Imágenes de páginas

suade him from the attempt, assuring him that he and his party would all be destroyed; and the boundary of the French expedition in Egypt was marked on a granite rock a little above the Cataracts. The pillage and desolation and massacre which accompanied the progress of the French arms in Upper Egypt were manfully resisted by the inhabitants of the interesting little isle of Philæ, who, when they could no longer prevent the approach of the enemy, quitted the island in despair, threw themselves into the Nile, and swam to the opposite shore. Such indeed was the horror at the cruelties committed by the French, that Denon acknowledges * mothers were seen drowning the children which they could not carry away, and mutilating their daughters to save them from the violence of the victors.' We cannot be surprized, therefore, after what we have just seen, that the natives of Philæ should appear to our travellers less civilized than their neighbours.

The few days passed by Mr. Legh at Essouan were employed in visiting the islands of Elephantina, Philæ, and the Cataracts. • Elephantina (he says) is celebrated for its beauty, and certainly contains within itself every thing to make it one of the most enchanting spots in the world : woods, gardens, canals, mills, rivers and rocks, combine to make it picturesque.?

Eight temples or sanctuaries are crowded together on the island of Phila, though its whole length does not exceed a thousand feet, nor its breadth four hundred. Mr. Legh thinks, from the present state of these temples, that the system of building among the ancient Egyptians was first to construct great masses, and aiterwards to labour for ages in finishing the details of the decorations, beginning with the sculpture of the hieroglyphics, and then passing to the

stucco and painting. He tells us also that the granite quarries at the foot of the mountains still bear the marks of the chissel and the wedge; . and that the unfinished obelisks, columns, and sarcophagi, which are to be seen in greåt profusion, shew the unwearied labour and mighty schemes of the ancient inhabitants.'

The Cataracts of the Nile have been represented by the ancients in the most exaggerated colours; unless indeed, which is not impossible, the gravite barrier which occasions them, has been worn down in the lapse of two thousand years. Denon says the effect on the surface of the water was so little visible, that it could not be expressed in the drawing. Norden estimates the fall at four feet, and Pococke at three; the latter, indeed, says, 'I asked them (his guides) when we should come to the Cataract? and to my great surprize they told me, that was the Cataract.'— But,' observes Mr. Legh, there are modern travellers who seem to have listened rather to the stories of the ancients, than to the evidence of their


own senses ; and Cicero is still quoted to prove, that the inhabitants in the neighbourhood of the Cataract are deafened by its noise. In confirmation of the fact, it has been lately asserted, that the natives of that part are remarkably dull of hearing. The allusion we suppose is to Mr. Hamilton, who, after noticing Cicero's observation, says, 'several persons with whom we conversed, assured us of this fact;'—and, he adds, we certainly observed that they were particularly dull of hearing.'

The view, however, of the barrier placed by nature between Nubia and Egypt, is described as in the highest degree magnificent.

• Passing upwards from Egypt, you leave the delicious gardens of the island of Elephantina, which divides the Nile into nearly two equal streams; and on the left, the romantic and ruined town of Essouan strongly reminded us of the old Gothic castles in England. Beyond, the two chains of primitive mountains lying on each side the Nile, cross the bed of the river, and form innumerable rocky points or islands to impede its course. The wild disorder of the granite rocks, which present every variety of grotesque shape, the absence of all cultivation, the murmur of the water, and the savage and desolate character of the whole scene, form a picture which exceeds all power of description.'

p. 54.

In fact, from the moment that the Cataracts are passed, both the country and its inhabitants have a character totally distinct from that of Egypt, its low sandy banks, its Copts, Arabs, Turks and Jews. The natives of this upper region are Barabras or Berebbers, or Berberins, the same who inhabit Mount Atlas and the interior parts of Barbary, to which they have given their name; a frugal, harmless, and honest people, subsisting chiefly on dates, millet, and a few leguminous plants: they are rigid Mahomedans. For the first eighteen miles, the mountains are described as hemming in the Nile, leaving but few small patches that could possibly be cultivated, and these were generally planted with dates. At Siala it was deemed expedient to wait on the Douab Cacheff, who was encamped about a mile and a half from the river, forming a sort of advanced guard of the Nubians : they found the men in wigwams; the women and children apart in tents; the whole body about 400; the horses and camels feeding around them. The Cacheff received them kindly; made no sort of objection to their, proceeding up the river, and told then he would send an express to Dehr, to inform Hassan Cacheff of their intended visit to his capital. He offered them milk, flour and butter, invited them to eat out of the same bowl with him, the strongest mark of hospitality and friendship, and presented them with a sheep, in return for some coffee and tobacco. Three miles beyond this, at Deghimeer, the mountains recede from the river; at El Umbarakat, about twelve miles from Siala, are some ruins: the country is thinly inhabited, and the natives mostly live in the caves of the mountains, which here again approach the river, and form a narrow and difficult pass. Two miles higher is the island of Kalaptshi, and three miles above the island the village of the same name, with extensive ruins; eight miles beyond which is the village of Aboughor. We calculated,' says Mr. Legh,


that we were now just under the tropic, and bathed by moonlight in the waters of the Nile. If this calculation be accurate, what becomes of the famous well at Syene, which reflected the image of the sun's disc when in the solstice?-But from what materials did our travellers draw this result? Mr. Smelt must be aware that this is a point of no trifling importance, since soi-disant philosophers, calculators and system-mongers have attempted to invalidate the chronology of the Holy Scriptures, from the supposed discrepancy of the situation of the well at Syene, with regard to the solstitial point, in modern and ancient times : as if, in the first place, the ancients had instruments for astronomical observations so perfect as to enable them to observe within a sixtieth part of a degree, when we find our modern travellers, with all the improvements of two thousand years, and with instruments capable of observing the measure of an arc to the 3600th part of a degree, differing in their calculations of the latitude of this well at Syene, no less than 40 minutes, or nearly three-fourths of a degree, which, in cosmogony, would make the difference of a few thousand years! Thus, as Mr. Hamilton observes, Bruce makes Essouan or Syene iu 23° 28', while Nouet places it, from more precise observations, in 24° 8' 6", thus making a difference of nearly (exceeding) forty minutes. But Nouet, like most of his countrymen, was a theorist; and boldly assuming his own observation to be strictly true, of which we have very great doubts, as well as of the position of the well of Syene being at any time immediately under the tropic, he fixes the precise era when astronomy was in the most flourishing state among the Egyptians, i. e. just 5400 years before the time when he made his observation for the latitude of Essouan! Few of the cavillers against Scripture chronology have any better data on which to ground their scepticism. They are ready to admit every rude observation of the ancients, who were incapable of observing with any degree of accuracy, provided such admission favours some preconceived theory; but captiously dispute every second of the more scientific and accurate moderns that happens to make against it. Perhaps our travellers thought, as we also think, that M. Nouet's conclusion is unworthy of serious notice; yet it might have occurred to a clergyman of the Church of England bow desirable it would be


to possess one simple fact that could be employed to silence those idle speculations drawn from imperfect data—and the remarkable discordance between Bruce and Nouet, in this particular instance, should have shewn Mr. Legh how necessary it was to have the observations of more than one traveller to get at the truth.

At Dondour was a small temple containing nothing remarkable; the character A + 1 among the fragments shewed it to have been the abode of some early Christians. The weather began now to be exceedingly sultry and oppressive; the thermometer in the cabin was at $6°; in the outer air 96°, and in the sand 126°; but it was a great relief to find the inhabitants every where peaceably disposed; they brought the travellers dates, milk, and whatever their scanty means enabled them to afford.

The temple of Sibhoi was minutely examined, and no doubt remained of its having been a celebrated sanctuary of pure Egyptian architecture. Mr. Legh thinks it probably of an earlier date than those in Egypt; the walls being built in a ruder style, and the hieroglyphics, though bold, of inferior execution; but the statues,' he adds, and the sphinxes would bear a closer examination. He was greatly struck with the high state of preservation of the stone and outward walls of these venerable ruins, as compared with the state of those below the Cataracts. No reasonable allowance of difference of date,' he says, ' will explain this; and we must seek for the cause in the inild, unalterable climate between the tropics. The corroding hand of time has no effect upon them, but they are abandoned to the desert, and many of them will in a few years entirely disappear.'

They proceeded about fourteen miles on asses to Dehr, the capital of Nubia, to wait on Hassan Cacheff, the chief of the Barabras. At this moment the people were celebrating the festival of the Cacheff's marriage, which our travellers were rather surprized to hear them call in lingua Franca) a fantasia. They rode through scattered plantations of date trees among which were interspersed a number of mud huts, till they reached the house of the chief, distinguished only by being built of brick, and consisting of two stories. The natives, many of whom were drunk, were greatly astonished at the sudden appearance of the strangers; but offered them no incivility. They brought them paste, with boiled goat's flesh swimming in butter. After waiting about four hours, the Cacheff made his appearance, attended by five or six officers, and a number of Negro guards; he was a young man, about six feet high, of a handsome person, half drunk with araki, a spirit distilled from dates. He asked them boisterously what they wanted, and why they came to Dehr? This was but a discouraging reception from a man who had 300 armed Negroes at his elbow, and at least 3000 in the district, ready to execute any of his commands. On retiring, he ordered his secretary, who spoke Arabic, to conduct them to a lodging for the night; this was a mud hut of two apartments, but without a roof; it was, however, next to that of the Cacheff, the best in all Debr. Early in the morning the secretary called upon them, and hinted that his master expected a present, and that one of their swords would be acceptable. On waiting on the Cacheff, they offered him a watch, of which he declined the acceptance, as they were unable to make him comprehend its use. Perceiving that any facilities for the further progress of their journey depended on the sacrifice of one of their swords, Mr. Legh presented him with a fine Damascus blade worth at least 500 piastres: the effect was instantaneous; his eyes sparkled with pleasure, and his lips uttered nothing but friendship. He inquired after our author's harem-if he had left it at the Cataract, meaning,' says Mr. Legh, as I understood, to give me a female slave to wait upon my wife.' He afterwards made him a present of a Negro boy, and granted permission for them to proceed to Ibrîm, offering horses and dromedaries or any thing else that could be of service. The Damascus blade accomplished more than all poor Norden's wealth was able to do with the Cacheff Baram, who sent him back from Dehr, telling him, when he claimed the protection of the Grand Signior,

I laugh at the horns of the Grand Signior; I am here Grand Signior myself.' — Baram in Ethiopia felt his own importance, like the porter in London, who, being jostled in the street against Peter the Great, was accosted with— Sirrah! do you know that I am the Czar?'— Yes, yes,' replied the fellow, 'we are all Czars here!

It required half a day's journey from Delr to reach Ibrîm, and as there was nothing to interest them there, they returned to Dehr the same evening. The following is all that we are told of Ibrîm.

“Not a vestige of life was seen about us; the destruction of Ibrîm by the Mamelukes, when they passed two years ago into Dongola, had been so complete, that no solitary native was to be found wandering amongst its ruins; there was not even a date tree to be observed. The walls of the houses, which are in some places still standing, alone attest that it has once been inhabited. The population was partly carried off by the Mamelukes, and has partly removed 10 Dehr.'-p.76.

At Dehr the only monument of antiquity is a temple or grotto, excavated in the solid rock; but at Amada, about an hour's journey from thence, on their return, they saw a fine temple which had been converted by the early Christians into a church; the painted figures that had been stuccoed over were in wonderful preservation, Below Sibhoi they fell in with their old acquaintance Shekh Ibrahim, whom they had left at Siout in good health and condition,


« AnteriorContinuar »