Imatges de pÓgina

casion, and which we copy from one of the last letters he was destined to write, cannot be coutemplated, at the present moment, without feelings of deep regret.

* I write to Sir Joseph Banks, and repeat to you, that I am in anxious expectation of a caravan for Libya, and I have been long prepared to start on the shortest notice. I shall leave Egypt with more pleasure, because I shall now no more have to regret leaving my journals in a rude state, which would have been the case, if I had started last year; and it will afford me no small consolation upon my future travels, to think that, whatever may be my fate, some profit has, at least, hitherto accrued from my pursuits, and that the Association are now in possession of several Journals of mine treating of new and interesting countries.'

Such was the eager and lively hope with which he looked forward to joining the departing caravan! but Providence ordained otherwise. On the 5th of October, 1817, he was suddenly seized with a dysentery, which, in spite of the attendance of an English physician, hurried him to an untimely end on the 15th of that month. No words can better depict the last moments of this object of our regret, his ardent mind and his affectionate heart, than those of a letter from the consul-general of Egypt to the secretary of the African Association, of which the following is an extract:

* I have the painful task of communicating to you very heart-rending intelligence. Our valuable traveller and friend, Sheick Ibrahim, is no more; he died on Wednesday last, after an illness of only ten days continuance, of a dysentery, which baffled all the skill of Dr. Richardson, then travelling with Lord Belmore, who most fortunately happened to be present at the commencement of his malady, and who attended him with great kindness and anxious zcal throughout its progress. The Doctor tells me that he never saw an instance where the constitution made so little effort to recover itself. The disease went on from bad to worse with amazing rapidity until he sunk a victim to its ravages. On Wednesday morning his dangerous situation became very apparent, and he then felt so conscious of his approaching end, that he begged I might be sent for.

* I went over immediately, and cannot describe how shocking it was to see the change which in so short a time had taken place. On the Tuesday se'nnight previous, he had been walking in my garden, with all the appearance of health about him, and conversing with his usual liveliness and vigour; he could now scarcely articulate his words; often made use of one for the other-was of a ghastly hue, covered with a cold clammy sweat, and had all the symptomatic restlessness of approaching death. Yet he still perfectly retained his senses, and was surprizingly firm and collected, and desired I would take pen and paper, and write down what he should dictate. The following is almost word for word what he said. “ If I should now die, I wish you to draw upon Mr. Hamilton for £250, for money due to me from the African Association, and, together with what I have in Mr. Boghoz' hands, (2000 piastres)


make the following distribution of it. Pay up my share of the Memnon head.” (This he subsequently repeated, as if afraid I should think he had already contributed enough, which I had once hinted.) “ Give 2000 piastres to Osman,” (an Englishman whom I persuaded the Pasha to release from slavery, at Sheick Ibrahim's particular request ;) “ 400 piastres to Shaharty, my servant. Let my male and female slave, and whatever I have in the house, which is little, go to Osman.-Send 1000 piastres to the poor at Zurich, my native place. My whole library, with the exception of my European books, I wish to go to the University of Cambridge, to the care of Dr. Clarke, the Librarian, comprizing also those in the hands of my friend Sir Joseph Banks. My European books I leave to you (Mr. Salt :) of my papers, make such a selection as you think right, and send them to Mr. Hamilton for the African Association-there is nothing on Africa. I was starting in two months' time with the caravan returning from Mecca, and going to Fezzan,—thence to Tombuctoo-but it is otherwise disposed.Give my love to my friends." He then enumerated several persons he was living with here on terms of intimacy: be afterwards paused, and seemed to be troubled. At length, with great exertion, he said, -“ Let Mr. Hamilton acquaint my mother with my death, and say that my last thoughts were always with her.” His mother's name was thus apparently kept back for some time, as if he was afraid to trust himseli with the mention of it. The expression also of his countenance, when he noticed his intended journey, was an evident struggle between disappointed hopes and manly resignation. Less of the weakness of human nature was, perhaps, never exhibited on a death-bed. About a quarter before twelve at night he expired without a groan, six hours after the above-mentioned conversation. The funeral, as he desired, was Mohammedan, conducted with all proper regard to the respectable rank which he held in the eyes of the natives. On this point I had no difficulty in deciding, after his own expression on the subject. I can assure you that his loss has been a severe shock to me. I admired his talents, high integrity, and noble independence of character; and from daily witnessing the admirable prudence with which he conducted himself towards the natives, I had formed very sanguine hopes of his ultimate success in the great enterprize to which he had dedicated his life. I also loved him for his benevolence, which was exercised in the most liberal way towards all whom he knew in distress ; and to do which, with his limited income, he must have denied himself not merely luxuries but even comforts. In conversation he was very agreeable: there was a quick sparkling in his eye, and a variety of expression in his countenance, when animated, which excited the most lively interest in the minds of those whom he was addressing; and the warmth and energy of his style and manner satisfied you that he spoke from the heart. His detestation of a man acting for his own ends against the interests of society was so excessive, that he could not speak of such a one with patience. He bad been daily in the practice of paying me a visit in my garden between the hours of three and six in the afternoon; but seldom could be prevailed upon to stay dinner, as it broke in too much on his usual habits. He was kind beyond measure in giving assistance to the

mavellers wavellers who visited Egypt, and in pointing out to them the best road to pursue. Only a week before his death he had been engaged in purchasing some books for Lord Belmore, when he met with a copy of the Antar for your brother, now in my possession.'*

The Antar here mentioned is a personage hitherto but obscurely known to the European public as the author of one of the seven poems called the Moallakat,' which were suspended in the temple of Mecca about the commencement of the Mahommedan æra. His history, as far as we know it, is told in a few words: Antar was originally a black slave, who, by his fidelity and courage, raised himself to a high rank among the Bedouins of the Arabian deserts, and became in time the contidant of his prince and the general of his armies. His prowess in battle (and he is for ever engaged in war, either in bis own cause or that of his sovereign) is only equalled by that of the heroes of the Iliad, the kvights of the Round Table, or the Paladins of Charlemagne. Having been betrolbed to the mistress of his heart, Ibla, he is persecuted in a thousand ways by her relations :-exposed by their treachery to dangers, which put his skill and his courage to the severest trials, he at length attains the object of his wishes. In a later part of his life, his ambition led him to have one of his poems writien in praise of Ibla suspended in the temple of Mecca. The tribe in possession of the town opposed it, and be only succeeded after many well-fought bartles. He is the ally of Chosroes, King of Persia; and there are as many traits of bis frankness and generosity in private life as of his unconquerable courage in war. Towards the close of the poem, some allusion is, for the first time, made to the appearance of Mahomet, the whole body of the work beng entirely free from the customs and principles of Islamism : and one of the few supernatural phenomena related in it is the extraordinary effect produced by the first uttering of the name of the prophet. The episodes which are here and there introduced into the work add to the interest of the story, paint the manners of the desert to the life, and afford a variety of bumorous and tender scenes. The female sex bears throughout a much more important part in the conduct of the poem than is now allowed to it by Mahomedan jealousy; and, contrary to the supposed usages of Arabian poetry, women are made often to appear clothed in armour, and to fight as stoutly as any heroine of our Christian romances. The narrative part of the work is in plain and upadorned prose; but most of the speeches are in the highest strain of Arab poetry. There are but few references to the superstitions, or religion of the time. The Christians are mentioned, but with no peculiar marks of aversion. The chiefs in their oaths swear by their idols, and they appear to have peculiar images in the temple which they worship, and to which victims are offered. The Kaaba is spoken of as a sacred object. The sudden barst of a tempest is at times attributed to the immediate interference of the Deity, though never to magical illusions. A talismanic ring relieves diseases, and now and then a sorceress is employed in good or evil deeds.

* The following extract of a leuer urition to a friend in England, in March last, presents a lively picture of the feelings with which a tasty peru al of a part of". Tlie Life and Adventures of Amar' had inspired this accomplished Orientalist:

• When you ask me whether I know Antàr, you probably forget that the first knowledge I gained of that work was from an odd volume in your own library. I fully agree with you m your sentiments concerning it; it has certainly every requisite to be called an epopee ; it is throughout of high interest, and often 'sublime. I have attentively read lille more than one twelfth part of it. Its style is very remarkable ; without descending to the tone of common observation, as the Thousand and one Nights often do, it is simple and vatural, and clear of that bombast and those forced expressions and far fetched metaphors, which the Orientals admire even in their prosaists, but which can never be to the taste of an European critic. The poetry appears almost everywhere to ke the effusion of real sentiment; and the heroic strain of Antàr's war and love-songs, bis satires and bursts of self-praise, are as exalted as they are natural.'

Our readers will learn with pleasure, that Antar is liely soon to be as well known to us as any of the heroes or sages of antiquity. Llis work, of which but three copies exist in Europe—one, we believe, in Vienna, and two (including that mentioned in the text) in England-bas recently been translated into English by a gentleman who has been residing for some time at Constantinople, in the character of oriental secretary to the British embassy. The original, like most oriental productions, particularly those which rank among the popular tules of the East, is ot considerable extent, consisting, we are told, of no less than forty volumes of various sizes. A very small part of the translation has hitherto reached England; but the specimens of it which have come under our notice give us a most favourable opinion of its merit as a tale and 28 a poem. The translation of the poetical parts is made in what is commonly called the Ossianic style, in which, it seems, the oriental imagery and idiom can be best transfused into our northern tongue,


The Memnon' mentioned in the Consul-general's letter is the head of a colossal statue found at Thebes, and brought from that place to Alexandria at the joint expense of our deceased traveller and Mr. Salt, as a present to the British Museum, where, while we are writing, it has just arrived in safety. This extraordinary head is, without doubt, the finest specimen of ancient Egyptian sculpture which has yet been discovered. It is formed of a single block of granite about ten tons in weight. Under the direction of M. Belzoni, it was moved by the sheer labour of the Arab peasantry two

After all I have said on the subject of the statue of Memnon, I am very much in clined to think that there were two pretended vocal statues at Thebes; and that the one which Philostratus speaks of, as having, besides its youthful appearance and other circumstances above mentioned, a peculiar intelligence in its eyes, and a mouth as if on the point of speaking, was placed within the temple called the Memnonian. The head of such a statue is still to be seen within this building, and it is certainly the most beautiful and perfect piece of Egyptian sculpture that can be seen throughout the whole country. We were struck with its extraordinary delicacy; the very uncommon expression visible in its features; and with a marked character that well entitled it to the admiration of Damis. It is of granite, the stone the ancients very commonly denomi. nated as the uérasva ribos. Its proportions are not so colossal as those of the iwo which are together in the plain ; and the place in which it is to be found exactly answers to the Tépavos tã Méurcros, -as described by the same biographer,-a space within a ruined temple, such as often occurs in abandoned cities, strewed with fragments of columns, traces of walls, pedestals, doorways, and statues of Hermes, or the Egyptian Mercury, partim manu, partim tempore consumptu. Hamilton's Egyptiaca.

miles, and, without the aid of any kind of machinery, embarked on the Nile. The French, unable to remove it, attempted to blow off with gunpowder the large mass of hair behind, forming that bushy coëffure so common on Egyptian statues, and part of the bust; fortunately, the face has sustamed no injury. If we mistake not, there is a plate of this bust, not exactly as it now is, but as the French savans had intended it to be after the operation of blowing off the wig.

By the indefatigable labour of M. Belzoni and Mr. Salt, the British Museum is likely to become the richest depositary in the world of Egyptian antiquities. They uncovered the front of the great sphynx, when numerous pieces of antiquity, as unexpected as extraordinary, were developed, pieces which, for many centuries, had not been exposed to human eyes. Among other things, a beautiful monolithic temple of very considerable dimensions was discovered between the legs of the sphynx, having within it a sculptured lion and a small sphynx. In one of the paws of the great sphynx was another temple, with a sculptured lion standing on an altar. In front of the great sphynx were the remains of buildings, apparently temples, and several granite slabs with inscriptions cut into them, some entire, and others broken. One of these is by Claudius Cæsar, recording his visits to the pyramids, and another by Antoninus Pius; both of which, with the little lions, are now in the British Museum. Several paint-pots were also found fronting the sphynx, with paint of different colours in them. At Thebes, M. Belzoni has made many new and curious discoveries, and found many valuable relics. which had escaped the ravages of the invading Persians and the modern Arabs: he has also uncovered six tombs of the kings of Egypt, which for centuries bad not been entered or, indeed, known. That of Apis he represents as uncommonly magnificent and interesting. • It is certainly,' he says, 'the most curious and astonishing thing in Egypt, and impresses one with the higbest idea of the workmanship of the ancient inhabitants. The interior, from one extremity to the other, is one hundred and ninety feet, containing a great number of apartments and galleries. The walls are every where covered with hieroglyphics and bas-reliefs, in fresco colours, which are brighter than any colour we have, and as fresh as if they had been only just laid on. But the finest antique in this place is in the principal chamber. It is a sarcophagus, formed of a single piece of alabaster, nine feet seven inches long, three feet nine inches wide, the interior and the exterior being equally covered with hieroglyphics. and figures, hollowed with a chissel. This sarcophagus sounds like a silver bell, and is as transparent as ice; no doubt, when I shall bave it transported to England, as I hope to do successfully, it will be esteemed as one of the most precious treasures of which any European museum can boast.' But we must return to the afflicting task from which the seductive


« AnteriorContinua »