had left it, to remain for thousands of years, an eloquent rebuke unto such as are prone to think slightingly of the men who lived before them.
This enormous block lies there, squared and ready for the builders’ hands–a solid mass fourteen feet by seventeen, and but a few inches less than seventy feet long! Two buggies could be driven abreast of each other, on its surface, from one end of it to 1993 the other, and leave room enough for a man or two to walk on either side.
One might swear that all the John Smiths and George Wilkinsons, and all the other pitiful nobodies between Kingdom Come and Baalbec would inscribe their poor little names upon the walls of Baalbec’s magniﬁcent ruins, and would add the town, the county and the State they came from– and swear1994 ing thus, be infallibly correct.
It is a pity some great ruin does not fall in and ﬂatten out some of these reptiles, and scare their kind out of ever giving their names to fame upon any walls or monuments again, forever.
Properly, with the sorry relics we bestrode, it was a three days’ journey to Damascus.
It was necessary that we should do 1995 it in less than two.
It was necessary because our three pilgrims would not travel on the Sabbath day.
We were all perfectly willing to keep the Sabbath day, but there are times when to keep the letter of a sacred law whose spirit is righteous, becomes a sin, and this was a case in point.
We pleaded for the tired, ill-treated horses, and tried to show that their faithful service de1996 served kindness in return, and their hard lot compassion.
But when did ever selfrighteousness know the sentiment of pity? What were a few long hours added to the hardships of some over-taxed brutes when weighed against the peril of those human souls? It was not the most promising party to travel with and hope to gain a higher veneration for religion through the exam1997 ple of its devotees.
We said the Saviour who pitied dumb beasts and taught that the ox must be rescued from the mire even on the Sabbath day, would not have counseled a forced march like this.
We said the ”long trip” was exhausting and therefore dangerous in the blistering heats of summer, even when the ordinary days’ stages were traversed, and if we persisted in this 1998 hard march, some of us might be stricken down with the fevers of the country in consequence of it.
Nothing could move the pilgrims.
They must press on.
Men might die, horses might die, but they must enter upon holy soil next week, with no Sabbathbreaking stain upon them.
Thus they were willing to commit a sin against the spirit of religious law, in order that they might 1999 preserve the letter of it.
It was not worth while to tell them ”the letter kills.” I am talking now about personal friends; men whom I like; men who are good citizens; who are honorable, upright, conscientious; but whose idea of the Saviour’s religion seems to me distorted.
They lecture our shortcomings unsparingly, and every night they call us together and read to us chapters 2000 from the Testament that are full of gentleness, of charity, and of tender mercy; and then all the next day they stick to their saddles clear up to the summits of these rugged mountains, and clear down again.
Apply the Testament’s gentleness, and charity, and tender mercy to a toiling, worn and weary horse?–Nonsense–these are for God’s human creatures, not His dumb ones.
What the 2001 pilgrims choose to do, respect for their almost sacred character demands that I should allow to pass–but I would so like to catch any other member of the party riding his horse up one of these exhausting hills once! We have given the pilgrims a good many examples that might beneﬁt them, but it is virtue thrown away.
They have never heard a cross word out of our lips toward 2002 each other–but they have quarreled once or twice.
We love to hear them at it, after they have been lecturing us.
The very ﬁrst thing they did, coming ashore at Beirout, was to quarrel in the boat.
I have said I like them, and I do like them–but every time they read me a scorcher of a lecture I mean to talk back in print.
Not content with doubling the legitimate 2003 stages, they switched oﬀ the main road and went away out of the way to visit an absurd fountain called Figia, because Baalam’s ass had drank there once.
So we journeyed on, through the terrible hills and deserts and the roasting sun, and then far into the night, seeking the honored pool of Baalam’s ass, the patron saint of all pilgrims like us.
I ﬁnd no entry but this in my note-book: 2004 ”Rode to-day, altogether, thirteen hours, through deserts, partly, and partly over barren, unsightly hills, and latterly through wild, rocky scenery, and camped at about eleven o’clock at night on the banks of a limpid stream, near a Syrian village.
Do not know its name–do not wish to know it– want to go to bed.
Two horses lame (mine and Jack’s) and the others worn out.
Jack 2005 — this as a petriﬁed fact–I only suppose they were eating gravel, because there did not appear to be any thing else for them to eat.
The shepherds that tended them were the very pictures of Joseph and his brethren I have no doubt in the world.
They were tall, muscular, and very dark-skinned Bedouins, with inky black beards.
They had ﬁrm lips, unquailing eyes, and a kingly stateliness of 2148 bearing.
They wore the parti-colored half bonnet, half hood, with fringed ends falling upon their shoulders, and the full, ﬂowing robe barred with broad black stripes–the dress one sees in all pictures of the swarthy sons of the desert.
These chaps would sell their younger brothers if they had a chance, I think.
They have the manners, the customs, the dress, the occupation and the loose 2149 principles of the ancient stock. [They attacked our camp last night, and I bear them no good will.] They had with them the pigmy jackasses one sees all over Syria and remembers in all pictures of the ”Flight into Egypt,” where Mary and the Young Child are riding and Joseph is walking alongside, towering high above the little donkey’s shoulders.
But really, here the man rides and car2150 ries the child, as a general thing, and the woman walks.
The customs have not changed since Joseph’s time.
We would not have in our houses a picture representing Joseph riding and Mary walking; we would see profanation in it, but a Syrian Christian would not.
I know that hereafter the picture I ﬁrst spoke of will look odd to me.
We could not stop to rest two or three 2151 hours out from our camp, of course, albeit the brook was beside us.
So we went on an hour longer.
We saw water, then, but nowhere in all the waste around was there a foot of shade, and we were scorching to death. ”Like unto the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.” Nothing in the Bible is more beautiful than that, and surely there is no place we have wandered to that is able 2152 to give it such touching expression as this blistering, naked, treeless land.
Here you do not stop just when you please, but when you can.
We found water, but no shade.
We traveled on and found a tree at last, but no water.
We rested and lunched, and came on to this place, Ain Mellahah (the boys call it Baldwinsville.) It was a very short day’s run, but the dragoman does 2153 not want to go further, and has invented a plausible lie about the country beyond this being infested by ferocious Arabs, who would make sleeping in their midst a dangerous pastime.
Well, they ought to be dangerous.
They carry a rusty old weatherbeaten ﬂint-lock gun, with a barrel that is longer than themselves; it has no sights on it, it will not carry farther than a brick2154 bat, and is not half so certain.
And the great sash they wear in many a fold around their waists has two or three absurd old horse-pistols in it that are rusty from eternal disuse– weapons that would hang ﬁre just about long enough for you to walk out of range, and then burst and blow the Arab’s head oﬀ.
Exceedingly dangerous these sons of the desert are. 2155 It used to make my blood run cold to read Wm.
Grimes’ hairbreadth escapes from Bedouins, but I think I could read them now without a tremor.
He never said he was attacked by Bedouins, I believe, or was ever treated uncivilly, but then in about every other chapter he discovered them approaching, any how, and he had a bloodcurdling fashion of working up the peril; 2156 and of wondering how his relations far away would feel could they see their poor wandering boy, with his weary feet and his dim eyes, in such fearful danger; and of thinking for the last time of the old homestead, and the dear old church, and the cow, and those things; and of ﬁnally straightening his form to its utmost height in the saddle, drawing his trusty revolver, and then dashing 2157 the spurs into ”Mohammed” and sweeping down upon the ferocious enemy determined to sell his life as dearly as possible.
True the Bedouins never did any thing to him when he arrived, and never had any intention of doing any thing to him in the ﬁrst place, and wondered what in the mischief he was making all that to-do about; but still I could not divest myself of the idea, 2158 somehow, that a frightful peril had been escaped through that man’s dare-devil bravery, and so I never could read about Wm.
Grimes’ Bedouins and sleep comfortably afterward.
But I believe the Bedouins to be a fraud, now.
I have seen the monster, and I can outrun him.
I shall never be afraid of his daring to stand behind his own gun and discharge it. 2159 About ﬁfteen hundred years before Christ, this camp-ground of ours by the Waters of Merom was the scene of one of Joshua’s exterminating battles.
Jabin, King of Hazor, (up yonder above Dan,) called all the sheiks about him together, with their hosts, to make ready for Israel’s terrible General who was approaching. ”And when all these Kings were met to2160 — of Genessaret.
But the solitude of the one is as cheerful and fascinating as the solitude of the other is dismal and repellant.
In the early morning one watches the silent battle of dawn and darkness upon the waters of Tahoe with a placid interest; but when the shadows sulk away and one by one the hidden beauties of the shore unfold themselves in the full splendor of noon; 2270 when the still surface is belted like a rainbow with broad bars of blue and green and white, half the distance from circumference to centre; when, in the lazy summer afternoon, he lies in a boat, far out to where the dead blue of the deep water begins, and smokes the pipe of peace and idly winks at the distant crags and patches of snow from under his cap-brim; when the boat 2271 drifts shoreward to the white water, and he lolls over the gunwale and gazes by the hour down through the crystal depths and notes the colors of the pebbles and reviews the ﬁnny armies gliding in procession a hundred feet below; when at night he sees moon and stars, mountain ridges feathered with pines, jutting white capes, bold promontories, grand sweeps of rugged scenery topped 2272 with bald, glimmering peaks, all magnificently pictured in the polished mirror of the lake, in richest, softest detail, the tranquil interest that was born with the morning deepens and deepens, by sure degrees, till it culminates at last in resistless fascination! It is solitude, for birds and squirrels on the shore and ﬁshes in the water are all 2273 the creatures that are near to make it otherwise, but it is not the sort of solitude to make one dreary.come to Galilee for that.
If these unpeopled deserts, these rusty mounds of barrenness, that never, never, never do shake the glare from their harsh outlines, and fade and faint into vague perspective; that melancholy ruin of Capernaum; this stupid village of Tiberias, slum2274 bering under its six funereal plumes of palms; yonder desolate declivity where the swine of the miracle ran down into the sea, and doubtless thought it was better to swallow a devil or two and get drowned into the bargain than have to live longer in such a place; this cloudless, blistering sky; this solemn, sailless, tintless lake, reposing within its rim of yellow hills and low, steep banks, and 2275 looking just as expressionless and unpoetical (when we leave its sublime history out of the question,) as any metropolitan reservoir in Christendom–if these things are not food for rock me to sleep, mother, none exist, I think.
But I should not oﬀer the evidence for the prosecution and leave the defense unheard.
Grimes deposes as follows:– 2276 ”We had taken ship to go over to the other side.
The sea was not more than six miles wide.
Of the beauty of the scene, however, I can not say enough, nor can I imagine where those travelers carried their eyes who have described the scenery of the lake as tame or uninteresting.
The ﬁrst great characteristic of it is the deep basin in which it lies.
This is from three to four 2277 hundred feet deep on all sides except at the lower end, and the sharp slope of the banks, which are all of the richest green, is broken and diversiﬁed by the wadys and watercourses which work their way down through the sides of the basin, forming dark chasms or light sunny valleys.
Near Tiberias these banks are rocky, and ancient sepulchres open in them, with their doors toward the water. 2278 They selected grand spots, as did the Egyptians of old, for burial places, as if they designed that when the voice of God should reach the sleepers, they should walk forth and open their eyes on scenes of glorious beauty.
On the east, the wild and desolate mountains contrast ﬁnely with the deep blue lake; and toward the north, sublime and majestic, Hermon looks down on the 2279 sea, lifting his white crown to heaven with the pride of a hill that has seen the departing footsteps of a hundred generations.
On the north-east shore of the sea was a single tree, and this is the only tree of any size visible from the water of the lake, except a few lonely palms in the city of Tiberias, and by its solitary position attracts more attention than would a forest.
The whole appearance 2280 of the scene is precisely what we would expect and desire the scenery of Genessaret to be, grand beauty, but quiet calm.
The very mountains are calm.” It is an ingeniously written description, and well calculated to deceive.
But if the paint and the ribbons and the ﬂowers be stripped from it, a skeleton will be found beneath. 2281 So stripped, there remains a lake six miles wide and neutral in color; with steep green banks, unrelieved by shrubbery; at one end bare, unsightly rocks, with (almost invisible) holes in them of no consequence to the picture; eastward, ”wild and desolate mountains;” (low, desolate hills, he should have said;) in the north, a mountain called Hermon, with snow on it; peculiarity of the 2282 — glad that we did not make it for the purpose of feasting our eyes upon fascinating aspects of nature, for we should have been disappointed–at least at this season of the year.
A writer in ”Life in the Holy Land” observes: ”Monotonous and uninviting as much of the Holy Land will appear to persons accustomed to the almost constant verdure 2757 of ﬂowers, ample streams and varied surface of our own country, we must remember that its aspect to the Israelites after the weary march of forty years through the desert must have been very diﬀerent.” Which all of us will freely grant.
But it truly is ”monotonous and uninviting,” and there is no suﬃcient reason for describing it as being otherwise. 2758 Of all the lands there are for dismal scenery, I think Palestine must be the prince.
The hills are barren, they are dull of color, they are unpicturesque in shape.
The valleys are unsightly deserts fringed with a feeble vegetation that has an expression about it of being sorrowful and despondent.
The Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee sleep in the midst of a vast stretch of hill and plain wherein 2759 the eye rests upon no pleasant tint, no striking object, no soft picture dreaming in a purple haze or mottled with the shadows of the clouds.
Every outline is harsh, every feature is distinct, there is no perspective– distance works no enchantment here.
It is a hopeless, dreary, heart-broken land.
Small shreds and patches of it must be very beautiful in the full ﬂush of spring, 2760 however, and all the more beautiful by contrast with the far- reaching desolation that surrounds them on every side.
I would like much to see the fringes of the Jordan in spring-time, and Shechem, Esdraelon, Ajalon and the borders of Galilee–but even then these spots would seem mere toy gardens set at wide intervals in the waste of a limitless desolation. 2761 Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes.
Over it broods the spell of a curse that has withered its ﬁelds and fettered its energies.
Where Sodom and Gomorrah reared their domes and towers, that solemn sea now ﬂoods the plain, in whose bitter waters no living thing exists–over whose waveless surface the blistering air hangs motionless and dead– about whose borders nothing grows but weeds, and 2762 scattering tufts of cane, and that treacherous fruit that promises refreshment to parching lips, but turns to ashes at the touch.
Nazareth is forlorn; about that ford of Jordan where the hosts of Israel entered the Promised Land with songs of rejoicing, one ﬁnds only a squalid camp of fantastic Bedouins of the desert; Jericho the accursed, lies a moldering ruin, to-day, even as Joshua’s mir2763 acle left it more than three thousand years ago; Bethlehem and Bethany, in their poverty and their humiliation, have nothing about them now to remind one that they once knew the high honor of the Saviour’s presence; the hallowed spot where the shepherds watched their ﬂocks by night, and where the angels sang Peace on earth, good will to men, is untenanted by any living 2764 creature, and unblessed by any feature that is pleasant to the eye.
Renowned Jerusalem itself, the stateliest name in history, has lost all its ancient grandeur, and is become a pauper village; the riches of Solomon are no longer there to compel the admiration of visiting Oriental queens; the wonderful temple which was the pride and the glory of Israel, is gone, and the Ottoman cres2765 cent is lifted above the spot where, on that most memorable day in the annals of the world, they reared the Holy Cross.
The noted Sea of Galilee, where Roman ﬂeets once rode at anchor and the disciples of the Saviour sailed in their ships, was long ago deserted by the devotees of war and commerce, and its borders are a silent wilderness; Capernaum is a shapeless ruin; Mag2766 dala is the home of beggared Arabs; Bethsaida and Chorazin have vanished from the earth, and the ”desert places” round about them where thousands of men once listened to the Saviour’s voice and ate the miraculous bread, sleep in the hush of a solitude that is inhabited only by birds of prey and skulking foxes.
Palestine is desolate and unlovely.
And 2767 why should it be otherwise? Can the curse of the Deity beautify a land? Palestine is no more of this work-day world.
It is sacred to poetry and tradition– it is dream-land. 2768
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