Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 459 - Volume 18, New Series, October 16, 1852
Author: Various
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I found that they had gently turned me on my belly, with my head flat upon the rock, and that they had been sprinkling my face and breast with water. A profuse perspiration broke out, and I felt myself relieved. I rested ten or fifteen minutes, and hesitated for a moment whether to go up or down; but I had determined that I should reach the top, if I should perish in the attempt. I resumed, therefore, the ascent, but with more time and caution than before; and fearing to look either up or down, or to any portion of the frightful aspect around, I fixed my eye entirely on each individual step before me, as if there had been no other object in the world besides. To encourage me by diverting my attention, the Arabs chanted their monotonous songs, mainly in their own language, interspersed with expressions about buckshish, "Englese good to Arabs," and making signs to me every now and then how near we were getting to the top. After a second dwam, a rest and a draught of water prepared me for another effort at ascending; and now, as I advanced, my ideas began to expand to something commensurate with the grandeur and novelty of the scene. When I reached the top, I found myself on a broad area of about ten yards in every way of massive stone-blocks broken and displaced. Exhausted and overheated, I laid me down, panting like a greyhound after a severe chase. I bathed my temples, and drank a deep, cool draught of Nile water. After inhaling for a few minutes the fresh, elastic breeze blowing up the river, I felt that I was myself again. I rose, and gazed with avidity in fixed silence, north and south, east and west. And now I felt it very exhilarating to the spirit, when thus standing on a small, unprotected pavement so many hundred feet above the earth, and so many thousand miles from home, to be alone, surrounded only by three wild and ferocious-like savages. The Arabs knew as well as I did that my life and property were in their power; but they were kind, and proud of the confidence I had in them. They tapped me gently on the back, patted my head, kissed my hand, and then with a low, laughing, sinister growl, they asked me for buckshish, which I firmly refused; then they laughed, and sang and chatted as before. In calmly looking around me, one idea filled and fixed my mind, which I expressed at the time in one word—magnificence!... I remained long at the top of the pyramid, and naturally felt elevated by the sublimity of the scenery around, and also by the thought, that I had conquered every difficulty, and accomplished my every purpose. The breeze was still cool, although the sun was now high in the sky. I laughed and talked with the Arabs; and advanced with them holding my two hands, to the very edge, and looked down the awful precipice. Here again, with a push, or a kick, or probably by withdrawing their hands, my days would have been finished; and I would have been buried in the Desert among the ancient kings, or more likely worried up by hungry hyaenas. I looked around at my leisure, and began carefully to read the names cut out on the stones, anxious to catch one from my own country, or of my acquaintance, but in this I did not succeed. Seeing me thus occupied, one of the Arabs drew from his pocket a large murderous-looking gully, and when he advanced towards me with it in his hand, had I believed the tenth part of what I had heard or read, I might have been afraid of my life. But with a laughing squeal, he pointed to a stone, as if to intimate that I should cut out my name upon it. Then very modestly he held out his hand for buckshish, and I thought him entitled to two or three piasters.... In coming down, I felt timid and giddy for awhile, and was afraid that I might meet the fate of the poor officer from India, who, on a similar occasion, happened to miss his foot, and went bouncing from one ledge of stone to another, towards the bottom, like a ball, and that long after life was beaten out of him. Seeing this, the Arabs renewed their demand for buckshish, and with more perseverance than ever; but I was equally firm in my determination that more money they should not have till I reached the bottom. At last they took me by both hands as before, and conducted me carefully from step to step. By and by I jumped down from one ledge to another without their assistance, till I reached the mouth of the entrance to the interior. I descended this inlet somewhat after the manner of a sweep going down a chimney, but not quite so comfortable, I believe. In this narrow inclined plane, I not only had to encounter sand-flies, and every variety of vermin in Egypt, but I was afraid of serpents. The confined pass was filled, too, with warm dust, and the heat and smoke of the lights we carried increased the stifling sensation. In these circumstances, I felt anxious only to go as far as would enable me to fire a pistol with effect in one of the vaults. This is well worth while, inasmuch as the sound of the explosion was louder than the roar of a cannon. In fact, it almost rent the drum of my ears, and rolled on like thunder through the interior of the pyramid, multiplied and magnified as it was by a thousand echoes. The sound seemed to sink, and mount from cavity to cavity—to rebound and to divide—and at length to die in a good old age. The flash and the smoke produced, too, a momentary feeling of terror. Having performed this marvellous feat, I was nowise ambitious to qualify myself further for giving a description of the interior.'

After visiting Suez, the author returned to Cairo, descended to the coast of the Levant, and took shipping for Jaffa, on the route to Jerusalem. Every point of interest in the holy city is described as minutely as could be desired. Next, there was a visit to the Dead Sea, regarding which there occur some sagacious remarks. The doctor repudiates the ordinary belief, that the waters of this famed lake are carried off by exhalation. Six million tons of water are discharged every day by the Jordan into the Dead Sea; and to suppose that this vast increase is wholly exhaled, seems to him absurd. He deems it more likely that the lake issues by subterranean passages into the Red Sea. The only remark that occurs to us on this point is, that the saltness of the lake must be held as a proof that there is at least a large exhalation from the surface.

Dr Aiton also visited Bethlehem, where he saw much to interest him; and had the satisfaction of being hospitably entertained by the fathers of the Greek convent. 'I left the convent,' he says, 'soothed and satisfied much with all that I had seen, and went round to take a parting and more particular view of the plain where the shepherds heard the angels proclaim: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men!" The plain is still mainly under pasture, fertile and well watered, and there I saw shepherds still tending their flocks. These shepherds have great influence over their sheep. Many of them have no dogs. Their flocks are docile and domestic, and not as the black-faced breed of sheep in Scotland, scouring the hills like cavalry. The shepherd's word spoken at any time is sufficient to make them understand and obey him. He sleeps among them at night, and in the morning he leadeth them forth to drink by the still waters, and feedeth them by the green pastures. He walks before them slow and stately; and so accustomed are the sheep to be guided by him, that every few bites they take they look up with earnestness to see that he is there. When he rests during the heat of the day in a shady place, they lie around him chewing the cud. He has generally two or three favourite lambs which don't mix with the flock, but frisk and fondle at his heel. There is a tender intimacy between the Ishmaelite and his flock. They know his voice, and follow him, and he careth for the sheep. He gathereth his lambs, and seeketh out his flock among the sheep, and gently leadeth them that are with young, and carrieth the lambs in his bosom. In returning back to Jerusalem, I halted on a rugged height to survey more particularly, and enjoy the scene where Ruth went to glean the ears of corn in the field of her kinsman Boaz. Hither she came for the beginning of barley harvest, because she would not leave Naomi in her sorrow. "Entreat me not to leave thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me." How simple and tender! Here, when looking around me, honoured I felt for ever be her memory, not only for these touching sentiments, worthy of our race even before the fall, and when the image of God was not yet effaced; but also in respect that she who uttered these words was the great-grandmother of David, and as of the generation of Jesus. Here also I looked back to the city of Bethlehem with lingering regret, uttering a common-place farewell to the scene, but never to its hallowed recollections.'

We may conclude our extracts with a passage descriptive of the doctor's departure from the Holy Land, from which it will be seen that he was not indisposed to keep his part when necessity demanded. 'The steamer Levant was ordered to sail at midnight on the day it arrived at Jaffa, and there was a vast crowd and great confusion at the embarkation. All the villainy of the Arab watermen was in active operation. With the assistance of Dr Kiat's Italian servant, an arrangement had been made that I and my friend were to be taken out to the steamer for a stipulated sum; but while all the boats of the natives were going off; ours was still detained at the pier under a variety of flimsy pretences. Then a proposal was made to carry the luggage back to the shore, and to take away the boat somewhere else, a promise being given by the Arabs that they would return with it in plenty of time to take us on board before midnight. By this time, I was too old a traveller amid ruffians of this sort to permit so simple a fraud to be perpetrated. The crew insisted on taking hold of the oars, and my friend and I persisted in preventing them. We soon saw that nothing but determined courage would carry the day. I therefore did not hesitate to grasp the skipper firmly by the throat till I almost choked him, threatening to toss him headlong into the sea. We also threatened loudly to go back to the English consul, and to have them punished for their conduct. Awed a little, and seeing that we were not to be so easily done as they expected, notwithstanding that we had been so simple as to pay our fare before we started, they did at last push off the boat; but it was only after a fashion of their own. Every forty yards their oars struck work, and they demanded more money. The sea was rough even beyond the breakers, and the gravestone which I had seen in the garden at Jaffa was enough to convince me, that the guiding of a boat by savages in the dark, through the neck of such a harbour, with whirling currents and terrifying waves, was a matter of considerable danger. There was no remedy for it, but continuing to set the crew at defiance, knowing that they could not upset the boat without endangering their own lives as well as ours. They wetted us, however, purposely, with the spray, and did their best to frighten us, by rocking the boat like a cradle. First one piaster (about twopence-halfpenny) was given to the skipper, then the boat was advanced about a hundred yards, when the oars were laid down once more. Another row was the consequence, at the end of which another piaster was doled out to him, and forward we moved till we were fairly within cry of the ship, when I called out for assistance, and they pushed us directly alongside, behind the paddle-box. Here again they detained the luggage, and demanded more buckshish; but I laid hold of the rope hanging down from the rails of the steamer, and crying to my companion to sit still and watch our property, I ran up the side of the ship and called for the master, knowing that the captain was on shore. Looking down upon them, he threatened to sink them in the ocean if they did not bring everything on deck in a minute. When I saw the portmanteaus brought up, and my friend and I safely on board, I thought that all was well enough, although we had got a ducking in the surf; but in a little, my friend found that he had been robbed of his purse, containing two sovereigns and some small money; but nobody could tell whether this had been done in the crowd on the pier, or when he was in the boat, or when helped up the side of the ship. The anchor was weighed about midnight, and we steamed along the coast of Samaria, towards the once famous city and seaport of Herod.'

Having taken the liberty to be jocular on the doctor's oddities of expression, we beg to say, that notwithstanding these and other eccentricities, the work he has produced is well worthy of perusal, and of finding a place in all respectable libraries.


[8] The Lands of the Messiah, Mahomet, and the Pope, as Visited in 1851. By John Aiton, D.D., Minister of Dolphinton. Fullarton & Co. 1852.



Like most other ubiquitous customs, corn-gleaning has been frequently described by the painter and the poet, yet I much question whether in any case the picture is true to nature. A certain amount of idealism is infused into all the sketches—indeed, in the experience of numbers of readers, this is the sole feature in most of them. Such a defect is easily accounted for. Those who have depicted the custom were practically unacquainted with its details, and invariably made the sacred story the model of their picture, without taking into consideration the changes induced by time or local peculiarity. Even the beautiful and glowing description of English corn-gleaning given by Thomson, is felt by practical observers to be greatly too much of the Oriental hue, too redolent of the fragrance of a fanciful Arcadia. It is a pity that this interesting custom is not more faithfully transcribed into our national poetry; and it is with the hope that a future Burns may make the attempt, that the writer of this article ventures to give a short history of his gleaning-days, believing the subject to be interesting enough to engage the attention of the general reader.

Though born amid the grandeur and sublimity of Highland scenery, I was, at a very early age, brought to reside in a small village on the east coast—small now, but once the most famous and important town in that part of Scotland. Among the scenes of these times, none stand out more vividly than the 'gathering-days'—the harvest of the year's enjoyment—the time when a whole twelvemonth's happiness was concentrated in the six weeks' vacation of the village-school. I do not recollect the time when I began to glean—or gather, as it is locally termed—probably I would, when very young, follow the others to the near farms, and gradually become, as I grew older, a regular gleaner. At that time the gleaners in our district were divided into two gangs or parties. One of these was headed by four old women, whose shearing-days were past; and as they were very peaceable, decent bodies, it was considered an honour to get attached to their band. The other was composed of the wilder spirits of the place, who thought nothing of jumping dikes, breaking hedges, stealing turnips, and committing other depredations on the farms which they visited. Fortunately, my quiet disposition, and supposed good character, procured my admittance into the more respectable gang; and I had the honour of sharing its fortunes during the five or six years I continued a gleaner. I was surprised to see one of these old ladies toddling about the village only a few weeks ago, though her gathering-days are long since past. She is the last survivor of the quorum, and is now fast fading into dotage.

Although the two gleaning-parties never assumed a positive antagonism, they took care to conceal their movements from each other as well as possible. When one of our party received information of a field being 'ready,' the fact was secretly conveyed to all the members, with an injunction to be 'in such a place at such an hour' on the following morning; and the result generally was, that we had a considerable portion of the field gleaned before the other gang arrived. But we did not always act on previous information. Many a morning we departed on the search, and frequently wandered all day without 'lifting a head.' These were the best times for us young ones, whose hearts were too light to care for more than the fun of the thing, as we then had a glorious opportunity of getting a feast of bramble-berries and wild raspberries in the woods and moors; but to the older members of our party the disappointment was anything but pleasant.

I have spoken of a field being ready. Now, to some readers, this may convey a very erroneous idea. We learn that in early times not only were the gleaners admitted among the sheaves, or allowed to 'follow the shearers,' as the privilege is now termed, but, in a certain instance, the reapers were commanded to leave a handful now and then for the gleaner. Now, that custom is entirely changed: the sheaves are all taken away from the field; and instead of the reapers leaving handfuls expressly for the gleaners, the farmer endeavours by raking to secure as much as possible of what they accidentally leave on the stubble. I am not inclined to quarrel with the condition that requires the stocks to be removed ere the gleaners gain admittance; because many would be tempted to pilfer, and besides, the ground on which they stand could not be reached. But there is no doubt that the custom of gleaning was originally a public enactment; while the fact that it has spread over the whole earth, and descended to the present time, shews that it still exists on the statute-book of justice, in all the length and breadth of its original signification; and it amounts almost to a virtual abrogation of the privilege when the stubble is thus gleaned. At all events, if these sentiments are not in consonance with the new lights of the day, let them be pardoned in a ci-devant gleaner.

Upon arriving at a field, our first object was to choose a locality. If we were first on the ground, we took a careful survey of its geographical position, and acted accordingly. When the field was level, and equally exposed, it mattered little to what part we went; but in the event of its being hilly, or situated near a wood, we had to consider where the best soil lay, and where the sun had shone most. It was in the discovery of these important points that the sagacity and experience of our aged leaders were most brilliantly displayed, and gave to our party an immense superiority over the other, whose science was much more scanty; it therefore happened that we had generally the largest quantity and best quality of grain. These preliminaries being settled—and they generally took less time than I have done to write—we began work, commencing, of course, at the end of the field by which we entered, and travelling up or down the rigs.

The process of gleaning may be generally considered a very simple one; but in this, as in everything else, some knowledge is necessary, and no better proof of this could be had, than in the quantities gathered by different persons in the same space of time. A careless or inexperienced gatherer could easily be detected by the size and shape of his single. The usual method practised by a good gleaner was as follows:—Placing the left hand upon the knee, or behind the back, the right was used to lift the ears, care being taken to grasp them close by the 'neck.' When the right hand had gathered perhaps twenty or thirty ears, these were changed into the left hand; the right was again replenished from the ground; and this process was continued till the left was full, or rather till the gleaner heard one of his or her party exclaim: 'Tie!' when the single was obliged to be completed. Thus it is clear that a good eye and a quick hand are essential to a good gleaner.

Whenever one of the members of the party found that the left hand was quite full, he or she could compel the others to finish their singles whether their hand was full or not, by simply crying the afore-mentioned word 'Tie!' At this sound, the whole band proceeded to fasten their bundles, and deposit them on the rig chosen for their reception. The process of 'tying' it is impossible to explain on paper; but I can assure my readers it afforded great scope for taste and ingenuity. Few, indeed, could do it properly, though the singles of some were very neat. The best 'tyer' in our party, and indeed in the district, was a little, middle-aged woman, who was a diligent, rapid gatherer, and generally the first to finish her handful. Her singles were perfectly round, and as flat at the top as if laid with a plummet. Having finished tying, we laid down our singles according to order, so that no difficulty might be felt in collecting them again, and so proceeded with our labour.

When we got to the end of the field, the custom was, to finish our handfuls there, and retrace our steps for the purpose of collecting the deposits, when each of us tied up our collected bundles at the place from which we originally started. To the lover of the picturesque, the scene while we sat resting by the hedge-side, was one of the most beautiful that can be imagined. Spread over the field in every direction were the gleaners, busily engaged in their cheerful task; while the hum of their conversation, mingling with the melody of the insect world, the music of the feathery tribes, and the ripple of the adjoining burn, combined to form a strain which I still hear in the pauses of life.

On our homeward road from a successful day's, gathering, how merry we all were, in spite of our tired limbs and the load upon our heads! Indeed it was the load itself that made us glad; and we should have been still merrier if that had been heavier. How sweet it was to feel the weight of our industry—no burden could possibly be more grateful; and I question much whether that was not the happiest moment in Ruth's first gleaning-day, when she trudged home to her mother-in-law with the ephah of barley, the produce of her unflagging toil.

When harvest was over, and the chill winds swept over cleared and gleaned fields, our bond of union was dissolved, each retired to his respective habitation, and, like Ruth, 'beat out that he had gleaned.' In many cases, the result was a sufficient supply of bread to the family for the ensuing winter. It was singular that, during the rest of the year, little or no intercourse was maintained between those who were thus associated during harvest. They lived together in the same degree of friendship as is common among villagers, but I could never observe any of that peculiar intimacy which it was natural to suppose such an annual combination would create. They generally returned to their ordinary occupations, and continued thus till the sickle was again heard among the yellow corn, and the stacks were growing in the barn-yard. Then, as if by instinct, the members of the various bands, and the independent stragglers, left their monotonous tasks, and eagerly entered on the joys and pleasures of the gathering-days.

I might add many reminiscences of the few seasons I spent in this manner; but I am afraid that, however interesting they might prove in rural districts, they are too simple to interest the general reader. Let me observe, however, before concluding, that the great majority of the farmers at the present day are decidedly unfavourable to gleaning, although the veneration that is generally entertained for what is ancient, and the traditionary sacredness which surrounds this particular custom, prevent them from openly forbidding its continuance. They have introduced, however, laws and rules which infringe sadly its original proportions, and which, in many instances, are made the instruments of oppression.


The division of labour between the man and wife in Indian life is not so unequal, while they live in the pure hunter state, as many suppose. The large part of a hunter's time, which is spent in seeking game, leaves the wife in the wigwam, with a great deal of time on her hands; for it must be remembered that there is no spinning, weaving, or preparing children for school—no butter or cheese making, or a thousand other cares which are inseparable from the agricultural state, to occupy her skill and industry. Even the art of the seamstress is only practised by the Indian woman on a few things. She devotes much of her time to making moccasons and quill-work. Her husband's leggins are carefully ornamented with beads; his shot-pouch and knife-sheath are worked with quills; the hunting-cap is garnished with ribbons; his garters of cloth are adorned with a profusion of small white beads, and coloured worsted tassels are prepared for his leggins. In the spring, the corn-field is planted by her and the youngsters, in a vein of gaiety and frolic. It is done in a few hours, and taken care of in the same spirit. It is perfectly voluntary labour, and she would not be scolded for omitting it; for all labour with Indians is voluntary.—Schoolcraft's Indian Tribes.


If a man would, according to law, give to another an orange, instead of saying, 'I give you that orange,' which one would think would be what is called in legal phraseology 'an absolute conveyance of all right and title therein,' the phrase would run thus:—'I give you all and singular my estate and interest, right, title, and claim, and advantage of and in that orange, with all its rind, skin, juice, pulp, and pips, and right and advantages therein, with full power to bite, cut, suck, and otherwise eat the same, or give the same away, as fully and as effectually as I, the said A. B., am now inclined to bite, cut, suck, or otherwise eat the same orange or give the same away, with or without its rind, skin, juice, pulp, or pips, anything heretofore or hereinafter, or in any other deed or deeds, instrument or instruments, of what nature or kind soever, to the contrary in anywise notwithstanding;' with much more to the same effect. Such is the language of lawyers; and it is gravely held by the most learned men among them, that by the omission of any of these words, the right to the said orange would not pass to the person for whose use the same was intended.—Newspaper paragraph.


10,268 infants are born on the same day and enter upon life simultaneously. Of these, 1243 never reach the anniversary of their birth; 9025 commence the second year; but the proportion of deaths still continues so great, that at the end of the third only 8183, or about four-fifths of the original number, survive. But during the fourth year the system seems to acquire more strength, and the number of deaths rapidly decreases. It goes on decreasing until twenty-one, the commencement of maturity and the period of highest health. 7134 enter upon the activities and responsibilities of life—more than two-thirds of the original number. Thirty-five comes, the meridian of manhood, 6302 have reached it. Twenty years more, and the ranks are thinned. Only 4727, or less than half of those who entered life fifty-five years ago, are left. And now death comes more frequently. Every year the ratio of mortality steadily increases, and at seventy there are not 1000 survivors. A scattered few live on to the close of the century, and at the age of one hundred and six the drama is ended; the last man is dead.—Albany Journal.


The little white moon goes climbing Over the dusky cloud, Kissing its fringes softly, With a love-light, pale as shroud— Where walks this moon to-night, Annie? Over the waters bright, Annie? Does she smile on your face as you lift it, proud? God look on thee—look on thee, Annie! For I shall look never more!

The little white star stands watching Ever beside the moon; Hid in the mists that shroud her, And hid in her light's mid-noon: Yet the star follows all heaven through, Annie, As my soul follows after you, Annie, At moon-rise and moon-set, late and soon: Oh, God watch thee, God watch thee, Annie, For I can watch never more!

The purple-black sky folds loving, Over far sea, far land; The thunder-clouds, looming eastward, Like a chain of mountains stand. Under this July sky, Annie, Do you hear waves lapping by, Annie? Do you walk, with the hills on either hand? Oh, God love thee, God love thee, Annie, For I love thee evermore!


Quakerism is favourable to longevity, it seems. According to late English census returns, the average age attained by members of this peaceful sect in Great Britain is fifty-one years, two months, and twenty-one days. Half of the population of the country, as is seen by the same returns, die before reaching the age of twenty-one, and the average duration of human life the world over is but thirty-three years; Quakers, therefore, live a third longer than the rest of us. The reasons are obvious enough. Quakers are temperate and prudent, are seldom in a hurry, and never in a passion. Quakers, in the very midst of the week's business—on Wednesday morning—retire from the world, and spend an hour or two in silent meditation at the meeting-house. Quakers are diligent; they help one another, and the fear of want does not corrode their minds. The journey of life to them is a walk of peaceful meditation. They neither suffer nor enjoy intensity, but preserve a composed demeanour always. Is it surprising that their days should be long in the land?—National Intelligencer.

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