« PreviousContinue »
LADY HESTER STANHOPE.
was formerly a convent, situated upon the summit of a con. ical hill, and enclosed by strong walls. When this wild prophetess settled in these regions, it was empty, and the pacha of Acre permitted her to occupy it gratis. She has been there ever since, and has made many alterations and additions, and somewhat beautified the place. I learn that she sleeps or secludes herself from her household all the day, and sits up smoking all the night. She dresses in male attire, and plays the petty tyrant over a few copper-coloured slaves and Arab domestics. Her fortunes are at a very low ebb; her bills are in the hands of
money: lender in the country, and are offered for a quarter of their nominal value. An acquaintance of ours, who has resided in her family for a length of time, and who knows her well, says that there is more prose than poetry about all that at. taches to this woman's every day history. At first there was a little romance about her when she was hailed “ Queen of Palmyra" by a flock of half-famished Bedouins, who feasted on her pilaff, and received a daily ration of coffee and tobacco from the stores of their crazy queen.
Shade of Zenobia ! lie quiet until thy Tadmor's throne shall be abdicated by this usurper, who, seven years hence, is to ascend that of the New Jerusalem as the bride of a certain Nazarene who made no little noise in the world be. fore thy time, and who, on his second advent, is to become in reality king of the Jews, and is to share his throne with the present desert queen. At least, so says Lady Hester Stanhope ; and the yet unbroken and unbridled steeds on which she and her expected bridegroom are to make their triumphal entry into the city of David, are now pampered by Queen Hester for the occasion. There are some curious and very amusing stories relative to the second personal appearance of the Messiah, and the participation which some prominent individuals here in the East are to have in that great event.
The lunatic dreams of Lady Stanhope excite only pity and contempt ; while the extraordinary theories of that other enthusiast, the Rev. Joseph Wolff, are remarkable for the profound research and intimate acquaintance with Oriental literature manifested by him.
After our lunch and siesta we continued our journey, and descended from the mountain passes by the beautiful valley through which
“ The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.” The Lebanon chain contains more odoriferous shrubs and plants than I ever supposed fell to the share of any one country under the sun; many of them are quite familiar to me, while of others I am totally ignorant. In a short time we arrived at the spot where “ Zebulon” did “dwell at the haven of the sea.” Here Sidon, the eldest son of Canaan, first pitched his tent beside the great sea, and “ the border of the Canaanites was from Sidon, as thou comest to Gerar unto Gaza."
Although Sidon was considered within the territory of the “ tribe of Ashur,” yet the Sidonians were never driven out by the Israelites, but were among the people who oppressed them. Ezekiel said of Zidon, she “ shall no more be a pricking brier unto the house of Israel;" and, “ thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I am against thee, oh Zidon, and will be glorified in the midst of thee; and they shall know that I am the Lord when I shall be sanctified in her.” How truly and how signally were the prophecies against Sidon fulfilled when the Persian hordes laid waste the territory of the mother of commerce, and levelled to the dust the palaces of her merchant princes. The sceptre passed away from Sidon to her daughter Tyre, who rose upon her down. fall, and led the van among the confederated states of the
coast of Phænicia, until in later times she also fell from a pinnacle of human grandeur hitherto unknown in the history of mankind; and her complete overthrow served as a much more striking example of the Divine wrath manifested against a sinful nation.
The miserable Arab fishing town which now occupies the site of the former metropolis of Phænicia has nothing to attract the attention of the traveller. There is nothing remaining save the charm which attaches to the spot where once stood the earliest maritime city of Western Asia. After an hour or two passed in calling up a variety of interesting associations connected with Sidon, we turned our horses' heads to the south, and in a short time descried our tent and camp-fire in the distant perspective. When we arrived at the place, we again found our home beside a beautiful stream in a bower of oleanders. From our tent door I now have a fine view of the sea, and of the coast as far as Sidon.
I am fearful lest you may suppose, from my meager ac. count, that I have neglected to observe, or, perhaps, may not have taken sufficient pains to make you acquainted with my observations on Sidon ; but I assure you there remains so little of the ancient city, that all the pleasure derived from a visit to it is from the association of ideas. If in the ab. sence of realities these waking dreams afford you any pleasure, I can bestow on you a few which I will borrow from another. While I was writing to you yesterday after. noon, my husband was engaged in penning a long letter to a friend, which is now before me. I find in it some reflec. tions on Sidon, which, in place of any of my own, I will copy for you this evening.
Breakfast now waits, after which a long day's ride.
By promising that you will overlook any trifling chronological errors, I have obtained permission to give you the
extract alluded to this morning, at the risk of its proving dry and tedious.
Its harbour still remains, but is choked up with sand. A single brig, and a few small fishing vessels riding at anchor, are but poor representatives of the great commercial marine of ancient Sidon. We did not dismount from our horses, but rode through and around the town, and lingered a while on a sand-bank, in the centre of the port, musing on the various mutations in the state of nations, oco casioned by the fluctuating nature of foreign commerce, or, rather, the constant and progressive shifting of its principal seats from East to West.
“Since the first Canaanite cedar bark was launched from this rock, bearing the toys' of Babylon to the isles of Chittim, down to the present day, when countries far beyond the lost Atlantis send proud navies to shake with their thun. ders the rocks of Lebanon, and the wandering descend. ants of Zidon stand in mute astonishment gazing at the dashing steamer as she whirls past their shores, the seats of commerce have ever been changing.
“ Ever since the trident of the ocean was first forged for Zidon, and wielded so gloriously by Hiram of Tyre, how much lustre it has shed on successive nations down to our day!
“Eluding the grasp of the insatiate Persian, it passed with the unfortunate Queen Dido over to Africa. During the minority of the infant Carthage, ere she had strength to hold it firmly, it was borrowed by other states.
"First, Agamemnon, of many isles and of all Argos king,' cherished the boon until wrested from his hand by the power of Corinth. With the Athenian its abode was short but glorious. The flag of Attica waved in every port.
“ The sceptre next dwelt with Syracuse, until she came in collision with the increasing strength of Carthage. Never before had the trident been the emblem of so much power,
THE FALL OF ROME.
magnificence, and wealth, as it was during the brilliant era of the Punic state. Rome never reached the acme of her power until she wrested the trident from the hands of her rival ; her power was not the result of commerce, but of an organized system of military depredation and plunder, and her naval ascendency served merely as the medium to spread far and wide the iron grapples of despotism, and to drag home in chains captive kings to grace her triumphs.
“ Without a reciprocal commerce, the wealth of the world flowed in upon her; and when full unto repletion, the scramble for the spoils' brought on civil strife at home and weakness abroad.
“When her glory was tarnished and her wealth dissipated, having neither agriculture, manufactures, nor commerce to fall back
power declined. “ The god of ocean and seas, during this long alliance with the god of war, placed his trident at the prow of every Roman galley, which, like the forked lightning, dispensed death and destruction round the world, until his own do. minions were tainted with the victims of human folly and unholy ambition. Mars, sated with victory, fushed with pride, and gorged with wealth, held the sceptre so feebly that it fell from his hand into the grasp of the next wily demagogue nearest the throne, who, not thinking that it was
glory enough to have served under such a chief,' sought to maintain himself on his giddy pinnacle by bestowing his country's treasure on those myrmidons beneath him who should best serve him in his utmost need. The nation's wealth and power becoming the prize and prey of a few, her honour and glory were neglected by the many; Neptune was insulted, and his admirers were contemned.
“ The angry god, seizing his trident, plunged once more into the deepest recesses of his marine abode, there to brood over his folly for having wasted so many ages in alliance with war and rapine, and withheld his protection from