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The pasha is proud of this canal, as men usually are of achievements for which they have paid extravagantly; and he still brings his despotic will to bear upon it, in defiance of nature and circumstance. I was told to-day of his transmission of Lord Hardinge by it, when Lord Hardinge and every body else believed the canal to be impassable from want of water. This want of water was duly represented to the pasha; but as he still declared that Lord Hardinge should go by that way and no meaner one, Lord Hardinge had only to wait and see how it would be managed. He went on board the steamer at Alexandria, and proceeded some way, when a bar of dry ground appeared, extending across the canal. But this little inconvenience was to be no impediment. A thousand soldiers appeared on the banks, who waded to the steamer, and fairly shouldered it, with all its passengers, and carried it over the bar. The same thing happened at the next dry place, and the next; and thus the pasha is able to say that he forwarded Lord Hardinge by his own steamer, on his own great canal.
Alas! poor old pasha-a great man with all his faults-his race is now nearly run, and, as is generally the case in the East, his canal will dry up as quickly as his bones, and for the Mahmoudiyah, we shall soon have an Abbasiyah or a Daoudiyah. Such is the history of almost all great works undertaken under a pure despotism. Being the whim of one person, instead of the offspring of combined intelligence and experience, such improvements seldom last longer than the mind that created them, and lived to keep them up.
Miss Martineau was not one of those persons who could look for the first time on the pyramids without emotion. She had been assured that she should be disappointed.
So far from being disappointed (she says), I was filled with surprise and awe; and so far was I from having anticipated what I saw, that I felt as if I had never before looked upon any thing so new as those clear and vivid masses, with their sharp blue shadows, standing firm and alone on their expanse of sand. In a few minutes they appeared to grow wonderfully larger; and they looked lustrous and most imposing in the evening light.
The party did not see much of Cairo on the first visit; their time was solely occupied with preparations for an ascent of the river. It is curious to mark how the English failing of hurry in travelling manifested itself here. There happened to be a Scotch and an American party going up at the same time, and all the energies, both of ladies and gentlemen, were devoted to the struggle as to who should be off first. The calm, contemplative mind of Miss Martineau seems for the time being to have been carried away by this peculiarly national impulse, and even the details of the first few days spent on the glorious old river are like the description of a boat-race on the Thames. It is evident that Eastern life had not yet taught its two great practical lessons of patience and repose. Another lesson of Eastern life might perhaps have been learnt to advantage before the start, and that would have been to dispense with luxuries. The list of good things, including fruit, wines, spices, chocolate, arrow-root, &c. &c., conveyed on board the dahabiyah, is quite terrific. After the native music, always in the minor key, the numerous birds that enliven the progress were the first objects that attracted attention. What Miss M. calls "the crested woodpecker" is, we suppose, the Hoopoe. The third great object was the valley of the river. Miss M. says that her attention had been previously called to the complaints of readers of Eastern travels, that after all their reading they knew no more what the Egyptian valley looked like
than if it had never been visited. This failure of description is owing to the banks being higher than the eye of the spectator on the deck of his boat, and the sinking of the land from the banks to the mountains. The remedy was of course to go ashore as often as possible, and to mount every practicable eminence.
I found this so delightful (says Miss Martineau), and every wide view that 1 obtained included so much that was wonderful and beautiful, that mounting eminences became an earnest pursuit with me. I carried compass and notebook, and noted down what I saw from eminence to eminence, along the whole valley, from Cairo to the second cataract. Sometimes I looked abroad from the top of Pylon, sometimes from a rock on the banks; sometimes from a green declivity of the interior; once from a mountain above Thebes, and once from the summit of the great pyramid. My conclusion is, that I differ entirely from those who complain of the sameness of the aspect of the country. The constituent features of the landscape may be more limited in number than in other tracts of a country of a thousand miles; but they are so grand and so beautiful, so strange, and brought together in such endless diversity, that I cannot conceive that any one who has really seen the country can complain of its monotony. Each panoramic survey that I made is now as distinct in my mind as the images I retain of Niagara, Iona, Salisbury Plain, the Valais, and Lake Garda.
Miss Martineau repeats the old story of the monks of the Coptic convent near Beni-sooeef, leaping and racing down the rocks and rushing into the water, struggling against the current to board them for a baksheesh. But this has been frequently denied, and it is stated by those who have carefully inquired into the matter, that it is not the monks, but certain poor Christians, dwellers around the convent, who play the part of importunate beggars on the Nile. Another observation may as well be made here, as we have adopted Miss Martineau's orthography for Beni-sooeef and baksheesh. Miss M. says in her preface, that if any English reader complains of her altering the look of familiar Egyptian names it is enough to reply that Mr. Lane knows better than any one, and that she copies from him. Now this is very good so far, and many of the names, as Asyoot for Siout, Adfou for Edfou, Aswan for Assouan, and others, are manifest improvements; but still we are not quite prepared to agree with Mr. Lane in his Anglo-Indian system of representing the long vowels by two English vowels, as the long u by two oo's and the long i by two ee's. The Arabic has in reality no e nor o, why, therefore, represent long i and u by ee's and oo's? The only reason we can see is to obviate the inconvenience, as we have not a long i and u in our language, of expressing such in printing by a superimposed mark; and as this is an important consideration, so without admitting the correctness of the system, we will follow Miss Martineau in her nomenclature.
Arrived at Asyoot, on the ascent upwards, Miss Martineau complains grievously of the misery of being stared at by all eyes. The gentlemen of her party, she says, wondered at her uneasiness and disapproved of it, but we can truly sympathise with her. The look of true Mohammedan hatred and contempt of the Christian, especially in remote places, is never to be entirely got over, and is everywhere the greatest penalty of Eastern travel. The caves at Asyoot suggest a first glance at the past:
In the pits of these caves were the mummies lying when Cambyses was busy at Thebes, overthrowing the Colossus in the plain. And long after came
the upstart Greeks, relating here their personal adventures in India under their great Alexander, and calling the place Lycopolis, the ancient name of the place, and laid the ashes of their dead in some of the caves. And long after came the Christian anchorites, and lived a hermit life in these rock abodes. Among them was John of Lycopolis, who was consulted as an oracle by the Emperor Theodosius, as by many others, from his supposed knowledge of futurity. A favourite eunuch, Eutropius, was sent hither from Constantinople, to learn from the hermit what would be the event of the civil war. I once considered the times of the Emperor Theodosius old times. How modern do they appear on the hill-side at Asyoot!
The satisfaction experienced upon determining, with unaided eye, from the mere fact of appropriateness of situation, the site of Antæopolisthe Ombte of the Egyptians-gave rise to a fine speculative train of ideas :
If I were to have the choice of a fairy gift, it should be like none of the many things I fixed upon in my childhood, in readiness for such an occasion. It should be for a great winnowing fan, such as would, without injury to human eyes and lungs, blow away the sand which buries the monuments of Egypt. What a scene would be laid open then! One statue and sarcophagus, brought from Memphis, was buried 130 feet below the mound surface. Who knows but that the greater part of old Memphis, and of other glorious cities, lies almost unharmed under the sand! Who can say what armies of sphinxes, what sentinels of colossi, might start up on the banks of the river, or come forth from the hill sides of the interior, when the cloud of sand had been wafted away! The ruins which we now go to study might then appear occupying only eminences, while below might be ranges of pylons, miles of colonnade, temples intact, and gods and goddesses safe in their sanctuaries. What quays along the Nile, and the banks of forgotten canals! What terraces and flights of wide shallow steps! What architectural steps might we not find for 1000 miles along the river, where now the orange sands lie so smooth and light as to show the track-the clear foot-print-of every beetle that comes out to bask in the sun! But it is better as it is. If we could once blow away the sand, to discover the temples and palaces, we should next want to rend the rocks, to lay open the tombs; and Heaven knows what this would set us wishing further. It is best as it is; for the time has not come for the full discovery of the treasures of Egypt. It is best as it is.—The sand is a fine means of preservation, and the present inhabitants perpetuate enough of the names to serve for guidance when the day for explanation shall come.
Owing to the season of the year, the prevalence of the north wind favourable to the ascent, and the state of the waters, the party ascended to the cataracts with as little delay as possible, leaving the exploration of ancient sites to the return. The activity and physical energy exhibited by the natives upon the ascent of the cataract, struck Miss Martineau very strongly, and she draws a contrast from it that will force a smile from the reader :
I felt the great peculiarity of this day to be my seeing for the first, and probably the only time of my life, the perfection of savage faculty: and truly it is an imposing sight. The quickness of movement and apprehension, the strength and suppleness of frame, and the power of experience in all concerned this day, contrasted strangely with images of the book-worm and the professional man at home, who can scarcely use their own limbs and senses, or conceive of any control over external realities.
Philoe had been passed previously, and the feelings experienced on first setting foot on the holy island, are expressed in enthusiastic language:
What a moment it was, just before, when we first saw Philoe, as we came round the point-saw the crowd of temples looming in the mellow twilight! And what a moment it was now, when we trod the soil, as sacred to wise old races of men as Mecca now to the Mohammedan, or Jerusalem to the Christian; the huge propyla, the sculptured walls, the colonnades, the hypaethral temple, all standing in full majesty, under a flood of moonlight! The most sacred of ancient oaths was in my mind all the while, as if breathed into me from without; the awful oath, "By Him who sleeps in Philoe." Here, surrounded by the imperishable Nile, sleeping to the everlasting music of its distant cataract, and watched over by his Isis, whose temple seems made to stand for ever, was the beneficent Osiris believed to lie. There are many holy islands scattered about the seas of the world; the very name is sweet to all ears; and no one has been so long and so deeply sacred as this.
The last point attained by the travellers was Abooseer, and there on the naked rock, and there only, Miss Martineau inscribed her name by the side of that of Belzoni and other Egyptian travellers and explorers. “Our names,” says Miss Martineau, "will not be found in any temple or tomb. If ever we do such a thing, may our names be publicly held up to shame, as I am disposed to publish those of the carvers and scribblers who have forfeited their right to privacy, by inscribing their names where they can never be effaced!"
On the descent commenced what Miss Martineau calls her course of study of the monuments. As this consists of an historical sketch, derived mainly from Mr. Sharpe's admirable work, and afterwards of details, the explanations of which are derived from Sir G. Wilkinson, we shall limit our notice to one or two points of general interest. In the first place, the general impression received by Miss Martineau, in regard to the architecture and sculpture, was that of beauty.
I know that it is useless to repeat it here; for I meet everywhere at home people, who think, as I did before I went, that between books, plates, and the stiff and peculiar character of Egyptian architecture and sculpture, Egyptian art may be almost as well known and conceived of in England as on the spot. I can only testify, without hope of being believed, that it is not so; that instead of ugliness, I found beauty; instead of the grotesque, I found the solemn ; and where I looked for rudeness, from the primitive character of art, I found the sense of the soul more effectually reached than by works, which are the result of centuries of experience and experiment.
The consciousness of this great feature of beauty in Egyptian sculpture, appears to have first revealed itself at Isna (Esneh).
It was here, and now, that I was first taken by surprise with the beauty ;— the beauty of every thing;-the sculptured columns, with their capitals, all of the same proportion, and the outline, though exhibiting in the same group, the lotus, the date-palm, the doum-palm, and the tobacco:-the decorations— each one, with its fulness of meaning-a delicately sculptured message to all generations, through all time;-and above all, the faces. I had fancied the faces, even the portraits, grotesque; but the type of the old Egyptian face has great beauty, though a beauty little resembling that which later ages have chosen for their type. It resembles, however, some actual modern faces. In the sweet girlish countenances of Isis and Athor, I have often observed a likeness to persons-and especially one very pretty one-at home.
The beauty of the Sphinx, of the faces of Ramases, and of the Osirides, is spoken of in the highest terms, as full "of moral grace" and of "soul." Nor is the expression of the face injured by its features
being colossal. Innocence is the prevailing expression, and sternness is absent. "The dignity of the gods and goddesses," says Miss Martineau, "is beyond all description, from this union of fixity and benevolence;" and she proceeds to deduce a philosophy from this.
The difficulty to us now is, not to account for their having been once worshipped, but to help worshipping them still. I cannot doubt their being the most abstract gods that men of old ever adored. Vigilant, serene, benign, here they sit, teaching us to inquire reverentially into the early powers and condi tion of that human mind which was capable of such conceptions of abstract qualities as are represented in their forms. I can imagine no experience more suggestive to the thoughtful traveller, anywhere from pole to pole, than that of looking with a clear eye and fresh mind on the ecclesiastical sculptures of Egypt, perceiving, as such an one must do, how abstract and how lofty were the first ideas of Deity known to exist in the world. If the traveller be blest with the clear eye and fresh mind, and be also enriched by comprehensive knowledge of the workings of the human intellect in its various circumstances, he cannot but be impressed, and he may be startled, by the evidence before him of the elevation and beauty of the first conceptions formed by men of the beings of the unseen world. And the more he traces downwards the history and philosophy of religious worship, the more astonished he will be to find to what an extent this early theology originated later systems of belief and adoration, and how long and how far it has transcended some of those which arose out of it.
The feelings experienced on first seeing the guardian colossi of Thebes -mighty creatures, with their massive shoulders and serene heads rising out of the ground,-were of a still more enthusiastic character,
And next appeared-and my heart stood still at the sight--the Pair. There they sat, together yet apart, in the midst of the plain, serene and vigilant, still keeping their untired watch over the lapse of ages and the eclipse of Egypt. I can never believe that any thing else so majestic as this Pair has been conceived of by the imagination of Art. Nothing even in nature certainly ever affected me so unspeakably;-no thunder-storm in my childhood, nor any aspect of Niagara, or the great lakes of America, or the Alps, or the Desert, in my late years, I saw them afterwards, daily, and many times a day, during our stay at Thebes; and the wonder and awe grew from visit to visit. Yet no impression exceeded the first; and none was like it. Happy the traveller who sees them first from afar; that is, who does not arrive at Thebes by night.
Another subject that remains to be noticed before quitting the Valley of the Nile is the importance to the old Egyptian mind of the state of the dead, and it is one of an interest paramount to all others as connected with past life. Miss Martineau's views of the matter are that these ideas were originated or modified by the structure of the country, and she expresses her ideas upon this curious subject as follows:
As to the disposal of their dead; they could not dream of consigning their dead to the waters, which were too sacred to receive any meaner body than the incorruptible one of Osiris; nor must any other be placed within reach of its waters, or in the way of the pine production of the valley. These were the boundary rocks, with the hints afforded by their caves. These became sacred to the dead. After the accumulation of a few generation of corpses, it became clear how much more extensive was the world of the dead than that of the living; and as the proportion of the living to the dead became, before men's eyes, smaller and smaller, the state of the dead became a subject of proportionate importance to them, till their faith and practice grew into what we see them in the records of the temples and tombs,-engrossed with the idea of death, and