Imágenes de páginas

in that humiliating posture remain till he has passed far onwards The casts of India have grown out of conquest and priesteraft; here a degradation hardly less shocking is effected by pride and superstition. They revenge themselves by cheating their oppress sors; but in the end, either the government or some powerful individual seizes their accumulated gains. The Jewesses are much handsomer than the Moorish women, who are generally of a white marbly complexion, partly from their sedentary life, partly because when they stir abroad the winds of heaven are never allowed to visit their cheeks. The Jewesses, on the contrary, have a brilliant red and white, and frequently become the mistresses of the Moors-connexions which sometimes contribute to diminish the hostile feeling toward this persecuted race.

Speaking of the measures in Morocco, Ali Bey talks of the elbow instead of the cubit. The English translator has removed another singularity which occurs in the French edition, where the days of the week as they occur in the journal are designated by the planetary signs. Spanish coins are current, and more than all others the peso duro, a coin so universally diffused, that we have heard it said a man may now sail round the world, buy pork wherever the ship touches, and pay for it in dollars. While Ali Bey remained at Tangiers, he attracted much attention by his assumed rank, his wealth, his liberality, and his philosophical instru: ments, and more especially by predicting an eclipse of the sun, and tracing the figure as it would be seen in its greatest darkness. When he had resided there more than three months, the Emperor, or rather the Sultan, Muley Soliman, arrived, to whom he made his presents and was introduced. His reception was in a high degree gracious; the Sultan praised God for having caused him to leave the country of the infidels, regretted that such a man should so long have deferred his visit to Morocco, and expressed his satisfaction that he should have preferred his empire to Algiers, Tunis, or Tripoli. The Sultan made tea for him, admired his astronomical instruments, went into his camera obscura, made him electrify his attendants, and partook the shock himself, and taught him in what pattern to cut his whiskers. Ali Bey even supposes that he had an intention of cutting them with his own imperial hands. In the evening, one of the Sultan's servants brought a present to this distinguished stranger, kneeling as he laid it before him: the present was covered with a cloth of silver and gold. He uncovered it with eager curiosity, and found two black loaves--a sight which disconcerted him, till the bye-standers wished him joy as being now the brother of the Sultan. It was settled that he should follow the Court to Mequinez. His friends the Kadi and Fakihs said prayers

with him ; they traced mysterious characters on the wall with the thumb of his right hand, thus to obtain for him a pleasant journey and a safe return, and the principal saints testified their respect to this accomplished Mahommedan by a formal visit. Thus fortified with benedictions he departed at the head of a caravan, consisting of seventeen men, thirty beasts and an escort of four soldiers. Crossing a branch of the Tetuan mountains, he 'perceived at a great distance two fleets of men of war, consisting of forty ships at least. It was on the 26th October, 1803: the French editor informs 'us, in a note, that this was the fleet engaged in the battle of Trafalgar,' and the English editor has not recollected that the battle of Trafalgar was in the year. 1805. He remained at Me. quinez only a few days, and proceeded to pass the winter at Fez.

The population of Fez was computed at 100,000, the last plague being supposed to have carried off half the inhabitants. There is something very striking in the mixture of splendour and ruin which this celebrated city presents. The streets are so narrow that two horsemen can with difficulty ride abreast ; and they are darkened by the great height of the houses, by projections from the first floors, by a sort of galleries which connect the upper parts of the houses, and by high walls, raised as if to support the houses, at certain distances, from one side of the street to the other, and having arched passages which are shut at night. No filth is suffered to remain in the streets, but they are not paved, and in rainy weather they are knee-deep in mud. The houses are in a state of decay; the lime is bad and the mortar ill-worked; the walls therefore give way under the heavy load of stamped earth with which the flat roofs are covered, to the thickness of a foot. Under this pressure thay bulge or crack, or are forced out of the perpendicular. Many are propped up, almost all without windows, and what few windows there are, are not larger than a common sheet of paper, placed very high, and generally either shut or covered with blinds. Such is the appearance of the Holy City, so called because Mahommed is erronequsly affirmed to have sanctified it by residing there. Behind these ruinous walls the houses are built each round a court-yard, which is surrounded above and below with a colonnade or gallery-something in the manner of a large inn in London. In the better houses, the ceilings, doors and arcades are decorated with arabesques în relief

, painted with various colours, and sometimes covered with gold and silver; the floors are of Dutch tiles, or of different coloured marbles, so arrangsed as to form designs. Leo Africanus affirms, that the mosques and other religious edifices were nearly 700 in number, of which 500 were magnificent buildings. At present they do not exceed 200, and the Caroubin, or Carrauven, which is the most

[ocr errors]

celebrated, appeared mean to Ali Bey after the Cathedral at Cordoba. This traveller says nothing of the nine hundred lamps which were wont to burn every night in the temple, nor of the great lustre containing an hundred and fifty, made from the bells which the king of Fez had conquered from Christian churches. He inquired for the complete manuscript of Livy, which has been said to exist in the library of this mosque, but his researches were vain, and he was afraid to discover much earnestness upon the subject, lest he should render himself suspected. The state in which he found the books was such, that if any such manuscript existed it has probably mouldered away, or been devoured by the rats, The Caroubin is remarkable for having a place where women may attend the public prayers, being the only place of worship in the Mahommedan world where a station is allowed them.

As the inhabitants of the surrounding country are a wandering race, who have neither shops nor work-places of their own, they repair to Fez for every thing, and the city resembles a continual fair, so numerous are its shops and so great the multitudes who resort to it. Its markets may be compared to those in Europe for abundance. But Fez is celebrated also as the Benares or Oxford of the African Mabommedans. To form an idea of their manner of instruction, Ali Bey tells us, we must imagine a man sitting cross-legged on the ground and singing in a lamentable tone, or uttering frightful cries, while fifteen or twenty youths sit in a circle round him, with their books or writing tables in their hands, and in complete discordance repeat his cries and songs. All their studies are confined to the Koran and its commentators, and so much grammar and logic as are necessary to understand what is intelligible in them. They have Euclid, in great folio volumes, which are neither read nor copied, except about a dozen pages. Their cosmography is taken from Ptolemy; they study po geography, and their astronomy is confined to calculating the time by the sun with clumsy astrolabes. A few miserable adepts sometimes deceive themselves and others by pursuing alchemy. Anaiɔmy is proscribed by their religious notions : medicine, as a sciente,

is unknown; it is an empirical art mixed with superstition and cruelty: Their laws prohibit pictures and graven images, and music is left entirely to women and to the lowest class of the people. The language is in a state of extreme degradation, notwithstanding the advantages which the Koran has given it: they have no printing office; and Ali Bey says, the great imperfection of their writing arises from this cause, that they frequently confound the letters with the dots and accents, so that it happens very often that the inhabitants do not understand each other. It is difficult, however,

conceive in what manner bad writing can corrupt the oral 1. an.

[ocr errors]

guage. This imperfection in the language and in writing forces, he says, the inhabitants to read it as if singing; it makes them confound the meaning of the phrases, which, besides, are not distinguished by any orthographical punctuation, but only by quiverings and cadences, which give the reader the time necessary for him to comprehend the meaning of the writing, which he would not be able to do if it were read to him rapidly. This passage seems not to be more incorrect in expression than in its purport. Where little is read except the Koran, and where the Koran is the book in which children are taught to read, it may reasonably be supposed that other books will be read in the same manner as the Koran; and the chanting of our cathedral service, or more appositely still, the mode in which the Pentateuch is read in the Synagogue, may show that the intonations and quiverings and cadences of the Moors are not clumsy inventions for giving them time to comprehend what they read. The number of scholars at this Athens of Africa' is generally about two thousand.

Ali Bey seems not to have accommodated himself easily to the habits of the Moors, though it cost him so little to adopt their religion. He could never accustom himself to drink sour milk, and he never ventured to try the effect of a narcotic plant called kif. the properties of which a philosophical traveller should certainly have endeavoured to investigate. Some persons smoke the leaves instead of tobacco ; but tủe usual mode of preparing it is to boil it during twelve hours in an earthen pot with a good deal of butter, and afterwards strain the butter, which they either mix with sweetmeats, or use it to season their food, or swallow it in pills. In either form its effect is said to be certain; and its merits is, that it does not intoxicate, but raises the spirits and fills the imagination with agreeable fancies. Such a drug might possibly possess the beneficial, without the deleterious, properties of opium,—and certainly Ali Bey, by the qualification to which he submitted, had authorized the public to expect that he would be indefatigable in his researches, and bolder in adventure than all his predecessors. If it was not required that he should drink up Esil or eat a crocodile, it was at least to be hoped that he would penetrate to Tombuctoo, and bring home the secret of the Psylli; much more, that the philosophizing Mussulman should accurately investigate every thing within his reach, the knowledge of which might possibly be in any way beneficial to mankind.

In this part of his narrative, Ali Bey thinks it proper and even necessary to give a history of the great man Mouhhammed.' Pria, deaux has written the life of Mahommed, with a virulent and indiscriminating spirit. Gagnier has collected with commendable fidelity the facts and fables of the Mahommedan writers upon

[ocr errors]

the same subject; and Bounlainvilliers, with the impudence which characterizes ignorant infidelity, produced an eulogy upon the Arabian impostor. The sketch which Ali Bey gives, has no other merit than its brevity-and seems to have no other purport than that of insinuating his own scepticism concerning the inspiration of a man whom he nevertheless calls a prophet. Was the Kour'ann, he says, brought him by the angel of the Lord? Mussulmen say, Yes: others answer, No. Was it the conception of his own genius merely? The faithful believers deny this supposition; his enemies affirm it. But it is not in this work that such a question should be discussed.' Certainly not, and therefore the account of Mahommed was neither proper nor necessary. The account which he has given of the Mahommedan religion is in like manner short and imperfect; nor is it by any means correct. He says, that it has no intermediate persons between God and man, known by the name of priests or ministers. What then are the scheiks, the khatibs, and the imams? and what were the caliphs ? The Ulemahs also area religious body, for the civil and religious professions are united in Mahommedan countries, and the very title of the Mufti, or Sheikh Islam, as he is also called, implies his religious character. But Ali Bey has the hierophobia upon him, or philosopher's disease; and because he saw too many priests in his own country, would fain discover none in the saving religion of the Moors. A Spaniard may be forgiven for this,-better is any faith than the faith of St. Dominic and Philip the Second. But had he seen and reported things as they are, he would have acknowledged that Islam has been not less corrupted with monkery, and a monstrous apparatus of mythological fable, than the Christianity of Spain.

While he was at Fez he witnessed an impressive ceremony. A place out of the town called El Emsalla is assigned for the Paschal prayer, where all the people meet in the morning of the first day of Easter before sun-rise.

- When the Sultan was at Fez at last Easter, the feast was very sumptuous, and the Pashas, the Kaids, the great Sheiks, at the head of numerous corps of cavalry, flocked from all provinces of the empire, in order to congratulate the sovereign ; most of them encamped out of the town.

On the spot of the Emşalla an enclosure was made which had a square form; three of its sides were surrounded with a cloth, five or six feet high, and about sixty feet long on each side: within there was a pulpit for the preacher. We were about six hundred men within this enclosure; all the populace of Fez and the people from the provinces kept on the outside, and the whole assembly consisted of at least two hundred and fifty thousand souls. At the arrival of the sultan the prayers began. Every time that the Imaum and the Muedden accom. panied the movements of the rikats with the exclamation, Allahouakibur!

« AnteriorContinuar »