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SKETCH OF PALESTINE.
[The following sketch is from the pen of Mr. de Chateaubriand, the author of
several excellent works, and particularly of the little novel of Attila, which enjoys so high a reputation. This gentleman visited Palestine in the year 1807 with an escort provided by the French government, and on bis return to Paris gave the public a mere outline of his travels in the Mercure de France under the head of a critique or notice of a late work of his friend Mr. de la Borde entitled " A picturesque tour through Spain.” We have expunged from our translation, of this essay of Mr. de Chateaubriand, the parts which relate particularly to Mr. de la Borde's work, and have retained only those which refer to the travels of the writer. This circumstance will account for some apparent incoherencies in the plan. The style of Mr. de Chateaubriand, although often extremely beautiful, is at all times desultory, and the more so in this production, as he indulges in some allusions injurious to the despotism under which he is condemned to live, and has therefore studiously expressed himself in propositions of a very general nature. His two works " Le Génie du Christianisme” and “ Les Martyrs,” place him in the first ranks of French literature. The details concerning the present state of Jerusalem, which we have abridged from his narrative for the entertainment of our readers, will be found to exhibit both the defects and beauties of his manner.]
There are certain kinds of literature which seem to appertain to particular stages of society: thus poetry is appropriate to the infancy, and history to the mature age, of nations. The simplicity of pastoral, and the elevation of heroic manners should be proclaimed from the lyre of Homer; the wisdom and the vices of civilized states require the pen of Thucydides. The muse; nevertheless, has often unveiled the excesses of man, but there is something so captivating in the language of poetry, that it shadows and even embellishes the grossness of crimes. The historian alone can exhibit them in all the fulness of their deformity. He is the avenger of violated justice and abused humanity, and appears in the most imposing majesty of his delegation, when he has to trace the features of despotism;-the cruelty and the caprice of the tyrant,—the abjection and the fetters of the slave. He is often cotemporary with the scenes which he portrays; and this coincidence is among the most striking of the dispensations of divine wisdom. While Nero reigned, Tacitus grew up unknown near the ashes of Germanicus; and an impartial providence thus delivered over, as it were, to an obscure infant, the glory of the master of the world. The author of the Anpals soon stripped the tyrant of his false titles, and exhibited a buffoon and a par: ricide instead of a divinity:-in the manner of the primitive christians of Egypt, who, at the risk of their lives, penetrated VOL. I.
into the temples of idolatry, and from the recesses of a gloomy sanctuary, dragged into light, not a God, but some horrible monster.
If the task of the historian be noble, it is often dangerous; and in order to depict the actions of men, he should possess not only an enlarged mind, a vigorous imagination, a feeling heart and an acute discernment, but the utmost intrepidity of soul. There are, indeed, some departments of history which do not exact an equal portion of courage in the historian. Travels for instance, such as those of Mr. de la Borde, which we now announce to the public, and which may be said to bear some affinity both to poetry and to history, may be written without danger. Still
, ruins and tombs may unfold truths not to be found elsewhere;-for the aspect of devastation does not change like the physiognomy of man. “ Non ut " hominum vultus, ita locorum facies mutantur.”
Antiquity has left us but one model of this species of writing the travels of Pausanias. The Journal of Nearchus
and the Periplon of Hanno are works of a different class. If - the art of engraving had been known in the time of Pausanias,
we should now possess an invaluable treasure. We should have, if we may so express ourselves, erect and whole those temples the ruins of which we visit with such eager curiosity. Modern travellers were slow in emploving the pencil to perpetuate the face of the countries and of the monuments which they inspected: Chardin and Pocock were, perhaps, the first who pursued this plan. Before their time, some journals embellished with drawings, were extant; but the execution of these drawings was no less coarse than imperfect. The earliest work of the kind which we recollect is that of Monconys, and, nevertheless, since the time of Benjamin de Tulede, we can enumerate nearly one hundred and thirty-three books of travels in Palestine alone.
The origin of picturesque travels, properly so called, is to be traced to Mr. de Saint Nom and to Mr. de Choiseul Gouffier. It is highly desirable for the interests of the fine arts that the noble work of the latter on Greece should be finished, and that he would resume those labours which our political misfortunes have interrupted. The friends of Cicero endeavoured to console him for the evils of life, by setting before his eyes the ruins of that country which Mr. de Choiseul is to portray. The chefs-d'ouvre of Italy, Sicily, Egypt, Syria, Asia minor, and Dalmatia, have been delineated. England can boast of a multitude of picturesque tours;" most of the public monuments of France are engraved: Spain alone as Mr. La Borde remarks, remained to be described.
The plan of our author is happily conceived, and enables him to exhibit without confusion an immense gallery of pictures. Mr. de la Borde has been fortunate in his studies. He has examined the monuments of art among a noble and civilized nation. He has inspected them in Spain, that fine region from which prosperity and glory have disappeared, but where Honour and Truth remain. He has not been compelled to explore countries once celebrated but now obscure;--in which the heart of the traveller is wounded at every step, and his attention constantly diverted from ruins of marble to the decay of human nature. The fallen gates of Mycenæ and the tomb of Agamemnon were shown to us in a desert by a child entirely naked, with a body attenuated by hunger-and a countenance distorted by wretchedness. It is in vain that you summon the muses to your aid in the Peloponesus, or court the illusions of fancy: you are every where haunted by the sad reality of woe and want. Huts of dried clay, fitter for wild beasts than for the habitation of man:-women and children miserably clad, flying at the approach of the stranger and of the janissary-desolation and solitude on every side;- such is the picture which is invariably presented to the eye and which leaves no scope for the pleasures of memory. The Morea is almost a desert. Since the Russian war, the yoke of the Turks has become more galling to its inhabitants, and the Albanians have butchered a part of the population.-Villages laid waste by fire and sword present themselves in every direction, and in the cities, as at Mistra for instance, entire suburbs are aban. doned. We often travelled fifteen leagues in the country without encountering a single habitation. The most grinding oppression that tyranny can exercise,—outrages and depredations of every description, are now consummating the ruin of agriculture and extinguishing the race of man in the land of Leonidas. To expel a Greek peasant from his hut,—to seize upon his wife and children,—to massacre them upon the slightest pretexts—are but the amusements of the most insignificant aga of the smallest village. The native of the Morea, reduced to the last degree of misery, tears himself from his country, and seeks a lot somewhat less cruel in Asia; but there again his untoward destiny pursues him, and he finds cadis and pachas even among the sands of the Jordan and the deserts of Palmyra.
We are not among those intrepid admirers of antiquity, to
whom a line of Homer yields consolation, for all the evils of
So far from loving to contemplate the struggles of wretchedness, we suffer when we see others suffer. The muses have then no other influence upon us than that which results from compassion for the unfortunate. God forbid that we should now indulge in those declamations about liberty and slavery which have been the source of so many ills to our country. But if we had ever believed,-concurrently with men whose worth and talents we highly respect that despotism was the best of all possible governments, the residence of a few months in Turkey would have completely cured us of this opinion.
The monuments of art suffer no less than the rights of man from the ferocity of the Turk. A heavy Tartar now inhabits the citadel of Athens-filled as it is with the masterpieces of Ictinus and Phidias—without deigning to inquire what people it was that left those remains;—without condescending to quit for a moment the habitation which he has constructed under the ruins of the monuments of Pericles. Sometimes the sluggish tyrant drags himself to the mouth of his den, and there seated cross-legged on a loathsome and tattered carpet, turns a vacant eye upon the banks of Salamis and the sea of Epidaurus, while the smoke of his pipe ascends among the columns of the temple of Minerva,*
“ Coward sloth, Sitting in silence, with dejected eyes
“ Incurious, and with folded hands." We can scarcely describe the various emotions by which we were agitated, when in the middle of the first night that we passed at Athens, we were suddenly roused by the discordant notes of the tambourin and the Turkish pipe sounding from the ruins of the Propylæa at the same time that a mussulman priest proclaimed, in Arabic, the passing hour, to the christian Greeks of the city of Minerva. It was not necessary for the dervise to announce to us thus the flight of time: his voice alone when raised in that spot was sufficient to remind us that ages had gone by.
* The cost of this edifice was two thousand talents or about three hundred and sixty thousand pounds sterling. See Gillies' history of Greece and Sie wart's Athens for a description of this noble monument.
This instability of human affairs is the more striking for a traveller as it is contrasted with the constancy of the rest of nature: even the subordinate creation, in derision as it were of our revolutions, experience no vicissitudes in their dominion, nor change in their habits. We were made to remark on the day after our arrival at Athens a flock of storks that mounted in the air,-then formed themselves in a line, and directed their flight towards Africa. From the reign of Cecrops down to the present time these birds have annually performed the same pilgrimage, and returned to the same spot. But how often have they not found in tears the host whom they left happy and joyous!-How often have they sought in vain not only their host, but the roof in which they were accustomed to build their nests. The whole route from Athens to Jerusalem offers a most distressing picture to the eye of a traveller. Egypt exhibits a spectacle than which nothing can be imagined more horribly disgusting. It is there that we saw five different bands of robbers contending in arms for the possession of deserts and ruins. We saw there the Albanian levelling his piece at groups of famished children who, as if familiarized to this terrible sport, ran to hide themselves behind the ruins of their cabins. Of one hundred and fifty villages which we counted on the banks of the Nile in ascending from Rosetta to Cairo, but one remains entire. A part of the Delta is suffered to lie fallow;-a circumstance which has not perhaps before occurred since the period when Pharaoh gave this fertile land to the posterity of Jacob. Most of the Fellahs have been massacred and the survivors have gone into Upper Egypt. The natives, who could not prevail upon themselves to abandon their fields, have desisted from the attempt of raising families. A man born in the decline of empires, and who sces in futurity no other prospect but that of disastrous revolutious, has, indeed, little reason to rejoice at the growth of children whose inheritance is to be misery. There are times when he may say, with the prophet"Happy are the dead.”
We shall always recollect the relief which we derived amid these scenes of wretchedness from a miniature France which we found in the island of Rhodes
Procedo et parvam 'Trojum simulataque magnis
Pergama, &c. We traversed with lively emotion a long street called the street of the Knights, and which is lined with Gothic edifices whose walls are hung with the arms of the great families of France, and with devices in our old language. Somewhat