoman empire; in consequence, in 1829, they attempted to make a monopoly of the wool-trade. Fortunately, the clamorous despair of the owners of the flocks, and some good advice, caused the Divan to recall the measure, which would in all probability not only have given a fatal blow to the wool-trade, but have entirely put an end to the feeding of flocks throughout Turkey. Instead, therefore, of monopolising this branch of commerce, the government saddled it with such an exorbitant duty, that the provinces definitively gained little by the change. The price of wool was more than quadrupled, and in 1833 there was sold for above 170 piastres the hundredweight what in 1816 cost but forty piastres. The abolition of the monopolies and the modification of the duties have given, since the last six or seven years, some facilities to this trade, without, however, entirely restoring it to its former state of prosperity. Partly destroyed by the severe blow it had received, and shackled by the avarice of the Pashas, it languishes, as indeed does every other branch of trade and industry in the empire.
Of Turkey, which men have rendered a country of misery and of famine, the Almighty seems to have intended to have made a land of promise. For agriculture, He has created immense plains, unequalled in fertility throughout the globe, and in the bowels of the mountains He has hidden incalculable treasures; and in return for all these gifts, these glorious gifts, what have the inhabitants done? they have left the land uncultivated, and the mountains unsearched. Mines of all sorts abound. Copper, (which is sold in secret only, and is a contraband article,) were its mines worked on a grand scale, would alone furnish a new element of commerce to Constantinople, and might help to draw it from its present state of torpor. But will the Turks ever dream of such a thing? Never! For like the dog in the fable, the Ottomans will neither profit themselves nor let others profit by what is in the territory. Too indolent to work out the natural riches of their soil, they are too jealous to permit others to do it for them. Besides, Europeans, by an ancient law which we have recently seen confirmed, having no right to possess land in Turkey, cannot undertake any agricultural or commercial speculation of any importance. In addition to this, the Turkish government itself is ignorant of most of the natural riches of its territory; for the inhabitants, well knowing the character of the men who have the management of affairs, take every possible precaution to conceal the existence of the mines, for fear they should be forced to work them without remuneration.
The provinces of the Danube have now yielded to Thrace and to Macedon the furnishing of the capital with corn. This important trade has been ruined, like every thing else, by the barbarous measures of a stupid ministry. In reserving to itself the supplying of the capital, the government does not allow the exportation of corn without special permission. Without doubt, the liberty of this trade would have given a new impulse to agriculture, and would have restored prosperity to several provinces; but that would not have been for the interest of those personages who had the power of giving permits, and who consequently made a traffic of the firmans. In 1828, a circumstance occurred which ought to have enlightened the government on this point. The Russians had intercepted all communication with the capital, and in consequence a want of provisions occurred; for the ill-furnished public magazines afforded such damaged wheat only, that it could with great difficulty be baked into bad and unhealthy bread. To remedy this evil, an employe ventured to suggest that any one who could procure corn should be permitted to supply the capital. The situation of affairs was critical, for the people were beginning to murmur; and the suggestion was carried into effect. No sooner was the permission accorded, than a multitude of farmers and merchants hastened to pour grain into the market, and plenty soon reappeared. This was an excellent lesson to the government, but how did it profit thereby? First of all it reinstated the monopoly, and four years afterwards, in 1832, happening to require a million measures for its magazines, in order to make more sure of speedily procuring that quantity, it forbade the exportation of corn, inasmuch that to collect the required million of measures, it destroyed, in all probability, a hundred millions, and ruined about ten thousand cultivators. This barbarous system partly ended in 1838, but it will be long before its withering effects are effaced.
It is in the long corridors of the bazars that the commercial business of the country is carried on. An immense multitude, more curious to view than even the exposition of the different wares, congregates thither daily. Constantinople, notwithstanding its state of decline, is always the point of intersection between the eastern and western world. At this general rendezvous, whither Europe and Asia send their representatives, one may study the human species in almost every possible variety of type. English, Americans, Russians, Greeks, Italians, Germans, Persians, Circassians, Arabs, Koords, Austrians, Hungarians, Abyssinians, Tartars, French, &c. &c., hurry to and fro around the Turk, who smokes and dreams, calm and immovable amidst the active throng, which presents an inconceivable medley of silk pelisses, white bornous and black robes, surmounted by green turbans, red fezs, and beaver hats. Numbers of women, covered with white dominos, advance slowly and spectre-like through the crowd, which every now and then opens its ranks to give passage to some mounted Pasha, followed by his attendants on foot. Here and there may be seen asses loaded with bales, and at the further end of the galleries are caravans of camels. One's ears are deafened with the piercing cries of the sherbet-sellers, and the howling of the dogs; while quantities of pigeons coo over the heads of the motley crowd. Although, on taking a general view of this spectacle, there is little to admire, still one may select from it an infinite number of original scenes and pictures full of character. Here, for instance, an ambulating musician sings, or rather chants to an attentive audience one of those interminable ballads of which the Turks never tire; there, are half a dozen Greeks quarrelling and vociferating so energetically, that one would expect nothing less than that from words they would come to bloodshed; while, further on, a circle of friends are regaling themselves over a basket of green cucumbers. Talking of cucumbers, they almost entirely compose, in summer, the nourishment of the Turks. The Sultan Mahmood II. was excessively fond of this fruit, or rather vegetable, and cultivated it with his own hands in the Seraglio gardens. Having one day perceived that some of his cucumbers were missing, he sent for his head gardener, and informed him that, should such a circumstance occur again, he would order his head to be cut off. The next day three more cucumbers had been stolen, upon which the gardener, to save his own head, accused the pages of his highness of having committed the theft. These unhappy youths were immediately sent for, and having all declared themselves innocent, the enraged Sultan, in order to discover the culprit, commanded them one after another to be disembowelled. Nothing was found in the stomach or entrails of the first six victims, but the autopsy of the seventh proved him to have been the guilty one.
In the midst of the crowds in the Turkish capital, the women present a curious spectacle, wandering about as they do covered with white dominos, or rather winding-sheets. The lot of this portion of the Mussulman population is much less unhappy than one would be led to expect. They certainly hold a secondary station in society, but, brought-up as they are in the most complete ignorance, they are unconscious of their degraded position, and know not that there is a better. They are, in general, treated very kindly by their husbands and masters, and do not undergo, as it is supposed, either capricious or brutal treatment. Although in Europe they still believe a Turk to be constantly surrounded by a multitude of odalisques, to whom, as it suits his fancy, he throws in turn his handkerchief, at Constantinople there are very few Osmanlees who have three or even two wives, and even these they lodge in separate mansions, in general far distant from each other. Almost all the Turks, with the exception of the very few above mentioned individuals, possess in general but one wife, to whom they are most faithful. The grand seignior alone is a Sultan in the full and voluptuous acceptation of the term. He is possessor of a magnificent palace, where no noise from without ever penetrates, and where immense riches have collected together all the wonders of luxury. Marble baths, lovely gardens bounded by a sparkling sea, and vaulted by an indigo sky, legions of slaves, who have no will but his, no law but his caprices; and in this Eden three or four hundred women chosen from out of the most beautiful in the universe; this is the world, this is the life of that man: and yet, although he be so young, all who know him say that the present Sultan is morose, sad, and splenetic.
On mounting, at sixteen, upon the throne of Turkey, Abdul Medjid announced it to be his intention to change nothing that his father Mahmood had established, and declared himself a partisan of the system of reform commenced by that sovereign. Notwithstanding the custom, rendered almost sacred by tradition, he renounced the turban and was crowned with the fez. Contrary to the usage of former Sultans, who on their accession put to death or closely imprisoned all their brothers, he allowed his brother Abdul Haziz not only his life, but full liberty.
The Hatti-sherif of Gulhanch, published on the 19th of November 1839, and which has been viewed in so many and different lights, proved at least the good intentions of this sovereign, called so young to support so weighty a burden. At various times he has manifested a desire for instruction, and has taken lessons in geography and in Italian; he has also travelled over a part of his empire.
It is usual at Constantinople for the Sultan to proceed every Friday (the Mussulman Sabbath) to pray in one of the mosques. The one chosen is named in the morning, and he proceeds thither on horseback or in his caick, according to the quarter in which it is situated. This weekly ceremony is almost the sole occasion on which foreigners can see his highness. During my stay at Constantinople, I had several opportunities of gazing upon the descendant of the Prophet. He is a young man, of slender frame, of grave physiognomy, and a most distingue appearance. A crowd of officers and eunuchs formed his suite, and all heads bowed low at his approach. Abdul Medjid, who was the twentieth-born child of his father Mahmood, was born at Constantinople on the 19th of April 1823. His black and stiff beard cause him to appear older than he is in reality. His eye is very brilliant, and his features regular. His face is somewhat marked with the smallpox; but this is not very apparent, as the young sultan, according to the custom of the harem, has an artificial complexion for days of ceremony. Naturally of a delicate frame, excesses have much enfeebled his constitution; his continual ill-health, his pallor, and his teeth already decayed, announce, that though so young in years, he is expiating the pleasures of a Sultan by a premature decrepitude. Abdul Medjid has several children, who are weak and sickly like their father, and the state of their health inspires constant anxiety.
Few sovereigns have been more diversely judged than Mahmood, the father of the present Sultan. Lauded to the skies by some, lowered to the dust by others, he died before Europe was properly enlightened as to his intentions. Now that his work has undergone the ordeal of time, one can appreciate it at its real value. Ascending the throne at an epoch of anarchy and disorder, having at one and the same time to oppose the invasion of Russia, and to put down the rebellion of the Pashas, who were raising their pashalicks into sovereignties, Mahmood gave proofs, during several years, of a force of character almost inconceivable in a man enervated from his childhood by the pleasures of the harem. Unfortunately his intellect was unequal to his obstinacy: every abuse he put down gave rise to or made way for new abuses, which he could not foresee, and was unable to destroy. The established order of affairs, which he fought against, was a hydra, from which, for one head cut off, twenty sprang up. Far from augmenting his power, his greatest enterprises merely tended to enfeeble it. The repression of Ali the Pasha of Janina, cost Mahmood the kingdom of Greece; and had not the powers of Europe intervened, the war against Mehemet Ali would have cost him his throne. Even the destruction of the Janissaries, which was considered so great a cause of triumph by the Sultan, was it in reality so? It is surely permitted to doubt the circumstance. That powerful militia, scattered through the empire, was in some sort the focus of that spirit of fatalism, which had till then been the principal prop of the imperfect work of the Arabian impostor; to destroy it was to strike a death-blow to that society which breathed as it were in war alone. In overthrowing an obstacle which paralysed his power, Mahmood dug an abyss into which the Turkish empire must sooner or later fall; for the spirit of religious enthusiasm which he destroyed has been replaced by no other incentive.
The chief fault of Mahmood was the cutting down without thinking of sowing; for without properly understanding the extent of what he was doing, he too hastily cast from its old course, without placing it in a better, a dull stupid nation, to transform which required both time and patience. Above all, Mahmood was guided solely by the impulses of an indomitable pride, and seems to have much less considered the interests of his empire, than the satisfying of his own vanity. He hastened to change the aspect and surface of things, deluding himself into the idea that he had metamorphosed an Asiatic people into a European state. Hurried away by the desire of innovation, and at the same time cramped by the effects of a religion which resists all progress, striving in vain to make the precepts of the Koran compatible with civilisation, Mahmood moved during the whole of his reign within a fatal circle, and, dying of an ignoble malady, he left his empire tottering to its fall.
LETTER TO EUSEBIUS.
You desire, then, my dear Eusebius, to hear more of the Curate's difficulty. We left him, you remember, with Gratian, who took him by the arm, and walked off to see what his authority would do to quell the parochial disturbance. You have seen the general opinion upon the countenance Gratian would give to delinquents; you will not, therefore, augur very favourably of this expedition. Loving a little mischief, as you do, you will, perhaps, be not quite agreeably disappointed. Had Gratian trusted alone to his character, he would have failed; which shows that sometimes it is dangerous to have too good a one.
Not a parishioner but would have looked upon the patronage of Gratian to the Curate as resulting from the weakness—those who meant to turn it to compliment would say, the excessive kindness, of his nature. A little malice interposing, they were by no means disposed, if they loved Gratian, "to love his dog,"—in the light of which comparison they now looked upon the Curate. Gratian's sly wit, however, availed more than his authority. It seems they had not proceeded very far when they met Prateapace. The Curate having some business in another direction, left Gratian with the maiden-lady. You can imagine his first advances, complimenting her upon her fresh morning looks. Then taking her by the arm, as if for familiar support, transferring his stick to the other hand, and looking his cajolery inimitably, and with a low voice saying, "My dear Miss Lydia, what is all this story I hear that you charge the Curate with?" "Oh, no, not I!" interrupted the maiden; "it is you have done that. I only know that I heard you reprove him for his behaviour to some one or other, whom you seriously declared either must be or ought to be his wife." "My dear young lady," said Gratian, "that is now quite a mistake of yours:" he then, as he reports, told her what they had been reading, and that his remarks were upon the book, and the author of it, and had nothing to do with the Curate. To all which she nodded her head incredulously, and laughingly said, "Oh, you good, good-natured man; and pray who may that improper author be?" "Why," quoth Gratian, "Miss Lydia Prateapace wouldn't, I know, have me recommend her any improper author." "Oh, no, no!—I don't ask with any intention to read him, I assure you," she replied. Gratian went on, "Believe me, he is a very old author, a Roman." "A Roman indeed!" she quite vociferated—"one of those horrid Papists, I suppose! A Roman is he? Then the Curate—why should he read Papistical books, and learn such tricks from them?" It was in vain for Gratian to endeavour to explain. Miss Prateapace had but one notion of the Romans—that there never was one that had not kissed the Pope's toe. So here he very wisely took another tack, and drawing her a little aside, as if he would not have even the very hedges hear him, and with no little affected caution, looking about him, he said, in a half whisper—"Now let me, my dear young lady, tell you a bit of a secret. All this is an idle tale, and is just as I have told you; but this I tell you, that to my certain knowledge, the Curate's affections"—laying stress on the word affections—"are seriously engaged;" at which Miss Lydia stared, and looked the personification of curiosity. "Engaged is he, did you say?" "No, he is not engaged," said Gratian, "but I happen to know that his affections are—" "Then," quoth she, "I suppose he has declared as much to the object." "Ah—no!—there is the very point—you are quite mistaken—she has not the slightest suspicion of it." This was scarcely credible to the lady's notion of love-making, but the earnest manner of Gratian was every thing. "No," said he; "he is a most exemplary conscientious young man, and so far avoids the making any show of his feelings, that he affects, I really believe, more indifference towards that lady than to any other. He tells me that he thinks it would not be honourable in his present circumstances and position to engage her affections; but he looks forward, as his prospects are fair." Miss Lydia was interested—pondered awhile, and then said, "You dear good man, do tell me who the lady is!" "No," replied Gratian, "I dare not betray a secret; but be assured, my dear Miss Lydia Prateapace, that if our Curate marries, he will make his choice not very far from this." "You don't say so!" cried she: "Really now, who can it be?" "I can only say one thing more," replied our fox Gratian, "and perhaps that is saying too much; but—" whispering in her ear—"of all the letters in the alphabet, her name begins with Lydia." Whereupon he made a start, put his finger upon his lips, as if he had in his hurry told the secret; and she started back a pace in another direction, looked in his face to see if he was in jest; finding there nothing but apparent simplicity, she looked a little confused, and evidently took the compliment and the hopes into her own bosom. When she could sufficiently collect her thoughts, she expressed her sorrow for any mischief she might have done, unintentionally; and added, that she would do all in her power to set all things right again. At this point the Curate returned: he addressed her somewhat distantly, which to her was a sign stronger than familiarity, upon the power of which she gave him her hand of encouragement. Gratian took care to leave well alone—let go her arm, and leaning upon the Curate's wished her good morning, with a gracious smile about his insidious mouth, to which he put his finger significantly as if entreating her silence upon the subject of their conversation. I have told you the particulars of this interview, Eusebius, as I could gather them from Gratian's narration; and he has a way of acting what he says, as if he had studied in that school where the first requisite for an orator is—action; the second—action; the third—action!
Our friend Gratian, Eusebius, made no matter of conscience of this fibbing—did not hesitate—wanted no "ductor dubitantium"—as he told it to us. He gave, it is true, his limb a smarter tapping; but it was no twinge of conscience that caused the movement of the stick, and there is nothing of the Franciscan about our friend. Did he say a word that was not perfect truth?
But what was the intention?—did he mean to deceive? But this is not a question to discuss with you. You will do more than acquit him. So I am answered, and silent. Gratian's answer was this. In his fabulous mood, he asked—"If you should see a lion, an open-mouthed lion of the veritable [Greek: chasm' odonton] breed, traversing a wood, and he should accost you thus, 'Pray, sir, did you chance to see a man I am looking after go this way?' would you point out his lurking place, his path of escape? or would you not, if you knew he went to the right, direct the lion by all means to continue his pursuit on the left? Then, sir, which will your worshipful morality prefer, to be the accessary to the murder, or the principal in the deceit?"
I must not omit to tell you that a few days ago Gratian and the Curate spent a pleasant day with the Bishop, who was not a little amused at their narration of the circumstances that produced the singular parochial epistle, which his lordship had duly received. The Bishop's hospitality is well seasoned with conversational ease, and perfect agreeability, and has besides that
"Seu quid suavius elegantiusve est"
which our Catullus promises to his friend Fabullus. The Bishop, a ripe scholar, spoke much and critically of Catullus, and laid most stress upon the extreme suavity of his measures, especially in the "Acmen Septimius." There were present two archdeacons and a very agreeable classical physician. All had at one time or other, they acknowledged, translated "Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus." The physician said he had only satisfied himself with three lines, and yet he thought their only merit was the being line for line. He repeated both the original and his translation:—
"Soles occidere et redire possunt: Nobis, quum semel occidit brevis lux, Nox est perpetua una dormienda.
"Suns die, but soon their light restore, While we, when our brief day is o'er, Sleep one long night to wake no more."
The Curate, with the jealousy of a rival translator, objected to "suns die," and thought "suns set" would be quite as well and a closer translation. The Physician assented. The Bishop smiled, and said, "suns die" was probably a professional lapsus. The Physician replied, that such would be a very unprofessional lapsus; and Gratian quoted the passage from Fielding, who says it is an unjust misrepresentation that "physicians are the friends of death," and instanced the two physicians who, in the case of the death of Captain Blifil, "dismissed the corpse with a single fee, but were not so disgusted with the living patient." At parting, the Bishop took the Curate most kindly by the hand, and recommended him by all means to cultivate the amiability of versification.
After this, Gratian and the Curate had much business in hand, and we did not meet for some time. Gratian stirred a little in this affair of the Curate's, and with effect. We did meet, however, and recommenced the
You now see us again in the library—time, after tea. Gratian enjoys his easy-chair; a small fire—for it is not cold—just musically whispers among the coals, comfort. Gratian says he has had a busy day of it, and, though not wearied, is in that happy state of repose to enjoy rest, and of excitement to enjoy social converse; and after a little, preliminary chat, asked if there was any thing lately from Catullus.
AQUILIUS.—Yes. He is returned from his unprofitable travel, and you seem to be in that state of sensitive quiescence, to feel with him the pleasures of home. He is now at his own villa, and thus welcomes, and acknowledges the welcome offered him by his beloved Sirmio.
AD SIRMIONEM PENINSULAM.
My Sirmio, thou the very gem and eye Of islands and peninsulas, that lie In that two-fold dominion Neptune takes Of the salt sea and sweet translucent lakes! Oh! with what joy I visit thee again, Scarce yet believing, how, left far behind, The tedious Thynian and Bithynian plain, I see thee, Sirmio, with this peaceful mind. Oh, what a blessed thing is the sweet quiet, When the tired heart lays down its load of care, And after foreign toil and sickening riot, Weary and worn, to feel at last we are At our own home—and our own floor to tread, And lie in peace on the long-wish'd-for bed! This, this alone, repays all labours past. Hail to thee, lovely Sirmio! gladly take Thine own, own master home to thee at last: And all ye sportive waters of my lake, Laugh out your welcome to my cheerful voice, And all that laughs at home, with me rejoice.
GRATIAN.—I well remember this singularly sweet, kind, affectionate address. It is the best version of "Home is home, be it ever so homely," I know. You have needlessly repeated own. Why not say, loved master?
CURATE.—Don't you think the acquiescimus lecto would be better rendered "sink to rest?" I fancy the Latin expresses the sinking down of the wearied limbs, or rather, whole person, into the soft and deep feather bed.
AQUILIUS.—I Set it down so, but altered it, thinking the "lie in peace" was in reality more quiescent than any thing expressing an act—as sinking is a process in transitu—the result, lying in peace. It has often been translated, among others, by Leigh Hunt, and that prince of translators, Elton—though I think I was not satisfied with his translation of the Sirmio—of the others I do not remember a word.
CURATE.—Leigh Hunt overdid his work—there is more labour than ease in the line
"The loosened limbs o'er all the wished-for bed."
Not simple enough for Catullus; neither is this—a rather affected line—
"Laughs every dimple in the cheek of home."
GRATIAN.—No, that won't do—it is a conceit. One would imagine it borrowed or translated from some Italian poet.
AQUILIUS.—The "loosened limbs o'er all the wished-for bed," strikes me as rather of the ludicrous, and not unlike the description of himself by Berni in his fanciful palace, where he ordered a bed, adjoining that of the French cook's, which was to be large enough to swim in—"Come si fa nel mare."
GRATIAN.—Now then, Mr Curate, let us have your version.
TO THE PENINSULA OF SIRMIO.
All hail to thee, delightful Sirmio! Of all peninsulas and isles the gem, Which lake or sea in its fair breast doth show With either Neptune's arms encircling them. What joy to find that Thynia, and that plain Bithynian gone, and see thee safe again! Charming it is to rest from care and cumber, When the mind throws its burden, and we come Wearied with pains of foreign travel home, And in the bed so longed for sink to slumber. This pays for all the toil, this quiet after— Joy, my sweet Sirmio, for thy master's sake, Make merry, frolic wavelets of my lake— Laugh on me, all ye stores of home-bred laughter.