The discharge of a cannon announced the Sultan's departure from his palace, and immediately the guns on the frigates and the batteries on both shores took up the salute, till the grand echoes, filling the hollow throat of the Golden Horn, crashed from side to side, striking the hills of Scutari and the point of Chalcedon, and finally dying away among the summits of the Princes' Islands, out on the Sea of Marmora. The hulls of the frigates were now lighted up with intense chemical fires, and an abundance of rockets were spouted from their decks. A large Drummond light on Seraglio Point, and another at the Battery of Tophaneh, poured their rival streams across the Golden Horn, revealing the thousands of caiques jostling each other from shore to shore, and the endless variety of gay costumes with which they were filled. The smoke of the cannon hanging in the air, increased the effect of this illumination, and became a screen of auroral brightness, through which the superb spectacle loomed with large and unreal features. It was a picture of air—a phantasmagoric spectacle, built of luminous vapor and meteoric fires, and hanging in the dark round of space. In spite of ourselves, we became eager and excited, half fearing that the whole pageant would dissolve the next moment, and leave no trace behind.
Meanwhile, the cannon thundered from a dozen batteries, and the rockets burst into glittering rain over our heads. Grander discharges I never heard; the earth shook and trembled under the mighty bursts of sound, and the reverberation which rattled along the hill of Galata, broken by the scattered buildings into innumerable fragments of sound, resembled the crash of a thousand falling houses. The distant echoes from Asia and the islands in the sea filled up the pauses between the nearer peals, and we seemed to be in the midst of some great naval engagement. But now the caique of the Sultan is discerned, approaching from the Bosphorus. A signal is given, and a sunrise of intense rosy and golden radiance suddenly lights up the long arsenal and stately mosque of Tophaneh, plays over the tall buildings on the hill of Pera, and falls with a fainter lustre on the Genoese watch-tower that overlooks Galata. It is impossible to describe the effect of this magical illumination. The mosque, with its taper minarets, its airy galleries, and its great central dome, is built of compact, transparent flame, and in the shifting of the red and yellow fires, seems to flicker and waver in the air. It is as lofty, and gorgeous, and unsubstantial as the cloudy palace in Cole's picture of "Youth." The long white front of the arsenal is fused in crimson heat, and burns against the dark as if it were one mass of living coal. And over all hangs the luminous canopy of smoke, redoubling its lustre on the waters of the Golden Horn, and mingling with the phosphorescent gleams that play around the oars of the caiques.
A long barge, propelled by sixteen oars, glides around the dark corner of Tophaneh, and shoots into the clear, brilliant space in front of the mosque. It is not lighted, and passes with great swiftness towards the brilliant landing-place. There are several persons seated under a canopy in the stern, and we are trying to decide which is the Sultan, when a second boat, driven by twenty-four oarsmen, comes in sight. The men rise up at each stroke, and the long, sharp craft flies over the surface of the water, rather than forces its way through it. A gilded crown surmounts the long, curved prow, and a light though superb canopy covers the stern. Under this, we catch a glimpse of the Sultan and Grand Vizier, as they appear for an instant like black silhouettes against the burst of light on shore.
After the Sultan had entered the mosque, the fires diminished and the cannon ceased, though the illuminated masts, minarets and gateways still threw a brilliant gleam over the scene. After more than an hour spent in devotion, he again entered his caique and sped away to greet his new wife, amid a fresh discharge from the frigates and the batteries on both shores, and a new dawn of auroral splendor. We made haste to reach the landing-place, in order to avoid the crowd of caiques; but, although we were among the first, we came near being precipitated into the water, in the struggle to get ashore. The market-place at Tophaneh was so crowded that nothing but main force brought us through, and some of our party had their pockets picked. A number of Turkish soldiers and police-men were mixed up in the melee, and they were not sparing of blows when they came in contact with a Giaour. In making my way through, I found that a collision with one of the soldiers was inevitable, but I managed to plump against him with such force as to take the breath out of his body, and was out of his reach before he had recovered himself. I saw several Turkish women striking right and left in their endeavors to escape, and place their hands against the faces of those who opposed them, pushing them aside. This crowd was contrived by thieves, for the purpose of plunder, and, from what I have since learned, must have been very successful.
I visited to-day the College of the Mevlevi Dervishes at Pera, and witnessed their peculiar ceremonies. They assemble in a large hall, where they take their seats in a semi-circle, facing the shekh. After going through several times with the usual Moslem prayer, they move in slow march around the room, while a choir in the gallery chants Arabic phrases in a manner very similar to the mass in Catholic churches. I could distinguish the sentences "God is great," "Praise be to God," and other similar ejaculations. The chant was accompanied with a drum and flute, and had not lasted long before the Dervishes set themselves in a rotary motion, spinning slowly around the shekh, who stood in the centre. They stretched both arms out, dropped their heads on one side, and glided around with a steady, regular motion, their long white gowns spread out and floating on the air. Their steps were very similar to those of the modern waltz, which, it is possible, may have been derived from the dance of the Mevlevis. Baron Von Hammer finds in this ceremony an imitation of the dance of the spheres, in the ancient Samothracian Mysteries; but I see no reason to go so far back for its origin. The dance lasted for about twenty minutes, and the Dervishes appeared very much exhausted at the close, as they are obliged to observe the fast very strictly.
The Solemnities of Bairam.
The Appearance of the New Moon—The Festival of Bairam—The Interior of the Seraglio—The Pomp of the Sultan's Court—Rescind Pasha—The Sultan's Dwarf—Arabian Stallions—The Imperial Guard—Appearance of the Sultan—The Inner Court—Return of the Procession—The Sultan on his Throne—The Homage of the Pashas—An Oriental Picture—Kissing the Scarf—The Shekh el-Islam—The Descendant of the Caliphs—Bairam Commences.
Constantinople, Monday, July 19, 1852.
Saturday was the last day of the fast-month of Ramazan, and yesterday the celebration of the solemn festival of Bairam took place. The moon changed on Friday morning at 11 o'clock, but as the Turks have no faith in astronomy, and do not believe the moon has actually changed until they see it, all good Mussulmen were obliged to fast an additional day. Had Saturday been cloudy, and the new moon invisible, I am not sure but the fast would have been still further prolonged. A good look-out was kept, however, and about four o'clock on Saturday afternoon some sharp eyes saw the young crescent above the sun. There is a hill near Gemlik, on the Gulf of Moudania, about fifty miles from here, whence the Turks believe the new moon can be first seen. The families who live on this hill are exempted from taxation, in consideration of their keeping a watch for the moon, at the close of Ramazan. A series of signals, from hill to hill, is in readiness, and the news is transmitted to Constantinople in a very short time Then, when the muezzin proclaims the asser, or prayer two hours before sunset, he proclaims also the close of Ramazan. All the batteries fire a salute, and the big guns along the water announce the joyful news to all parts of the city. The forts on the Bosphorus take up the tale, and both shores, from the Black Sea to the Propontis, shake with the burden of their rejoicing. At night the mosques are illuminated for the last time, for it is only during Ramazan that they are lighted, or open for night service.
After Ramazan, comes the festival of Bairam, which lasts three days, and is a season of unbounded rejoicing. The bazaars are closed, no Turk does any work, but all, clothed in their best dresses, or in an entire new suit if they can afford it, pass the time in feasting, in paying visits, or in making excursions to the shores of the Bosphorus, or other favorite spots around Constantinople. The festival is inaugurated by a solemn state ceremony, at the Seraglio and the mosque of Sultan Achmed, whither the Sultan goes in procession, accompanied by all the officers of the Government. This is the last remaining pageant which has been spared to the Ottoman monarchs by the rigorous reforming measures of Sultan Mahmoud, and shorn as it is of much of its former splendor, it probably surpasses in brilliant effect any spectacle which any other European Court can present. The ceremonies which take place inside of the Seraglio were, until within three or four years, prohibited to Frank eyes, and travellers were obliged to content themselves with a view of the procession, as it passed to the mosque. Through the kindness of Mr. Brown, of the American Embassy, I was enabled to witness the entire solemnity, in all its details.
As the procession leaves the Seraglio at sunrise, we rose with the first streak of dawn, descended to Tophaneh, and crossed to Seraglio Point, where the cavass of the Embassy was in waiting for us. He conducted us through the guards, into the garden of the Seraglio, and up the hill to the Palace. The Capudan Pasha, or Lord High Admiral, had just arrived in a splendid caique, and pranced up the hill before us on a magnificent stallion, whose trappings blazed with jewels and gold lace. The rich uniforms of the different officers of the army and marine glittered far and near under the dense shadows of the cypress trees, and down the dark alleys where the morning twilight had not penetrated. We were ushered into the great outer court-yard of the Seraglio, leading to the Sublime Porte. A double row of marines, in scarlet jackets and white trowsers, extended from one gate to the other, and a very excellent brass band played "Suoni la tromba" with much spirit. The groups of Pashas and other officers of high rank, with their attendants, gave the scene a brilliant character of festivity. The costumes, except those of the secretaries and servants, were after the European model, but covered with a lavish profusion of gold lace. The horses were all of the choicest Eastern breeds, and the broad housings of their saddles of blue, green, purple, and crimson cloth, were enriched with gold lace, rubies, emeralds and turquoises.
The cavass took us into a chamber near the gate, and commanding a view of the whole court. There we found Mr. Brown and his lady, with several officers from the U.S. steamer San Jacinto. At this moment the sun, appearing above the hill of Bulgaria, behind Scutari, threw his earliest rays upon the gilded pinnacles of the Seraglio. The commotion in the long court-yard below increased. The marines were formed into exact line, the horses of the officers clattered on the rough pavement as they dashed about to expedite the arrangements, the crowd pressed closer to the line of the procession, and in five minutes the grand pageant was set in motion. As the first Pasha made his appearance under the dark archway of the interior gate, the band struck up the Marseillaise (which is a favorite air among the Turks), and the soldiers presented arms. The court-yard was near two hundred yards long, and the line of Pashas, each surrounded with the officers of his staff, made a most dazzling show. The lowest in rank came first. I cannot recollect the precise order, nor the names of all of them, which, in fact, are of little consequence, while power and place are such uncertain matters in Turkey.
Each Pasha wore the red fez on his head, a frock-coat of blue cloth, the breast of which was entirely covered with gold lace, while a broad band of the same decorated the skirts, and white pantaloons. One of the Ministers, Mehemet Ali Pasha, the brother-in-law of the Sultan, was formerly a cooper's apprentice, but taken, when a boy, by the late Sultan Mahmoud, to be a playmate for his son, on account of his extraordinary beauty. Rescind Pasha, the Grand Vizier, is a man of about sixty years of age. He is frequently called Giaour, or Infidel, by the Turks, on account of his liberal policy, which has made him many enemies. The expression of his face denotes intelligence, but lacks the energy necessary to accomplish great reforms. His son, a boy of about seventeen, already possesses the rank of Pasha, and is affianced to the Sultan's daughter, a child of ten, or twelve years old. He is a fat, handsome youth, with a sprightly face, and acted his part in the ceremonies with a nonchalance which made him appear graceful beside his stiff, dignified elders.
After the Pashas came the entire household of the Sultan, including even his eunuchs, cooks, and constables. The Kislar Aga, or Chief Eunuch, a tall African in resplendent costume, is one of the most important personages connected with the Court. The Sultan's favorite dwarf, a little man about forty years old and three feet high, bestrode his horse with as consequential an air as any of them. A few years ago, this man took a notion to marry, and applied to the Sultan for a wife. The latter gave him permission to go into his harem and take the one whom he could kiss. The dwarf, like all short men, was ambitious to have a long wife. While the Sultan's five hundred women, who knew the terms according to which the dwarf was permitted to choose, were laughing at the amorous mannikin, he went up to one of the tallest and handsomest of them, and struck her a sudden blow on the stomach. She collapsed with the pain, and before she could recover he caught her by the neck and gave her the dreaded kiss. The Sultan kept his word, and the tall beauty is now the mother of the dwarfs children.
The procession grows more brilliant as it advances, and the profound inclination made by the soldiers at the further end of the court, announces the approach of the Sultan himself. First come three led horses, of the noblest Arabian blood—glorious creatures, worthy to represent
"The horse that guide the golden eye of heaven, And snort the morning from their nostrils, Making their fiery gait above the glades."
Their eyes were more keen and lustrous than the diamonds which studded their head-stalls, and the wealth of emeralds, rubies, and sapphires that gleamed on their trappings would have bought the possessions of a German Prince. After them came the Sultan's body-guard, a company of tall, strong men, in crimson tunics and white trousers, with lofty plumes of peacock feathers in their hats. Some of them carried crests of green feathers, fastened upon long staves. These superb horses and showy guards are the only relics of that barbaric pomp which characterized all State processions during the time of the Janissaries. In the centre of a hollow square of plume-bearing guards rode Abdul-Medjid himself, on a snow-white steed. Every one bowed profoundly as he passed along, but he neither looked to the right or left, nor made the slightest acknowledgment of the salutations. Turkish etiquette exacts the most rigid indifference on the part of the Sovereign, who, on all public occasions, never makes a greeting. Formerly, before the change of costume, the Sultan's turbans were carried before him in the processions, and the servants who bore them inclined them to one side and the other, in answer to the salutations of the crowd.
Sultan Abdul-Medjid is a man of about thirty, though he looks older. He has a mild, amiable, weak face, dark eyes, a prominent nose, and short, dark brown mustaches and beard. His face is thin, and wrinkles are already making their appearance about the corners of his mouth and eyes. But for a certain vacancy of expression, he would be called a handsome man. He sits on his horse with much ease and grace, though there is a slight stoop in his shoulders. His legs are crooked, owing to which cause he appears awkward when on his feet, though he wears a long cloak to conceal the deformity. Sensual indulgence has weakened a constitution not naturally strong, and increased that mildness which has now become a defect in his character. He is not stern enough to be just, and his subjects are less fortunate under his easy rule than under the rod of his savage father, Mahmoud. He was dressed in a style of the utmost richness and elegance. He wore a red Turkish fez, with an immense rosette of brilliants, and a long, floating plume of bird-of-paradise feathers. The diamond in the centre of the rosette is of unusual size; it was picked up some years ago in the Hippodrome, and probably belonged to the treasury of the Greek Emperors. The breast and collar of his coat were one mass of diamonds, and sparkled in the early sun with a thousand rainbow gleams. His mantle of dark-blue cloth hung to his knees, concealing the deformity of his legs. He wore white pantaloons, white kid gloves, and patent leather boots, thrust into his golden stirrups.
A few officers of the Imperial household followed behind the Sultan, and the procession then terminated. Including the soldiers, it contained from two to three thousand persons. The marines lined the way to the mosque of Sultan Achmed, and a great crowd of spectators filled up the streets and the square of the Hippodrome. Coffee was served to us, after which we were all conducted into the inner court of the Seraglio, to await the return of the cortege. This court is not more than half the size of the outer one, but is shaded with large sycamores, embellished with fountains, and surrounded with light and elegant galleries, in pure Saracenic style. The picture which it presented was therefore far richer and more characteristic of the Orient than the outer court, where the architecture is almost wholly after Italian models. The portals at either end rested on slender pillars, over which projected broad eaves, decorated with elaborate carved and gilded work, and above all rose a dome, surmounted by the Crescent. On the right, the tall chimneys of the Imperial kitchens towered above the walls. The sycamores threw their broad, cool shadows over the court, and groups of servants, in gala dresses, loitered about the corridors.
After waiting nearly half an hour, the sound of music and the appearance of the Sultan's body-guard proclaimed the return of the procession. It came in reversed order, headed by the Sultan, after whom followed the Grand Vizier and other Ministers of the Imperial Council, and the Pashas, each surrounded by his staff of officers. The Sultan dismounted at the entrance to the Seraglio, and disappeared through the door. He was absent for more than half an hour, during which time he received the congratulations of his family, his wives, and the principal personages of his household, all of whom came to kiss his feet. Meanwhile, the Pashas ranged themselves in a semicircle around the arched and gilded portico. The servants of the Seraglio brought out a large Persian carpet, which they spread on the marble pavement. The throne, a large square seat, richly carved and covered with gilding, was placed in the centre, and a dazzling piece of cloth-of-gold thrown over the back of it. When the Sultan re-appeared, he took his seat thereon, placing his feet on a small footstool. The ceremony of kissing his feet now commenced. The first who had this honor was the Chief of the Emirs, an old man in a green robe, embroidered with pearls. He advanced to the throne, knelt, kissed the Sultan's patent-leather boot, and retired backward from the presence.
The Ministers and Pashas followed in single file, and, after they had made the salutation, took their stations on the right hand of the throne. Most of them were fat, and their glittering frock-coats were buttoned so tightly that they seemed ready to burst. It required a great effort for them to rise from their knees. During all this time, the band was playing operatic airs, and as each Pasha knelt, a marshal, or master of ceremonies, with a silver wand, gave the signal to the Imperial Guard, who shouted at the top of their voices: "Prosperity to our Sovereign! May he live a thousand years!" This part of the ceremony was really grand and imposing. All the adjuncts were in keeping: the portico, wrought in rich arabesque designs; the swelling domes and sunlit crescents above; the sycamores and cypresses shading the court; the red tunics and peacock plumes of the guard; the monarch himself, radiant with jewels, as he sat in his chair of gold—all these features combined to form a stately picture of the lost Orient, and for the time Abdul-Medjid seemed the true representative of Caliph Haroun Al-Raschid.
After the Pashas had finished, the inferior officers of the Army, Navy, and Civil Service followed, to the number of at least a thousand. They were not considered worthy to touch the Sultan's person, but kissed his golden scarf, which was held out to them by a Pasha, who stood on the left of the throne. The Grand Vizier had his place on the right, and the Chief of the Eunuchs stood behind him. The kissing of the scarf occupied an hour. The Sultan sat quietly during all this time, his face expressing a total indifference to all that was going on. The most skilful physiognomist could not have found in it the shadow of an expression. If this was the etiquette prescribed for him, he certainly acted it with marvellous skill and success.
The long line of officers at length came to an end, and I fancied that the solemnities were now over; but after a pause appeared the Shekh el-Islam, or High Priest of the Mahometan religion. His authority in religious matters transcends that of the Sultan, and is final and irrevocable. He was a very venerable man, of perhaps seventy-five years of age, and his tottering steps were supported by two mollahs. He was dressed in a long green robe, embroidered with gold and pearls, over which his white beard flowed below his waist. In his turban of white cambric was twisted a scarf of cloth-of-gold. He kissed the border of the Sultan's mantle, which salutation was also made by a long line of the chief priests of the mosques of Constantinople, who followed him. These priests were dressed in long robes of white, green, blue, and violet, many of them with collars of pearls and golden scarfs wound about their turbans, the rich fringes falling on their shoulders. They were grave, stately men, with long gray beards, and the wisdom of age and study in their deep-set eyes.
Among the last who came was the most important personage of all. This was the Governor of Mecca (as I believe he is called), the nearest descendant of the Prophet, and the successor to the Caliphate, in case the family of Othman becomes extinct. Sultan Mahmoud, on his accession to the throne, was the last descendant of Orchan, the founder of the Ottoman Dynasty, the throne being inherited only by the male heirs. He left two sons, who are both living, Abdul-Medjid having departed from the practice of his predecessors, each of whom slew his brothers, in order to make his own sovereignty secure. He has one son, Muzad, who is about ten years old, so that there are now three males of the family of Orchan. In case of their death, the Governor of Mecca would become Caliph, and the sovereignty would be established in his family. He is a swarthy Arab, of about fifty, with a bold, fierce face. He wore a superb dress of green, the sacred color, and was followed by his two sons, young men of twenty and twenty-two. As he advanced to the throne, and was about to kneel and kiss the Sultan's robe, the latter prevented him, and asked politely after his health—the highest mark of respect in his power to show. The old Arab's face gleamed with such a sudden gush of pride and satisfaction, that no flash of lightning could have illumined it more vividly.
The sacred writers, or transcribers of the Koran, closed the procession, after which the Sultan rose and entered the Seraglio. The crowd slowly dispersed, and in a few minutes the grand reports of the cannon on Seraglio Point announced the departure of the Sultan for his palace on the Bosphorus. The festival of Bairam was now fairly inaugurated, and all Stamboul was given up to festivity. There was no Turk so poor that he did not in some sort share in the rejoicing. Our Fourth could scarcely show more flags, let off more big guns or send forth greater crowds of excursionists than this Moslem holiday.
The Mosques of Constantinople.
Sojourn at Constantinople—Semi-European Character of the City—The Mosque—Procuring a Firman—The Seraglio—The Library—The Ancient Throne-Room—Admittance to St. Sophia—Magnificence of the Interior—The Marvellous Dome—The Mosque of Sultan Achmed—The Sulemanye—Great Conflagrations—Political Meaning of the Fires—Turkish Progress—Decay of the Ottoman Power.
"Is that indeed Sophia's far-famed dome, Where first the Faith was led in triumph home, Like some high bride, with banner and bright sign, And melody, and flowers?" Audrey de Vere.
Constantinople, Tuesday, August 8, 1852.
The length of my stay in Constantinople has enabled me to visit many interesting spots in its vicinity, as well as to familiarize myself with the peculiar features of the great capital. I have seen the beautiful Bosphorus from steamers and caiques; ridden up the valley of Buyukdere, and through the chestnut woods of Belgrade; bathed in the Black Sea, under the lee of the Symplegades, where the marble altar to Apollo still invites an oblation from passing mariners; walked over the flowery meadows beside the "Heavenly Waters of Asia;" galloped around the ivy-grown walls where Dandolo and Mahomet II. conquered, and the last of the Palaeologi fell; and dreamed away many an afternoon-hour under the funereal cypresses of Pera, and beside the Delphian tripod in the Hippodrome. The historic interest of these spots is familiar to all, nor; with one exception, have their natural beauties been exaggerated by travellers. This exception is the village of Belgrade, over which Mary Montague went into raptures, and set the fashion for tourists ever since. I must confess to having been wofully disappointed. The village is a miserable cluster of rickety houses, on an open piece of barren land, surrounded by the forests, or rather thickets, which keep alive the springs that supply Constantinople with water. We reached there with appetites sharpened by our morning's ride, expecting to find at least a vender of kibabs (bits of fried meat) in so renowned a place; but the only things to be had were raw salt mackerel, and bread which belonged to the primitive geological formation.
The general features of Constantinople and the Bosphorus are so well known, that I am spared the dangerous task of painting scenes which have been colored by abler pencils. Von Hammer, Lamartine, Willis, Miss Pardoe, Albert Smith, and thou, most inimitable Thackeray! have made Pera and Scutari, the Bazaars and Baths, the Seraglio and the Golden Horn, as familiar to our ears as Cornhill and Wall street. Besides, Constantinople is not the true Orient, which is to be found rather in Cairo, in Aleppo, and brightest and most vital, in Damascus. Here, we tread European soil; the Franks are fast crowding out the followers of the Prophet, and Stamboul itself, were its mosques and Seraglio removed, would differ little in outward appearance from a third-rate Italian town. The Sultan lives in a palace with a Grecian portico; the pointed Saracenic arch, the arabesque sculptures, the latticed balconies, give place to clumsy imitations of Palladio, and every fire that sweeps away a recollection of the palmy times of Ottoman rule, sweeps it away forever.
But the Mosque—that blossom of Oriental architecture, with its crowning domes, like the inverted bells of the lotus, and its reed-like minarets, its fountains and marble courts—can only perish with the faith it typifies. I, for one, rejoice that, so long as the religion of Islam exists (and yet, may its time be short!), no Christian model can shape its houses of worship. The minaret must still lift its airy tower for the muezzin; the dome must rise like a gilded heaven above the prayers of the Faithful, with its starry lamps and emblazoned phrases; the fountain must continue to pour its waters of purification. A reformation of the Moslem faith is impossible. When it begins to give way, the whole fabric must fall. Its ceremonies, as well as its creed, rest entirely on the recognition of Mahomet as the Prophet of God. However the Turks may change in other respects, in all that concerns their religion they must continue the same.
Until within a few years, a visit to the mosques, especially the more sacred ones of St. Sophia and Sultan Achmed, was attended with much difficulty. Miss Pardoe, according to her own account, risked her life in order to see the interior of St. Sophia, which she effected in the disguise of a Turkish Effendi. I accomplished the same thing, a few days since, but without recourse to any such romantic expedient. Mr. Brown, the interpreter of the Legation, procured a firman from the Grand Vizier, on behalf of the officers of the San Jacinto, and kindly invited me, with several other American and English travellers, to join the party. During the month of Ramazan, no firmans are given, and as at this time there are few travellers in Constantinople, we should otherwise have been subjected to a heavy expense. The cost of a firman, including backsheesh to the priests and doorkeepers, is 700 piastres (about $33).
We crossed the Golden Horn in caiques, and first visited the gardens and palaces on Seraglio Point. The Sultan at present resides in his summer palace of Beshiktashe, on the Bosphorus, and only occupies the Serai Bornou, as it is called, during the winter months. The Seraglio covers the extremity of the promontory on which Constantinople is built, and is nearly three miles in circuit. The scattered buildings erected by different Sultans form in themselves a small city, whose domes and pointed turrets rise from amid groves of cypress and pine. The sea-wall is lined with kiosks, from whose cushioned windows there are the loveliest views of the European and Asian shores. The newer portion of the palace, where the Sultan now receives the ambassadors of foreign nations, shows the influence of European taste in its plan and decorations. It is by no means remarkable for splendor, and suffers by contrast with many of the private houses in Damascus and Aleppo. The building is of wood, the walls ornamented with detestable frescoes by modern Greek artists, and except a small but splendid collection of arms, and some wonderful specimens of Arabic chirography, there is nothing to interest the visitor.
In ascending to the ancient Seraglio, which was founded by Mahomet II., on the site of the palace of the Palaeologi, we passed the Column of Theodosius, a plain Corinthian shaft, about fifty feet high. The Seraglio is now occupied entirely by the servants and guards, and the greater part of it shows a neglect amounting almost to dilapidation. The Saracenic corridors surrounding its courts are supported by pillars of marble, granite, and porphyry, the spoils of the Christian capital. We were allowed to walk about at leisure, and inspect the different compartments, except the library, which unfortunately was locked. This library was for a long time supposed to contain many lost treasures of ancient literature—among other things, the missing books of Livy—but the recent researches of Logothetos, the Prince of Samos, prove that there is little of value, among its manuscripts. Before the door hangs a wooden globe, which is supposed to be efficacious in neutralizing the influence of the Evil Eye. There are many ancient altars and fragments of pillars scattered about the courts, and the Turks have even commenced making a collection of antiquities, which, with the exception of two immense sarcophagi of red porphyry, contains nothing of value. They show, however, one of the brazen heads of the Delphian tripod in the Hippodrome, which, they say, Mahomet the Conqueror struck off with a single blow of his sword, on entering Constantinople.
The most interesting portion of the Seraglio is the ancient throne-room, now no longer used, but still guarded by a company of white eunuchs. The throne is an immense, heavy bedstead, the posts of which are thickly incrusted with rubies, turquoises, emeralds, and sapphires. There is a funnel-shaped chimney-piece in the room, a master-work of Benevenuto Cellini. There, half a century ago, the foreign ambassadors were presented, after having been bathed, fed, and clothed with a rich mantle in the outer apartments. They were ushered into the imperial presence, supported by a Turkish official on either side, in order that they might show no signs of breaking down under the load of awe and reverence they were supposed to feel. In the outer Court, adjoining the Sublime Porte, is the Chapel of the Empress Irene, now converted into an armory, which, for its size, is the most tasteful and picturesque collection of weapons I have ever seen. It is especially rich in Saracenic armor, and contains many superb casques of inlaid gold. In a large glass case in the chancel, one sees the keys of some thirty or forty cities, with the date of their capture. It is not likely that another will ever be added to the list.
We now passed out through the Sublime Porte, and directed our steps to the famous Aya Sophia—the temple dedicated by Justinian to the Divine Wisdom. The repairs made to the outer walls by the Turks, and the addition of the four minarets, have entirely changed the character of the building, without injuring its effect. As a Christian Church, it must have been less imposing than in its present form. A priest met us at the entrance, and after reading the firman with a very discontented face, informed us that we could not enter until the mid-day prayers were concluded. After taking off our shoes, however, we were allowed to ascend to the galleries, whence we looked down on the bowing worshippers. Here the majesty of the renowned edifice, despoiled as it now is, bursts at once upon the eye. The wonderful flat dome, glittering with its golden mosaics, and the sacred phrase from the Koran: "God is the Light of the Heavens and the Earth," swims in the air, one hundred and eighty feet above the marble pavement. On the eastern and western sides, it rests on two half domes; which again rise from or rest upon a group of three small half-domes, so that the entire roof of the mosque, unsupported by a pillar, seems to have been dropped from above on the walls, rather than to have been built up from them. Around the edifice run an upper and a lower gallery, which alone preserve the peculiarities of the Byzantine style. These galleries are supported by the most precious columns which ancient art could afford: among them eight shafts of green marble, from the Temple of Diana, at Ephesus; eight of porphyry, from the Temple of the Sun, at Baalbek; besides Egyptian granite from the shrines of Isis and Osiris, and Pentelican marble from the sanctuary of Pallas Athena. Almost the whole of the interior has been covered with gilding, but time has softened its brilliancy, and the rich, subdued gleam of the walls is in perfect harmony with the varied coloring of the ancient marbles.
Under the dome, four Christian seraphim, executed in mosaic, have been allowed to remain, but the names of the four archangels of the Moslem faith are inscribed underneath. The bronze doors are still the same, the Turks having taken great pains to obliterate the crosses with which they were adorned. Around the centre of the dome, as on that of Sultan Achmed, may be read, in golden letters, and in all the intricacy of Arabic penmanship, the beautiful verse:—"God is the Light of the Heavens and the Earth. His wisdom is a light on the wall, in which burns a lamp covered with glass. The glass shines like a star, the lamp is lit with the oil of a blessed tree. No Eastern, no Western oil, it shines for whoever wills." After the prayers were over, and we had descended to the floor of the mosque, I spent the rest of my time under the dome, fascinated by its marvellous lightness and beauty. The worshippers present looked at us with curiosity, but without ill-will; and before we left, one of the priests came slyly with some fragments of the ancient gilded mosaic, which, he was heathen enough to sell, and we to buy.
From St. Sophia we went to Sultan Achmed, which faces the Hippodrome, and is one of the stateliest piles of Constantinople. It is avowedly an imitation of St. Sophia, and the Turks consider it a more wonderful work, because the dome is seven feet higher. It has six minarets, exceeding in this respect all the mosques of Asia. The dome rests on four immense pillars, the bulk of which quite oppresses the light galleries running around the walls. This, and the uniform white color of the interior, impairs the effect which its bold style and imposing dimensions would otherwise produce. The outside view, with the group of domes swelling grandly above the rows of broad-armed sycamores, is much more satisfactory. In the tomb of Sultan Achmed, in one corner of the court, we saw his coffin, turban, sword, and jewelled harness. I had just been reading old Sandys' account of his visit to Constantinople, in 1610, during this Sultan's reign, and could only think of him as Sandys represents him, in the title-page to his book, as a fat man, with bloated cheeks, in a long gown and big turban, and the words underneath:— "Achmed, sive Tyrannus."
The other noted mosques of Constantinople are the Yeni Djami, or Mosque of the Sultana Valide, on the shore of the Golden Horn, at the end of the bridge to Galata; that of Sultan Bajazet; of Mahomet II., the Conqueror, and of his son, Suleyman the Magnificent, whose superb mosque well deserves this title. I regret exceedingly that our time did not allow us to view the interior, for outwardly it not only surpasses St. Sophia, and all other mosques in the city, but is undoubtedly one of the purest specimens of Oriental architecture extant. It stands on a broad terrace, on one of the seven hills of Stamboul, and its exquisitely proportioned domes and minarets shine as if crystalized in the blue of the air. It is a type of Oriental, as the Parthenon is of Grecian, and the Cologne Cathedral of Gothic art. As I saw it the other night, lit by the flames of a conflagration, standing out red and clear against the darkness, I felt inclined to place it on a level with either of those renowned structures. It is a product of the rich fancy of the East, splendidly ornate, and not without a high degree of symmetry—yet here the symmetry is that of ornament alone, and not the pure, absolute proportion of forms, which we find in Grecian Art. It requires a certain degree of enthusiasm—nay, a slight inebriation of the imaginative faculties—in order to feel the sentiment of this Oriental Architecture. If I rightly express all that it says to me, I touch the verge of rapsody. The East, in almost all its aspects, is so essentially poetic, that a true picture of it must be poetic in spirit, if not in form.
Constantinople has been terribly ravaged by fires, no less than fifteen having occurred during the past two weeks. Almost every night the sky has been reddened by burning houses, and the minarets of the seven hills lighted with an illumination brighter than that of the Bairam. All the space from the Hippodrome to the Sea of Marmora has been swept away; the lard, honey, and oil magazines on the Golden Horn, with the bazaars adjoining; several large blocks on the hill of Galata, with the College of the Dancing Dervishes; a part of Scutari, and the College of the Howling Dervishes, all have disappeared; and to-day, the ruins of 3,700 houses, which were destroyed last night, stand smoking in the Greek quarter, behind the aqueduct of Valens. The entire amount of buildings consumed in these two weeks is estimated at between five and six thousand! The fire on the hill of Galata threatened to destroy a great part of the suburb of Pera. It came, sweeping over the brow of the hill, towards my hotel, turning the tall cypresses in the burial ground into shafts of angry flame, and eating away the crackling dwellings of hordes of hapless Turks. I was in bed; from a sudden attack of fever, but seeing the other guests packing up their effects and preparing to leave, I was obliged to do the same; and this, in my weak state, brought on such a perspiration that the ailment left me, The officers of the United States steamer San Jacinto, and the French frigate Charlemagne, came to the rescue with their men and fire-engines, and the flames were finally quelled. The proceedings of the Americans, who cut holes in the roofs and played through them upon the fires within, were watched by the Turks with stupid amazement. "Mashallah!" said a fat Bimbashi, as he stood sweltering in the heat; "The Franks are a wonderful people."
To those initiated into the mysteries of Turkish politics, these fires are more than accidental; they have a most weighty significance. They indicate either a general discontent with the existing state of affairs, or else a powerful plot against the Sultan and his Ministry. Setting fire to houses is, in fact, the Turkish method of holding an "indignation meeting," and from the rate with which they are increasing, the political crisis must be near at hand. The Sultan, with his usual kindness of heart, has sent large quantities of tents and other supplies to the guiltless sufferers; but no amount of kindness can soften the rancor of these Turkish intrigues. Reschid Pasha, the present Grand Vizier, and the leader of the party of Progress, is the person against whom this storm of opposition is now gathering.
In spite of all efforts, the Ottoman Power is rapidly wasting away. The life of the Orient is nerveless and effete; the native strength of the race has died out, and all attempts to resuscitate it by the adoption of European institutions produce mere galvanic spasms, which leave it more exhausted than before. The rosy-colored accounts we have had of Turkish Progress are for the most part mere delusions. The Sultan is a well-meaning but weak man, and tyrannical through his very weakness. Had he strength enough to break through the meshes of falsehood and venality which are woven so close about him, he might accomplish some solid good. But Turkish rule, from his ministers down to the lowest cadi, is a monstrous system of deceit and corruption. These people have not the most remote conception of the true aims of government; they only seek to enrich themselves and their parasites, at the expense of the people and the national treasury. When we add to this the conscript system, which is draining the provinces of their best Moslem subjects, to the advantage of the Christians and Jews, and the blindness of the Revenue Laws, which impose on domestic manufactures double the duty levied on foreign products, it will easily be foreseen that the next half-century, or less, will completely drain the Turkish Empire of its last lingering energies.
Already, in effect, Turkey exists only through the jealousy of the European nations. The treaty of Unkiar-iskelessi, in 1833, threw her into the hands of Russia, although the influence of England has of late years reigned almost exclusively in her councils. These are the two powers who are lowering at each other with sleepless eyes, in the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus. The people, and most probably the government, is strongly preposessed in favor of the English; but the Russian Bear has a heavy paw, and when he puts it into the scale, all other weights kick the beam. It will be a long and wary struggle, and no man can prophecy the result. The Turks are a people easy to govern, were even the imperfect laws, now in existence, fairly administered. They would thrive and improve under a better state of things; but I cannot avoid the conviction that the regeneration of the East will never be effected at their hands.
Farewell to the Orient—Malta.
Embarcation—Farewell to the Orient—Leaving Constantinople—A Wreck—The Dardanelles—Homeric Scenery—Smyrna Revisited—The Grecian Isles—Voyage to Malta—Detention—La Valetta—The Maltese—The Climate—A Boat for Sicily.
"Farewell, ye mountains, By glory crowned Ye sacred fountains Of Gods renowned; Ye woods and highlands, Where heroes dwell; Ye seas and islands, Farewell! Farewell!"
In The Dardanelles, Saturday, August 7, 1852.
At last, behold me fairly embarked for Christian Europe, to which I bade adieu in October last, eager for the unknown wonders of the Orient. Since then, nearly ten months have passed away, and those wonders are now familiar as every-day experiences. I set out, determined to be satisfied with no slight taste of Eastern life, but to drain to the bottom its beaker of mingled sunshine and sleep. All this has been accomplished; and if I have not wandered so far, nor enriched myself with such varied knowledge of the relics of ancient history, as I might have purposed or wished, I have at least learned to know the Turk and the Arab, been soothed by the patience inspired by their fatalism, and warmed by the gorgeous gleams of fancy that animate their poetry and religion. These ten months of my life form an episode which seems to belong to a separate existence. Just refined enough to be poetic, and just barbaric enough to be freed from all conventional fetters, it is as grateful to brain and soul, as an Eastern bath to the body. While I look forward, not without pleasure, to the luxuries and conveniences of Europe, I relinquish with a sigh the refreshing indolence of Asia.
We have passed between the Castles of the two Continents, guarding the mouth of the Dardanelles, and are now entering the Grecian Sea. To-morrow, we shall touch, for a few hours, at Smyrna, and then turn westward, on the track of Ulysses and St. Paul. Farewell, then, perhaps forever, to the bright Orient! Farewell to the gay gardens, the spicy bazaars, to the plash of fountains and the gleam of golden-tipped minarets! Farewell to the perfect morn's, the balmy twilights, the still heat of the blue noons, the splendor of moon and stars! Farewell to the glare of the white crags, the tawny wastes of dead sand, the valleys of oleander, the hills of myrtle and spices! Farewell to the bath, agent of purity and peace, and parent of delicious dreams—to the shebook, whose fragrant fumes are breathed from the lips of patience and contentment—to the narghileh, crowned with that blessed plant which grows in the gardens of Shiraz, while a fountain more delightful than those of Samarcand bubbles in its crystal bosom I Farewell to the red cap and slippers, to the big turban, the flowing trousers, and the gaudy shawl—to squatting on broad divans, to sipping black coffee in acorn cups, to grave faces and salaam aleikooms, and to aching of the lips and forehead! Farewell to the evening meal in the tent door, to the couch on the friendly earth, to the yells of the muleteers, to the deliberate marches of the plodding horse, and the endless rocking of the dromedary that knoweth his master! Farewell, finally, to annoyance without anger, delay without vexation, indolence without ennui, endurance without fatigue, appetite without intemperance, enjoyment without pall!
La Valetta, Malta, Saturday, August 14, 1852.
My last view of Stamboul was that of the mosques of St. Sophia and Sultan Achmed, shining faintly in the moonlight, as we steamed down the Sea of Marmora. The Caire left at nine o'clock, freighted with the news of Reschid Pasha's deposition, and there were no signs of conflagration in all the long miles of the city that lay behind us. So we speculated no more on the exciting topics of the day, but went below and took a vapor bath in our berths; for I need not assure you that the nights on the Mediterranean at this season are anything but chilly. And here I must note the fact, that the French steamers, while dearer than the Austrian, are more cramped in their accommodations, and filled with a set of most uncivil servants. The table is good, and this is the only thing to be commended. In all other respects, I prefer the Lloyd vessels.
Early next morning, we passed the promontory of Cyzicus, and the Island of Marmora, the marble quarries of which give name to the sea. As we were approaching the entrance to the Dardanelles, we noticed an Austrian brig drifting in the current, the whiff of her flag indicating distress. Her rudder was entirely gone, and she was floating helplessly towards the Thracian coast. A boat was immediately lowered and a hawser carried to her bows, by which we towed her a short distance; but our steam engine did not like this drudgery, and snapped the rope repeatedly, so that at last we were obliged to leave her to her fate. The lift we gave, however, had its effect, and by dexterous maneuvering with the sails, the captain brought her safely into the harbor of Gallipoli, where she dropped anchor beside us.
Beyond Gallipoli, the Dardanelles contract, and the opposing continents rise into lofty and barren hills. In point of natural beauty, this strait is greatly inferior to the Bosphorus. It lacks the streams and wooded valleys which open upon the latter. The country is but partially cultivated, except around the town of Dardanelles, near the mouth of the strait. The site of the bridge of Xerxes is easily recognized, the conformation of the different shores seconding the decision of antiquarians. Here, too, are Sestos and Abydos, of passionate and poetic memory. But as the sun dipped towards the sea, we passed out of the narrow gateway. On our left lay the plain of Troy, backed by the blue range of Mount Ida. The tamulus of Patroclus crowned a low bluff looking on the sea. On the right appeared the long, irregular island of Imbros, and the peaks of misty Samothrace over and beyond it. Tenedos was before us. The red flush of sunset tinged the grand Homeric landscape, and lingered and lingered on the summit of Ida, as if loth to depart. I paced the deck until long after it was too dark to distinguish it any more.
The next morning we dropped anchor in the harbor of Smyrna, where we remained five hours. I engaged a donkey, and rode out to the Caravan Bridge, where the Greek driver and I smoked narghilehs and drank coffee in the shade of the acacias. I contrasted my impressions with those of my first visit to Smyrna last October—my first glimpse of Oriental ground. Then, every dog barked at me, and all the horde of human creatures who prey upon innocent travellers ran at my heels, but now, with my brown face and Turkish aspect of grave indifference, I was suffered to pass as quietly as my donkey-driver himself. Nor did the latter, nor the ready cafidji, who filled our pipes on the banks of the Meles, attempt to overcharge me—a sure sign that the Orient had left its seal on my face. Returning through the city, the same mishap befel me which travellers usually experience on their first arrival. My donkey, while dashing at full speed through a crowd of Smyrniotes in their Sunday dresses, slipped up in a little pool of black mud, and came down with a crash. I flew over his head and alighted firmly on my feet, but the spruce young Greeks, whose snowy fustanelles were terribly bespattered, came off much worse. The donkey shied back, levelled his ears and twisted his head on one side, awaiting a beating, but his bleeding legs saved him.
We left at two o'clock, touched at Scio in the evening, and the next morning at sunrise lay-to in the harbor of Syra. The Piraeus was only twelve hours distant; but after my visitation of fever in Constantinople, I feared to encounter the pestilential summer heats of Athens. Besides, I had reasons for hastening with all speed to Italy and Germany. At ten o'clock we weighed anchor again and steered southwards, between the groups of the Cyclades, under a cloudless sky and over a sea of the brightest blue. The days were endurable under the canvas awning of our quarter-deck, but the nights in our berths were sweat-baths, which left us so limp and exhausted that we were almost fit to vanish, like ghosts, at daybreak.
Our last glimpse of the Morea—Cape Matapan—faded away in the moonlight, and for two days we travelled westward over the burning sea. On the evening of the 11th, the long, low outline of Malta rose gradually against the last flush of sunset, and in two hours thereafter, we came to anchor in Quarantine Harbor. The quarantine for travellers returning from the East, which formerly varied from fourteen to twenty-one days, is now reduced to one day for those arriving from Greece or Turkey, and three days for those from Egypt and Syria. In our case, it was reduced to sixteen hours, by an official courtesy. I had intended proceeding directly to Naples; but by the contemptible trickery of the agents of the French steamers—a long history, which it is unnecessary to recapitulate—am left here to wait ten days for another steamer. It is enough to say that there are six other travellers at the same hotel, some coming from Constantinople, and some from Alexandria, in the same predicament. Because a single ticket to Naples costs some thirty or forty francs less than by dividing the trip into two parts, the agents in those cities refuse to give tickets further than Malta to those who are not keen enough to see through the deception. I made every effort to obtain a second ticket in time to leave by the branch steamer for Italy, but in vain.
La Valetta is, to my eyes, the most beautiful small city in the world. It is a jewel of a place; not a street but is full of picturesque effects, and all the look-outs, which you catch at every turn, let your eyes rest either upon one of the beautiful harbors on each side, or the distant horizon of the sea. The streets are so clean that you might eat your dinner off the pavement; the white balconies and cornices of the houses, all cleanly cut in the soft Maltese stone, stand out in intense relief against the sky, and from the manifold reflections and counter reflections, the shadows (where there are any) become a sort of milder light. The steep sides of the promontory, on which the city is built, are turned into staircases, and it is an inexhaustible pastime to watch the groups, composed of all nations who inhabit the shores of the Mediterranean, ascending and descending. The Auberges of the old Knights, the Palace of the Grand Master, the Church of St. John, and other relics of past time, but more especially the fortifications, invest the place with a romantic interest, and I suspect that, after Venice and Granada, there are few cities where the Middle Ages have left more impressive traces of their history.
The Maltese are contented, and appear to thrive under the English administration. They are a peculiar people, reminding me of the Arab even more than the Italian, while a certain rudeness in their build and motions suggests their Punic ancestry. Their language is a curious compound of Arabic and Italian, the former being the basis. I find that I can understand more than half that is said, the Arabic terminations being applied to Italian words. I believe it has never been successfully reduced to writing, and the restoration of pure Arabic has been proposed, with much reason, as preferable to an attempt to improve or refine it. Italian is the language used in the courts of justice and polite society, and is spoken here with much more purity than either in Naples or Sicily.
The heat has been so great since I landed that I have not ventured outside of the city, except last evening to an amateur theatre, got up by the non-commissioned officers and privates in the garrison. The performances were quite tolerable, except a love-sick young damsel who spoke with a rough masculine voice, and made long strides across the stage when she rushed into her lover's arms. I am at a loss to account for the exhausting character of the heat. The thermometer shows 90 deg. by day, and 80 deg. to 85 deg. by night—a much lower temperature than I have found quite comfortable in Africa and Syria. In the Desert 100 deg. in the shade is rather bracing than otherwise; here, 90 deg. renders all exercise, more severe than smoking a pipe, impossible. Even in a state of complete inertia, a shirt-collar will fall starchless in five minutes.
Rather than waste eight more days in this glimmering half-existence, I have taken passage in a Maltese speronara, which sails this evening for Catania, in Sicily, where the grand festival of St. Agatha, which takes place once in a hundred years, will be celebrated next week. The trip promises a new experience, and I shall get a taste, slight though it be, of the golden Trinacria of the ancients. Perhaps, after all, this delay which so vexes me (bear in mind, I am no longer in the Orient!) may be meant solely for my good. At least, Mr. Winthrop, our Consul here, who has been exceedingly kind and courteous to me, thinks it a rare good fortune that I shall see the Catanian festa.
The Festival of St. Agatha.
Departure from Malta—The Speronara—Our Fellow-Passengers—The First Night on Board—Sicily—Scarcity of Provisions—Beating in the Calabrian Channel—The Fourth Morning—The Gulf of Catania—A Sicilian Landscape—The Anchorage—The Suspected List—The Streets of Catania—Biography of St. Agatha—The Illuminations—The Procession of the Veil—The Biscari Palace—The Antiquities of Catania—The Convent of St. Nicola.
"The morn is full of holiday, loud bells With rival clamors ring from every spire; Cunningly-stationed music dies and swells In echoing places; when the winds respire, Light flags stream out like gauzy tongues of fire."—Keats.
Catania, Sicily, Friday, August 20, 1852.
I went on board the speronara in the harbor of La Valetta at the appointed hour (5 P.M.), and found the remaining sixteen passengers already embarked. The captain made his appearance an hour later, with our bill of health and passports, and as the sun went down behind the brown hills of the island, we passed the wave-worn rocks of the promontory, dividing the two harbors, and slowly moved off towards Sicily.
The Maltese speronara resembles the ancient Roman galley more than any modern craft. It has the same high, curved poop and stern, the same short masts and broad, square sails. The hull is too broad for speed, but this adds to the security of the vessel in a gale. With a fair wind, it rarely makes more than eight knots an hour, and in a calm, the sailors (if not too lazy) propel it forward with six long oars. The hull is painted in a fanciful style, generally blue, red, green and white, with bright red masts. The bulwarks are low, and the deck of such a convexity that it is quite impossible to walk it in a heavy sea. Such was the vessel to which I found myself consigned. It was not more than fifty feet long, and of less capacity than a Nile dahabiyeh. There was a sort of deck cabin, or crib, with two berths, but most of the passengers slept in the hold. For a passage to Catania I was obliged to pay forty francs, the owner swearing that this was the regular price; but, as I afterwards discovered, the Maltese only paid thirty-six francs for the whole trip. However, the Captain tried to make up the money's worth in civilities, and was incessant in his attentions to "your Lordships," as he styled myself and my companion, Caesar di Cagnola, a young Milanese.
The Maltese were tailors and clerks, who were taking a holiday trip to witness the great festival of St. Agatha. With two exceptions, they were a wild and senseless, though good-natured set, and in spite of sea-sickness, which exercised them terribly for the first two days, kept up a constant jabber in their bastard Arabic from morning till night. As is usual in such a company, one of them was obliged to serve as a butt for the rest, and "Maestro Paolo," as they termed him, wore such a profoundly serious face all the while, from his sea-sickness, that the fun never came to an end. As they were going to a religious festival, some of them had brought their breviaries along with them; but I am obliged to testify that, after the first day, prayers were totally forgotten. The sailors, however, wore linen bags, printed with a figure of the Madonna, around their necks.
The sea was rather rough, but Caesar and I fortified our stomachs with a bottle of English ale, and as it was dark by this time, sought our resting-places for the night. As we had paid double, places were assured us in the coop on deck, but beds were not included in the bargain. The Maltese, who had brought mattresses and spread a large Phalansteriau bed in the hold, fared much better. I took one of my carpet bags for a pillow and lay down on the planks, where I succeeded in getting a little sleep between the groans of the helpless land-lubbers. We had the ponente, or west-wind, all night, but the speronara moved sluggishly, and in the morning it changed to the greco-levante, or north-east. No land was in sight; but towards noon, the sky became clearer, and we saw the southern coast of Sicily—a bold mountain-shore, looming phantom-like in the distance. Cape Passaro was to the east, and the rest of the day was spent in beating up to it. At sunset, we were near enough to see the villages and olive-groves of the beautiful shore, and, far behind the nearer mountains, ninety miles distant, the solitary cone of Etna.
The second night passed like the first, except that our bruised limbs were rather more sensitive to the texture of the planks. We crawled out of our coop at dawn, expecting to behold Catania in the distance; but there was Cape Passaro still staring us in the face. The Maltese were patient, and we did not complain, though Caesar and I began to make nice calculations as to the probable duration of our two cold fowls and three loaves of bread. The promontory of Syracuse was barely visible forty miles ahead; but the wind was against us, and so another day passed in beating up the eastern coast. At dusk, we overtook another speronara which had left Malta two hours before us, and this was quite a triumph to our captain, All the oars were shipped, the sailors and some of the more courageous passengers took hold, and we shot ahead, scudding rapidly along the dark shores, to the sound of the wild Maltese songs. At length, the promontory was gained, and the restless current, rolling down from Scylla and Charybdis, tossed our little bark from wave to wave with a recklessness that would have made any one nervous but an old sailor like myself.
"To-morrow morning," said the Captain, "we shall sail into Catania;" but after a third night on the planks, which were now a little softer, we rose to find ourselves abreast of Syracuse, with Etna as distant as ever. The wind was light, and what little we made by tacking was swept away by the current, so that, after wasting the whole forenoon, we kept a straight course across the mouth of the channel, and at sunset saw the Calabrian Mountains. This move only lost us more ground, as it happened. Caesar and I mournfully and silently consumed our last fragment of beef, with the remaining dry crusts of bread, and then sat down doggedly to smoke and see whether the captain would discover our situation. But no; while we were supplied, the whole vessel was at our Lordships' command, and now that we were destitute, he took care to make no rash offers. Caesar, at last, with an imperial dignity becoming his name, commanded dinner. It came, and the pork and maccaroni, moistened with red Sicilian wine, gave us patience for another day.
The fourth morning dawned, and—Great Neptune be praised!—we were actually within the Gulf of Catania. Etna loomed up in all his sublime bulk, unobscured by cloud or mist, while a slender jet of smoke, rising from his crater, was slowly curling its wreaths in the clear air, as if happy to receive the first beam of the sun. The towers of Syracuse, which had mocked us all the preceding day, were no longer visible; the land-locked little port of Augusta lay behind us; and, as the wind continued favorable, ere long we saw a faint white mark at the foot of the mountain. This was Catania. The shores of the bay were enlivened with olive-groves and the gleam of the villages, while here and there a single palm dreamed of its brothers across the sea. Etna, of course, had the monarch's place in the landscape, but even his large, magnificent outlines could not usurp all my feeling. The purple peaks to the westward and farther inland, had a beauty of their own, and in the gentle curves with which they leaned towards each other, there was a promise of the flowery meadows of Enna. The smooth blue water was speckled with fishing-boats. We hailed one, inquiring when the festa was to commence; but, mistaking our question, they answered: "Anchovies." Thereupon, a waggish Maltese informed them that Maestro Paolo thanked them heartily. All the other boats were hailed in the name of Maestro Paolo, who, having recovered from his sea-sickness, took his bantering good-humoredly.
Catania presented a lovely picture, as we drew near the harbor. Planted at the very foot of Etna, it has a background such as neither Naples nor Genoa can boast. The hills next the sea are covered with gardens and orchards, sprinkled with little villages and the country palaces of the nobles—a rich, cultured landscape, which gradually merges into the forests of oak and chestnut that girdle the waist of the great volcano. But all the wealth of southern vegetation cannot hide the footsteps of that Ruin, which from time to time visits the soil. Half-way up, the mountain-side is dotted with cones of ashes and cinders, some covered with the scanty shrubbery which centuries have called forth, some barren and recent; while two dark, winding streams of sterile lava descend to the very shore, where they stand congealed in ragged needles and pyramids. Part of one of these black floods has swept the town, and, tumbling into the sea, walls one side of the port.
We glided slowly past the mole, and dropped anchor a few yards from the shore. There was a sort of open promenade planted with trees, in front of us, surrounded with high white houses, above which rose the dome of the Cathedral and the spires of other churches. The magnificent palace of Prince Biscari was on our right, and at its foot the Customs and Revenue offices. Every roof, portico, and window was lined with lamps, a triumphal arch spanned the street before the palace, and the landing-place at the offices was festooned with crimson and white drapery, spangled with gold. While we were waiting permission to land, a scene presented itself which recalled the pagan days of Sicily to my mind. A procession came in sight from under the trees, and passed along the shore. In the centre was borne a stately shrine, hung with garlands, and containing an image of St. Agatha. The sound of flutes and cymbals accompanied it, and a band of children, bearing orange and palm branches, danced riotously before. Had the image been Pan instead of St. Agatha, the ceremonies would have been quite as appropriate.
The speronara's boat at last took us to the gorgeous landing place, where we were carefully counted by a fat Sicilian official, and declared free from quarantine. We were then called into the Passport Office where the Maltese underwent a searching examination. One of the officers sat with the Black Book, or list of suspected persons of all nations, open before him, and looked for each name as it was called out. Another scanned the faces of the frightened tailors, as if comparing them with certain revolutionary visages in his mind. Terrible was the keen, detective glance of his eye, and it went straight through the poor Maltese, who vanished with great rapidity when they were declared free to enter the city. At last, they all passed the ordeal, but Caesar and I remained, looking in at the door. "There are still these two Frenchmen," said the captain. "I am no Frenchman," I protested; "I am an American." "And I," said Caesar, "am an Austrian subject." Thereupon we received a polite invitation to enter; the terrible glance softened into a benign, respectful smile; he of the Black Book ran lightly over the C's and T's, and said, with a courteous inclination: "There is nothing against the signori." I felt quite relieved by this; for, in the Mediterranean, one is never safe from spies, and no person is too insignificant to escape the ban, if once suspected.
Calabria was filled to overflowing with strangers from all parts of the Two Sicilies, and we had some difficulty in finding very bad and dear lodgings. It was the first day of the festa, and the streets were filled with peasants, the men in black velvet jackets and breeches, with stockings, and long white cotton caps hanging on the shoulders, and the women with gay silk shawls on their heads, after the manner of the Mexican reboza. In all the public squares, the market scene in Masaniello was acted to the life. The Sicilian dialect is harsh and barbarous, and the original Italian is so disguised by the admixture of Arabic, Spanish, French, and Greek words, that even my imperial friend, who was a born Italian, had great difficulty in understanding the people.
I purchased a guide to the festa, which, among other things, contained a biography of St. Agatha. It is a beautiful specimen of pious writing, and I regret that I have not space to translate the whole of it. Agatha was a beautiful Catanian virgin, who secretly embraced Christianity during the reign of Nero. Catania was then governed by a praetor named Quintianus, who, becoming enamored of Agatha, used the most brutal means to compel her to submit to his desires, but without effect. At last, driven to the cruelest extremes, he cut off her breasts, and threw her into prison. But at midnight, St. Peter, accompanied by an angel, appeared to her, restored the maimed parts, and left her more beautiful than ever. Quintianus then ordered a furnace to be heated, and cast her therein. A terrible earthquake shook the city; the sun was eclipsed; the sea rolled backwards, and left its bottom dry; the praetor's palace fell in ruins, and he, pursued by the vengeance of the populace, fled till he reached the river Simeto, where he was drowned in attempting to cross. "The thunders of the vengeance of God," says the biography, "struck him down into the profoundest Hell." This was in the year 252.
The body was carried to Constantinople in 1040, "although the Catanians wept incessantly at their loss;" but in 1126, two French knights, named Gilisbert and Goselin, were moved by angelic influences to restore it to its native town, which they accomplished, "and the eyes of the Catanians again burned with joy." The miracles effected by the saint are numberless, and her power is especially efficacious in preventing earthquakes and eruptions of Mount Etna. Nevertheless, Catania has suffered more from these causes than any other town in Sicily. But I would that all saints had as good a claim to canonization as St. Agatha. The honors of such a festival as this are not out of place, when paid to such youth, beauty, and "heavenly chastity," as she typifies.
The guide, which I have already consulted, gives a full account of the festa, in advance, with a description of Catania. The author says: "If thy heart is not inspired by gazing on this lovely city, it is a fatal sign—thou wert not born to feel the sweet impulses of the Beautiful!" Then, in announcing the illuminations and pyrotechnic displays, he exclaims: "Oh, the amazing spectacle! Oh, how happy art thou, that thou beholdest it! I What pyramids of lamps! What myriads of rockets! What wonderful temples of flame! The Mountain himself is astonished at such a display." And truly, except the illumination of the Golden Horn on the Night of Predestination, I have seen nothing equal to the spectacle presented by Catania, during the past three nights. The city, which has been built up from her ruins more stately than ever, was in a blaze of light—all her domes, towers, and the long lines of her beautiful palaces revealed in the varying red and golden flames of a hundred thousand lamps and torches. Pyramids of fire, transparencies, and illuminated triumphal arches filled the four principal streets, and the fountain in the Cathedral square gleamed like a jet of molten silver, spinning up from one of the pores of Etna. At ten o'clock, a gorgeous display of fireworks closed the day's festivities, but the lamps remained burning nearly all night.
On the second night, the grand Procession of the Veil took place. I witnessed this imposing spectacle from the balcony of Prince Gessina's palace. Long lines of waxen torches led the way, followed by a military band, and then a company of the highest prelates, in their most brilliant costumes, surrounding the Bishop, who walked under a canopy of silk and gold, bearing the miraculous veil of St. Agatha. I was blessed with a distant view of it, but could see no traces of the rosy hue left upon it by the flames of the Saint's martyrdom. Behind the priests came the Intendente of Sicily, Gen. Filangieri, the same who, three years ago, gave up Catania to sack and slaughter. He was followed by the Senate of the City, who have just had the cringing cowardice to offer him a ball on next Sunday night. If ever a man deserved the vengeance of an outraged people, it is this Filangieri, who was first a Liberal, when the cause promised success, and then made himself the scourge of the vilest of kings. As he passed me last night in his carriage of State, while the music pealed in rich rejoicing strains, that solemn chant with which the monks break upon the revellers, in "Lucrezia Borgia," came into my mind:
"La gioja del profani 'E un fumo passagier'—"
[the rejoicing of the profane is a transitory mist.] I heard, under the din of all these festivities, the voice of that Retribution which even now lies in wait, and will not long be delayed.
To-night Signor Scavo, the American Vice-Consul, took me to the palace of Prince Biscari, overlooking the harbor, in order to behold the grand display of fireworks from the end of the mole. The showers of rockets and colored stars, and the temples of blue and silver fire, were repeated in the dark, quiet bosom of the sea, producing the most dazzling and startling effects. There was a large number of the Catanese nobility present, and among them a Marchesa Gioveni, the descendant of the bloody house of Anjou. Prince Biscari is a benign, courtly old man, and greatly esteemed here. His son is at present in exile, on account of the part he took in the late revolution. During the sack of the city under Filangieri, the palace was plundered of property to the amount of ten thousand dollars. The museum of Greek and Roman antiquities attached to it, and which the house of Biscari has been collecting for many years, is probably the finest in Sicily. The state apartments were thrown open this evening, and when I left, an hour ago, the greater portion of the guests were going through mazy quadrilles on the mosaic pavements.
Among the antiquities of Catania which I have visited, are the Amphitheatre, capable of holding 15,000 persons, the old Greek Theatre, the same in which Alcibiades made his noted harangue to the Catanians, the Odeon, and the ancient Baths. The theatre, which is in tolerable preservation, is built of lava, like many of the modern edifices in the city. The Baths proved to me, what I had supposed, that the Oriental Bath of the present day is identical with that of the Ancients. Why so admirable an institution has never been introduced into Europe (except in the Bains Chinois of Paris) is more than I can tell. From the pavement of these baths, which is nearly twenty feet below the surface of the earth, the lava of later eruptions has burst up, in places, in hard black jets. The most wonderful token of that flood which whelmed Catania two hundred years ago, is to be seen at the Grand Benedictine Convent of San Nicola, in the upper part of the city. Here the stream of lava divides itself just before the Convent, and flows past on both sides, leaving the building and gardens untouched. The marble courts, the fountains, the splendid galleries, and the gardens of richest southern bloom and fragrance, stand like an epicurean island in the midst of the terrible stony waves, whose edges bristle with the thorny aloe and cactus. The monks of San Nicola are all chosen from the Sicilian nobility, and live a comfortable life of luxury and vice. Each one has his own carriage, horses, and servants, and each his private chambers outside of the convent walls and his kept concubines. These facts are known and acknowledged by the Catanians, to whom they are a lasting scandal.
It is past midnight, and I must close. Caesar started this afternoon, alone, for the ascent of Etna. I would have accompanied him, but my only chance of reaching Messina in time for the next steamer to Naples is the diligence which leaves here to-morrow. The mountain has been covered with clouds for the last two days, and I have had no view at all comparable to that of the morning of my arrival. To-morrow the grand procession of the Body of St. Agatha takes place, but I am quite satisfied with three days of processions and horse races, and three nights of illuminations.
I leave in the morning, with a Sicilian passport, my own availing me nothing, after landing.
The Eruption of Mount Etna.
The Mountain Threatens—The Signs Increase—We Leave Catania—Gardens Among the Lava—Etna Labors—Aci Reale—The Groans of Etna—The Eruption—Gigantic Tree of Smoke—Formation of the New Crater—We Lose Sight of the Mountain—Arrival at Messina—Etna is Obscured—Departure.
———-"the shattered side Of thundering AEtna, whose combustible And fuel'd entrails thence conceiving fire, Sublimed with mineral fury, aid the winds, And leave a singed bottom." Milton.
Messina, Sicily, Monday, August 23, 1852.
The noises of the festival had not ceased when I closed my letter at midnight, on Friday last. I slept soundly through the night, but was awakened before sunrise by my Sicilian landlord. "O, Excellenza! have you heard the Mountain? He is going to break out again; may the holy Santa Agatha protect us!" It is rather ill-timed on the part of the Mountain, was my involuntary first thought, that he should choose for a new eruption precisely the centennial festival of the only Saint who is supposed to have any power over him. It shows a disregard of female influence not at all suited to the present day, and I scarcely believe that he seriously means it. Next came along the jabbering landlady: "I don't like his looks. It was just so the last time. Come, Excellenza, you can see him from the back terrace." The sun was not yet risen, but the east was bright with his coming, and there was not a cloud in the sky. All the features of Etna were sharply sculptured in the clear air. From the topmost cone, a thick stream of white smoke was slowly puffed out at short intervals, and rolled lazily down the eastern side. It had a heavy, languid character, and I should have thought nothing of the appearance but for the alarm of my hosts. It was like the slow fire of Earth's incense, burning on that grand mountain altar.
I hurried off to the Post Office, to await the arrival of the diligence from Palermo. The office is in the Strada Etnea, the main street of Catania, which runs straight through the city, from the sea to the base of the mountain, whose peak closes the long vista. The diligence was an hour later than usual, and I passed the time in watching the smoke which continued to increase in volume, and was mingled, from time to time, with jets of inky blackness. The postilion said he had seen fires and heard loud noises during the night. According to his account, the disturbances commenced about midnight. I could not but envy my friend Caesar, who was probably at that moment on the summit, looking down into the seething fires of the crater.
At last, we rolled out of Catania. There were in the diligence, besides myself, two men and a woman, Sicilians of the secondary class. The road followed the shore, over rugged tracts of lava, the different epochs of which could be distinctly traced in the character of the vegetation. The last great flow (of 1679) stood piled in long ridges of terrible sterility, barely allowing the aloe and cactus to take root in the hollows between. The older deposits were sufficiently decomposed to nourish the olive and vine; but even here, the orchards were studded with pyramids of the harder fragments, which are laboriously collected by the husbandmen. In the few favored spots which have been untouched for so many ages that a tolerable depth of soil has accumulated, the vegetation has all the richness and brilliancy of tropical lands. The palm, orange, and pomegranate thrive luxuriantly, and the vines almost break under their heavy clusters. The villages are frequent and well built, and the hills are studded, far and near, with the villas of rich proprietors, mostly buildings of one story, with verandahs extending their whole length. Looking up towards Etna, whose base the road encircles, the views are gloriously rich and beautiful. On the other hand is the blue Mediterranean and the irregular outline of the shore, here and there sending forth promontories of lava, cooled by the waves into the most fantastic forms.
We had sot proceeded far before a new sign called my attention to the mountain. Not only was there a perceptible jar or vibration in the earth, but a dull, groaning sound, like the muttering of distant thunder, began to be heard. The smoke increased in volume, and, as we advanced further to the eastward, and much nearer to the great cone, I perceived that it consisted of two jets, issuing from different mouths. A broad stream of very dense white smoke still flowed over the lip of the topmost crater and down the eastern side. As its breadth did not vary, and the edges were distinctly defined, it was no doubt the sulphureous vapor rising from a river of molten lava. Perhaps a thousand yards below, a much stronger column of mingled black and white smoke gushed up, in regular beats or pants, from a depression in the mountain side, between two small, extinct cones. All this part of Etna was scarred with deep chasms, and in the bottoms of those nearest the opening, I could see the red gleam of fire. The air was perfectly still, and as yet there was no cloud in the sky.
When we stopped to change horses at the town of Aci Reale, I first felt the violence of the tremor and the awful sternness of the sound. The smoke by this time seemed to be gathering on the side towards Catania, and hung in a dark mass about half-way down the mountain. Groups of the villagers were gathered in the streets which looked upwards to Etna, and discussing the chances of an eruption. "Ah," said an old peasant, "the Mountain knows how to make himself respected. When he talks, everybody listens." The sound was the most awful that ever met my ears. It was a hard, painful moan, now and then fluttering like a suppressed sob, and had, at the same time, an expression of threatening and of agony. It did not come from Etna alone. It had no fixed location; it pervaded all space. It was in the air, in the depths of the sea, in the earth under my feet—everywhere, in fact; and as it continued to increase in violence, I experienced a sensation of positive pain. The people looked anxious and alarmed, although they said it was a good thing for all Sicily; that last year they had been in constant fear from earthquakes, and that an eruption invariably left the island quiet for several years. It is true that, during the past year, parts of Sicily and Calabria have been visited with severe shocks, occasioning much damage to property. A merchant of this city informed me yesterday that his whole family had slept for two months in the vaults of his warehouse, fearing that their residence might be shaken down in the night.
As we rode along from Aci Reale to Taormina, all the rattling of the diligence over the rough road could not drown the awful noise. There was a strong smell of sulphur in the air, and the thick pants of smoke from the lower crater continued to increase in strength. The sun was fierce and hot, and the edges of the sulphureous clouds shone with a dazzling whiteness. A mounted soldier overtook us, and rode beside the diligence, talking with the postillion. He had been up to the mountain, and was taking his report to the Governor of the district. The heat of the day and the continued tremor of the air lulled me into a sort of doze, when I was suddenly aroused by a cry from the soldier and the stopping of the diligence. At the same time, there was a terrific peal of sound, followed by a jar which must have shaken the whole island. We looked up to Etna, which was fortunately in full view before us. An immense mass of snow-white smoke had burst up from the crater and was rising perpendicularly into the air, its rounded volumes rapidly whirling one over the other, yet urged with such impetus that they only rolled outwards after they had ascended to an immense height. It might have been one minute or five—for I was so entranced by this wonderful spectacle that I lost the sense of time—but it seemed instantaneous (so rapid and violent were the effects of the explosion), when there stood in the air, based on the summit of the mountain, a mass of smoke four or five miles high, and shaped precisely like the Italian pine tree.
Words cannot paint the grandeur of this mighty tree. Its trunk of columned smoke, one side of which was silvered by the sun, while the other, in shadow, was lurid with red flame, rose for more than a mile before it sent out its cloudy boughs. Then parting into a thousand streams, each of which again threw out its branching tufts of smoke, rolling and waving in the air, it stood in intense relief against the dark blue of the sky. Its rounded masses of foliage were dazzlingly white on one side, while, in the shadowy depths of the branches, there was a constant play of brown, yellow, and crimson tints, revealing the central shaft of fire. It was like the tree celebrated in the Scandinavian sagas, as seen by the mother of Harold Hardrada—that tree, whose roots pierced through the earth, whose trunk was of the color of blood, and whose branches filled the uttermost corners of the heavens.
This outburst seemed to have relieved the mountain, for the tremors were now less violent, though the terrible noise still droned in the air, and earth, and sea. And now, from the base of the tree, three white streams slowly crept into as many separate chasms, against the walls of which played the flickering glow of the burning lava. The column of smoke and flame was still hurled upwards, and the tree, after standing about ten minutes—a new and awful revelation of the active forces of Nature—gradually rose and spread, lost its form, and, slowly moved by a light wind (the first that disturbed the dead calm of the day), bent over to the eastward. We resumed our course. The vast belt of smoke at last arched over the strait, here about twenty miles wide, and sank towards the distant Calabrian shore. As we drove under it, for some miles of our way, the sun was totally obscured, and the sky presented the singular spectacle of two hemispheres of clear blue, with a broad belt of darkness drawn between them. There was a hot, sulphureous vapor in the air, and showers of white ashes fell, from time to time. We were distant about twelve miles, in a straight line, from the crater; but the air was so clear, even under the shadow of the smoke, that I could distinctly trace the downward movement of the rivers of lava.
This was the eruption, at last, to which all the phenomena of the morning had been only preparatory. For the first time in ten years the depths of Etna had been stirred, and I thanked God for my detention at Malta, and the singular hazard of travel which had brought me here, to his very base, to witness a scene, the impression of which I shall never lose, to my dying day. Although the eruption may continue and the mountain pour forth fiercer fires and broader tides of lava, I cannot but think that the first upheaval, which lets out the long-imprisoned forces, will not be equalled in grandeur by any later spectacle.
After passing Taormina, our road led us under the hills of the coast, and although I occasionally caught glimpses of Etna, and saw the reflection of fires from the lava which was filling up his savage ravines, the smoke at last encircled his waist, and he was then shut out of sight by the intervening mountains. We lost a bolt in a deep valley opening on the sea, and during our stoppage I could still hear the groans of the Mountain, though farther off and less painful to the ear. As evening came on, the beautiful hills of Calabria, with white towns and villages on their sides, gleamed in the purple light of the setting sun. We drove around headland after headland, till the strait opened, and we looked over the harbor of Messina to Capo Faro, and the distant islands of the Tyrrhene Sea.
* * * * *
I leave this afternoon for Naples and Leghorn. I have lost already so much time between Constantinople and this place, that I cannot give up ten days more to Etna. Besides, I am so thoroughly satisfied with what I have seen, that I fear no second view of the eruption could equal it. Etna cannot be seen from here, nor from a nearer point than a mountain six or eight miles distant. I tried last evening to get a horse and ride out to it, in order to see the appearance of the eruption by night; but every horse, mule and donkey in the place was engaged, except a miserable lame mule, for which five dollars was demanded. However, the night happened to be cloudy so that I could have seen nothing.
My passport is finally en regle. It has cost the labors of myself and an able-bodied valet-de-place since yesterday morning, and the expenditure of five dollars and a half, to accomplish this great work. I have just been righteously abusing the Neapolitan Government to a native merchant whom, from his name, I took to be a Frenchman, but as I am off in an hour or two, hope to escape arrest. Perdition to all Tyranny!
Unwritten Links of Travel—Departure from Southampton—The Bay of Biscay—Cintra—Trafalgar—Gibraltar at Midnight—Landing—Search for a Palm-Tree—A Brilliant Morning—The Convexity of the Earth—Sun-Worship—The Rock.
———"to the north-west, Cape St. Vincent died away, Sunset ran, a burning blood-red, blushing into Cadiz Bay. In the dimmest north-east distance dawned Gibraltar, grand and gray."
Gibraltar, Saturday, November 6, 1852.
I leave unrecorded the links of travel which connected Messina and Gibraltar. They were over the well-trodden fields of Europe, where little ground is left that is not familiar. In leaving Sicily I lost the Saracenic trail, which I had been following through the East, and first find it again here, on the rock of Calpe, whose name, Djebel el-Tarik (the Mountain of Tarik), still speaks of the fiery race whose rule extended from the unknown ocean of the West to "Ganges and Hydaspes, Indian streams." In Malta and Sicily, I saw their decaying watch-towers, and recognized their sign-manual in the deep, guttural, masculine words and expressions which they have left behind them. I now design following their footsteps through the beautiful Belad-el-Andaluz, which, to the eye of the Melek Abd-er-rahman, was only less lovely than the plains of Damascus.