« ForrigeFortsæt »
regarded; for, according to Tuweiled, not more than two or three of all the Tawarah had ever made the journey to Mecca. The profaneness of the Bedawîn is excessive, and almost incredible. Their mouth is full of cursing,' and we were hardly ably to obtain a single answer that did not contain an oath."
We must dismiss these valuable volumes after copying out the Professor's picturing of an oriental night-scene:
"The evening was warm and still; we therefore did not pitch our tent, but spread our carpets on the sand, and lay down, not indeed at first to sleep, but to enjoy the scene and the associations which thronged upon our minds. It was truly one of the most romantic desert scenes we had yet met with; and I hardly remember another in all our wanderings, of which I retain a more lively impression. Here was the deep broad valley in the midst of the 'Arabah, unknown to all the civilized world, shut in by high and singular cliffs; over against us were the mountains of Edom; in the distance rose Mount Hor in its lone majesty, the spot where the good prophet brothers took of each their last farewell; while above our heads was the deep azure of an oriental sky, studded with innumerable stars and brilliant constellations, on which we gazed with a higher interest from the bottom of this deep chasm. Near at hand were the flashing fires of our party; the Arabs themselves in their wild attire, all nine at supper around one bowl; our Egyptian servants looking on; one after another rising and gliding through the glow of the fires; the Sheikh approaching and saluting us; the serving of coffee; and beyond all this circle, the patient camels lying at their ease and lazily chewing the cud."
ART. III.-Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan. By JOHN L. STEPHENS. 2 vols. Murray.
MR. STEPHENS, our readers may remember, is the author of "Incidents of Travel in Egypt, Arabia Petræa, and the Holy Land,” which we reviewed some two years ago; a work that was distinguished for its sensible, unaffected, but cheerful and graphic character, and which was much relished both in America, his native land, and in this country. If we remember rightly, it was reprinted by two different London publishers almost simultaneously. The volumes before us exhibit the same cheerful and genuine qualities, with still greater diversity of interest, owing to circumstances, which will be immediately accounted for.
In 1839, Mr. Stephens having been invested with a government mission by President Van Buren to Central America, or more precisely to Guatimala, thus enjoyed unusual facilities of travel in the then exceedingly distracted condition of the country which he was to visit as a diplomatic representative. And yet it was not, even in his case, without encountering a number of difficulties and dangers
that he pursued his journeys amid the conflicts of civil war, all which however lend character and interest to the narrative, however annoying the incidents at the time of their occurrence might be to the narrator. The fact is, that owing to the commotions and distractions referred to, on the part too of an inflammable, reckless, and bigoted people, his official agency was of little avail, and had few opportunities for activity or being of service either to his own country, or that to which he repaired. In these circumstances he was much at liberty to do as he fancied, and to be as adventurous as a passionate and experienced traveller need be. Accordingly, having taken with him Mr. Gatherwood, an artist, and an old companion in his wanderings, he journeyed hither and thither to the extent of "nearly three thousand miles in the interior of Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan, including visits to eight ruined cities." The volumes therefore consist of two sorts of matter, viz., adventures, personal incidents, notices of people, sketches of natural scenery, &c.; and, secondly, of the results of antiquarian research, among the marvellous relics of some hitherto unascertained nation, who must have flourished and arrived at a high pitch of civilization in some very remote age. The portions of the work which give details of these mysterious ruins and monuments are to us by far the most interesting of the whole, especially as they have never been much explored, and that much ignorance prevails with regard to their character and amount. It is probable, however, that Mr. Stephens's book, now that the regions are in a great measure tranquillized in which these relics repose, will send some Champollion or Wilkinson to disinter and interpret many of them, which even as seen in the engravings from some of Mr. Gatherwood's drawings, are wonderful specimens of sculptural as well as architectural art. We, however, can only present samples of the letterpress; and will begin with the sketches of travel, which of themselves, whatever may be the superior attractions of the antiquities, would command for the volumes an extensive circulation.
It was in October that Mr. Stephens sailed from New York, in due time landing at Balize, the arrival at and departure from which enable us to see the traveller in his real character,-in his cool, self-satisfied, humorous manner,-to great advantage. Balize, he
"Was situated on the opposite side of the river, and the road to it was ankle-deep in mud. At the gate (of the mansion found for him) was a large puddle, which we cleared by a leap; the house was built on piles about two feet high, and underneath was water nearly a foot deep. We ascended on a plank to the sill of the door, and entered a large room occupying the whole of the first floor, and perfectly empty. The upper story was tenanted by a family of negroes; in the yard was a house swarming with negroes; and all over, in the yard and in front, were picturesque
groups of little negroes of both sexes, and naked as they were born. We directed the room to be swept and our baggage brought there; and, as we left the house, we remembered Captain Hampton's description before our arrival, and felt the point of his concluding remark, that Balize was the last place made. We returned; and while longing for the comfort of a good hotel, received through Mr. Goff, the consul of the United States, an invitation from his Excellency Colonel M'Donald, to the government House, and information that he would send the government dory to the brig for our luggage. As this was the first appointment I ever had from government, and I was not sure of ever holding another, I determined to make the most of it, and accepted at once his Excellency's invitation."
He remained a few days at this last made place, where he hired a French Spaniard servant, the very sort of person for roughing it anywhere. Yzabel was the port for which he was next to sail; and this is the description of his departure and of his infinite gratifications:
"In order that we might embark at the hour appointed, Colonel M'Donald had ordered dinner at two o'clock, and, as on the two preceding days, had invited a small party to meet us. Perhaps I am wrong, but I should do violence to my feelings did I fail to express here my sense of the colonel's kindness. My invitation to the government house was the fruit of my official character; but I cannot help flattering myself that some portion of the kindness shown to me was the result of personal acquaintance. Colonel M'Donald is a soldier of the twenty years' war,' the brother of Sir John M'Donald, Adjutant General of England, and cousin of Marshal Macdonald of France. All his connexions and associations are military. At eighteen he entered Spain as an ensign, one of an army of ten thousand men, of whom, in less than six months, but four thousand were left. After being actively engaged in all the trying service of the Peninsular war, at Waterloo he commanded a regiment, and on the field of battle received the order of Companion of the Military Order of the Bath from the King of England, and that of Knight of the Order of St. Anne from the Emperor of Russia. Rich in recollections of a long military life, personally acquainted with the public and private character of the most distinguished military men of the age, his conversation was like reading a page of history. He is one of a race that is fast passing away, and with whom an American seldom meets. But to
"The large window of the dining-room opened upon the harbour; the steam-boat lay in front of the government house, and the black smoke, rising in columns from her pipe, gave notice that it was time to embark. Before rising, Colonel M'Donald, like a loyal subject, proposed the health of the Queen; after which he ordered the glasses to be filled to the brim, and standing up he gave The health of Mr. Van Buren, President of the United States,' accompanying it with a warm and generous sentiment, and the earnest hope of strong and perpetual friendship between England and America. I felt at the moment, Cursed be the hand that attempts to
break it!' and albeit unused to taking the President and the people upon my shoulders, I answered as well as I could. Another toast followed, to the health and successful journey of Mr. Gatherwood and myself, and we rose from table. The government dory lay at the foot of the lawn. Colonel M'Donald put his arm through mine, and, walking away, told me that I was going into a distracted country; that Mr. Savage, the American consul of Guatimala, had, on a previous occasion, protected the lives and property of British subjects; and, if danger threatened me, I must assemble the Europeans, hang out my flag, and send word to him, I knew that these were not words of courtesy, and, in the state of the country to which I was going, felt the value of such a friend at hand. With the warmest feelings of gratitude, I bade him farewell, and stepped into the dory. At the moment flags were run up at the government staff, the fort, the court-house, and the government schooner, and a gun was fired from the fort. As I crossed the bay, a salute of thirteen guns was fired; passing the fort, the soldiers presented arms, the government schooner lowered and raised her ensign, and when I mounted the deck of the steam boat, the captain, with hat in hand, told me that he had instructions to place her under my orders, and to stop wherever I pleased.
"The reader will perhaps ask how I bore all these honours. I had visited many cities, but it was the first time that flags and cannon announced to the world that I was going away. I was a novice, but I endeavoured to behave as if I had been brought up to it; and, to tell the truth, my heart beat, and I felt proud; for these were honours paid to my country, and not to me. To crown the glory of the parting scene, my good friend Captain Hampton had charged his two four-pounders, and when the steam boat got under way he fired one, but the other would not go off. The captain of the steam boat had on board one puny gun, with which he would have returned all their civilities; but, as he told me, to his great mortification, he had no powder.
"The steam boat in which we embarked was the last remnant of the stock in trade of a great Central American Agricultural Association, formed for building cities, raising the price of land, accommodating emigrants, and improvements generally. On the rich plains of the province of Vera Paz they had established the site of New Liverpool, which only wanted houses and a population to become a city. On the wheel of the boat was a brass circular plate, on which, in strange juxtaposition, were the words, 'Vera Paz,' 'London.' The captain was a small, weatherbeaten, dried up old Spaniard, with courtesy enough for a Don of old. The engineer was an Englishman, and the crew were Spaniards, Mestizoes, and Mulattoes.”
Mr. Stephens winds up the passage, so full, various, and good, in these words,-"I have had my aspirations, but never expected to be able to dictate to the captain of a steam boat. Nevertheless, again as coolly as if I had been brought up to it, I designated the places I wished to visit, and retired. Verily, thought I, if these are the fruits of official appointments, it is not strange that men are found willing to accept them." Yes, our traveller is cool and VOL. III. (1841.) No. I.
calm in his manner; but the reader cannot but perceive how warm his sympathies arc, and how poetically his enthusiasm glows. We next copy out an account of the crossing of the Mico mountain, which affords an idea of what travelling is in some parts of the regions in question, even although there should be no peril arising from civil war. Mr. Stephens had joined a caravan consisting of nearly a hundred mules, and twenty or thirty muleteers; and this was the manner of procedure :
"The whole caravan was moving up the bed of the stream; the water was darkened by the shade of the overhanging trees; the muleteers, without shirts, and with their large trowsers rolled up to the thighs, and down from the waistband, were scattered among the mules; one chasing a stray beast; a second darting at one whose load was slipping off; a third lifting up one that had fallen; another, with his foot braced against a mule's side, straining at the girth; all shouting, cursing, and lashing; the whole a mass of inextricable confusion, and presenting a scene almost terrible. We held up to let them pass; and crossing the stream, rode a short distance on a level road, but over fetlock deep in mud; and, cutting off a bend, fell into the stream ourselves in the middle of the caravan. The branches of the trees met over our heads, and the bed of the stream was so broken and stony that the mules constantly stumbled and fell. Leaving this, and continuing on a road the same as before, in an hour we reached the foot of the mountain. The ascent began precipitously, and by an extraordinary passage. It was a narrow gulley, worn by the tracks of mules and the washing of mountain currents, so deep that the sides were higher than our heads, and so narrow that we could barely pass through without touching. Our whole caravan moved singly through these muddy defiles, the muleteers scattered among them and on the bank above, extricating the mules as they stuck fast, raising them as they fell, arranging their cargoes, cursing, shouting, and lashing them on. If one stopped, all behind were blocked up, unable to turn. Any sudden start pressed us against the sides of the gulley, and there was no small danger of getting a leg crushed. Emerging from this defile, we came again among deep mud-holes and projecting roots of trees, with the additional difficulty of a steep ascent. The trees, too, were larger, and their roots higher and extending further; and, above all, the mahogany tree threw out its giant roots, high at the trunk and tapering, not round, like the roots of other trees, but straight, with sharp edges, traversing rocks and the roots of other trees. It was the last of the rainy season; the heavy rains from which we had suffered at sea had deluged the mountain, and it was in worst state to be passable; for sometimes it is not passable at all. *** The woods were of impenetrable thickness; and there was no view except that of the detestable path before us. For five long hours we were dragged through mud-holes, squeezed in gulleys, knocked against trees, and tumbled over roots; every step required care and great physical exertion; and, withal, I felt that our inglorious epitaph might be, 'Tossed over the head of a mule, brained by the trunk of a mahogany tree, and buried in the mud of the Mico Mountain.' We attempted to