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For nature had assumed the robe
That most she loves to wear.
Sweet summer time! sweet time of joy!
All welcome thy return!
May I a lesson learn;
The little time that's given,
The pure sweet joy of heaven!
Newport, 1. W.
THE GREAT SAHARA DESERT. THE earth has its bright and dark spots, its fertile and desolate regions; it has its gardens and heaths, fertile plains and barren deserts. In some parts vegetation towers like a majestic mountain, as in South America; and in others it rises gently and beautifully, as in England; while in other places, only here and there a vestige remains, as in the Great Desert of Sahara in Africa, where you may travel in some directions for hundreds of miles and never meet with a tree, shrub, or plant of any kind. Let me tell you of this vast ocean of sand.
The Sahara is the largest expanse of desolation in the world. It includes an area of 2,500,000 miles, being equal to two-thirds of Europe-stretching for 2,700 miles from east to west, and 1,200 miles from north to south. This bed of sand is composed of the minute particles of quartz, white and grey; and red sand from the red sandstone rocks which abound here. Well has it been compared to an ocean in size and instability, for every breeze disturbs its surface, raising waves of sand, and wafting them along and forming tempo rary hills and valleys. There are many places where the particles are so loose that to cross them is impossible; and in one place a plummet was sunk to the depth of 360 feet. On the surface of this ocean of sand rain never exercises its fer.. tilizing influence, nor dews refresh its thirst. If a cloud rises from the sea, and the wind carries it towards the scorched plain, directly it reaches the confines it ascends higher into the atmosphere by reason of the great heat, never yielding one single drop to fall on the earth which so much requires it. Hence how appropriate is its title, Sahara-belama—“the desert without water.” But here and there are springs round which plants germinate, and yield their fruits to the weary traveller, while he quenches his thirst beside the refreshing fountain.
Here also the poor camel replenishes his stomach reservoir with this inestimable fluid for future use, without which he could not pursue his journey. These spots are called "Oases :" and oh! what inexpressible pleasure and delight do they afford to the mariners of the desert-whose hearts leap for joy at the appearance of these spots in the distance. But a traveller may be deceived. He looks forward, and there is presented before him a fine expanse of water, apparently real; he hastens on, but the scene vanishes; or, as Jeremiah expresses it, “ the waters fail.” This delusive appearance is called a “Mirage."
The desert is crossed by caravans of travellers, who congregate together for defence against the robbers which abound there in great numbers, and who live almost entirely by plunder. These caravans do not proceed in a direct line to their point of destination, but take a circuitous route by the oases, at which places they stay and rest for seven, ten, fifteen, or even twenty days, as their circumstances require. Not only from the robbers or “rovers of the desert" is travelling perilous. The “Simoon," that "pestilential blast," may pass over; and if the traveller escape suffocation, he has great cause for gratitude. The signs of its approach may be easily read. The sun loses his brightness, and appears of a dark violet hue, owing to the particles of sand which intercept his rays; the azure sky assumes a dark and gloomy aspect; shortly the thick cloud of dust advances upon the unfortunate travellers with the swiftness of an arrow. In its progress, all verdure near the oases is parched up, trees drop their foliage, and man cannot breathe; the camels hide their noses in the sand, and should it last for any length of time all must perish. On one occasion, a whirlwind of this kind
suffocated 2000 men belonging to a caravan journeying to Mecca in one night. Mr. Bruce was overtaken by this wind in the deserts of Nubia, and observed the signs of its approach the day before, in columns of whirling sand, moving sometimes slowly, and sometimes with incredible swiftness about the desert, which made the sun obscure and appeared like pillars of fire. When the guide called out that the simoon was coming, Mr. Bruce turned for a moment to the quarter from which it approached, and perceived it like a purple fog near the ground. It moved with such rapidity, that before he could turn and prostrate himself, he felt the vehement heat of its current on his face; and even after it had passed over the air which followed was so hot as to threaten suffocation. The same circumstance occurred twice more in his journey over the desert, and had always the purple or blue colour, while the sun, illuminating the pillars of sand, seemed to cover them with golden spangles.
Many travellers have set out from the civilized countries of Europe, especially from England, on exploring expeditions to this uninviting portion of the world. Here the unfortunate Major Laing was the first European to visit Ghadames in 1826, on the expedition from which he never returned. Lyon and Ritchie were the first to visit Mourzaurk, in Fezzan, in 1819, where the latter died. From this place Denham and Clapperton were the first Europeans to cross the desert to Soudan in 1823. They spent whole days without seeing bird or insect; but after painful marches under a burning sun, were delighted with the silence and beauty of the night. The moon and stars shone with peculiar brilliancy; cool breezes succeeded to the heat of day, and the rippling of the sands, moved by the wind, sounded like the murmur of a gentle stream. The deep stillness rendered every noise doubly impressive, while the surface of the surrounding waste returned an echo to every sound.
You will wonder how people can find their way across this trackless desert, where there are no guide posts pointing out the way, no landmarks, no trees or mountains on which they may fix their eye. As they look around them they behold nothing-nothing but sand. They are then in the same situation as mariners on the wide ocean, and like them they must steer by the compass and the stars.
After reading this you will be better able to prize the blessings of English life, giving thanks to God that he has not cast your lot where such desolation reigns, but where both hills and dales are always covered with verdant beauty. Should
not say as the pious psalmist did, “The lines are fallen to me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage.”
The few inhabitants who dwell within, or near this vast region of sand, are, for the most part, mahommedans, or believers in the false prophet, Mahomet. But attempts are making to distribute copies of the word of God in the cities of North Africa, on the shores of the Mediterranean sea, and these may yet reach them with tidings of Jesus and his salvation.
Arabia's desert ranger,
To him shall bow the knee;
J. F. S.