Imágenes de páginas

were imperfect. It was reserved for the German literati to perfect this interesting collection; and in 1824 an addition was made of a splendid collection of new tales, which had been discovered at Rosetti, in Egypt, and which were translated into German by Von Hammer. These discoveries were further enhanced by a valuable Tunisian manuscript which had been in the possession of Professor Habicht, of Breslau, and by which every defect in former additions was corrected. With the assistance of all these, a German translation was completed, which, it is needless to say, transcended every other that had preceded it. The origin of these tales has been only lately traced with any degree of accuracy.

It appears that the Sultan Schahriar, driven into a state of great indignation by the want of fidelity of his bride, made a law to the effect that each of his future wives should be put to death the morning after her marriage. In the course of time and after, we presume, many executions in pursuance of this decree, a daughter of the Grand Vizier, whose name was Scheherazade, was united to this Sultan. By the delight which she gave with her stories at night, she induced the Sultan to postpone, from time to time, her fate, for she took care to break off in the most interesting part of her narratives. Thus passed two years and nine months, the one thousand and one nights, during which period Scheherazade became the mother of three children. At the end of this time she appeared before the Sultan, leading her little brood before him : the Sultan was powerfully affected; he flung his arms round the wife and then round the children, and assured her that she should be spared, provided only she would consent to renew the delightful moments which she had given him by her charming tales.

Many of the stories peculiar to Arabia are preserved only in the traditions of its inhabitants. Crowds of both sexes in every region of the Mohammedan world still earn their livelihood by their wonderful talent for recital; and they never fail to attract an audience; for the indolent natives of Turkey, Persia, and India willingly bury their present cares in the pleasing dreams of the imagination. The Africans, in the midst of their deserts, assemble nightly round the blazing fire in their tents, and learn to forget their own hardships and fatigues in the captivating narrative of ideal adventures. The public squares of the cities in the Levant abound with these wandering reciters, and their assistance is called in to fill up the heavy hours of the palace and the seraglio. Their art is even prescribed as a substitute for medi. cine: and physicians not unfrequently recommend them to their patients in order to soothe pain, to calm the agitated spirits, or produce sleep after long watchfulness. History, biography, numismatics, or the knowledge of coins, statues, and even political economy, were studied by the Arabs; whilst in the speculative sciences, the natural sciences, and particularly in medicine, they

[ocr errors]

were greatly distinguished. Arabian literature contains no less than 300 biographies of as many Mohammedan physicians, consisting of Arabs, Syrians, Persians, and Egyptians. Rhazas was a medical professor of the tenth century, whose fame rests chiefly on his writings. The famous Aricenna was also an Arab, and his eminence in the medical profession still makes him an object of attention with its members in all parts of the world. It is also a fact that the Arabs set the first example in publishing pharmacopæias for the purpose of giving the authentic receipts for the preparation of medicines, and many of the names still used for preparations of medicines are traced to the Arabic. The superstitious notions which they entertained respecting the impropriety of any contact with the dead, prevented the Arabs from attaining any great degree of proficiency in the science of anatomy. As : an irresistible consequence, it must be concluded that they could have known but little of surgery. Still it is not the less true that some of the most essential instruments used by surgeons in modern times were invented by the Arabs. The instrument called the probang, which is a flexible rod with a small piece of spunge attached to its end, for pressing down any foreign body that may obstruct the passage between the mouth and the stomach; this instrument, we say, is one of the results of Arabian ingenuity.. They, cultivated botany, too, with marked success. Chemistry may be regarded as peculiarly their inven. tion; and they delivered, to their credit, the real science from the vulgar absurdities of alchymy. We are indebted principally to the Saracens for the introduction of observations for the purpose of promoting astronomical researches ; but their attention to this science degenerated into the study of astrology. Optics were studied in the schools of Bagdad; and mathematics were dili gently pursued in the same institutions. The principles of trigo nometry, as they are now, understood, were derived from the Arabs, who introduced the substitution of the sines for the chord, which had been used by the antients. The Saracens likewise improved algebra, although it is not likely that they invented it. Europe, however, owes it to the Arabs, who brought it to Spain, and thence it found its way into Italy. Not only is the word

algebra,” Arabic, but various terms at present universally employed in different sciences belong to the same country. Thus, along with “Algebra,” we have • Almanack,” “ Alcohol,” “ Azimuth, Zenith," Nadir,” derived from the Arabic. The invention of the common ciphers which tend so much to abridge arithmetical calculations, has been attributed to the Arabs : but some recent examinations of papyra and other Egyptian antiquities now lying in the museum of Turin, shew that the Arabic figures were used by the Egyptians. It is, however, quite true that the Arabians communicated to Europe the knowledge of these ciphers. The proofs are numerous which exist attesting the power possessed by the Arabs of the principles of hydraulics ; and the architecture for which they have been so famous, exquisitely grand and delicate as it is, was generally composed of materials collected from the ruins which they themselves had made amongst cities, castles, and fortresses. They excelled, too, in ornamental writing, and cultivated music as a profound science calculated for purposes of much greater importance than those of idle amusement. The agriculture of these people was conducted on the consideration of a large union of principles comprehending climate, temperature, the nature of plants and their relations to soils. There is evidence, likewise, that the Arabs had attained no small degree of perfection in the extracting of ores and minerals from the earth; and, with respect to their knowledge of mechanical processes, the sword blades of Damascus, of Grenada, and Toledo, bear ample testimony to its extent: the Saracens excelled in the manufacture of porcelain, and of leather; and the terms of Morocco and Cordovan, still retained amongst us, are monuments of arts which owed their existence to Arabian ingenuity.

Mr. Crichton briefly announces that gunpowder was known to the Arabs a full century before its introduction into Europe ; and that Tiraboschi is of opinion that the same people are entitled to the glory of the invention of the compass. But he does not add that there are as good grounds still for attributing to them the discovery of paper. In a work published lately in Paris, on the History of the Arabs and Moors of Spain, by M. Viardot, a learned oriental scholar, a portion of great interest is devoted to the illustration of the views of the author, who strongly supports the opinion that the superior civilization of the Arabs influenced, in the most important manner, the civilization of Europe. With respectto paper, Casiri, we are told by the French writer, a learned antiquarian, has found out that this article, manufactured from silk, was used from time immemorial in China; that, in the 30th year of the Legisa, (the middle of the seventh century), a manufacture of this sort of paper was set up at Samarcand, and in fifty-eight years afterwards, namely A.D. 706, a certain Arab, named Youzef Amrou, of Mecca, substituted, of his own accord, cotton for silk, the former being more abundant in Arabia than the latter. Several ancient documents, of the date of 1178, 1251, 1270, have been examined, and the paper on which they have been written has been traced to Arabia." But the most ancient of the Arabian manuscripts, which certainly belong to a date much more antient than the usual one assigned to the invention of paper, are written for the most part on satin paper, and decorated with ornaments in colours so brilliant as to enable a person to see himself as in a mirror. The

compass, according to M. Viardot, was for a long time known to the Chinese before it reached the Arabs; but, unquestionably the latter are entitled to the credit of having improved, if not altogether perfected, this instrument. This French author states, that, upon the oldest of these instruments, the words Zoron and Aphron have been found, and that they were taken for Greek and attributed to Aristotle, but the words have since been found to be mere changes of the Arabic words djaron south, and avron north. Besides the compass was not used in Europe before the thirteenth century, whilst the Arabs, who carried on an extensive commerce, and to whose labours we are indebted for our earliest lights on navigation and geography, must have been long before this era acquainted with its powers. It is on record, in fact, that they used the magnet in their journeys in the desart; and they still more frequently employed it in their daily prayers, which were always begun by the faithful with turning themselves in the direction of Mecca. The five daily prayers of all Mohammedans commence with the words -“ With my countenance turned towards the holy Kaaba, I am going to offer to God, &c." In one of the early numbers of the philosophical transactions of our Royal Society, Dr. Bernard, of Oxford, attributes the invention of the pendulum as a measure of time to the Arabs.

Gunpowder was not known to any Christian nation before the middle of the fourteenth century. In France it was used in 1338, and eight years afterwards by the English at the battle of Crecy. But the Arabs knew the compositions of this article long before, and documents exist which prove that Hadji-Aga burned a temple in Mecca, with a sort of bomb which he threw in, in besieging the city. This event occurred so early as the year 690. Alanze, secretary of an Egyptian Emyr, in a work compiled by him certainly before the middle of the thirteenth century, describes some engines as “ a sort of scorpions lighted with the powder of nitre (nitrato pulvere incensi) creep along and hiss, then explode, and produce flame. The noise is like thunder, and the engine seems to thrown out fire, breaking, burning, and reducing every thing to ashes.” In the Chronicle of Alphonso the Sixth, written by Pedro, the bishop of Lyons, this author, speaking of a naval combat between the Emyr of Seville and the Emyr of Tunis, in the eleventh century, writes thus: “ The vessels of the King of Tunis bore certain iron tubes with which they cast forth a great quantity of the thunder of fire.” There is evidence of the same sort of engine being used at the siege of Gibraltar, in 1308, by Ferdinand the Fourth. From these and many other facts, it appears to be evident that gunpowder was first made by the Arabs of Egypt, where nitre, at all periods most prodigiously abounded. It is by no means an uninteresting fact in connection with this view, that the European armies instantly, as it were, adopted the use of fire arms, without any sort of preparation, experiment, or test-a proof that these nations had been saved the necessity of doing so, and had discovered what had been accomplished in some other country. In no part of the globe, however, can the title to this precedency be traced but to Arabia.

We trust that these remarks will not be lost on the editor of the

two volumes which we are now considering; but 'that such references will be made not only to the publication of M. Viardon, but also to the productions of Von Hammer, a German orientalist, who has recently written a history of a deeply interesting society called the Association of Assassins, and which is intimately connected with the annals of the Mohammedan religion, but remains unnoticed by Mr. Crichton.

A full account of the pilgrimages to Mecca and other places will be found in this work; and chapters of considerable extent embrace descriptions not only of the social state of the Arabs, but also of the natural history, in all its branches, of Arabia. As a specimen of our author's graphic power of narrative, we give the scene which takes place when a pilgrim first arrives at Mecca.

On entering Mecca, the first duty of the pilgrim is to visit the mosque immediately; and this injunction applies to all strangers whatever. The prescribed ceremonies are, first to repeat certain prayers in different parts of the Temple; namely, 'at the entrance under the colonnade, two rikats and four prostrations are addressed to the Deity in thankfulness for having reached the holy spot, and in salutation of the mosque itself: then, advancing into the court, certain ejaculations are uttered while passing under the insulated arch in front of the Kaaba, and two rikats are pronounced opposite the black stone; at the conclusion of which it is touched with the right hand, or kissed, if the pressure of the crowd will admit. The devotee then performs the towaf, keeping the Kaaba on his left hand; this ceremony, which was done by the Pagan Arabs in a state of nudity, is repeated seven times, the three first in a quick pace, in imitation of the Prophet; each circuit is accompanied with prescribed prayers and a salutation of the black stone. This done, after a few more rikats, he proceeds to the Zemzem Well, in honour of which he addresses some pious ejaculations, and then drinks as much water as he wishes or can get. Some have it poured over them in bucketfuls, ' and then,' says Barthema, 'the fools think their sins are washed into the well.' Others swallow it so unreasonably, that they lie for hours extended on the pavement, while their flesh breaks out into pimples; and this, as Pitts wittily remarks, they call the purging of their spiritual corruptions. These are the different ceremonies observed within the Temple, which the pilgrims repeat after their guides.

• The next ceremony that the hajii has to perform is the sai, or holy walk between Safa and Meroua; which is done along a level street about six hundred paces in length, and terminated at each end by a stone platform covered with open arches, and ascended by a flight of steps. This perambulation, which for a short space must be run, is to be repeated seven times; prayers are incessantly recited in a loud voice; and on the two platforms the face must be turned to the mosque.

A third ceremony is that of shaving the head; and the barbers, whose shops abound in the vicinity of Meroua, during the operation utter a particular prayer, which the hajiis repeat after them. This religious tonsure is followed by the walk to Omra, a place about an hour and a half's distance from Mecca, where the pilgrim prays two rikats in a small chapel; and must chant the telbi or pious ejaculations all the way. After this the towaf and sai must be again performed, which closes the preliminary ceremonies. Some have

« AnteriorContinuar »